It’s no secret that I’m not a big fan of organized religion. I was raised Mormon, and while I acknowledge my parents had the best intentions when deciding to raise me in the church, I also realize their parents raised them in the church and so they knew no other way.
Some time ago I wrote a post called Church and Children: The Difference Between Sharing Your Beliefs and Telling Them What To Believe wherein I explain the spiritual/religious approach I’ve taken thus far:
“From the moment of my birth I wasn’t given a choice. I was told what to believe, told what was “true.” Belief is intensely personal and telling someone, even a toddler, what they should believe is never the right path. Like the late, great Whitney sang, all you can do is “teach them well.” There’s a huge difference between teaching your child well and telling them what to believe.
You might argue that you take your kids to church and teach them to learn the “truth” for themselves and pray about it. That’s a lot of pressure to put on an 8-year-old, a 10-year-old, who has been attending church since birth which is, essentially, being told what to believe. Hell, that’s a lot of pressure for an adult. And, if they haven’t been exposed to other religions, other options, other ways of thinking, that isn’t choice. Not intellectual choice, anyway. Choice is based on information and knowledge. Having all the information and making an informed decision. And still, I don’t think anyone at that age is capable of making a definitive lifestyle choice like spiritual/religious belief.”
So yeah, God hasn’t been a huge part of Violet’s life thus far. And now I’ve gone and registered her at a Catholic pre-school. It even has a tombstone smack dab in front of the church memorializing all of God’s children murdered by abortion and everything. Oh boy. Fingers crossed she’ll be well out of pre-school before she starts asking me questions about that… But I am anticipating she’ll have a question or two about this God character everyone’s likely going to be talking about or to when they pray before meals.
I registered her at this particular school because it’s the best one around according to everyone I’ve spoken with, including a non-religious child psychologist from the area. And the thing of it is, even though most organized religions and those who desperately believe terrify me, I want Violet to be familiar with organized religion. I want her to know or to at least have a taste of what it’s all about and what better way than this? Now, I wouldn’t send her to a Catholic school during elementary age or older because that, in my vast religious experience, is when the real indoctrination begins. But, for now, I actually think being familiar with “God” and prayer would expand her spirituality. Not that I think God is the path to spirituality, mind you, but he’s definitely the goal for millions of people across the world so her being somewhat familiar with the machinations of it all is nothing in my mind but beneficial.
My goal, in a nutshell, is to insert God into her ever-growing lexicon. That’s all. As she gets older I hope to introduce her to many other religions with the admonition that everyone should choose what/if they want to believe and if something speaks to her she should explore it. I will also explain to her that organized religion isn’t for me. That I subscribe to a policy that leaves more room for folks who don’t discriminate against anyone for who they love, a policy that doesn’t include subordination or automatic reverence for a man or woman of the cloth. That she shouldn’t necessarily believe that anyone who takes the sacrament or stuffs a wafer in their mouth on Sunday is God’s mouthpiece. Nobody speaks for God but you. In other words, God is whatever you want it to be. At the same time, she should respect everyone else’s interpretation of God as well. Unless it involves discriminating against or hurting others.
So. Catholic pre-school. Kicks off this August. That give me half a year to prepare her to not shout “What the hell?” when the teacher suggests they bow their heads in prayer. How can I best prepare her for some of the things she’s about to experience? Namely, I’d like to introduce her to the concept of God but I’m not sure how to frame the discussion. So far the dialogue I run in my head makes God sound a lot like Santa Claus. “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows when you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake!”
But see, that’s everyone else’s interpretation of God. Especially that last part about how he knows when you’ve been bad or good. Typical religious guilt right there – which I want to avoid at all costs. So I’m wondering how to frame the concept of God to her when it isn’t one I feel comfortable with. How to explain such an abstract concept to a 4-year-old? It’s what I’m struggling with. But maybe I’m making it too hard? Yeah, I’m probably making it too hard because of my own background.
When I really get down to brass tacks, here is what I want for my daughter or, if you will tolerate such terminology from a godless heathen such as myself; Prayers For My Daughter:
Open Mind 1 of 8No one belief system is right so no one belief system can be wrong.
Avoid Stereotypes 2 of 8Just because someone goes to church or is religious doesn't necessarily mean they're a "good" person in the same way that people who don't go to church or believe in a god aren't necessarily "bad" people.
Never Stand For Discrimination Dressed Up As Dogma 3 of 8Respect the beliefs of people unless they discriminate or hurt others.
Find The Beauty 4 of 8Every religion contains many beautiful lessons to be learned.
Study Your Heart 5 of 8Nobody really knows the truth about God, especially not the ones who say they do. The truth lies within you.
The Human Spirit Is Paramount 6 of 8The idea of the human spirit or your spirituality is the most important, not a bunch of arbitrary and possibly discriminatory rules or mandates.
Always Question Authority 7 of 8Whatever you choose to believe you should always follow your own heart above any book, teacher or religious leader.
Find Your Truth 8 of 8Find yourself in the ways that feel right and true to you.
You can also find Monica on her personal blog, The Girl Who. Read more from Monica on Babble:
- Here Comes The Bride: History of Weddings From The 20th Century (PHOTOS)
- This Valentines Day Get It Right: The 14 Most Incredible Hotel Rooms On Earth!
- A Dad And His Daughter: A Photo Series
- 2012 In Photos: You Don’t Need A Pro or An Expensive Camera To Get Awesome Photos of Your Family
Top Image: chicagoparents.com