Sunday, November 30, 2008

Kids vs. Religion, continued

Two years ago (!) we at Daddy Dialectic had a very good, substantial discussion about whether kids need religion. (The original post was written by contributor Chip, who is now "retired" from blogging.)

The discussion continues. A fellow named Wes stopped by and posed some interesting questions: How do agnostics best approach the Christmas season and traditions with their children? At what age would you begin cultivating that appreciation of the differences between the faiths? At Jewish Community Center preschool (which my gentile son attends), if asked by another child if he is Jewish, what would your child say? And so on.

I confess that I've only given Wes some half-baked responses; I'm too distracted by holiday activities to come up with something coherent. But perhaps you, dear reader, have intelligent things to say? You can leave them here or revisit that discussion thread.


Howard said...

Yes, this is interesting. The only substantial comment I can make is of my experience. We raise my 6-year old, Zoe, in the Unitarian Universalist religion. That said, I think religion will stick to a child as much as it does to their parents. My wife was raised in a non-Jewish faith that celebrated Xmas and Easter and I was raised Jewish (Bar Mitzvah'ed and all). However, neither of us have any allegiance to our parents faiths. I prefer not practicing any organized religion but my wife likes the traditions and rituals of a church and if I were to be around any church, Unitarians have a high concentration of political activism which is something I like. I can barely swallow all the "church" things. I go so I can make connections in the peace community.

Zoe makes comments frequently about how Unitarians would not be mean or other such things. These comments of hers gives me the impression that she feels like she belongs to a faith, although I think it's completely separate from any idea of God or a a higher being.

We celebrate the rituals of Xmas, Easter, Chanukah and we even have a seder every other year or so. We just attended a Bar Mitzvah for my cousin in Connecticut and it was my wife and childs first exposure to a Jewish religious ceremony. I forgot how much Hebrew you have to read and chant!

Leslie said...

I am an agnostic with my own set of spiritual beliefs that are taken from all sorts of religions. This year I bought a nativity scene (made by Playmobil - I wanted the kids to be able to play with it without worrying if it was going to get broken)to put out at Christmas. Even though I have issues with a lot of Christianity, I feel like part of my job is to educate my children about religions. So, at Christmas, I teach them the story of the birth of Jesus. At other times I tell them about other religions (we just talked about the Hindu New Year, for example).

I could recite a list of reasons as long as my arm why I think organized religion is not a good thing a lot of the time. However, I still think that my children need to have a working knowledge of most of the major religions. Part of it is to understand the culture they and others live in. The other part is so that they have a background upon which to make their own decisions about religion/faith/spirtuality as they grow up.

Jeremy Adam Smith said...

Good responses. Thanks to you both.

Howard, Liko knows quite a lot of Hebrew! Perhaps he could give you some pointers next time you visit?

Anonymous said...

2 years? wow! time flies. (on that note, my daughter's off to college next year!!)

Anyway, as I've explained before, my kids are familiar with christian beliefs, about jesus, christmas etc etc. And we celebrate christmas but really as a secular holiday.

we get a tree and decorate it, we have a party for the solstice, we have gifts they open christmas morning, stockings etc etc. It's a ritual but while they know the religious background, and the fact that many people who celebrate christmas do believe the bible stories, we and they see it as just a festive, restful day. We enjoy our tree all lit up, our fireplace, the disorder of wrapping paper strewn around, the cookies, music, etc.

We also go visit my parents on christmas day, and they are believers (though not in-your-face about it), so they've experienced that religious view of it too.

So from the youngest age, christmas for my kids wasn't really religious, but they did understand that for many (most?) Americans it is a religious holiday.

Variations On A Theme said...

I'm sure I'm being a dork by commenting on a post from so long ago, but this topic carries such weight in my life.

I'm from a fundamentalist Christmas background (long skirts, no T.V. and all) and am now "something" spiritual, but don't think I can claim Christianity anymore.

I want my kids to grow up to be open and sensitive to all people and all religions, but we're raising them in a Christian church, because we live in the Bible Belt. At some point in their lives, they will come up against those fundamentalists who raised me, and I don't want that to be their understanding of Christianity.

So we chose a mainly liberal church, where there's a sense of graciousness, openness and validation of other religions and all lifestyles.

Also, I'm pretty sure that very soon my mother-in-law is going to try to get my eldest to "ask Jesus into her heart," so that she'll be saved from eternity in hell.

I want my girl to have enough of a background in our Christian church to see that's not a necessary part of "being a Christian."