Raising a freethinker

When I was thinking about topics to write about this was a topic I kept putting off because it feels a little bit risky to express my point of view with regard to religion and what role it will play in our upbringing of Diego. Since I am all for intellectual honesty and collaboration I decided to write this post. I may never know if it is read and how it is received but writing it will help me organize my thoughts on the matter. 

I grew up in a fairly secular household. We did not practice any faith, we did not go to church regularly and I was not made to say my prayers before bed each night. Most of my family is Catholic. My cousins were all baptized, went to Sunday School and had their Communion. My brother and I were not baptized. 

When I was younger I remember asking my mom why we weren’t and she explained that she felt that committing yourself to a faith was a big decision she did not feel a child could make and fully understand. She felt, as I do, that such things should be carefully considered and entered into out of free will. I was happy with her explanation and no longer felt left out when during mass I could not receive communion. What those wafers taste like I will never know. 

As a child I went to my fair share of religious services. I witnessed my cousins be baptized, attended wedding ceremonies, funerals, mass and I’ve also attended services in a non-denominational Christian Church. As I grew older I desperately wanted to explore and secure my faith. While at University I attended mass sporadically and when I moved to Florida I attended church regularly with my husband’s family. I made a good effort but I just didn’t feel it. I did not buy into it. I did not feel genuine in my belief. It felt forced and after a while I quit going to church. 

While I personally do not have faith and am not a believer I had the great fortune to learn about many different religions. This is what I would like for Diego. I want him to know what’s out there, know all points of view so that when he is older he can make his own decisions about what he believes. If as he’s growing up he is curious and wants to attend church I will happily accompany him. I want him to see and experience it all on his terms. 

I worry about well-meaning family and friends and the not-so-well-meaning as well because I know that raising a child in a secular home is frowned upon by many. Sometimes people try to overrule you and attempt to influence the children of others out of the erroneous belief that they are doing the right thing. I just hope that they extend to me the same courtesy I do to them and respect my beliefs and lack thereof. I don’t take issue with people who express their religious identity and perhaps it’s ignorant of me to assume that I will receive backlash for my worldview but I really feel as though being godless is seen as evil by a lot of people. 

I would like to share a few definitions for those who may wonder what the terms I’ve used in this post mean. 

Secular– not overtly or specifically religious. As Ed Buckner explains in his essay Secular Schooling, secular does not mean hostile towards religion.

Freethought- a philosophical viewpoint that holds opinions should be formed on the basis of logic, reason, and empiricism and not authority, tradition or other dogmas. The cognitive application of freethought is known as “freethinking” and practitioners of freethought are known as “freethinkers”.

While it’s still early on I have already had questions pertaining to Diego and religion. I do not wish to offend or engage anybody in an argument. We each raise our children with the intention of raising them to be decent human beings, productive members of society. I don’t know if Diego will grow up to be a minister or even a priest. Anything is possible and I will support him in whatever spiritual path he embarks on. My hope is that he arrives at his path on his own.

I’ve started doing some reading about this topic and have found a book that I am so far really enjoying. It presents different points of view on various topics and does so with tact. The book is called Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion. I will post a review on the book in a later post. 

Until next time!