Friday, May 30, 2008

There is no dog, said the dyslexic atheist

Junior in his very cute bunny suit (get the ears), gripping his most treasured possession - Mummy L's pyjamas.

Before we were even pregnant, Lovergirl and I had a couple of humdinger arguments about whether we would send our children to Sunday School. I represented the affirmative, while LG weighed in for the negative. Neither of us is religious now, and if anything LG is more spiritual than I, after years of serious yoga practice. These arguments would reduce us both to intractable, speechless fury, amazed at the other's stubborn ignorance of self evident issues.

I was brought up in the Uniting Church and have a lot of time for progressive Christians with a non-literal interpretations of the bible who generally think Jesus wants them to work towards making the world a better place. Lovergirl's family was Catholic - she went to a Catholic girls' school. The god she got seems to be like the sort of negative peer influence you steer your child away fro: judgemental, a bully, and prone to ganging up on the outliers.

I thought it would be good to give the children some structure for thinking about how we live - issues like charity, compassion, where our responsibilities lie, whether there's a higher purpose to life. Lovergirl doesn't want them indoctrinated with guilt and hypocrisy.

I'm reading a book called 'Parenting Beyond Belief - On Raising Ethical Caring Kids Without Religion' (ed. Dale McGowan). It's a collection of thirty non-religious parents reflecting on how they've brought their children up. Issues like explaining death and mortality, negotiating Santa and the Easter bunny, making sense of atrocities, imparting values and developing meaning to life. I realise I wouldn't be satisfied sending my kids to even the most progressive of Sunday Schools, with their preordained, pat answers. There's no room for my children to develop their own understanding of how the world works and what part they want to have in it. All the answers are already there: 'because god said so.'

'Beyond Belief' is a US book and it's eye-opening to realise what a big deal it is to be a non-believer in the United Sates. I often think of religion as something for slightly simple people and old ladies, and people going through severe tribulation who want some sort of magical support. But these authors talk about real discrimination - children being banned from boy scout troops for atheism; teachers calling parents in to discuss why their child doesn't stand for the pledge of allegiance.

(Lovergirl is watching a crime show which has reached an exciting point - lots of dramatic music and steel-jawed women rushing about - I can't think any more. But my line of thought was interesting me up until then)


Elsewhere007 said...

Religion is amazingly big in the States. It was one of the first things that hit me when I arrived. It's a public issue there in the way that it isn't here, because of the lack of separation between church and state in the US.

I met someone once whose father was a theology lecturer and she said he'd never let her or her brother go to Sunday School because of the crap they might get taught there. So think about that could teach them yourselves.

Kelly & Sam Pilgrim-Byrne said...

I agree with the previous poster... you don't need religion to teach or learn about the issues you raised in your post.

In fact, it's a lot less complicated without it.

Susoz said...

I'm with L - no way would I let my child go to any religious class (probably because I too went to a Catholic school.) Somehow he seems to have come up with belief in some kind of good Spirit God while at the same time agreeing with our atheism. It's really been no big deal at all, the issue of religion or beliefs or morality.

Mikhela said...

I've been reflecting...While parts of my Sunday School experience were excellent (we had a nuclear disarmament group, and extensive discussions about the holocaust, not to mention that by attending Sunday School we missed the excruciatingly boring church service), I also remember being told that I would hear the voice of God calling me if I was called to be a missionary. For some time I slept with the blankets bunched about my ears, so as not to hear the voice of God.

meli said...

A friend of a friend moved to America from Argentina, and his children were confused by the religiosity they were exposed to at school. So he got out a map of the world and explained - this is the God of this place, this is the God of that place... Seemed like quite a good idea.

Thankfully the church I went to as a child wasn't big on missionaries. Or on guilt. I used to try hard to hear God talking to me, and convince myself that I could. What's most precious to me about my Sunday school memories are the stories, esp the Old Testament ones. These are pretty freaky, really, but exciting all the same...

E, M, and the Little Man said...

Actually, it depends on where you live in the U.S. I live in a very liberal area and hardly know anyone who is into religion. Although you wouldn't know it by the Bush Administration, there is separation of church and state in the U.S. I grew up in Ireland where catholicism was part of everything -school included. I believe it's different in Ireland now, though.

Being a recovering Catholic myself, it's going to be hard to raise our children without any religion at all. It's ingrained in me. I'm going to check into more left-leaning churches such as the UU. That was #2 on my belief quiz. The book you're reading sounds interesting.