/*amazon_ad_exclude = "christian"*/ The Skin I Am In: A Recipe for Disaster?

Friday, February 1, 2008

A Recipe for Disaster?

If you were familiar with the conservative suburb in which I currently reside, it would come as no surprise that I place myself in the minority of my demographic population with my liberal religious views. When religion is being discussed within my peer group I rarely share my beliefs and often shake my head. Wishing to cultivate fair, open-minded individuals, raising children in the bible belt is...well, frustrating to say the least. Fundamentalists surely think that a house with no God is synonymous with a house of Hell. Well, I am here to give you the inside scoop on this "House of Hell" and the lessons I try to impress upon my children.

I myself regard spirituality to be a very personal choice.
In our home, atheism is not discussed, let alone taught. If anything, I have done little more than introduce the idea of agnosticism, for the truth of the matter is that no body, regardless of age, rank or education can prove or dispute with certainty the existence of a supernatural being . I therefore aim to expose my children's sponge-like minds to a variety of things by teaching them about religious and cultural tolerance so that they will grow into open-minded individuals. In order to make informed decisions, people need to be enlightened, not preached to. One of the principal reasons I discarded Christianity is it's propensity to blindly influence its followers; considering this, I am certainly not going to engage in mind-control by forcing my personal beliefs onto my children's developing attitudes.

I don't say this to be boastful, but my children are extraordinarily intelligent. It may not be a direct result of my parenting, but it does lend to the fact that it's impossible to endorse a line of bull when I want to, let alone when my heart is not in it! When they have questions, I give them honest, unbiased answers. In giving a truthful response, one can only present something as absolute if there is factual evidence to support the claim. The bible, by itself, does not qualify as evidence. My son has wanted to know the origins of humanity since he was three years old. A friend of mine was actually dismayed when learning that I had answered his inquiry scientifically by explaining the process of evolution (as much as one can to a 3 yr old). “Shame on you! You taught him evolution?” she scolded. My response to such thoughtlessness is this: Why wouldn't I? Why wouldn't any parent who wants to foster an informed and educated child? For if we are comfortable passing on fables as truth, we could, alternatively, just teach our children about the stork. We may regret doing so once they hit puberty, but aren't fairy tales the answer to all the tough questions?

Last year my son attended a Catholic preschool because it was acclaimed as the best in kindergarten preparation. After school one day, he began talking about cheeses. Sensing my confusion, he elaborated, “you know, baby Cheeses.” Just as I was preparing to correct him on the pronunciation, he looked at me with a puzzled expression and added, “Why would his mom and dad name him Cheeses?" I said that they didn't, technically, because his name was Jesus. We talked about Jesus being a very important person, and that Christmas is celebrated in honor of his birth. Then, at Easter, we talked about Cheeses dying on the cross. In May, on the way to his preschool graduation, he informed us that the ceremony would take place in Cheeses' house. The poor kid just didn't get it. In any case, I freely discuss these issues with my kids, but introduce the information in a historical context to avoid endorsing biblical stories as truth.

After my grandparents died last year, my daughter inquired about death and Heaven. I conveyed that many people truly believe we go to Heaven after we die, although no one can report the accuracy since the only ones who know are dead. I was slightly more gentle in my delivery, but she is very logical and was satisfied with that. Imagine, a child being satisfied with the truth! If, when my kids are grown, they choose religious faith as an adult, it will be of their own accord and not because they were brainwashed. Likewise, it is their prerogative if they prefer to view the world as a scientific masterpiece. I see blind faith as not only unadulterated acceptance, but also a lack of vision to the world's realm of possibilities.

I genuinely feel that I would be doing my children a great disservice if I instilled unilateral thoughts into their minds, for it would consequently hinder their infinite potential.


Jeffrey Ellis said...

Sounds like you are doing right by your kids. Hope you aren't judging all Christians by the fundie wacko's you've had to put up with, we're all not like that. There are even some (I speculate most!) of us who believe in evolution!


JafaBrit's Art said...

My mother was an atheist, her mother a devout catholic. My mum didn't discard religion, she just never believed and my nana never tried to force it. My nana felt her belief was hers and never tried to force it on my mum.
So I never had any beliefs force on me. When I asked questions as your child did, my mum would say this is what some believe and this is what I think and then leave it at that. She wanted me to think for myself and draw my own conclusions.

I have raised my children the same way, and what they choose to believe is their business. What astounds me is the notion by many that one cannot grow up in a atheist household with values, and morals.

Anyway I think you have a great attitude. As for what I think, I cannot claim I know or don't know, so I guess I am agnostic, although I am very spiritual and feel there is something bigger than me (just don't know what it is).

Anok said...

I might have to discard my "Jeebus" derogatory term for "Cheesus" (it's all in good fun, honest!).

I am very much in agreement with you though, I am Pagan, but I will only answer questions from Punky McSquisherton when asked, and then when it comes to school time, I will offer a world religion course, thereby leaving it up to Punky, with as many facts about religion I can give.

I think I would be served up with fries and ketchup though, if I lived in the Bible Belt!

Anonymous said...

... I feel that sometimes we have to agree to disagree.Instead of
arguing about all our differences,
lets rally around the things that we can agree on(I can't change the way you feel and you're probably
not going to change the way I feel).However,we can appreciate one
another's uniqueness.

Christine Vyrnon said...

Truly appreciative the way you are approaching your children and religion. I very much like the suggestion that children can be as attracted to logic/facts as to myth. Great post!

FLOOG said...

What a wonderful post.

I totally admire your honesty, and agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments. Also, Jafabrit's comment is quite brilliant and echoes my feelings.

Your children will love and thank you in later life for allowing them to grow, learn and make personal choices on religious matters. It's so important in my opinion.

I thank my parents for being as rational and fair minded as yourself, and for entering into so many subsequent conversations on the matter with me over the years.

And 'Baby Cheeses', wonderful.