Guest Post: If Your Toddler Is A Christian or A Muslim, You’re Doing Something Wrong
GM is helping Godless Dad at work this week and will be posting guest posts until next week. If you want to see yours posted this week, click here to submit it. This is a guest post from Reverend Owen L. Tucker. Rev. Owen L. Tucker enjoys writing from a perspective that politically independent, religiously antagonistic, skeptically inclined, and sarcastic as hell. When he isn’t doing that he is playing in the dirt, being a dad, and scarfing GMOs like they are going out of style. You can read his blog here and you can follow him at: @revoltucker.
Some of you might have seen this Upworthy post, showcasing a new film titled “Five”. The film depicts the daily routines of five children from five different parts of the world. The message of the video is very “kumbaya” and “coexist”: We may all seem different, but really we all are the same.
That’s all well and good, but here’s what bugs me: The video is quick to brand these children as Hindu, Baptist, Muslim, Buddhist, and Jewish. The cover of the film brandishes five distinct religious symbols: the Hindu Ohm, the Christian cross, the Islamic star and crescent, the Buddhist wheel, and the Star of David.
Would you feel comfortable if I took these same kids and labelled them as the following: Marxist, Keynesian, Austrian, Neo-classical, and Monetarist? You are probably scoffing at the very notion that a child could have the cognitive capacity to fully grasp complex economic theories. And rightfully so. So if children cannot fully grasp economics, then why do we expect them to fully understand the metaphysical world prescribed by religion? Is the creation of the universe less complex than supply and demand? Is an omnipotent supreme being more elementary than opportunity cost?
Aside from the intellectual grasp of the child, questions arise about choice – as in, does the child actually have any? If I encountered a ten year old who described himself as a Marxist, I would immediately think, “That must mean one or both of your parents are Marxist… and they have been feeding hogwash all of your life.” Ascribing tribal identities to our children at an early age and force feeding a one-sided philosophical narrative cannot be described as anything less than brainwashing. Can’t you just imagine a Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity segment openly mocking and criticizing the parents of the Marxist child? I sure can.
But the truth of the matter is, many parents already do this when it comes to religion, and many more plan to do the same. Religious identity will simply be passed down from one generation to the next – and this doesn’t really seem to bother people in the slightest.
Of course, children want to follow in the steps of their parents, especially when they are young. Better understanding a child’s “need” to identify with a particular religion will require introspection on the part of parents. Where did your religious views come from? How much of a choice did you have as a child? It’s no miracle or act of divine intervention that your religious views formed the way they did. Your belief in a specific God wasn’t created in a vacuum. Who you are as a believer is greatly influenced by your family and social surroundings. If you were raised in Sikar, India, what would your chances of becoming a Mennonite be? Or a Muslim in Elk City, Oklahoma? Or a Jew in Riyadh? Unless your family imported your unique religious identity, your belief system was shaped by your direct surroundings.
Place yourself behind a Rawlsian veil of ignorance for a moment. Imagine manifesting in a different culture – one drastically different from your current one – and ask yourself this: How likely would you believe the same things that you believe today if your external circumstances changed? More so, think about what wouldn’t change, because it will show you what is truly important. For example, if it was proven today that God didn’t exist, would you proceed to rape and pillage to your heart’s content? No, because you are a moral being despite your religion, not because of it.
I consider myself fortunate. I was baptized as a child, but I was never told that I belonged to a church or a specific religion. I was taught lessons about Noah and the Garden of Eden, but also lessons about Mount Olympus and Valhalla. Instead of a family Bible, I was given a library card. As a result, my current worldview was shaped by free thought, not dogmatism. Though I cannot deny that external factors influenced how I arrived at my current worldview, I would argue that I possessed more freedom in the creation of my self-identity than most.
I think about these things a lot lately, because I am about to have a kid of my own. My goal is NOT to raise another atheist like me. My goal is to raise a religious literate human being who will have access to a wealth of information, so that she can make an informed decision about her own worldview. (By the way, I actually don’t know the gender of the child, so don’t get too excited about my pronoun usage.) And I fully understand the statistical likelihood that my child will grow to become secular. However, my wife and I fully intend for that decision to be made by our child, after he has carefully absorbed as much information as possible to make a well-informed decision on his own.
However, there is a possibility that my child won’t become an atheist either. Recent studies have indicated that cultural subgroups can have as much influence in the transmission of religious beliefs as nuclear family units. We live in a small, rural town that embodies traditional Christian Conservative values. I understand the rough position that I am placing my kid in when the social aspect of religion is taken into consideration. Most likely, he will notice that a large group of people are congregating in the large church across the street from our house. Furthermore, I’ll have to answer the question, “Why don’t we go to church, daddy?” If my child is invited by friends to attend church, I won’t stop her. I will most certainly talk about what he learned from his experience, and ask a lot of questions. I would be a hypocrite if I forbade my kiddo from experiencing other cultures, but I wouldn’t be doing the experience any justice if I didn’t offer context and juxtaposition.
Of course, as parents, we have an obligation to raise our children to be moral and ethical. And, of course, we all have different “sources” for our morality. But the question boils down to how many sources have you exposed your child to? If you can count on one hand how many worldviews you have exposed your child to, you are not doing him/her any favors.
This was a guest post from Reverend Owen L. Tucker. Rev. Owen L. Tucker enjoys writing from a perspective that politically independent, religiously antagonistic, skeptically inclined, and sarcastic as hell. When he isn’t doing that he is playing in the dirt, being a dad, and scarfing GMOs like they are going out of style. You can read his blog here and you can follow him at: @revoltucker. If you would like to be a guest blogger for godlessmom.com, please, click here.