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What to say or what not to say?

I was raised in a mostly non-religious environment, with all of my immediate family believing in god, but not actually attending church or praying or anything else. However, since I've moved out on my own, my mother has become extremely religious. I have a younger sister that she has been brainwashing into believing in a god, which in and of itself I find annoying--I have no issue with people choosing to be religious, but children far from choose to be indoctrinated. My little sister talks to me about god every so often, and I find myself in a really awkward situation--is it inappropriate to tell her god isn't real? I'm sure my mom would be upset with me if I did that, but I hate having to hear about something I don't believe in or having to nod along in agreement when I don't.

Mea 7 Mar 14

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I think it's okay to tell her that you don't believe in god. With luck, she'll question you about it and you can explain without pushing your beliefs on her.

The worst case scenario is that she'll see that not believing is a viable option. I think a lot of religious people cannot grasp the concept that one can simply not believe.

JimG Level 8 Mar 14, 2018

Maybe you could ask some questions to get her thinking without really telling her ...????


I generally just keep my thoughts to myself around religious people. If it is not going to change anything then why rock the boat?

Nuke Level 5 Mar 14, 2018

Be honest with your sister.


When she get to an age when she no longer believes in Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Fairy Tales then you can help her question what she has been taught. At the age of four she is too young to be caught in a tug of war. 🙂

Betty Level 7 Mar 16, 2018

Before I got my daughter (she's adopted) she was exposed to all that by her mother. When she brings Jesus/God up I just tell her that not everyone believes the same thing and it's ok. That doesn't make either belief wrong, just different.


I grew up two towns to the East of you -- similar story, but my best buddy was into church (and eventually became a preacher) - we found things to talk about and enjoy that didn't involve religion and were quite happy about it. Be gentle w/ you little sis - and all "believers" -- try to find them another rock to build their life on - education, arts, work - before you wash away their beliefs -- they will eventually see you are correct and thank you for your help.


I have two young great nieces who attend a private lutheran school. They get a huge dose of religion every day. Their parents have the right to raise their children as they feel necessary, without worrying about other people trying to create confusion or dissonance. I keep my views to myself. When the oldest niece was five, she told me that she had learned at school that those who were not believers are "lost," and then she asked me if I believed as she did. I deflected by saying that there are many people all over the world who believe many, many things differently than she does, and that they don't seem lost at all. That is the extent to which I would engage a child in such a discussion. If she wants to discuss it when she is in her teens, we may go a little further with it.

Deb57 Level 8 Mar 18, 2018

Please don't forget that many believers choose their religion over their children. She's 4. She's gonna want to believe in fairytales. Siblings do and say things to each other that piss off parents every day. Don't worry about your mother. Follow your own heart. But be subtle.


Religion is a hard subject to broach in this case because you're not her mom, you're her sister. I think your attempt at influencing your sister could cause a rift between you and your mom. It would be similar if she was your daughter and grandma came over to convince your daughter there is a God. I think the best answer is not to try to influence her. I feel letting her know you don't accept God as a real thing along with why you don't believe is perfectly ok to do. You could also teach her critical/skeptical thinking skills.


When I was a kid, I knew no adults that were not Catholic. I didn't believe and it left me feeling alone and like I had to work it all out on my own. It turns out there were some adults that didn't believe but they chose to remain silent. It would have helped me to know that they were there.

As an adult, I have always simply represented myself as agnostic. My family has become more accepting. I think it might have happened sooner had those other adults represented themselves honestly.

My advice is not to sell your beliefs, or lack thereof, but to represent them fairly and let others do the same. Give others another model to choose from.



How old is your sister?

She's only 4. That's another reason why it's so difficult.

@Mea That is tough to try and tell her at that age. Mine son and daughter just turned 7 I explain how absurd the idea is.


With my kids, I told them what I believed when they asked but encouraged them to examine it for themselves. Critical thinking prevailed with them. They all identify as non believers.

Your'e lucky. One of mine doesn't.


That would be a difficult situation for me to be in. I grew up around religion.


I'll go with a popular sentiment here - don't say "God isn't real." Instead, say something like "I don't believe that God is real." And then explain why you think that. Ultimately, yours is just one opinion in a sea of opinions. Are you right? Yes. No. Maybe. Who the hell knows. The point is, present your view as your view. Your sister has to work this shit out for herself. You won't do yourself any favours as coming on strong; instead, I would suggest being the calm, reasoned and rational voice which acknowledges its own perspective and lets your sister make up her own mind.


God is a fiction, why beat around the bush?


In principle, there's no problem mentioning your own [un]beliefs, but if your sister is in an indoctrinating / controlling / dogmatic / fascistic sort of thing like fundamentalist Christianity, it may drive her away to do so.

I would just be kind and authentic. It's that easy, and that hard / risky.


Just think of it as if you were telling your sister that Santa and the easter bunny don't exsist. It also depends on the age of your little sister. Ihave 6 younger sisters, the youngest of which is 16 1/2 years younger than I am, which makes her going on 52 now.
I agree that children shouldn't be indoctrinated into those cults. They should hold off until the children are old enough to find their own minds.


Perhaps just tell her "That's not what I believe." or "That's not how I feel." and see where it leads. I don't know how old your younger sister is but she may be able to suss it out for herself.


Do you love your little sister? If so, tell her your feelings on the subject.


I would just tell her that some people (like your mom) believe and some people(like you) don't.


Tell her how you feel.. let her make up her own mind. Don't hold back let her know who you are


I'm sure it will anger your mother. However I don't find it to be out of line to tell her that while you respect her beliefs, there are other forms of belief out there. And that you find the answer to be different. Then, once she asks what you believe in you're not forcing anything upon her, she's actually curious. You're simply telling her your belief system because she asked at that point. Regardless, you're going to make your mom angry. But it should be that children have a choice in the matter. That they have all the information possible to make their own decisions.


It doesn't hurt to nod along. If she is happy in her beliefs, and they are causing her no harm, then... I'd leave well enough alone.

It also doesn't hurt to discuss how you feel about the subject with her and why. Open up that conversation and... be gentle but have it. In the end, at the very least, I'd ask her to respect your beliefs by both of you being able to be sisters, love each other, and NOT talk faith.

IF, on the other hand you both find you can respect each other and have great conversations about faith despite your different approaches to belief... where is the harm in discussion of same?

I don't believe and I don't think I ever will. My 'epiphany' about this happened when I was 4 years old and has held since. That said, I am curious and I have had some fantastic conversations with people who are very faithful. The problems I have are with those who feel that they have to proselytize (force their beliefs on me to 'save' me). To them, I don't associate with any more after their attempts. Usually I will respectfully tell them their arguments for ME to convert are falling on happy, and deaf, ears. The best conversations? They have occured with pastors, rabbis and the like (uh, NOT holy rollers or Fundies). They are calm and rational and are able to discuss things at a very intellectual, and stimulating, level AND are able to have good conversations that do NOT require conversion... they KNOW how to convert and knowing that they know how to turn it off and NOT try to convert you and, that is when ideas and philosophy gets fun and flows! 🙂

Most of all: enjoy your sister and help her to enjoy you. Let her know that no matter what, she'll always be your sister and thus welcome in your world.

She might also be coming to you to talk to you out of trust and for that other view. Don't be adversarial, don't put her in an adversarial position with mom... leastwise, not intentionally. Just be honest with your answers. As others have said, encourage her to read and figure out as much as she can on her own and... this is subtle, and difficult, guide, don't direct. Let her make her own decision.

I know, she's only 4 and mom will always be pushing her one way but... well, there is the cliche of the Pastors son/daughter who run off and become the opposite of devout! I personally believe that the key is to let them explore and discover then make up their own mind as to what and how they want to believe. This CAN happen even when someone is trying to program you.

The hard part is to not ALSO be proselytizing your beliefs (or lack)...

I am not opposed to marrying someone who is religious, even devout, under a couple of circumstances (all involving me trusting her):

  1. Our children, should we have any, MUST be allowed to research, discuss, multiple religions/faith systems and be allowed to make their own choice as to how they wish to believe (or not).

  2. Religion will NEVER be used as a weapon in the household.

That second one comes vicariously. A friends mother in law basically cut her husband off from affection/attention until he joined her in church. That would be the moment at which I would sue for divorce as our morals, our beliefs, our belief on how one respects another, would be at irreconcilable odds as she is willing to use emotional blackmail to achieve a goal. I am ok if she goes to church, or not. If she prays, or not. She has to be ok if I do the same.

Now, your mom won't be there. Your sister will get to experience faith. As others here, she may decide she doesn't like it. That is ok. It's also ok if she genuinely does like it.

For me, it's that 'genuine' part that is difficult, especially in someone so young as 4. Yeah, I know, I was there at that age. Not all of us are. Let her live for a while. Be there to be an honest and open guide. If it were me, I might actually encourage her to talk to someone of each and every faith (in reason) she has access too to understand the differences. Who knows, maybe she'll convert mom to a knew faith. 🙂


I'd just tell her exactly the truth. Not everyone believes in a god. You're one of them. It's something she'll have to research, look at from both sides and decide for herself. Also, don't tell mom about the conversation. I'd pull a "Just between you and me".

You don't have to say there is no god. All you have to do is show that there are good, honest people who don't think religion is a good idea.

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