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Death and religion

Discussion in 'Personal' started by Teslasmate, Mar 22, 2019.

  1. Teslasmate

    Teslasmate Occasional commenter

    My daughter (six, pure sunshine) has recently started some conversations about death and dying. My father in law died a couple of years ago, and it's clearly been bubbling away in her mind. At the time she asked if everyone dies (specifically, me, mummy and herself). She appeared to come to terms with our answers. We've always encouraged her to ask any question she likes, and she'll raise some pretty deep stuff (along with the really important stuff like why are unicorns so rare)?
    Recently she has been coming home from school saying things like 'Jesus is my friend'. She's also linked this to the death questions. I'm hugely unhappy about the school proselytising. They have no business trying to infect minds with religion. Telling people that have not developed critical faculties outright lies is just wrong.
    But, what if it helps deal with the huge question of death when she's small and vulnerable? I'm trying to work out if the risk of the virus sticking is worth the comfort it might bring my beautiful little girl now.
    There is no doubt to me that religion is a negative. It has serious consequences for the rest of ones life. But then again plenty of people develop immunity later, and is it any different to the Santa Claus schtick? Or maybe the reason we tell fluffy lies like that is because it allows us to believe the big lies (truth, honesty is best, people are mostly good).
    I'm burbling because I have to work out what to do. I'm going to be speaking with the head in a few days, and I need to decide whether to gently but firmly tell him to tell the teacher to lay off the religion or go nuclear.
  2. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Is it a 'faith' school? If not, (and maybe even if it is), you could tell the HT that your family are 'humanists' and any proselytisation of your daughter by religious fanatics (that's how I'd term it) would be regarded as an infringement of your family's civil rights...
    bonxie likes this.
  3. mothorchid

    mothorchid Star commenter

    An awkward question. Is it a C of E or Catholic primary? (Do such things still exist?) If so, you are on less firm ground.
    In any case, I'd suggest gentle but firm to begin with. Then you have somewhere to go if it goes on. I have a feeling that (Faith schools aside) it's not allowed to evangelise in a school. I may well be wrong here...
    As for the longer term concern, well, she sounds a bright little thing. You can always give her alternatives and let her work out what she wants to think later. If it helps her at the moment, I don't see much problem.
    She sounds lovely!
    PS Why are unicorns so rare?
    JohnJCazorla and agathamorse like this.
  4. Teslasmate

    Teslasmate Occasional commenter

    It's officially CofE, but my experience was that these schools are religious in name only. They appear to have noticed that the church is dying and are trying to reverse it. Even 10 years ago when my nephew was going through the system, CofE meant a line on the sign and hymns in the morning only. I could live with that.
    agathamorse likes this.
  5. Teslasmate

    Teslasmate Occasional commenter

    Cof E officially. But it doesn't say in the prospectus 'hardline recruitment station'! You are probably right, have somewhere to go to. She is bright, but clever people can become infected too. St Thomas Aquinas was no slouch after all. She is lovely :) And unicorns are rare (she has decided) because people are not putting up enough fairy doors in their houses, so fewer fairies, so less fairy dust to make unicorns appear. Cue multiple fairy doors in her room!
    agathamorse and mothorchid like this.
  6. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    Were you not told these things as a schoolchild?
    artboyusa likes this.
  7. sadscientist

    sadscientist Senior commenter

    How do you know she is not picking up these ideas from school friends who may be attending Sunday School? In my experience more likely than evangelising at Primary, even in a C of E school.
  8. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Established commenter

    I think you are perfectly correct to point out that the Jesus story is only one of many stories about what happens to us when we die. You did not say here what your story was. Peter Pan thought it must be an awfully big adventure. The truth, in this world, is that we really do not know.
    You could ask your daughter where and from whom she heard about Jesus. Your relationship with her is far more important than troubling the school, otherwise take her away if they are proselytising.
    agathamorse likes this.
  9. monicabilongame

    monicabilongame Star commenter

    You seem to be ok with her belief in fairies and fairy dust and unicorns, but not ok with a mythological saviour?

    Lots of apparently otherwise sane and intelligent people believe such things as the existence of elves and trolls (Iceland); ghosts; Nessie; Bigfoot etc.... Lots of other people who are kind, caring and compassionate believe in the existence of a supreme being, or gods in general.

    Religion doesn't make people bad, but it does give bad people a platform to try and control other people from. Mostly, folk believe in things because it helps give a structure and a comfort to their world, especially the uncontrollable and unknown aspects of it. All religions are a social attempt to improve things (if only just for their members and no-one else), but the fact that they don't even do that is not the fault of the religion or the founder, it's the fault of the people who take the basic message and twist it to their own ends, building a psychological and emotional prison around it.

    If your daughter is trotting around with Jesus as her friend for the time being, it's no worse than having a teddy bear she tells all her problems to, and it doesn't mean she will turn into a raving Christian fundie who wants to burn people at the stake. She's only six, after all. There will be far more influence on the way she turns out as a lovely human being from how you bring her up. Let her have her fairies and unicorns and invisible friends if they are useful to her for now, and try not to let your own emotional baggage around religion infect her, because that's not hers to deal with, it's yours.

    A friend of mine was a-religious if not downright anti, had a 5 or 6-year old daughter who was anxious about going to school (CofE primary). The child had come home with a similar refrain about Jesus being her friend. My friend told her that God/Jesus didn't exist, and that she just needed to remember if she was worried about things, that Captain Planet would be with her and look after her. When I asked her about this, she said that she didn't want her daughter being taught to believe in things that weren't real. She didn't see the irony of this.

    Imaginary things are just that - imaginary - but that doesn't mean they can't be useful for a while. Nothing stopping you having rational conversations with her when she's old enough to ask questions and think more critically, but for now I really wouldn't be worrying.
  10. chelsea2

    chelsea2 Star commenter

    As someone who has been 'infected' ;) and for whom Jesus is indeed my friend (and I am hopefully intelligent - though not in the Thomas Aquinas bracket) maybe an open mind on your part would be the best way forward? Ultimately, none of us KNOWS. As Mathsteach2 says, it would be good to discuss things with her, tell her what you believe, suggest other beliefs, but also to accept what she believes.

    Children can make up their own minds. I did, at the age of 10 (nothing to do with school, church or anyone, just an encounter with God which changed my life). You may have no faith; millions do, with reasons. To come in heavy may well drive your daughter even further where you do not want her to go (historically, persecution strengthens faith.) As we all do, she will continue to test what she believes and why; my beliefs are not fixed in tablets of stone - I hope yours aren't, either?

    I doubt the school will be proselytising, but as it is a church school then the beliefs of the Christian faith will be - should be - made clear. This will be particularly so if it is a VA school. And we are on the run up to Easter, so you would expect the story of Lent - passion week - crucifixion - resurrection to be covered in some way.
  11. CheeseMongler

    CheeseMongler Lead commenter

    I would suggest that it's irrespective of where the "Jesus is my friend" has come from, I would expect that she has latched on to this nice simple idea of a religious afterlife due to the complex internal struggle of "what happens to us when we die?" I've not managed to resolve this and so not surprised your daughter is holding on to a nice simplistic view for the time being.
    I wouldn't "go nuclear" at the school unless you know exactly what was said. If a student were to ask me, "what happens when we die?" I would give try to give a balanced view of all the ideas, including a Christian heaven. I wouldn't be surprised though if the student just latched on to the Christian heaven/hell as the easiest and most comforting to understand (and I'm thinking of KS4/5 students) - I'd be horrified if anyone thought I was proselytising though. I expect your daughter will soon adopt a different standpoint as she continues to question the validity of the heaven/hell theory and realises that it has its own flaws and weaknesses.
    agathamorse and monicabilongame like this.
  12. adam_nichol

    adam_nichol Occasional commenter

    I have a similar(ish) issue. My son is 7, just after last Christmas my father died from cancer. We told him soon after the event, and he came to a celebration of life doodad that was in place of a funeral (my father having no affection for any sort of church).
    Naturally, my son wants to know where Grandad is. Neither me nor my father hold/held any religious beliefs, but I'm cautious about delivering views that may upset my son. I used to be all fire and brimstone (ironically) about this - be up front and show them the reality they have to deal with (ie: he's dead, you go nowhere, we all die in the end, so enjoy life). But, I wimped out when it came to it.
    Somewhere, my son has picked up on the concept of heaven*. I have gone as far as to tell him that only some people believe in heaven, and what he believes is up to him. I would rather he didn't believe in any of that bible guff (I know that phrase might offend, but I have no love for Christianity and reserve the right to that opinion); but I don't want him to shape his views to keep in line with mine, so haven't made him aware of that.

    *I think this is somewhat indirect from Primary school. At parent's evening, I looked at his RE book. 'Other' religions are depicted as what 'others' believe. Christian stuff is depicted as what 'we' believe and/or is presented as fact (eg: "draw what you think God looks like"). It's not a CofE school (and there is another school in village that is); but I think the indoctrination is more subtle and pervasive than evangelised. They do a variant on the nativity play around xmas time, and a bunch of other christian celebration time points - which I'm sure they regard more as tradition/English culture than religion per se, but that's because of the bubble they live in.
  13. HelenREMfan

    HelenREMfan Star commenter

    Well.... tbh I am incredulous thst we still have any school in this country which informs/instructs/teaches anything re Christianity. I often teach Eng Lit and I find that modern pupils have NO idea if anything remotely connected to it. Add to that some (I suspect young products of comp schools of the last 15+ years) eng teachers have no clue either.... evidence ... well I looked st an English poetry anthology one of our “ bright young teachers “ had put together which informed these poor kids that the reference to the Valley of the shadow of Death in @the charge of the light brigade” was a reference to the Lord’s Prayer . That from a teacher in a “faith “ school. God help any poor soul teaching Eng Lit at A level is all I can say. Of course all that syllabus will be based on Hindu/ Islam Sikh teachings as that is all these kids seem to learn in any R E they get to do. They certainly know naff all re the Bible etc. I am no tub thumping Christian by any means but going to church, Sunday school when little, with some daily religious thought throughout school to 18, didn’t kill me neither did it indoctrinate me. So...... either no religion at all with the literature allegories abandoned and that would be fairer to Humanism, Quakerism etc which get no look in at all or make sure that our children get equal coverage of Christianity in a supposed Christian country when all that is promoted in the interests of pc ness is a few “ favoured” religions.
    Yes... I do feel quite strongly about this as although I oppose most organised religion with all their failings, I do happen to think that if a good many people in this country had a good dose of Christian ethics we would be better off!
    Mistakes here are down to posting on a weeny phone!
    Laphroig likes this.
  14. Ivartheboneless

    Ivartheboneless Star commenter

    My daughter is equally concerned that her sons teacher is giving them the Jesus spiel, but he is in just a council primary. My daughter, like me, is an atheist and believes if you teach the Jesus stuff you should give them all the alternatives, or don't bombard them with anything. I rejected all the Catholic guff at thirteen and I was in a school being taught by (and beaten by) Catholic priests. I had to hide my non-belief until I left that school at 18, and go to the interminable masses which they laid on at the slightest excuse taking us away from teaching proper subjects. When you look at "worshippers" in this country i do not see how we can be classed as "Christian", and it really annoys me that the Cof E has so much money, owns so much land, and has frocked-up ponces in the House of Lords!
  15. InkyP

    InkyP Star commenter

    I would imagine you had some kind of RE at school yet, like millions of people, remain 'unbrainwashed', your daughter will also make up her own mind. When I taught Early Years I taught the Christian stories about Christmas and Easter but was careful to say 'Christians believe .....'. Someone suggested your daughter has picked up these ideas from a friend and I think that is very likely. A young friend of one of my Grandsons did this at an early age and he was quite taken with the idea for a while, the friend's family attended an evangelical church and were always trying to recruit.

    Your daughter, given the information, will be as capable as you are of working out what she believes. Unless she is drawn into a cult she will not be brainwashed. Just be aware that she might well decide to disagree with you as is her right!
    monicabilongame and chelsea2 like this.
  16. chelsea2

    chelsea2 Star commenter

    Too many posts to quote (and I'm trying to clean the house in preparation for visitors tonight!!), but - unless the law has changed - the expectation for state schools is that RE should cover Christianity (predominantly - I have at least 50% in my mind) and also a range of other world faiths. In my LA, the last RE syllabus covered Christianity & Judaism in KS1, and Christianity (every year), Islam, Hinduism & Sikhism, plus Humanism in KS2. Buddhism was left until KS3.

    There is no statutory NC for RE. Each LA has its own SACRE (Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education, made up of a mixture of teachers, lay people & faith leaders) and that determines the RE syllabis for LA schools. This means it can take into account local communities. VA church schools do not have to follow this, but VC schools do. Academies, of course, can do what they like.

    'Daily acts of collective worship' also have to be predominantly Christian, but in practice these are more focused on generic values held by people of all faiths and none . Nevertheless, most schools break the law (not just by not holding such events), but also by not referencing 'God' in any overt way.

    However, in state schools it is inappropriate to use 'we' when talking about what Christians believe, and I was always very careful to say 'Christians believe', 'Hindus believe' etc. Maybe in VA schools this would not be an issue.

    Why the focus on Christianity? Because, like it not, Christianity underpins much of the history, culture & values of Britain, and continues to be a major factor in its life.

    (Caveat: I left teaching 5 years ago, so the situation may have changed, but I don't think it has.)
  17. Sundaytrekker

    Sundaytrekker Star commenter

    Daily collective worship is still the legal default position for schools in this country. During these assemblies the Christian religion is presented ‘as if it is true’. Many schools no longer stick to this in full although all the ones I’ve worked in pray to God during assembly time. In RE lessons it’s a factual case of Christians believe this..... Muslims believe this etc.
    chelsea2 likes this.
  18. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Time to remove the (oft ignored) law compelling collective worship...
  19. racroesus

    racroesus Star commenter

    I was baptised and confirmed. I attended Sunday School and Church. By ten I was well aware something was wrong but, being NI, I kept my counsel. I gave up at sixteen. I continue to develop my own philosophy of life and the Universe.
    I think she will be okay as long as she is able to discuss these things with you when she wants to without being branded a heretic, or stupid, or a credulous fool.
    I give you
    His academic advisers are an interesting pair.
    monicabilongame likes this.
  20. Teslasmate

    Teslasmate Occasional commenter

    Is sunday school still a thing? I'm not aware of any particularly christian families in the year group. The head of this school is however a christian, and a couple of the teachers are known to be. Thing is, children only repeat this guff if they are told it in the first place.

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