Monday, July 8, 2013

Kids, religion, and indoctrination

In some of the discussions that I've been having, and some of the stuff that I've been watching, I keep hearing theists try and put atheism on the same level as theism.  I'm currently reading a book from a Christian that's for Christians, and it tries to equate religious faith with faith that medicine will work, your wife will remain faithful, the bus driver won't crash, etc.  Obviously, the major difference is that trusting medicine to work, my wife remaining faithful, and a bus driver not crashing doesn't involve a suspension of natural law, but hey, why bring up important points like that when we're trying to equivocate, eh?

Aside from this, I've also seen a few video clips and read some blog posts where both theists and obnoxiously condescending agnostics refer to atheism as just being "another religion".  I'm tempted to write a rebuttal, but for Pete's sakes, I just don't have it in me to write the usual atheist responses like:  "If atheism is a religion, then 'off' is a TV channel."  I could go on and on, spelling out the differences and why atheism, by itself, does not qualify as a religion, even if one is being assertive with it.  I'm not going to, because I think that it would fall on deaf ears, and this stuff has already been written about a billion times before.  Instead, let me just focus on one very important difference between how I, as an atheist, plan on raising my child when it comes to religious belief.  I know that there are some Christians out there sometimes reading this, and I hope that they chime in if I get something wrong of if I generalize too broadly.

The biggest difference between how an atheist like myself, and a Christian (or pick a religion - I'm just sticking with Christians because that's the dominant religion in my country) will raise our children is that I will not indoctrinate my kid as far as religious belief goes.  Before I go any further, allow me to explain what I mean by that.  If my son asks me if I believe in God, I will tell him the truth and say "No".  I do not consider that indoctrination, just as I wouldn't consider it indoctrination if a Christian would answer the same question with a "Yes".  That's just honestly answering a question.

My son is three years old.  Guess what his religious beliefs are?  If you say "atheism" you're only right in the sense that he's an atheist by default, as he has no belief in any gods.  However, he's not an atheist like me in the sense that he's examined the claims of theism and rejected them.  Why?  Because he's not even three yet!  How would he know one way or another?

Does this mean that I completely shelter him from any kind of religious thinking?  Nope.  I have a book of Bible stories in his collection of books.  He hasn't touched it yet, but that might have something to do with the fact that he has a ton of books and that one just hasn't stood out to him.  I also got him a book about world religions for kids, and it shows pictures of different kids all over the world practicing their various religious faiths.  He's expressed mild interest in it, and I've sat down with him.  I specifically remember him pointing to a picture of Krishna, and repeating the name after I said it.  As far as telling him whether Krishna is real or not, I didn't even get into that.  I was just showing him the pictures the same as we go through his big book of animals.  It is what it is, and whether it's real or not doesn't even enter the conversation because as of right now, he's in a mode where he's just absorbing information.  In other words, I'm not telling him what to think about any of this stuff one way or another.

Can a religious person say the same?  I'd really be interested to hear from any who handle this the same way that I do.  I suppose that it's very well possible, but I don't think that I'm out of line when I say that most religious people talk to their kids about God as early as possible, and when they do talk about it, they talk about their particular deity as thought it's as real as Mommy and Daddy.

Yeah, Lance, but aren't you doing the same thing?  Aren't you telling your son that God's not real?

No.  I'm not.  I'm not telling him what to believe one way or another.  It's up to him to figure it out, and as of right now, he's too young to even entertain it.

But isn't telling him that I don't believe pretty much the same thing?  That's a better question, and I'm no fool as to disregard the influence that I'll have over my son's thinking.  However, when he asks me if I believe or not, I'll tell him the truth and follow it up with:  "What do you think?"  If he tells me that he believes, I won't tell him that he's wrong, I'll simply ask him why.

Ahh!  There it is!  Gotcha, Lance!  If he says he believes, you're going to keep asking him questions until he feels too embarrassed to keep believing it!

Hold on, I'm not finished yet.  The thing is this:  if he tells me that he DOESN'T believe, I will ask him why.  I will ask him just as many questions one way or another.  I'll specifically tell him that it doesn't matter to me so much what he believes as that he comes to his beliefs on his own and not because he simply repeats me.

I'm not sure where I heard or read this, but I came across a mother telling a story about her young son.  She had allowed him to go to church with one of his friends, and one day he came back and informed her that he believed in heaven.  She then proceeded to ask him why he believed it, following it up with all kinds of questions to see if he considered the matter thoroughly.  About a week later, he told her that he no longer believed it.  And what was her response?  Was it:  "Good!  So glad you no longer believe that nonsense!"  No.  She proceeded to ask him just as many questions - in other words, she played God's Advocate, if you'll excuse the expression.  When I heard this story, I said to myself that's exactly how I want to handle it.  What I want my son to do is THINK, because I'm confident that if he does so, he'll reach the same conclusions that I do.  And what if thinking makes him reach different conclusions?  Well then, if my conclusions don't stand up to scrutiny, then I'm the one who should be changing my mind!

Look, I realize that even if we're just talking about Christians here, we have all types.  I know that there are some where if their kids don't choose the same faith, they will completely disown them.  I also know that there are some Christian parents who would rather that their kids choose atheism or another faith than just blindly parrot what they say.  When it comes to indoctrination, there are various levels of it.  However, if you raise your kid and talk about God as though he is completely real, then you're indoctrinating your kid with a belief, no matter how innocuous that might even be.

Don't get me wrong.  It's possible for you to be religious and not indoctrinate your kid.  You could approach this the same way as I am.  You could tell your kid that you believe in God.  However, don't speak about God as though it's real and something your kid should believe.  Tell your kid that it's his or her choice to believe or not.  Question your kids when they both believe and don't believe.  If they're curious about the atheist position, hand them a copy of The God Delusion.  (Yes, I have a Bible in my house, and I'd buy any Christian apologetic book my son might want to read if he expressed interest.)  Also, learn what all the atheist objections are - not just the strawman versions that apologists like to throw about.  Oh, and also teach your kids about all the other religions and the interesting phenomenon of how geography seems to play a big part in which religion a person follows.

Unless your prevailing message is "You need to figure this out for yourself because I could be wrong", then you're indoctrinating your kid with religious belief.  And that's why atheism isn't the same as a religion.  Please realize that's my sole point in this - the difference between believers and nonbelievers.  Maybe you're convinced that your religion is the truth, and you'd be doing your kid a disservice if you DIDN'T raise him or her to believe.  That doesn't change my point though, does it?  I plan on indoctrinating my kid to believe that he should brush his teeth and look both ways before he crosses the street.  That's perfectly sensible, but it's still indoctrination.



The video above is a talk on Raising Freethinking children.  It's good stuff.

18 comments:

Tony from Pandora said...

You say it's possible to believe in God, but not indoctinate your kid by approaching it the same way you are. I don't think a Christian can. With the aspects of going to church, praying at meal times, extra curricular church activities, how can you NOT indoctrinate your kids and still hold fast to what your religious tenets teach?

Because of my belief, I take the knowledge of Christ to be as important as the multiplication table. I'm not going to let my child 'just figure out' the multiplication table, and I'm not going to do the same with Christianity.

I won't delve deeply into the 'indoctrination' of evolution. I know you believe it's a fact... you know I believe it's not. But I'm not going to let my kid's school inculcate that idea without letting them know alternate ideas concerning the origins of the earth.

So I guess, I'm admitting that I'm indoctrinating my children to Christianity. But because my belief that it's as true as algebra, I don't think it's a bad thing. I pray every night that my girls end up like their mother. The world is going to be a better place if they do... though I pray my son does NOT grow up like me... I hope he sets is sights a bit higher...!

I do teach them about other religions, as well as the idea of atheism. My dad and brother are atheists, and I've talked to my children about that when they ask, "Why don't grampa go to church?"

Lance Johnson said...

That all kinda proves my point.

Alternate ideas concerning the origin of the Earth? You mean what the Scientologists teach? Or how about how Ymir formed out of Ginnungagap? Cosmic egg? Giant turtle?

Lance Johnson said...

Furthermore:

" But because my belief that it's as true as algebra..."

Then it should be as easy to prove as algebra! Wouldn't it be funny if people only believed in algebra in certain parts of the world, and in other parts of the world they had different ideas about how to solve for X?

"I do teach them about other religions, as well as the idea of atheism. My dad and brother are atheists, and I've talked to my children about that..."

Would you send them over to your dad and brother so they could hear why they're atheists from them? And to answer what you might want to ask - I would gladly send my son to a Christian to find out what he or she believes straight from the source.

Tony from Pandora said...

Concerning algebra...

I said 'true as algebra', I didn't say it's as easy to prove... love is true, but not as easy to prove as 3x + 39 = 165

Concerning origins of earth...

I can't find anyone who believes in Ymir to talk to them about it. And I work with some Hindus, and they don't believe in a literal, historic cosmic egg or turtle, so I see little benefit in teaching my children those stories as actual, literal events. But, as stories? Sure. And while I won't teach them scientology, I will let them watch 'Top Gun'

"Would I send my children to my dad/brother to talk about their beliefs?"

Of course. My dad raised me, after all... although... maybe that fact should make me rethink this idea...

"That kind of proves my point."

I don't mean to argue over IF we indoctrinate our children. I'm saying & asking:
1. I'm okay with that, because I believe it to be true.
2. Can you, give an example for a parent on how to NOT indoctrinate children while still personally holding to Christian conviction?

P.S. x = 42 if you get the reference...

Lance Johnson said...

" love is true, but not as easy to prove as 3x + 39 = 165"

I'd say that it's easier.

" can't find anyone who believes in Ymir to talk to them about it."

What if you could?

"And I work with some Hindus, and they don't believe in a literal, historic cosmic egg or turtle..."

Wow. Do I need to point out what's wrong with this statement?

Nice dodge about Scientology though. It's something people believe, and many of them have personal experiences that let them "know" that it's true.

"Can you, give an example for a parent on how to NOT indoctrinate children while still personally holding to Christian conviction?"

Yup - basically just do what I do. Also, don't take them to church or ask them to pray - wait for them to show interest in it. I have a hard time seeing any Christian actually putting this into practice though. Still, it is possible.

I'm curious with the evolution thing though, Tony, you keep saying that you don't believe it's true, but you've never answered me: What is it that you understand about it that 99% of biologists DON'T? (And don't say it's your faith, because there are a lot of Christian biologists who are included in that lot.)

Tony from Pandora said...

Evolution (I may get back to your other comments, but let's focus on this on for this post...)

First off, the fact that 99% of biologists believe in doesn't mean anything to me. They go into that field BECAUSE they believe what they're studying. These scientists were most likely in junior high thinking, "Evolution is fascinating, I want to grow up and study it more!" So before they had any official knowledge of the subject, they carried their preconceived ideas about God & the universe into the field with them. So I'm not surprised that what they find, they interpret the findings as a result of evolution. If you were to poll all the 12 year old girls at a Justin Bieber concert, 99% of the girls will say he's the best entertainer ever. So what?

As far as science in general, I love science and enjoy learning about it. But there's something behind what science offers, which it lacks the tools to explain. C.S. Lewis in 'Mere Christianity' says;

"Every scientific statement in the long run, however complicated it looks, really means something like, "I pointed the telescope to such and such a part of the sky at 2:20 A.M. on January 15th and saw so-and-so," or, "I put some of this stuff in a pot and heated it to such-and-such a temperature and it did so-and-so." Do not think Im saying anything against science: I am only saying what its job is. And the more scientific a man is, the more (I believe) he would agree with me that this is the job of science—and a very useful and necessary job it is too. But why anything comes to be there at all, and whether there is anything behind the things science observes—something of a different kind—this is not a scientific question. If there is "Something Behind," then either it will have to remain altogether unknown to men or else make itself known in some different way."

And simply put, all the experiences I've had since being a Christian are SO strong, SO powerful, SO convincing, that like (again) Jodie Foster's character in 'Contact', I simply CAN'T let it go. Call it my conscience, call it the Holy Spirit, but I CAN'T NOT (double negative!) believe the bible. So even if you disagree with me, based on your point of view, how do you say I'm wrong. After all, I'm simply following my instincts and memes that are ingrained in my DNA to believe this stuff, correct...? Or you're just hoping that through natural selection, humans' 'religious DNA' will become extinct?

Lance Johnson said...

It's a good point that it shouldn't matter what the percentage of scientists say, as truth is not a popularity contest.

However, on what grounds do you create this little narrative of what supposedly happens when they go to school and study it? I'm sorry, but you're coming off as being spectacularly ignorant as to how the scientific method even works in the first place. Beginning with a conclusion is what religion does. As I've stated to you many times before, evolution is falsifiable.

"how do you say I'm wrong"

I don't. I just point out the fact that your arguments are exactly the same as people who have religious beliefs that are mutually exclusive to yours. Unless you can give me some sort of objective way of analyzing these experiences to determine which ones are the legitimate ones and which ones are not, then I must make the exact same assumption that you make about every other religious belief but your own.

As for whether you're following your instincts or not, there certainly seems to be some evolutionary basis for why humans subscribe to religious thought. But you keep acting like your religion is the only game in town. If you were raised in Saudi Arabia, you'd be just as convinced of Islam. If you had been raised in 800 AD Norway, you'd be just as convinced of the Aesir gods.

What you can't seem to get around is that your beliefs, no matter how strong they are, are completely subjective on your part. And if strong belief makes things true, then it's all true, which is impossible.

As I've said before, you want me to give your beliefs special treatment, which I am unwilling to do.

Lance Johnson said...

And I must point out that you're not really dealing with my question: What is it that you understand about evolution that these scientists don't?

Let me give you an example of what I mean. A lot of people believe in homeopathy. I think it's bogus. One of the reasons why is that it has failed to produce results in any double-blind studies. Secondly, the sheer notion that water has "memory" has not been proven.

See what I mean? What about evolution can you point to that indicates that it's false?

Tony from Pandora said...

"What is it that you understand about evolution that these scientists don't?"

There is nothing that I understand about evolution that scientists don't. I've never claimed to know more about evolution than scientists...
It's less about what I understand about evolution, and more about what I DO understand about what has happened in my life since I accepted Christ. Once I realized that I have this... let's just call it 'shit'... in my life that I couldn't let go of. And looking into evolution, Muhammed, Zeus, Tom Cruise, etc, never gave me an answer as to 1. why I believe there is a right and wrong 2. why more often than not, I want to do the wrong, and 3. how did this 'standard' for morality ever start?

These questions I have found answered in the bible. I didn't take it at face value. I put it into practice first. Like when a mathbook says "2+2=4... here's why..." and shows you two groups of two ducks and shows you it's 4 total ducks. I put into practice verses like James 4:7-8 "Submit yourselves then to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you." Definitions of love, patience, joy were put into practice. And the more I followed what Christ says, the more truth I found it contained. And this wasn't done by myself but with other more mature believers who I have seen what Christ had done in their lives. And this truth is not something I want my kids to 'wait and discover on their own'.

And so when I go into science, I go into it with the knowledge of a Creator. And that belief in my God in no way diminishes what science finds, but only makes me appreciate God's craftsmanship.

If you need me to concede that you can't find or prove God through science, then YES I concede... learning more about science won't 'prove' God. And I don't think I've said anything to the contrary. But it doesn't disprove Him, either. It's because science isn't the right tool to use to find Him. While an x-ray tells a lot, it won't tell you a patient's pulse. It's NOT the right tool. And you can't use a stethoscope to check the pressure in your tires.

"What about evolution can you point to that indicates that it's false?"

I can't point to anything about evolution itself to say it's false. But I can't point to anything about the 'Avengers' movie itself to prove it didn't happen either. I'd have to look somewhere else... like to the guy running the projector... but you won't let me look there...

Lance Johnson said...

"I've never claimed to know more about evolution than scientists... "

But that's the implication whenever you write that you think that evolution didn't happen. It's accepted fact among scientists. You're saying it's not one. What do you understand that they don't?

"...looking into evolution, Muhammed, Zeus, Tom Cruise, etc, never gave me an answer as to..."

Three things:

1. Evolution doesn't belong with those other two any more than gravity does.

2. The simple fact of biological evolution - that we share a common ancestor with every other living thing - does not make any claim about good and evil any more than any gravity does. (Yeah, I'm using gravity twice.)

3. Are you REALLY, HONESTLY trying to imply that you spent time researching Islam, Scientology, and Christianity with all of them being possible answers in your mind, and then Christianity just happened to be the one that worked best?

This is the thing that gets me about religious people - you guys are so intellectually dishonest about this simple, irrefutable fact - and that's that one's religion of choice is influenced heavily by one's family and geography. Again, if you grew up in Norway during the 9th Century and somebody told you about Jesus, you'd think it was an insult to Odin - with the exact same conviction that you talk about Jesus. For crap's sakes, just be honest about this point.

As for science proving or disproving God, you realize that you can substitute the word "leprechauns" in there and it makes just as much sense, right? You can't DISPROVE anything.

"I can't point to anything about evolution itself to say it's false. But I can't point to anything about the 'Avengers' movie itself to prove it didn't happen either. I'd have to look somewhere else... like to the guy running the projector... but you won't let me look there..."

Do you ever have a box full of different cords when you pack up to move, and when you try and get one out, it's in an absolute tangle of knots? Unwrapping those tangles is what it feels like dissecting your metaphors. Let's take this a piece at a time:

"I can't point to anything about evolution itself to say it's false."

Well, you COULD if it was. For instance, if reptiles had the inactive genes for creating mammary glands, that would pretty much throw the whole thing out the window. There are billions of other examples, so you're already starting with a false premise here.

"But I can't point to anything about the 'Avengers' movie itself to prove it didn't happen either."

Considering that the events depicted in the film break all kinds of natural laws, you already have a good starting point. Then, just as evolution can be proved or disproved by examining other fields of science, one could check out the historical records of New York City to see if anything confirms what happened. I could go on...

"I'd have to look somewhere else... like to the guy running the projector... but you won't let me look there..."

And even if your metaphor was a sound one before this point, it all comes crumbling down spectacularly with this. I would let you look to the guy running the projector because I WOULD GET TO SEE HIM TOO, and we could get even more people to confirm his existence. What you want to do is talk to somebody who has as much veracity as an imaginary friend, and yeah, I'm not letting you confirm with him. What if I told you that I know that Jesus isn't real because Thor personally told me that it was all just a trick of Loki? If we're going to allow subjective, personal experiences into the conversation, then mine is no sillier than yours.

Tony from Pandora said...

In all of our conversations you haven't offended me until now... don't ever... EVER put down my metaphors!

Response to 3 Things:

1. Yes it may not belong with the others, but taking facts of biology to theories of biological evolution and the many other ideas extrapolated from it concerning the origins of earth (including theories of evolutionary morality) put it closer to a religious idea than gravity does...

2. No, evolution does not. But people try to use evolution to explain the concepts of good and evil. I can't seem to reconcile what the say with what I know to be true inside of me. (Jodie Foster, again!)

3. "If" I lived in 9th century Norway, or "if" I lived in Saudi Arabia, or "if" I were a little bit taller, if I was a baller, if I had a girl who looked good I would call her...

Yes, "if" any of those things were true, then, sure it could happen... I could be an Odin-ite(?) or Muslim, or Skee-Lo. I don't want to over-use C.S. Lewis, (you DID use gravity twice!) but from 'Prince Caspian' Aslan says ""To know what would have happened, child? No. Nobody is ever told that." So while it's fun to imagine if/then statements... it's only make-believe.

Concerning leprechauns... yes that works, too.

"And that's that one's religion of choice is influenced heavily by one's family and geography
"

Influenced by.. yes, of course. Determined by... no.

Concerning lizard's nonexistent mammary gland genes.

We're talking "ifs" again, so who knows... but I'd be willing to bet that if those genes WERE discovered, they'd find a way to make it support evolution.

I'll end on a somewhat different note. I'm not a writer. I'm not good at putting my thoughts down on (digital) paper in a way that truly says what's in my head. Your 'Comics, and Beer' caught my eye much quicker than the 'Shakespeare' . All that to say is that while I may not be able to explain my position as eloquently as, say, our mutual friend Justin McRoberts, it doesn't mean I haven't dealt with these issues in a deep, serious way.

And concerning the 'Avengers' metaphor... no it wasn't the best way to put it. Maybe 'The Last Action Hero' would have been a better choice? Arnold believes he's in the only world there is. And using all the tools he has available... he can't prove anything to the contrary. Only when someone supernaturally enters his world, does he realize this.

Still no? alright...

Lance Johnson said...

I'm an English teacher, so you had better bring it if you're gonna go with a metaphor.

1. I disagree with you (because as I keep pointing out, unlike religions, it's falsifiable) but let's set all that aside and keep this strictly about biological evolution. There are plenty of Christians (and other types of theists) who accept the fact of it.

2. "But people try to use evolution to explain the concepts of good and evil."

It's more about finding an answer in the natural world, as introducing the supernatural only complicates things and raises a billion questions before it answers anything.

3. You realize that you're just completely dodging the point here, right?

"but I'd be willing to bet that if those genes WERE discovered, they'd find a way to make it support evolution..."

And how do you figure this? Where else have they done something similar? Again, you're confusing the way that science works with the way that religion works.

"...it doesn't mean I haven't dealt with these issues in a deep, serious way."

No doubt - but here's another question that no theist can ever give a straight answer to - what would convince you that you're wrong? Is being wrong even a possibility? Until you reason that out, you may have thought very deeply about it, but there's an entire neighborhood of thought that you're not even visiting.

Tony from Pandora said...

1. Yes, I know that there are Christians who believe in evolution.

2. I'm not denying that it may complicate things, but I don't think that should prevent us from introducing it. Part of why I believe in God, is that the question exists at all. There is no 'good' and 'bad' in evolution. But nearly every human has a sense of a moral right and wrong. I believe that a Creator instilled in us this sense. And yes, that may mean you have to introduce leprechauns, too, if you must... but I'm part Irish, so I'm okay with that, too

3. Yes... 10 years ago (crap... 15 years ago. Man I'm getting old), I did what I could to learn as much about the world's major religions,as well as atheism (like my dad and brother). And I did go into it with an understand of how religions seem to gather geographically. But that didn't determine what I ended up believing to be true. Christianity makes the most sense to me. Maybe geography/community "influenced heavily" in my decision, as you claim, but community is part of the Gospel message, so wherever the Gospel is prevalent, people will hear about it and possibly turn to Christ.

Back to lizard boobs... It's just a guess, we'll have to see if they find any...

"What would convince you you're wrong? Is being wrong a possibility"

I don't know. I could be wrong about God, Jesus, the bible, everything. But I haven't found that evidence yet. Maybe, if I read scripture, prayed, fasted, with an honest heart, asking for the Holy Spirit's guidance, and then NOT getting it, I would... but that hasn't happened yet.

Lance Johnson said...

2. Well, so long as you're consistent.

3. But did you really, for even a moment, think to yourself that Islam (or pick another religion) was a legitimate possibility?

"Maybe, if I read scripture, prayed, fasted, with an honest heart, asking for the Holy Spirit's guidance, and then NOT getting it, I would... but that hasn't happened yet."

How do you discern between guidance from the Holy Spirit and what's simply going on in your head? I mean, doesn't the sheer fact that you're asking for the Holy Spirit's guidance set you up for some confirmation bias? You believe it, so that helps you believe it.

Tony from Pandora said...

2. So you're okay with the leprechauns, then? Whew! I think I've accomplished my goal...

3. I'm not sure what you're looking for. In early 20's I went through something of a searching. Yes, most of what I knew of God was from a Christian perspective. And the same issues you have stated, I also had, with the 'geographical coincidence' of people choosing a belief, or why have a belief at all. So I did research Islam, talked with Muslims about what they believe, read much of the Qu'ran (at least it SEEMED like a lot...) and it just didnt' sit well with me. So I never got to the point of, "Huh... this could be true." so I can't say I thought of it as a 'legitimate possibility'. But I didn't feel any particular loyalty to Christianity, or anything else at the time.

"What's going on in your head?"

I can almost guarantee it's the Holy Spirit, because aside from that... there's not a lot going on up there...!

Seriously, though. It's not necessarily easy to do at first. You hear verses like "Ask, and you shall receive" and you start praying for a new car or something. But 'sticking with it' (being studying the Bible, praying, fasting, giving, etc) and with Godly mentorship, my prayers took on a less selfish approach. Initially, I'd read Psalm 37:4 "Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." and put a facade on for Sunday morning to 'delight in the Lord', almost testing the verse. "You said if I delight in You, You'd give me what I want!!" Then I wouldn't get what I wanted. And there were times that I then doubted God's existence at all. After all I'm putting this book into practice and it's not doing what it says it will do. But with further study, and fellowship, I focused less on the 'me' part of the verse, and more on the 'Lord' part. I began to actually feel joy that I've not felt through any other device (except for maybe several amaretto sours). And with that, my own desires changed. The joy of Christ changes my heart and aligned my desires with His will... and He grants those desires. And yes, I still sometimes pray selfishly for cars and what-not... and I'm still waiting on that...

You may be able to point to a Tony Robbins, a Wayne Dyer, and claim that following their motivational practice does the same thing... but it's simply not the same.

I don't know if that answers your confirmation bias question or not, but the best I can do to directly answer it is that I don't know for sure, but when I pray for guidance... it usually leads me to where I didn't want to go... only to be incredibly blessed by it. It happens TOO often for it to be merely chance, or some subconsious confirmation of what I already knew to do...

GemGirl said...

I admire those who began questioning all this in their teens or just after college. I think most people who did came from much more fundamentalist religous homes than I did. I was raised United Methodist which is pretty much at the bottom of the "serious religious denomination" scale. But still, I ONLY began to question AFTER I became a parent. I am a pretty introspective person and suddenly after I had enrolled my 4 year old daughter in a United Methodist pre-school......things seemed odd to me. She was coming home parroting Bible stories and speaking of all of it like she was talking about people we knew. She bought it ALL...Jonah and the whale....Everything! Well, sheesh, right? What on earth did I expect? I put her in this school. But,I had only looked at the eduacation piece of it and how many wonderful field trips they would take her on. I really didn't think the religion would absorb. It Did! And quckly! Then, suddenly, it felt...well...Creepy! Why should she parrot this stuff without understanding any of it's origins. I did too when I was a kid...then I had confirmation classes, etc. But I guess the indoctrination really did start when I was 3 or 4. What a revelation! So back to my daughter: she understood NONE of it....but could TALK about a lot of it. Whoa! Well, I kept her at the school. The field trips were fabulous after all. But, soon after I scaled back her religion immensely. She goes to church with my mom and I on special occasions and learns some religious historical facts (she is 10 now). Anyway, it amazes me that so few people are creeped out by this. If she grows up and believes in God...I am okay with that...or the opposite. But, to make her believe by 'steeping' her in it and watching her give creedence to things she doesn't understand I cannot sit idly by and watch that. I am sorry but it FELT abusive. Maybe it is...maybe it isn't...but my gut reaction was not good.

Lance Johnson said...

Thanks for sharing your story!

Benjamin Smith said...

Lance, great post and great blog! Seems we share many of the same thoughts on this particular subject. In fact, our manner of explaining it seems similar.¶

What surprises me so much about being part of this "free thinking" movement is how we each come to individually share many of the same thoughts and reasoning. And we find this similarity without ever having attending weekly meetings or listening to the equivalent of religious sermons. It's as though, given enough critical analysis, we start being pulled in the same direction.¶

But, I don't want to come across all high and mighty to any religious proponents viewing your blog. It's just a personal observation. (And I could be wrong about it!)¶

Regarding your discussion with Tony, I feel there is an epistemic difference between the two of you. I myself crudely divide the world up into "laypeople" and "scholars" with every degree in between. (Sorry for how pretentious that comes across.) The "layperson" tends to view all truths as being equally attainable and equally defensible. The "scholar", on the other hand, recognizes degrees of truth and generally refrains from making dogmatic conclusions on controversial issues.¶

For this reason, "laypeople" are more inclined to indoctrinate and propagate even their most controversial of beliefs as though they were clear truths, making little distinction between reality and their perception of it. The more scholarly types reserve their confidence for more practical matters and want people to think for themselves on controversial issues, finding at least some respect and merit for all perspectives involved.¶

Not to be exceedingly pretentious (too late for that), but I tend to value the "scholarly" approach. This is one big reason I want my future children to think and decide for themselves on the matter of religion. Regardless of how obvious and intuitive our perspective may seem to us on religion, it is still the single more controversial and subjective aspect of human life. For this reason, I can't justify imposing my views on my child. There is an enormous amount of room for interpretation and error.