Friday, September 20, 2013

parenting without religion, part 2- church.

Religion (and the lack of it) has been on my mind lately, so here is part 2 to my original post, parenting without religion. .

After YEARS of searching, I finally found a local group of atheists that aren't total assholes. Not that I think atheists are assholes, but I have never felt pulled to join a group that just sits around bashing religion all the time, the same way I have never felt pulled to join a church that spends most of their time judging. What sold me on this particular group? First, was the invitation to come out to a local church on "serve the city" night. Impressive.

Not just by the atheists, but by the church as well. To open your doors to a group of skeptics, and focus SOLELY on helping the community is impressive. No pressure, no lectures, no judgement.

In fact, the pastor invited some local atheists to have a live-streamed chat with him at his church. This is it, here. It is friendly, thoughtful, and pointed.

Being there helping out at "Serve the City" night reminded me of when I was younger and attended church. I miss that. Not the actual religion part, but the community part. My family was never particularly Christian. I went to AWANAS as a child, and to youth group, and on the ski retreats when I was a teenager but we didn't go regularly.

I have thought a lot about whether or not I want my kids to have that. The fun in AWANAS, the sense of fellowship. Is it harmful to them if they do believe? I used to think not, but more and more as the political climate changes and many of those who claim to follow Christ seem less and less like him, I worry that religion is harmful.

This is not a bash Christianity post, so let's clear that up now. This is just a genuine tug in two separate directions when it comes to raising children, something that seems to happen a lot on this journey of parenthood.

If I deny them religion, isn't that indoctrination all the same? If I push them towards it, what do I do when they start asking questions about things I don't believe in? Ditching the dogma is a delicate balance when parenting without religion. How do we separate ourselves from religion quietly but confidently?

I don't want to be the "evangelical atheist" that spends all their time bringing other people down and being a jerk all the time trying to covert people to less belief. I also don't want to sit still and silent while other people do the same to us.

So, what's the harm in believing? Nothing. What's the harm in dogma? Lots of things.

I don't want my child feeling shamed, bad, or afraid of hell for messing up. I want him to be GOOD because it's right, not because he is trying to earn a ticket to heaven. I want him to live this life, because as far as I'm's the only one he has.

I don't want to raise a child who uses scripture at his will to judge others or deny other people their rights, but ignores the most important concepts of humanity.

Church is a big business. What better thing to sell than an afterlife? How can we trust the intentions of the leaders whose interpretations of the bible are being considered THE word? We see corruption everywhere, and religion is not exempt.

I have tried to believe. There are times that I wish I did. Life would be easier, and less scary. Do I want that for my kids? Sure. Do I want all that comes with it? Not exactly.

So here I am. You know, because there aren't enough big decisions to make when you're a mom.

Right now, I can teach community. I can teach helping others, being respectful and grateful that we are in a country where I have this dilemma in the first place. I can teach love, acceptance, and humility.

Right now, that's going to have to be good enough.

I know that it's good enough.

Eventually, as they mature, they will have more exposure. All I can ask is that they love well and contribute to the world in this life.

I am quite convinced that the vast majority of the human race is good. The bad seeds are sprinkled throughout various belief (and nonbelief) systems, taking advantage of the followers. Maybe, I just don't want them to be the kind of follower that doesn't ask questions, search deeper, and feel confident in their own faith...

...but how do we get there? I don't know yet. As I learn more, I will be sure to let you know.

1 comment:

  1. Jenelle! I LOVE your thoughtful post. I kind of found myself in this same dilema, there was a radio segment about a humanist movement/community. The founder described themselves as a mixture of atheists and agnostics, who focused on humanity. They also emphasize intrinsic motivation for children and adults. You would probably love books by: A. Kohn and L. Kholberg. They are both heavily educated in the academic and psychology fields, but Kholberg especially talks about how do you teach a moral code without religion, and how do you internally instill this inate sense of justice that doesn't come with external punishments or motivation. Now, a lot of curriculum is finding that children and students who are intrinsically motivated, and don't make decisions based on external higher forces fare much better when it comes to humanism, honesty, and personal ethics. I was looking into some of these humanist organizations, for our family, because I have so many fabulous memories of bible camp, AWANA, etc. That sense of community is incredibly important, I think it is why we search for it. Glad you wrote about this, I am happy to know I have company in this camp. You also wrote about it in a very genuine, tactful fashion. It is a families personal choice when it comes to religion etc. and I respect the values and traditions of the many different religious views out there. I think it is beautiful that we are all so diverse, and fortunate to make that decision ourselves. love your post.