Dad ‘stunned’ to learn teen apathetic about religion

simpsons church

As my four younger daughters and I were en route to the local library last night I asked Daughter No. 3 how her most recent Sunday evening religious education class had gone. Three of the four are preparing for confirmation and are in the first year of a two-year program. They are about as enthusiastic as any young teen would be about having to spend 75 minutes every Sunday evening learning about religion.

Daughter No. 3 was quick with her response: “We didn’t learn anything.”

Me: “What do you mean, you didn’t learn anything?”

D3: “We had a party because we won’t have another class until after the holidays.”

Me: “Well, that must have been nice, right?”

D3: “Oh, yeah.”

I then decided to see how much or – more likely, in her case – how little she was enjoying the class. “How about I ask you some questions about what you’ve learned this year?” Her sisters, sitting in the back seat, and likely hoping for a repeat of this memorable Q-and-A session, immediately voiced their assent.

“Dad!” Daughter No. 3 broke in. “No! You always ask me hard stuff. About the bible. You know I don’t know bible stuff!”

Now, to be fair, Daughter No. 3 is an exceptionally bright young lady. She has a very good chance of finishing the current semester with straight A’s and just last week learned she had earned recognition as a South Carolina Junior Scholar.

That said, she is not on the fast track for a doctorate in Theology.

“Okay,” I relented, “how about if I ask you about the sacraments? I’m sure you’ve gone over those, right?”

D3: “No.”

Me: “Really? You haven’t gone over the sacraments?”

D3: “Dad, we’ve only been to class a couple of times.”

Me: “You’ve been going since October, so it’s been more than a couple of times. Just name the sacraments. I’ll give you a hint: There are seven of them.”

D3: “Um, marriage, baptism, communion … confirmation … “

And then the fun began.

D3: “Birth?”

Me (sarcastically): “Yes, being born is a sacrament. Everybody automatically gets a free sacrament just by being born.”

D3: “Death?”

Me: “Ah, another free sacrament.”

D3: “Sick. Being sick. Helping the sick.”

'Forgive me, father. I have cold-called 6,482 times for a major stock brokerage since my last confession.'Me: “I suppose we’d all really rack up the sacraments here, wouldn’t we? No, being sick is not a sacrament.”

D3 (laughing): “How about a hint?”

Me: “What kind of hint?”

D3: “Tell me what the first letter of one of them is.”

Me: “’H.’ One of them starts with ‘H.’” (Sacrament of holy orders)


Me (Laughing): “No, but a nice try. That, I suppose is one of the goals of the sacraments, but, no, heaven is not a sacrament.”

D3: “Ah, man. How about another hint? Tell me the next letter?”

Me: “’O,’ as in ‘H-O.’”

D3 (with a quizzical look); “I have no idea.”

Me: “Let’s try another one. It starts with ‘R.’” (Sacrament of reconciliation, or confession.)

D3: “Uh, recreation!”

Me (laughing harder): “That’s right, playing kickball or baseball counts a sacrament.”

D3: (now just fishing for words that start with R): “ … re-, re-, reincarnation!”

Me (head titled down, simply staring at D3): “Oh, did I miss the memo from the pope about the Catholic Church opting to include reincarnation – a central belief among Buddhists and Hindus – as a sacrament?”

D3: Laughter.

D2, D4, D5: Louder laughter.

D3: “These are too hard. Just tell me what the rest of them are.”

D2 and D4 (In unison): “I know, I know.”

(Daughters 2 and 4 are also in the confirmation class.)

“Okay,” I say, pointing to D2, “what’s another one?”

D2: “Reconciliation.”

Me: “Yes. That would be the one that starts with ‘R.’”

D3: “Oh, yeah!”

I then point to D4

D4: “Anointing of the sick.”

D3: (quizzically): “What is that?”

Me: That would be the sacrament you received the day you were born, when you were very sick.”

D3: “Oh, yeah.”

Me: “Oh, yeah.”

Me: “And who knows the last sacrament?”

D4: “The one where you become a priest.”

Me: “Yes, it’s called holy orders. That would be the one that starts with an ‘H’ and ‘O.’”

I then gave Daughter No. 3 a quick glance, to which she shrugged.

“Congratulations,” I said, “You got four out of seven. That’s about, oh, 57 percent.”

D3: “Thank you, thank you very much.”

18 thoughts on “Dad ‘stunned’ to learn teen apathetic about religion

  1. I’m enjoying myself thinking of the reaction of my Scots Presbyterian headmistress to both the mention of sacraments – and to your daughter not having had them memorised in ten minutes, let alone a term!
    Your daughter had best pray that Miss Dickie is not reincarnated any time soon….

    A fine scholar and an upright woman she regarded it as her duty to inculcate the Bible (King James version) and our duty to pin back our ears and answer questions correctly.
    Looking back on those days it sometimes seems as remote as when dinosaurs roamed the earth – and Miss Dickie would have made an impressive dinosaur.

    • Reminds me of my brief sojourn in Catholic school. We boys lived in mortal fear of Sister Grinon (grin-YON), whose nickname, naturally, became Sister Grinch.

      I don’t know that she won many converts to the Church, but she certainly gave us junior high boys an indication of what the Eighth Ring of Hell would be like. She, too, would have made an impressive dinosaur.

    • Helen, you gave me my first literal laugh-out-loud moment of the day with that one. Ha ha ha!! Thank you! And God Bless you, Miss Dickie–whereEVER you are! (Perhaps primly and happly ensconced in a wee cold stone cairk with a verra large glass through which she can see all airthly behavier and write doon in a muckle boook ev’ry violation obsairved. Her idea of heaven.)

  2. I saw your name on The Venomous Bead’s blog and came for a visit, as the name of your blog intrigued me. I live in Georgia (not far from some cotton fields) so I thought you may be located in the Deep South as well. But I am not from around here and I would have flunked your questions totally. I think your daughters did quite well. Most people here would know the answers I guess as it is called the Bible belt I think. Being born in France and raised in Paris, while growing up I did not know one single of my friends or classmates who ever went to church (as for Paris I read that now it is down to 6% the number of people going to church regularly and most churches are filled with tourists, many are closed in the suburbs and they are advertizing for priests on Facebook ….) I had a Jewish friend and a couple of Muslim ones, but they also were non religious. I am a bookworm so I do have the Sutras and Dhammapada, a Bible, a Book of Mormon, a Qur’an (one in French and one in English,) the Bhagavad Gita and Mahābhārata, the Dao de jing and several others, but I have them for literature references mostly. Actually, right now, I have been researching the Pagan sides of the holidays – it is fascinating.

    • I’m in South Carolina, so we’re practically neighbors. Yes, church attendance tends to be much stronger in the South than other parts of the US and than in Western Europe. Personally, I think nearly all respected religious tomes have something to offer as works of literature. As you may have deduced from the post I wrote, I’m Roman Catholic, but I’ll be the first to admit that the King James Bible is one of the most influential and important books in the Western canon.

      I would imagine the pagan aspects of the holidays would indeed be interesting. And, for many, me included, it’s a pretty hazy area.

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. Take care.

  3. Hilarious post, Cotton. I remember being that age and thinking much the same at the time, and of course, thinking that I knew it all already! Fortunately for me, for maintaining that position of pride for too many years, my dad didn’t go to church, and never questioned us on religious things that I remember. Mom was there to answer questions, but I don’t remember getting the home quiz! 🙂

    • I think half the fun is watching Daughter No. 3’s reaction when I bring up the idea of being quizzed. You would have thought I’d asked her to roll in a fire ant nest. Of course, I would have gone 0-for-7 at her age with the same questions, followed by “What’s a sacrament?”

      • Yet you would never have been so entertained if you hadn’t asked. I remember how surprised I was when I gave my first reading test to my 4th grade students. I couldn’t believe how much they hadn’t learned from my lessons! Teachers, I think all start out with the assumption, “I taught it, so they learned it,” when just the opposite is more often the case. 🙂

  4. I was grinning at the birth and death tries, but I was admiring at your girl’s good heart at her suggestion of “helping the sick”. Good for her for seeing that type of service to others as that important.

    Very funny post, but brought back irksome feelings from my own Catechism days. Do I now renounce memorizing all that stuff? ‘Deed I do. Bet they don’t stick in most Catholics’ minds any better than this ex-Catholic–Bet the only ones that do for sure are baptism and marriage, plus maybe for some the Eucharist. Heck, I thought giving last rites was a sacrament. Seems like it should be.

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