I wanted to write about a comment I received recently. Here’s an excerpt:
“Free thinking” parents make me laugh. You want the exact same thing that religious parents want. You want your kids to grow up believing the same things that you do, the same things that you taught them.
The person who wrote this clearly has some misconceptions about raising kids as freethinkers. We do not want the “exact same thing that religious parents want.” I’m sure Beep is not the only person who thinks this way, so I’m going to write a little about what freethinking parents actually want for their kids and how they approach parenting.
First, if you’re so inclined, a little Wiki primer for you.
If you don’t have time to read through Wiki, I’ll tell you the short version. We don’t tell our kids what to think.
Exceptions: Don’t swallow poison. Don’t look at the sun. Treat others as you want to be treated.
Save for the dangerous absolutes and the Golden Rule, we (freethinking moms and dads) try to approach parenting like the dialogue that follows. I’ll use a question my kid once asked me as an illustration. This is similar to what many parents are asked by their children:
Child says: “Mom (or Dad). Do you think there’s a heaven?”
Free-Thinking Parent Says: “Hmmm. What do you think?” Pause…..”Where would it be?” Pause….”How would you get there?” Discussion…. “What part of you would go?” Long pause. Big questions. Thinking…. “What would you do forever and ever?” A little theoretical pondering…. “Does the idea make sense from what you know of the world?”
A discussion of the possibilities ensue. The free-thinking parent does not say, “Hell no, James! There is no heaven, and you’re going
straight to hell to be punished for believing that!” We, of course, know that coercing or forcing our kids to believe in something that does not make sense will just make them rebel. We let them come to their own conclusions because we want them to grow and exercise their faculties of logic and reason. We give them choice. We empower them.
We understand that a belief is just that. It is accepting an idea as true that has no underpinnings to support it. This is why atheism is not a belief system, but rather a lack of belief in someone else’s unproven thoughts, fears, and ideas. If our children rationally decide to believe in God, then they will have, we hope, their own reasons. And they’ll understand that belief in God is ultimately not based on reason, that there is a leap of faith that leaves logic behind.
On the other hand, as Beep confessed, religious parents want their kids to believe exactly as they do. That means, they want them to believe in the supernatural, in miracles and ghosts and evil spirits. They want them to grow up in fear of God’s authority and the Devil’s power. They want them to choose to do the right thing, to be kind and giving and considerate, under duress. What sort of morality is that? They want them to believe in things that cannot be seen, cannot be proven, and cannot even be understood.
Religious child: “Mom. Why did God let my friend Johnny die?”
Religious mom: “No one knows but God. It’s not for us to understand.”
That is the difference between freethinking parents and religious parents.
Did I leave something out?