While I tend to shy away from religious posts, it's almost Easter and I want some feedback. The question of the day:
"What is our responsibility, as parents, friends, human beings, whatever, to influencing another person's spirituality?"
A friend of mine recently had a rant. One of the points she makes is that she doesn't want her mother-in-law cramming religion down her kids throats. My question is, by not exposing her kids to her in-law's beliefs, is she cramming her own beliefs down their throats?
My parents never forced me to believe anything, and as a result, I didn't believe anything for a long time. Eventually, though, I think basic humanity kicks in and we embark on a passage of self-discovery. Probably sometime around that first philosophy course in high school or college.
Anyway, here is my edited response to her post:
Food for thought--by *not* exposing your children to your mother-in-laws views, aren't you sort of cramming your beliefs down their throat? It's a delicate balance--I hope I can walk the fine line my parents did. This might get lengthy, but here's the basic time line of my spiritual awakening:
1) I went to a church as soon as I was old enough to understand the concepts. Eventually, once I got into it, I started asking questions in Sunday School. Naturally, when the questions got too complex, the teacher defaulted to "you just have to have faith." Even as a 10 year old, my bullshit detector was going off the charts.
2) Once I expressed my malcontent with the non-answers and question avoidance I was getting, my parents said I no longer had to attend. And so begins my journey towards atheism.
3) Sometime around 17ish, I had the sudden realization that it requires every bit as much faith to be an atheist as it did to be a card-carrying member of any religious party. This posed a serious moral dilemma. Suddenly, my spiritual compass takes a severe left hand turn towards the agnostic.
4) After failing out of my first attempt at college (uhh, yeah, going from all-boys boarding school with very strict rules to "sure, bring a beer to your 8 am class, or don't come at all if you don't feel like it" didn't go over so well), I did some soul-searching as a ranch hand on the Mexican border. After experiencing what could only be described as a miracle, I returned to church, got baptized, and got back on the path to Monotheism.
5) Every church I went to managed to offend me within about 3 Sundays. One thing every Monotheistic religion teaches is that if it's truly the "Word of God," you'd feel it in your heart. All I felt were liars and charlatans. That's when it dawned on me that the Bible is 98% fiction, as I suspected years before. I haven't bothered with church since.
6) So where did I go from there? Why, I made my own religion, of course. I believe in a higher power. Call it God, call it Allah, call it Mother Nature or Mother Earth, call it what you will. There is a guiding force greater than me. And it guides *me*. My relationship with God is strictly one on one. I don't feel compelled to sell it to anyone else. I trust my instincts and listen to my heart. And I pray. I don't pray for miracles, or for a better life, or for the sins of others--I pray for guidance. And I've never been turned down unanswered. Is it just the act of sitting down and thinking about what's troubling you? Perhaps--but I always figure out a better way to do something than how I'm doing it now. And I sure as hell don't judge ANYBODY. I've got enough of my own problems to worry about.
"Ben, where the fuck are you going with all this," you ask?
My longwinded point is that I needed exposure to a shitload of different experiences before I found my own sense of spirituality. I didn't even mention dabbling in Judaism, Muslim, Hindi, etc, when I was looking for what was right for me.
I know I don't get a vote, but I say send the kids off once or twice with mummy dearest. She'll be tickled, and kids are smart. It won't do any harm. They'll come back with questions, certainly. You can always say "that's what grandma thinks is true." They'll ask what you think is true, and you can tell them. And when you're done, you can tell them life is a quest of self-discovery, and deciding for yourself what you believe. When they're older, you won't believe how much more they love you for letting them make the choice.
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