Before my wife I had children we both agreed we were not going to bring our children up with religion.
If our boys choose someday that they want religion, we will respect their choice and we will be supportive of their choice, but they won’t be getting religion from us.
I take great care in the emotional equity that I have right now with my children. They believe what I tell them implicitly. My oldest son is three years old. He will drink whatever I give him. That’s a lot of power. As Stan Lee said, with great power comes great responsibility. Just because those words came out of a comic book doesn’t make them any less true.
How I speak to my sons, react to them, and who and what I expose them to is writing directly to their core identity. He is too young right now to formulate his own sense of identity. Whether I am aware of it or not, whether I want it to be true or not, I am giving him a daily lesson on how he should think of himself and how he should relate to others.
Religion does not teach morals it teaches obedience. There’s a difference.
What raising a moral child means to me is that you raise a child to be cognizant of minimizing the harm that their choices, actions, and even inactions, directly create for others. This doesn’t require religion, it requires developing a strong empathic acumen.
What is correct differs based on the circumstance. For example, it might be wrong to steal but is it wrong to steal a loaded high powered rifle weapon from a disgruntled former employee who is preparing to kill innocent people while he is distracted tying his shoe?
No that would probably be a good call at that point.
I want my children to know that they are very much capable of developing standards for judging their own actions based on principles, not rules.
Principles focus on end results. Rules have predetermined responses. Morality is much more complicated than adhering to a set of rules. Morality requires us to think. It isn’t a cookie cutter, out of the box, one size fits all type of thing. Love is the standard. You don’t get that from religion.
The Ku Klux Klan is known just as much for their religious message as they are for their message of hate. Slave masters in the antebellum American South were religious. Al Qaeda is religious.
Religion does not teach you morals. Recognizing that you are inseverably connected to everything and everyone around you, and that “I” includes “we” is what encourages empathy which in turn teaches you morals.
I want my children to ask questions
I am deeply mistrustful of anyone or any group who discourages me from questioning or outlines what I can question and what I cannot. Albert Einstein famously said that he possessed no special talent per se. He was just passionately curious. We live in a causational universe which makes the universe knowable. Every cause has an effect. Every effect has a cause. God isn’t mysterious. The world isn’t mysterious. Whenever you see an effect all you have to do is look for the cause.
As Richard Dawkins wrote in his book The God Delusion, religion teaches that “it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding.” I couldn’t agree more. The reason people discourage you not to question is because they know that whatever it is they are telling you wouldn’t stand up to even a second thought. (Dawkins, 2006)
It is in this discouraging of questioning that religion even perverts the very concept of faith.
Faith is belief in the absence of evidence. That I get. I believe there is life on other planets. If you study astronomy and can grasp just how vast the galaxy is, let alone the observable universe, life on other planets is practically a statistical certainty. But there is no evidence, right? Sure, but it’s like Neil deGrasse Tyson said, you can’t take a cup of ocean water and decide that since there aren’t any whales in it, then there must not be any in the ocean.
Religion packages faith as belief despite evidence to the contrary. That isn’t what faith is. That says to me that questioning minds are not welcome here. And that isn’t attractive to me.
I don’t want to teach my children that fearing God is a virtue.
I have a fundamental problem with several of the fundamental premises in all of the Abrahamic religions, none more so than you have to believe something or face being condemned to burn in hell. I believe telling a child this borderlines on abuse.
It doesn’t matter if what you’re asking him to believe or to do is low lying fruit (easy to accomplish). What if I told you that a dictator in some banana republic has publicly announced his intention of torturing any one of his citizens that doesn’t demonstrate for him that they can chew gum with their eyes closed. It doesn’t matter that what he is asking them to do is so simple that most, if not everyone, will be able to do it. It still doesn’t turn my attention away from how incredibly conscienceless he would have to be to even place his people in such a position. It speaks volumes to the ethicality of the individual.
The concept of hell, a place of eternal damnation speaks to injustice. Justice necessitates balance. Eleanor Roosevelt said it best when she said, “Justice can’t be for one side it must be for both.”
It is inherently unjust to inflict infinite suffering for a finite harm. That would be like a small claims court ordering you to pay $10.00 a day in restitution for the rest of your life for $1.00 you took that didn’t belong to you. Since I am not capable of creating eternal harm, then eternal suffering as punishment is inherently unjust.
The God I know, the God I will teach to my children, is not an unjust God.
A God with omnipotence but without wisdom is unworthy of worship.
I can honestly say that the God of the Old Testament doesn’t exhibit a single moral value that I would want my children to have.
Again, to quote Richard Dawkins, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” (Dawkins, 2006)
The God of the Old Testament isn’t a person I would vote for, let alone worship.
Jesus the man was amazing enough. You can keep the myth.
As for Jesus, I actually think Jesus is an excellent example of a higher level soul but so was Mahatma Gandhi and Eleanor Roosevelt. Jesus spoke to values and to a deeper understanding of the human spirit that I would like to emulate in my own life and teach my children.
But to give my children Christianity I have to teach them that Jesus is God and secondly that his death was purposeful in that he died so that I could have a chance of being saved.
Saved from whom? Saved from what?
Oh yeah. That dude from the Old Testament.
I have a problem with the idea that Jesus died for me. He didn’t even stay dead. He came back to life. That doesn’t count. What it says is that God doesn’t value each of us on our own merits and he is still stuck in that rut where the sins of the father transfer to the child.
That is one of my major issues with Christianity in general. I don’t know if it has always been this way but modern Christianity tries to take the emphasis off of how we treat one another and the harm we cause and instead places it on what we believe. I think this is unfortunate. Not only does this fail to teach empathy but even promises to reward indifference.
According to accounts of near-death experiences when we die we will go through a life review where we watch our lives pass before us and while we are doing this we are also experiencing all of the pain and joy we created in our time spent here. The life review is said to be the most transformative element of near-death experiences because it gives people a chance to evaluate themselves and how they have spent their lives. People who have life reviews tend to experience remorse and regret, they empathize with the people they have harmed, and then are driven to improve the quality of the relationships in their lives.
The fact that this is what is focused on tells me that it’s important to be mindful of how our actions and even inactions affect others around us. No one to my knowledge has had a life review focus on how fervently they believed in any religious dogma. If you find an account of a life review where they keep a running total of how many times someone prayed to the East, or how much money they put in the collection plate, you let me know.
I like the analogy of the broken plate.
Go in the kitchen. Grab a plate, then smash it on the ground. Did it break? It did? Ok, now tell the plate you’re sorry. Did it go back together again?
When we make mistakes that hurt other people, I believe we are morally obligated to understand why we did whatever we did and then not repeat it. We might not be able to put that plate back together, but we can stop breaking plates.
I love my two boys more than life itself. And I will never, knowingly, deliberately do anything to hurt my children. Telling them that what they believe is more important than how they treat others is not the value that I want to spend my emotional equity on giving to my child. And if I am wrong and God truly does place more importance on what someone believes than how someone actually lives then there is no God for me anyway because I cannot, will not, elevate that kind of God or even that kind of person for my children to emulate.