I've been meaning to blog for quite a while now, but between having the baby and having a surgery and life in general, I haven't been able to sit down and find the time to dedicate to a composed post.
So, here it goes! (I apologize if I'm a little rusty!)
A few months back, my husband, children and I attended a conference sponsored by CFI (Center for Inquiry -- www.centerforinquiry.net). The conference was dedicated to Dale McGowan and "Parenting Beyond Belief." (www.parentingbeyondbelief.com) The conference was fantastic and extremely informative. While some of the details have fled my memory, the basic message remains; you can most certainly raise freethinking children without causing them irreparable harm, making them immoral, or any of the other horrendous 'damages' the more fundamental religious people out there would like you to believe.
One important thing that I had never really given much thought to (though I was never opposed to it whatsoever) was that children should be actively exposed to different religions. By "actively" I don't mean that they should be made to go to a new church every week, or that they are forced to attend Bible readings on a regular basis, but it is suggested that you not make religion(s) a taboo subject in the home. One thing McGowan suggested is letting a trusted (read: someone who will be open and respectful who will NOT try to indoctrinate your children) person bring them to church with them. I think this is a fantastic idea.
Interestingly enough, in my experience it's been the atheist/agnostic/freethinking/secular humanist families who have had more consistent, honest, open conversations about religion and religions in their homes. It's in these homes that I find children asking important questions and those same children receiving honest and thoughtful answers from their parents. For example: when a child asks, "Is there a God?" most people would expect to hear a simple 'yes' or 'no.' On the contrary, more often than not the answer I hear these freethinking parents offer to their kids is, "Well, some people believe there is, and some believe there isn't. Some people believe there is one God, and some believe there are many." From there, the questions and answers continue and remain on an investigative track, rather than on a definite track. The kids are taught and encouraged to ask more questions and think for themselves, rather than take the parents' word as law and put a damper on their line of questioning.
McGowan goes on to explain that exposure to religion and religions when the child is younger will help stave off the "Teenage Epiphany." He explains that this is the time a child finds themselves vulnerable in their teenage years, wanting to find themselves fitting in somewhere. Anywhere. Children who are simply told there is no God and that's that tend to find themselves vulnerable to their religious friends. These friends will tell them how fantastic their deity is, how fantastic their church is, how much religion has given to them. Children with no exposure to such things find themselves believing the fantasy being told to them by their peers. That child is then more likely to find themselves delving deep into this fantasy land as a rebellion against their parents.
While I've always believed it is important that children know about the many religions around the globe, I never really thought of the importance in those terms. It makes sense, though. I've been in those shoes (although much later in life -- thankfully I found Buddhism and not Xtianity!). Thankfully my children always ask questions and then always question the answer they were given. They are aware of the beliefs (or lack thereof) of my husband and myself, but they are also aware that they are free to explore and believe what they wish. Yes, even if they grow up to become a Xtian. They know that we love them no matter what; we just may not agree with a choice, but that their choice is always theirs.
So, to sum it up, the conference was a wonderful experience and I encourage everyone to try to bring one to their city/town/village/etc. The cost is fair, the information is invaluable, and Dale is a fantastic presenter.
Now, moving on . . .
"How can you have morality without religion?"
This is a question that I really dislike. I mean I really, really dislike it. Why do religion and morality have to go hand in hand?
Well, I'm happy to say that they don't!
In fact, I have seen more lapses in moral values from the religious right (read: religious WRONG) than I have in secular society. In fact, if you read through the Bible, you'll find more horrendous acts of violence than you'll ever experience in your entire lifetime on this planet.
So where do morals come from?
Well, I don't know. I don't believe that anyone does. I believe that morals are simply 'there' based on our concepts of right and wrong. I know that killing someone just because I feel like it is wrong. How do I know it's wrong? I just do. Religion never told me so, it's something I can just feel.
How do you know it's wrong?
How do you know that blue is blue? How do you know that up is up? You're taught. Religion doesn't teach you these things, though these things are absolutes. Are these people who will argue the semantics of these things with you? Of course. There are also people who will kill others and not think anything of it. That fault lies with the person. Many infamous killers have committed their crimes in the name of religion. If the religious moral compass was so distinct and encompassing, how could this have happened?
Basically, to the 'morality' argument I simply offer:
If I could prove, without a doubt that your religion is false, would you go out and just start killing people?