Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Raising children in a secular house

It took me a long time to understand why I did not buy into religion.  I understand the need for it and I know that for some people it provides either a structure or a comfort.   I do not see those two things being necessary for me.  

I read and learned as much as I could not only about the christian orthodox religion I was brought up in, how it was a part of my cultural heritage even when for the most part my family was not a supporter of the church per se but believers in god.  I studied all of the major religions and in them I found some really impressive things - a rich sense of history, a host of rituals and most of all a general sense of be good to your fellow person, worry about yourself and try and live a life that has meaning and leaves behind more than you got out of it.   I also found that every one of these religions has way too much of "mine is better than yours", a vengeful deity(ies) and if taken not as metaphorical stories but rather literal interpretations they are pretty much in direct conflict with the previous be kind, be good and leave a positive legacy messages.

As a mother I have to decide how to teach my sons about religion.  It is not easy when I do not believe in any organized doctrine, when I have no need for some great post death beyond and I do not believe in any deity.   I do not need that belief for comfort nor to blame it for my or the world's ills.  I try and be a thoughtful parent so along with my lack of beliefs I have to raise children who will respect that others will have strong beliefs and emotional reactions to whatever religion they are practicing.  I teach them of the rituals of religions that my husband and I grew up with, I expose them to their friends' religious practices, I tell them what is truly amazing about parts of religions and I also have explained why I do not need to define myself by a religion and why I do not need to have a deity.

I get the following questions a lot - what if they join a cult later on?  From everything that I have read and seen people who join cults often come from pretty strict religious backgrounds already and just trade one in for another and two this has to do with validation and self esteem.  This is just a projection of some fears and makes me think that person must have and pretty darn judgmental, all stuff that turned me off religion already.  Aren't you afraid they will do bad things? once again I am pretty sure that has to do with morals and teaching them to respect people, to be kind, to not break the law, to understand that they live in a shared world and need to be good to their fellow human beings as well as the planet ... so it is not fear that will make them not to do major bad things, they will make bad choices and hopefully they will understand how to learn from them, it is the parenting that I hope I am doing and that I see in them which already has proven to date that they are kind, accepting and overall conscientious kids.

I get the whole "hell argument" which come on folks really if I do not believe in heaven it means I do not believe in hell so yeah bit of a non threat for this family.

If my children at some point want to go to different religions and want me to explore their meaning I will gladly do it.  I do not need it but if they should need god in some form I will support that as long as they learn not to use it as a tool that discriminates in any way against anyone else, and if turns into that we will talk about it.

I am raising children who have the same understanding of their cultural history and know that your nationality is accident of birth or background but does not define in good or bad ways - it just gives you some things to know about people who came from a region that you came from as well.  I am showing my children that all people are right to be able to want to worship what they want as long as they do not impose their beliefs on others and that there is no singular entity defined as god who says worshiping him makes them better people.  Rather they should be better people because it is the best way to live with their fellow beings.

I know that it makes people uncomfortable, hoping that is why at times they are sometimes rather unpleasant to put it mildly when I tell them we have no religion in our house, to think of this method of parenting.  It is different not wrong or right.  It is something I know other parents are also following.  My boys will not be harmed by this, though I know some people believe they will because to think they will not questions their own practices, because it is done not as anti anything but rather as pro raising people who already are displaying that they will add much to the world with their actions.

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