Friday, September 21, 2007

Sowing

It's a societal mantra to only want the best in life for your child(ren). When you become a parent, you understand why. When you become a parent, you understand why everyone says parenting is such an enormous responsibility. You, as the parent, must decide what "the best in life" is so you can do your best to make sure your children get it.

Where we live, the United States (and within the "Bible Belt" in particular), it is a normal part of life to be a Christian and go to Sunday church. In some parts of our fair berg, it's almost ABnormal not to.

Every Sunday morning, Jared and I joke about where we'd like to go to church that day. Sometimes it's Starbucks with a crossword puzzle or two, sometimes it's Taco Cabana with a margarita on the patio (aka the "late" service); depends on our moods. Since we have no children on Sundays, we get to do whatever we want.

Now, back to the kids...
What IS the best in life? Of course, like most any other question, it depends who you ask. It would be nothing new for me to express what I want for my children and the kind of mother I want and strive to be, so I will refer you to a post I wrote last year. I like to read it every now and then to remind myself what I want, and have always wanted for my kids.

(You should be reading the other post at this point...)

Ok, now that you're back, please notice: I did not mention God/god, church, or spirituality.

Jared and I are the only people I know who do not subscribe to religion or theism. I don't have any non-Christian/theist friends that I know of (I don't have that many friends at all because I'm picky and stingy with my love). That means that just about every single other person involved in my children's lives carry the armor of God with them and show it to my children.

Until very recently, I have not been confident in stating that I am an atheist. Until very recently, I have strayed from talking to my son about my beliefs. He's only ten (as he told me the other day), but he's old enough to hear what I have to say if he's old enough to hear the other side (consequently, since birth like most of us). I don't know why I haven't broached the topic before; peer pressure/society makes me feel like the evil mother out to A-theize her innocent child. How sad, that we are all so used to atheist being a negative word that even AS such a person I am resigned to silence.

Do I want my child(ren) to be (an) atheist(s)? Not necessarily. I want them to be whatever they want to be. If it's Jesus that moves their souls, and they've made that choice after having enough insight, evidence, and life experience, so be it. To me, training a child to be atheist is just as bad as training a child to be Christian. Or Muslim. Or whatever. Indoctrination is indoctrination. The careful way to avoid this is to be honest and understanding. I honestly am atheistic. I understand that my child is not. I'd rather he go to church and learn about what I may think to be absurd rather than be ignorant to it all. I have told him that it is fine to learn, because to make an informed choice is important. Conversely, I will tell him that I don't believe there is a heaven or hell, so threats and promises are moot to me.

William Makepeace Thackeray said, "Mother is the name of God in the lips and hearts of little children." Until children are taught about God of the heavens, they don't know what he/it is. Their minds don't look at a flower and instantly wonder where it came from or how it got here; they think it's pretty and bright. It is what it is. Simple. Pretty. Natural. Mother is the be-all-end-all for most young children. The nurturer.

Mother is where they came from, though they don't know it specifically by name until they're taught. I can't be certain, but I assume that a baby nursing on a mother's breast is comfortable doing so for the same reason your own pillow's aroma and softness comforts your mind into slumber; familiarity. The beating heart; the way a voice sounds when heard with an ear against the chest; the rhythm of breathing; the pressure of being held close; it's all familiar, and to a baby, it's possibly the only familiarity. I know that some creationists/Christians/Theists might ask how I could possibly aver that God himself didn't plant seeds within us that we might have a familiarity with him. I would answer that I have never seen an ultrasound of god. I've never heard God like we can hear the sounds inside the womb. I know about babies; I've held my own, the ones who so amazingly grew inside my body. I don't know anything of the sort about god.

My ten year old is just now getting to the hard questions like, "if you hadn't met (sperm donor), who would I be?" and "who made up the words for things?" I believe in telling kids when they're ready, not when I'm ready. Of course, to do that you must first know your children at the very deepest level and have a profound respect for who they are. There are things that need to be said before they are asked, but I don't think God is really one of them. Still, some of us send our kids off to Sunday school with their nickel for offering and their Precious Moments bibles, hoping that someone else can teach the hard stuff; answer the hard questions so we don't have to....provide our kids with the 'truth' we believe but don't quite know how to explain. There are trained kid-indoctrinators for this parents, have no fear.

To step outside your small life and realize what it is possible to do to a child's mind is amazing. I have seen and read about 5 year old white supremacists who have more hate in them than I do for the person who has wronged me in the worst way (metaphorically). We have all heard about Islamic fundamentalist children in training to be terrorists.

We can plant whatever seeds we choose, state things as fact, or just portray something as truth, and because we are the parents, our children take us at our word when they are small. I love it that children are people with minds, and can think rationally at a certain stage of development. Take my son, for instance, at the age of 8:

Cam: "Mom, I don't think the Easter bunny is real."
Mom: "No? Why not?"
Cam: "Because rabbits are mammals, and mammals don't lay or bring eggs."
Mom: "Well, that's very good Cameron. You're right, there is no Easter bunny. It's just a tradition."
Cam: "There's no Santa either, is there?"
Mom: --pause-- "No, there's not."
Cam: "I KNEW it! But mom, you'll never convince me that the tooth fairy is you, because you NEVER have cash."

Critical thinking at it's best. Drawing on knowledge and experience at the same time. Deluded? Yes. Precious? Yes. And one day he'll catch me putting money under his pillow and rethink his logic. :)

My whole point/thought here is this: You can't raise your children to be anything they want to be under the veil of religion. Period. It stagnates thought, hardens hearts against differences, and produces an innate inferiority complex, all while providing grounds for superciliousness and bigotry. Christians, don't believe me? Don't agree? Tell me where I'm wrong in that. Tell me that you knew, at the age of 5 or 10 what prejudice was. Tell me that you don't think differently now about gays, Jews, infidels, murderers, blasphemers, whores, sots, and gamblers than you did when you were a child. You do. We all do. Someone taught us what those things mean, and taught us how to feel about them.

The innocence of childhood is, in my opinion, is overrated. Yes, I love malapropic statements by children. Yes, I love the honest inquiry. When you tell someone that you've revealed the "there's no Santa" revelation to your child(ren), you get a pitiful look that says, "oh, how sad. why'd you do that?" Why is that? "oh, you've just revealed to your child that you're a liar and you won't lie about it anymore, how sad."

Christianity ruins the innocence of children more so than atheism does. Christianity places rules and boundaries that people wrote about eons ago on people of today, translated and interpreted by whomever stands at the pulpit. Children in Christianity who aren't taught to check their facts are doomed to a life of inferior arrogance. Don't look unkindly on me for revealing the truths as I know them rather than letting a complete stranger decide the spiritual needs of and path for my children. Don't you believe God/god gave these children to ME for a reason?

I'm not raising them to hate anyone. I'm not raising them to put themselves above anyone or to hold themselves to a higher standard. I'm not raising them to be so scared of damnation in death that they are closet sinners. Living scared is not for me. Reverence to an invisible and absent god is not for me. Pity for the theistic faithless and worshipers of a different god is not for me.

I prefer here and now. My children are human. My lover is human. I care about humans in the season of life that they are in right now. Not later. Not after death. Now. The spirit of life isn't holy - it can be ugly and flawed. It is imperfect and innocent at its best, and monstrous and murderous at its worst. A 6000 year old story does not give me wisdom for today in America. I can look around and see happiness, sadness, pain, agony, injustice, love, and need without needing to guess why bad things can happen to good people, or why sometimes the bad guy wins. We are all here now. We all have the capacity to help someone in this world and provide a view of love and caring that will pass through generations. This is what will help our human race to survive; what we do now.

4 comments:

stef said...

Stacy,

Contrary to what you probably think, I agree with most of your post. I don't believe that children should be taught what they should believe. There are too many people in the church who are only there out of not knowing what else to do on a Sunday morning.... or tradition, etc. There are many Christians who I admire that were raised in the church. But, the people who I see whose faith is the strongest are those who came to know Jesus later on in life. I would hate for my children to see Jarrod and I's faith and have them take it on as their own. I want them to wrestle with God... I want them to ask the tough questions, I want them to doubt. I want them to see their mom and dad's faith and always be able to pin that on God... but I do not want them to think that that will make them a Christian. I have respect for people who earnestly seek truth. I have respect for people who read both sides of the story, who actually take the time to ponder the different regligions of the world (or lack their of), and make an educated decision on what they believe. I do not want my kids to be mindless Christians... but I sure don't want them to be mindless Athiests. I will teach them about Christianity, they will be raised with it. And just like every child that I have ever known, they will have a "child like faith" and automatically believe in God, just like they believe in Santa or the tooth fairy. But I hope that it will mature into questions and doubt, and it would make me the happiest mother of all to see them put their child like faith to the test, and come out the other end a Christian apologetic :-). Faith without knowledge doesn't mean much to me. But, knowledge without faith means just as little. They go hand in hand. And yes, I do think that children would wonder about an ultimate creator before they heard the word "God" had they been given that chance. I think we are all born with an inner wondering, and that's what draws a lot of people into faith. You should know more than anyone, you wrestle with this subject... and have even created a blog dedicated to it.

I love your children as my own neice of nephew (I think, I don't have any of those yet,) but I love your children dearly. Does it upset me that you're going to expose them to Athiesm? Not at all. They are brilliant people with minds of their own. They will be exposed to Christianity and to athiesm. I hope that they take the time to make an educated decision on what they believe.

I don't need everyone to be a Christian. God has already chosen his people before we were born... and I know that he chose me. I tried to deny him so many times... and have run in the opposite direction of God, but he always draws me back. I believe in living my life as a Christian, in a way that people notice, and want what I have. I want to willing to share the truth with those who have hearts to hear. It is not my goal to turn you, or your kids into Christians. That is God's job. He will if he will, and he won't if he won't... and who am I to question that.

Stacy said...

Stef,
I'm glad you exist in this world. :)
I'm also glad you are more willing to contribute comments in regard to my thoughts. Your responses are well thought out and honest. Thank you for posting.

Stacy

Stef said...

Thank you, Stacy. I think that Christians should take the time to read your blog... and other like it. It will either do one of two things for me 1. Strengthen my faith 2. Cause me to question and seek answers. Either way is good. Christians may want to avoid this blog or other anti Christian talk... but i think what is the point of faith among the Christians. It's easy to believe when the only time you're exposed to religious though is in church. I am not the most intellectual person around... or the most analytical. I have tried denying God so many times in my life... and tried living without him, and he just won't let me. I do often struggle with the heart aspect of God... whether I like him, whether I think he loves me or even this world... but I'm at the point in my faith where my brain knows what's right. And the more I question it, the more I wrestle with it - the more I appreciate my faith (no offense to those without it), and the more I wrestle with God, the more CONTACT I have with God - and the more contact I have with God, the closer I become to him. I don't know if any of that made sense. Since you've been posting, I have been thinking about God more often, I have been reading more... and that's what I need. I know that you didn't create this blog to convert the Christians to Athiesm, but to raise valid questions, and I hope that the people out there reading will take the time to respond as well, so we can learn from all viewpoints. Otherwise - our faith is mindless.

Jared said...

wonderful posts! the idea here is to present challenging ideas that will force us to look at aspects of religion from every possible angle. You have the perfect attitude in relation to the pursuit of knowledge (regardless of belief).