The following is a reprint of a post from my blog Oklahoma Lefty.
Religion and Children
Children can be very impressionable. They can also absorb information like a sponge. And they’re often a lot smarter then we adults realize. So taking all of that into consideration, when is it a good time to introduce children to religion?
This is something that I have wondered about for a while and wrote about once, but admittedly I’m still not sure what to do with my own kids. My wife grew up in the Lutheran Church and I grew up in the Episcopal Church but neither of us are religious in the traditional way (she’s an agnostic and I’m a deist with Buddhist/Hindu leanings). Our children were baptized in the Lutheran Church that my wife grew up in but we did that more out of tradition and for the family then for our kids or their salvation or anything like that. Occasionally our kids have gone back to that church when they’ve spent the night at their grandparents’ and my daughter has gone to church, a non-denominational one, with her best friend after having spent the night at her house. Beyond that we don’t go to church. From time to time our kids ask questions about God or Jesus and typically I answer in generalities saying things like “some people believe…” or “that’s what some folks think” but I always leave the answer open to interpretation (for lack of a better term).
I want my kids to have their own beliefs about God and faith and not just mirror what my wife and/or I believe. I want them to make informed and educated decisions when they are ready to do so. I do not want to indoctrinate them in mine or anyone else’s faith.
But what is the best way to accomplish this goal?
And to some degree, aren’t all organized religions guilty of indoctrination?
One of these days I would love to take my children to a variety of different religious services, but my choices in that regard in the Oklahoma City area are a bit limited (at least based on what I’ve been able to find through the yellow pages). On top on that, I work nights and on Sunday’s, so the thought of getting up early on a day that I don’t have to (especially during the school year) does not appeal at all to me. I want my kids to see and experience the beauty and wisdom of the world’s religions and then to make their decision based on those experiences and exposures.
I do not believe for a minute that my children will be damned to hell if they don’t pick the “right religion.” Their deeds in life will determine their fate and it is my job to help them to prepare to make the best decisions possible, to be good and moral people, to live ethically, and to treat others with kindness and respect. These are the values that we are instilling in our kids and honestly we don’t need a church or a religion to tell us to do it. We do it because it is the right thing to do.
So what to do? Well, I think that I’m going to find some Buddhist and Hindu artwork to put up in the office (we had a Buddha statue and a Hindu wheel of life painting in my house as a kid) and as my studies in Religious Studies continue, I’ll introduce my children to different concepts that I’m studying.
But I’d like to hear from other parents. How have you broached the subject of religion with your children? When do you think is the right time to introduce children to religion?