As children, we were are all vulnerable to believing in imaginary ‘beings’ like the tooth fairy or Santa Claus. Beckoning the question, is it fair to expose children to religion at such an impressionable age? Before everybody get’s too caught up in the controversy this argument entails, actualize that theologies are becoming increasingly less prevalent in societies globally.
According to a study reported on livescience.com, “Kids with religious parents are better behaved and adjusted than other children”. Implicitly noting that religion promotes respect for one’s parents and stresses family values. However the foundation for these findings is, for me, insignificant.
Without hurting too many people’s feelings, allow me to explain why it’s not only insignificant but unfair.
For those who practice religion regularly, I think the word “irrational” would serve as an appropriate label. Whether you’re monotheistic or atheist, I think there’s a consensus that one needs to take a leap of faith in order to accept their religion. Hence, the inevitable “irrationality”.
Now, who are we to impose this ‘leap of faith’ on our youth? This leap is not only beyond their physical limits, but also their mental capacity to understand the situation. At an age where the Tooth Fairy is a regular guest in their house, the term God should seem queer. Think about the responsibility associated with acknowledging the term, God. Religious private schools, prayer, etc. Now, I realize I’m tearing an ACL in the family skeleton for some people; but it should seem odd to be imposing religious values on children who are yet to learn their ABC’s.
For the parents who say, “we need to instill these values in our children at a young to ensure it sticks with them”, realize that the quality of life the child is dramatically changed with the presentation of religion.
For the disgruntled parents who want to know how they’re supposed to instill their religious values in their children. Well, to be honest, I don’t really know. But, I think children who aren’t able to choose their own diet are not ready to take on the obligations implicit with theologies. It’s interesting, don’t you think? The child who believes that Gushers and Mike and Ikes are a well-balanced diet may be the same kid you’re taking to synagogue or church every week. This, I believe, is the hardest part to digest.
You may need to ask yourself, “Do my children truly comprehend our religion and the ramifications associated with it?”. It’s a Catch-22. There’s no way that these kids can fully understand theology and it’s controversies, because, you guessed it, it’s too complicated.
Still, I realize that people are going to think I’m trying to collect some sort of ‘atheist’ regime by making these claims. But, consider what those thoughts entail. This implicitly hints to the notion that by not imposing religious teachings on children at a young age, they will not be receptive once they are adults. Allowing one to infer, that once these children are mature, they will choose not to believe in the theology. See the problem yet? Allow me to spell it out for you; adults are less receptive to the teachings of religions than children. If you don’t believe me, ask any five-year-old how much money the tooth fairy has given him throughout the years. While that number may not be that high considering his age, that’s not the point. The child is so gullible in believing whatever is brought before him.
For illustration purposes, I offer you the following story. As someone who used to babysit rather frequently, I find that toddlers are one of the more gullible people. I recall working with one toddler particularly who grew quite fond of a large vacuum that he’s watched his mother used to clean around the house. Inevitably, when I was babysitting he’d beg me to let him use the vacuum, but the vacuum is too dangerous to let him play with. So, I informed him that “The vacuum is sleeping…”. To which his response was “oh….”.
I know this may sound weird, but don’t let your religion become a sleeping vacuum. Become aware that children’s minds are not developed enough to fully understand the implications of theological dedication.
Jacob Scharf is a student at Queens College.