The one thing I wish I was taught as a kid was how to think and not be told what to think.
We were all taught to think that life has a higher purpose, that there is a judgment day, that this life’s action will help shape your next life, that we need to be good if we want to have a happy life, etc. A lot of this was hitched to God’s wagon or to religion’s.
In its ideal form, religion is a school, a school for the masses to learn about the wrong and the right, to learn about the meaning of life, to also learn about humanity and our role in this world, and several other things that range from how we should treat people and other living beings to what we should do to give back to the world. Most of what religion teaches us is philosophical, which can be applied to everyday life. So essentially, just another way of educating people.
Before we venture into what we should teach our children about religion, let me tell you what I was taught and how my thinking progressed from what it was.
I come from a very religious family, by that I mean that as a kid I was surrounded by God-loving and God-fearing people. I was exposed to the idea of God as a giver and a Savior. You ask relentlessly and He will give. There were a few other technicalities to it like you have to ask from your heart, you have to be a good person, do good deeds, never do anything impure, always believe in God, thank him, and pray to him 555 times a day among other things. In short, I was exposed to the idea of God, but not the ideologies of a religion. Religion to me was this God who was my supreme father and answered my prayers when I behaved like a good girl. Fair enough, I liked this idea of God. Until the time came where I would ask and ask and He just wouldn’t care. I was a good girl and all that, but all in vain. I got angry, started to question what this God is and where he is. When I tried to speak about it with people around me, they told me not to question God and not to think about all these things.
All I had to do was continue this game of blind faith and good things would happen. I was given examples of Lord Rama, Sita, Hanuman, Arjun, the old lady whose cancer went away because she prayed, and stories of faith, religion, and healing. The idea of religion and faith and God and Faith made sense. However, I couldn’t find a way to plug in God and Religion. It just seemed like God was being used by religion to impart some knowledge into because otherwise I wouldn’t listen. Basically, good things were being preached to me by the help of this protagonist that they called God.
It took me a while to gather my thoughts and really understand how I felt about all this. I’m still struggling with my idea of a religion and what I learnt from it, because I was never given the opportunity to think of it from my perspective. I was given the commandments, no question asked or answered. When I turned 21 or something, my mind was being plagued by an array of questions, some of which were –
“Is there something like God or is it a fragment of the imagination of billions of people?” I found a flaw with my own question. What do I mean by God, what can or cannot be God? Can I define it? In all these years, I did not think of this question once, simply because I was busy feeding the thoughts I were given as a legacy from my family, friends, and my religion ever since I was a kid.
“If there is a God, can I connect to God without connecting to a particular religion?” When I asked for answers to this question, I came to understand that God and Religion are in fact two very different things. We’ve made them feed off each other, but they don’t really have to. Religion is nothing but a group of people who came together because of their similar set of beliefs. God, on the other hand, is a lot more complicated than that, because the idea of a supreme God forces you to think outside the basics of religion. Religion defines God, God, when isolated from religion, can be anything and anyone. It can be an angel in the sky or a pig in the gutter. It can be the atoms or the energy around. It can be you, me, or just my thoughts.
“If God is one and we are all the children of one God, how come all these different religions?” Maybe by one they only meant people belonging to a particular region or land mass. I can’t find an answer to this question, because I am a Hindu, you are a Christian, she is a Muslim. We’re definitely all humans, but If we believe that we’re all children of that one God, then why have we divided ourselves into religions. We need to plug the God out of religion to make sense of that statement.
As you can see my thoughts are still pretty much all over the place with what I learned from religion and what I should have. But I do know that I went from being a God-loving, God-fearing little girl to a God-questioning girl, and a lot of my skepticism came from how I was taught to think of religion and what I actually ended up seeing around me as I grew up.
That brings us to the question – “What should we teach our children or those around us about religion?”
In my opinion, very little. The more we try to teach religion, the more we defy its purpose. Many of you might not agree to this, but that’s absolutely fine. Let’s talk about what you think about it and we can maybe come up with a balanced solution, but for now, hear me out.
I think first things first, let’s not teach our Children about God by teaching them about religion. This mixing of the two causes confusion and separates us from “the one world” idea. It’s safe to say that to teach about religion and God, we need to first lose our religion.
Yes, step put out of your religion and then talk about religion. You’d be surprised how much sense you’ll make. You’ll start to realize that you would be able to fit all the God’s that you’ve ever heard of to your view of a religion.
If you don’t intend on raising children who share your religious label, but on children who share your values, who don’t steal or cheat or judge or kill, or discriminate, who are humble, and who want to help the world around them become a better place, then you should hope to convey religion in its raw form, so that the next generation can decide what it all means to them. They can decide if God exists, they can decide if they want to believe in a religion and its teachings.
If your goal is to have your child or your family blindly follow your faith and add to the Christian, Hindu, Jew, or Muslim population of the world, then what I’ve been saying will not be of any use to you, sorry.
I’m not a religious person. My view of God and religion is very complicated. Because I was religious for a very long time and suddenly I find myself not inclined towards God or religion, I’m in a state of confusion. Should I fear God or Should I celebrate religion? Whoever, whatever God is. Go discover this on your own and let your children discover this on their own. Teach your friends, family, neighbors, kids, countrymen, and the world to create their own understanding of religion and God. Don’t tell them God said so, God didn’t, you did. Teach them to have a point of view, teach them to be free in their thoughts.
We cannot all be in the front lines, but we can inspire the next generation to learn more from religion than we did and hopefully the wars over religion, Gods, and land would finally see an end.
With that thought, cheers.