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Author Topic: Answering the Awkward Questions  (Read 9882 times)
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« Reply #15: October 14, 2010, 02:01:21 pm »

I have two young cousins, one of whom is fairly clingy to me when we see each other (maybe once every six months.  They live interstate), and both of them attend a Christian school.


I just wanted to point out that there's a good chance that in their Christian school they may well be learning about other religions(which may have sparked the question). It's common in most religious schools now especially since in parts of Australia the senior level of religion needs to cover it in the curriculum.
It all depends on the curriculum, the school and the teachers though

So if it were me, i'd probably ask what they've been learning in religion in their school, and if they've come across other faiths yet.
Another thing is you could always tie it in to some of the things they would have touched on in history, like mythology.

On a final sort of relevant note, I'm a student teacher, on my last lot of rounds i was in a year 7 history class, when asked what the difference between roman gods and the catholic god is, the teacher responded "the roman gods didn't and don't exist"
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« Reply #16: October 18, 2010, 10:38:07 pm »

I just wanted to point out that there's a good chance that in their Christian school they may well be learning about other religions(which may have sparked the question). It's common in most religious schools now especially since in parts of Australia the senior level of religion needs to cover it in the curriculum.
It all depends on the curriculum, the school and the teachers though

So if it were me, i'd probably ask what they've been learning in religion in their school, and if they've come across other faiths yet.
Another thing is you could always tie it in to some of the things they would have touched on in history, like mythology.

Oh, hadn't thought about that...Good idea.  If they ask again, and if I can, I'll ask them about that.  That would make the question so much easier to answer...

On a final sort of relevant note, I'm a student teacher, on my last lot of rounds i was in a year 7 history class, when asked what the difference between roman gods and the catholic god is, the teacher responded "the roman gods didn't and don't exist"

...

...

Hrm.  That's, um.
Hrm.
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« Reply #17: October 19, 2010, 12:14:37 pm »



On a final sort of relevant note, I'm a student teacher, on my last lot of rounds i was in a year 7 history class, when asked what the difference between roman gods and the catholic god is, the teacher responded "the roman gods didn't and don't exist"

I just envisioned a lightening bolt from Jupiter coming down and leaving nothing but a smoking hole where she had been standing......
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« Reply #18: October 19, 2010, 11:17:46 pm »

This isn't currently an issue, but I would like some advice before it comes up again.
...
So if anyone could help, that'd be great.

Coming kind of late to the game, but back in 2007 I found myself in a very similar situation, and ridiculously more volatile (as in, able to screw up the already tenuous ties to my mother's side of the family). I spent a week pretty much living in a hospital with my mom, uncles,  and cousins while my aunt (mom's sister) died of pulmonary fibrosis. My mother and I made the trip and stayed until her death because, for pretty much my entire life, we've been all but estranged from this aunt. Largely the differences were political and religious and the rift they caused was deep. (as my cousin put it, our two families "cleaved") My aunt's family was staunchly Lutheran, strict and crazy conservative in their beliefs. (racist and bigoted, these would describe this aunt very well)

My cousins are all at least ten years older than me, the oldest being 19 years my senior, and they're all married and parents, and at the time of my aunt's death, the oldest of these kids was 12 and the youngest was 5. I was working as a nanny at the time, and when my older cousins found out, I became the unofficial nanny for my little cousins. A lot of time was spent together and we grew rather fond of each other, as is wont to happen in moments of crisis.

Over one of our meals of take-out pizza on the hospital room floor, one cousin (she was 8 as well) noticed I hadn't closed my eyes for the prayer. I had actually started eating beforehand and stopped because all the kids wanted to pray, and I didn't eat during the prayer out of respect for them, but I did not close my eyes or partake in it. This eight-year-old peaked and saw and asked me immediately upon the prayer's conclusion if I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior.

My dad always said that if a kid asks a question, they deserve an answer, albeit an age-appropriate one. At the time I did not identify as "pagan" but I was most certainly beginning to find it. I was absolutely not a Christian, however, and I had never accepted Jesus as any type of lord or savior. I was raised Unitarian and though there is evidence of me believing in the Christian God as a very small child, I don't actually remember it.

So I said no, I didn't.

If I got the "why not" question I don't remember it. I do remember the look on my mom's face, the shock that I'd admitted such a thing to such overtly Christian children raised in an overtly (frequently over-the-top-ly, especially in trying to convert nonbelievers) Christian family. I do remember a friend of the family's daughter (part of another sticky situation that, unfortunately, did not get resolved at the time of my aunt's death) stepping in to say that not everyone believed the same thing. I also clearly remember this eight-year-old cousin telling me point-blank, "You're going to hell." And every time I have seen her since, she tells me I'm going to hell. This seems to make her happy. I told her once, when she pointed out that I didn't seem very upset at the idea of going to hell for all eternity, that hell didn't worry me because I didn't believe in it, and this seemed to stump her, but she continues to tell me.

And miraculously, the tenuous ties with this family have remained largely in tact, at least for me. My mother has made many an effort to remove herself from them once again.

Now, looking, back, if I had been in the same place spiritually and religiously as I am now, I don't think I would have expanded on my original "no." At eight years old, she understands me not believing in Christ as Lord and Savior, even if she finds it scary and baffling. I don't think she could quite grasp the fact that I worship many Gods and Goddesses, nor would I have the inclination to try and explain everything to her. If she showed a serious interest in what I believe in why, then yes, by all means I would explain as fully as I could. But because all she wants it to judge me in what she perceives as heresy, there is nothing to be gained and much to be lost by telling her about the Irish Gods and my beliefs and practices.

So I guess, since you just went the long way around to arrive at this conclusion, I would gauge your cousin's "intentions," so to speak, though "intentions" isn't really the word I want. Responding to her question with a question, as others have suggested, is a very good way to do this.

And, of course, take her parents' wishes into account. I'd love nothing more than to be able to open doors for these close-minded kids (although one has promise to not turn out as bigoted as her parents, I have hopes for her; she seems to not have inherited the family's Fear of Life), but I know I would be crossing a very big line because I am a cousin and once removed at that, and however much I may disagree with how my cousins are raising their kids (and there are many, nonreligious problems with much of what goes on in this part of the family), it is not my place to step in.

That was very long-winded of me. Sorry.  Cheesy
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« Reply #19: October 21, 2010, 07:33:08 pm »


Hey, don't worry about long-winded - I'm procrastinating right now, so the longer the better Cheesy

Thanks for sharing that, that actually kinda helped me put everything in perspective.

I've also decided that if they ask again, I'm not going to elaborate on anything for a few years yet, at least until they're old enough to grasp the idea of other religions, and maybe have a good debate with me if they like  Wink

I'm not too worried about their reactions, although that may change if they do - I'm worried about the older members of the family.  But I guess I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
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« Reply #20: December 06, 2010, 04:36:06 am »

This isn't currently an issue, but I would like some advice before it comes up again.
 I was once asked whether or not I was Christian.  I replied 'no', because that whole part of the family believes that I am simply agnostic.  I was then asked "Why not?"


So if anyone could help, that'd be great.

I just usually answer, because I don't and everyone is allowed to be the way they are. What I believe in is love, and I love you. Then give the kid a hug or a tickle and change the subject. But expect this to come up again and again as the child grows older, because they obviously care about you and to some extent look up to you. Maybe she/he sees an open mindedness in you that they want to be a part of themselves someday.
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« Reply #21: January 31, 2011, 11:40:21 pm »



I don't have much to add but I did want to say thank you to everyone (including the OP) for bringing this up. One of my oldest friends has made me her son's godmother. She's fully aware that I am Pagan but wants me in her son's life as she knows (her words) I will teach him to fight for himself and stand up to people when needed, to be honest and not take B.S. However, she is also raising him Christian (her own path is quite convoluted). So, I know at some point he will ask me what I believe and why and may condemn my beliefs.

I'm not 'afraid' per se but I did/do want to be prepared to answer him honestly and appropriately.

He's two now so I probably have a couple years before it comes up but nonetheless this has been an eye opening read that I'll bare in mind when the time comes.

Cheesy
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« Reply #22: May 02, 2011, 02:07:56 pm »

This isn't currently an issue, but I would like some advice before it comes up again.

I have two young cousins, one of whom is fairly clingy to me when we see each other (maybe once every six months.  They live interstate), and both of them attend a Christian school.
Their parents aren't particularly Christian, I don't think.  If they are, they aren't strict prayers-before-bedtime-for-the-children Christians.  They're happy to let their children decide.  This isn't what I have a problem with.

The problem is that, in the course of discussions with this eight-year-old cousin, I was once asked whether or not I was Christian.  I replied 'no', because that whole part of the family believes that I am simply agnostic.  I was then asked "Why not?"
Now, I have no idea how to answer this question.  At the time, my answer was along the lines of "Because a lot of different people believe a lot of different things, and I believe what feels right for me to believe".  This raised no further questions, thankfully, as I think she picked up that I was uncomfortable, and I don't think she has any idea that there are pagan religions out there.

So if these discussions come up again later, how is the best way to answer?  Given it's a cousin, not a sister or brother or my own child, how much information is 'too much'?  Is there a different boundary between telling them honestly what I believe and telling them things that their parents may not want them to hear, especially since my grandparents on that side are very Christian, and I kinda don't want to rock that particular boat just yet, because I really, really want to keep on good terms with them.  They probably wouldn't disown me, or even change how they acted towards me, but I don't really want them worrying about my upbringing or my soul or anything like that.  They don't need to, so why should I make them?

So if anyone could help, that'd be great.

I'm personally very close to my cousins. They're like my sisters and brothers. My whole family knows I'm Agnostic (they don't know my leanings toward paganism).

I had this conversation with my younger sister and she freaked out and said "But God loves you." I told her I'm happy that God loves me but I don't feel particularly drawn to him. I told her I didn't quite understand certain things..so I don't particularly believe in any Gods. She told me she was going to pray for me and that she loved me. She's 12 by the way. Most of my cousins, save for two, are that age range. They've all asked me at one point or another and I just told them that there's a lot out in the universe and that there's so many people around that world that don't know about Jesus, are they going to hell? That's sad..why would a Father send his children to hell. They usually agreed with me.

My family's very Gospel oriented. Pentecostal without the jean skirts. But they seem to accept the fact. My mom asked me one day if I was Pagan. I hadn't even started studying it at that point. She just asked.

I think that it depends on how close you are to your cousins and aunts and uncles. Seeing as they're around the same age my cousins are..just be vague and don't discredit their view. If they really want to talk about it, I would tell them to wait for a bit so that you could get together what you want to convey to them in a means thats understandable to them. Some of this is hard to do without outing yourself...but sometimes things just happen. Sometimes for the better and people have unexpected reactions. You never know. Just go with your gut feeling.

Do you think your aunts and uncles would be ok with you expressing a view that's not their own? Even though you wouldn't  be preaching. Just stating a belief. A lot of Christians (generalization. I know. I live in the Bible Belt though and very few people are accepting) tend to see preaching and expressing a view as synonymous with each other..so they freak out. Explain that beforehand.

I hope I helped and didn't just ramble none sense. Good luck!

EDIT: I didn't realize this was an old thread. I'm sorry if I wasn't supposed to do this. I don't remember reading it in the rules.....
« Last Edit: May 02, 2011, 02:10:21 pm by Jujulinda, Reason: I realized it was an old thread. » Logged

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« Reply #23: May 02, 2011, 05:10:51 pm »


EDIT: I didn't realize this was an old thread. I'm sorry if I wasn't supposed to do this. I don't remember reading it in the rules.....

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« Reply #24: May 03, 2011, 07:21:37 pm »

So if these discussions come up again later, how is the best way to answer?

This may be the wicked, corrupting Thelemite in me talking, but you should do magic for them. Children have a natural understanding of these things. Let them know that many people out there don't like people who do magic, and that any spell you cast for them must be secret.

If I had a mysterious aunt or uncle that wove a special charm for me, I would have been ecstatic. It would be like every fantasy book I ever read come to life.

But I'm an evil wizard who sends children racing down the path to hell. So feel free not to listen to anything I say.  Wink
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« Reply #25: May 12, 2011, 05:51:03 am »

If I had a mysterious aunt or uncle that wove a special charm for me, I would have been ecstatic. It would be like every fantasy book I ever read come to life.

Oh, I can see that going down either extremely well or extremely badly (depending on how many people found out...)  Cheesy  Pity I don't really do magic.

I totally did not realise this thread had been resurrected...  Well, the situation has changed, they're still Christian, I believe, but they're not really questioning at the moment; I think it hasn't occurred to them to ask any more questions, actually.  Still, I have quite a few younger cousins, and people with small children aren't exactly thin on the ground (weirdly, since I'm currently living in college accommodation), so it's still relevant.  I suppose it won't matter unless I do something really obvious, like offer food or something (which I have gotten away with at their house once: we were having appetisers on New Year's, and there was salmon, and I just got this "Salmon?" *multiple ears pricking up*.  I got away with it by stealing some and sitting in the bottom of the garden, and hiding the pieces in the long grass.  My little cousin actually asked what was I was doing, and I replied "sitting and thinking".  It seemed a good enough answer.  Longest paranthetical aside ever.).  So I figure I'm safe.

On that note, how much do people tend to hide what they're doing, when they offer or pray or whatever?  I know I tend to only offer when I won't be disturbed here, and I'm certain one of my friends (who is a fairly militant atheist) thinks I'm an athiest, too...  And does this amount of hiding change for children?  When you do explain, how "simplified" an explanation do you give them?
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« Reply #26: May 13, 2011, 03:42:02 pm »

On that note, how much do people tend to hide what they're doing, when they offer or pray or whatever?  I know I tend to only offer when I won't be disturbed here, and I'm certain one of my friends (who is a fairly militant atheist) thinks I'm an athiest, too...  And does this amount of hiding change for children?  When you do explain, how "simplified" an explanation do you give them?

This is coming from someone who basically told her family I don't believe in anything but...I would just go with what would have been understandable for you at their age. How you thought of things. Put yourself in their shoes. Just never dumb it down or make them feel like a child, with kid talk. They know...and hate it.

But children do love stories and explanations. Smiley
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