Seven-year old Aadil obeys his mother and scampers to the kitchen table where the family has just finished their meal of mirchi ka salan and Firni. His father, Hamza, sits fumbling with a detonator for a series of explosive devices which sit undramatically against the far living room wall.
“Come here, Aadil,” he says in a pleasant enough tone. Aadil obeys. “Do you know what this is?”
Aadil shakes his head.
“The Great Allah has a work for us and your father has been chosen to bring honor to our family.” Hamza clips a wire to expose the copper inside. “Sit down. My son must learn what his father knows so that he, too, may one day bring such honor to this home.”
Aadil sits beside his father and learns. He learns what God wants. He learns why some people must die. He learns why it should not only be his want, but his desire, to bring death to others. He learns what morality is from his father.
24 miles away and at the exact same time, nine year old Nimra sits quietly and watches her father Shahzaib thoughtfully roll out his prayer rug and kneel upon it. She listens to his soft mantras and his whispers as he chants “Allahu Akbar,” the traditional Muslim prayer. “Allahu Akbar. Subhana Rabbiyal A’ala. Glory be to my Lord, the Most High.”
Shahzaib finishes his final recital of the prayer and turns to Nimra. “Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,” he says. “Peace be upon you and God’s blessings.” When his prayer is finished, he calls all of his three children to him.
Nimra gathers with his siblings at the feet of her father. Their mother finds a chair beside them all to listen to the lesson.
“It will bring your father and mother honor for you to know and live the Koran,” he says. He then begins to read passages. “And for those who have faith and do good works,” he reads, “We never charge a soul with more than it can bare… We shall take away all hatred from their hearts.” He looks at Nimra. “Tell me Nimra. What does this mean to you?”
Nimra replies. And she sits beside her father and learns. She learns what God wants. She learns how she is to behave and how she is to treat people. She learns why it should not only be her want, but her desire, to love and be patient with others while being fair in her punishments. She learns what morality is from her father.
On the other side of the same Earth, eight-year old David is taught by his father that God is adamantly against homosexuality. He is taught that it is his duty to protect the family and to fight against such sin. This is morality, he is told.
Two states away, nine-year old Jill stands waving a rainbow flag at a parade as men in dresses and women on motorcycles ride by. That morning, her parents told her that God loves everyone equally, and that it is not hers or anyone’s place to do anything but love the way God does. She is taught that it is her duty to protect all people and to fight against those who fight against love. This is morality, she is told.
On the southern side of the globe, a ten year old brown girl, made even browner by the filth and debris that surrounds her every day, runs toward her home with a stolen bunch of bananas. That morning, her father told her it was her duty to bring back food for her younger brother at any cost. She is taught that the rich men and the government have made it impossible to be honest, and that it is wrong to starve because of the greediness of others. It would be wrong not to steal, she is taught. This is morality, she is told.
That same day in Africa, a gun is pushed into the hands of a seven-year old boy. He is told to aim it at a pile of villagers and shoot any person that moves. This is morality, he is taught.
At the very same time in the continent to the North, an 18 year old girl makes a lifelong vow to always be celibate and never leave the cloth. She is God’s now, and always will be. This is morality, she is taught.
Somewhere else that same day, a younger teenage girl is told she must keep her baby. Not only is abortion not an option, but it is murder. This is morality, she is taught.
CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE
I would simply like to point out a few things regarding some comments I have read: 1. Dan specifically states that he asked Noah how he felt about the questions he was asking and gives him his opinion the same way his mom gave her opinion. 2. Dan was raised in the Mormon religion. He made the decision to leave later in life the same way I am sure he will want Noah to decide what he believes in when he is older and can do so.
Thank you - that was all!! Have a wonderful day!!
P.S. Dan I am glad you are open with your son. My dad was the same way with me and I couldn't ask for anyone better to raise me.
I've been reading your blog for only a couple of weeks, but I wanted to tell you two things: you're an amazing person and you're doing a great job at being a father. I'm so glad I've found this blog!
Wow, I never comment on your articles, but this one was a little too close to home for me. I am a Mormon, and I am disappointed in the way that you refer to the members of this church. I (and most Mormons I know) are not only tolerant towards those who believe different things and have different morals, but we love them. Many of my close friends drink, live with someone before marriage, swear shamelessly, and many other things that I wouldn't do. The key here is that my morals are for myself. And even though I feel very strongly about what I believe, I know that my perception of morals applies to only me. And, yes, I will teach my children what I believe because that is what I feel is right. However, I will never ever force my children to follow my own morals with manipulation, shame, pity, guilt, or any other means. I will love them forever and follow my beliefs all of my life, but I will allow them to choose. You said, "We believe it our duty to first teach, then shame, then outcast those who don’t believe and live the same moralities that we do." Some people may be like that, yes, but not in general. And, I will say with complete confidence, that if you did a study, I sincerely trust that you would find that the Mormon church, as well as it's members as a whole, are one of the most tolerant of all religions. The Mormon church would never ever teach your son that you are a bad person. One person, on their own, may have influenced him that way, but the church's doctrine never would.
There is something else that I want to say. I almost didn't because I don't want to criticize you in a public way, but you did post these things publicly already. I am very disappointed with the way you feel towards your ex-wife's religion. I think that everybody will agree on one thing about morality: that if someone tries to impose their morals on us, then they are being immoral. (I also believe that most people don't consider it immoral to impose their own morals on others, but that is a different discussion for another day.) So, yes, I agree with you that if Mormons try to impose their morals onto others they are doing something very wrong. However, with that same definition, it would be immoral of you (or I) to impose your moral beliefs onto others by any means such as manipulation, shame, pity, and guilt -- even your son. Teach him your morals, and respect his mother's morals. Let Noah choose his own morals (which will likely be a combination of what both you and your wife believe, but remember that imposing your own morals is actually immoral. You criticize Mormons and call them immoral for imposing their beliefs on others through manipulation, shame, pity, and guilt. But let me point out to you that you are guilty of the same thing with this article.
I would recommend that, although your life is public through your writing on a blog, you privately work through such personal issues that could have a lasting affect on your son. It would be heart-breaking if, in future years, and with mature eyes, he reads this article, and sees the open disgust that you have for the beliefs of his mother.
The only moral code I've found that I've completely liked is this: The only immorality is that which infringes on the rights of others. Applied to you situation this means that, in my opinion, the bride and groom may exclude whomever they want from the wedding party; it is the right of those whom are most involved to decide who they want at their wedding. Painful though it may be I personally have found this philosophy to be the most helpful.
Way to undermine his relationship with his mom. I agree with the other commenter that a forum this public is not the place to air extended family affairs. Read the Unexpected Legacy of Divorce. Fabulously eye opening book that is currently guiding much of our family's interaction with my sibling's ex and their sweet children...the children that should feel free to love BOTH parents (and extended families) without subtle undermining from either parent. Best book I've ever stumbled on.
This one was difficult to wrap my head around. I got caught up in deciding who's set of morals were the right set and why the other, what I considered the wrong set, were wrong. I have very definite opinions, especially regarding Dan's personal experiences. (I have repressed anger towards Mormons...not so, repressed I guess.) Then I had my GOTCHA moment. (Oprah calls it AH-HA...whatevs) Who am I to determine what is right and wrong for YOU? Who are YOU to determine what is right or wrong for ME? Powerful lesson. Learned.
I once thought that globally we all agreed on the basic tenet of valuing human life. Most cultures, religions, governments have laws and rules regarding depriving others of life without valid causation. But I haven't figured out how to mesh that belief with that of Jihad Extremists.(is that redundant?) So, that conundrum was at the forefront (thanks, Dan) of my mind while I read this post. And when I realized I was rating other's set of morals against mine...oh, snap.
My father struggled throughout his adulthood to understand the paradoxical actions of his father. Who treated his farm hands with the respect due any human but as second-class because of the color of their skin. He, my father, tried to absolve the moral lessons he learned from his father through personal action. He realized that he may continue to think in the manner he was taught, accepted as right, but he would not act in that manner; for he had come to believe different.
Dan said we can't hold a child raised in the ghetto to the moral standards of the one raised in affluence. And I struggled with that, and his other examples. I struggle with resolving the concept of holding to moral standards and holding to accountability or responsibility. If we cannot hold the "less fortunate" child to the moral standards of the "more fortunate" child, then how, as a global community, do we determine right from wrong?
For so many people morality is a facet of their religious beliefs. While I have my own beliefs, I refuse to force it upon other people ~ I do not have that right! And in many situations I find that many religions are hypocritical of what they actually teach. I believe that each person has a right to believe what they do. Beliefs are very personal, and are so closely tied with morality that they're almost inseparable. What is wrong and what is right? It depends upon who you are. My goal is to love without judging, to help without questioning, to give without expecting something back, and to accept people for who they have chosen to be. I think this is one of the best articles I've seen from you, and I'm so glad I got to read it!
Morality is not hard-and-fast. It has to evolve with the understandings of the times. If you want a hard-and-fast morality, please stay away from me, because I find that both toxic and dangerous.
This is beautiful and it makes me feel that much closer to my God, whom I believe loves every living being regardless of their religion, race, or class. I was raised and still consider myself Catholic. One thing my mother has always said was "Everyone has a different way to God." That sentence has become of the most profound and beautiful things I've ever heard and can be related to so many things.
Great post Dan!
And it was that same Tobi who tore me up in high school for dating a boy that wasn't Mormon even though that boy was better than the Mormon boys in the area. I have used that hurt to teach others not to judge. Didn't Christ teach us not to judge others? That's the morals I teach my children and I live by no matter what.
Thank You Dan. I have been having a hard time dealing with the subject of morality specifically in my ethics class. I appreciate your view and your blog posts in general.
I think it's important to realize that the people- the "Utah Mormons" we speak of- are imperfect people in every sense, the same way all the people from every other religion are. Sometimes we ourselves don't understand the doctrine we're supposed to be living- because we are human. Fallible. Flawed. But as beautiful and wonderful as any other human being on earth.
The point isn't to exclude those who don't believe the same way we do. The point is to find a place of truth- complete truth- with everyone who will come. There are truths in every religion, everywhere, and the only person who truly knows all of them is God Himself- so everyone walks their own journey to find out what that is, what God's trying to tell them, what they themselves are meant to do with their lives. We believe we have found the religion with the most complete truth- not the only religion that has truth. There is an immense difference.
It's my personal opinion that we waste time sitting here contradicting each others' beliefs because it doesn't do any good. I think, rather than try to prove the wrongness of some of the things everyone else does, we should find the truth, the things that are right, and incorporate those truths into our lives. Even the most 'wicked' have some small piece of wisdom to give if we allow ourselves to listen in love- to them and to God.
> Sure, the population as a whole can agree
> (fairly whole-heartedly) on some moral rights
> and wrongs. Killing another person is wrong.
> Yes. Almost all of us agree with that.
I saw a movie many years ago (_The Night of the Generals_, 1967 -- I should definitely watch it again), in which Omar Sharif plays a "Major Grau" during the Nazi regime investigating the murder of a prostitute. He has the extraordinarily delicate and unenviable task of interviewing some German generals who might have been involved in the murder. (Peter O'Toole is one of the generals -- an out-and-out psychopath.) At one point, Sharif as Grau makes an elegant little speech in his inimitable accent:
[A]t one point, when a Parisian detective points out to the resolute German major that, after all, “murder is the occupation of generals,” the major makes explicit the moral core of the film: “What is admirable on the large scale is monstrous on the small. Since we must give medals to mass murderers, why not give justice to the small. . . entrepreneur.” (This recalls a famous quote, “One death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic,” that is frequently but perhaps wrongly attributed to Josef Stalin.)
Just this past weekend, I watched a TED video on YouTube ("Margaret Heffernan: The dangers of 'willful blindness'") in which Ms. Heffernan tells the (true) story of Gayla Benefield, who discovered the effects of vermiculite mining on a small town in Montana. After watching the YouTube video, my friend asked me if I'd ever read Henrik Ibsen's play _An Enemy of the People_ (1882). A brief YouTube search revealed a 1966 filmed version of the play from National Educational Television (starring James Daly et al.), which we then watched. A fictionalized version of almost the same story, from more than a century earlier. People are all too willing to put a price tag on human lives, and then deny they've done so.
> Almost all of us can agree with that.
> Touching children sexually. Definitely wrong.
For Some Value Of "children". A five-year-old? Yeah, pretty clearly wrong (though again, what exactly constitutes "sexual contact"? You should watch the movie _The Good Mother_ (1988, with Diane Keaton and Liam Neeson, directed by none other than Leonard Nimoy).
A fifteen-year-old? Certainly illegal, in most jurisdictions. And some people would say **therefore** wrong. And some people wouldn't.
Yeah, it's messy.
I was married to a youth pastor in a fundamental, right-wing denomination for 6 years. He was raised inside of that world and I wasn't; I came to it due to a rocky and unstable childhood and needed some stability during those years. After about a year inside of that bubble-world of judgment and rules (most of the unspoken, and all double standards with an impossible standard of perfection for myself, since I was a woman and therefore an 'example' of godliness for all of the other women.
My husband was TERRIBLY un-supportive through my struggle to figure out a way to be myself (imperfect as it was) and still be happy in that world. He didn't get it, since it was the only normal that he had ever experienced.
We had our son in late 2008. It was when I had Micah that I got really, really brave. I knew that I was deeply unhappy in that world and my marriage, and that the only way the I could be a fully engaged mom to Micah would be to leave. But I deal with a VERY similar struggle as what you deal with regarding Noah. That high standard of judgment and morality that they are being taught at such a formative age scares the crap out of me. Micah doesn't really ask questions like Noah, and I wish he did. Reading about the conversations that you have with him give me strength and help me to feel less alone in the journey with Micah. Thanks!
What about what loves looks like. What is love to one person may not be love to another. What may considered harm to one...etc. The majority of people say that we can create our own morality and we are our own gods. What about when someone says rape is justifiable? People told that person that they create their own right and wrong. Where is that line that can not be moved with time? I absolutely adore Peter Hitchens(Christian), brother of prominent atheist Christopher Hitchens. "It would be very very hard to come up with a atheistic explanation of conscience, anymore than you could have a compass without a magnetic north. If morality EVOLVES, then morality CHANGES. Then the things of which we most strongly disapprove of now could be things which are permitted later. In which case its not really morality as far as I am concerned and who is evolving it?.....if it evolves than it alters and if it alters than it is not morality and therefore we can't reply upon it."
Yep, you got that so right. Morality has nothing to do with religion, or rules. It's all about love.
The basic problem is that we try to be the Holy Spirit to each other. God works on us each individually in His timing and with His plan in mind. The Holy Spirit nudges us to change, and if we keep our hearts soft toward Him and toward each other, good things can come. If we close ourselves to that, the result is us trying to force our personal struggles on others. Mormon, Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Muslim, the religion isn't the point. The point is that just as we are each unique, so too, our failings are unique. We can't speak for the guy next to us, judging his weaknesses by our strengths. Nor can we say that because the Holy Spirit has made a certain sin important in OUR lives, that it needs to be the focus for EVERYBODY's life. That would fall under the sin of hubris.....
Hi Dan, your post highlights so much of what I dislike about organised religion. Morality should be an internal compass not an external pressure dictated by others in the name of their personal deity.
I believe that neither morality nor sexuality fit binary constructs.
Keep up the thought provoking posts.
I think that morality is a constant but at the same time people should not be driven into it through fear and manipulation, something the church (not Jesus) is renowned for doing. The only rule to really live by should be to love others and build them up. To illustrate with an example, revenge is wrong (my view), but “turning the other cheek” can also empower bullies to continue down a bad path in life. So the question to ask ourselves here would be; how can I best serve this guy to make him a better person? Morality therefore can be constant but the outworking of that may not always look the same or be possible to define as an “always respond like this” rule.
“Sin lies only in hurting others unnecessarily. All other "sins" are invented nonsense.” Robert Heinlein
The only "moral" code I live by.
You state: "He is not moral enough to see his son kiss his bride over the alter." I believe that is oversimplifying the situation. The marriage sealing ceremony in an LDS temple is much more than a kiss over the alter. It likely wouldn't be the first or last kiss for the couple. The sacred, eternal covenants made between husband and wife before God in a consecrated and dedicated house of God is the event for which the LDS faith requires a higher standard of morality to participate in and view, not a kiss.
Yes, the debate about morality is one going, as it should be, but your views on the matter are not what upset me. It's the fact that you made it personal to Noah and his extended family. You could have made your exact same points without mentioning the conversation you and your ex-wife had with Noah. In doing so, you crossed the line by putting your need to be heard and understood (which are not bad mind you) over your sons. From now on (since you never delete posts), all of Noah's extended family, his neighbors and his future friends will be able to view this public record of how his Dad thinks his mom and his family are wrong and that they treat people unfairly. How unfair for a young child to be used as a pawn in this public forum. Yes, teach your son standards, teach him to treat others with respect and teach him what you believe, but do so in private.
I always try to stand back as far as I can and look at the situation from a very wide perspective. Globally, if I can.
I have heard some say they believe that there are fundamental rights and wrongs in the world. If this were true, we would probably not be having this discussion. I believe that morals are (mainly, if not entirely) popular opinion, based on tribal survival (if even on a subconscious level). What are the purposes of morals? Why do they even exist in our minds? Most likely to do with survival. We are social creatures for a reason - we survive better in groups, tribes and communities, and over time we will create standards of living and behaviour that will benefit our communities. If one community's actions threaten the livelihood, "survival", or even reputation of another - that's when we really start paying attention to the moral differences. If we cannot convert the different community's views to our own, we will then try to destroy their beliefs (through many methods- violence, death, public shaming, and last but not least, yelling really really loudly).
If two communities have been threatening the other's views, survival, livelihood or reputation for dozens, if not hundreds or thousands of years... then the actions we take against the other community can, in time, become part of our morality, to ensure our community's 'survival'.
The real question is, how do we deal with conflicting views in a more harmonized manner, in a world that is becoming smaller by the day?
I personally am against instilling any religious beliefs to a child who is too young to make up their own mind; But at the same time, I would try to instill my beliefs to this child at that age (no matter how similar or dissimilar), such as do not kill, steal, or disrespect others. Is one set of beliefs better than the other simply because it is what I believe? The answer is of course, both yes and no.
If we are completely ensconced in a community with specific views, and do not experience other sets of morals, there is rarely need to sit down and teach specific morality, as people will experience the reasons for them over time; However, people living in places where community morals mix - then people will attempt to teach their views, most likely due to fear that they will pick up morals that their community does not believe in. Such as the reason Noah's mother sat him down and taught him what she believes in. And why Dan did the same immediately afterward. And yes - part of Dan's morals is to believe in respecting others' choices and making up your own mind (I'm assuming from what I've read), something he hoped he could impart to his son.
Honestly, I believe this problem, if it can even be called a problem, will shrink over time, mainly due to the fact that our many separate global communities are slowly blending. The world is becoming smaller- due in part to the internet. Look at what we're doing right now. If your tribe has 25 people in it, you will, over time, learn to act and behave in certain ways to ensure its survival. What if your tribe has 8 billion people in it though... we will learn to adapt. It's what we do. This- however, will take quite some time.
So what to do in the meantime? Use our most powerful tool: Communication. That means both talking and listening. And when we listen, we must attempt to understand and to use empathy. When someone feels listened to and empathized with, they feel less threatened.
And the less threatened we feel, the less we will attempt to destroy others' beliefs in order to protect our own... and then perhaps start to question our own, so that we can live more harmoniously with the communities that surround us.
Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. If everyone followed that, religious or not, the world would be a better place. Just sayin'.
I wasn't able to see my sister get married. She is not only my sister, but my best friend and confidant. She was married in the LDS Temple. The rest of my family attended. I did not. I have chosen a different path. But instead of feeling angry, or judging her or the others who attended, I respected them for their beliefs and celebrated in my sisters joy. Her joy is not my joy. Her choices are not my choices. Although temple goers may judge me and think that I'm a "bad" person for not subscribing to their exact beliefs, why would I let that bother me? After all, those are their beliefs, not mine. If they choose to be offended by my unbelief, that's on them. Religious and unreligious alike need to be respectful of all and let each person travel their own path.
Lot of mixed feelings on this topic. I understand what Dan is saying about morality and am fully supportive of him giving Noah the opportunity of sorting through the choices for himself. Yet I also believe it's up to us to instill in our children our own standards while they're young and let them decide for themselves as they get old enough to make their own decisions. I know that's tricky in coparenting situations when the parents hold different standards, but sometimes the best we can do is hopefully find a middle ground that won't step on either parent's toes too much and won't overly confuse the child. I know, often easier said than done.
As far as the talk about the temple and it's so-called exclusionary rules for those without a recommend ("the card"), the best comments I found were in the words of previous poster Al:
"An LDS temple is a house of God and is the most sacred place on earth in the eyes of an LDS believer. To them, the work of God is done inside those walls by those who have proven themselves worthy. It is absolutely fine if you don't believe this, most of the world doesn't. But to those who really believe that, it is unfair to complain to them about why you can't go inside. To them, the temple would no longer be a sacred special place if it's doors were open to the public... People need to understand that it has nothing to do with shaming those that cannot enter. It has everything to do with members believing that it is an incredibly sacred place, and it should be their right to keep it that way."
And contrary to popular belief, perfection is not required to hold a recommend - just an adherence to some basic moral standards which many wouldn't have a problem with. A lot of members with non-member families (like me) choose to hold a civil ceremony for marriage where everyone is welcome, then go to the temple later for the sacred sealing. Win-win for everyone.
A final comment about "Utah" Mormons - that's not the first time I've heard that term. I've lived most of my life in the Deep South (Georgia, Arkansas) where the LDS church is not as firmly established (except in a few small areas), and I've never encountered the shaming or judgmental attitudes that's supposedly been encountered from some church members, particularly in Utah. I've talked to missionaries who've said that the atmosphere around church members in other areas of the country is much different from what's normally encountered in Utah. Possibly a situation where diversity (or the lack of it) contributes to different attitudes and mindsets.
A very thought-provoking post, and good to see a lot of thoughtful discussion.
The moral truths I teach my kids is love, treat everyone equal and don't judge until you have all the facts. At the same time, I teach them that they DON'T have to turn the other cheek more than twice. If someone is not treating them fairly, they can tell that person how they feel, and give them one more chance, but after that, it is their job to let those people go.
I teach my children not to smoke to have healthy lungs. Not to get drunk to have healthy livers. Not to engage in sex before marriage because I got married to 2 men who I had nothing in common with except the raging hormones, and was miserable pretty quick. (I did read your post about why you feel like living together is better, and partly agreed with it. I am just torn about which is better or worse; taking a "test drive" before committing to marriage OR going into it with no clue about if you are compatible in that way. If you wait a while, you can find out if you have more in common than just hormones before you commit). Their father smokes, drinks, does meth,etc. I try not to use him as a "bad example", but when my kids came home with questions about their father I told them he has to choose whether to be healthy or not. It is similar to what I learned in church, but it is more about my beliefs about what is healthy or not. I don't think a drink once in a while is bad, but any addiction or frequent pattern of using tobacco, alcohol, or drugs is not healthy (I believe).
I 100% believe the world has ZERO morality anymore. We can claim we do all we want but "oh bla de oh bla da" . All we can hope for is common sense and human decency to be used a good chunk of the time by the masses. Thats reality.
Great post and pretty good discussion. My stance on morality is that we should be seeking a universal truth for all of mankind. We should be constantly discussing and evaluating why we have certain beliefs and how we ought to behave. I think Religion is an affront to morality because they remove any personal reasoning from the discussion. Everything has already been decided in religions, so there is no discussion. I find that very concerning. Religion is dogma and dogma is death.
I teach my kids to always question and evaluate why they have their beliefs. To use reason and logic before making any judgments. What we believe is nothing. WHY we believe it is where you find personal truth. All of us need to be more questioning and more in-touch with our "why's" and less preachy about our whats.
I personally believe that any religion or moral compass that is used AGAINST someone to shame them or exclude them is unfair. Any moral compass that is based on hate or fear or murder is equally unfair.
If a suicide bomber teaches his child to be a suicide bomber, we shouldn't judge that child for following his father, but I feel he needs to be taught a better way by someone who has been there, done that, and can guide him to a less violent way.
Noah's mother is teaching him what she believes is the moral truth, but by doing that, she is basically saying that his father isn't moral because he smokes or drinks or "lives in sin". We shouldn't judge Noah for following his mother's teaching, but we can guide him with our own experiences in that religion, and help him understand there may be a different way.
Because I was born and raised in Noah's mom's religion, it is hard for me to understand how so much of what I am taught in church is warped and changed by the people in the church. The 10 commandments don't say anything about smoking, drinking, or living in sin. It DOES say things about killing, adultery, stealing, lying & coveting. Those things are fairly universally agreed to, but it also says something about honoring your parents. It doesn't tell us what to do if our father is a Jihad and our mother is a Christian. How do we honor both?
Morality is entirely relative. Everyone has a different idea of right and wrong. Respect, however, is not. Respect for self and others is key to developing an inclusive and well rounded world view and I am really pleased to see you teaching Noah that, even if you didn't use those exact words.
@Celese Respectfully, I think you may have missed something in this article. Yes, Dan does share some of his personal morality in the way he writes this post. But it isn't forced on us. It's simply shared, suggestions are offered, all based on his own experiences and worldview (which have changed over time as he's had more experiences and changing circumstances that offer him different perspectives). It's a take-it-or-leave it approach. The whole blog is an expression of his beliefs. I'm fairly sure he hasn't gone into our homes and forced us to sit and read and insist we believe it to be Truth. He even invites our thoughts on it, at the end of pretty much every post.
I'd say it's a safe bet that he believes the world would run a bit better and be a nicer place overall if we saw things in the light he presents here (and I happen to agree, since the whole point of this post was "Let’s all stop trying to force the entire world into single standards of morality, and instead focus on finding and defining our own moralities, continue teaching our children our own moralities, and sharing our reasons for choosing the moralities that we do while never condemning others for not subscribing to the exact same lists of morality requirements.")
But he's not going to delete your reply because you disagree, or because you have a different view of morality. As in many situations, I imagine he'll agree to disagree, leaving you to your own morality and moving on with his, or possibly incorporating something he may learn from you into his own worldview. He's not going to engage you in a battle where he forces you to believe what he believes is right.
You seem to think he's doing that with Noah, but I respectfully disagree. As he stated, "One by one they talk together, and Noah decides for himself what is right or wrong. For anything he is concerned about, his father tells him he doesn’t have to know or make a decision yet. He can wait to see how he feels when he is older."
You, by your own admission, are doing the exact same thing with your children that you say you don't want him to do with Noah. You stated, "And even though I feel very strongly about what I believe, I know that my perception of morals applies to only me. And, yes, I will teach my children what I believe because that is what I feel is right." That is inherently contradictory. You can't suggest your morality applies only to you but insist your children will learn it because you believe it is right.
And while you do go on to say you'll love your children no matter their choices, I'm sure there will be some conflict and pain if their choices turn out to be in direct opposition to your own morality. Just as while Dan would surely love his son no matter Noah's choices, he'll experience some pain or personal disappointment if those choices happen to line up 100% with his mom's religion, or with any other religion or lifestyle that sets up a barrier (however artificial) between them.
Expressing his viewpoints, discussing why he feels the way he does about Noah's mom's religion, and even sharing his sense of pain or frustration with how her sense of morality (and that of much of the rest of his family) has affected him is not shaming or manipulating anyone (at least in the way presented in this post). It is simply part of the conversation. It's sharing what he believes is right and why, and his perspective on how certain choices affect not only oneself but others, too.
How is that different from the conversations on what you believe is right that you suggest you'll have with your own children?
Noah's mother shares her beliefs with her son. She shares (even indirectly) that he won't be able to be with his Dad for Eternity, because of the choices Dad has made. How is that not manipulating or shaming or scaring Noah into one sense of morality over another?
Isn't that ultimately what you'll do with your children? Provide examples, answer questions about family members who have made different choices that prevent them from achieving the same level you are able to through your conduct and beliefs? And you'll express your sadness to them for family and friends who won't be able to join you in Eternity because their morality, however you may tolerate it, isn't right? Isn't that manipulation of the same sort? Housed simply in an impassioned expression of what you believe and why you believe it?
@Celese Would you feel the same way about how he felt about the religion of his son's mother, if his ex-wife's religion were different from your own? If this were me, and my family, I would want to come to an agreement about how we would talk to our children about religion. But if this is their solution (I will teach our son my beliefs, you teach our son yours) then that is their business. Once his son has grown, he will understand that you can love individuals and be disgusted by the beliefs that they hold. It's a normal human experience to love a person and be disgusted by something they believe. I think most of us have had that experience at one point or another.
@MM How will one parent be able to share a viewpoint that differs from that of the other parent without coming across as "undermining" the other? If my child asks me why I believe something that my husband believes differently on, either of us sharing our experiences, personal feelings, or beliefs about why could easily "undermine" the "argument" of the other in the eyes of the child.
And that's true in everything. As we learn, we gather more information from different sources that requires us to either accept/support or reject/refute things we currently accept as facts or truth. Every new truth learned, from any source, has the potential to undermine what we already believe.
There was no name calling or vitriol here in how Dan explains his feelings. And he states clearly he left the conversation open with Noah, letting him make up his own mind or shelve ideas for later review. I'd bet he didn't suggest to Noah that Noah's mom is a bad person, either. Though Noah did somehow get the idea that his Dad and his Aunt might be bad people because of what his mom shared about her beliefs. Though I imagine that wasn't the specific intent, how is that not undermining his relationship with his Dad?
In situations where two parents have different senses of morality, it seems Noah got the best deal possible...parent(s?) who are willing to have the conversation with him, answer his why's, and leave the decision up to Noah. And also to leave the door open for Noah to make any decisions later, or to change ones he may have already made today.
If Noah someday reads this post (which is a snippet in time) and has questions about it, I imagine he'll have dozens or hundreds of other conversation with both of his parents that will give him a much broader perspective on and on Dan's feelings in context to specific moments than any of us will ever see.
By making changes in our disgustingly unequal society so we can allow for more people to be raised in more fortunate circumstances, to enable all children to have equal access to knowledge and opportunity. By breaking down institutions that marginalize individuals (whether intentional or not) based on race, gender, income, physical appearance, sexuality, family living arrangements, etc. By holding ourselves as being somewhat accountable for the circumstances that lead to the existence of ghettos and the shit lives led by the people who reside there.
@Thynder I think maybe YOU are oversimplifying things a bit. You reduced his meaning in saying 'a kiss on the altar' to mean that all he cared about was seeing one kiss when you must know that his phrasing was a means to express a larger idea...seemingly you did so as a means to shove your way into the conversation on behalf of your doctrine.
This conversation is not about the LDS. It's not about 'holiness'. It's about the sad fact that entrenched religious views are potentially putting Dan in the position of 'separation' from his son. If I was to believe in a God of love, I would think such a belief would restore, reconcile, and bring-together. Not divide and tear people apart for simple fear of a 'lesser' afterlife. For that reason alone, there is cause to distrust the motives of the religion. Well-meaning people, passing a means of division along to their children. Imagine if you were on the "wrong" side of that binary idea. It would suck, and you know it.
@Thynder Well said. I can only speak from my own experience but here's my two cents. I was born and raised LDS. As an adult, I have chosen to leave the church. For a long time after, it was typical and easy for me to be angry at "The Church" (and members) for injustices I felt had been inflicted on me as a result of the beliefs and practices of the religion.
While there are still many beliefs I distance myself from, I finally realized (after a LOT of growing and searching and responsibility-taking) that it is never my place to discourage someone over their religious beliefs, no matter my personal feelings. I know I have adopted my spiritual beliefs because it is what *I* feel is right and brings me peace and happiness. I can only imagine that others align themselves with a particular faith for the same reasons.
Does that mean I believe one religion is more "right" than another or that kneeling across an altar in a temple is the only way to ensure my family will be together eternally? Absolutely not. For those that do, I hope it's because it brings them comfort and they truly feel it's right, not because it's what they've been taught to believe is right. And, therein lies the beauty of free agency. The bottom line is that no one knows. Absolutely no one. Someone can believe that they've received personal manifestation that something is true, but it's still only a belief. I know I've personally fabricated divine answers because I WANTED to believe something.
Anyway... Yes, for Mormons, a kiss over the altar is much more than just a kiss and they believe that ritual is necessary for their eternal family. True? Perhaps. But maybe not. Do I feel like I'm being left out because the LDS church will no longer allow me to enter a temple because I've chosen to believe different than the mainstream? Nope. Do I feel like an immoral or less moral person than Joe Shmoe because I am no longer allowed to enter a temple because I've chosen to live different than the mainstream? Nope. I saw people sit next to me in the temple who were not living the "higher standard of morality" you spoke of. But, guess what? It's not my problem. And morality should not be tied to religion because both are subjective.
@Thynder Yeah, sure. Except that, like most religions, it's just a way of coercing people into doing what the higher-ups want. "Higher morality"? Are you saying that I, as a Wiccan, am of lower morality that you because I believe in a God and a Goddess? Newflash, I'm still a good person, I help others, I work hard, and I try not to judge people because I'm just a human, too. The Mormon religion, like most, is just another means of control of the populace. My religion has one tenant: Do no harm. It doesn't say "Don't beat others" or "don't bully others". Just don't hurt anyone, including yourself, in anyway. But, most of the abuse that I get whenever I leave my house is from close-minded "Christians" who tell me how stupid, selfish, and evil I am because I don't follow their religion, and Mormons are just the same, despite the fact that your own damn prophet says that other religions are necessary for cohesion in society, and thusly should be accepted. So, before you place yourself on a pedestal, think twice. You're no better than anyone, and you still bleed red.
@The Real Dave You're right in your assumption that things are very different in Utah. We are in Alabama now, and there is an LDS stakehouse just up the street from us. The missionaries visit often, because here they can find warmth and welcome (and a measure of understanding how difficult things can be for them, as they give up their entire lives for what they believe). However, they also face strong debate to their teachings. We moved here from Utah, and hubby was raised in a Utah Mormon family. I don't know how things are where you are, but in Salt Lake I have seen someone smoke meth before attending a meeting with a bishop that approves their temple recommend. I have seen families sit around the dinner table, smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee, and heard them call themselves 'good' members. I feel that (particularly in Utah) there is a lot of hypocrisy surrounding people's own behavior and that which they feel they have a right to judge others on. That doesn't seem to be the issue here with the LDS members in Alabama. At least from what I've witnessed myself.
@Nikki Moral relativism says that its okay to murder in Syria because those are the laws there... so are you saying that? It is okay for me to abuse my children because that is the rule of my house. So that is okay too? I don't think you really mean what you are saying. If morality is all relative, then having this discussion is a total waste of time. The discussion should be finding a universal truth for everyone.... that isn't hinged on what we think, but WHY we think it. Not what we are doing, but what we ought to be doing. Morality is NOT relative. If so, then you undo the work of almost every single philosopher and their work in all of history.
@AmyJones @Celese No, I honestly don't care what religion his ex-wife's is. Just the fact that he is so open concerning his disgust for his ex-wife's religion is sad. Yes, I have felt disgusted sometimes when people do things that are so against what I believe, but I don't openly air those where my children will see them and I work through those issues privately so I can love the person without reserve and I can respect them like I hope they respect me and so my children can learn to respect everyone. My children, and frankly nobody, needs to see those private battles. It is our job as adults to be examples of love, respect, and acceptance.
@RachelPate I take it Mormons don't believe in Salvation through Grace? Salvation/Righteousness can only be achieved by "works"?
You're quite right. I didn't phrase that very well at all. I think there are certainly some things that are universally accepted, like hurting people (be it abuse in someone's living room or murder thousands of miles away) is wrong.
However, there are also an entire raft of things that aren't quite so black and white - like arranged marriages or ritual animal slaughter for instance. While these concepts might be considered "wrong" by one person, they could be completely acceptable to another.
While I wholeheartedly agree with the drive towards building a universal truth, I think that for the majority of issues it is likely to be something of a losing battle if we go into it with a pre-set idea of right and wrong (for those issues that are negotiable, of course). Rather, the point I was trying to make was that the best way to engage in this kind of a debate is with respect for views that may not necessarily match those we already hold.
Thanks very much for giving me a chance to clarify and I hope that makes a bit more sense now.
@AngelBrookins @JudithRachel @RachelPate The church has always taken the stand that "Where much is given, much is required". Essentially, the more you know, the more responsible you are for that knowledge and for acting accordingly. So, according to members of the LDS church, what happens to those who are never given the "opportunity" to hear and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ? Are they prevented from entering Heaven? Will they never see their Lord? The church teaches that if you are never given that chance, that does not keep you from Heaven. You can still return to live with your Father and Creator after death. However, if you have been given the gospel of Jesus Christ and you deny it, your salvation is not secured.
Further still, LDS doctrine speaks of three degrees of Glory/Salvation/Heaven. And, yes, to enter into the highest degree, you must be an endowed (temple-worthy) member of the LDS church. Not being in that highest degree does not mean you are in Hell. Quite the opposite. The church adamantly teaches that all three degrees will be wonderful, amazing, what-have-you. No matter where you find yourself, you will be happy beyond belief. Hell or Outer Darkness is saved only for the worst of humankind (murderers, etc.).
It's a common misconception that Mormons believe only Mormons will be in Heaven. It is, however, a misconception.
@JudithRachel @RachelPate In my deep study of 'the church' I have found that LDS doctrine's standpoint on this issue is that simply being a 'member in good standing' (read temple-ready) is enough to ensure their salvation. They also believe that unless you yourself are a temple-ready member in good standing of the LDS church, you will not be saved. No matter who you are or what you've done in your life, you will never see the face of God.
@JudithRachel My knee-jerk reaction is to say you are mostly correct. I'm a little rusty on Mormon doctrine so I'm sure someone can correct me if I'm wrong but, I was always taught that grace alone is not sufficient for salvation. You must also show righteousness through your works. So, the two go hand in hand...