Friday, March 23, 2012

How to handle the religion question with my son - part II

I wrote a month ago about how I plan on dealing with the issue of religion when it comes to my son.  Ever since then, I've been thinking about it some more, and I've been meaning to write some additional thoughts.  Basically, I never really addressed what I want for my son.  In other words, I didn't say what I'd want his religious attitude to be, if I had my preference.

I'll be honest.  As an atheist, I want him to be one too.  I didn't just come to this conclusion randomly.  I gave it a lot of thought, and I sincerely believe that religious belief clouds one's mind.  If I didn't think so, then I'd convert over to a religion.

I realize that I could no doubt have some success if I isolate him from any other points of view and basically act like the ultimate authority in his life, where he must believe what I believe.  That would probably work for at least until he was a teenager.  However, that's not my style, and honestly, it's something that I associate with the religious more than freethinkers.  And if I'm totally honest, I'm not interest in having a robot for a son.  I'd rather have him disagree with me and think for himself than agree with everything I say because he's just repeating me.

So I realize that he has to live his own life.  And personally, I don't think that learning about religious beliefs will hurt him in the slightest.  If anything, it will help him to understand the world he lives in a bit better.

Obviously, some faith paths are preferable to others.  I'd rather he be a Muslim who doesn't believe in a literal interpretation of the Qu'ran (they do exist, ya know) and values women's rights and democracy than a fundamentalist Christian who intimidates women who go into Planned Parenthood.  I'd rather he be a Christian who accepts evolution and the Big Bang (they do exist, ya know) than a Scientologist.  I'd rather he be a Scientologist than a member of a Jim Jones type of a cult.

You might be thinking:  "What you want is for him to be like you."  Well, what parent doesn't, to some extent anyway?  But in all honesty, I don't really want him to be like me.  See, my whole life, religious belief has been important.  When I believed, I'd think about it all the time and argue in favor for a God.  Now that I'm no longer a believer, I still think about it a lot and argue against the existence of a god.

Basically what I'm saying is that I don't want my son to bother giving all this stuff as much thought as I have.  I guess I'm just somewhat obsessive about certain things, and this topic has always been one for me.  I want him to learn and explore, maybe even attend a religious service or two, but I don't want him to have to waste his time struggling with faith like I did.  It's used up far too much of my brain power, I'm afraid.

Only time will tell what he thinks and what he'll do.  Hopefully no matter what it is, he'll at least be happy.


Anonymous said...

Hey Lance, nice post. It's a good thing to think it through. For my two cents, I tend to agree with your approach to allow your son make his own decision without fear of reprisal from his Dad. To allow him to be exposed to various beliefs and help him work through their positions. And yes, we all want to some degree to have our kids come to the same conclusions we have (on lots of things, not just religion) but if we try to force that, history says they will tend to reject what we force upon them.

Regarding religion specifically, as you allude to, there are many different "faiths" or "religions" and seemingly innumerable sects (and sub-sects) within each "faith/religion", it is instructive also to remind ourselves that there are large number of groupings and sub-groupings within the ranks of the "irreligious." So it ain't an easy question with an easy answer!

That said, in my experience, the irreligious can generally be categorized as either (1) those who truly have had no meaningful interaction with people of one or more religions and (2) those who have had some sort of interaction with organized religion. And of the latter, those who are just plain indifferent to the idea of religion, those who are against religion as a concept (or sometimes just "organized religion") and those who have quietly considered and personally rejected religion, but are passive, not evangelical in their rejection response. So even if one could somehow shelter or coerce someone to become "irreligious" how would we control what form it would that take? As an Atheist? An Anti-theist? An Agnostic? [more in next post]

Anonymous said...

From my personal history, my Mom responded to my youthful questions about faith and religion by working with me to learn about faiths other than her own and even multiple sects within her the broad umbrella of her faith. Of course my Mom wanted me to believe as she does and as her parents did, but rather than being fearful that I might find something other than her faith more appealing, her openness actually served to help me embrace and solidify my belief in her faith, and eventually make it my own. But even still, I practice that same faith in a different way than she, mostly because of cultural and generational nuances; and those differences have not frightened her. And likewise, while my family is overwhelmingly "Christian", my siblings, cousins, uncles, aunts, and other family members practice that Christianity in many different ways and we all definitely do not agree on many, many things beyond the relatively few core beliefs of the Christian faith. [more in next post]

Anonymous said...

All that said, while I agree that that the consideration of "religion" does take a lot of thought I do not think it necessarily clouds the mind. Whether it clouds the mind or expands the mind, I think, is a personal thing. It may be partly a conscious choice, but more likely it is a combination of things such as genetics, culture, and life experiences. While (too) many of our fellow earthlings allow themselves to be spoon-fed their thoughts and beliefs (whether it be about religion, left or right-wing politics, race, sex, etc.), thankfully, many of our species are much too inquisitive for that.
We know that both extremes of every issue is where the "non-thinkers" tend to reside .... primarily because those who hover in the middle or seem to be on both sides of an issue have come to realize that life is complex; that the more one learns, the more one realizes what is yet to be learned; and that as mentally and emotionally offensive it may be to consider and grasp, there are few, if any, absolutes. [more in next post]

Anonymous said...

Finally, if it weren't religion, there would still be other opportunities for us to expend thought, such as philosophy, logic, economics, music, science, rhetoric...and those too can serve to either cloud or expand the mind. Perhaps then, our role is to help those in our care and those whom we influence to be inquisitive, to be open to ideas contrary to their own, and to be eager to learn and willing to change.


Lance Christian Johnson said...

Well said, Ernie. I don't really have anything to add to that.