July 27, 2009

Did Your Parents Give a Damn What You Wanted?

I often find some of the most thought-provoking and emotionally-charged posts at EXchristian.net. A recent one, "Angry and disillusioned with the Christian cancer," caught my attention by the title and did not disappoint.
Evidently, it didn't occur to my parents that my mind wasn't fully mature and I had no idea what the hell they were getting me into. It didn't occur to them to ask what I wanted -- they just presumed upon me that I naturally wanted to be a Christian too.
Yep. That describes my experience too. My parents, now Christian-in-name-only as far as I can tell, say that they dragged me to church, required me to attend Sunday school and bible school in the summers because they thought it would be good for me (in the sense of it being good for my "soul"). I'm no longer mad at them for doing this - I'm old enough now that I came to terms with this year ago and harbor no real resentment on this issue. But one thing is undeniably clear: they did not care what I wanted.

Sunday school at the Baptist church which is n...
Sunday school at the Baptist church which is not on company property and was built by the miners. Lejunior, Harlan... - NARA - 541341 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Like the author of the post at EXchristian.net, my parents had good intentions. We have talked about their intentions over the years, and I do understand that they meant no harm. Part of it involved them wanting me to have the sort of connection to the church that they fondly remembered from their own childhoods. Part of it did involve the superstitious fears over my "soul" roasting in "hell" if I was not indoctrinated. And still another part involved a desire to protect me from the social consequences they knew I would experience without religion.

What made the difference - and eventually allowed me to rediscover myself - was that my parents did an excellent job of promoting education, including science. I was permitted to read whatever I wanted, and knowledge was generally celebrated. Sure, there were times when I was told not to ask so any questions or to take something on faith. But it always seemed half-assed to me and was no real deterrent.

As childhood gave way into adolescence, I rebelled in many ways. This included rejecting religion as the nonsense I knew it to be. This did create quite a bit of conflict initially, but my parents eventually came to terms with it. There were a few years where they attended church without me, and then they also stopped going.

Over the years, we've had many discussions and some heated arguments about the nature of religion. The end point is always the same - they recognize that there really is no compelling evidence but insist that the belief, regardless of its truth, works for them somehow. This isn't something I bother to bring up anymore. There is little point. If they need superstition to feel whole, there is little I can do about it. I have no such need, and I am very fortunate for that.