Religion and Parenting
Religion and parenting…
A few people who read my article on The Architecture of Good Parenting (http://cluelessfather.tumblr.com/post/684317990/architectureofparenting) asked me why I hadn’t included religion and if I didn’t feel it was part of the structure of a good life.
Now I think this is probably going to be one of the most controversial subjects I take up and if I lose a few people on the way, I understand that is your choice and I apologize if I somehow offended you, but I also hope you respect that I have my own opinion and it is my own.
There are three things I firmly believe you should NEVER try to understand about a person:
1. Who they choose to love
2. What art they like (In any form including music, painting, sculpture, pictures, etc…)
3. What they choose to believe in or what religion they choose.
These three things do not necessarily surrender to logic and are intensely personal.
They can be highly volatile. The most volatile of all is usually religion.
For ease of reference this article is broken down into five parts:
1. You got to have faith
2. Religion in general
4. The Achilles heel of every religion
5. Religion and parenting
1. YOU KNOW YOU GOT TO HAVE FAITH (baaaabbbbbyyyyy)
First let me start by saying that there is wayyyyyy too much misplaced importance on the subject of who follows what religion.
But George Michael was right about one thing: You got to have faith.
Having faith and believing in SOMETHING is what is important. And it really shouldn’t be important to other people what you personally believe in to the point where they have to disagree or make a fuss about it, unless for some bizarre reason it adversely affects the society or others.
A particular set of beliefs for one to have faith in is what lies at the core of any religion. That’s why they call them religious beliefs.
But in the end, religion is a delivery vehicle for a particular faith that someone or many someone’s believe and agree upon. Religion is necessary otherwise those beliefs might vanish from view. Religion also provides an opportunity to easily meet people and groups who believe in the same things you do. They can provide one with a sense of community or belonging.
Religion by nature must be at least partially commercial or it will not survive. Even just taking donations from the members of the church makes it to some degree a commercial activity. Non-profit simply redefines commercial into a bracket of businesses whose profits go to continuing activities that have proven benefits to the society, as opposed to a small group of individuals for personal profit.
Any religion must be commercial to some degree or it will vanish. But faith is personal and it should always be free. Always.
No one person or group should ever develop a monopoly on faith.
And what is faith? It is what YOU believe in for yourself. It is what helps you get through the hard times when nothing makes sense. It is what helps you focus when the confusion of the world spills heavily into your life.
It is…whatever it is.
If it is part of a religion, Ok. If it isn’t part of a religion, Ok.
Does it really matter?
The important thing is to believe in SOMETHING. Even if you only believe in you. Or Santa Claus. Or the tooth fairy. Or God for that matter. Whose God? Yours.
You see, we are talking about your FAITH, not your RELIGION. Your RELIGION states “THIS IS OUR GOD AND THESE ARE OUR BELIEFS” or just “THESE ARE OUR BELIEFS.” And your FAITH becomes your personal interpretation of those and what they mean to you personally.
Sorry to go over it repeatedly. But this is a highly opinionated subject and it is important to understand the difference or you won’t get the next parts.
2. RELIGION IN GENERAL
Isn’t it interesting how most religions were originally called “cults” and then became “religions” and then transformed once again in this modern day and age where so many state the word “religion” in the same manner as people originally said “cult.” Spoken with hatred or confusion. The effect is the same.
Which religion is the best? The one which has the answers for an individual person.
Which religion has answers? All of them.
Who determines if those answers are correct? Each individual person for their own lives.
The family on my father’s side is Irish Catholic.
The family on my mother’s side is Jewish.
The family on my wife’s side is both Roman Catholic, Christian and Scientologist.
The family on my brother in law’s side is Hindu.
I was raised a Scientologist.
I have many great friends who are Mormons.
I have other great friends who are atheists and humanists.
My neighbors and good friends are Jehovah’s Witnesses from Korea.
My wife is Mexican. My daughter is a dual citizen of both Mexico and the United States.
I have friends of all races and colors and creeds.
And on and on.
An ignorant person would think if we were all put in the same room at the same time we would kill each other right? That’s just ignorance talking or worse.
The one type of friend I don’t have is the one whose only belief is “intolerance.”
These people are all of the same category. For centuries they have been the ones spitting their peculiar brand of hatred by attacking things they just don’t understand, that they disagree with or that they have harmed. The words or names they use change over time and circumstance: “Pagan, Christian, heretic, Moslem, nigger, Jew, faggot, raghead, Scio, Jesus freaks, beaner,” and on and on…the intent is always the same: to wound. Intolerance is the key attribute of the dedicated hater.
Hate itself not intolerance. We all hate for moments in our life. But we get over it. We forgive. We become smarter. We learn to tolerate. We learn we were wrong or just that the other person was right. We come to understand our hatreds and find in the end we don’t hate them anymore or that we have moved past them.
Not the intolerant one. Not even they understand the true source of their hatred. They never look. They are ignorant.
And in the end, they always lose.
Because intolerance is a double edged sword. It doesn’t just wound one party. The hater is left with a black mark on his heart. Inside somewhere he knows what he says or does is wrong. After enough hatred, he has nothing else left in his or her life but hatred. There is very little or no room for joy or exhilaration or love for that matter.
And deep inside they know it.
I may not agree with people’s choices, but I try to understand them and be tolerant of them. Whether it is race, religion, who they love, what music they like or just what sports team they root for, for that matter.
No matter how much I disagree with a person’s choice, I still try to be tolerant and if possible to be a friend.
There is very little room in this world for intolerance. The tolerant ones grow tired of intolerance and eventually exclude them from society because they recognize intolerance damages it.
And to bring it all back to where we started: There is no room for intolerance if you are to have a truly happy family. That doesn’t mean that you don’t correct things that are really wrong or that you are completely slack. It just means hatred isn’t a part of it.
4. THE ACHILLES’ HEEL OF EVERY RELIGION
Every religion today has a major Achilles’ heel. And that is that it deals with concepts that are larger than life, matters of faith which defy understanding, divine if you will…but they are run and managed by people.
People make mistakes. People commit crimes and do terrible, terrible things. And unfortunately there are a very relatively small amount of people who do such things and are also clergy or administrative members of religions.
And so many religions catch flack for the human errors of the personnel managing them or who work in them. A person working in a religion is not the religion. Just as the religion is not the “faith” of an individual member of that religion.
Yes they do relate. But they are not the same.
If the people handling one’s religion make an error, one should understand that this does not make your faith invalid. You may be affronted that a member of your religion betrayed what you believe in, but you should not fall into the trap of feeling that it is your faith itself that is wrong.
The main things a “religion” should be called on the carpet publicly for is:
1. Departing from or betraying the principles upon which it was founded.
2. Not publicly denouncing an offending member of the clergy who has betrayed the principles of the religion once guilt has actually been substantiated with evidence. Or worse yet, trying to protect them.
3. Trying to monopolize faith or demonstrating intolerance towards other religions or people in general who are doing no wrong to anyone.
4. Not apologizing to its followers when an apology is necessary for mishandling an aspect of the religion’s principles.
Perhaps the worst part of all is when people are known members of a particular religion (not even administrative personnel or members of the clergy) and do things that are terrible. Or do terrible things “in the name of their religion.”
I don’t have to give you examples, there are enough already.
Often their acts are so violent and so terrible that automatically a large portion of the population can then target that religion when in fact it was little more than the same breed of insanity that drives rape, murder, pederasty and a host of other evils that seem to afflict our societies.
It can leave other members of that religion confused and shaken. Did they choose the wrong faith? Were they wrong to believe in what they believe in?
Before losing faith, look closely at the perpetrator(s) of the crime and ask yourself “Were they truly acting on principles of my religion, or were they simply insane and lost in their own lust for destruction, hatred and violence?”
Then you will have your answer. I am willing to bet that almost 1000 times out of 1000 that the fault wasn’t with your beliefs or your religion, but the evilness of the perpetrator of the crime.
Don’t confuse the two.
5. RELIGION AND PARENTING
I will be the last person to insist on my daughter’s choice in religion or faith for that matter. She is free to believe in what she will. Although I will try to ensure she believes in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, leprechauns, the Easter Bunny and all that sort of stuff for as long as possible because every child deserves to believe in magic for as long as possible. Hopefully until they are about 70 or 80 years old.
But I would no more force a religion or belief upon her than I would a marital partner. I know that the result would be the same. She’d probably kick me squarely in the bejeebies.
Many of us are very religious people. Some of us believe in the religions of our parents. Some of us fought as hard as possible to get away from the religions of our parents. Some of us were raised by atheists and found our own religion and our own beliefs.
How can we decide what our children should believe in?
It just doesn’t work. Usually the result is boredom, hatred, revolt or worse.
A child has to find his own way in life. His faith and religion will be a large part of the “structural engineering” behind whatever life he or she chooses to build for themselves. And how is something they don’t REALLY believe in going to help them stand firm when the wind really starts blowing?
They have to BELIEVE in it. If they don’t it is just something they do to please you or someone else. Which is sort of blasphemy in itself isn’t it?
I believe that part of loving your child is letting them find their own way and their own faith and belief systems.
If you believe to the core of your soul that your faith is the faith they should have, then be a good example of it. Make it so when they are having a tough time they come and ask you “How did you make it through the time when _____________________” and you can tell them. When you do something they really respect they will ask you: “Where did you learn that?”
Maybe that is all they need.
But they have to invite the conversation. They have to open that door. It is locked from within and you can’t break it down. If you do, you will only damage no matter what you think your intentions may be.
You can show them a road, but if you force them to walk down it, you better be ready for whatever repercussions may result.
Remember that in the end, you want them to be the architects and designers of their own lives.
Don’t make them go to church or prayer or whatever it may be without their agreement. You can ask them if they would like to participate or attend, but if they say no…let it be no. Don’t fuss about it. Give them something to do while you are at mass, bowing three times to the east or whatever.
The last time I went to a mass when visiting my wife’s family, there wasn’t a single person under the age of 18 that was paying attention. Most of them weren’t even awake.
I guarantee you they had RELIGION imposed upon them, instead of being taught to have FAITH and believe in something for themselves. Whatever it may be.
Even atheists and humanists believe in something. Maybe the fact that they don’t believe in god or gods or whatever helps them cope with the fact that life can be so damn tough some times. Maybe it is easier to believe that there is no higher order to things and that they are masters of their own destiny. I believe that too.
Who knows? I respect whatever it is that they believe in. So long as they respect what I believe in.
Oh and don’t mix morals and religion. That’s also a dangerous combination. Teach them what right and wrong is for the society that they live in and ensure they understand that many societies have different rules and what is important is to know for themselves what is truly right and truly wrong no matter where they are or in whose company they may be.
Right now fatherhood is major part of my life and related to all the things that I have faith in and that I believe in. It is an inseparable part of who I am and who I want to be.
So after all that, I hope you understand now why I didn’t include religion under the architecture of parenting. But like I said, each parent needs to decide what is best for raising their child. Just make sure you are honest with yourself about it and if you are doing it for you, or for your child.
In closing I will tell you that I do believe in miracles, and I have physical proof that they exist. Here it is:
Thanks for reading,
Aka “The Clueless Father”