I’m Raising My Kids Without Religion
An article released on the topic of black female atheism states that 87 percent of African-Americans identify as religious. This statistic should come as no surprise given the complicated history of Christianity and slavery in this country, but the article did remind me of why I am happy with my choice to raise my children without a designated religion.
Looking at this statistic, I realize I am in the minority on this matter, but my choice to raise my children doctrine-free should not be confused with raising them to be atheists–because I am not. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need religion to know God. It is possible to believe in God and at the same time question what the religious order has said about God. I am not a historian or theologian, so I will not delve too much into that, but the negative impact of religion in the areas of politics, social justice and war are evident throughout history. On the reverse, there are numerous faith-based institutions that are a force for good in the world. This is not about that.
This about giving my kids an opportunity to experience the spiritual freedom that I didn’t have as a child. I don’t attend church, but my kids do attend church on occasion with other family members. When they go, it is because they want to, not because they have to. If they find him a church pew, I embrace it. If they find him in a Buddhist temple, I embrace it.This is a sharp departure from how I grew up.
People may wonder if I am worried that my kids may choose not to believe in God. This is the least of my concerns because I don’t believe God’s presence in their lives is limited by their willingness to believe in him. I feel it is religious conditioning that has led us to believe that God relies on our belief for his existence. It is religion that will cease to exist if we stop believing, not God.
My decision to do things this way stems from growing up in a traditional Baptist church where I didn’t have much choice when it came to my development as a spiritual being. My mother saw to it that I sang in the choir, served on the usher board and attended service three days a week. None of this means I was spiritually intact. I may have clapped my hands and said Amen, but privately, I had questions. I had concerns. I had doubts. While I learned a lot and even enjoyed some of the sermons, I can remember trying to reconcile the story of Jonah in the belly of a fish the same way I was trying to figure out how Santa Claus delivered toys to children all over the world in one night.
Like many people, I was being taught to believe in God the same way I was being taught to believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy. None of it had to make sense; you just have to be good, believe with all your heart and the toys, Easter basket or money under the pillow will magically appear. Sound familiar?
The danger in this is that when I grew up and realized there was no Santa Claus or Easter Bunny, I also had to contend with whether or not there was a God. It was a painful process, but once I gave myself the freedom to question his existence, he became more real than when I was practicing a religion.
The value of biblical principle became so much more powerful to me when I decided that my faith was not about whether or not I believed details of the story. Can Virgins really have babies? Can a man part the Red Sea and walk across? Why do Horus and Jesus have the same birthday? Instead, I began to view the stories as just one of many tools to teach me about how to relate to myself, to others and to God and this what I choose to teach my children.
Historically, this is why belief systems were developed, to help human beings better explain the world and occurrences around them. People developed stories to explain what they didn’t understand about good, evil, life and death. They built their culture around those beliefs and kept those traditions alive generation after generation through constant practice. Many of those customs have became the founding principles for religions practiced by people all over the world today.
In this advanced age of science and technology, we now know more about our world and human behavior. So, shouldn’t we also commit ourselves to a renewed understanding of God? Instead, we’re holding fast to archaic religious notions like dinosaurs didn’t roam the planet because they aren’t referenced in the Bible, or the earth is 4,000 years old when there is evidence to indicate otherwise. The world is in rapid decline all around us and I think it’s because we are operating under spiritual teachings limited by the desire to keep God in the box of organized religion. I think we should be looking for ways to relate to God in a more universal sense.
As a mother, I want my kids to be spiritually astute enough to understand the divinity within themselves and not rely on dogma and doctrine to have a relationship with their Creator.
I am not going to teach them that their ultimate place in eternity is contingent up on their willingness to believe in the validity of folklore from any religion. It is more important to me that they learn to view God as an inextricable part of themselves who they can access in the here and now.
I want my children to see themselves as the embodiment of God and share that light with others through their actions, words and deeds. I don’t think they need a religion to do that. All they need is love and God is love.
Do your kids have an established religion? How has it impacted their faith?