My Mother-In-Law Thinks My Daughter Is Going To Hell

Carrie-1My husband got off the phone with his mom. We rarely see his mom because we’re in the Midwest and she’s in California. I asked how the call was. He stared blankly. “My mom is concerned with what we’re teaching *Goober about religion.”

“What? What did you tell her?”

“I explained that I’m a believer, that you’re an atheist and we’re raising Goober to make her own choices. You know, I told her we’re going to educate her on different world religions and what we personally believe. Then she said she was worried we’re teaching her that god doesn’t exist. I think she genuinely believes you and Goober are going to hell.”

At this point, I was indignant, but not surprised. Ever since my MIL married a conservative Southern Baptist man a couple years ago, she’s been extremely vocal about her newfound salvation and political views. Only recently did she stop sending me cheesy/alarmist chain emails, which I think was in response to a passive aggressive Facebook status I posted about “knowing your audience” when you spam your friends and family.

I won’t lie – I’m happy that my MIL lives far away, because I’m not sure how I would deal with our differences if she were a regular part of our lives. It’s not that I hate religious people, or that I was deeply wronged by some Christian pervert in the past, or that I’m on a crusade to convert believers into heathens like me. I don’t dislike my MIL. She’s boisterous, a little over-the-top, but she’s not a bad person. And, like so many other people, she literally believes that if Goober doesn’t accept Jesus Christ into her soul that she’s going to burn in hell. So I get that her intentions are good, and that she’s seriously concerned about my daughter’s fate, and my own.

It’s just that I’m tired. I am so, so, so fucking tired of this sort of thing.

Religion has drawn an invisible wedge between me and my own mother, me and everyone on my mom’s side of the family, and many people on my dad’s side of the family. I come from a long line of Southern Baptists, many of them loving, many of them bigots. It’s not uncommon for my relatives to proselytize at family reunions, or to tell stories of the lost souls they’re trying to convert. Everything good that happens involves the word “blessed.” Everything bad invokes a prayer.
Both of my grandfathers have stood up and made forceful religious statements in waiting rooms and other public places. It’s abrasive, it’s inconsiderate and it does nothing to warm the hearts of the very people they’re trying to reach. Yet, as a Southern Baptist, as a Christian who takes The Great Commission seriously, it’s what you’re supposed to do.

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    • keelhaulrose

      According to some of my in-laws we weren’t properly married because we married in the wrong church (Unitarian), had only a passing mention of God in our ceremony, and didn’t pledge our vows to God. Un-married parents mean our kids… I’ll give them credit for not using the “b” word. And we’re raising our kids to respect faiths of all kinds and make their own choices when they feel ready.
      You are handling the situation well. You need to prioritize your child and your family, and not listen to others. Just repeat “we don’t talk politics or religion in my home”.

    • alice

      I’m curious: did you baptize your daughter?

      I’d say that you shouldn’t be bothered by what your MiL says, unless she starts saying it to Goober.

    • StealthGent

      All I can say is you have my empathy. I’m very frequently at an impasse
      with my own in-laws, and we’re even both Christians. They constantly harass us under the guise of being “Worried about us.” They’re strong followers of the evangelical movement, and extremely conservative, they see the world in black-and-white and any other side is stupid or lying. They see genuine malice or pawns of the devil in anyone who has an opposite view.

      So, naturally, they don’t take well to their son being catholic, a nudist, and married to a man who used to be his wife. They see the devil at work in me, they do not see the man who attends liturgy regularly, or does not pick his garden clean unless the last of my harvest is going in a box on the corner marked “Free.” They think we’re corrupted by the liberal agenda (We’re socially liberal, financially conservative, and a bit more libertarian than anything), and that our marriage simply by existing is ruining the marriages and families of others. They see politics as an extension of religion, and that’s that. They try to say, lovingly, that they pray every night that I’ll be happy as a woman again. I wish I could tell them that I wish I could, too, but they would see that as being a choice to be how I am, and not exasperation at being stuck with an expensive, draining, alienating disorder that I might just have because the doctor picked the wrong side of the coin when I was altered as an ambigously gendered baby. To them, I’m the judas goat, leading their good Christian son astray, when they never knew him to be the suicidal, scared, repressed person I knew who ultimately decided to not go through with treatment for his gender dysphoria because it would break their hearts.

      To them, the world is black and white, there is no other way but theirs, nothing else can ever, possibly be right. They only embrace their own kind, and drive everyone else away with their “concern” by cornering and lecturing them. They do a lot of extremely un-christian things in the name of Christianity, and there’s no calling them out on it because that puts you back on the “black” side of the debate. Once you’re there, they can’t listen.

      I didn’t mean to write a novel, I just wanted to say that I get it. I know your pain, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. What I do wish you is love, peace, patience, the support of your partner, and hopefully a few good friends to vent at. Religion is such a wedge between families, and I cannot stand when it gets in the way of love.

      • That_Darn_Kat

        I just want to send a million hugs to you and your husband for your struggles.

    • FF4life

      My grandparents pestered me for months about baptizing my daughter. Sent me religious pamphlets and even tried to bribe me by saying there was a big check for her college fund in the congratulations card.

      On the other hand my Ex’s mother who is Wiccan also pestered me about a “naming ceremony” to meet the ancestors.

      I’m not religious. I don’t believe that choices on religion should be made for a child who’s too young to choose for themselves. One day she’ll be an adult and she can make those choices for herself.

      • pixie

        This is how I was raised. My parents didn’t believe in choosing a religion for me just to please the family, especially when they didn’t believe in whatever they were raised as (my dad was baptized Anglican, my mom was baptized Catholic).

        When mentioned in passing that I wasn’t baptized and why, by boyfriend’s grandmother was shocked and tried to explain that it “wasn’t forcing anything on the baby because they don’t have the mental capability to make decisions yet”. Apparently her first borns (twins) died shortly after birth and were not baptized and not allowed to be buried in the church cemetery, which heavily affected her opinion.

        Personally, when I have a child, I’m not going to baptize them, but raise them to be open minded about all religions and teach them about practices in different religions so if they decide they believe in something that I don’t necessarily believe in, they have made that choice for themselves. That being said, I’m not against parents who wish to raise their children in a certain faith. If they believe that is what is best for their child, then so be it. It is not up to me to judge, as long as they are loving, caring parents who also teach their children to respect people who have different opinions, belief systems, races, sexual orientations, etc from them.

    • Annona

      That sucks. I can’t imagine that it’s easy for you to deal with, no matter how much you may care for your MIL. I grew up with an atheist father and a Methodist mother who did what you and your husband are doing…they taught us about options and let us pick our own faith or not as we chose once we were mature enough to understand. It worked very well, but none of our extended family had any form of crazy ass religion; even my deeply Christian great grandparents were loving and accepting. There was no “hell fire” threat in my life, not until I started public school.

      I agree that you’re probably not going to gain much ground having a logical conversation with MIL, as the Southern Baptists I’ve met are not known for their stellar logic ability. Probably best to grin and bear it…unless she starts preaching hellfire and gross scare tactics to your daughter, which in my opinion would be unacceptable. Also, sometimes, in cases where the conflict comes from the spouse’s parent, it’s good to make sure that you and your husband are on the exact same page when it comes to what you will and won’t tolerate from MIL. And it might be a good thing for most of the discussion about what Goober hears from grandma about hell to come from your husband…easier to take, maybe, and less “ah, that godless woman is forcing my baby away from tha Lawrd!”

    • Diya Naidu

      The problem with your MIL’s religious path being the true path to God or salvation or whatever, and everyone else is going to hell – is that every zealot feels the same way about their own religion, so basically everyone is going to hell according to someone else.

      She has a right to believe what she wants but she has no right to impose those beliefs on you. She needs to keep her opinions to herself if she ever wants a decent relationship with you. It’s sad that she already seems to have sabotaged that.

    • historychick79

      Religion and family can be challenging. My in-laws are practicing Catholics, my husband lapsed; I was never confirmed Catholic and dislike organized religion in general, though I suspect there’s a higher power out there. When hubby and I were engaged (and living together for almost 3yrs), we decided to get married outside at my parents’ house, and we held a meeting with both our parents several months in advanced to sort out basic logistics. My father-in-law-to-be asked very nicely why we were not getting married in a church. I explained that I was never confirmed and did not believe enough in the faith to take the necessary classes, and fiancee confirmed he didn’t want to bother either. Mother in law to be charmingly gasped and said to my husband “she’s not Catholic? Did you know this?” :) It has never been truly an issue, but on husband’s side we are the only ones who do not attend church, did not have a baptism/christening for our son, and sometimes it just pops up now and then that we are a bit on the outside of things. And I’m just waiting for our son (now 3) to start questioning someday and see how this will all piece together over the years.

    • Amber Starr

      My daughter is due on 12/5, and people are foaming at the mouth because my fiance and I are not baptizing her. Here’s the deal: he and I are spiritual. We believe in God and we believe in being good to other people… but what we don’t believe in is labeling ourselves or our baby. We haven’t been to church in over a decade, except for funerals, and neither have our families, so when they come to us about “laying a foundation of Christ” in baby’s life and making sure that she gets into Heaven, I get rather defensive…. My daughter will be given the basics and if she decides someday to be baptized into a specific religion, we will support her. If she decides that religion is not for her, we will also support her. What I will NOT do, is set a precedent that we, as new parents, will be bullied into doing something to or for our daughter that we are uncomfortable with.

      • Katherine Handcock

        Hey, if you want to really blow people’s minds, tell them this: infant baptism is actually not theologically appropriate. My husband is a minister, and we specifically chose NOT to have our children baptized because baptism is supposed to be a vow from an individual to follow a certain creed, and obviously, and infant can’t do that. And since baptism is a sacrament, you can’t baptize twice. We opted to have a blessing/introduction to the community instead, and if either or both of our kids opt to be baptized and confirmed later in life, they will make their vows themselves.

        If nothing else, it’ll give folks who are giving you a hard time a new target: that crazy minister you’ve heard about who didn’t even baptize his own kids ;-)

      • Amber Starr

        If you don’t mind, I will absolutely explain this to those who have been having a heart attack about the whole thing. I actually really love the idea of HER making that choice. I feel like it would mean so much more than just making the choice for her…and the God that *I* know will love her even if she ISN’T baptized as a newborn. she will be a wonderful human being, which is what is REALLY important.

      • Katherine Handcock

        You are more than welcome! There are plenty of theologians who will make the same argument. Infant baptism is kind of a relic of Medieval theology, when it was believed that an unbaptized soul couldn’t go to heaven. Since infant mortality was so high, the church actually CHANGED the policy on baptism to allow it. Previously, you could only be baptized as you neared adulthood; it was part of your initiation into the mysteries of the faith. So if you wait, you’ll actually be following the more traditional path :-)
        If you want to do something like we did, a minister/priest who’s willing can give a blessing of the child and introduce them to the community. We had a very simple blessing where a colleague of my husband’s made the cross on the baby’s head with oil and said a simple blessing and prayer. Heck, I can find the text we used if you’d like!

      • Ddaisy

        That is interesting–I didn’t know that! If I may politely ask, what is the difference, then, between baptism and confirmation? You didn’t mention what denomination you are, and I’m curious. I was raised Catholic, went through all the sacraments, etc. I think the way I was taught it was pretty much like this: baptism was your parents/godparents promising to teach you about the Catholic faith as they raised you, and then when you were older, confirmation was you making an adult decision about whether to continue with it. I guess in my church, baptism was more like the “blessing and introduction” you described. But I am by no means studied up on the subject; that’s just my personal anecdotal experience, and I’d love it if you could please share more information on the subject! :)

      • Katherine Handcock

        Of course you may! Originally, you would have been baptized INSTEAD of being confirmed, as an adult. When concerns emerged about whether an unbaptized infant who died could go to heaven, the church began infant baptism, where parents would promise to raise you in the church. Then they added confirmation, so that the now-adult child could make the pledge themselves, since you cannot be baptized twice.

        Some churches (including my husband’s) are quietly encouraging a return to the original ideal, that it should be the adult (or near adult – in my husband’s church, confirmation usually happens around age 13) who makes the vows to the church. So, in the case of my kids, if/when they decide to go through the confirmation promise, they will be baptized, and will make their own vows then.

        To fill the void some parents find when you don’t do an infant baptism, you can have a blessing for the baby which functions as their introduction to the church community. We promised to raise the kids in faith (non-denominationally – I’m not actually a member of any church, although my husband’s denomination is the closest I’ve found to one that suits what I believe) and the church congregation promised to help support us. And then we all had cake :-)

      • moonie27

        I’m pretty sure I got baptized multiple times between the ages of 4-6. My friends’ parents kept on bringing me to church and I love nothing better than being in water. I have distinct recollections of adults seriously offering to baptize me and just looking at the giant bucket of water going, “yes, please!”

    • That_Darn_Kat

      My mom’s mom was raised Mormon, her dad was raised Protestant. When they got together, neither one was very religious, and raised their kids with a lack of religion, though the offer was always there to find various churches if they wanted to start looking at religion. When my mom had me, she was the same way. I understood some of the various religions, because we discussed them, but I wasn’t really raised religious. For about 10 years, while my mom was married to someone who was Jewish, we did some of that, but that was it. We weren’t expected to convert, we just celebrated both Christmas and Chanukah. My kids aren’t really raised with religion. If they want to experience church, I’ll find one and take them. If they want to get to know their Mormon family members (who won’t talk to us because we’re not Mormon), then I’ll make the call. I won’t force my beliefs on them, it’s up to them.

      • JLH1986

        My mom did this. I attended a synagogue, southern Baptist, Baptist, Unitarian, Catholic, Episcopal, and non denominational churches at various times. None of have stuck. I believe whole heartedly there is something out there, a higher power, and I pray, but church, baptisms etc.? Not my thing.

    • AnneB

      My hubby was baptised Catholic. I was baptised Episcopalian. We were married in a UU and our concession to our families expectation of our son’s baptism was to participate in the local UU’s dedication ceremony. Since UU’s allow freedom of choice, it was something we could both stand behind and for the sake of tradition, it was close enough to a baptism ceremony.

    • Katherine Handcock

      If it helps all those of you who are dealing with pressure about religion and kids, please know that there are many ministers out there (my husband and the majority of his colleagues among them) who are more concerned about whether you’re teaching your children to be good people than whether you’ve conducted a specific ritual or take them to Sunday School every week. If faith is important to you, please pass it on, but the truth is that the motion of faith and church is towards a more all-encompassing, diverse understanding of spirituality. Folks who believe that specific rites must be conducted at specific times, and that good actions can be wiped out by failure to comply, are the last of a slowly dying, very archaic, idea of faith.

      • Guest

        Thank you, thank you. I’ve long held that any God worthy of worship should care more about whether we are good people that whether we go through a particular set of ceremonies. Requiring a particular set of ceremonies/praise seems a very human conceit.

    • katherine parker

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      • candyvines

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    • Sam Inoue

      My mil would think my kids were going to hell, but she’s japanese and they aren’t christian. I have done everything else wrong according to her. You can’t always win your in laws

    • Guest Post

      This post was a great read. As a cradle Catholic I totally respect your view points and have had some of the best conversations with my atheist friends. I literally grew up thinking everyone was Catholic (I’m not joking, I attended catholic school) and when graduated High School, life was pretty interesting for me.

      I chose to baptize my children in the Catholic faith when they were older (5 and 8), which is unheard of. Initially I had decided to let them chose their faith but they asked questions about where I went every Sunday morning alone, and I decided I wanted to provide a foundation for my children in understanding religion. As a family we talk often about how not everyone is Catholic and how its great, the world needs different view points, not everyone has to believe what we do. Teaching tolerance and acceptance is critical to me as a parent. Additionally I want them to question the Catholic Churches teachings, they believe that same sex marriage is a matter of the state, not the church. Hopefully the next generation of Catholics can help change these outdated, judgmental views.

      You’ll probably never change your mother in laws opinion because she is too busy trying to save you and not focused on what really matters, enjoying her goober grandkid :)

    • Rachel Sea

      I wish everyone would just keep their religion to themselves. There are few things less Christian than Judgy McProselytizers and their promises of hellfire. Read your book, you jerks, you’re making the baby Jesus cry.

    • Skipper

      What is it about religion that makes being open minded so unnecessary? I’m an very committed to my political views, but I accept that there is a possibility that I am not correct. It frustrates me to no end to discuss my views with those who differ entirely (i.e. complete other end of the spectrum), so I simply don’t discuss it with them in order to save friendships, etc. However, there is some sort of desperation with religious beliefs – perhaps that the primary requirement is the belief itself.
      I remember being a young girl, maybe between 8 and 12, before I began to question my religion, and crying myself to sleep because I was convinced my father was going to hell since he never attended church with the rest of my family (and other sins). This was very traumatizing for me, and my sister shared the same sort of fears I believe because she is actually scared to teach her children anything religious – or even allow them to believe anything.
      I understand why someone that is fully convinced that those who don’t believe will go to hell and why they have a hard time not spreading that message; I just wish that religion wasn’t based on those sorts of views.

      • Pappy

        I remember a friend telling me about her very well-intentioned mother teaching her about Noah’s Ark and Sodom & Gomorrah as a small child (pre-K). She went around for weeks afterwards asking everyone she met if they had accepted Jesus. This was the Deep South so they all thought she was adorable and answered yes (some gave her candy) but none of them realized she was terrified and totally convinced that if everyone around her wasn’t Christian, God would kill them all. She had nightmares about it for months afterwards, seeing her family drowned or burned alive. Even as an adult, the memory of those nightmares still gave her the heeby-jeebies.
        So, yeah, I get it. Even a very loving and well-meaning parent has to be careful how they frame things when they pass along their beliefs.

    • anon87

      My husband’s brother and his wife are due to have their baby any day now. My mother-in-law is furious they don’t really want to get her baptized. They told me that they will teach her different religions, but don’t want to make a commitment to the church, when they themselves haven’t gone to church in over a decade. The best part is that mother-in-law is not religious in any way, shape, or form, so nobody is really quite sure why this bothers her so much. I can’t wait until she finds out we won’t be baptizing either.

      • Katherine Handcock

        Ah, yes, people who think the baby should get “churched”. I’ve mentioned elsewhere my husband is a minister; he deals with this a lot. It’s like people who have never wanted to be part of any church service ever but somehow feel a wedding HAS to be in a church. It’s a relic of the time when social disapproval could crush you if you weren’t a part of a congregation. Sometimes, when someone says to my husband “Well, that’s just what you do,” he’ll answer, “Why?” Usually that’s the cue for them to either look at him like he has three heads or look tremendously relieved and thank him.

      • anon87

        They got married in 2012 on a beach, and MIL explicitly said “I don’t care if they don’t get married in a church, not a problem. But I insist they get her baptized.” And in speaking with my brother-in-law, it seems that the common theme with her is she likes to give advice she doesn’t use for herself. For example, she is always talking about eating right and being healthy, when she herself doesn’t exercise and is overweight. I think this situation is somewhat the same, she doesn’t go to church but the baby HAS to be baptized. And she hasn’t even mentioned anything about her being part of the church, or going to church every Sunday, she is just strictly adamant they get her christened. She stumbled upon the old christening gown she used for her boys, and man did that ever get her going again…

      • Katherine Handcock

        Weird…usually the same people who insist on a baptism get VERY out of sorts over a non-church wedding. In any case, congratulate them on sticking to their guns – an infant baptism is a vow to raise your children in the church, and if they (or you) don’t intend to do that, no one should pressure anyone into making that promise.

    • doink

      I was right there with you until ‘penultimate’. Seriously. Do you not have people to read the things you write before you publish them on the internet and look like an idiot? That’s not what that word means.

      • Harriet Meadow

        It’s true that she used that word incorrectly, and yes, that is annoying, but does that really discount the rest of what came before it (which was, in my opinion, fairly sensible and intelligent)?

      • Allyson_et_al

        I wanted to say the same thing! If you want your writing to be taken seriously, you really do need to pay attention to the language you use.

    • Katie L.

      Religion and family is tough. My father in law’s side of the family is super churchy. We baptized our daughter (Lutheran) because we didn’t care that much and we knew it would make my FIL very happy. He’d be even happier if we actually went to church, but I think at this point he’s accepted that we aren’t going to. I’m sure he prays for our salvation though.

      Side note about the pastor who baptized our kid: When the pastor found out I had never been baptized he hounded me about it for a while. One day he asked my husband if he should lay off. My husband said yes. He also considered telling the pastor that if he ever intended to actually woo me to the church, going through him (husband) was probably the worst way to go about it.

    • Polyamorous Mom

      great article Amanda! I know i deal with this a lot with my own dad, there is a lot of eye rolling and ignoring on my part

    • GPMeg

      Amanda! I found you! Ish…

      First off, I love this post. My MIL (who has changed a surprising amount since making this comment) thought that my first adopted niece would have a hard life because her mother had her out of wedlock. Awesome. Thankfully she’s changed her stance.

      Also, I read a piece you write some time ago about evangelical adoptions and wanted to send you an article– it’s a Slate piece on Hana Williams that immediately made me think of what you wrote! It’s heartbreaking and spirit crushing, but is a big worry issue. Sooooooooo hopefully you see this… otherwise I’m just a rambling, off-topic commenter.

    • jess

      I am absolutely saddened by these sort of articles.

      I’m Catholic- but I converted before i got married so I still hold on to some pretty non-traditional views.

      My inlaws are insanely judgemental over pretty much anything. Gays? Jesus hates them! Kids born out of wedlock? Jesus hates them! Non-Catholics! Also hate them! OMG- non-Catholic gays who have kids out of wedlock! …. I think my sister in law just passed out.

      Every time they mention how something is a sin- or that Jesus hates gays I get really really angry. I think it particulately concerns me because my parents are not Catholic and they generally make sweeping comments like “oh they got divorced? Well you’d expect that she’s not Catholic”. WTF? I am NOT going to raise my children in hate and discrimination. If God can forgive a mass murderer or someone who abuses kids on the regular he is going to have zero issue with my gay cousin.

      I generally say “I’m sorry if the God you know is a hateful vengeful one, because the God I have a relationship loves and forgives. He is the most loving and forgiving Father there is. Besides go fuck yourself because only God can judge people so you can piss off!” (I actually do think Jesus is pretty cool. I mean this guy raised Lazurus from the dead and yet he still chose to sacrifice himself for us? Pretty swell choice!)

      That can usually shut them up! haha

      • Katherine Handcock

        My husband often says that he wouldn’t want to meet the God that these people believe in down a dark alley…

      • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

        The in-laws’ church sounds pretty traditional. (My parents’ one is the same and it drives me crazy…I won’t go if I’m home). However, I belong to a Catholic church that has several openly homosexual members (including one communion minister). No one bats an eye. So, it’s not all Catholic churches. Ours is pretty accepting, I think.

      • jess

        Same actually.
        My church is bloody awesome – we go to a different church than my in laws.
        We have a lesbian couple on the pastoral council that my husband heads. Some people were not very happy about it- but as our priest put it “Is this really affecting your life? No? Don’t judge. Or gossip. Don’t do either!”

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      This whole article is reminding me of the movie Saved, which is just so damned great. Mandy Moore’s religious zealot character throwing a bible at the sinner’s head! I have a cousin or two who probably would do the same. Crazy!

    • Guest

      Your mother-in-law is like trying to save your soul. I’m curious. Is she saved and doing right by God? Implying, saying it out loud, or thinking that an innocent kid is going to hell isn’t very God-like, and it’s not in His image. She might want to check herself and come correct.

      She should respect you and how you’re raising your kid. Are you hurting Goober b/c you’re an Atheist? It’s not like you’re selling Atheism like it’s the only path Goober can walk down. You’re allowing your kid freedom of choice.

      If you want to talk to her, do it. What she said is in bad taste. I’m not a mom, but if someone said that about my flesh and blood, I’d have to address it and bring it to their attention that what was said was inappropriate and out of line. I would’ve had a retort. I’d ask her to find a book, the chapter, and the verse(s) where the words in written red state that the off-spring of an Atheist is going to hell. I don’t know the whole bible, but there’s no verse that says that. Check and mate.

    • Kelly

      I can’t deal with this type of shit anymore. Maybe I’m just getting too old.

      I’ll tell somebody once to back the hell off when it comes to religion. If once isn’t enough for them, I’ll show them the door permanently. I don’t give a damn who they are. I dealt with enough of that shit growing up with a Catholic father and a Lutheran mother. FFS, the religions are damn near identical (at least the important parts) and they were still at each other’s throats.

      • Simone

        I’m pretty much with you here. Over it.

    • Muggle

      I’m kind of surprised by all the comments about baptizing young children/babies. I was raised Southern Baptist (…kind of) and while the kids would be baptized pretty early, it wasn’t until they were at least 5. Parents don’t “get” their kids baptized, the kids choose for themselves. By which I mean they’re normally pressured into it and cave in fairly young, around 7 or 8.

      I’m definitely not raising my kids Southern Baptist. Even at 13 I could not get over the weird panic a lot of people in my church had over fantasy novels. I was constantly being admonished about dating and chasing after boys while having to listen to what sounded like love songs and being told to develop by relationship with Jesus. I couldn’t get over the sexism, either. And the time they tried to preach about abortion in youth group. uuuuggghhh that was painful. I wasn’t too upset when my parents finally quit going.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      lol I was raised in a house with no specified religion- my grandfather is Muslim, my mother was raised Protestant (Holland) and my dad was raised Catholic, so we were allowed to choose what we wanted to believe at a young age.
      We made our Communions and Confirmations because WE wanted to, not because we had to for our beliefs (plus in a tiny school with 12 in your class, it’s hard being the odd one out)
      I wasn’t even baptised until I was 8, and only because I had to be in order to make my Communion- didn’t mess me up!
      I chose to be Atheist when I was 11, when my best friend died in front of me, he was 13. he died of sudden teenage death syndrome in the middle of a school soccer match.
      my logic at the time was if god is real, why would he take away my best friend?
      i know I’ll probably get stick from people saying O well, it wasn’t god, but to my child’s mind, it was god’s fault he died, since everyone kept saying god took him to Heaven

    • Laura

      My ex’s mom and grandma said to him they are worried that our kids are going to hell because they weren’t baptized, don’t go to church, etc. I just laughed it off. My son also got into an argument with his cousin over evolution. I was mad though when my son came home from grandma’s saying she lectured him about God, etc and asked him why he wasn’t a believer. I told him then that it is best not to discuss religion with that side of the family. I have always taught him to respect other’s religion and that everyone has the right to believe whatever they want. I hate when people try to proselytize kids and it is a tricky situation to deal with when the ones doing it are family.

    • Ruth

      Far be it from me to defend the oppressor from the oppressed (and let’s be real, SBs have more heft and privilege than atheists in this country), but I’m not super into the way your contrast your MILs assumptions about you because you’re an atheist with your… assumptions about anyone because they’re Southern Baptist. Your experience with *your family* is real and valid, and subject to your own critical eye. But the SBC has around 16 million members. That’s a lot of bathwater to toss out.

    • Allyson_et_al

      It could be worse. My mother was a (mostly lapsed) Southern Baptist and my father is Jewish. When I was about 8, my maternal grandparents had my older sister and me baptized without telling my parents. I guess it never occurred to them that we would tell our parents ourselves. You cannot imagine the fireworks that ensued.

    • Simone

      I listened to parts of Alain de Botton’s Religion for Atheists recently, and it summed up lots of my feelings. There are so many good things about churches and religions – the community, the helping out, the pretty rituals and repetitions, the mysticism. Those are all nice. It’s just such a shame you have to listen to people rabbit on about vengeful gods and hellfire and crap along with it all. It’s a shame that the Pope preaches no condoms in places where most of the population has HIV-AIDS; it’s a shame we killed all those witches and stole their holy sites, it’s a shame patriarchal religions have been used to justify political activities for thousands of years while trampling minority groups into bloody pulps.

      The MIL might really upset your child if she keeps on trying to push her particular version of reality. I hope she learns to respect the positions of others even though they differ from her perfect, watertight fantasy.

    • http://www.dathanellis.com/ Dathan Ellis

      I’m unsure why you’re defending Christianity among Atheists? It doesn’t matter if you’re Presbyterian or Southern Baptist, the very foundation of Christianity is based on fear – the fear of hell. Are you trying to defend other Christian denominations that you’re more intimately familiar? Either stick to you what you know is true or don’t. Don’t say one thing then say another like they do. Be a solid Atheist and stand for what you believe. However, I really like what you wrote. It was hilarious. And, I truly understand your frustration.

    • Britni Nikol Reno

      I think if you put good out you will get it back and if you put bad out it will come back too. And I’m Christan. I think everyone dies and ends up where they believe they will be. And thats okay.

    • Madly

      “Penultimate” doesn’t mean what you think it means, Ms. Low.

      Also, sorry about your awful MIL. I used to have one, too, although she was difficult in other ways. I do sympathize.

    • Beth

      Ooh, you have my empathy. I married a Southern Baptist woman’s son, and I’m Buddhist. The only thing I can say is, be strong in your convictions! You know yourself and you know your child. Personally, I believe that raising your child without religious constraints will make them more open minded and accepting of those around them. She won’t be the MIL who says “Darling, you’re nice enough and all…but why do you HAVE to be Buddhist?” (which is something MY MIL did say to me). She also severely criticizes my decision to remain childless, because “God gave you that beautiful gift and to deny that gift is essentially slapping him in the face.” YOU know what is right for your life and that of your child. I hope that one day she can come to terms with that.