156 Monday Musings: God for the Young
Some conversations can lead to blogs, this is one of those.
As a parent myself and as an observer of parenting, i have witnessed many ways in which hobbies and habits are attempted to be inculcated in the young ones by excited and overzealous parents. There are two extremes in parenting - the "the child will figure things out- and i should keep away" types and at the other end is the "i need to know everything-i will control everything" (i think the term in vogue is helicopter parenting). Most fall in between. The object of intervention could be anything - dance, poetry, dramatics, painting, sports so on and so forth.
The two areas that i do not see much focus during parenting is 'managing money' and 'developing a religious/spiritual consciousness' - its the later that will be my focus today.
Religion and its true pursuit, spirituality, which come along with their myriad definitions, connotations and worldviews is not on the menu of 'things to do' for the child development, either because this subject is too overwhelming to an average adult, or he/she does not find it important enough. The belief probably is that this is an adult subject and the child will find his bearing on the religion he follows or the God he believes in on his own as he grows up.
If we believe history, then religion makes adults do strange things - from wars to persecution, from intolerance to bigotry, many wrongs have been committed in the name of some religion or some God. But does religion do any good to a child or an adolescent or better still, can it do any good to a growing up child?
I believe that developing and helping the child build a relationship with God based on conversation and not reverence can do a world of good to her. Taking the child to community place of worship, making her a part of community rituals of all kind and talking through those rituals make her develop a sense of community, which in this case may be of a limited kind as it is based on only shared faith/religion, but will go a long way in teaching her the merits of community life, which will come in handy when she does find the wisdom to belong to some community based on her free choice. Too many adults live the lives of a loner, may be because no one taught them to belong. Belonging takes courage, conviction and practice.
Experiencing places of worship and a conversation with a supreme power can be a good surrogate to teach the distinction of good and bad, right and wrong to an early mind, which at this stage is not ready to make that distinction based only on virtues like objectivity, rationality, ethics and principles. God or the idea of God becomes an anchor, to which the young rudderless mind can hold on to in times when she is unable to understand the vagaries and unpredictability of the world around her. This anchor and the relationship with God, however must be built and based on conversations and not purely on reverence, as it most often than not is the reality. God can be a friend for the young soul, to look for direction, for guidance and company to talk to, rather than a power that only punishes the offenders of the rules set by elders.
This is not the end of it however. All this while we must also provide the child enough sense of inquiry, enough sense of curiosity and most importantly enough sense of independent thinking, so that as she grows up she can question everything that we would have taught her, even the notion of God - and should she then conclude that God did not exist, or He was not worth the fuss, or all this brohuha about the right and wrong is a cartload of crap, then by all means allow her to conclude so.
An atheist based on inquiry and intellect is better than a believer without discovery. God can be a good rudder for the young.