Does love conquer all? With kids?

DO PARENTS OWE THEIR CHILDREN RELIGION?

The following is an exchange that occurred because of a short story posted on Wattpad, and a corresponding circumstance in Pride’s Children (though it may be years before you understand that last statement).

It is my own personal opinion, based on my observations of my family and the families of friends, meant as a conversation starter; usual commenting rules apply.

Where are the obstacles, by definition?

When a Muslim marries a Hindu, or a Christian a Jew, or even an atheist a religious person, it is often seen as the great triumph of tolerance over prejudice, and there are rainbows and falling stars.

When children come, this tolerance can take three nasty turns (not always, of course, but they are BUILT IN to the situation):

1) ‘allowing the other parent to choose the child’s religion’ suddenly becomes ‘bringing up MY child opposite to MY beliefs,’ or

2) bringing the children up as both (an impossibility), or

3) bringing up the children, of parents who were brought up with something, to be brought up with nothing.

Having one parent keep his or her hands off the religious education of the children, and ‘support’ the other’s efforts, doesn’t fool anyone: the kids know Daddy doesn’t believe what Mommy believes – kids are not stupid.

The final option – NOT having children – is a partial solution which must be strongly enforced for the whole duration of life by BOTH partners – a big leap when you’re 20 or 30.

Consequences of attraction.

Sadly,

giving the kids a vague idea of each parents’ beliefs and ‘letting them choose when they grow up,’

is the most common result, accompanied by the next generation not really having much of anything.

Love does NOT conquer all, not very long.

The situation often comes about because opposites are very attractive among people in the marriage marketplace, for a while. People fall in love before they think about the consequences, and the farthest thing from their mind may be adding small expensive bundles of work to a free-spirited relationship.

But the drive to procreate in your own image is powerful, or people wouldn’t spend time and money trying to conceive when Nature hasn’t made them co-fertile.

Solutions?

Think before you get married.

A LOT.

Spend a lot of time with your intended’s family – get to know each other’s actual beliefs – as distinct from the ones you are trying out in college or work.

Talk about these things – once you have that baby, it’s too late.

Have the guts not to go into a marriage hoping ‘things will all work out.’

Respect, love, and tolerance for other people’s beliefs is important in a society such as ours where many religions – and non-religious people – coexist, mostly peacefully.

The disappearance of religious beliefs and practices developed over thousands of years, which help us understand our place in the universe, and cope with the inevitable blows of life, shouldn’t happen by accident.

If you don’t believe – fine. Your choice. And religion has done plenty of damage when applied autocratically.

I just think we owe our children more than Oops!

**********

19 thoughts on “Does love conquer all? With kids?

  1. Lloyd Lofthouse

    I don’t think religion is necessary.

    China has survived for thousands of years without a central religion. Confucianism and Taoism are not religions, but a guide for how to live one’s life without worshiping the one God. The core of both of these teachings is based on harmony, not violence, and forcing others to worship like someone else wants them to.

    The result. For about 1500 years while the rest of the world’s major religions were destroying each other through the Crusades, the 100-year war in Europe, Europe horrid inquisitions burning women at the stake for witchcraft and torturing heretics, the violent spread of Christianity during the colonial era through the Americas and the Pacific, et al, China was the most advanced and wealthiest country and civilization on the planet. That all changed when the Europeans arrived with Christianity, starting, I think, in the 16the century and this invasion threw China into chaos.

    The Christians arrived with opium and started two wars to force Christianity and the opium on the Chinese.

    The caused the bloodiest rebellion in world history, the Taiping Rebellion that was started in the 19th century by a converted Chinese Christian, a failed Confucian scholar, and before that religious movement was defeated, it is estimated that as many as one hundred million Chinese may have died.

    The Japanese like the Chinese didn’t want anything to do with those crazy religious people from Europe and the Middle East. Using threats and cannons, the West forced both countries to open their doors and the result eventually led to World War II in the Pacific.

    After tens of millions of deaths in the West’s attempt to force Japan and China to become like the rest of the insane world dominated by the two major religions, almost 74% of the people in China still don’t belong to organized religion. About 16% of Chinese are Buddhists because it is apparently a better choice than Christianity or Islam. Only 2.53% of Chinese are Christians and less than half a percent belong to Islam.

    Because of what is allegedly happening to the Uighur Muslims in China’s Northwest, China’s government is being accused of genocide. I don’t think so. What is happening in Xianjing against the Uighurs is probably China’s attempt to stop Islam from getting a foothold in China like the Chinese have done before. This isn’t the first time the Chinese have had it with Islam or Christianity and decided to get rid of them. That has happened a few times over the last thousand years.

    Japan isn’t all that different from China when it comes to organized religion. Shinto (3%) and Buddhism (31%) are Japan’s two major religions, and 62% of Japanese do not belong to any organized religion. Christians in Japan represent 1% of the total and Islam is so insignificant it doesn’t count.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Many good points, Lloyd, but being stuck in your hereditary caste is not something I would like.

      Being left without spiritual comfort left the Chinese wide open to Communism, for its apparent (but entirely false) pretense about workers and officials being the same. When everyone in China is trying to get their offspring into the highest ‘value’ university and Japanese children commit suicide when they don’t measure up.

      Funny how none of these systems remove greed, corruption, and entitlement.

      We had similar behaviors with Native American children as the Uighurs: Capitalism needs a strong playing-field leveling from government to not be predatory.

      As always, thanks for you thoughtful historically-based comments.

      Oh, and I need religion to keep me honest – and idealistic. The absence of love for your fellow humans that is displayed in the income disparity between top management and the lowest workers, bolstered in this country by a lack of health insurance, is, at very best, very long indentured servitude.

      Just a few thoughts. I haven’t the patience for studying history and sociology – too many factors.

      But I don’t believe the religious wars really had much to do with belief; more with who decides.

      Fuzzy thinking. I agree. Above my pay grade.

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  2. acflory

    I was the daughter of an atheist-nominally-Protestant and a Catholic who only went to church for weddings and funerals.

    Back then, my Dad [the atheist] had to commit to any children of the marriage being brought up in the Catholic faith so he kept his word. I was sent to Catholic primary and secondary schools, and Dad was the one who took me to church every Sunday [he’d wait around outside until the service was finished].

    But…Dad did something else as well, he taught me to think logically, and to question everything around me. I practised the philosophical method by the time I started high school. I should also point out that I didn’t know Dad was an atheist until I came out as an atheist at age 16.

    My ex was raised as a Catholic as well and probably self-identifies as agnostic, but we both taught the Offspring to think – about ethical questions. Said Offspring had to cope with a broken marriage but not because of religion.

    I believe we owe our children a great deal of love, but also the /tools/ to make their own decisions about the big issues, be they religion or politics. If they rebel against out ideals, I suspect it’s because they’re rebelling against /us/ as people.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Excellent advice!

      Yes, the offspring were both taken for religious instruction (both parents are practicing Catholics), and I would have rather done it myself as the parish’s didn’t work very well – but I was sick, and up to my ears in academics (that logical stuff), and I let the spouse insist.

      What they choose to do is their future, not ours – we have one atheist, one agnostic, and one who still goes to church sometimes.

      Given the pronouncements out of Rome lately (I was hoping we had made it further up the evolutionary ladder), they’re making it very difficult for those with questions to stay.

      It’s MY church, and no one is kicking me out – yet – but they seem to be shooting themselves in the foot half the time, and this generation isn’t waiting patiently.

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      1. acflory

        I really can’t talk as I think the whole lot of them are corrupt and venal old men who are more concerned with saving ‘face’ than they are with protecting children.
        Then again, I’m pretty sure they are not the ones you think of when you say ‘my Church’. The song, not the singer.

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  3. Will Once

    My own personal view …
    Nearly all religions change over time. From the Old Testament to the New Testament. The introduction of protestantism. The Pope issuing papal bulls. The work of missionaries to spread their religion by persuading others to convert. History has shown us that most religions aren’t fixed.
    Part of this process of change comes when people marry someone who does not have the exact same version of faith that they do. This may be a drastic difference of opinions, such as an atheist marrying a fundamental believer. Or it may be a more subtle difference of faith. There are after all many different versions of Christianity.
    But I’d say that almost every family is taking part in this process of change, even if it is only at a very minor level. Our children are very rarely exact photocopies of ourselves.
    So I don’t see the inevitability of a nasty outcome. I see a huge positive as we understand other points of view and our own thinking evolves.
    A case in point. I am an atheist (ish). My wife is a Christian. Our son is free to choose. We’re all perfectly happy with this arrangement and wouldn’t have it any other way. We somehow have managed to dodge all of your nasty outcomes. And if he ends up in atheism ish (which currently looks the most likely) that most certainly isn’t nothing. All of the atheists I know have strong personal principles – they just don’t need a supernatural explanation for them.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      People make it – by finding compromises.

      I’m not saying they shouldn’t, but that they should CHOOSE, and make sure they are okay with the consequences. I know too many arrangements which ended in divorce and separation, and confused kids.

      Is it a nasty outcome for a Christian when their child chooses not to be one? Or vice versa for an atheist? You’d have to ask them. Personal principles are fine for principled people, and religious people are not at all principled it seems lately.

      All I’m saying is that the version passed on by this method can’t be what the parent had – soccer replaces church on Sunday mornings, and the richness of many religious traditions is something visited at holiday time, where it seems like Santa.

      There is a loss. And a shallowness. And no common system and community when the inevitable hard parts come. At times that commonality has been the glue in my life that kept things from falling apart while they were falling apart.

      Being a good atheist is hard. Many don’t bother. Of course, being a good Muslim or Jew or Jain is also hard – and many don’t bother, either.

      My main point is to make a choice, before you involve others, because the consequences come, willy nilly. There is a lot of good will at the beginning when compromise or individuality seem obvious, and a large lack in that department if a break comes.

      Maybe your way – and change – are best. Did you discuss it before having kids?

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    2. acflory

      This: ‘All of the atheists I know have strong personal principles – they just don’t need a supernatural explanation for them.’ Yes, yes a thousand times yes.

      That said, I also agree with Alicia, the most important thing is to /question/ one’s beliefs so that what you eventually end up with is a roadmap for life rather than just a ‘lack’ of belief. I truly wish ethics were taught in schools because all kids need to understand what morality really means. At the moment, all they get is indoctrination. 😦

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        1. acflory

          No idea what things are like in the US, but here, the public schools still have 1/2 an hour of religious education per week, or something like that. No idea which religion, but it appears to be funded by the govt. All I can say is ‘What the f….???’

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        2. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          Can’t comment without seeing what the purpose and the curricula are, but pretending religion doesn’t exist is also wrong.

          Not every one practices a religion, any religion, but some do. I have heard of teaching the Bible as literature, but again – how, who, and what is the purpose are important. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Ie, no one is happy.

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        3. acflory

          This isn’t about pretending that religion doesn’t exist. It’s about the separation of Church and State. In most Western democracies, this separation is part of the constitution. As such, religion should not be taught in public [i.e. govt funded] schools. Period. Doing so smacks of indoctrination.

          If parents want to send their kids to private schools with a religious focus [the way my parents did] then the choice is theirs. But children in public schools should either be taught Ethics, and nothing else, or they should be given an introduction to as many world religions as possible, with no one religion being ‘pushed’ as the one and only right religion.
          Apologies if I sound harsh, but do any of us want to emulate a fundamentalist country such as Iran in which the religion /is/ the law?

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        4. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          As I said, not knowing there even was this option, I didn’t know Australia pushed a particular religion on their public school kids.

          Here, the public and homeschooled kids had special religion classes at the parish after school one day a week, for the parents who wanted this for their kids.

          I can’t imagine having the state push one religion in a real democracy.

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        5. acflory

          Unfortunately, it’s /still/ the case here in Australia. Having religion classes as an extra curricular activity for those who want them is how it should be done, although I’d still feel happier if there were no connection to the school at all.

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        6. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          It should definitely not be ENDORSED by the State, and made available (if classroom space is the gift) to all religious groups equally. Many groups have tight budgets. But it should be clearly separated – and available to ALL groups, including atheists, wiccans,…

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