I have recently posted two articles on issues I feel strongly about (Hell and a simplistic view on morality and the Bible). I was not planning anything more, but have decided to write one final piece on an issue that crops up often in the religion debates: Our children.
I did not choose the title to offend. It is only a Floydian slip, so please consider the following statement before deciding on reading further: Most of us just want the best for our children, irrespective of our culture, walk of life and religious beliefs (or lack thereof).
I suspect on one level, this is something that is hardwired into us by evolution; That is, our selfish genes trying to ensure their survival and the transmission of our genetic information. Perhaps, on another level, it is that emotional bond and indescribable feeling you get when you first look into the eyes of your child. It is hard to explain unless you are a parent. A father or mother will at times put their own lives at risk for their kids. A salient point here is that this occurs not only in humans… Whatever the real reason might be, we do want our kids to excel and become oaks of righteousness and integrity (even if we ourselves dismally fall short of these ideals)…
This essay is more a sincere plea to all believer-parents, as well as future parents, to carefully consider what to teach their children with respect to their own religious beliefs.
If we have to be totally honest, if you believe in God, you have faith that you are right about the existence of your God. No verifiable evidence exists for any claimed deities. If there was good evidence for a god(s), all these age-old arguments would not exist and neither would all these (admittedly fascinating) debates on news24! Atheists simply lack belief in any claimed deities for which verifiable evidence does not exist. An atheist’s life stance however, is a separate issue or choice. Most caring and reasonable atheists follow some form of secular humanism to live their lives by.
You as a believer most likely had very little choice in how you ended up in your specific religion. This not only applies to Christianity as a whole (and any other religion), but also to the different denominations thereof. If your parents were Anglican, most likely you are an Anglican as well. Of course there are exceptions.
Returning to my plea: Is it fair that you make a choice for your child to follow your faith? Firstly, your child has no choice in a matter that is, quite truthfully, controversial, and which will take up a lot of his/her future time and energy. Secondly, it is not an informed choice, considering all the other religions and life stances available to choose from. The faith he/she will be molded into is mostly depended on your absolute certainty of the correctness thereof. I say mostly, because I suspect there must be an unknown number of parents that are subjected to some form of emotional blackmail. Even if these parents have their private doubts, comments such as, “it is your duty as a parent to teach your children about God”, can weigh very heavily on a parent’s mind. This only gets compounded when they are told explicitly and/or implicitly that their children’s “souls” are at stake… All I can say to this is: If your God is almighty, omnipresent and really loves and cares for your child, surely this God can reach or “touch” your child without your help? To pre-empt the objection: “But what if my belief is actually the right one?” – This is just a form of Pascal’s Wager, which have been thoroughly dealt with here on news24 and elsewhere. Why not at least “wager” on something credible, like true evidence based science? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal's_Wager).
Of great concern is religion trying to slip into schools under the guise of science. Intelligent Design is nothing more than pseudoscience or creationism dressed up as “science”. This has also been well and truly debunked in the USA as well as here on news24. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District ) I will only add the following comment on this very serious issue:
We live in an ever-increasing competitive world (academically that is). The least we could do is to give our children a fair academic start by exposing them to a proper, evidence based education.
Above serious issue aside, what can we do to prepare our children for their big adventure called Life? Parenting is a challenge, but an exciting and rewarding one for sure. There is of course no correct advice and children differ a lot. As a bare minimum though, I believe the best we can do is to teach our children how to think and not what to think.
Parents can take heart in the fact that secular societies can and do function well. In such societies, children can achieve their full potential, unencumbered by unproven dogma and beliefs.
Critical thinking and inquisitiveness are the best ways to immunise an impressionable young mind against indoctrination (of any kind).
That is what we all should wish and strive for.