There doesn’t have to be any evidence that God exists. He’s just there, and if you don’t take that seriously and pretend nothing of it, your own arrogance and stupidity are going to take you straight to Satan. Your choice, though.

This was my niece’s Facebook status today. She’s fifteen.

On one level it annoys me, but mostly it saddens me. Not only does it reveal a misguided belief, it also smacks of arrogance and a worrisome lack of compassion. There’s something cruel lurking underneath what it’s saying. I have not commented and likely won’t, but man, I really want to.

I suspect it’s in response to my angry status update about our motherfucking governor here in Texas, Rick Perry, holding a day of fasting and prayer for the state. I regularly post commentary and links that reveal my belief system. I am sure she has heard from her dad (my brother) something about my belief system (very certainly wrongly presented). I imagine, on some level, I scare her.

Here’s the thing. She’s not stupid. She wants to go to Princeton. But as her small town friends weighed in on this particular update, it became even more clear how mired she is in bad education and small-mindedness. I see the influence of her being churched at a young age. In further comments she scoffs at evolution, using creationist rhetoric to attempt to discredit evolutionary theory. (And she wants to go to Princeton? geez.)

I have been distressed ever since it was clear that my brother’s girls were being taken to a fundamentalist church (he has three). No one seemed to want to hear any of my opinions even though I am a female who was raised in a conservative religious environment. Even though I’ve personally experienced the isolation and angst it produces, as well as the damage it does to self worth, no one wants to hear it.

I vowed that as a mother I’d never ever subject my girls to being told they were less than boys (yes, that still happens – just look at the male hierarchy) but I also didn’t want them exposed to this bullshit way of thinking. In watching the sad parade of religiously-themed status updates from this remote area of Texas, I see an indoctrination at work, one that will leave my niece ill-prepared and ill-equipped and possibly unable to engage in any true learning environment, no matter how much smartness she may have been born with the potential to grow.

I know what it’s like to believe in god at 15 and to feel so sure of it. Looking back, I desperately wish I’d had more diverse influences around me. I like to think I’d have blossomed under the influence of someone who didn’t sound like everyone else around me, perhaps a crazy liberal and irreverent aunt of my own.

Ideas have always set me on fire – at fifteen, with the right sort of exposure, who’s to say I wouldn’t have burst out of the gates of my upbringing much earlier? The first exposure I got to real scholarship, to deep and important ideas being discussed, to real beauty in knowing something is true even if it brings pain along with it – I reveled in this space like a cat attempting to maintain contact with the hand offering affection. Education and knowledge stoked my internal fire – I only wish I’d been encouraged to discover this much earlier and to not have had to unpack so much baggage to get to it.

I’d like to think that this girl has the same potential within her. If she could set aside her biases and apply some real critical thinking, what could she do?

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