Speaking of baby making … Raising kids without religion

This morning I posted an update about our effort to have kids. Over at The Whore of all the Earth, Leah wrote about an experience with her five year old when he asked what the “t” stood for on top of a church.

Leah wrote:

I thought about telling him the Christian story, just so he knows what it’s about and why  Christian churches have crosses. But then I paused as I realized that this would involve telling him about a man who was whipped and beaten and then had nails driven through his hands and feet and hung on a cross for several agonizing hours before dying. Sure, I wouldn’t go into that much detail, but it’s kind of hard to explain the cross without explaining the crucifixion, which is brutal and graphic. My son is very sweet and gentle. I want to preserve that innocence a bit longer.

Nope, I think he’s too young to hear about the crucifixion of Christ, just like I think he’s too young for Batman or James Bond. Maybe when you’re older, son.

I’m behind Leah’s rationale to avoid discussing the story. There’s plenty of time for grandiose stories of violence and discussion of all the world’s religions (not just Christianity).

Speaking from first-hand experience, there’s not a day that passes by that I don’t study or discuss religion (on or off the blog) and I often joke that I can’t pick up a stick, a broom or a pencil without pretending it’s a gun. Perhaps violence and religion are so deeply engrained in genes that they are unavoidable.

Growing up, my parents did a good job talking about other religions. Only they made sure to say how wrong the other religions were. After I learned more about those religions, I found out how other religious families said the same thing about my (former) religion. I think the environmental argument of belief is one of the best arguments against faith. That is, the tendency is that you adopt the religion of your environment.

Once you have that religion as a foundation, entire families adopt the religious meme and pass it along to their children. There are families that I know who pass along religious rituals to their children, not because they believe them personally, but because they don’t want older loved ones to be disappointed. I don’t understand this at all.

Faith that is unexplored should not be passed along to children … which is why I think Leah is doing precisely what she should do.

That’s why it seemed timely when I visited the Friendly Atheist today and Hemant posted a trailer for a new movie called, “Skipping Sunday School.” It’s about raising kids without church or faith.

Check it out and let me know what you think. If you had kids, would you raise them with faith? Without? Why? Why not?

Mehta and Danatus discuss atheism and Christianity at Moody Church | Chicago

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Tonight I went to a panel discussion featuring Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta and Christian apologist Ronald Danatus at Moody Church in Chicago. The group that hosted the event was comprised of young married people and singles.

The group has had a series of discussions with different groups and topics that they may or may not know much about. Things like discussions with a Muslim or Christian dispelling myths about homosexuality.

It sounded like the group was genuinely pursuing information to help them learn more about ideologies that they might be ignorant of. Having Mehta speak was laying the groundwork to understand atheism in a realistic perspective.

I have no real background information on Danatus apart from what he explained tonight. From memory, he is originally from India. He has a Hindu background and he converted to Christianity after exploring different religions. There was a turning moment when Danatus had some kind of breakdown that encouraged him to seek spiritual guidance and he’s found that Christianity is the best option.

I am biased, of course, but I felt Mehta represented his perspective more clearly and admirably than Danatus. Mehta was much clearer in speech. He has a smooth delivery and an ease of discussing controversial topics without making them seem controversial.

Danatus didn’t represent Christianity well. He made off-topic remarks. His speech wasn’t clear and he was difficult to understand.

Danatus brought up evolution. He was dumbfounded by Dawkin’s recent book “The Greatest Show on Earth.” Not understanding or accepting evolution is a gigantic Christian mistake. The Christians last night at the University of Chicago event showed that it’s possible to be Christian and accept evolution. Dinesh D’Souza is also in that camp … as well as a large number of Christians who work as scientists.

Danatus brought up Hitler, which was completely superfluous to the conversation. The event was a friendly conversation to discuss Christianity and atheism. It wasn’t a debate. There was no need to prove one wrong. There was no reason to demonize atheists during this discussion. Mehta made no attempt to demonize Christianity. For Danatus to make a statement about Hitler was non-sequitur and didn’t contribute to a healthy discussion.

Mehta makes atheists look good. That’s the plain and simple truth. He doesn’t get caught up in the muddy waters of philosophical details regarding atheism or belief. He comes from a Jain background, which separates him from some of the debate surrounding Christianity. He has a natural perspective that is neither naive nor ignorant.

I think the problem with the debate between Christianity and atheism is becoming too wrapped up in concepts that have nothing to do with the debate. This is where Danatus failed tonight. He got caught up in discussing concepts of anti-atheism, and he should have concentrated on concepts of pro-Christianity. He confused being pro-Christian with being anti-atheist. The greatness of Christianity should be able to stand on its own merits and principles. Otherwise, there is no beneficial discussion.

You can’t make your point by making your opponent’s view appear inferior. That’s like trying to beat up the bully by telling “Yo Mama” jokes.

Certain concepts are fed into the debate equation that don’t belong there. The equation is really quite simple. Either you find yourself as a believer or you don’t. If you’re a believer, you’re fed with all kinds of discussion points. If you’re an atheist, you are likely the same way. I’ll be happy to discuss concepts with people, but don’t push me away by demonizing my views. There’s plenty of ammunition against Christianity. And I know you think there’s amunition against atheism.

How are we working to connect and mend the differences?

After the talk, I hung out with some Christians and Mehta. One woman named Nicole asked us what question we might have asked if we had the chance to do so. I told her that I thought these conversations were necessary, and there’s no reason to express hostility or antagonize atheists if it’s not necessary. There was no reason to bring up Hitler and couple him with evil. I told her that Christians should rest their discussion on the merits of the positive attributes of Christianity. There’s no reason to try to convert us or to bring up death or hell as a factor.

She also asked what our view of love is. Since I’m married, I was given a spotlight. I told her that marriage is of utmost importance to me. My priority and my goal is making my marriage work. Love is a goal and an honor. Fidelity is key. I explained that my wife and eventually my children are the most important values that life can offer.

They also asked Mehta and me about our views on service. I’ve been exploring how I want to get involved lately with giving back to my community, and this question definitely made me think and want to pursue that want even more.

It was definitely a positive event. And if you’re a Christian reader of this blog, and you are involved in a church group … I think it would be an important and reasonable idea to encourage your church group to invite an atheist to speak to your group. Follow the lead of Moody Church. They seem to be doing something right.