Brainwash ‘em While They’re Young April 18, 2011

Brainwash ‘em While They’re Young

John Piper, a Christian who gets respect for reasons I have yet to figure out, was recently asked whether children should be taught to pray before they really understand what Christianity is all about.

It’s a fair question and he correctly answers “No,” because prayers are useless without really understanding what you’re saying and who you’re saying them to.

I’m just kidding. His advice is batshit crazy:

… we should teach our children to pray as soon as they can say anything. The first words they should say are, “Dear Jesus, thank you.”

I say this is because I can’t discern when a child is being spiritually wrought upon by the Lord. I don’t put much stock in children’s professions of faith. They seem to come and go. What matters is whether or not they have been born again.

I don’t know when a child is born again…

He can start to believe at a young age. And because he can believe at a young age, and because I can’t tell precisely when his faith becomes his own and authentic, I don’t want to wait too long before I start treating him as a believer.

… They may mean it at age 2. You just don’t know.

Remember in Jesus Camp when that one kid said he was “saved” at the age of 5, and you thought that was the craziest thing you’d ever heard because what the hell is going on in the life of a 5-year-old that he needs to be “saved”?

Piper must think that kid is ancient.

He wants you to brainwash your kids from as young an age as possible. Forget critical thinking, or learning more about your parents’ faith, or coming to the decision of what to believe on your own.

That’s what heathens do.

If my future child’s first words are ever “Dear Jesus, thank you,” I give you permission to slap me.

Then again, it’s not like my first words were much better:

“Bob Barker.”

Now that’s a man I worshiped.

(via The J-Walk Blog)


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  • Dan

    Wow, just wow. Batshit crazy indeed.

  • Alexis

    I remember being taught to pray as a toddler:

    “Nowae laymey down to sleep,
    I pray the lord my sole to keep
    Fiesha Dye before I wake,
    I pray the lord my sole take.”

    In other words, I didn’t have a clue as to what this bedtime ritual was about.

    Addressed, of course, to a person who taught against praying in vain repetitions.

  • Protestants have a tough time deciding when a kid should be “saved.” Catholics start cooing “who’s tainted with Original Sin? Who’s my little sinner?” as soon as a baby is born, followed by “Quick, baptize the child! *splash* Whew!” But Protestants, not believing in infant baptism, want to baptize the kid and get them “saved” when the child is old enough to understand that they are sinners and need to be saved. Well, when the heck is that? A 2-year-old knows right from wrong only in the sense of what Mommy and Daddy let them do. A five-year-old? A 7-year-old? When does a kid actually have the cognitive ability to assess the whole concept of redemption?

    Apparently, this guy thinks it’s the moment when they can mimic the right words. Because kids never say things that they have no real understanding of.

    Turtles all the way down.

  • Lauren

    Bab Barker! Awesome! Better that then Jebus…

  • Rich Wilson

    In how many Christian homes do you think they present Christmas as Baby Jesus’s Birthday (oh, by he was actually born in the spring, we just picked this day to co-opt pagan celebrations)

    Or

    Easter is the Resurrection of our Lord (but some people think he didn’t really rise from the dead, and the eggs, they’re actually a pagan thing)

    If your bedtime ritual is brush teeth and pray, how do you hide that from the kids? If the family goes to church on Sunday, do you leave the kids with a babysitter?

    Sure, I find is reasoning freaky, but what else would you expect?

  • The42ndDruid

    I remember my first words: McDonald’s. I loved that place, then I got bored of it. I never was made to pray, given that my family was not religious.

  • Steve

    Being born once is really enough for me

  • KeithLM

    “who’s tainted with Original Sin? Who’s my little sinner?”

    Oh that’s brilliant. Well done Everyday Atheist. I was disturbed when my brother and his wife had my niece baptized. I thought they had grown out of that. But apparently having a baby has sucked them back into the church. A friend of mine’s sister just had a baby. In order for my friend to be the godmother she had to register with a local church to “prove” she’s an active catholic. Such stupid traditions.

  • Barbara_K

    “But Protestants, not believing in infant baptism, …”

    Lutherans practice infant baptism, and take it pretty seriously. If a baby dies before being baptized, their soul is in danger… of… something… A rather mind-blowing conversation with a Lutheran about infant baptism was the catalyst for eventually losing/shucking my faith.

    “In how many Christian homes do you think they present Christmas as Baby Jesus’s Birthday ”

    We had a Happy Birthday Baby Jesus cake every year. It was never red velvet though, talk about missed opportunities.

  • Vas

    … we should teach our children to pray as soon as they can say anything. The first words they should say are, “Dear Jesus, thank you.”

    I wonder has there ever, ever, ever been a child who’s first words were, “Dear Jesus, thank you”. I have heard of a child who’s first word was “dog”… maybe a dyslexics theist in the making?

  • absent sway

    “Remember in Jesus Camp when that one kid said he was ‘saved’ at the age of 5, and you thought that was the craziest thing you’d ever heard because what the hell is going on in the life of a 5-year-old that he needs to be ‘saved’? ”

    No. I remember seeing it and identifying with it because I was “saved” at age 6. Most of the kids I went to church with prayed the prayer between ages 4 and 8. I was saved from such sins as stealing cookies from the jar, occasionally disobeying my parents and lying about it, and fighting with my siblings. *shrug*

    Love the Bob Barker thing, man!

  • Jeebus

    I am the Gawd father to my friend’s daughter. They are Catholic, in the sense that his wife’s mother is bathsit crazy enough for the whole family so they appease her by going through all those f’d up rituals and ceremonies. They knew I was an atheist when they asked me and they told me I would have to meet with a priest for “counseling” before the ceremony. Well, I think they were so afraid of what would happen during that meeting that they ended up paying off the church so I wouldn’t have to meet with the priest. LOL. Classic.

    I went and it took everything I had to keep my lunch down and smile while this old man in a dress was chanting his magical incantations and splashing his holy water around like it was a pool party. But I just thought the whole thing was hilarious, from start to finish. Any other atheist gawd fathers out there?

  • JulietEcho

    Yeah, my mom wrote in my baby book that I “accepted Jesus into my heart” by (repeating after her) at age two. That’s right: two. There’s a home video we have where my parents are having me demonstrate all the noises that animals make and identify “mama” and “daddy” and “juice” and whatnot, and they get really excited when they show me their Bible and demonstrate that I can say “Bible.” I’m pretty sure the first song I ever learned was “Jesus Loves Me.”

    In other news, my first three-syllable word was “buffalo” although I pronounced it “buppalo.”

  • Gail

    “We had a Happy Birthday Baby Jesus cake every year. It was never red velvet though, talk about missed opportunities.”

    I knew a family who did the no gifts on Christmas thing. Instead they had a quiet birthday party for Jesus, with a Happy Birthday Jesus cake. Super fun for the kids, I’m sure. I don’t know them anymore, but I wish I’d asked if it was red velvet. This is the south, so it’s entirely possible. I don’t even like red velvet cake much actually because I don’t find the several ounces of red food coloring in it appetizing, but I did try to make the red velvet armadillo cake from Steel Magnolias for my brother’s rehearsal dinner, although the idea was vetoed by everyone without a sense of humor.

  • my nephew’s first word was “cat.” he’s a Leo, even, it was so cute. but even his deeply religious/baptist father didn’t start talking about jeebus to him until he was 4. and pabtism, sorry baptism won’t take place until my nephew agrees and understands, his father has actually read the bible and wants his son to accept the faith on his own terms, if it all.

  • I would much rather have a kid who’s first words were “Bob Barker” than anything Jesus. At least Bob Barker was a real person you could see on TV.

    Brainwashing is a mild way of putting this.

  • edshrink
  • sweetpea

    Yeh well we were fully immersed at vavtism.. in our baby baptismal bathtub, and nude. Couldn’t understand a word that the bearded guy was saying, and then he made the sign of the cross with some olive oil..(of course much later say 20 years…I added fetta cheese and olives and then “understood”.
    But when I was four, mum tried to make me kiss the all the icons in the church- shit there are an awful lot of them, and then I was supposed to kiss the priests ring, and then this beautifully inlayed bible a mixture of solid silver and it had cheesus’ bone embedded in it. Don’t know what part of cheesus’ anatomy that was..
    Being a very smart kid I chucked a tanti (that’s Greek for protest) so I believe I was the very first protest-ant. I did not have to say Baby-Cheesus, or go to camp and sing Kumbayah. I do remember the lovely bread and the wine. Now our “fundo man” short for fundamentalist of course, knows…he only serves white, middle class from perhaps the mid west of USA …and Campbelltown and besides, no dancing, no drinking, no fornicatin’ ‘cept on special occasions, that kind of wipes out my whole culture…funny fundamentalist yanks..When I told my local Jehovah W lady that she could only leave her “Watchtower” magazines on my porch, if she could get Jimi Hendrix to play at the Kingdom Hall.(.coz he wrote a song about the Watchtower I said…)

    If you saw her face…you too would have raised your hands in the air, closed your eyes and said- Thank ye Cheezels too… (I finally got to say it…better late than never..)

  • Michael Emerson

    Of course this is coming from a person who pronounced that a tornado in Minneapolis which struck a Lutheran church did so because they had agreed to ordain homosexuals. Too bad for all of the innocent people who happened to live nearby. Of course it was on the other side of Minneapolis from his church so none of his parisioners were amongst the collateral damage.

  • anon

    My family started the pressure on me to drink the kool-aid . . . er, um, be baptised long before I even started school. Age 7 was the “age of reason” , or so my Southern Baptist grandmother and Church of Christ mother claimed. Wanting a kid to make forever-commitments at that age – really? How many 7-y.o. kids do you know who are grounded enough in reality to not play make-believe and have imaginary friends? (Wait a minute – “imaginary friends” – that explains everything! Catch ’em before they clue in!) I got shuffled off to Sunday School and Vacation Buybull School every chance they got. And they laid it on thick – gave me children’s bibles, bible story books, hauled my unhappy ass to church every Sunday, forced me to memorize the books of the Buybull, told me I’d burn in hell if I wasn’t saved by age 7…. I even got dragged to a tent revival meeting one time by my uber-religious cousins – and that was the tipping point for me. I went from “yeah, whatever, I’ll go if it’ll make you shut up – but I’m taking a non-religious book to read” to “holy f*ck! these people are batshit CRAZY!!!”

    Needless to say, nobody’s sprinkled or dunked me yet, and it’s not going to happen EVER, not if I have any say in the matter.

  • sweetpea

    Postscript: Correction. I should have said “Fundo Man and Woman”, and, of course, not only white,middle class, etc etc.. coz their are plenty of African-American churches tucked in there too, and Nigerian, Samoan and.. and and… but maybe only the stoopid white males get to go on tv? …but ya gotta admit the black churches have better music?

    Anon, you seem kinda angry…I suppose I missed that bit…sounds pretty tough…perhaps we get the watered down version in Australia? Now the irony is I married a lapsed “Seven Days At The Dentist” who had similar experiences to you. I am now divorced, but not for those reasons..He is a really funny man and tells the BEST Cheezus jokes- I suppose you can’t throw out the baby with baptismal bath water. Some (well quite a few) “Seven Day Bike Riders” were pretty nice people, and others called me the “Whore of Babylon” coz I listened to John Coltrane and drank coffee ….a “Love Supreme” INDEED!! Can I get a witness!!!

  • CanadianNihilist

    this is nothing new. As disturbing as it is people have been brainwashing children for a very long time now.

  • Annie

    Jeebus asked, “Any other atheist gawd fathers out there?”

    Well, I’m an atheist godmother… I happily accepted the offer, as I feel I am very qualified to give spiritual advice. 😉 My goddaughter is 16 now… and all my position really means is that I make a big fuss over here. She is amazing, so that helps. I am waiting patiently for the day she comes to me for spiritual advice, as no one really asks for spiritual advice unless they are already in doubt mode. What to get her to commemorate the day? A Darwin Fish bumper sticker? A flying spaghetti monster t-shirt?

  • Christians hate the word “brainwashing.” They don’t even like the term “indoctrination,” which I see as fairly neutral. But what else would you call something like this? I think it’s funny that they claim their children have a free choice about what to believe when they are specifically told what to believe as mere toddlers. It’s not like their belief system is ever presented as an option. It’s presented as a fact. These children are told point blank that there is a god and an afterlife, and that this god and afterlife are real while all other deities and afterlife concepts are either ignored or specifically presented as false.

  • Luciferadi

    “Bob Barker.” Hemant, you are made of awesome.

    When I was in kindergarten, my mom let me fill out my own information sheet. I asked her what “religion” meant (I had never been exposed to it). She said, “It’s something you believe in.”

    I put Dragons.

  • Jesus

    Luciferadi FTW

  • This reminds me of when I was taught to read the Qur’an in Arabic without being told what the Arabic words actually meant. Whenever someone says they were saved at such a young age, I think it’s absurd. I could understand if someone who’s, say, a teenager says they believe in a certain faith (even if they’re still a minor) but a kid as young as two? Really?

    (On a semi-related note, why is it that the same people who think a little kid can be a member of a religion say that adult atheists don’t know enough about faith/haven’t studied it enough? I’m not an expert on the Bible—but I’m pretty sure I know more than a toddler.)

  • dwasifar

    You want batshit crazy? One year ago tomorrow, I was at the funeral of an 18-month-old girl, and someone stood up and claimed the poor little girl had “accepted Jesus” before her accident.

    Accepted Jesus? Seriously? At 18 months old?

    That’s beyond crazy; it’s infuriating. Christianity’s relentless self-promotion crosses the line when it stoops to putting words in the mouth of a dead baby. It still makes me angry to think about it now.

  • On a semi-related note, why is it that the same people who think a little kid can be a member of a religion say that adult atheists don’t know enough about faith/haven’t studied it enough?

    It’s also strange that they seem to consider themselves exempt from this requirement. How many Christians have researched all other religions before deciding to reject them? I think you’d be hard-pressed to find many Christians who have dedicated themselves to in-depth studying of Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, etc. Yet they feel that we should learn every single detail about Christianity before dismissing it. Why the double standard?