When I wrote about Glenn Beck's astoundingly offensive comments on the Norwegian summer camp shootings back in August, I mused over how we can teach politics to our children without indoctrinating them in ideology.
But politics isn't the only form of indoctrination.
How, for example, is an atheist like me supposed to teach their kids about religion? As someone who has always wished that more families of faith would give their kids a broader understanding (and choice) of both religious and non-religious worldviews, I have to hold myself to the same standard. Just because I believe there is no God and that we'd be better off accepting that fact, does not mean I have the right to impose such a belief on my kids.
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On the one hand, I do plan on telling my children how I see the world - which will involve encouraging them to seek evidence for whatever beliefs they come to hold, and inevitably also pointing out the wrongs that have so often been done in the name of religion. (Atheists don't get away scot free either, of course, given the horrors of communism.) But if I want them to question everything, then I must encourage them to question me too. And I must find ways for them to meet and learn from people with very different views to my own, and to see real world examples of how religion can inspire good in the world too. (Watching fellow Parentables contributer Michelle Dugger on 19 Kids and Counting is probably no substitute for real-world relationships with people of faith.)
I don't, however, intend for my kids' religious and moral education to be a free-for-all, and I do not believe that all worldviews should be respected (or even listened to). "Judge not" may be the first rule of parenting, but that doesn't mean we can't make decisions about who our kids do and don't mix with. Fundamentalism of any kind is unhealthy and counterproductive - and I plan on shielding my children as best I can from such influences.
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So sure, I'll let them attend church (or synagogue, or mosque) if they want to. And I'll encourage them to talk to folks with a different background to our own. But if they are unduly exposed to dogma, prejudice or hate, I will have no choice but to step in and tell them what I believe to be right.
Whether they'll listen is another matter. But that's as it should be. If there was a God, I'm sure he or she would agree. Anyone else out there grappling with similar concerns?
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