Monday, October 22, 2012

raising kids with religion

There is a post over at the Gaelic Folkway blog that inspired me to write a wee bit on this topic. The post is entitled Should Your Raise Your Kids in Your Religion? and is authored by Éireann. I have some pretty strong opinions on this {there is a theme here, eh?}, but I am probably not the most qualified to talk about this as I do not have any children myself. Although the better half and I did discuss this at great length when we were trying to have kids and I was raised for a time in a household of rigid religious dogma that was damaging. 

I suppose it would be fair to say that the way I view raising kids with religion would match what Éireann would describe as "liberal"; I do think that children should be given the freedom to decide for themselves what they believe, and this is probably best achieved by exposure to different belief systems and open dialogue. I also think that they should be able to decide if they wish to participate in any religious or spiritual activities and traditions. Probably the most important thing is that children should definitely be taught to respect other faiths and exposed to science and secularism. This would of course include respecting the rights of those who decide to be atheist and base their worldviews strictly on science.

The point of their post was to critique this liberal approach to the subject, and while there are quite a few things that I fundamentally disagree with, I do think that the critiques were thoughtfully delivered. And perhaps because we do share a similar faith, there are many things I also agree with.

No doubt parents/guardians will influence the children under their care, so certainly they have a responsibility to not only their kids, but to society in general. Wouldn't it be wonderful if more parents & guardians were instilling critical thinking, respect, and acceptance in the people who will be running things in the near future? Unfortunately I don't see that to be the case for many people who are raising kids in many of the more popular religions, and I certainly can relate to this from when I was growing up.

We owe it to kids to have a healthy view of themselves and their fellow humans, as well as the environment and all the other creatures who dwell on this planet.

Anyhow, please do feel free to add your own two cents if you like and if interested, you should give not only the post by Éireann a read, but the whole blog as well. Some great stuff over there!



Edit: Éireann has expanded on her position in regards to this topic which I wanted to add part of it here {it can be seen in full in the comment section} so there are no misconceptions on her position. 

"I noticed you wrote that you feel that kids should be free to choose what they believe. I wanted to clarify that I in no way feel anyone can -dictate- to another -what to believe-; -belief- is internal and personal and cannot be put upon another; it is impossible. So I want to be clear that I am not advocating for that." 


Margelaene said...

I am fully agree with you, and I see that the list of causes why I started to read your blog recieved one more reason.

I have 5-years-old daughter, and I am already tired of the neighbors' and relatives' question "Have you already baptized the child?" I am tired giving the explanations that I'd like my daughter to decide herself about her religion, spiritual life or atheism. I think it's not honestly to impose my opinion and preferences - the child must have the right so decide herself.

Thank you for raising such an actual theme!

Sincerely yours,

Saigh said...

I don't have kids either, but I have been in Celtic Polytheistic groups with kids involved. I'm a big believer in raising kids within the culture and religion, I put more emphasis myself on culture than actual religious beliefs, but at the same time with awareness, respect and exposure to other religions. I've seen so many people find this balance, it seems to work well to get kids to appreciate their own family's customs while respecting others and choosing as adults what they want to do. Among these kids some grew up to practice their family's ways, others chose other ways...most of these latter would respectfully participate on holidays when they might visit.

I have also seen those who had parents who were more strict about them following their own path and who didn't expose them positively to other ways. Not one of them that I know of follows their family's ways or for that matter spends much time with their families. I have known other Pagans, mostly Wiccan, who only lightly exposed their kids to their religion and, again, some followed the same path and others didn't.

Really, it seems the only sure way to determine whether your child will follow your practice is if you force it on them. Then you can be sure that they won't. To me, it's balance that makes sense, at least you do have some chance of them following the same way and a far better chance that they will grow up happy and not bitter towards you. ~;)

As I said, I can't speak as a parent, but only someone who's, um, of a certain age and has witnessed many kids growing up in various Pagan religions.

The Country Witch said...

I can't speak as a parent but I can speak of a child who was raised athiest and was left to choose her own religion. My Mum decided that my brother and I would be able to choose our religion when we were old enough to understand what it all meant, and I think this is the best way to go.

Why? I actually believe it allows children to approach religion with a more scholarly or methodical thought process because, for the most part, there are no preconceived ideas, there is simply learning and absorbing. I chose not to be Christian because it didn't make sense to me, being a student of mythology as I was, it all seemed like some horribly written misinterpretation, but that was just me.

I found witchcraft and found it suited me, so here I am, but I don't think overexposing your children to mass amounts of religion is a good thing, in fact I do think they wouldn't be able to process it. If I ever have children, my approach will be the same - to a degree. I will share with them what I do but it won't be something that I force on them. It will be their choice to do as I do or do otherwise.

Ultimately I think you have to make what you think is the best choice, I think my Mum made the best choice for us but that doesn't necessarily translate to other people too.

Stephanie Ivy said...

I would raise my kids with religion, but I would also want them to be free to explore. I think it is possible. I was raised with some religion as a kid, we went to church for a while, and I actually always wished we had done more, because I'm apparently just a spiritual person.

But although we went to church, my parents also were happy to let me explore other religions, or participate with other groups. I spent a good deal of Shabbats with a Jewish friend for a few years and my parents never took the hellfire and damnation route to faith. So I think it is possible to have a grounding in faith and cultural background that still allows for individual choices.

Éireann said...

Hi Nefaria, this is Éireann, author of the Gaelic Folkway website and blog. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

I noticed you wrote that you feel that kids should be free to choose what they believe. I wanted to clarify that I in no way feel anyone can -dictate- to another -what to believe-; -belief- is internal and personal and cannot be put upon another; it is impossible. So I want to be clear that I am not advocating for that.

I do feel that young children are primarily driven by the needs for belonging and identity and that families are uniquely capable of providing for those needs in as many ways and on as many levels as possible. Older children and young adults, when naturally expanding outwards in exploration, might be more inclined to question and search out 'what else' there is, and I would not, and do not, discourage that when it happens. But creating and maintaining family traditions need not impede that process either. We might lead them to the Well, but it is up to them whether or not to drink.

The other difference I see in the viewpoints here is in cultural orientation. Much of our general society lauds the 'rugged individual' motif, and so treats all life pursuits are purely personal, independent from anyone else. I see instead through the traditional lens which views many life experiences as communal, and I appreciate the household family as our first experience within a communal framework. Family religious traditions then can be seen as a scaled-down version of a state's civic religion, a community affair, in which all partake. This, though, is different from spiritual experiences, which are internal and so often -can- only be personal. While I provide a framework and traditions, I cannot dictate inner experiences, and I can only do what I do with the understanding that as they grow they will become their own guardians and think and live and choose for themselves.

Though they may one day decide to forgo polytheist leanings in their own lives, I hope we'll all still gather together to celebrate the seasons and their themes on the Celtic holidays after they're grown, much the way we'd likely gather to celebrate Christmas, even though we're not Christian. I hope these traditions will become a part of the community of our family for generations, and each participant might find the joy and wisdom in them or not, as they each are inclined, but enjoy the celebratory time with family all the same.

nefaeria said...

Hello everyone :) Thank you for your input, it was interesting to see diverse responses!

Éireann: Thank you for expanding on your position. I will be adding a part of it to the actual post as I don't want to portray your position inaccurately.

Thanks again all!