Home > Faith and Spirituality, parenting > Parenting Beyond Belief… or on the fringes

Parenting Beyond Belief… or on the fringes

To those who have watched me walk this path over the last ten years, many of you walking your own paths very closely beside me, you know that it’s really hard for me to describe my spiritual beliefs in anything remotely close to an elevator speech. I usually refer people to page 14 of Eat, Pray, Love…

“In the end, what I have come to believe about God is simple. It’s like this– I used to have this really great dog. She came from the pound. She was a mixture of about ten different breeds, but seemed to have inherited the finest features of them all. She was brown. When people asked me,What kind of dog is that?” I would always give the same answer: “she’s a brown dog.” Similarly, when the question is raised, “What kind of God do you believe in?” my answer is easy: “I believe in a magnificent God.”

Elizabeth Gilbert, Source: Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia, Page: 14

So I signed up to take an Religious Ed class at church, and one of the first things we did in the first class was an exercise where you walked from one spectrum to the other in response to a series of questions. Needless to say, even in this class I didn’t always stand with the majority. I think I may be the only person in the class that believes in a higher power of any form. Some in the class and who attend regularly don’t even go so far as to identify as UU’s, though I assume that is something about our principles they find very appealing!

After some get to know you activities and introductions, we each took a chapter that we would read and present to the group, and if we so desired, select a question from the study guide for discussion. I chose Chapter 5, Values and Virtues, Meaning and Purpose. I decided to read at least all the chapters leading up to mine, and by the time I got to five, I had Shelly’s Comments on my mind… I looked at the study guide questions, and of course decided to come up with my own spin on this one… and I’m not entirely sure if I’ll still be on this by the time I get to class tomorrow and may go in a different direction entirely, so I’ll have some small group discussion with y’all.

2. McGowan says that nonbelievers too often fail to empathize with the religious impulse. Does the religious impulse seem utterly foreign to you? If so, what do you think accounts for the difference between your view and that of someone for whom it is not only comprehensible but indispensable?

Rather than focusing on what accounts for the difference between our view of the divine (or lack thereof), how as Unitarian Universalists/friends of a UU congregation do we go about raising freethinking children in a manner consistent with UU principles, particularly the first (The inherent worth and dignity of every person), third (Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations) and fourth (A free and responsible search for truth and meaning) and honors all of our UU sources, including the fourth (Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves).

Some who found their way to UUism were never believers, and others have painful deconversion memories… but most of us agree that we often feel under seige from time to time by varying degrees of pressure to conform to a mainstream christian culture that just didn’t fit. Some of us struggle with kneejerk reactions to mainstream religion. How do we emulate respect and empathy for people who don’t necessarily respect us? How do we avoid becoming so rigid in our own belief or non-belief that we are unable to accept our children’s spirituality should it depart from ours?

If you’ve been tagged in this, it’s because you are or love UU’s (wink) or I know you’ve enoyed participating in these kinds of religious conversations in the past. Except for Shelly, cuz I have no idea but it seemed wrong not to give a nod to the person who had me thinking a lot harder about my assignment than I probably would have otherwise. You don’t have to be tagged to participate, so feel free to comment… this is a public thread.

I’ve included some excerpts from chapter 5 and 2, which I’ve enoyed most so far, and an answer to a FAQ I think was relevant.

from “Seven Secular Virtues” by Dale McGowan

Securlar parents must be on guard against a particular failure of empathy – the failure to recognize and understand the religious impulse. Too many non0believers shake their heads contemptuously at the very idea of religious belief, failing to recognize religion for what it is – and understandable response to the human condition. Let me repeat that: If the religious impulse seems completely incomprehensible to you, I humbly sugest that you don’t fully grasp the human condition.

from “On Being Religiously Literate” by the Rev. Dr. Roberta Nelson:

An important part of this literacy is the recognition that humans have a “spiritual” dimension, broadly defined – a yearning for meaning and purpose, a connection to the rest of humanity and life on Earth, a sense of existential wonder and mystery. Whether expressed theistically or secularly, it is a part of being fully human.

and a FAQ from the book website:

Aren’t these books just encouraging indoctrination in a different direction?

The defining value of freethought is the right of individuals to think for themselves. Childhood indoctrination of any kind denies that right. Parents instill values, but choosing a worldview that expresses those values must be in the hands of the individual. Children should not be labeled in any way. Parenting Beyond Belief and Raising Freethinkers underline the importance of keeping children open and “undeclared” so they can freely self-identify with the worldview of their choice when they are older.

via Facebook | Cyndi Whitmore: Parenting Beyond Belief… or on the fringes.

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