Teaching Children about Religion: Why Is It So Important?
Since time immemorial, people have possessed their own religious beliefs, be it simple conventional funeral or any other religious or solemn ceremony. Moreover, every person has their own way to clarify the miracles of the essence such as how we have appeared here and what people’s purpose in life is. Being a young child one learns how to read, speak, write, and communicate and behave in the society. Basically, the main principles of education originate from the culture one is exposed to in childhood. A lot of scientists agree that culture influences each person in the process of growing and development as a member of society. The gist of all cultures is the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power. There is valuable knowledge about other religions and cultures that allows everyone to take pride in his/her origin. Being taught at a younger age to esteem cultural dissimilarities people are establishing a future with more love and less injustice or prejudice against different nations and minority groups.
Teaching children about religion is very important. Nevertheless, how to do this correctly and successfully is a good question to consider. When growing older, children will ultimately have different questions about faith and God. The way parents decide to tell their offspring about religion and spirituality is essential. Some parents raise children in their own faith, while others teach a child to reject faith. However, some of them give their children a general review of the different world religions and help them to make their own choice about their beliefs.
Teaching Children about Religion
It is a well-known fact that parents can teach their young children the tenets of their church. Introducing children to different religions should not only occur once a year on World Religion Day. It is necessary to familiarize a child with religion every day. Usually, parents do not know how to start the conversation about faith and spirituality with their young children. It is not an easy task to do taking into account different obstacles. Firstly, there are a lot of different religions in the world. Secondly, modern education system tends to promote atheism. That is why parents often cannot successfully teach a child their own and other religious beliefs. The solution is not an easy one — the process needs time, steadfastness, but one of the most important things is being a living example of righteous life for the child.
According to Arthur Schopenhauer, a prominent philosopher of the 19th century, as one’s faculty of having faith is strongest during the period of childhood, cultivating religious beliefs in a child at this stage is particularly important. Teaching religion should be primarily concerned with the tenets of faith taking root rather than menace and stories about marvels. If, in early state of being a child, settled basic religious tenets and aspects are introduced with uncommon seriousness and gravity never before evident in anything else; if, simultaneously, the probability of child’s uncertainty about them be absolutely overlooked, then the religious doctrine is bound to become implanted in his/her mind (Schopenhauer, 2004).
Apart from this, teaching one’s children about fundamental religious dogmas from babyhood is a normal and absolutely good thing to do. Ultimately, every person reaches an age when he or she is responsible for their own beliefs. Moreover, going out into the world and comparing what they have been taught with the reality and truth, they will be able to make their own decisions about religion. Undoubtedly, if parents teach religion to children it is more common that they will prefer the religion of their progenitors just because they can fully comprehend each religious principle. Nevertheless, it is also possible that they prefer to choose another religion. However, if parents do not teach their children, someone else can do this. Moreover, being a parent means to have an amenability to bring up the children in a certain faith. Therefore, teaching religion to one’s children when they are young corresponds to both these religious demands. In addition, the paternal craving for fostering their own beliefs in children rather than letting someone teach the children contradictory religion or morals is quite understandable.
Scott W. Ventrella provides his own advice on how to help children to become closer to God. He advises to educate children and teach them about other religions. Teaching will be easier if you assist a child in comprehending the significance of using their beliefs throughout all their life; not just as an opportunity. It is necessary to look for God everywhere and have faith time in your family (“Celebrate World Religion Day,” 2013). As a result, children will make up their mind about faith, God and religion.
Dawkins in his work The God Delusion writes that children should not be tagged by the religion of their parents.
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Our society, including the nonreligious sector, has accepted the preposterous idea that it is normal and right to indoctrinate tiny children in the religion of their parents, and to slap religious labels on them -- 'Catholic child,' 'Protestant child,' 'Jewish child,' 'Muslim child,' etc. A child is not a Christian child, not Muslim child, but a child of Christian parents or a child of Muslim parents. (Dawkins, 2006)
Dawkins states that this is “always a form of child abuse". Apart from this, he sums up his reflections on “religion as child abuse” with the following sinister notation: “Maybe some children need to be protected from indoctrination by their own parents” (Dawkins, 2006). The author states that one of the characteristics of a child is his/her striving to “believe, without question, whatever your grown-ups tell you” (Dawkins, 2006).
According to Deborah Kelemen (2004), children are teleologists; they tend to explain the aim of everything they encounter. Nicolas Humphrey (1998) states: "Children, I'll argue, have a human right not to have their minds crippled by exposure to other people's bad ideas – no matter who these other people are.”
Christopher Jamison in his article “We Need to Teach Religion” highlights that the new mundane RE is now under the rule of our politicians who see in it a helpful implement. Exploiting faith, the IRA, Hamas and al-Qa'eda use it as an opportune protection for their bloodthirsty and devastating actions. “I never met a holy Catholic who set out to blow up a shopping centre and I never met a holy Muslim who crashed aeroplanes into buildings” (Jamison, 2004).
Nevertheless, the importance of teaching religion is a very disputable question nowadays.
Christian parents teach their offspring to choose the good, refuse the evil, consult the Bible and believe in God's Word. Surely, child's conscience is influenced by his/her parents who form firm religious convictions that cannot easily be destroyed. Fulfillment of the Ten Commandments, obeying Christian dispensations and God's laws will lead to the tolerant society with high moral principles, peace and mutual respect. The children can visit Sunday school and be taught everything about God and the Bible.
As stated in the article “For Christian parents and children” (n.d.),
Christian parents are urged to fully trust God to be the author and power of your family life. God's rich blessings await those who faithfully work with Him to create today a home in which godly principles direct family life and its decisions.
Application to My Personal Life
It has not occurred to me before that children suffer from a lack of information about religion. Usually people do not go to church on Sundays or any other day, especially in megalopolises, having a very busy life. Nevertheless, I cannot totally agree that it is my responsibility to tell a child what religion he or she should take up and follow, and teach them only a particular one.
Certainly, one must not teach their children to hate other religions and believers, since they imitate what they learn from their parents in real life. So my unassuming demand for all of us is to be assiduous in giving a fine example. Presenting certain attitude and saying the right words reflect in your child's way of acting and the whole life.
Nowadays, whether to teach children about religion or not is a burning issue. The main question is how to teach children about religion. Firstly, it is necessary to have a sincere conversation with your spouse and come to the most agreeable conclusion concerning religion. Secondly, moral principles in any religion are very important during one’s whole life; thus, one should start teaching religion from discussing dissimilarity between wrong and right. Preparing children for moral awakening means to teach them to do the right things and treat others well. Thirdly, it is important to teach a certain ritual or prayer. For example, the Lord's Prayer is the basic one for Christians. Moreover, talking to a child about different religions helps them to be lenient and understanding. Finally, answering children's questions frankly about faith and involving the priest or other leader will considerably help.
Undoubtedly, every child needs moral and philosophical education. Nevertheless, teaching religion itself but not teaching about religion will definitely not stop bigoted religious attitudes and intolerance to those who belong to other religions. The best alternative to wicked religion is true religion, but not a liberal ethics course.