I am a Catholic. I don’t usually discuss my faith publicly because religion is a divisive issue. I don’t want anyone to prejudge me or feel that I’ve prejudged them if their chosen religion differs from mine. I’m respectful of all faiths and those who don’t believe in organized religions. It’s a personal choice and it doesn’t matter to me what anyone else believes or practices. I worry about the person I am and eventually want to be.
When I scroll through my Facebook feed I often see adorable photos of friends’ kids hands clasped with solemn faces deep in prayer. It’s too cute. I wonder how people introduce their religions to their kids. I remember being told God created everything. He is our Father. I attended Catholic School as a young child) My religious experiences as a child centered solely around what my mother and the Church taught me. I don’t think there is anything wrong with how I was raised but I wonder whether indoctrinating my child into my faith is whats best for my family and my goals as a parent.
Children are curious. I don’t feel comfortable telling my son that God created the world. That is what I believe, in addition to other things, but my beliefs are not universal. They’re theories. I can’t prove anything. I know what I feel in my heart but that’s not enough. I’d prefer to teach my kids about a variety of beliefs including non religious ones so that they are able to draw their own conclusions. That preference might also be biased because I enjoy learning about the history of all religions.
All parents have principles and beliefs that they hold dear and hope to pass on to their children. Mine does not include passing on Catholic or Christian (my husband’s) beliefs. If my kids choose to follow in my footsteps that’s fine too. I am most interested in teaching them to respect all faiths and beliefs. I’ve spent enough time around religious people to know without a doubt that time spent praying or preaching in a house of worship is not remotely indicative of a person’s character.
I don’t want my kids to be misled. Some Priests are great. Some aren’t. Some Pastors are wonderful. Others are not. The false sense of security that some people fall into when religion is involved frightens me. I’m trying to raise children who question everything. I don’t want them to blindly follow doctrines they are not fully capable of understanding. Most importantly I want to be sensitive of their beliefs.
What if they think I’m crazy for praying to an imaginary man? I don’t want them to be afraid to tell me they believe in something else or nothing at all. That is perfectly okay with me. I just want them to be good people. Religious or not.
I don’t disagree with people who think differently than I do. Religion and faith are beautiful things but I’m nervous about having these discussion with my children when they’re older. Religion can also be terrifying. How much blood has been shed over religious differences? I can’t tell you how many times as a child I had bone chilling dreams about Satan. I don’t want that for my kids. There’s a time for everything. I know I will have to discuss religion with my kids eventually and that does make me nervous but I’ll be sure to let them know no matter what they choose to believe I’m on their team.
Do you teach your young children about your religious beliefs? How did they handle it?
Veronica Armstrong is a photographer, blogger, and freelance writer whose stories spring from the cinderblock walls of her married graduate student apartment. You can find her on Google+ or see more of her writing and photography on her blog.