"My nephew told my son he's going to hell – so I told him God isn't real"
One family, different attitudes to religion...
We all have our own relationship with religion, and whether or not we choose to raise our kids in a faith should be our own choice.
But when children repeat the strong religious ideas of their parents to other kids who haven't been raised the same way, it can lead to a lot of mess and confusion.
One mum is afraid she may have put her foot in it by telling her nine-year-old nephew that God isn't real after he told her young son that he was "going to hell".
The mum took to Reddit to get some third party insight, explaining that her brother married a devout Christian woman. As both couples live in the same neighbourhood, they babysit for each other fairly often, and her six-year-old son and four-year-old idolises his older cousin.
The woman and her parents aren't religious, but her brother began actively practicing Christianity to fit his wife's religious lifestyle. They've raised their son the same way and also homeschool him, so he rarely interacts with other kids outside of his family or church.
While the sister-in-law is religious and talks about her faith extensively, it has never led to issues before. "There was one slightly awkward situation back when she and my brother were just engaged where she admitted that she believed we were all going to hell for being atheists," the mum admitted, "but we somehow laughed it off and never brought it up again."
However, the mum said this changed last weekend when her nephew was over at her house.
"I heard crying coming from the playroom. My son was in tears, and when I asked what happened, he told me that my nephew said we were all going to hell – which he had also explained was a place very bad people go to after they die because they don’t deserve to be in Heaven, a very nice place," the mum wrote.
"I tried to console my children while explaining to my nephew that our family has different beliefs that aren’t more right or wrong than his, but that we don’t believe in Heaven or Hell and that his younger cousins would get scared if he told them things like 'you’re going to Hell.'"
The young boy wasn't having it though.
"He argued back, saying that it was a sin to not believe in God, and that I couldn’t put evil things in his head because that was the devil speaking. I knew the moment it left my lips that it was probably a mistake but I told him that God isn’t real," the mum said.
Her nephew immediately became distressed, calling her a "sinner" and "screaming" for his mother.
"I had to get SIL [sister-in-law] on the phone (she and my brother were out of town) and they rushed back to collect their son several hours later," she continued, adding that the couple left quickly as it was late and close to the kids' bedtime.
The next morning, her sister-in-law showed up at her door absolutely fuming.
"She demanded that I apologise to my nephew for spouting blasphemous nonsense. She said she wished she had put me on the right path years ago before I could endanger my kids and wanted me to swear I would start taking them to church," the mum wrote.
"I flat out shut the door in her face and ignored her banging and yelling. I’ve also been ignoring her and my brother's calls and texts for the past few days."
The woman said that while her husband agrees with her, some relatives believe she was "too harsh and should have had a civil discussion" with her sister-in-law.
Asking the internet for advice and whether or not she was wrong to not hear her brother's wife out, the mum explained: "I don’t feel like I am obligated to entertain her or her demands, and the way she presented herself to me dissolved any chance that I would even want to discuss anything."
Whilst some respondents agreed the woman shouldn't have straight-up told her nephew that God isn't real, most empathised that she was trying to calm her distressed young children who had just been told they were damned to an awful place once they die.
"I would near guarantee that the nephew is doing exactly what he’s been trained to do by his mom (and maybe dad). The kind of homeschooling, 'everyone who doesn’t have our exact belief system is going straight to hell' Christianity is notorious for trying to force their beliefs on other people," one commenter wrote.
"That little kid was scaring your son with his nonsense and you laid down some truth on your own. As for his Mother, I thought you showed admirable restraint," another added.
Someone else wrote: "Not engaging is absolutely the perfect approach. She wants you to respect her beliefs but she does not intend to respect your beliefs because her beliefs forbid it. This is a non-starter. You are just an insoluble mix together. Not being baited into an argument was great."
Well, respect is a two-way street...