I can feel the specter of religious expectation looming over my womb.

December 28, 2011 at 3:43 pm (my life)

A lot of people my age reject organized religion, and will talk about it freely. They say a variety of things after stating their beliefs- “I’m atheist”, “I am more of a science girl”, “I’m too smart for religion”, “Religion only screwed me up”, “I’m spiritual, not religious”- etc and so on. For some, religion clings, and they’re wrestling with where prayers and ritual fit into their day-to-day schedule, love lives, work, and whatever TV shows are on their DVRs. What starts as a comfort in childhood becomes an antiquated hindrance for a lot of adults, and though it seems like a crisis that is fairly common for people in their late 20s and early 30s, it’s definitely a modern crisis. My parents didn’t question their religion as they were starting a family in the 70s. They stayed Methodist, and they raised my sister and I Methodist as well.

There’s no ignoring that organized religion exists in the world of the small people that you will create and raise, so here’s my question- how are these parents of the 21st century going to raise their children to think about religion?

Because even if you don’t think a child (or an adult) needs the moral lessons and comfort of an organized religion, how much of your personality was formed as a result of questioning and rejecting your religion? This isn’t a debate about whether or not religion is necessary in a child’s life, but rather, what if the best thing to come from being raised in a religious home is the scrappy critical thinking skills that come from deciding that you’re not religious?

Think about it- how interesting would you be if you didn’t ever have to take in a worldview, evaluate it, and then decide it wasn’t for you? And how do you decide that your children don’t need a moral map, just because you didn’t need it?

Please understand, I’m not coming to you with a solution, or even a judgment of who’s right and who’s wrong. This is just something I think about quite a bit. I was raised Methodist, my husband was raised Muslim, and though we are childless so far, I can feel the specter of religious expectation looming over my womb, from both sides. We’ve half-heartedly discussed raising our kids to know about both religions, a conversation which always ends with “….and I guess we’ll let them decide?”, which seems like a lot of pressure to put on a kid. I secretly wonder if what we’ll all end up with is a generation of uber-religious children. My coworker and her husband, raised Catholic and Muslim, worked to educate their child on all religions, hoping to make her agnostic, and were shocked to find their daughter reaching for the hijab as a preteen. It seems like no matter your religion, what kids really want to do is rebel.

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3 Comments

  1. 623 said,

    I can’t really speak to the experiences of raising children or anyone else’s life having done so, but reading this post because I essentially am one of those children. My parents were raised Catholic but never took me or my sister to church (mostly out of apathy and packed schedules, not a conscious attempt to do anything) and encouraged our eduction. I was always very INTERESTED in religion but ultimately decided/realized I didn’t believe it.

    Having said that, there’s still an element of rebellion involved, because my father’s family is still extremely religious and I’m… less than fond of them, and the influence of the religious right is one of those things that a lot of my peers cite as giving them a negative impression of Christianity/religion. So maybe rebellion still is a large part of it.

  2. Ferrari Naptime said,

    I’ve had this exact thought, minus the womb part, because I don’t have a womb part. Like your friends, I intend to teach my kids (who are getting old enough that religious family members are staring to put pressure on us to take them to church) about all of the major current religions, and I do anticipate them trying out a few when they are teens. I hope they do, because I want them to have the experience that you wrote about, where the power of critical thinking catches up to the power of mythology, and they have to divest themselves (hopefully) of the latter. That was an important moment for me when I was a teen, and I’d hate it if my kids missed out.

  3. Hectorskeltor said,

    Religion is a bunch of easy answers to hard questions, protected by “faith” and “belief”. You said it yourself, no one has the right or wrong answer, but, plain and simply, religion is a cheap and easy way out. I’ll speak for myself when I say that no one needs religion to make humanistic/humanitarian/humane decision. Religion is human made. Humans aren’t made from religion.

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