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his book is for parents who want to teach their child about God in a way that is consistent with the modern world and the discoveries of science. It explores different ways of conceiving of God besides the anthropomorphic being we learned about as children. It addresses the role of God in moral development, the meaning of prayer in a scientific world, and the special problems of children who have become addicted to drugs or alcohol. It concludes with an Appendix that describes the major religions of the world in a clear, objective and readable way. Correia argues: “Knowing the basics of what others believe helps bridge the gap of misunderstanding and builds respect and tolerance.” Edward Correia is a Washington D.C. attorney and Adjunct Professor of Law at American University’s Washington College of Law. He was Special Counsel to the President for Civil Rights in the Clinton White House and a Professor of Law at Northeastern School of Law where he was the school’s first Urban Law and Public Policy Distinguished Professor. He is the author of The Uncertain Believer: Reconciling God and Science (2009, 2011) and a recipient of a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Oklahoma College of Arts and Sciences.

9 781478 153337

EDWARD CORREIA

ISBN 978-1478153337

TEACHING YOUR CHILD ABOUT GOD IN A SCIENTIFIC WORLD

“A useful and effective approach to God for all young people, including young addicts. By viewing God above all as the inspiration for us to be loving and compassionate, it provides a path for young men who may who have no concept of ‘god’ at all until they enter the challenge of the 12-step program.” Rhea McVicker – Founder and Executive Director, Nick’s Place, a transitional home for young men in recovery from the disease of addiction

EDWARD CORREIA “A wake-up call to parents who may be tempted to take the approach of avoiding the topic of God, and a helpful guide for parents to find ways to foster compassion and interfaith understanding with their children. As a father of two young daughters, I am thankful for this work.” Dr. Mark Y. A. Davies, Ph.D. Dean, Petree College of Arts and Sciences Wimberly Professor of Social Ethics Oklahoma City University

TEACHING

your child

ABOUT GOD IN A SCIENTIFIC WORLD


Teaching Your Child About God In A Scientific World

E dwa r d C o r r e i a


Also by Edward Correia The Uncertain Believer: Reconciling God and Science (2009, 2011) The George Washington Constellation (2012)

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise, without the written permission of the author. Printed in the United States of America Copyright Š 2012 Edward Correia All rights reserved. ISBN: 1478153334 ISBN 13: 9781478153337


Also by Edward Correia The Uncertain Believer: Reconciling God and Science (2009, 2011) The George Washington Constellation (2012)

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise, without the written permission of the author. Printed in the United States of America Copyright Š 2012 Edward Correia All rights reserved. ISBN: 1478153334 ISBN 13: 9781478153337


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To My Mother


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Acknowledgments In an 1853 sermon on “Justice and the Conscience,” Unitarian Minister, Theodore Parker, included these powerful words: “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.” This sentiment was echoed by Martin Luther King, Jr., on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol in 1963. Both men were reflecting a fundamental optimism about humanity – a belief that, over the long run, societies move toward fairness, equality, and liberty for their citizens. It can be difficult to share this optimism. There is still considerable religious bigotry and intolerance in the world. One might argue, in fact, that there was greater tolerance for religious differences during the eighth and ninth centuries than there is in many parts of the Muslim world today. Many areas of Africa are in chaos or, if they have a functioning government, they are poorer and less economically productive than they were decades ago. Like Theodore Parker, we know that our eyes can see but a little ways into the future. We may be justified in concluding that, overall, the world is more just than it was a century ago, but we cannot be sure that things will be better a century from now. Can we be optimistic about intellectual progress? Over time, superstition and irrationality have tended to give way to a respect for empirical evidence, scientific principles, and rational inquiry. Fewer and fewer people believe that drought, epidemics, and floods are the result of God’s anger. Fewer people threaten violence toward those with different religious beliefs or claim that God is “on the side” of a particular country or ideology. This vii


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progress is not universal, of course. After each natural disaster, there are those, even in the United States, who claim that God was punishing one group or another. Religious fanatics still attack those with different beliefs, and the world is plagued with political conflicts that are exacerbated by religious differences. Despite overwhelming evidence for evolution and the process of natural selection, the leading Republican candidate for President claims that evolution is “just a theory.� And, many religious conservatives claim that the public policies they want are not simply a matter of political preference, but are ordained by God. Even if the long arc of history bends toward rationality and away from ignorance, superstition and intolerance, every generation must work to move us along the curve. In that spirit, it is the premise of this book that many parents want to introduce their children to the idea of God, but, at the same time, want to teach their children how to reconcile religious ideas with the principles of science. They want their children to be tolerant and respectful of others, even if they hold fundamentally different views. They want their children to be moral, self-accepting, and contented individuals, who can find a meaningful role for God and religion in their lives without rejecting the Big Bang, evolution, and the rest of what science teaches us about the nature of the universe. I hope this book can provide a small contribution to parents as they try to accomplish these goals. There are many people who helped me along the way with this book, including Mark Davies, Rhea McVicker, Tom Boyd, Patrick Phillips, John Gregory, Lisa Martin, Max Stein, and my wife, Carolyn Osolinik, all of whom gave me valuable comments. My mother, Lodema Clement, to whom this book is dedicated, also gave me useful comments, but, most of all, she and my father taught me the values that I celebrate in this book. I cannot claim to have learned them as well as I should, and I have certainly not been consistent in following them. But it is the lucky child indeed who has the privilege of having parents as wonderful as mine.

Table of Contents Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xi Chapter

Page

I.

What is Your Role? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

II.

What Do You Believe?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

III. What Do Children Believe?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 IV.

What Should You Teach Your Children?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31

V.

Thinking Lessons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37

VI. Loving Lessons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 VII. Feeling Lessons. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55 VIII. God and Moral Development. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69 IX.

The Role of Prayer. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85

X.

Salvation: Can God Save Your Child from Hell on Earth?. . .95

XI. Letting Go. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107 Appendix: Religions of the World. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111 Sources And Further Reading. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 141 End Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 143 Index. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147

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progress is not universal, of course. After each natural disaster, there are those, even in the United States, who claim that God was punishing one group or another. Religious fanatics still attack those with different beliefs, and the world is plagued with political conflicts that are exacerbated by religious differences. Despite overwhelming evidence for evolution and the process of natural selection, the leading Republican candidate for President claims that evolution is “just a theory.� And, many religious conservatives claim that the public policies they want are not simply a matter of political preference, but are ordained by God. Even if the long arc of history bends toward rationality and away from ignorance, superstition and intolerance, every generation must work to move us along the curve. In that spirit, it is the premise of this book that many parents want to introduce their children to the idea of God, but, at the same time, want to teach their children how to reconcile religious ideas with the principles of science. They want their children to be tolerant and respectful of others, even if they hold fundamentally different views. They want their children to be moral, self-accepting, and contented individuals, who can find a meaningful role for God and religion in their lives without rejecting the Big Bang, evolution, and the rest of what science teaches us about the nature of the universe. I hope this book can provide a small contribution to parents as they try to accomplish these goals. There are many people who helped me along the way with this book, including Mark Davies, Rhea McVicker, Tom Boyd, Patrick Phillips, John Gregory, Lisa Martin, Max Stein, and my wife, Carolyn Osolinik, all of whom gave me valuable comments. My mother, Lodema Clement, to whom this book is dedicated, also gave me useful comments, but, most of all, she and my father taught me the values that I celebrate in this book. I cannot claim to have learned them as well as I should, and I have certainly not been consistent in following them. But it is the lucky child indeed who has the privilege of having parents as wonderful as mine.

Table of Contents Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xi Chapter

Page

I.

What is Your Role? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

II.

What Do You Believe?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

III. What Do Children Believe?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 IV.

What Should You Teach Your Children?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31

V.

Thinking Lessons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37

VI. Loving Lessons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 VII. Feeling Lessons. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55 VIII. God and Moral Development. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69 IX.

The Role of Prayer. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85

X.

Salvation: Can God Save Your Child from Hell on Earth?. . .95

XI. Letting Go. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107 Appendix: Religions of the World. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111 Sources And Further Reading. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 141 End Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 143 Index. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147

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Introduction When I began to think about writing this book, I wondered what advice was available for parents who want to teach their children about God. At a local bookstore, I could find nothing on the shelves for parents with teenagers. On the other hand, there were many books for parents of children up to age nine or ten. All of the books for younger children were very traditional. They gave simple versions of Bible stories and introduced children to mainstream Christian or Jewish traditions in storybook form. All of them appeared to assume that, if parents want to teach their children about God, their own beliefs must be very traditional. None of the religious books hinted that the Bible might not present an accurate and modern picture of God or that there are very different approaches to teaching children about religion. I noticed that the adjacent shelves were filled with science books for children. Some of them were aimed at pre-schoolers. They dealt with a variety of science topics: geology, human anatomy, the solar system, and so on. A couple of books described evolution in an introductory way. The authors of the science books assumed that even eight year olds could begin to grasp the nature of the universe. I came away struck with the dramatic difference in approach. The religious books conveyed a view of the world that originated with our pre-scientific ancestors, whose first accounts were written more than two thousand years ago. The science books were as up to date as possible, given the demands of publishing and the young age of the audience. No science book, not even one for eight year olds, would be taken seriously if it failed to reflect the most recent discoveries possible. That is the nature of science – to keep us up to date on what we know about the world. Too often xi


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Te ach ing Your Child Ab out Go d I n A Sci en ti fic W o rld

the approach of religion is to cling to the past and ignore what we know about the world. This book is based on the assumption that many parents want to teach their children about God, but not the God that was described by our pre-scientific ancestors.

Once we move beyond views of God found in the Bible, there are many other possibilities. Aristotle’s God was something like pure thought contemplating itself. More modern philosophers and theologians have suggested different conceptions of God, ranging from Spinoza’s view of God as all of nature to Paul Tillich’s description of God as the “ground of being.” Religious humanists have proposed different conceptions of God, ranging from the creative force in the human personality to the spirit of hope and inspiration in nature. The American philosopher John Dewey suggested that we think of God as our “highest ideals.” Most of those writers who proposed different conceptions of God would still profess a belief in God and would reject the claim that they are atheists. In Chapter 2, I describe alternative ways of viewing God, including the conception of God that is most convincing to me. In brief, I argue that the best way to think of God is the collective ideal of compassion for others – what we might call the spirit of love in the universe. By “spirit” I do not mean a human-like consciousness that pervades the universe and has the power to change the course of history. Instead, I mean the shared value of compassion that exists in the consciousness of humans throughout the world, and, if there are intelligent beings on other planets, in their consciousness as well. At the social level, that collective ideal of compassion is passed from generation to generation. At the personal level, it exists in the attitudes and values held by ourselves and other individuals. Loving God means committing ourselves to live by this ideal as much as possible. In doing so, we are pursuing the highest purpose in life. We are trying to be as perfect as we can be. In my view, this conception of God is consistent with a long historical tradition of philosophers who felt that God is the force that inspires perfection in human beings. I originally set out this suggestion in a book that was published in 2009, called The Uncertain Believer: Reconciling God and Science. This book builds on that vision of God and makes some recommendations about how to talk about God with your children. If that conception of God is not persuasive to you, then you will want to think about a different approach. That is why this book does

Choosing our Conception of God A central theme of this book is that there are other ways to conceive of God besides the anthropomorphic being we learned about as children. You may find it odd to think of man as having a choice of how to conceive of God, but as Karen Armstrong argued in A History of God, humans have always decided how to imagine God. Pre-scientific humans viewed God as having the most important and valuable qualities they could imagine: the power to control nature and create the world. Modern humans have the ability to imagine a God with very different characteristics: the capacity to inspire us to be as perfect as we can be. Because we have the benefit of scientific discoveries, we do not need to rely on the idea of God to explain the development of the human species or even the creation of the universe. We have the ability to rethink our conception of God, to take into account the knowledge we have gained about our universe since humans began to conceive of God thousands of years ago. There are many ways to think of God besides the traditional God of the Bible. That is obvious if we consider how different cultures have viewed God or gods. Greek and Roman gods are very different from the traditional God of the Bible, although the God of the Old Testament shares some of the human weaknesses we see in the classical gods of Greece and Rome. The God of the Old Testament frequently loses his temper and acts impulsively, just as the gods of Greece and Rome did. Hindu gods are very different from Native American gods, and so on. Even if we focus on the great monotheistic traditions, God has been viewed differently by different cultures at different times. The God of the Old Testament is stern and temperamental. The God of the New Testament, embodied in Jesus himself, or God the Father as described by Jesus, is loving and forgiving. xii

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the approach of religion is to cling to the past and ignore what we know about the world. This book is based on the assumption that many parents want to teach their children about God, but not the God that was described by our pre-scientific ancestors.

Once we move beyond views of God found in the Bible, there are many other possibilities. Aristotle’s God was something like pure thought contemplating itself. More modern philosophers and theologians have suggested different conceptions of God, ranging from Spinoza’s view of God as all of nature to Paul Tillich’s description of God as the “ground of being.” Religious humanists have proposed different conceptions of God, ranging from the creative force in the human personality to the spirit of hope and inspiration in nature. The American philosopher John Dewey suggested that we think of God as our “highest ideals.” Most of those writers who proposed different conceptions of God would still profess a belief in God and would reject the claim that they are atheists. In Chapter 2, I describe alternative ways of viewing God, including the conception of God that is most convincing to me. In brief, I argue that the best way to think of God is the collective ideal of compassion for others – what we might call the spirit of love in the universe. By “spirit” I do not mean a human-like consciousness that pervades the universe and has the power to change the course of history. Instead, I mean the shared value of compassion that exists in the consciousness of humans throughout the world, and, if there are intelligent beings on other planets, in their consciousness as well. At the social level, that collective ideal of compassion is passed from generation to generation. At the personal level, it exists in the attitudes and values held by ourselves and other individuals. Loving God means committing ourselves to live by this ideal as much as possible. In doing so, we are pursuing the highest purpose in life. We are trying to be as perfect as we can be. In my view, this conception of God is consistent with a long historical tradition of philosophers who felt that God is the force that inspires perfection in human beings. I originally set out this suggestion in a book that was published in 2009, called The Uncertain Believer: Reconciling God and Science. This book builds on that vision of God and makes some recommendations about how to talk about God with your children. If that conception of God is not persuasive to you, then you will want to think about a different approach. That is why this book does

Choosing our Conception of God A central theme of this book is that there are other ways to conceive of God besides the anthropomorphic being we learned about as children. You may find it odd to think of man as having a choice of how to conceive of God, but as Karen Armstrong argued in A History of God, humans have always decided how to imagine God. Pre-scientific humans viewed God as having the most important and valuable qualities they could imagine: the power to control nature and create the world. Modern humans have the ability to imagine a God with very different characteristics: the capacity to inspire us to be as perfect as we can be. Because we have the benefit of scientific discoveries, we do not need to rely on the idea of God to explain the development of the human species or even the creation of the universe. We have the ability to rethink our conception of God, to take into account the knowledge we have gained about our universe since humans began to conceive of God thousands of years ago. There are many ways to think of God besides the traditional God of the Bible. That is obvious if we consider how different cultures have viewed God or gods. Greek and Roman gods are very different from the traditional God of the Bible, although the God of the Old Testament shares some of the human weaknesses we see in the classical gods of Greece and Rome. The God of the Old Testament frequently loses his temper and acts impulsively, just as the gods of Greece and Rome did. Hindu gods are very different from Native American gods, and so on. Even if we focus on the great monotheistic traditions, God has been viewed differently by different cultures at different times. The God of the Old Testament is stern and temperamental. The God of the New Testament, embodied in Jesus himself, or God the Father as described by Jesus, is loving and forgiving. xii

xiii


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Te ach ing Your Child Ab out Go d I n A Sci en ti fic W o rld

not stop with one point of view about the nature of God. It discusses several ways of viewing God in addition to the traditional image we see in the Bible. The primary goal of this book is to convince you to teach your child about God and to give you some suggestions for doing so, even if you do not share the same conception of God I have suggested. It is intended to help you – and ultimately your child – make up your own mind about how to think about God. It is not intended to persuade you to think about in God in a particular way. In the Appendix, I provide an overview of major religions of the world. These discussions are not intended to serve as a basis for a comprehensive introduction of your child to a particular religion. An entire volume or set of volumes can be required for that purpose. If you want to teach your child about Catholicism because you want your child to grow up believing the tenets of the Catholic faith, this book is not for you. Similarly, if you are a devout Muslim, and you want to introduce your child to Islam, this book only skims the surface of what Islam is about. This overview is included because your child (and you) should have a basic familiarity with the major religious traditions of the world, and there are few reader-friendly, objective summaries of them. Why do we all need to have this basic understanding? To take one example, the actions of Islamic radicals can create the impression that Islam is a violent religion that deserves little respect from the rest of the world. The reality is that the fundamental tenets of Islam, including the emphasis on loving one’s neighbor, are very similar to those of Judaism and Christianity. Thus, it is an important part of a child’s basic education to have some knowledge about Islam, as well as other major religious traditions. In short, this book is not for you if you want to provide a traditional religious education for your child. However, if you want to teach your children how to think about God and make up his own mind and if you want your child to consider a modern conception of God, then I believe this book can be helpful. The teenage years can be difficult ones, both for your child and you. Your job is to provide a foundation for your child to see the possibilities in his life, to believe in himself enough to take on the challenges he

will face, and to find a path to meaning and contentment. God can be one important building block in that foundation. If you can be the catalyst for your child to discover God and to work out for himself what God means in his life, you will have made a great contribution to your child’s development.

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Te ach ing Your Child Ab out Go d I n A Sci en ti fic W o rld

not stop with one point of view about the nature of God. It discusses several ways of viewing God in addition to the traditional image we see in the Bible. The primary goal of this book is to convince you to teach your child about God and to give you some suggestions for doing so, even if you do not share the same conception of God I have suggested. It is intended to help you – and ultimately your child – make up your own mind about how to think about God. It is not intended to persuade you to think about in God in a particular way. In the Appendix, I provide an overview of major religions of the world. These discussions are not intended to serve as a basis for a comprehensive introduction of your child to a particular religion. An entire volume or set of volumes can be required for that purpose. If you want to teach your child about Catholicism because you want your child to grow up believing the tenets of the Catholic faith, this book is not for you. Similarly, if you are a devout Muslim, and you want to introduce your child to Islam, this book only skims the surface of what Islam is about. This overview is included because your child (and you) should have a basic familiarity with the major religious traditions of the world, and there are few reader-friendly, objective summaries of them. Why do we all need to have this basic understanding? To take one example, the actions of Islamic radicals can create the impression that Islam is a violent religion that deserves little respect from the rest of the world. The reality is that the fundamental tenets of Islam, including the emphasis on loving one’s neighbor, are very similar to those of Judaism and Christianity. Thus, it is an important part of a child’s basic education to have some knowledge about Islam, as well as other major religious traditions. In short, this book is not for you if you want to provide a traditional religious education for your child. However, if you want to teach your children how to think about God and make up his own mind and if you want your child to consider a modern conception of God, then I believe this book can be helpful. The teenage years can be difficult ones, both for your child and you. Your job is to provide a foundation for your child to see the possibilities in his life, to believe in himself enough to take on the challenges he

will face, and to find a path to meaning and contentment. God can be one important building block in that foundation. If you can be the catalyst for your child to discover God and to work out for himself what God means in his life, you will have made a great contribution to your child’s development.

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I What is Your Role? To get the most benefit from this book, it is important that you believe that there is a role for you in talking to your children about God. You could take the position, as millions of parents do, that teaching your children about God is not your responsibility. Most parents rely on a minister or Sunday School to teach their children religious beliefs. They are content to hear what their child learned at church or to see what their child brings home from Sunday School. They accompany their child to important events in their child’s religious upbringing and they take their child to religious services, maybe every week or perhaps just on Easter and Christmas. In other words, they make sure their child has an opportunity to learn, but, as for their own role as a teacher, it is almost non-existent. At the other extreme, you could simply decide that God is an outdated concept and you would prefer that your children not worry about it. After all, they have a lot of other things to learn, like geography and chemistry. It is hard enough to get them to spend time focusing on anything besides television and computer games. Better that they spend their time on subjects that really matter. Both these approaches can mean a loss for you and your child. 1


E d wa r d C o r re i a

Te aching Your Child Ab out Go d I n A Sci en tifi c W o rld

Should You Let Someone Else Do It?

Forget the Whole Thing

There are two problems with the “let someone else do it” approach. First, you may not be comfortable with what your child is taught. Whoever teaches your child about God – and there are likely to be several – may talk about God in a way that you find intolerant or offensive or just plain silly. You cannot prevent your child from hearing about God from all kinds of sources: friends at school, television, other adults, and so on. However, you may want to at least compete for your child’s attention among the cacophony of ideas that he or she is going to hear. You have many advantages over others as your child’s teacher. First, you know your child better than anyone else – at least you should. Second, you have plenty of time with your child, if you choose to use your time that way. You can choose the setting, too. If you want to talk at home, that is as convenient as it gets. If you want to talk in the park, you can do that, too, as long as you are willing to take the time. And, most important of all, you have instant credibility, at least until your child reaches a certain age. Your child comes into the world believing that you are the greatest source of love and wisdom and support that they will ever know. That image lasts at least for a while, and, even though your child will eventually learn that you are not infallible, she may look to you for wisdom for the remaining years you have to share. The other problem with the “let someone else do it” approach is that, if you completely turn over the role of religious education to someone else, you are losing a wonderful experience with your child. There is something exhilarating about dealing with the most important issues in life with your child and religious beliefs belong in that category. You have the opportunity to inspire your child and to be inspired. You have the chance to talk to your child about the meaning of life. Few things in life are more satisfying – and meaningful – than that. And by introducing your child to God, you have the chance to take those conversations in all kinds of useful directions: the value of relationships, our responsibility to others in the world, the importance of tolerance for others who are not like us, and how to make moral decisions.

The “forget the whole thing” approach raises its own problems. It is understandable why you might be attracted to that view. You may have decided somewhere along the way that religion is at best a set of fairy tales and, at worst, a force for intolerance and even violence. There is certainly evidence for both propositions. But it is one thing to give up on the way religious beliefs are traditionally presented and quite another to abandon the idea of God altogether. At the very least, you may want your child to know something about the beliefs of others, even if you don’t care what your own child believes. That is part of the notion of tolerance that I discuss above. But, whether you like it or not, your child at some point is going to consider the question of God. Does God exist? What does God mean for my life? Does God know what I am doing? Can I solve a problem through prayer? Your child will benefit if you at least give him a start on how to answer these questions, regardless of your own viewpoint. Finally, there is a more troubling side of failing to talk to your children about God. Depending on the approach and values of the adults around them, children can emerge from their teenage years with no understanding of religious traditions and, even worse, a lack of tolerance for anyone who does not believe what they believe. In my view, tolerance and respect for the religious beliefs of others are some of the most important and valuable lessons a parent can teach. We need only look around us at the beginning of the twenty-first century to see how destructive religious intolerance can be. Whatever you decide about what you believe about God, you can unconsciously contribute to the destructive side of religion if you fail to teach your child about tolerance and respect for the beliefs of others. On the other hand, if you build in your child a sense of tolerance and open-mindedness, you will have left your child with values that he will carry with him throughout his life, and you will have made a contribution to the world as well.

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Teaching Your Child - by Edward Correia