Her Bad Mother

Friday, July 21, 2006

In The Forest (Post Script) and other random crap

Because there is, always, more to say... And because I needed to take on those rumours that my last post totally stole from the inspirational writings of Britney Spears. Read on... (reflections on Britney's treatment of William Blake, and really cool BlogHer stuff, follow further musings on religion. Because, you know, God comes first!)

In reading all of your wonderful comments - thank you thank you a million times over - on my Gotta Have Faith post (which is what I would have called it if I hadn't been going for that heavy, pedantic vibe that only references to writers like William Blake can provide), it occured to me that I hadn't really spelled out why, exactly, I felt it important to expose my children to religion and faith. That Santa/Tinkerbell analogy was handy, but it didn't really stand as an argument for religion or for faith in general. Do we expose our children to faith simply for the sake of faith? Because it's nice to believe in something, if only in our youth?

I made it clear that my wishes for my children with regards to spirituality were not grounded in a belief that spirituality/religion/faith would make them (morally) better people or get them into heaven. I don't believe that one needs religion to be good, morally or otherwise (indeed, I think that religion can get in the way of goodness.) And, heaven has bouncers? Whatever.

So, whaddup with my determination to expose my children to religion? I said that I wanted them to have meaningful choice in the matter of whether or not to be faithful, and that I believed that to provide them with such choice required, requires, introducing them to religion and inviting them to take it seriously. This does not, I should be clear, require beating them over the head with pieties and responding to their questions with faith-based answers. (It's raining, sweetie, because God is crying. God is crying because you spilled your milk, and because David Hasselhoff is on television. We must pray to make it stop.) I also want my children to have the choice, one day, to reject religion for themselves, and to be critical of organized religion. A difficult line to walk, but one that I feel I must walk.

But, again, why? Beyond the simple matter of choice? Yes, and for the very reasons that I feel strongly about such choice. I feel, strongly, that they must know religion if their future rejection of religion is to be really meaningful. Which is to say, I think that in order to be really critical of a thing, of a set of ideas, of a belief, you have to have some experience or knowledge of the thing that you are criticizing. Socrates, after all, knew his Homer, and knew it well. I want their criticism, when it comes (and I very much want it to come), to be informed, and not the result of some sort of acquired reflexive secularism. The kind of reflexive secularism that simply assumes that faith is stupid, or misguided, simply because it is faith. I want them to taste faith, to feel it on the tongues of their souls, before they decide that it disagrees with them.

And I want them to know, directly and intimately, why it disagrees with them so that they will know, really know, that such disagreement is always personal. So that their disagreements with religion or with God can be their own, and not my disagreements, or somebody else's disagreements, or society's disagreements. And I want this, again, because I want their critique of religion, when and if it comes (and I hope that it does come, on some level) to be well and personally informed. And, I want this because I always want them to respect the faith of others. I want them to have some sense of why it is that people embrace faith, even if - especially if - they come to reject faith in any of its forms. I never want to hear them dismiss another person, or another person's ideas, simply on the basis that that person is Christian or Jewish or Muslim or Wiccan or whatever. I want them to only ever reject ideas on their own merit, and only after respectful consideration of those ideas.

I want them to understand why people believe. I think that this is necessary to understanding why religion is still such a powerful force in the world, why it still moves people, and peoples, to heights of love and the greatest depths of hate. I think that this is necessary to compassion, and to understanding why certain kinds of hurt persist in the world.

(Yes, I am a beacon of selflessness and love. This is why Jesus loves me.)

But, full disclosure: I have my selfish reasons, too. That argument for honing my children's critical faculties through exposure to religion has, it must be said, a bit of a competi-mommy edge to it. To know, well, the Judeo-Christian tradition (which also shares much with Islam) is, like it or not, to know the core of the history of Western (and some Eastern) culture. It is to know, better, the many threads that make up the tapestry of Western philosophy and art and literature. And I want my children to have this knowledge. I had, have, a tremendous advantage as a student and as an academic for knowing, and knowing well, the Bible. My understanding of philosophy, art and literature is much more extensive and nuanced than it would be without that knowledge. I know when a writer is making esoteric reference to a passage in the Old Testament, when a modern story is really a re-telling of a much older story, when arguments for war borrow from the Christian philosophical tradition (yes, there is one). I know why Nietzsche got his panties in a twist about Christianity. I knew, at a young age, that the stories of CS Lewis and Tolkien were far more theologically sound than those of George Lucas. I know and can explain why the Da Vinci Code communicates a sloppy theology (but, I must confess: I still enjoyed reading it.)
(OK, so those last two are not so special. But still.)

(I should note that I do not believe that the only route to such knowledge is through religious education, and especially not through any one particular religion. Far from it. Anybody with a good liberal education gains access to all of this. But a religious education - one that did, I should stress, allow ample room for questioning and critique - in childhood gave me a head start. And it provided me with personal reference for the more focussed study that came later.)

So, an education in religious tradition will give my children an advantage. That matters to me. Yes, I want them to be good people - more than anything I want them to be good people - and some exposure to religion and the opportunity to experience faith will contribute, I hope, to that end. But I also want them to have knowledge. And as counter-intuitive as it may seem at first glance, a religious education - any religious education - will contribute to that end as well.

This whole speculative project goes, then, a little bit further than the joys of Santa and TinkerBell and that warm, secure feeling that comes from singing Jesus Loves Me. And is, perhaps, somewhat less pious than it might have initially seemed. But what did you expect? I'm Bad.

Save it, Ma. Christianity is Platonism for the people. I've decided to worship Bopis.


What, what, WTF, is up with the universe that both Britney Spears and I wrote about William Blake - the same work, no less - on the same day? Her post got more traffic, I'm sure, but I think that mine was better written. Still, you can't beat her analysis of Blake:

Then from the gloom came Britney Spears
And broke the poets down to tears
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made Will Blake make thee?

William Blake is currently up in Heaven smashing all of his Britney albums under the heel of his boot.


More! More!

When not pondering the mysteries of the universe, I've been giving and receiving interviews. BlogMe interviews!


Devra at Parentopia interviewed me today, and I'm completing an interview for Izzy as we speak (well, after we speak). I'll post my own interview of Devra, and my interview of the scrumptious Izzy as soon as I get Izzy's material. Both interviews will be sizzling, I promise you.

In the meantime, you can see my interview questions here. Toronto-area mama-bloggers, I've tagged you with this interview thing; see details at Mama Blogs Toronto. Please participate, especially if you are not going to BlogHer: I want to gather together TO mom-blogger profiles before I go so that I can direct people to one virtual location to meet you all.

And anyone else who feels at all interviewy - I'd love to see your responses, too! Go, go - do it!


Blogger the mystic said...

Well it's almost eery (is that spelled correctly?) how your thought process on this is similar to mine. Wow.

And about the why it's raining/David Hasselhoff line... oh my God that's so bad, and let's just say beer doesn't taste nearly as good coming out of my nose as it did going in my mouth.

10:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bouncers in heaven....lolololol. I never thought of it like that. But now I see it...St. Peter in a tight man-titty shirt with too much gel in his hair, turning away all the bad girls with an air of finely honed aloofness.

And that Britney thing...

My six year old could have written something with more substance. And the last time I checked, tigers didn't hunger for danger OR adventure. They hungered for a zebra or a gazelle. They're primary objective is to eat and survive, you dunce.

Doesn't she have an editor or someone to make sure she doesn't sound stupid..er?

1:10 AM  
Blogger Cristina said...

You laid out quite an eloquent and thought-provoking argument for introducing religion into your children's lives. I loved your post and your reasons for wanting to expose them to religion.

I feel that religion is a tool to assist one with his or her spirituality. However, I don't believe that it is necessary to have religion to be spiritual. Therefore, while I also want to expose my children to religion, I will honestly not be upset if they ultimately choose a religion other than the one they are raised in or if they choose not to participate in a structured religion at all, as long as they are emotionally and spiritually healthy.

2:09 AM  
Blogger metro mama said...

Catherine--again, you've given me a lot to think about.

Now I'm off to do my interview questions.

7:36 AM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

Does that bit about compassion for other people's situations mean democrats are actually religious too? I thought the right wing had laid claim to that... heh. I have to say I'm not sure one has to have experienced religion to understand why other people would turn to it - I do see that without scorn, despite having been brought up without it myself.

But! There certainly were several times during my liberal arts undergrad that I thought it would have been useful to have some knowledge of the bible outside of what seeps in through osmosis while immersed in western culture. You are on point there, I quite agree.

I also quite see what you mean about exposure to something before deciding about it. Aren't we always telling our kids, "You have to try one bite before you can tell me you don't like it!"

And are you copying from Britney now? She should totally have curled her arm around and bent her head over that paper she was writing. Cheater, you. (but I love the rewrite - that's good stuff.)

10:21 AM  
Blogger nonlineargirl said...

I have this feeling that you sat through (or presided over) one too many classes in which someone said "Well, I haven't read the book, but I think Spinoza was saying..." I can definitely get behind the desire to know something before you choose. I'm not sure I can do that if it means being my daughter's guide through something I do not believe. (Pauses to consider whether to compare myself to Virgil or Beatrice. Better go with Virgil, as a perfect woman I am not.)

11:01 AM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

NLG - how did you know?!?

My own struggle is how to be my daughter's guide without entirely colouring my tour with my own issues. As I said in the last post, my beliefs are quiet and idiosyncratic and critical - I believe in God but am critical of organized religion and read the Bible now as literature. How do introduce her to church and prayer and story without, however quietly, adding my tour-guide commentary? ("The stories in the Bible are nice, sweetie, and important but they're just stories. Moses didn't *really* part a sea. Seas can't be parted. It was rumor, and a political ploy to mobilize a people." Ruins the magic.) I'd like to give her the chance to see things through her own eyes.

The story thing isn't so difficult - I overstated my case. But when she asks me whether *I* believe the stories, etc...? Sigh.

KP - I do think - know - that people can understand the force of religion with experiencing it firsthand. But put such experience alongside the other things that I mention and I think that you have a forceful package. That said - and as I said in the post - I don't think religion is the ONLY path to the ends that I'm seeking for E. But it's a pretty direct one (if bumpy, and potentially dark in places).And, again, again -I don't want to reject it on her behalf.

Yes, I'm a hand-wringer.

And yes, I did cheat off Britney. Her work is just so good, you know? The bouncers are letting her into heaven fer shur!

11:31 AM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Hmmmm, well I thought you made your point the first time and even more now. Here's my question for you.Are you against taking her to church (Or whatever) in the first few years of her life and letting her then decided if she wants to continue? Would you be willing to physically take her? Or do you want to teach her about the religion you grew up wiht yourself? If you decided not to take her to church, she will never get the same version of religion that you got. If you do take her, then will you despise being there? She will eventually pick up on that. See, there are so many questions. And there are no easy answers. Also, what would you do if she decided that she completly believed in it all and you still don't? I think it is great that you are discussing this. It is an important topic.

3:37 PM  
Blogger Granny said...

Melissa beat me to it. What if, in spite of everything, my child grew up believing the opposite of what I believe?

5:08 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

While I'd prefer (obviously) that my children follow my own brilliant path, if they choose a different path that will be fine with me. What matters to me is that they be given the opportunity to choose.

Now, obviously, when I say that I'd prefer they follow me in becoming, eventually, critical, I have to admit that that is a strong preference - as is my preference that they love books and good music and art etc. etc. And there's the dilemma. I want them to make their own choices, but I also want to nudge them - gently, gently - toward the choices that *I* think are best. And there may be a fundamental contradiction between those objectives.

6:17 PM  
Blogger Laural Dawn said...

I, too, have thought about religion and how it relates to my son. I grew up in a very religious Baptist Family (2 uncles are ministers) and it was just the way life was for me.
Stuff happened - not fun.
But, what took me 10 years (and an amazing psychology professor) to learn was that I had to seperate the notion of God and Faith from the people who claim to represent God and Faith. I guess you could call that organized religion - I don't know.
I struggle with teaching Matt my beliefs without subjecting him to some of the stuff I had to deal with. I don't quite know how.

10:22 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I think you've got a wonderful outlook on the religious aspects, what it can do for a person and in what ways you plan to introduce it. I found myself nodding in agreement ALOT in this post.

1:31 AM  
Blogger Mel said...

Apologies in advance for what will likely turn out to be a deadly-long comment...
First off, Izzy - "And the last time I checked, tigers didn't hunger for danger OR adventure. They hungered for a zebra or a gazelle." - you made me CHOKE on my iced tea. Thankyouverymuch. But in a good way, of course. Heh.
Next off, HBM, do you read BitchPhD? Because this whole Blake thing would totally fit in with this post:
Then from the gloom came Britney Spears
And broke the poets down to tears
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made Will Blake make thee?
Fuck you, clown.
(That will not make any sense unless you read that link, trust me!)
Annnnd... it's interesting that you're pondering these (religion) issues just at this time, because I had a long convo with the 12-year-old last night about this, and how she wasn't locked into Christianity (She actually triggered the conversation by saying, "Too bad I'm just stuck with being a Christian, because that's what Grandma is.")... I told her she should not look at it that way at all, and that she should explore all the religions she could before deciding what made the most sense to her, what resonated with her, what explained the Universe in the way that jibed best with her personal outlook on the world. My thing is, you can't be too honest with your child about religion. There is no such thing as too much transparency with religion; if perhaps my parents had been a little more honest about their theology and the doubts they felt, maybe I wouldn't now be such a crazed Agnostic.
Buddhism is looking good, though...

2:14 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I think we're both on the same page about religion and teaching faith/spirituality to our children. I want Cordy to look at it with a critical eye, but to believe if she wants, and to not be forced into one set of beliefs, but pick and choose to find her own faith.

I swear I'm not some (Tom Cruise) crazy person trying to convert you (since I don't even belong to a church, for one), but check out this link. I also want Cordy to have religious education, and I want it to be something like this, that doesn't limit her to choosing only one set of beliefs.

I still remember my father telling me, "You were baptized Catholic, so you are Catholic, no matter what you think. You have no choice." Ha.

8:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

your thoughts on religion totally are in line with mine....except you can write it way better, I may just have to send Becca to this post in 15 years .... hehe.

Crazy about you and Brit being on the same wave length...sadly her wave is much shorter!!!

12:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you can learn about faith through faith in things besides "Faith" in god or miracles or whatever. Plenty of people (myself included) attend church regularly and believe in stuff without thinking about it too deeply. I guess in those days when I went to church I had faith in all the stuff I was supposed to, but mostly I just went through the motions. I guess your kid will probably be reflexive and thoughtful about things, because you'll train her in those traditions. But I don't think that simply attending church or being a member of one necessarily gives you faith in it. Reading the bible regularly will give one a background in the bible as basis for judeo-christian stuff, but not necessarily a tendency towards 'Faith.' Anyways, can't people be critical towards religions without being from one? Wouldn't those people be able to be critical in different ways than someone 'from the inside'?

Most likely my son will not be seeing the inside of a church ever as his father is an evangelical atheist. I like the catholic rituals as a meditation aid, but that's it. I guess he'll read the bible with me so he's familiar with it for movies & cartoons references, and with his father for talking-points to use in arguments with believers (if he takes after his father).

PS - The baby + Kermie pictures are classic!!

3:18 PM  
Blogger Creative-Type Dad said...

Very interesting-
My wife and I have had many discussions about this. We both come from some type of Christian background (my parents were on the crazy-wacky side, and her parents were on the lighter side). In the end we decided to find a church (not a crazy one) and raise her with some type of religion instead of nothing.

8:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know that I am a brand new reader of your blog, right? So it's not like I read your archives and chose to read you based on your feelings about religion. And yet, once again, I find myself drawn to a blogger who, like me, is facing the dilemna of how to introduce religion to her children without prejudicing their beliefs with their own personal opinion.

Maybe it's the lack of daily mentions of Jesus or God that attracts me unconsciously. All I know is, I could have written this post, and several others recently written by my closest blog friends.

In a nutshell, I have recently had a complete change of opinion about not only organized religion, but about the Bible and God and faith in general. Yet my youngest son thinks Sunday School sounds "fun", and would really like to go. I can't just drop him off like it's daycare, but I can't deprive him of the opportunity to learn for himself. One of these days I'll get my own post up about this subject. In the meantime, thanks for posting yours.

1:07 AM  

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