That question is a mega-hot button one, especially for parents like me, who love their kids more than anything.
I’d like to think that there is a nice, tidy paradise of a kingdom waiting for me when I croak, but I have to be honest. I don’t have to venture too deep down into my bones until I hit a lot of resistance to that idea.
I was raised to believe, mind you. I was an altar boy and a regular churchgoer for most of my youth, and I still feel like the peacefulness I encountered at many Christmas Eve services are some of the coolest moments I have ever known.
Still, something never really clicked for me when it came to religious faith. So much of it seemed so old, so outdated.
Sometimes I suspect that I might have found a bit more faith within me had the people in my church occasionally raised a question or three about the antiquated directions the Bible often seemed to point us in. No one ever did though. When I peered out over my stuffy pew, I never saw anyone raising their hands. I never heard even a single word of dissent about anything the pastor had said. Mostly, everyone just sat there, week after week, praying whenever the guy told them to pray, singing when he told them sing, rising when he told them to rise.
As I grew older, I began to drift away from the moors of believing. Out with certain tides I went, asking serious questions as I floated off by my lonesome. I spent years and years looking long and hard at what I had been taught in Bible stories and sermons and Sunday school until one day, not all that long ago, when I was in my late-30s, I began to fall asleep at night thinking to myself that all the stars in the sky were so beautiful and majestic, but maybe they were not the work of some unseen keeper of the universe.
Perhaps, I told myself, they are so beautiful and majestic because they are all that on their own — without any God involved at all.
Suddenly, the idea of living a good and decent life took on a whole lot more meaning to me. The way I saw it in that moment, and continue to see it to this day, is that people ought to be living right and treating each other with love and respect, because they really feel that way and not because they are following the words of some deity or particular religion.
What if we are all, by our very nature, just as good or bad as we allow ourselves to be?
What if our lives aren’t lightly dictated or even casually observed by a higher power with an all-seeing eye?
And what if we taught our own children the idea of spreading love and goodwill and peace because that’s exactly what Mom and Dad believe in their hearts. What if parents showed their kids, by example, how they walk the walk in their lives on a daily basis, their actions and words, their core values and beliefs, dictated by nothing more than a firm faith in their own individual power to help change the world and make it a better place?
I think about my kids every three or four seconds most days, so a lot of this has to do with them too. Most people would assume that you might just naturally want to believe in God to make sure that your kiddos get into Heaven or whatever. But not me.
I mean, what if each and every single life that has ever been lived in the history of this world (including mine and yours and our kids’), what if the end result of those lives is simply the direct result of how each of us, individually, decided to act and live and love during our time on Earth, with no religious influence at all, no price to pay or reward to claim hanging over our heads?
Wouldn’t we be thinking for ourselves in a way? Wouldn’t it be kind of cool if we knew there was no afterlife and therefore made the very best of the only life that we will ever likely know?
Just think about that for a second.
These days, the closer I get to my own inevitable demise (it’s coming/it always has been) the more I find myself enchanted by the more scientific approach to all of this. And I hope that my kids sense that in me before long, and at least consider what lies in my heart and drives my soul as much as they consider the thunderous booms of religion always thumping away all over the landscape; often in the guise of a crotchety, and yes, violent brontosaurus stumbling yard to yard, porch to porch, eating the stale bread people habitually throw out for him, day after day, year after year, century after century, until he’s bloated and gassy and tired to the point of exhaustion.
If I had one wish, one ultimate dream for my kids, for all the kids, it would be a world where humanity would someday soon find itself driven by an ultra-modern and cutting edge belief system, a system built upon our own constant self-surveillance of the ever-changing world around us.
Humanity, rolling with the punches as time goes by.
To me, this system sounds way better, and frankly, a whole lot more spiritualized, than the alienation, wars, in-fighting and political posturing, all the power-mongering, and consistent exclusion from equality that have come to penetrate and define practically every crevice of organized religion in our era.
Look, when it comes to very young minds, I know issues of God and religion and spirituality should be a singular choice, maybe even the most personal choice any of us will ever make. I’m not naive or careless enough to think that children can make that decision on their own.
But that’s my whole point exactly, you see.
In a lot of ways, the more I think about it, the more I firmly believe that future generations ought to be given extreme license to go free range wandering all over the moral and intellectual galaxy before they ever settle into such an enormous, heavy groove as commitment to one God or religion or dogma.
Weird as it seems, I’m not sure that the idea of raising kids religion-free, for at least the first 15 years or so of their lives, until they are old enough to search and decide for themselves, is an idea that has ever even crossed a lot of loving, intelligent parents’ minds at all.
Maybe, it’s time that it does.
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