More about religion (Jesus is a watermelon)

Goodness, I am hesitant to post this out of fear of offending some people. But I don’t usually let that stop me, so here goes.

When it comes to teaching Landon (Ollie isn’t old enough, I’m not as concerned about this yet for him) about religion, death, prayer, and such things, I’m at a total loss.

As a child my dad fixed church organs for a living, so I’d been in and out of a lot of churches. We occasionally attended a UU church. My mom was Christian enough that I knew who Jesus was, and we read bible stories. I understood, to some extent, that Christmas was about more than Santa. My Grandpa Harry (dad’s dad) died when I was 4, so I learned about death and heaven more at that point. But I already had a good foundation for this stuff. Yes, over the years I’ve done a lot of soul searching and struggling with my faith. And in the end, I do have faith. It’s not defined in any organized or mainstream religion. But I do believe in an afterlife, the power of positive energy (prayer), and a benevolent force (gods) that help guide the universe. My husband is not really clear on his religious leanings, but he does not like organized religion, and considers it to be often be a form of “brainwashing.” I’m not a huge fan of organized religion, but I’m not opposed to it either, I just know it’s not for me. My hubby and I love each other very much and have a great relationship and a wonderful family, but we don’t see eye to eye on the whole religion thing. Which has been fine, as neither of us is pushy or overt in our religious beliefs.

Let me be clear, I do not have any intention of raising my children to be a specific religion. I do, however, want to lay some groundwork to enable them to come to their own conclusions and to take comfort in the event of tragedy. I am okay with pretty much any system of belief, as long as it does not cause harm to others. I admit I would sort of prefer my kids not become atheists, but that is my issue. I find atheism to be depressing, in part because I absolutely cannot accept that this life is the end of everything. I know there is something more than this life, that prayer can help, and I feel that people who have given up on even the glimmer of hope of some sort of continuation on after this life to be sad, to be hopeless. And I’d prefer that not be the case with my children. I would love them and not treat them any different if they became any religion (including atheist), again, assuming their religion was not causing harm to others. For the record, I do feel that christians who vote/campaign to prevent gay marriage ARE doing harm to others. I do feel that members of the Westboro Baptist Church are also doing harm to others.

So, with a husband who would prefer we not expose our children to organized religion, and me wanting to ensure that our children have some faith of some sort, I’m sort of left scratching my head.

The other day I asked Landon if he knew who Jesus was. Landon looked in the eye, and with utter confidence told me that, “Jesus is a watermelon.” I’m not really sure how to take that. I don’t need him to believe in Jesus, but I think it’s important in our Judeo-Christian society that he at least has some idea who Jesus is.
Landon’s cat, Nigeria, was put down a year ago. Landon still asks me about the cat, and does not understand that the cat is dead, or the cat is in heaven, or anything like that. At this rate I worry about what I’m going to do if a person he knows and sees on a regular basis actually were to pass on. How would I explain that to him?

I do practice my own faith at an alter in my bedroom. I don’t go to church, the alter is my “scared space” to pray. I regularly light candles and pray. Landon has joined me, but he’s so excited about getting to blow out the candles when we are done, I don’t think too much else sinks in or sticks with him. I don’t think I’m teaching it in a way that he understands? Or is it because he’s three? We don’t do it regularly together, just maybe once a month together, or less…..

I’m at a loss. Help me internets, you are my only hope!

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Crystal
    Jul 22, 2010 @ 10:00:57

    I was aware of death early as well, 6 I think. Much to my Mother’s horror, that early lesson formed my belief in reincarnation rather than heaven. According to her church, everyone around me that died in my childhood were all going to hell. I didn’t think my beloved Uncle John belonged there, so I just knew she must be wrong on that one.

    Reply

  2. Jaime
    Jul 22, 2010 @ 10:29:06

    Well, you know I’ve always been staunch atheist, but I was raised in a very conservative traditional Christian household. I can’t say that the knowledge of constant partental disappointment hasn’t left an imprint simply because I chose not to believe what they believe. So yeah, don’t do that to your kids.

    Honestly, I think though that the best way might be just to focuse on morality and ethics and then let your childrens’ own curiousity about religion guide them. Faith and spirituality are such personal things, which really is how they should be. Your kids are going to find their faith as they find and start to define themselves. It may lead them to Christianity, Bhuddism, Wicca, or whatever weird thing becomes the latest fad, your best role may simply to be as a guide…oh and keep them the hell out of any cults.

    I think you’ve got the right idea though, just teach them how to be good people and the rest will kind of fall into place.

    Reply

  3. Eric
    Jul 22, 2010 @ 13:56:19

    I was baptized and raised Catholic and in retrospect I find it to be very much of an indoctrination. I have since formed my own opinions and don’t consider myself Catholic or even Christian, but on the times that I have gone to church with family during Christmas, I find myself repeating the prayers and words that were drummed into my head from a very early age. My parents and my brother have very different ideas on religion and spirituality, but my parents also always encouraged my brother and I to learn and explore and to be curious.

    Perhaps a jumbled set up to get to the following; 3 is young to handle the concepts you are talking about. It is a complicated topic for adults, even! The fact that there are so many thoughts about what happens when we die, how we came to be here and which Invisible Sky God is the true one are undefinable and so open to interpretation. If any of these topics were easy, there wouldn’t be so much discussion of them.

    I would say let your kids be open to the world, teach them to be curious, to explore, to question and to try things. If you set an example of what a good person should be, how they treat others, how they act when they think no one is looking, etc. you will be instilling that faith into them.

    To me, faith is not tied to religion. I don’t consider myself to be the least bit religious, but I still have faith. I have faith that if I drop something, it will fall. I have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow. I have faith that if I treat someone well and with honesty, they will have no reason to treat me otherwise. I believe that it takes just as much energy to do something positive and loving as it does to do something spiteful or hurtful. And I know that I feel much better doing the good.

    I am, however, one of those atheist types. At least insofar as there is no proof of the existence of a all seeing, all know, all powerful god. I don’t find it to be depressing at all. I find a rainbow to be just as beautiful knowing that it is light reflected through moisture in the atmosphere. But that might be me. I love knowing how a magic trick is done, and then watching a talented performer do the trick. Even knowing how it is done I am amazed at the skill, especially when I don’t see the slight that I know has just been done in front of my eyes.

    When it comes to thoughts of the afterlife, I so many being so concerned about having to live a certain way and being focused on the “reward” of an afterlife, that they miss the gift that is every day of life.

    The fact that you are so concerned about your kids having a fulfilled life though, gives me the belief that you’ll do what is best for them and to the best of your abilities. And, really, what more could be asked of a parent. Hang in there!

    Reply

  4. Jake
    Jul 22, 2010 @ 16:40:24

    I grew up in a liberal household that went to a conservative church. I know that sounds odd but strangely it worked sort of.

    While the church taught me creationism, I was allowed to look into evolution and even allowed to finally form my own opinion by my parents. And while they might not be ok with my current religious choice they don’t pressure me to go back into Christianity. My brother and his wife are a different story but they are not important to this discussion.

    Since both you and the hubby are not fond of organized religion, but you both have your own belief system, so teach your children what you both believe.

    Find a version of the bible that words how you believe the best and read the stories to them. Answer any questions that might come up, and do what parents have been trying to do since the beginning, raising children to be good people.

    That is all we can hope for when it comes to raising kids. That we make sure that in the end they have a good moral foundation and that they have a good life.

    Just my two cents worth.

    Reply

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