Sunday, December 20, 2009

Under The God Umbrella

AS CHRISTMAS APPROACHES thoughts about the existence or non-existence of God inevitably appear as they did today on BC Blogger where comments about atheism found their way.

A few weeks ago, Vancouver blogger, Curious Dad, also asked a related question with the focus on children that drew responses, including mine which I am restating here to ask:

Does religion give humanity a sense of morality it lacks or does humanity invent religion to communicate an inborn desire to distinguish between right and wrong? And is it wrong for parents to teach their children moral lessons through their religious or non-religious beliefs?

Perhaps morality and religion are separate issues placed under the same umbrella for convenience sake. History shows that mankind is ever evolving and perceptions of right and wrong are constantly changing, shifting and deepening. But even if morality does not need religion to exist, religion (some say atheism included) can give meaning and purpose to family life. It can offer a social network and places to gather where ideals are refreshed through contact with people of like minds.

For better or worse, small children cannot help but be influenced by what their parents believe. Ironically, even when they break away (as they often will) in teenage or later years, they often return to their religious roots when their own families begin.

Therefore, it is perhaps incumbent on parents not only to explain why they believe what they believe but to also impart non-judgmental attitudes towards what others believe. Being curious about wide-ranging views on spirituality, faith and philosophies in unbiased ways surely enriches a child’s life, if explored in age-appropriate ways.

Of course, live and let live becomes difficult and more complicated with some fundamentalist beliefs that actually put a child’s life or society at risk due to skewed interpretation of dogma.

So perhaps it is not evil to impart your religious or non-religious beliefs on children as much as it is harmful (even immoral) to ignore or facilitate fanaticism, hate and destruction to self and/or others, whether such signs are found within your own group or within the group of others.