I thought religion taught understanding and tolerance

I actually saw this video over at Antibarbie, and it ticked me off to the point that I needed to write a post about it. Let me start off by stating that I am a Catholic. The video is about a family who moved to what they thought was a great small town. However, it turns out the town wasn’t as great as it was made out to be. The family is atheist and the town had a problem with that and pretty much ganged up on the girl. Both kids and teachers at school made of fun of her and talked behind her back. The part that floored me was that the school allowed prayer before and after practice and games. Don’t believe it? The video shows video of it.  (Just to add – I hope that this family wins.)

As I said, I am Catholic, and I would have a problem with my kids participating in something like that. Not all kids are Christian, and I understand that. I live in an area that we have a ton of different religions and that would not go over well (yes, my school district is the one that made national news, because they canceled all holiday parties. They did get reinstated after much protest). I understand that kids can be mean, but the fact that adults took part in ostracizing this poor girl makes me even angrier. In a way though, it doesn’t surprise me.

A while back, it was brought to my attention that the book Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion needed help with promotion, because bookstores wouldn’t carry it.  I don’t get it.  To me, this seems to break some of our basic freedoms.  If you aren’t an atheist, why do you care if your local bookstore carries this book or not?  I know I don’t.

Maybe I am too open minded.  I want my children to grow up knowing that there is more that just being Catholic and that others believe different things.  That isn’t good or bad; it is just different.  I don’t want them going to school and being taught religion (that’s for their mom and dad to do).  I don’t want them being involved in group prayer and making others feel like outsiders.  I want adults to be able to go to their local bookstore and get a book that will help them to raise their children.

My religion teaches me to be good to others last I checked, and it seems that some people have forgotten that.

Comments

  1. Unfortunately, I've known folks who've lived in the 'Bible Belt' and some of those places really are exactly as you see in the video – intolerant and prejudiced.

    People that deeply entrenched in their own little bubble need to be exposed to other cultures and ideas in order to see past the bridge of their own noses.

  2. I'm also Catholic. I was SHOCKED when I attended the Thanksgiving breakfast at my kids school last month (public school!) and we were asked to "bow our heads" so the kids could recite a little prayer of sorts….except they didn't refer to it as a prayer.

    For the record it started off with "Father…", so it sounds like a prayer to me. If I wanted religion in my school, I'd still be sending my kids to Catholic school.

  3. I would have been surprised by that too. I was amazed when Madison came home singing God Bless America from preschool.

  4. When I was in high school I went through the same thing, only it was the opposite, because I was a Christian my views and beliefs were ridiculed and put down by a school that was predominantly secular/atheist.

    It's not so much religion as it is the human condition that creates these divisions. Whatever the predominant belief system happens to be in any region, anyone who detracts from that norm will be subjected to ridicule. What this girl went through isn't really unique to any particular religious system or culture, but human nature.

    Though I suspect she actually enjoys the negative attention. :-P Naturally I blame the parents for screwing up their kid. ;-)

  5. Having been a girl who went through high school, I am pretty sure the last thing she wanted to do was draw attention to herself.

    And always blaming the parents, huh? LOL

  6. Hey, blaming parents for everything under the sun is a time honored tradition! Don’t knock it. :-D

    BTW, the reason I suspect she digs the negative attention here is because I was the same way myself, and I tend to recognize this trait in others (yeah I’m a baddddd boy).

    In this case though the obnoxious Myspace page she has was kind of a dead giveaway.

  7. Thanks for such a thoughtful post. I wanted to put you at ease a bit.

    Though some parenting magazines did decline to review the book for fear of offending religious subscribers, the decision by several retail book chains not to stock Parenting Beyond Belief was never about ideology; it was market-driven. They have limited shelf space and were unconvinced that my book would have much of an audience, so they chose to wait and see — a quite reasonable decision.

    After three months, the strength of sales and positive publicity (Newsweek, etc) led them to jump in. Now most of the major chains stock the book, though not always in all locations.

    As for the overall response of the religious community, most have been much like you — tolerant, open, and more than willing to have another voice in the discussion. I've been quite grateful for that and try to return the favor whenever I can.

    Cheers,

    Dale McGowan

    Editor/co-author, Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion

  8. I am glad you were able to get your book into the major book chains where it should have been. I still wonder if a book on Christianity would have had the struggle you did though. I am glad the majority of your response has been good. I am glad to know that not everyone is a hateful as this town was.

  9. Parents ostracizing kids seems to be very popular lately. I live near the Meier home where the neighbor made up a fake boy on MySpace and basically drove young Megan Meier to suicide just so she could find out what she was saying about her daughter. It is sickening.

  10. This is sad, though as Lincoln suggests, it's how humans tend to behave, and it isn't limited to religious groupings. We tend to identify with our own sub-sect, whether nationality, race, religion, football team or whatever and treat outsiders with suspicion. We seem to need to *identify* ourselves in this way and then boost our egos by finding reasons to feel superior to those outside our grouping. If our sub-set is a religion, then its teachings often get overlooked – the belonging (and the accompanying rejection of outsiders) becomes our focus.

    Some people manage to rise above all this. Well done for you for doing so! All we humans need to realize that what unites us is much more important than whatever seems to divide us.

  11. Mahalo for a thoughtful and informative post Lisa. There are important lessons on tolerance and diversity to be learned here, by people of all beliefs.

  12. I'm pagan and live in a tiny town in the Bible Belt. From my own experiences tollerance only goes as far as people of the exact same religion. Try to admit that you're different only results in being hurt.

  13. So wrong for any person, of any faith (or not) to ostracize and ridicule and make any other human feel bad in any way. Wrong, also, for anyone to tell any person of any faith that they are not allowed to honor their faith. Like it or not, our country was founded on the basis of religious freedom—that all may worship and believe as they choose. By removing the right for anyone to say a prayer, or sing a song that involves the word "God" or remove His name from our beloved Pledge of Allegiance is to remove religious freedom from our country. These precious things aren't a way of forcing anyone to believe a certain way or of criticizing a certain belief system. Those who feel so are simply choosing to be victims. This little town in the original post needs some serious education in Christianity. Or even just the Golden Rule or even simpler: general kindness and courtesy. Religion isn't the problem. It's selfishness and ignorance as social flaws.

  14. I feel so sorry for this poor family. I am also an atheist and know what is is like to be targeted. Once I became public with my beliefs I lost a couple of friends who didn't agree with what I believed. This girl should have not gone through what she had to. I hope my children never have to go through this. I wish all people of faith would understand that we are not out to get them and we are not trying to convert them to the "dark side". We just want to live our lives the same way everyone else does, in peace. Thanks everyone for such great understanding and support!

  15. I watched part of the documentary, and quite frankly, it sounds to me that this young girl and her family are also intolerant. They have an agenda that they are interested in promoting in regard to going against the status quo in their community. The thing that makes this whole issue confusing is the fact that this whole thing is centered around religion. Religion is man's attempt to reach God on man's terms, through human wisdom. People often exalt their religious beliefs and practices above a relationship with God. If a person is truly a Christian in their heart, they with esteem others above themselves and will not defy the golden rule which is to love your neighbor as yourself. I used to think that I was a Christian because I was raised in a Catholic family. However, I never actually became a Christian until 3 years ago when I had a conversion experience and God melted my heart. The thing is most of the people that call themselves Cristian in that community, don't even know God. They are just going through the motions. Otherwise, they would not be judging others that are different from themselves. If they really knew God, they would be loving that family unconditionally and trying to share that love of Christ. I see a lot of intolerance and ignorance coming from all the different players in this scenario, but that's human nature for you. Strife is always a result of sin.

  16. I am a Christian, I believe in the God of Moses, Abraham, and Jesus. I for certain am not for cramming belief down someone’s throat. I do see that trying to teach God is opposed also in the world hence the film Ben Steins "Expelled" for example. I want to make a point that is often over looked. If one believes, truly believes in God and Christ then ones own Belief says to teach it and spread it to others, not out of malice but out of love. It is not possible to be a Christian and not share your beliefs. That said I am not in support of Christian crusades but am very much in support of standing up for the right to tell others what I believe. I saw the story of that little girl above and under stand how she would feel as an outsider but think any group has the right to pray or gather together and should not have to change their beliefs practice because someone joins them who do not believe. I have seen in life how being with a group of people who all support something and you do not, can make you feel and it is not a good feeling, but that doesn’t give me the right to say ok you have to pray because I believe in God or you all should stop praying because I don’t.praying because I don’t. The simple solution here is not a right for either side but a right that they can co-exist period.

  17. Our wonderful source of books, amazon.com, carries this book and sells it for $12.21 (regular price: $17.95). What's not to love about Amazon. Jeff Bezos is my hero.

  18. The majority group always seems to ridicule the minority. They need to look at their religion and see if thats what they should be doing. Surely all religions are about respecting each other?

  19. "I thought religion taught understanding and tolerance" Who ever said that?

    The Bible does not accept sin… If offers sinners (That's all of us) A means to repent (That means turn from) our sin and be forgiven (That is the Tolerance & Understanding)

    It never says you do your thing and your accepted… I do my thing and I am accepted..

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