To say that my parents are devout in their religion is probably an understatement. I have no doubt, that my parents believe so strongly in their religion that they would follow those beliefs to the grave.
It was under such beliefs that I was raised. There were rules and guidelines for everything their church asked them to live by, and my parents kept and abided by all of them, nearly to perfection.
Growing up, there was no question in our family of what one must believe or of which religion should be followed. The lives we all were supposed to live were straight and narrow, laid out before us, and never to be questioned.
Religion has brought me more grief perhaps than any other subject of contemplation. When I left home for college, the first thing I did was rebel against all that I’d been taught. I later repented, and struggled as I tried to force myself not just to live the religion again, but to believe in it as well. I was taught that to not live it and not believe in it was wrong.
In the end, I simply couldn’t. I learned that I could only follow my own convictions, and not those of another. I also learned that trying to believe in something I didn’t really believe in brought me nothing but unhappiness.
A few years ago, I began studying all the world religions, simply wanting to find the truth. While truth is an ever-enduring quest for me, I have learned some very important things about the way I wish to raise my own child, and how I might teach him to choose his own beliefs, and then to stand behind them.
I realize that the subject of religion is a sticky one at best. I realize that a man’s faith and convictions leave little room for variance. That being said, I hope you’ll follow my entire thought process in this chapter, because if you do, I believe you will feel empowered and strengthened in your own beliefs and in your ability to pass your beliefs on to your child, no matter what those beliefs are.
We live in a universe where every person can sense the difference between right or wrong. We live in a universe where every person’s spirit has been blessed with the ability to know when it is being damaged and when it is being strengthened. We live in a universe where love solves far more problems than hatred does. These three truths are taught in one form or another in every major non-extremist religion.
And while that probably won’t be disputed, what I’m about to say most likely will when some people first hear it. Real dads don’t teach their children what to believe. They teach their children how to believe.
A real dad realizes that his child’s mind is complex and one day will inevitably question what it has been taught. He realizes that his child is as free as he was to decide what and how much of it she wants to believe. He understands that a person will follow his own convictions to the grave, but will only follow the convictions of another until he steps in horse manure. So, instead of telling his child what to believe, he teaches his child how.
A real dad knows that his child is watching his every move. He knows that he is a constant and undeniable example to his son or daughter. When he declares that he believes something or knows something, he stands behind it and at all costs. He doesn’t waiver from it. He doesn’t easily forget what requirements are attached to his beliefs, and he doesn’t pick and choose the times that he is convicted of them.
He also doesn’t follow beliefs blindly. He questions boldly everything he is taught and given. He makes sure he understands why he believes what he believes, and then he believes it with all of his heart.
Wow I started typing this comment, intending to state very boldly that I disagree and that it is imperative for parents to teach their children what to believe, but I erased it twice after thinking harder about it. And I realized you're absolutely right, Dan. Even within the context of what I believe - Christianity, one ultimate Truth - you can't impress or coerce your child to believe what you believe, you can only lead by example and explain why, just as you said. And if they choose to stray from that belief when they're older, then as heartbreaking as it might be for a parent to see that, they can at least find peace in the fact that they provided the best example they could to their child, and there's nothing more you can do than that. Wow, very eye-opening...
Actually, one of the most important things I've seen in my life was how my mother was open to changing her beliefs. She was raised in a loving but pretty conservative Italian Catholic household. She ended up marrying my father, an Indian man ten years her senior, who was not Christian. He had been previously married and because of that my grandparents refused to attend their wedding. I know that hurt her deeply, and she and he both made a choice that they would raise us without any kind of baptism, open to any and all religion and that we would be able to choose when we were old enough to know what we wanted.In the time that she has been with my father, she has questioned many of her own views on how the Catholic religion sees others: otherwise, her husband and children would both be going to hell simply because were not practicing Catholics and were never baptized. I have taken such great faith and strength in my mother's ability to accept change and think outside the box. My dad's culture has shown her and encouraged her to learn things she never would have imagined, and she and he have both taught my brother and I to have the utmost respect for differences in culture and religion. Now that I'm old enough to have those kind of conversations with her, I've learned that although she loves the good things about the religion in which she was raised, she doesn't agree with their message of hate on many aspects.Her ability (and her family's ability to accept my brother and I with love and without any judgement) has always been a source of inspiration to me. Maybe that's a kind of faith within itself, a faith to love over any kind of dogma. But I'll counter you with this - sometimes change, and being able to adapt what you believe, can be just as influential as standing solidly with what you believe.
"When a child questions a particular point of a parent’s belief, that parent must never tell the child it is wrong to do so. Rather, they should congratulate the child in his quest to build his own beliefs, explain why they believe the way they do about that certain point, and then encourage their child to make up his own mind about it." This is something that is hard for very religious families. I'm LDS (Mormon), and while we are taught that the Church is true, we are also supposed to find out for ourselves. This process of building your own testimony requires one or many of the following: questioning what you've been taught, praying to know for yourself, working harder to invest in your religion to see how it pays off, switching religions to see what another one is like, study, and faith. For me, my parents taught us right and wrong and we always went to church - that was something we didn't get to say "no" to. I think that's a good idea, just like it is with school - you don't get to skip just because you're feeling lazy that day. As I followed the example of my parents, friends, teachers, and leaders and saw how much happier they were than others who chose to do things I was taught were wrong, that strengthened my testimony. I made my own mistakes along the way, but I've tried to avoid making more on purpose just to see what it's like. The popular saying "those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it" is pretty true, whether it's their own or someone else's. I like this quote: "smart people learn from their own mistakes, but smarter people learn from the mistakes of others." That's why it's important to have our parents as an example, whether good or bad - we learn from them how we want to live our lives.
Religion is one of the (many) areas where Dad and I clash. See, I was raised Catholic. From the time I started primary school, I was taken to church every week whether it was a weekend with Mum or a weekend with Dad. I was sent to a Catholic primary school, and later to a Catholic secondary school. Somewhere in the early years of secondary school, I actually had a good look at the words I was saying and the rituals I was partaking in and realised that none of it meant anything to me. I just couldn't find any core of belief there. Mum and Granny were understanding of this. They stopped taking me to church with them every week, let me ask questions and explore the ideas presented by other faiths, everything. I stayed at the Catholic high school, though, because it was one of the better schools in the area and I had a lot of good friends there.
Dad, on the other hand, was ropeable. How could Mum and Granny have let me do this? Because it obviously didn't come from me - I just wasn't able to make that sort of decision myself. (Dad really didn't know me very well after the age of about 12.) It was years before I got up the courage to admit to him that not only was a no longer a practising Catholic, I actually considered myself at least agnostic and possibly atheist. And of course we fought about that too.
One conversation that always stuck in my mind was his question about what I'd do when I had kids. Would I raise them as Catholic? I told him that no, I wasn't that big a hypocrite. I wasn't going to try and make them believe something that I didn't believe just because someone else told me that was what was "proper". I told him that I'd be open and honest with them about what I did and did not believe and I'd encourage them to question and form their own beliefs, and that I believed that those questions would come when they were old enough to understand and care. I wasn't going to force it on them sooner.
Religion is now a topic with both try and avoid when we're talking to each other. It's calmer that way.
I am so SO grateful that I have a dad like this. I left the religion of my parents - they still love it. They still believe it with everything they are. And they love me and encourage me to find what I believe.
GREAT post! Really wonderful insights! I was raised Christian, and never felt that my parents wouldn't support me in pursuing another set of beliefs, even if those beliefs weren't their own. Nonetheless, I never felt inclined to question what I believed or to see their beliefs as anything less than truth. A lot of that has to do with my Depression and quest for acceptance from everyone I knew, most of whom were Christian, but that's another story. Just recently, though, I had a revelation (also tied to my Depression journey) that my beliefs weren't really my beliefs; they were my parents' beliefs - my friends' beliefs, and the only reason I believed them was a fear of rejection from those I'm closest to. And it dawned on me that I simply can not go on believing in some one else's beliefs. And so I'm on a sort of quest for what is actually the Truth about God and spirituality. Not just a religion or a set of beliefs, but actual Reality - as undeniable and tangible (more or less) as the air we breathe. Right there, however, is a fairly big brick wall. It's next to impossible to really know what the Truth is, aside from a divine vision or angelic visit (and even that could be reasonably chalked up to delusion - how do you know whether the vision is real or merely a hallucination, or whether the hallucination is merely the vehicle for divine inspiration, etc.?) Religious texts can't be trusted - after all, they were still written by people, and how can you trust that people didn't insert their own intentions, purposes, (mis)interpretations, and simple ignorance in the translation of divine inspiration to human thought? Well, to cut what would otherwise be a very long comment short, just sayin' I agree completely! You can't teach your kids what to believe, only how to believe. Good post! Also very glad to hear your family didn't cut you off for leaving the church! =D
Bravo on this one.My parents are the same way (and the same religion, I'm 99.99999% sure), however, they taught us to question EVERYTHING. To decide for ourselves. To delve into a topic and learn every angle. I think, because of their unwavering belief, it never occured to them that this may lead to some of us going a different way.To this day, I hear them talk about ultimate truths, undeniable reality... unquestionable religion. That it is right and that's all there is to it.But ...in every other way, we were the most nontraditional family you could imagine. My mom, most of all, bless her, questioned everything, and when her soul questioned something, she listened, and she found what felt RIGHT, and she followed that.I am SO grateful for that example.I am so grateful for her convictions.It led me, as an adult, to question everything so that I could know, when I made up my mind, that my beliefs were MINE. It led me to have unshakeable conviction about the most important things to me.It led me to research, to ask questions, to try to see EVERY side of an equation, every time.And while they might be regretting it now.... because I walked away from the religion that they believe so strongly in..I want to thank them every day for that gift.And I'm trying to give my children that same gift.While I struggle on a deep level with religion (not spirituality, but organized religion), I have allowed my daughter to go to church all these years. I allow her to make that choice. She has come home with many questions and frustrations. She has asked me if we will be able to see each other after we die because I am not married. It's not easy, but I sit her down and I ask her questions. I ask her.. "what do you THINK? What do you feel about that? Do you believe in God? do you believe he loves you? So what do people who love you DO? Would someone who loves you do something like that to you?"I think the BEST thing you can do for a child is ask them questions that cause them to ask THEMSELVES what resonates with them.And even if it isn't what resonates with YOU.. you've got to accept it.If Sophia decides to stick with my parents' religion.. I can't say it won't be hard for me. But I refuse to discourage OR encourage her one way or another. It's her choice. I only want to teach her how to figure out what brings her joy. What resonates. And let her run with THAT.How else can she be happy? One of my biggest sorrows in life has been "disappointing" my parents and causing them pain by not believing what they believe.I won't let my child feel guilt for choosing her own path. I refuse.Good post Dan-o. :)
I grew up in the same religion as you and I am grateful for it. My children are also being raised in that religion but my 9-year-old (who has been baptized) recently told me he doesn't believe that God or Jesus are real. Broke. My. Heart.
Surprisingly, as hard as it was to hear (I felt like a complete and utter failure as a parent) it didn't shock me or make me upset. I realized he is an incredibly smart individual who needs to figure out on his own what he believes. It also explained why he has been beating himself up so much for the last year.
I told him I love him NO MATTER WHAT he chooses to believe or not believe, and I will be happy to help him figure that out when he is ready. Since then, we have done some studying together and had some great talks.
I now have a better understanding of my role as a parent: I am a teacher by word and example. It is my job to provide all the information on how to be the best person he can be and then pray he chooses a path that will make him as truly happy as he can be, all the while loving him as much as a mom can possibly love such an amazing child.
My parents did the opposite, I was told what to believe and forced to attend a church that my parents did not participate in. My parents had been raised in strict Catholic schools and, while they felt they had "put their time in," they somehow thought it best to submit my brothers and me to the same brow beating lessons they had endured. Today my brothers are both atheists. I have to give credit to some amazing young ladies at my church for, quite literally, helping me survive my turbulent teenage years. But once I became an adult and struggled to find my own way in the world the people of my old church turned on me and I promptly left. While I have had brief interludes with several churches and denominations (all Christian), I have yet to find anything that completely resonates with me. I know what I believe in my heart and that's what I pass along to my daughter. I do teach her that she is a gift from God. That she is exactly what she was meant to be, not perfect, but perfectly made. That each of us is who we are meant to be and we are all different and diverse for a reason.
(con't.) Like all the fears, phobias and baggage I brought with me into adulthood, I try very, very hard not to pass those negative ideas on to her. I wish that my upbringing at church and at home had been about love and acceptance instead of about judgment and punishment. Don't get me wrong, I am a strict parent and my daughter is one of the most polite, intelligent and well spoken children you'd ever meet. We are all a work in progress and we are meant to learn from our experiences, if we don't learn from them then they serve no purpose. My gift to my daughter, my obligation as her mom, is providing a better, happier life than the one I had. A life in which she knows always that she is loved and accepted unconditionally. Because she feels loved and accepted it is easier for her to love and accept others and she has no fear of putting herself out there and living up to whatever her true potential is.
The area in which my mother and I clashed the MOST growing up was when I would say something, anything really, that she didn't agree with and she would say "YOU CANNOT THINK THAT." I would scream back, you can't tell me what to think! You can tell me I can't SAY that, but what I THINK is my own. You can't force me to THINK or BELIEVE anything. You can SHOW me, you can tell me what I can and can't say in the house, but what I think? That's my own. Sounds like similar things were in your home :)
@kevnliz04 Spunky kid to know you owned your own thoughts. I am certain that has served you well in life.
Belief, no matter what you believe, is the sum of your experience, and your experience will never be exactly the same as anyone else's. Your belief, by extension, will never be exactly the same either. I like your overall message, but I can't help but quirk my brow a little at the way you seem to be advising tolerance as a mechanism to lead your children to the same beliefs that you possess. Your end point almost sounds like, "Don't worry, if you don't push them they'll come back around to what you want them to believe."
We all choose what we believe from an incomplete picture of the universe. No matter what religion you live by, you can't be sure it's the truth. Somewhere in the world there is a religion you've never heard of, and it might resonate more strongly than the one you presently follow if you only were aware of it. That extends to everything else you believe too. You can only choose to believe things that you're aware of through experience. Life is different for everyone. That part of your message is well presented and I enjoyed hearing you stand up and say it. I only wish you hadn't made it sound like a sort of silent conversion mechanism. I want my son to believe things as strongly as I do, as you say. But I don't consider anything I believe to be 'true' to the point that it isn't open to doubt, and so it would be extremely naive of me to assume that my son's experience would ever necessarily lead him in the same direction that mine did. Your own story, after all, does not sound like it came back full circle by any means.
I was raised in a religion much like your own (I suspect it is the same one) and I stopped going to church when I was 13 (because they could no longer force me to get dressed or dragged to the car). I experimented with other religions, and even got baptized in a Pentacostal church at 18. Then at age 21, I had a child, & wanted him to have a better upbringing than mine. I didn't force him in any direction, but I had lost my direction too. I spent 10 years as a single mom of one being told "the only true family is composed of a HUSBAND, a wife, and at least a dozen kids" for me to stand up for what I really believed. I did end up back in the religion of my childhood, but the religious upbringing is done in my home. For instance, I have been lead to believe that if I live "right" I will be reunited with my loved ones, but only if I have a husband to live "right" with. As a single parent, I am (supposedly) excluded from a lot of blessings, compared to my married counterparts. From what I have read in your blog, you have kept some of the beliefs you learned in your childhood, but don't allow them to limit you or dictate what is "right" or "wrong" about what you are doing now.
Gee, it sounds like you were raised in Alpine, too. ;) I am largely in the same boat--though when my sexuality became a big factor, I left the church. I was forced to attend Sacrament meeting, and got out of Sunday School and Priesthood with the excuse that the other boys and I clashed (which was true, to an extent). But that three-year duration was killer, particularly the first. When I was fifteen I went into a huge depression, made only worse by hearing every week that I was going to Hell, that I was a sinner, that I don't deserve this wonderful world God's given us. I've decided that if I ever get the opportunity to raise a child, he or she will be given complete freedom as far as religion goes. The thing is, however, I don't feel that I would have been the same way had my parents not been so oppressive about it. They invited my Priesthood leaders over every Wednesday after mutual to "talk with me." They didn't realize how humiliating and frustrating it was to TRY to abandon that part of my life, but have my own parents shove it back in my face repeatedly. Now my little brothers are going through the same thing, except they're simply forced to go to ALL of their meetings and activities. I enjoyed reading this--there was a lot of good insight that I hadn't thought of before.
I absolutely agree with you here. I want my child's beliefs to be strong and secure. I was raised being able to explore my beliefs and was taken to church every time I wanted, was taught about any religion I wanted, and never felt like it was my parents way or no way. I developed my own strong belief in God and an amazing relationship with God and I thank my parents for that all the time! I feel secure in what I believe and have no fear or doubt. Many people struggle with "doubt" but a lot of people were raised to be afraid not to "believe" what their parents believed and were not allowed to really think about it. I won't be doing that to my kids. Love your blog and your way of thinking! Keep it up!!
Not being from a very religous family it was easy for me to let my kids make up their own minds about orginized religon. We tried to answer their questions the best way we could. What we did try to teach them was they needed to be good people, to care for your fellow man. Race, religon, sexual orentation, sex, economic standing and any thing else you can think of made no difference, we are all one.
That's fair enough. Right and wrong for every person is different. I have my own definition of right and wrong, and no matter how closely we align, there will be differences from your definition to mine. The entire point of today's post is that parents must stand up for THEIR beliefs. That's what I'm doing when I write strongly worded opinion pieces. I'm standing up for what I believe is right and speaking out against what I feel is wrong. I didn't say there is no right and wrong. I was merely pointing out above that what is right and wrong is always going to be on a moving scale. There are definitely some points that the great majority will agree with.
Summed up, parents need to truly learn what they believe, stand behind those beliefs, live behind those beliefs, and if needs be, fight for those beliefs. NO MATTER WHAT THE BELIEFS ARE. (I'm not screaming, there's just no way to emphasize without caps locks. Haha).
Truth is everywhere if you're open minded to hearing and seeing it. It's in our music, our novels and our art, and sometimes even in our comics (such as yourself). Though I don't have children myself, I think it's very important to raise them with an open mind. My parents raised me on the classics - The Supremes, The Beatles, The Who - and for that I am eternally grateful.
@ Jennifer Christian Moeller--I agree with you, I was thining the same thing about the writing "Congratulaions, you just broke your child" It confused me as to where Dan really stands. He is obviously an advocate for child's rights, which is a great thing. But isn't that making a unversal truth about what is right and what is wrong?? Having an occasional alcoholic drink violates the belief that alcohol is wrong, but I don't see how it actually harms anyone (assuming it is done in a responsible way). However, murdering, stealing, violating children's rights (abusing, bullying) etc. etc. violates a human. To me, that is the difference between universal truths and moral beliefs. Don't mean to pick on you, Dan, just wondering where exactly you stand :)
No matter what religion and/or belief system you adopt as your own, it should be a uniquely personal experience. And like everything else in life, it should be an ever-changing and ever-growing experience. Dan, if I am correctly understanding your message here, you are simply recognizing that although you will ultimately be the first and quite possibly the most important spiritual guide to your children, it is important to recognize that you shouldn't necessarily be the ONLY one?
Dan, I agree with your overall message in this chapter. Every individual must own his/her beliefs. Otherwise they aren't beliefs at all. It's so important to develop a moral compass and follow it - especially when there are so many ways to fall into vortexes of suffering in this world.
I also take a little bit of issue with your underlying animosity and resentment in this chapter. I wonder if you even realize it's there. Perhaps I only see it because my experience has been so different from your own even though I believe the situations we each were raised in are markedly similar. I feel like you take a 'how dare you dictate my beliefs to me' attitude here. When you stated the 3 kinds of kids, you said the 'humble' ones don't really question. The only questioning ones were ones that balked at their parent's beliefs. I realize that this may have been the case for you, but it does not mean that every person who agrees with his/her parents is doing it because he/she doesn't have enough backbone to stand up to the parents. I believe the same thing my parents do. Those beliefs came from my own study, however, rather than some easygoing nature.
I do not have kids of my own yet. But when I do, I have no doubt that I'll do my utmost to teach them what I sincerely believe is truth. Do you tell Noah to examine his thoughts on whether smoking is something he wants to do? Or do you discourage such ideas and impress on him your own viewpoint? I'm sure that you'll love and accept him regardless of his position on smoking, and rightly so, but does that mean you should present smoking to him as a valid and respectable life choice? I feel it's the same kind of deal with belief in God (for example). I'm not going to pretend I'm objective regarding this issue when I have kids. I have strong convictions that God is real, close, and loving. I want my kids to believe that too, so I will teach them it's true and encourage them to test it for themselves. I don't plan on misleading them to think I don't care what they believe. I care very much. I still realize that I cannot make them believe anything and therefore must encourage them to study for themselves, but I'm not sure I could ever stand back and say 'I believe such and such but you do whatever you want honey'! I'm so convinced of some things that I feel I'd be doing an injustice to my kids should I act in such a way. I would teach what I believe out of love for them - not out of a need to control them.
@saus In an attempt to not start a huge debate here in the comments about beliefs in general (which can never be won), let me say that I get what you're saying.
As for the smoking thing, I don't think that's an accurate comparison, though the same philosophy certainly can be applied. You can tell your kid not to smoke and all the reasons why he can't and shouldn't smoke, but in the end he's going to try it when he has the chance or he isn't. Likewise, you can be passionate about the reasons you think smoking is wrong, why it is so unhealthy, and why YOU choose to never smoke, and in the end he's going to try it when he has the chance or he isn't. But the truth is, no matter what personality type we all have, we (as human beings) respond much more positively to the latter than to the first. Any time somebody tells you "you can't do this," it's not going to go down as well as "this is why I choose not to do this."
As for the underlying resentment. There may be some truth to that. In fact there is some truth to that. I will forever believe that the way religion was given to me was wrong and that it ultimately pushed me away from my parents' beliefs. I think that's how we all determine right and wrong for ourselves. We look at what has happened to us in our lives, and we decide if every individual event, stimulus, or method of doing things is right or wrong, and we adjust our future acts accordingly. To not feel wrong about anything in the past leaves no ability to become better in the future.
Fortunate children have dads who teach children to think for themselves and take responsibility for their beliefs.
Although I can respect this post as your effort to understand and define your belief system, I don't think it fits into your "real dad" category. Truth is absolute. Meaning it is true or it isn't. Not "what is true for me may not be true for you." I will teach my children about what is true and what isn't. Our differing on this theological understanding of God and the nature of truth doesn't seem like a good reason to bar me from the "real dad" category.
(actually... I'm a mom... but you get the point.)
@prettynormalgirl I can see your point of view. At no point did I ever say that real parents don't believe in God or their own religion. I think one of the most beautiful things is a person who believes in their own beliefs and for all the right reasons. I am not religious. That does not mean I don't have significant beliefs about spirituality or God.
As for truth being absolute, that's why religion is 100% non-debatable. There is never a winner. People believe they have the 100% truth and because of that there is no room for variable discussion.
My point is that there are more effective ways to teach what we believe truth to be. Ways that will help our children more honestly look at our beliefs as they grow up. Ways that will more poignantly pass our beliefs down to our kids. At least in my opinion.
I truly believe that saying "This is what I believe to be true" carries more weight than telling a child "This is absolutely the truth and anyone that says otherwise is false", especially when it come to religion (or politics for that matter). I agree with Dan that parents need to show the way and teach children. Then if that child should decide to explore, teach the child HOW to research their questions. Parents are the ultimate teachers. The best teachers know how to get the kids to learn how to research to learn more.
@Stormyz Mom @Single Dad Laughing @prettynormalgirl The more I think about this issue of parents passing down their beliefs to their children and how to go about it, the more confused I become. How can you NOT believe in absolute truth and still stand behind your beliefs? How can you say to your child: "This is what I believe to be true, but it is not necessarily True (with a capital T, i.e., absolute)"? I love this post to extent that it hashes through how to impart your beliefs on your child lovingly, but at the same time, if you have absolute faith in your convictions, they SHOULD be absolute, and it should be problematic/hurtful for you if your child grows up and does not choose to embrace the beliefs you know to be True--not because you believe them, but because they are Truth! It really just doesn't make sense to me...
A father who knows how to believe, is much more successful passing his beliefs onto his child than a father who simply instructs his child to believe. A child who watches his father stand behind his beliefs, is far more likely to believe in what his father believes. A child who watches his father waffle back and forth in his beliefs, is far more likely to neither doubt nor believe what his father claims to believe. And a child who is given no options in what to believe is far more likely to doubt his father’s beliefs altogether and venture out to find his own, different beliefs that are not forced upon him."
That is so well said! It encompasses respect, honor, good example and giving a child the opportunity to ask questions, dialogue, discuss, be curious, learn and grow. That is what good parenting is all about in my world!
I agree. What I am referring to is more what you said in the comments than in your article. You said to Alek
"what is right and wrong? It is different to every single person on Earth. And everybody can sense their own version of it. It is true that not everybody will sense the same right and wrong that I do or that you do."
I am saying that I will tell my children smoking (to continue with the example above) is not a good choice. It will hurt your body. I don't want you to smoke. If my child chooses to smoke... I will still love and respect him, but I won't pretend that I find his choice as valid as mine. I won't teach that smoking is bad for my body, but might be okay for his body.
It is the same with religion. If I see some religious points as absolute (which I do) I will teach him this is wrong and this is right.
I think your post is basically true. We should respect our kids and their choices even if they differ from ours. We should recognize that we cannot MAKE our children believe anything and instead we should help them find truth. But I will not buy into the idea that truth is different for everyone.
Your post implies that it is good to teach truth as you (SDL) understand truth. But if we understand truth as absolute... why isn't it just as valid and responsible and "real" for me to teach it that way?
Dan, you realize that under your own moral paradigm, articulated in your responses above, that all your anti- bullying efforts and posts like "Congratulations, You Just Broke Your Child" become meaningless, don't you? That father may be perceiving his own version of right and wrong, and be toughening up his son in his view. He sees what he's doing as right, and by your own statements, you have no basis to say he is wrong. A bully might think he's doing that slow, ugly, or unpopular kid a favor, in teaching him how the world really works. That's his personal version of right and wrong, and according to your belief system, you cannot tell him he's wrong to bully others. When we kill off objective morality because we find it inconvenient or restrictive, we kill off any basis for ever calling anything wrong, ever.
To Ryan Branscum - it's awesome that you can adhere to your own beliefs while allowing for the possibility that your child might have completely different ones. It says a lot about you that you don't condemn what you don't believe.
Absolutely correct in every way, and well written.
I have watched many of my extended familygo through very bad family times, rebellion, break, because the parents toldf them what to believe. Its "because I said so" and not "Well I believe this because..."
My parents are absolutely amazing in this respect, and in turn, my sisters and I have remained in great relationships with my parents, they are our best friends in our adult lives now.They love us no matter what. They sat down when we questioned, and explained why they felt like they did but always ended with something to the effect of "But you need to learn this in your own time" My parents also lived by example. When they stopped believing, they looked elsewhere, opened their minds and eyes to other religions. Im very proud to be my parents daughter. I could come home and say Im gay, or dont want to believe in the relgion I was baptised (which Ive done), or that I want to be a circus clown, and my parents would love me regardless, and never make me feel like less of a person. Thats why I can go to them for anything, even just to cry, or even just to brag about a great date I just went on. They understand that they raised 3 wonderful women, that are good people. We love hard, we respect people, we dont hurt people purposefully, and with that, we dont need to go sit in a church every Sunday to prove we are good people. We just are. And are loved for it unconditionally.
Egads. God is what I make Him in my own heart, and every person has their own version of right and wrong. No wonder this country is going to Hell. A real dad certainly does teach his children what to believe, by living his faith and teaching his children about it. I agree that poor handling of questions or not allowing them damages the capacity for faith. But that doesn't mean a man should refrain from raising his children in the faith of his family for centuries. There is objective right and objective wrong. The abandonment of that belief is at the core of the disintegration of the social fabric that used to hold this country together. Was it perfect? No. But it was better than what we have now.
"My rights end where another persons begins" seems to me to be the most basic belief anyone can have. Covers all the bases anyway :)
I love this post. While I was growing up religion was not really forced on me by my parents although in the state I live in the dominant religion was kind of forced onto me that way.
I remember having been condemned for wearing certain jewelry at the age of 12 because it did not fit the standards of this religion, which also made me to not want anything to do with this religion for years and years.
I have people in my life who are such great examples of the their religion and follow it to a T and they are great examples to this and I have the greatest respect for them. I believe certain things in my religion and struggle with other things about it, and have kind of come to the conclusion that there are good and bad in every religion but that is just my opinion.
I do believe in a higher power. I have always told my boys that they need to feel close and believe in this higher power no matter what one would call it and have always told them that no matter what religion they choose to follow I will support them as long as they are believing in something. I personally believe there are good faithful people in all religions and that is what makes it right the individual not necessarily the religion. I do however struggle with the people who say it is their religion or nothing the naysayers, religion bashers etc it is hard to tolerate them and I guess all I can do is pray for them and be good in myself. Religion can be such a touchy subject, but I did enjoy your article. I try to be a better person for myself and others and that is about all I can do, that's the way I see it ; ).
Really thought provoking post today Dan, I was raised Roman Catholic, and by 16, had stopped going to church every Sunday, and every holy day. I'm pagan, and while I won't push my own beliefs on my children, nor have them baptized, I will show by example. The same with my husband.
Great post Dan. I have a 15 month old daughter. I am agnostic and feel better after reading your chapter. I think about the day Rylin becomes interested in religion quite often. I thought it would be unfair to her if I just completely dismissed religion. I want her to make an informed decision for herself not blindly follow in someone's footsteps without taking the time to lift her head and look around. Thank you for reassuring me that my approach is the right thing to do.
@Dan, after reading your post I find myself in general agreement, but would insert a single word in the title so that it more accurately reflects your intent: "Real dads don’t JUST tell their children what to believe. They teach their children how to believe." The why's and how's are perhaps even more important than the what's.
@starbet No, my intent was to specifically say that a child never needs to be told what to believe, but rather be given a passionate demonstration of how to believe mixed with a passionate demonstration of the "I believes" as a means of much more effectively passing ones beliefs down to one's own children, no matter the beliefs.
@Single Dad Laughing I think to some degree we're still talking mere semantics. You seem to be using "tell a child what to believe" in the spirit of some absolutist mandate, assuming a lack of discussion or explanation. (If that was your experience, I am very sorry, and it makes this topic a lot more understandable.) That I believe to be very wrong, and a disservice to the child. However, if my beliefs are logical and well-considered, it is my obligation as a responsible parent to explain them to my children for their own welfare. I must also explain why I believe what I do, and help them discover the process of determining and verifying religious truths for themselves. To me there is precious little distinction between mere demonstration of religious belief and merely demonstrating to my children that I believe they should eat vegetables, get enough sleep and exercise, and get a good education. Just demonstrating my religious beliefs, without delineation or explanation, has no more effect on the long term well-being of the child than demonstrating eating my vegetables. "Yum yum! Daddy loves Brussels sprouts!"
It strikes me that only in the absence of a belief in any absolute truth can a parent abrogate the responsibility of passing along religious beliefs. If that is the case, then there is precious little to pass along anyway. For my part I believe in some absolute truths that by their very mention will brand me to some as a fanatic and an extremist. I believe for instance, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that He died to redeem me from my sins. That is a belief that I have carefully explained to my children, and which they each hold dear to their hearts. And I'm happy that they do.
You may never know how much you are being used today.
A year ago, I'd been agnostic for eight. I loved where I was because I had a vaguely formed faith that fit my kids & I perfectly. We knew there was something, we knew to love, we knew to DO for other people what they couldn't DO for themselves.
I began to feel pressure from the "Christians" around me to set up housekeeping with a religion. I started looking but ultimately, I was found by a group. I listened while they talked and I realized it was so perfectly family centered, so beautifully focused on service, I could scarcely believe it was an actual religion. They're just AMAZING people.
Over the past year, I've lost myself.I've let go of what I always believed to conform to the things I was being taught. Hell, I don't even have the old arguments anymore. I know I went down the wrong path, but what's worse is I don't know how to get off of it. I don't know how to find the person I buried under all that doctrine and live normally now. And it's only been a YEAR.
Heaven help me, I'm trying.
@SamanthaMorrow I read this post & your comment several days ago and ever since, I have thought about it. I am saddened to hear you feel you have gone down the wrong path. I have thought a lot about you saying, "buried under all that doctrine." I guess I struggle to understand this because I believe doctrine is a blessing. It is Christ & Heavenly Father's revelation to the world. I look at doctrine as God's guidelines to help us be happy in this life despite the challenges and trials we encounter. I was 21 when I joined the church & am now 41. It was so refreshing to have answers to questions I had been pondering my whole life. It is because of this doctrine you speak of, pure truth from Heaven, that I have purpose and a plan to return and live with my creator. My life is completely better because of the plan of salvation and membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I guess if you don't find happiness and feel better about who you are with the knowledge you have accumulated over the past year, then maybe you should reevaluate. We all have our agency to choose and you should never feel trapped, it's not what Christ would want. He loves you and wants you to be happy in this life.
@SamanthaMorrow Good point.... being buried under doctrine and dogma is mind and soul numbing and stops spiritual growth. It's unfortunate people confuse religion with spirituality. I am happy you found freedom to nourish your spirit.
@SamanthaMorrow If you recognize that you're living something you don't believe, what is it that's stopping you from living something that you DO believe? You will never be happy living beliefs that you don't think are true, no matter what those beliefs are.
@Single Dad Laughing I'm trying... it's harder because I allowed my kids to come to church with me and they enjoy it... what's right for me may upset them. Hell, Dan. Just hell.