Bryan Caplan  

The Persistence of Rebellion

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What was your biggest act of rebellion against your parents? Did your rebellion last?

I'll start: For me, it was becoming an atheist, and refusing to attend church (starting at age 16). The rebellion lasts to this day. How about yours?

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COMMENTS (11 to date)
Unit writes:

Never a rebellion. I sometimes disagree but it doesn't last the length of a conversation.

jcolter writes:

When I was 12 years old I started smoking cigarettes. People sometimes ask me “what did you parents think about you starting to smoke? Weren’t they angry.” From my perspective that was the entire point.

My mother dismisses my atheism as a phase of sorts. I honestly think that she assumes that I don’t attend church because I am lazy. Believe me, if I were looking to make things easy for myself going to church would be one way to accomplish that.

spencer writes:

My question is are you exposing your children to Christianity and/or other religions so that they can make up their own minds. Or, or you just assuming you decision is also valid for you children?

I made the same decision you did. But I though my children deserved an objective introduction to Christianity.

Randy writes:


I have considered the same line of thinking, but concluded that there is no such thing as "an objective introduction to Christianity", at least, no more so than there could be "an objective introduction to wicca", for example. So I just let mine explore as they wish. I have been confronted by the idea that they will not learn moral values if not exposed to some so called objective source of moral values, but I have not found that to be the case. Most moral values break down to a belief in "be kind" and/or "live and let live", and these are easily explained and demonstrated without the support of a religion.

May I do two instead of one?
1. When I was about 12, I hid in a closet just before time to go to church. My parents gave up trying to find me and went without me. When they got home, they finally "got" how much I hated church and we negotiated a different deal. It had nothing to do with belief in God and everything to do with being bored in church.
2. When I was about 14 and at our summer cottage, my father got pissed at me for contradicting him, slapped my face, and sent me to my room, which was a small separate cottage. I went there for all of a minute and then decided to go find my friends. We walked all around the Minaki golf course talking about parents and defiance and living our lives our way, etc. It was one of the most exhilarating evenings I ever had. When I got home 2 hours later, my father was on my bed waiting for me. I thought, "Oh, oh, it's going to get worse." Instead, he apologized, told me he was wrong to slap my face (he had never slapped my face before), and told me I could hit him. "Really?" I said. "Yes," he said. So I threw all my force into a punch on his chest and knocked him over onto the bed. I'll never forget the look of shock in his face--I think he thought I would just tap him lightly. But there was 14 years of fury in that punch.

Tim Kane writes:

Reading comics. Not manly enough. A minivan full of kids later, I guess it worked out okay.

The greatest act of rebellion was vacuuming the carpet without turning the vacuum on. It left the tracks, though, which is all dad checked.

John Fast writes:

I joined a cult, i.e. the Episcopal Church.
(I sometimes joke that I didn't become a Christian *just* to annoy my parents, but that it was a factor in my conversion.)

Giovanni writes:

I rebelled against formal schooling. I read tons of math/computer books, I loved academics and science, but I felt really oppressed by parents and teachers. That lasted all the way from high school to my mid-twenties.

dearieme writes:

I just did what I wanted to do. I didn't think of it as rebellion and I don't imagine they did either. Though I suppose that Dad was mildly irked that I wasn't keener on golf.

Lord writes:

I certainly went through my agnostic stage in my teens. Atheism was far too arrogant for me even then. Then with Shakespeare "more in heaven and earth", Joseph Campbell "Power of Myth", Star Trek's "more out there than we know", and finally reading a volume on Louis XIV of all things, in my 30s I came to the realization it is worth believing in more.

If you want to call accepting facts rebellion, I guess it would have to be my acceptance of evolutionary theory and the big bang origin of the universe, since I was raised in a fundamentalist Baptist home and church. Throw in the fact that my parents would have preferred by being a doctor or lawyer over getting a Ph.D. in the humanities, and the fact that I now attend a Catholic church, and that I once lived with a woman out of wedlock (I'm married now, though, so that rebellious period is in fact past), and my life is one serious of rebellions against my parents. Of course, I never did any of these things to explicitly rebel against them -- it's just that my beliefs and decisions happened to have that effect.

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