The idea behind this article intrigues me. I love the idea of allowing children to choose their own faith (or lack thereof). One of the biggest issues I’ve had with organized religion throughout my life is the idea that there is only one true religion. This idea is passed down from generation to generation without children really having the opportunity to explore other religions. They simply grow up with the same faith as their parents without really exploring their own beliefs. As a Protestant Christian, with all of its varieties and peculiarities, this never made sense to me.
On the other hand, there is something to be said for religious education during childhood and early adolescence. How else can one truly learn about religion? Throughout that process, how do you help your child be open to learning about other religions and exploring their faith while learning yours? It is a tough question, and one that parents should discuss with their kids. Even if parents don’t explicitly talk about religion with their children often, children will still pick up on their parents’ attitudes toward different religions.
In all of this, I was incredibly lucky as a child. Even though my parents’ weren’t overly religious, my Mom insisted that my siblings and I had what she called a “religious education.” We were baptized and confirmed. We attended Sunday school and church camp. I even spent some time as part of MYF. My Mom had had all of these experiences growing up and wanted the same for her children.
At the same time, we were raised to respect different religions. In fact, as a small child, I attended Mass with my Catholic neighbors almost as often as I attended church with my parents. My neighbor and babysitter taught Catechism for decades, and thanks to my parents’ openness, I even attended her class a time or two. Growing up in a predominately Catholic community, I am grateful that I had those experiences. When you have a better understanding of other religions, conditions such as those that existed in Ireland during the 1970s and 1980s – Catholics versus Protestants, neighbor against neighbor – become incomprehensible. To this day, I cannot imagine judging anyone based on religion alone.
The funny thing is that until fairly recently, I was highly skeptical of organized religion. While I did believe in God, I did not necessarily see the need for organized religion. Discussing all of this with my Mom, she blames herself for passing that skepticism on to me. Personally, I’m glad I questioned my faith and organized religion. Now that I see its intrinsic value, I knew what to look for in a church, and ultimately, I am that much stronger in my beliefs.