Author Topic: The Parent Trap  (Read 932 times)

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The Parent Trap
« on: July 23, 2013, 12:33:26 PM »
No, not the movie, but I had this thought cross my mind this morning, and I’d like to know what you think.

I think that we can all agree that children are evolutionarily predisposed to believe their parents.  This is why a person’s religion is almost invariably that of their parents.  But I'm wondering about the correlation between the children who grow up with religious belief via their parents yet abandon it after they grow up, and the closeness factor of the relationship with their parents.  In other words, are those individuals who (as adults) do not have a close, loving relationship with their parents more likely to (or find it easier to) abandon the religious beliefs that they were raised with?  And conversely, are those individuals who have and maintain a close, loving, strong relationship with their parents less likely to abandon said beliefs?

Can you identify with either?
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Online xyzzy

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Re: The Parent Trap
« Reply #1 on: July 23, 2013, 01:36:57 PM »
It's a good observation, intuitively you'd think it had some effect if only as revering parents as an authority.

I suspect I'd be an outlier, even though I have a twin. Our relationship with our parents was similar growing up, and it's similar today. My twin accepted the religious indoctrination almost without question, I rejected it almost from the word go as being patently false and, frankly, absurd.

Perhaps another factor to add in is the inquisitiveness and desire to learn and question the world of the children? Where we differed was that I loved to read, explore, and learn. My sibling hated school. Thus one of us had only source of knowledge which was our parents. On the other hand, I practically lived at the local library and couldn't get enough of the stories of the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Vikings, and so on.

Come to think of it, had our parents been Norse I might have been more inclined to be a believer. Some of those gods rocked.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool -- Richard Feynman
You are in a maze of twisty little religions, all alike -- xyzzy

Offline neopagan

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Re: The Parent Trap
« Reply #2 on: July 23, 2013, 01:57:36 PM »
Interesting question on many levels...

I never had a particularly close relationship with my parents and still do not (nothing major between us, just never close), yet for 30+ years accepted/practiced/bought into their faith of choice.  Now... well, I cannot figure out how I never questioned it and kick myself before I go to bed each night just for being silly for so long.

I am closeted, but only because of what it would do in my relationship with my spouse, since she is a hard core fundie.  I could not care less what my parents think (or anyone else for that matter), when my unmasking comes about.

If xian hell really exists, the stench of the burning billions of us should be a constant, putrid reminder to the handful of heavenward xians how loving your god is.  - neopagan

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Re: The Parent Trap
« Reply #3 on: July 23, 2013, 02:22:29 PM »
My twin accepted the religious indoctrination almost without question, I rejected it almost from the word go as being patently false and, frankly, absurd.

Really?  I find that interesting.  You mean at no time did you adopt the world view of your parents?  What "version" of christianity did you grow up with - would you say it was "christian light"?
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Re: The Parent Trap
« Reply #4 on: July 23, 2013, 02:23:52 PM »
I am closeted, but only because of what it would do in my relationship with my spouse, since she is a hard core fundie.

Wow.  You mean your wife has no idea that you disbelieve what she thinks you believe?
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Offline neopagan

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Re: The Parent Trap
« Reply #5 on: July 23, 2013, 02:30:35 PM »
I am closeted, but only because of what it would do in my relationship with my spouse, since she is a hard core fundie.

Wow.  You mean your wife has no idea that you disbelieve what she thinks you believe?

That is indeed what I mean
If xian hell really exists, the stench of the burning billions of us should be a constant, putrid reminder to the handful of heavenward xians how loving your god is.  - neopagan

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Re: The Parent Trap
« Reply #6 on: July 23, 2013, 02:32:51 PM »
Wow, again. At the risk of quoting a song, how long has this been going on?
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Offline neopagan

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Re: The Parent Trap
« Reply #7 on: July 23, 2013, 02:41:35 PM »
^^^ July was 6 months officially as my self-proclamation of deconversion!

I don't want to muddle your fine thread with my story, but it's my intro from a couple months back if interested:
http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/forums/index.php/topic,24916.0.html

I cannot keep this up too long, I fear - to quote another song, there's a bad moon on the rise :)
If xian hell really exists, the stench of the burning billions of us should be a constant, putrid reminder to the handful of heavenward xians how loving your god is.  - neopagan

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Re: The Parent Trap
« Reply #8 on: July 23, 2013, 03:16:55 PM »
Really?  I find that interesting.  You mean at no time did you adopt the world view of your parents?  What "version" of christianity did you grow up with - would you say it was "christian light"?

Really.

I grew up with the flavour of Christianity known as Orthodox Judiasm.

It sounds hackneyed, but I always assumed that the biblical stories weren't actually any more true than any other tale. I was blown away when I discovered I was actually supposed to believe them.

I also don't want to derail your thread but our standard of living, the admonishments from my parents to "remember the starving children in Africa" who couldn't get manna from heaven like as in the bible, the incessant news about world conflict, unanswered prayers (I kept a record), the arguments about how Christians were somehow bad (yet, supposedly believed in the same god who seemed a lot less violent in the NT), how other religions were false but with no explanation as to how ours was true, how the earth was both 6000 and 4.5 billion years old at exactly the same time, and how the stories in the bible were word for word true, didn't make sense.

Oh, it probably ruined their case quite a bit when they would tell me that god had told them I had done something wrong (as reported by manipulative sibling) when I hadn't, but it would be OK if I admitted it. Big mistake when you present god as being omniscient, omni-benevolent, and incapable of lying. Just to head it off - I was never "angry at god". If he was all-knowing and all-truthful then either my parents were lying (which was a sin against god and he would stop them lying) or he didn't exist.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool -- Richard Feynman
You are in a maze of twisty little religions, all alike -- xyzzy

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Re: The Parent Trap
« Reply #9 on: July 23, 2013, 04:07:50 PM »
I grew up with the flavour of Christianity known as Orthodox Judiasm.

Ahh. Would I be correct in suggesting that that is quite a different experience than growing up in a christian household where you're taught about the one and only way to avoid eternal damnation & suffering in fire is to accept Jesus as your lord & saviour, and devoting your life in submission to him?
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Re: The Parent Trap
« Reply #10 on: July 23, 2013, 04:10:34 PM »
July was 6 months officially as my self-proclamation of deconversion!

I don't want to muddle your fine thread with my story, but it's my intro from a couple months back if interested:
http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/forums/index.php/topic,24916.0.html

I cannot keep this up too long, I fear - to quote another song, there's a bad moon on the rise :)

Interesting, thanks for the link.  It must also be tough given that you live in a part of the States which has christianity literally woven into the culture.  Is there also a fear of social ostracism for you?
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Re: The Parent Trap
« Reply #11 on: July 23, 2013, 04:48:12 PM »
Ahh. Would I be correct in suggesting that that is quite a different experience than growing up in a christian household where you're taught about the one and only way to avoid eternal damnation & suffering in fire is to accept Jesus as your lord & saviour, and devoting your life in submission to him?

Oh, I hadn't considered that, Star Stuff, but you are absolutely correct. What a good point.

Judaism is focused more on the here and now and not the afterlife as in Christianity. Even though Jewish mothers, and particularly grandmothers, are masters of the guilt-trip, the repent or be damned aspect isn't something we grew up with. Likewise, the whole Heaven and Hell thing is different. But that's off-topic other than it supports your contention.

There's also the consideration of how repentance is handled. Whilst not as easy as popping down the road to your local Catholic priest, Yom Kippur provides for a yearly ritual atonement. Hence you don't have to live your life believing to be a miserable sinner.

Thank you. I had never considered that aspect up and until now.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool -- Richard Feynman
You are in a maze of twisty little religions, all alike -- xyzzy

Offline Bereft_of_Faith

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Re: The Parent Trap
« Reply #12 on: July 24, 2013, 01:46:04 AM »
No, not the movie, but I had this thought cross my mind this morning, and I’d like to know what you think.

[snipped] In other words, are those individuals who (as adults) do not have a close, loving relationship with their parents more likely to (or find it easier to) abandon the religious beliefs that they were raised with?   [snipped]
Can you identify with either?

Yes I can.  I was raised as a jew.  My father pretty much kept his religious devotions to himself.  He didn't proselytize.  He made no assertions, and tried to follow a common-sense approach to god. 

My mother was rabidly 'jewish', yet she was, by the laws of the jews, a terrible example.  She was unobservant, didn't pray, ate whatever she wanted on whatever tableware she wanted, never went to temple, and yet carried all of the prejudices, feelings of persecution (which had become delusions for the most part) and had her own version of the ten commandments that bore no logic nor relation to the supposed ones (except honor thy mother) She only associated with jews (while my father didn't discriminate at all) and spoke derisively regarding gentiles (goyem, shiksas, shaygetzes, sharvtzas)  Her arbitrary approach to judaism was repulsive to me.

So, when I first started to move away from the religion, it was her interpretation of it that I abandoned. 

On the other side, if I have a general tolerance and understanding of theists, my father is my primary example that one can believe in god, and still be an accepting, progressive and liberal minded person

One bright note: Age has changed my mother.  She is far less judgmental, far more liberal, and has become far more mellow.  It's good.
« Last Edit: July 24, 2013, 01:49:01 AM by Bereft_of_Faith »

Offline LoriPinkAngel

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Re: The Parent Trap
« Reply #13 on: July 24, 2013, 01:46:15 AM »

I suspect I'd be an outlier, even though I have a twin. Our relationship with our parents was similar growing up, and it's similar today.

Since the OP is suggesting an evolutionary predisposition I'm wondering if you are identical or fraternal twins & if that would make a difference?
It doesn't make sense to let go of something you've had for so long.  But it also doesn't make sense to hold on when there's actually nothing there.

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Re: The Parent Trap
« Reply #14 on: July 24, 2013, 02:21:20 AM »
Since the OP is suggesting an evolutionary predisposition I'm wondering if you are identical or fraternal twins & if that would make a difference?

Fair question, fraternal twins.

The point of the OP I was focusing on was that our environments were similar and we were subject to similar arguments and pressure to conform. The biggest difference between us was that I was inquisitive and took to the sciences. My twin was easily led, hated school, and took the vocational path. Complete opposites, in fact.

I have absolutely no idea how we turned out to be so different in those aspects. None at all. That's why I offer that my situation could be an outlier as the OPs suggestion would seem a more natural answer.

Edited to fix quote
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool -- Richard Feynman
You are in a maze of twisty little religions, all alike -- xyzzy

Offline LoriPinkAngel

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Re: The Parent Trap
« Reply #15 on: July 24, 2013, 02:40:10 AM »
My maternal grandparents were Lutherans of the Missouri synod sect which are the conservative fundamentalist ones. They went to church every Sunday and were quite devout,  grandma was very holy, grandpa minded his own business
My mother defected from their congregation when I was about 6 and joined a Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, more liberal and mellow, which really pissed off my grandma.   I thought the new church was cool because they served cookies and had black people. Except the black people were actually missionaries and they went back to Africa.  This messed with my young head as the 1st black people I met went back to Africa...
We went to church regularly and I did Sunday School, and vacation bible school and confirmation until 9th grade and then I didn't go to church that much.
Then in my senior year I was recruited to sing in a concert choir in my friend's church called Second Christian Church.  (there was no First Christian Church...) they were mellow fundamentalists, we went to a choir contest in Estes Park, Colorado and competed against lots of other choirs and saw famous Jesus freak bands of that era and took 1st place and kicked some Christian ass.
I not really close to my mother until I was an adult; we got along but there were issues
When I was in college I got pissed at god & told my grandma I didn't believe in god and she freaked out and threatened to take away my car and grandpa vetoed her.
I never witnessed my paternal grandparents go to church, they cussed a lot
My dad came to church once or twice a year, he was physically and verbally abusive to me, my mother was passive while hit & screamed at me, he moved out when I was 12 to live with another woman, I thought he left me.
Once he started screaming at me in front of his new wife and she told him to stop - he never hit me or screamed at me again.
When he died we found a bible from his confirmation among his stuff, I forget what denomination it was.
He was a shit to us growing up, spending as little time and money on us as possible.
I was a little closer to him as an adult, figured he was the only dad I had & he did to me what was done to him, can't change the past, yadda, yadda, yadda.
My Church attendance and belief as an adult was sporadic.  In college I would go to a service if invited by a friend,
I went to generic protestant services in Basic Training while in the Army so I could sing in the choir. (1985)
Then no church until about 1996-97  When I discovered the 1st Presbyterian Church.  I joined the Church & Society Committee so I could work on getting funds and help to charitable causes.  They had an awesome Choir (The director had formerly been in the Robert Shaw Chorale) which went on a concert tour in Berlin. The church accepts gays, ordains women, doesn't preach against abortion.  Seemed like a good place for me to be.
A bit more liberal than my mom's church.
Lately I have decided no god would allow my situation that I am in, period.
But both of my parents are dead.
I feel like my beliefs abandoned me.
I may be more likely to still believe if my mother were alive.  I can't say for sure.
It doesn't make sense to let go of something you've had for so long.  But it also doesn't make sense to hold on when there's actually nothing there.

Offline Quesi

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Re: The Parent Trap
« Reply #16 on: July 24, 2013, 06:24:36 AM »
Very interesting question. 

I agree that children are genetically predisposed to believe their parents during childhood.  But we also seem genetically predisposed to challenge our parents' belief systems during adolescence.  Not sure what role that may play. 

My father was a rabid atheist.  Mom, a rather disinterested agnostic.  Grandma was a saint-loving Catholic, and extended family on dad's side were nominally Jewish.  I loved all of them, and was especially close to my mom during my adulthood.  I was taught to be a critical thinker.  Dad became increasingly intolerant of any religious dogma or even ritual as he grew older. 

Mom didn't believe in any of the silly dogma, but loved rituals, and was happy to take part in anyone's holiday celebration.  She loved the smell of incense in a cathedral, and she was thrilled to be invited to a seder or iftar.  In her 50's or 60's she decided to start studying Hindi[1] and became interested in elephant statuettes.  When I started the process of adopting a little girl from Guatemala, she emerged herself in a study of Mayan culture and religion.  Mom loved literature and art and architecture and food and learning about different cultures, and for her, religion and rituals were just part of the experience, whether it was travel or getting to know our friends and neighbors or even extended family.  She taught me to always be respectful in houses of worship, whether it was a wedding or a funeral or a tourist experience.  Dad scoffed, and had trouble hiding his disdain.  Or, he just disengaged, and pretended he wasn't being exposed to such silliness.

I guess I ended up more like mom.  I like holidays and rituals. And I'm not as concerned about  religious silliness as I am about social issues such as institutionalized racism and increasing economic disparity.  But the tone and voices and stances that a large percentage of the atheist community share, are familiar and comfortable and make me feel closer to my dad.  In a way, the discourse on this forum feels like my childhood living room, or dinner table.   
 1. the language, as opposed to Hindu, the religion

Online jynnan tonnix

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Re: The Parent Trap
« Reply #17 on: July 24, 2013, 08:20:33 AM »
Just as background info ; my parents are Catholic, both Polish (originally from Poland but ended up, individually, in England after WWII, met & married there, had me, and moved to the USA when I was 9). I am an only child, but the survivor of a pair of premature twins. My mother also had a premature baby boy when I was about 4 who did not survive either.

My parents were fairly devout Catholics (who have seemed to become even more so over time) when I was growing up, but, like xyzzy, I somehow filed all the Bible stories, etc, in my head along with myths and fairy-tales, and was almost traumatized to find my father kneeling at the foot of his bed saying his prayers one evening, as it had never occurred to me that doing so was anything more than a childish bedtime ritual that people would outgrow along with lullabies and bedtime stories. And I was very young then (maybe about 6?). I think that was something which solidified a sense of non-belief in me, weirdly. I mean, one would assume that seeing one's parents' and other role models' faith would strengthen that in a child, and give support to the idea that it was the truth, but in my case, it just seemed to serve to puzzle me that all these people never seemed to question something which seemed so unbelievable.

For the record, as an only child, I was very close to my parents, but maybe to the point of feeling a bit smothered. Especially as I got a little older. But I also seemed not to have inherited their personalities to any great degree. They, especially my father, tend toward being very conservative, and while I was not a wild child or rule-breaker, that was probably in large part due to my being paralyzingly shy. Because I was a total Bohemian at heart.

Interestingly, my parents both had older siblings who had also ended up in England, all with English/Irish spouses, and remained there after we moved away. I only knew my cousins slightly, as we had not lived close by even before our move. It was not until visiting England with my daughter some 14 years ago that I reconnected with a few of those cousins in a bigger way, and found almost eerie similarities in our world views/philosophies/religious skepticism. My father's brothers had both died some time earlier, and though as far as I know they pretty much had continued going to church, the middle brother in particular was of much more an agnostic bent. So it does seem to me that while upbringing plays a part, there's a lot of genetics involved in a predisposition to believe or not. How else would I have ended up so much more similar, personality-wise, to uncles and cousins I barely knew than to my own parents?

Offline junebug72

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Re: The Parent Trap
« Reply #18 on: July 24, 2013, 09:24:53 AM »
I will have to say that I believe children that are not close with their parents are more likely to stray or reject their parents beliefs.  Especially christianity.  Mainly because when you feel unloved by your parents you feel unloved by God, if you're raised to believe.  I was atheist for 7-8 years for this very reason.  When I came back to belief is when the healing started and I was closer to them when they died.  My belief however, was not the same. 

I was raised fundamental baptist and my parents left the church when I was around 13.  Right before the divorce.  My mother was tired of gossip.  The pastor's two sons were convicted of murdering the older brother's wife and sentenced to death two years after we left the church.  Burned her up in a fire!!! >:(  That might not be a coincidence.  Any way if my parents had been more loving and set a better example I would not be the same person I am today.  I like who I am.

As far as the twins xyzzy, I would say that your twin kept your parents belief for the affection.  Especially since you seem to have more intelligence this evens things out.
Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man.
Thomas Paine

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Re: The Parent Trap
« Reply #19 on: July 24, 2013, 09:37:25 AM »
I will have to say that I believe children that are not close with their parents are more likely to stray or reject their parents beliefs.  Especially christianity.  Mainly because when you feel unloved by your parents you feel unloved by God.  I was atheist for 7-8 years for this very reason.  When I came back to belief is when the healing started and I was closer to them when they died.

Interesting.  This seems to support the Freudian perspective which I quoted to you in another thread:

The idea of god was not a lie but a device of the unconscious which needed to be decoded by psychology. A personal god was nothing more than an exalted father-figure.  Desire for such a deity sprang from infantile yearnings for a powerful, protective father; for justice and fairness and for life to go on forever. God is simply a projection of these desires, feared and worshipped by human beings out of an abiding sense of helplessness. Religion belonged to the infancy of the human race; it had been a necessary stage in the transition from childhood to maturity. It had promoted ethical values which were essential to society. Now that humanity had come of age, however, it should be left behind.  (Sigmund Freud)


So Junebug, if one's feeling of being loved by god is dependent upon the healthy relationship between that person and their parents, doesn't that strongly suggest that the god one believes in is imaginary?  Why can't this god's love do so well without the love from earthly parents?
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Offline neopagan

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Re: The Parent Trap
« Reply #20 on: July 24, 2013, 09:41:41 AM »

Interesting, thanks for the link.  It must also be tough given that you live in a part of the States which has christianity literally woven into the culture.  Is there also a fear of social ostracism for you?

jeezus and his earthly minions are very active here indeed in Oklahoma - he even inspired the settlers to run off all the native populace way back when and convert the ones who came back to stay on a desolote piece of land in the panhandle. PTL? Interestingly enough, the folks here are big on supporting the jews in reclaiming/holding their "homeland"... I call that ironic, but they don't know that word.

I won't say a "fear" of ostracism bothers me.  I know it will happen when I remove the mask - especially since most people I know are xians and being all loving and accepting, they won't tolerate an atheist as a friend. I can live with that


If xian hell really exists, the stench of the burning billions of us should be a constant, putrid reminder to the handful of heavenward xians how loving your god is.  - neopagan