Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Why I Let My Kids Go to Church: An Apostate's Perspective

My parents raised me in a Protestant church. They are both devoutly religious, sometimes even to the point of compromising their own happiness. But then, I guess that just makes them martyrs. And I suppose my reverend mother is thrilled about that. TheLordofDarkness and I do not attend church of course, as we are atheists. But my parents offer to bring our daughter (and son when he is old enough) to Sunday services. And, if she wishes, I permit her to go.

Certainly, I do not wish for my kids to grow up devout Christians. I do not want them to sacrifice their happiness for the sake of piety. And, most of all, I do not want them to develop the superiority complex that seems to come with so many fundamentalist theistic traditions.

However, I believe, the most effective way of preventing my daughter's "salvation" is to pay no attention to it whatsoever. I deliberately show no preference either way. In fact, in some ways, I almost think it is better, at least for now, for her to go to church, given the opportunity. Especially since I don't have to take her, which of course I never would.

Why do I think sending children to church is a good thing?

Truth is self-evident

When thinking of my daughter sitting through liturgy, I remember my own journey through the halls and falls of religion. And it is that journey, my own experiences, which have made me the luminous apostate I am today. A quote my Friedrich Nietzsche is one I have carried close to my atheist heart since the inception of my non-belief: People who comprehend a thing to its very depths rarely stay faithful to it forever. It is the knowledge of the thing which will drive her away from the church in the end.

I have complete faith in the church to reveal itself to my intelligent children in due time. Hypocrisy is never so clear as when you are face-to-face with it. I will, of course, love my children no matter what choices they ultimately make. However, at least when it comes to hypocrisy, an inability to recognize empirical evidence, and a reckless ignorance of the true needs of humanity ... well, the church as never let me down before.

The Allure of the Forbidden

If I learned anything from my parents it's that any time they want me to do something, I want to do the opposite. Even if I don't really want to. Just for spite. So, not letting my kids do something is the only surefire way to guarantee they will do it.

My approach? I keep it cool. It's no big thing. Sure, go to church if you want to. I don't agree with it or believe in it, but you can if you want to. The hardest lesson I've had to learn as a parent is how to make non-compliance a non-event. But once I got that down, well, I just took all the fun out of being stubborn!

Religious education is important

I know, I know ... say it ain't so. Whether or not we agree with it, religion is part of human history. And part of growing is learning from mistakes. Ignorance of history helps no one, and only threatens a repetition of mistakes. We don't avoid teaching our children the horrors of the Holocaust. Why should church history, or Biblical history, be any different?

Knowing about something doesn't make it true. Granted, the church will teach that their truth is the only truth. Unfortunately, for them, the world is getting smaller. Schools aren't allowed to acknowledge Christmas without also teaching Hanukkah and Kwanzaa too. Kids are smarter than most adults give them credit for. And the mere exposure to differing traditions, cultures and points of view reveals the impossibility of "only one" truth. Trust in the hypocrisy of the church. It won't let you down.

There is one criteria I gave my daughter for attending church. She is allowed to believe whatever she wants as long as she is tolerant of the beliefs of others. She asked me why TheLordofDarkenss and I didn't go to church. I very simply explained that we didn't believe in "god" and we didn't agree with the things the church taught. Predictably defiant, she proclaimed that I was wrong. That there was a "god", etc. (She said the same thing when I told her there was no Santa Claus, btw.) And I told her it was fine if she wanted to believe that. But intolerance was not acceptable, and a one-way ticket to sleeping in on Sunday morning.

Everyone is on his or her own journey through life. And I don't put myself in a position to tell others what they should or shouldn't be doing (except in extreme cases), including my children. I will be here for them no matter what paths they choose in life. And if nothing else, I can dispel the myth that atheists are evil, devil worshipers.