Christopher Cashell (topher) wrote,
Christopher Cashell

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Teaching religion?

Via a post on the communities community, I saw this post by 00goddess in the pagan community.

It asks the question of: Do you teach your kids about religion, or do you let them learn about it naturally? Do you expose them only to your religion, or to many? What have you learned from kids about spirituality? What do they learn from you?

I ended up posting a rather extensive comment there, so I figured I'd repost it here. ;-)

And yes, the comment I left on the original post is split up. It was a 5527 byte comment, and LiveJournal has a maximum length of 4000 bytes for comments. petfish, if you're reading this, shuddup. ;-p

I'm probably something of an odd person to be commenting on this, being a Christian on a pagan community, but I'll throw out my opinion. ;-)

First of all, I'd suggest not forcing anything on them. Kids hate being told what to do, what to think, and what to believe. Even if they accept it now, they're likely to resent it as they grow up. I think this is why so many people turn away from Christianity these days. They have it forced onto them as children, and instead of faith through understanding, they're told to simply accept everything they are told unquestioningly.

Instead, present to them the basic beliefs of a variety of different religions, offer to answer their questions, and encourage them to find out what feels right for them. Teach them to be open minded.

Let them know that there is no such thing as a perfect religion, and that religion is a very spiritual and personal thing, which each person must come to terms with on their own. Even with a selected religion, there are usually few absolutes. We much make our own conclusions.

Additionally, tell them to ask questions. If they don't understand something, don't agree with something, or whatever, tell them to question it. Tell them to find out why, to find out what, to quest for the truth that makes sense to them.

Finally, point out to them that religions are not static. Show how they evolve, change, and even influence each other. It is a fact that many Christian holidays are based loosely on pagan holidays. This was used by certain Christian sects in early times to encourage people of other faiths to convert.

They were offered the Christian faith, while being allowed to retain their celebrations and holidays, just under a different name.

This is just one example. For all of the anger and hatred that has come up through history among Jews, Christians, and Muslims, they all have their roots in the same things.

Some fundamentalists from each of those three religions would probably consider my next statement heresy, but in all honesty, all three faiths worship the same God, albeit under a different name. So, what is the major difference in these three religions? The Christians believe that Jesus Christ was their savior, the Muslims believe that Mohammed was their savior, and the Jews believe that Jesus and Mohammed, while great prophets, were just that. Their savior has yet to arrive.

Kind of makes you think a little, doesn't it? ;-)

Also, whether or not the children decide to accept the Christian faith, I encourage you to introduce them to the Bible.

Now, many of you are probably thinking, "Ah, ha! So here is where he starts pushing his fascist faith upon us!" You're wrong, but I don't blame you for thinking that. ;-)

Far too many Christians have injured the reputation of Christianity through their poor behavior, poor actions, and so many other things throughout history that I won't go into here.

No, there are actually two reasons I suggest introducing them to the Bible. The first is that the Bible, when read not as a history or religion doctrine, but as a book of stories which can help show positive morality. Now, of course, this has to be taken with a block of salt. The Bible was written a long time ago, and many of the specifics in it do not properly apply today. Additionally, many of the lessons in it may not mesh with the beliefs you, or the children, choose to hold.

However, when read for the lessons you can learn, the Bible can be an amazingly helpful book.[1]

Now, the second reason is for it's literature value. I'm something of a prolific reader, and even ignoring all of it's religious and moral significance, it is a truly amazing piece of literature.

When choosing a version for literary value, I personally suggest a revised King James Version. While there are some glaring errors and mistakes in the original KJV, it flows with literary genius. An amazing book to read.

However, King James is not the easiest book to use, especially with it's archaic dialect of English. Easier to read versions, and generally more accurate to the original writings, are the New International Version, and the Revised Standard Version.

I personally think the Bible is a great book to read simply in and of itself. Of course, I may just be strange in that I love reading, and enjoy reading about religions and religious beliefs.

Whew. You prolly want me to shut up now, so I'll wrap this up. ;-)

The only other thing I want to say, is that there are two truly excellent resources I know of when dealing with religion. These are The Religious Freedom Page and The Ontario Consultants page on Religious Tolerance. Both of these sites include a wealth of information, and I highly recommend them.

[1] Now, please note, I am not a 'fundamentalist' Christian, nor do I agree with those who use the Bible more as a way to push their own opinions than a tool to learn. For a more specific example, this one happening to deal with homosexuality, please read this rant that I wrote a while back. (Be warned, I wrote it in one sitting, while feeling frustrated, so it's kind of a rough read at places. ;-) Along with that rant, here is a re posted transcription of a great scene from a TV show.

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