Wednesday, September 20, 2006

All of the answers?

Someone who wishes to remain anonymous, but is a member of my extended family writes: "The Catholic Church gave us a sense of comfort...it answered all of our questions. How do you raise your children without being able to assure them that God is the answer to all things unexplainable? Wouldn't you consider it to be bad parenting to cause your kids unnecessary fear about the world, all because you're too stubborn to give God credit for the things you can't explain?"

With all due respect, I don't find a dictatorship comforting. I also don't find pat answers comforting. I especially don't find irrational and dismissive answers "comforting". Honestly, I was continually frustrated, as a child, whenever I asked an adult (parent, priest, nun, or otherwise) for an answer and they said: "God." It frustrated me because it seemed like they were dismissing my curiosity and, often, shaming me into quiet submission. The squeaky wheel does not get greased in Catholicism (and I suspect, most religions!): the squeaky wheel gets a guilt trip and a lazy response.

When my children ask me a question that I can't answer, I respect their curiosity enough to consider their question! Hell! I encourage them to ask me hard questions. As a parent, what's wrong with admitting that you don't have all of the answers? I find that saying "You know...I don't know the answer to that question. But, I'll help you find it." to be a hell of a lot more comforting than a lie. When I think back on my childhood, one of the things that pisses me off the most is the shear number of lies I was told by adults. It made them, in my mind, less reliable and/or wise. I try not to lie to my children. I also try to answer their questions in ways that encourage further exploration and discovery. I think part of the damage in defaulting to the "God did it." answer is that you're setting yourself up in a defensive position and you're undermining your own authority. If I say, to my child, "I don't know...but, let's see what we can find out.", you're not closing the door on any explanation or answer. I also don't fear being wrong or proven wrong. If, at some point, my answer turns out to be wrong, I can always say (with complete confidence): "I'm sorry. I was wrong. I was working with the best tools I had at the time." I think children are comforted when they see that their parents are consistent and willing to discuss ALL of the issues and possiblities.

As for the last part of your question: No, I don't consider my method to be bad parenting. Nor do I feel it instills a greater level of fear. I know fear. Religion, especially Catholicism, made me fear for my soul and my life every farking day of the year for twenty-six years! Frankly, there's a lot more "unknown" in religion than there is in reality. I can prove many, many more things to my children using scientific method and common sense than I can prove to them with religion. Since humans usually fear the unknown... I figure I'm doing better than the average priest at calming fears. I'm sure some of the commenters will weigh in on this...but, I would be willing to bet that religion actually gives one MORE to fear, and with less proof that there's actually a threat!

Is it bad parenting to teach my children that I am, in fact, capable of making mistakes? Is it bad parenting to learn with them and allow their curiosity to guide their exploration (within the guidelines of safety)? Is it bad parenting to relieve them of all of the guilt and strife that accompanies adhearance to a religion? I think not.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How do you know God doesn't exist?