Note: Please send me a msg about any
grammatical (my english is far from being perfect ;-) errors, or any
other comments you may have
"...and the Allah throne leans on the
seven skies, which lean on the seven earths, which an angel holds
up on his wings. The angel sits on a giant rock which is put on the
back of a bull with forty thousand feet, and the bull is walking on
the back of a giant whale which swims through the vast sea of
That's at least what the Muslim cosmology has to
say about the whereabouts of our cosmos. The Buddhists would probably
find that this is rather naive. Actually the problem is to conceive "how
the sky of the four kings holds the sky of the thirty-three gods, and
how from one sky to another, the area of the absolute phase with its
eighteen Buddha kingdoms stands still along with the area of the
non-phase existence where the Nirvana is achieved"...
So many religions, so many theories for our
existence... Anyway, everybody grows up with some kind of religious
theory of how (and why) we are here, and later in his/her life realises
that also science offers such a theory. Some people in the course of
their life, get interested or involved in such philosophical questions
(because it is of an essentially philosophical nature the question
of how and why of our origin, since it serves no
practical need, except that of our psychological peace) and after some
thinking/reading they tend to lean either over religion xor
science. Other people brought up within strongly religious families who
happen to become scientists in their life, tend to develop a (strange
for me) feeling of reconciliating religion and science theories of our
existence, maybe by keeping them in different corners of their brain
(:-) and by not letting them interact with each other. Last, there is
also the vast majority of people who never give a single thought to such
Since the overwhelming majority of people on earth
is religious in some way, there is no problem in raising their
children. But exactly this fact poses a problem for non-theistic
families within such societies as to how to raise their children. And
that's because if there is one issue that is extremely fragile and
sensitive in this world.... that is without question, religion.
This writeup was written in order to give a
glance on the different approaches that I have seen being applied
within various non-religious families non-religious
families as to how the children are going to meet/know the World. Or
to pose the question more sharply, what do you do when your 5-year old
darling only-son, comes up with..."Daddy, is there a god?" (also known
as the "is there a Santa-Clause daddy?" problem)...
First of all, there is the obsessed
"priest-eater". From the beginning, he tells his children that
the things that they are told at school during religious-education
are all fairy tales. Since the Marxists exclaimed that religion is
opium for the people but nobody believed them, now that science has
successfully dived into many former mysteries of the universe and
religion is clearly people's opium, the children are required to learn
it right away. This kind of education usually results in exactly the
opposite from desired goal: The son joins a religious college when
sixteen to take revenge on the father.
Second way, or "the good & sweet atheist".
Sweetly and calmly, he shows his children the life of the butterfly
and how the flowers grow up. He tells them that nature is everything,
and that god does not exist. This approach, philosophically regarded,
is anti-educational because the rationalistic proof of god's
non-existence, is the same with the rationalistic proof of god's
existence. The child becomes dogmatic and... it is as if Kant never
had existed ;-).
Third way, or "the cultural anthropologist".
He believes that young people must get education in accordance with the
customs of the society in which they live, or else they will feel like
aliens, and will be tortured by conflicts between family and school.
Let them grow up with the common beliefs of the society, and as soon as
they grow older they will have time and clear mind able to judge and
This very last way, the anthropological, seems to be
the most wise, but only leaves the children with just one vision of the
world. And what is more, when the parents are atheists (something that
pre-supposes a strong attitude, since they go against common beliefs),
it is very difficult (even if they are extremely discreet) to completely
hide their scepticism from their children. The result is that the
children will always have the impression that something is being hidden
The reason I quoted some parts of the Muslim and
Buddhist cosmogony at the beginning of the writeup is because it gives
a hint as to how children could be raised. Let me explain myself. First,
let's define the goal: You want to raise your children so that they DO
NOT become dogmatic, but open-minded and tolerant towards other
people. At the same time you want them to believe/not believe in
religion and god only after an esoteric search in themselves.
Apparently, this can only happen at ages far away from 5-10 years old,
because this 'esoteric search' requires thinking, reading, discussing.
But in order for this search to be able to take place, the children must
have from the very early ages developed a mind ready to objectively
accept and independently judge.
In my opinion, this can only happen if the child
meets all explanations and theories that various religions teach. And
here's where the above cosmology quotes come into use. It's a very
perceptive and appropriate way to give the child to understand the
innumerable ways of interpreting and explaining the world. And as the
child meets the various theories and cosmogony myths, it begins to
subconsciously suspect/realize the eternal need of humans to tell
tales. Yeap, someone could say that this is a sure way to raise your
children as little atheist devils ;-), since only getting acquainted
with one myth, is called religion, but getting acquainted with many
myths reduces religion to a bunch of fairy tales... I have no answer to
this... But one is for sure: In everybody's conscience should be clear
that however bizarre other religions seem (see the quotes at the
beginning), equally bizarre seems for example Christianism to Buddhists
(think of the woman creation from man's rib in Genesis).
Let's summarize. For theist-families, there is no
problem since they are the absolute majority. But for
non-theist-families, there is indeed a problem. The three methodologies
that can be employed are flawed:
The Cultural Anthropologist
-- How was your day at school today David?
-- We had our first religious-education lesson today! The teacher
asked us how often we go to church...
-- And what did you say David?
-- Errrr, I said every Sunday...
-- But David...
-- ...All the other kids said that they go every Sunday to the
church... Daddy, why we never go to the church?
-- ...Errr, don't you think it's late?! Time to sleep!
-- Mammy, David told me there is no God!!! (crying)
-- David, your classmate? Haven't I told you a hundred times not to
play with this little devil?
-- But mammy, David said...
-- Shhhhhh. I will call now Sarah's and Bob's mother and tell her not
to let them play either with David.
-- Daddy, nobody plays with me at school. They call me 'devil' and mock
my ears and say they look like horns!
The Good & Sweet Atheist
-- But daddy, who created the butterfly? Miss
Clara told us that God did. And Marry says that every night she prays to
Him and He protects her and drives away all bad dreams.
-- Other butterflies created this butterfly, which were created by yet
other butterflies. And Mary just thinks that He drives away her bad
dreams. Has she ever seen him? There is no god, David...
...(after 25 years)...
-- But Dad, who created the first butterfly? Miss Mara told us that God
-- In the beginning there were no butterflies. All species evolved
from very primitive life forms. There is no god!
--(wife) DAVID! Do not confuse the kid! He's only 6 years old!
--.?.?.? 'spicy volve privitive life from' ?? Dad?
IMHO, the only way not to make a child
dogmatic towards such issues, is by not teaching any child any
religion lessons until a certain age. Then, they would have the reason
to judge for themselves if they want to believe or not. Everything that
children learn very early when they cannot judge by themselves becomes a
dogma. And if they learn that the earth spins around the sun... OK,
because earth indeed spins around the sun.
But... do you really "accept" Jesus Christ at the age of three, or is it
that you just find Him there sitting, long before judgement and reason
abilities are developed?
Semiotics in Everyday Life,
The Muslim Cosmology, The Papyros Larousse Britannica