I’ve read and heard atheist critics who claim that parents who are believers are “indoctrinating” their kids with their religion and this is an unfair, intellectual crime. Parents should “give their children the chance to make a choice” by letting them decide their religious beliefs as adults. The obvious point of all this is the assertion that religion would disappear within a generation if parents followed this sage advice. After all, religion is nothing more than a delusional illusion buttressed by culture, a virus passed from parent to child. They could be right…too right. As per usual with any bigotry or prejudice,
it’s the idea of indoctrination is more emotional, the primary emotion being hate, than reasonable. If one generation doesn’t pass on its culture, which includes beliefs and values, to the next generation their culture would die out in a generation along with any religion.
But let’s take it back to parenting since I want to address this question of so-called indoctrination. I have a son and must steward him into a well-adjusted adult who can contribute positively to this screwy, sometimes dark and forbidding world. And our world has lots of issues which I must help him navigate as he grows up. Ch1ldren Now is “the leading, nonpartisan, multi-issue research, policy development, and advocacy organization dedicated to promoting children’s health and education in California and creating national media policies that support child development.” The present on their website a list of tough issues for which they provide parents tips for discussing them with their children:
- Sex & Relationships
- Drugs & Alcohol
- What They See on TV News
- Accidents & Disasters
- Sickness & Death
Whew! Not exactly “How to Deal with Teasing” I know! But what struck me was the list of general tips on how to work through these topics. It perfectly highlights why this idea of “waiting until your child is an adult”, “indoctrination” is pure bullsh–err, foolishness. Pay attention to the items emphasized.
- Start early.
- Initiate conversations with your child.
- …Even about sex and sexuality.
- Create an open environment.
- Communicate your own values.
- Listen to your child.
- Try to be honest.
- Be patient.
- Use everyday opportunities to talk.
- Talk about it again. And, again.
Now I try my best to be an intellectually honest person and more importantly a good father to my son. My faith has direct implications on how I deal almost all of the tough topics above. How am I supposed to talk about sickness and death with my child that doesn’t include God, the afterlife, etc.? How do I communicate my values around questions of heaven or hell? And remember what I do is probably as much if not more important as what I say. If I behave as if my faith doesn’t impact on how I deal with sickness and death, I’m sending precisely the message those atheist critics want me to send: that my faith is unimportant in life and can be discarded. What I find truly despicable is that those critics claim I’m abusing my child by doing my job as a parent: communicating my own values, honestly, every day, again and again.