Yes, we had another debate in English class tonight. Yep, a debate about religion in English class. It began as a statement of religion being integral to Puritans during the time of the witch-hunts (as we were supposed to be discussing Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne- which I loved). It somewhere turned into someone’s statement that it is wrong of parents to force their children to believe in their religion. Instead, parents should teach their children a life based on morals and what is good and bad, and let them decide for themselves about religion.
Now, how can that be done with children? True children, like, up to 12 years old? Here, two-, seven-, ten-, year old, you go figure out God all by yourself. They can’t if they’ve been taught or told absolutely nothing from which they can then draw their own conclusions.
Naturally, this became quite heated. Interestingly, the one woman whom I thought would blow more said nothing, and the woman who’d proclaimed herself as an atheist raised by atheists at the beginning of the term said nothing. Just as interesting, the ones who did speak- myself included- did not speak so much in defense of religion, but in offense of what she said. Being that I am consecutively taking Philosophy, and that last week we had to debate the theory of morals handed down by ‘God’, and therefore the existence of God, this was pretty darn interesting. But I’ll save the Philosophy lecture, cause that’s tedious.
Many others also brought that question, “Where do morals come from, if not from your religion?”, anyway. My first thought, though, was: God, to be twenty and feel so in control and so powerful and so RIGHT! She kept saying how she has more common sense than her parents. It was so cute, it really was. I wish I was twenty again, and be so idealistic! But I’m not, sadly. The older I get, the less I feel I know or can be certain of. Anyway, common sense is another thing Philosophy brought up: What is common sense? It was once ‘common sense’ that some people were born to be slaves, and others to be massacred; that women were feeble idiots not fit to speak or act or do anything without the permission and control of a husband; that the world is flat; and that the sun won’t come up again on the winter solstice unless people stay up all night and beat on drums. Common sense is never something that should be boasted about. What is common thought is usually neither sensical nor, hey, moral.
How could you say that it is wrong of parents to raise their children in what they believe in, with what gives them comfort, and with what should guide their children’s behaviors regarding right and wrong? (To keep things simple, I’m only talking about religion, and only in the basic, uncorrupted way) How can you say that parents must teach their children what they don’t know, or don’t believe, or don’t feel comfortable with, so as not to offend someone who thinks negatively on religion? And how can you think that the children will hate them later?
Like another woman in class, I was raised Catholic, put through Catholic elementary school, while also conversely put through my father’s Protestant/Evangelical (I have no idea which) church as well. I disagreed with both, but I can’t say I absolutely hated either. Like my English teacher said about herself, I doubted everything told to me, and I got into angry debates with one of the pastors at my dad’s church quite often (if I tried so with the nuns, I’d have been whipped and drawn and burned at the stake, so I kept my mouth tightly shut for eight very long years). As soon as I was allowed to, I stopped going to church. I felt so much more at peace with myself and with religion in general, though as I got older, that peace was questioned further and I looked into other forms of religion. Point is, I do not hate my parents for teaching me their religions. It’s where I learned to question and doubt and want to know more. This girl herself stated that her family rarely went to church, and weren’t really religiously-minded, which is confusing in regards to how she became so vehement about it. Someone else, according to their religion and their religion’s morals could say that it was completely wrong of her parents to not be more forceful. It could be a vicious, vicious unending debate. It’s why I typically taboo this subject.
From a parent’s standpoint, it is confusing to figure out how to teach what you believe. And then, when your beliefs are greatly contrasting the majority around you, what then? I do envy the people with such steady faiths, because there does exist a beauty in such beliefs- of a God or a Higher Being who created the word and watches over us and will hold open gates to a Heaven when we die. It is beautiful, it is magical and comforting. But there’s beauty in my own beliefs, too, and I hope my children embrace them.
My conclusion toward how to pass my beliefs down to my children has been to address their questions as they come up (shrug, here), to also explain to them what others believe and why, and then what I believe and why. I hope this serves two purposes, the second one being that they know to honor and respect other people’s views and beliefs.
An appropriate close, I think, is Namaste: “The divine in me honors and blesses the divine in you.” And leave it at that.
If you want to read Young Goodman Brown, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, please click here: