Every two or three blocks on the avenues of downtown Brooklyn, a big old stone church rises from the ranks of the brownstones. A couple of weeks ago, my little boy Felix pulled his trike to the curb and squinted at the steeple of one.
"What's that castle, Da-da?"
"It's not a castle, it's a church."
"What's a church?"
"It's a place where people go to worship god."
"God is a concept some people believe in. A creative force, I guess you'd say."
And with that, he rode on. I must admit, this isn't the most compelling definition of the supreme being I could think of - I attended Catholic school for nine years and am steeped in Bible lore. I could've told him the story of the Garden of Eden, in which god-with-a-capital-G appears as a benevolent father whom his creations defy, or perhaps recounted how the vengeful deity punished Sodom and Gomorrah, or the demanding dictator demanded Her loyal subject Abraham to sacrifice his only son. Or I could've went New Testament and talked about Jesus, and The Golden Rule, and the Virgin Mary. But while I'm familiar with these stories and dig many of them - they're dramatic narratives, no doubt - I don't believe these tales are true in any literal or even metaphoric sense.
I'm agnostic on a good day. Most days, I identify as straight-up atheist. I seem to lack something required for believing in a god - "Faith!" some of you will say. Yes, I do lack that, and have for as long as I can remember. Even in Catholic school, where reciting dogma meant receiving good grades, the stories just seemed to me to be only that: stories.
The first time I received the sacrament of Holy Eucharist, in third grade, I looked over at my best friend, kneeling at a nearby pew, his face transfixed with some emotion I wasn't experiencing. The wafer lacked flavor, it sucked up my spit, turning to a gummy mash that I affixed to the roof of my mouth with my tongue. "This is it?" I thought. "God? He needs salt." [continue]
Up until a year and a half ago I brought my children faithfully to church on a regular basis. A lot has changed since I left our former church. I first lost faith in the God of the Bible, no longer viewing Him as believable, and even if He were, considering Him a complete moral monster. Now I pretty much consider myself an agnostic atheist. I'm not completely out about it yet, though my blog's latest article pretty much gave the idea as I let my readers know that I was done with religion and spirituality and viewed God as a man made construct. It's been a long road indeed that has led me to this point but I feel, if I am to every get close to seeing things as they are, that requires being as free as possible from presuppositions ad misconceptions.
So, what to do with my children? Who I have been raising as Christians? Well..for about a year now I slowly started letting certain traditions fade away. Even when I still entertained the idea of there being a God, I no longer felt like I needed to strictly adhere to them. For example, now at bedtime we just read stories, as we normally have done, and then, instead of praying, I usually ask them what their favorite part of the day was and what they were grateful for about today.
Children can be delicate and I don't want to totally obliterate their conception of God, that's not how it happened for me-it was a gradual process, and still very difficult, so that's something I don't want to impose on my children. Mine still believe that there is one, and really it's entirely my fault as up until pretty recently I was indoctrinating them, totally immersing them in Christian culture. ::cringes:: So, when they ask me to talk more about God, who I think He is, etc, I tell them that I can tell them what I think and what others think but ultimately they have to do the thinking for themselves at some point and find out what they truly believe. Because you should never really accept by faith a truth handed down, but test it, to see if it is true for yourself.
A book that I've read with them, which I think is kind of neat is this one:
What is God? by Etan Boritzer
It goes through all the world's religions ( a brief overview) and also talks about how some people don't believe in a personal God at all. So , it really covers all areas. I do think it's important for kids to be well rounded and cultured, knowing about the different beliefs of others. I've talked to them about how long ago there were lots of different gods, and still Hindus believe there are. That long ago many people explained the way things worked, like fire, by saying it was because of a god. And then when we began to find out the real reasons beliefs in those gods faded. I'm hoping that theme will eventually click in their heads and cross over to thinking that, hey , maybe it's true about "God" as well. But regardless, my goal is to raise critical thinkers at this point. And I figure if I instill in them the practice of thinking critically, they will be just fine. ;)
Sorry, hope I didn't write too much!
Have to like the "god? he needs salt." Making me laugh. I was raised without religion or faith, which made it pretty easy to succeed in life. If you get rid of the "I'm not worthy" crap you can go pretty far. =)