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Evangelizing Evolution to the Family?

November 18, 2008

Ok, time for a personal story.

My brother’s family is evangelical. I could argue that my sister-in-law is evangelical, my brother is just the average Christian, and his kids are the same, but they go to her church so I’ll just leave it at that. About a year ago (some random holiday, I’m thinking Christmas), I was visiting with my family in my hometown and my nephew, who was about 8 at the time, approached me and asked me if I really believed that the universe was created in a big explosion. I looked up at my brother and his wife with a look of surprise and the guilty look on both their faces gave it all away, this was either planned or the kids had overheard their parents talking about me.

I wish I had sat him down at that point and explained that I accepted the scientific viewpoint on the creation of the universe. I did not. Out of respect for my brother’s choice in raising his children as Christians and small amount of fear of reprisal, if during that explanation I turned their child into an atheist, I instead told him “I don’t think your parents would genuinely be very happy if we had this discussion, whether they believe it or not.” I never actually asked them if his question was coaxed or not, in that situation it appeared to be that way though.

I’m still not sure if I made the right choice in that situation, and unfortunately, it hasn’t come up again since then. The person I am now would definitely have sat him down and explained the big bang theory to best of my ability, and if it expanded to the existence of life, I would have then done the same for the theory of evolution. His parents would not have been happy, but they seemed to want that event to take place, I think. I sincerely regret wussing out on that opportunity, but I think my relationship with my brother’s family is better off here than in that “alternate reality”.

What do you think? Should I have scientificized my nephew? Or did I make the right choice in respecting his family’s faith?

  1. November 18, 2008 6:36 pm

    I think the determining factor here is really whether the family instigated the confrontation. If so, they’ve invited debate on the topic. The question seems particularly pointed and phrased in such a way as to indicate that this is the case… most eight-year olds don’t have the grasp of dramatic irony (argument to absurdity through oversimplification) which he was employing with the way he asked about your thoughts on the origins of the universe.

  2. November 18, 2008 7:16 pm

    See I think that as well but I think my family, and that part in particular think I am one of those people who are angry at god. I avoid talking about this stuff with my family for the most part, so they don’t understand that I have very strong reasons for being an atheist, as well as they have very poor understandings of the current scientific theories.

    They had knowledge of my old blog and the first thing my brother did was print out a page of it and bring it to my father as if he didn’t know I was an atheist already.

  3. scaryreasoner permalink
    November 18, 2008 9:37 pm

    I think you handled it perfectly well, having it sprung on you like that by an eight year old in the presence of his parents. The only thing which might have improved it would have been to add, “Ask me again when you’re 16 and you hate your parents,” said with a laugh and a look at said parents.

  4. notreallyalice permalink
    November 19, 2008 1:17 pm

    I think you handled it well. Encounters like this are helpul because it helps you think about a better response, and then we are prepared in the future. It sucks to feel like you lost an opportunity, I know that feeling, but it’s good for growth.

  5. Zacharias permalink
    November 22, 2008 4:22 pm

    I too think you handled it the right way. You don’t want to seem like the dick athiest who corrupts the children. When he gets a little older to really understand the concepts, and if he’s still curious about it, then I say yeah, let him know. If his family is highly religious then you might want to preface it in such a way as to let him know that you’re giving your personal viewpoint. And if his parents are secure in their faith then they’ll realize that science only presents a threat to religion if that religion attempts to make scientific claims which, as far as evolution and the origin of the universe is concerned, Christianity doesn’t. (-Christians- might, but -Christianity- doesn’t.)

    The Bible says God created the universe, doesn’t say how. It says that God created creatures, but not necessarily how (and it’s completely mind boggling to hold on to the idea that the 6 days were actual 24 hours days as we know them now.)

  6. November 26, 2008 5:36 am

    I think you shouldn’t shove your ideas into anyone, but never hesitate to divulge them when these ideas are sought for. Hey, he’s your brother and he’s allowed to believe what he wants and teach whatever he wants to his kids, but your respect to him should end there. There’s a difference between respecting difference and fearing it. If his children ask you what you think, or even if he does, you should adamantly “defend your beliefs” (or disbeliefs)

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