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.
4 thoughts on “Parental Indoctrucation”
The question would simply be, does your child have a choice to be Christian or not? If he’s 13 and says, you what I’ve decided this whole Christianity thing just isn’t for me. What then? Ask many former Christian kids what happens when they tell their parents this and you’ll understand my skepticism.
Is your child taught competing ideas? Is the child even allowed to explore ideas outside of Christianity? Again ask many former Christian kids what happens when they bring up ideas such as evolution to very devout parents.
I think it’s fine to say “I’m a Christian and here’s why.” What I personally find despicable is when you say to a child, “You’re a Christian and here’s why.”
I have two answers: 1) I understand where you’re coming from and 2) bullshit!
If you believe something you believe it. There won’t be much entertaining of competing ideas on values in my house. Sorry if that offends you but tough. If he comes home dropping the word “faggot,” esp. in reference to our LBGT brothers and sisters, we’ll have an initial discussion. But if he wants to continue using that word, there will be hell to pay. Hell. To. Pay. Period. I’m not his buddy. I’m his father. Even if he hates me for it. I will not stand for it.
Children can give a damn what you say, it’s what you do that counts. (The seen and not heard mode of parenting is only effective so long as you can bully your children.) So he will be a Christian as long as he lives in my house. Why? For the simple reason his parents will speak and act as Christians. We go to church to worship God. We love our enemies because Jesus taught us to. We pray to be close to God. We welcome the stranger because the alien deserves as much love as a close friend. We celebrate Christmas to remember how loved we are and to share that with others. We say grace to be grateful for blessings in our lives.
Now I specifically refused to name him Robert Jr. because he is not a mini-me. He is his own person. I fully expect him to rebel and decide for himself many things, esp. as a teenager. To be too cool for this or that. I see it every Sunday. That’s what teenagers do. Where I draw the line is on values. Beliefs I can’t control nor would I want to. But on values I don’t have much discussion. And frankly if I’ve done my job as a father, I’ll never have to.
I would expect no less from parents who are atheists.
So if I may sum up:
The child is not allowed to hold religious ideas in your home that are different from yours.
The child must identify as Christian as long as he’s in your house.
The child must go to the religious institution of your choice as long as he’s in your house.
How is this anything but religious indoctrination? If he’s not even allowed to even question his own religious affiliation I can hardly see what else you can call it but indoctrination.
1) “Beliefs I can’t control nor would I want to.” Nuff said on that foolishness.
2) Frankly I have very little respect for the indoctrination propaganda. When it’s teaching something with which you agree it’s “education.” Only when it’s something you’re against do you suggest parents suddenly not parent, a practical absurdity.