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Don't Hand Down Hypocrisy- Raising Children According To Your Own Beliefs

by Jennifer Muirhead (follow)
I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma ~ Eartha Kitt.
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A happy little herbivore - Wikimedia Commons


My family eat a mainly vegetarian diet. I don't preach to others about what they ought to eat, but sometimes people take exception to my diet and feel the need to lecture me about how vegetarianism is supposedly unhealthy or tell me that I may as well eat meat since “it's dead anyway”, as though the cow was blissfully grazing in a field when she suddenly tripped and fell into a meat grinder with no human agency involved. I suppose they see vegetarianism as not just a personal preference but a judgement of their own eating habits, in the same way that not personally enjoying liquorice means that you think it's a vile, unhallowed substance with which no human being should ever be allowed to soil their mouth parts- Wait, bad example, I totally do think that. Um... Anyway... Not long ago I had an online chat with an old friend who is an avowed meat eater.

“I know you're a vegetarian, but what about the kids?” he asked me.
“They're vegetarian too, for now,” I replied. My friend went on “But surely it would be better to start out giving them meat and let them choose when they're older?”
I explained that instead our plan was to not give the kids meat for now and let them choose to eat it when they were older if they wanted to. To me this makes more sense because I don't want to have to either start eating meat myself or cook two separate meals, one with meat and one without, or to feel like the odd one out as the only vegetarian in my own home. Practical concerns aside, since eating meat goes against my personal beliefs, so does buying it, cooking it and feeding it to my children. Naturally I want them to share the same nutritious, tasty food that I enjoy, just as my friend wouldn't want to deny his kids the steaks and sausages he likes to eat.

People often make similar arguments about parenting and religion. I have often heard it argued, as Dr Peggy Drexler did in an Op Ed piece in the Huffington Post, that even non religious parents should make a point of exposing their children to religion or even raise them as religious. The argument usually runs that children will be better off if they are exposed to religion because it supposedly makes you a better, happier person. Despite this argument I have decided as a non religious parent to raise my children without religion. I made this choice for a number of reasons.

Image from Morguefile.


To begin with, Christianity in particular is supposed to lead to fewer teenagers committing 'immoral' acts like under aged sex, but this doesn't seem to be borne out in reality. For example, there is there is a higher incidence of teenage pregnancy in the Bible Belt of the United States than elsewhere in the country. Dr Drexler claims that religion helps to give children a “strong moral core”. Wiser and wittier people than I have already written at length about the cherry picking that is required to extract a strong moral core from a book that condones slavery, animal cruelty and treating women as property so suffice it to say that I don't think the Bible is a terrific manual for ethical behaviour. There are good moral principles to be found in there, like the Golden Rule, but these ideas are not exclusive to religion. There is such a thing as secular ethics and children can be taught to behave kindly towards other people without the promise of Heaven or the threat of Hell.

Secondly, contrary to to Dr Drexler's assertion that “in a world where evil often trumps good, religion can't hurt”, yes, it absolutely can. Religion has been, and still is, used to justify misogyny, homophobia and racism. It has been the driving force behind countless atrocities throughout the ages. There is also another subtler type of harm religion can do to your children. It encourages magical thinking and the promotion of faith over reason. I want to bring my kids up to be rational thinkers able to tell fact from fiction and medicine from snake oil. Like any other skill, critical thinking is something you need to practice, and you don't get that practice if you're in the habit of answering questions about the universe just by saying “God did it.”

Thirdly, and most importantly, I don't want to bring up my children as religious simply because I am not religious myself. Asking a vegetarian to feed her kids meat or a non religious person to take their little ones to church is like asking a Christian to raise their kids as Muslims, Atheists or worshippers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I want to raise my own children according to my own beliefs because to do otherwise would be hypocrisy.

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Jonaj I can see that this article touched a nerve for you. However I think you missed the point of it a little. It is not primarily about atheism, but rather about the strangeness of the idea that non religious people should raise their children as religious. I have tried to unpack that idea and explain why I'm not going to do that. I did not write this to offend anyone, but I do not believe that religion is above criticism. It exists in the marketplace of ideas and as such it is up for debate like everything else.

“To say that the most famous book and most read book is not a terrific manual for ethical behaviour, is a sweeping statement from people who have not fully understood 'why' certain things ''did'' happen at that time in History. “

I'm aware of the historical context. That's kind of the point. Ethics has moved on since the bronze age, and a book written during that time, for that time is to a great extent (if not entirely) irrelevant in the modern age. The Bible gets used all the time in debates about topics which are never even mentioned in it (eg. IVF, genetic engineering) because they are modern issues that its authors didn't know about. On topics that are still relevant (biggies like whether it's ever okay to kill another human being, or the status of women) the advice given is often contradictory or ambiguous. Furthermore, the fact that the book is famous and the most read does not say anything about its value. That something is popular doesn't make it true. Lots of people read Dan Brown but that doesn't make the conspiracy theories in The Da Vinci Code fact.

I have actually read (yes, cover to cover, more than once) and studied the Bible so please spare me the “you just don't understand it because you haven't read it” stuff. I just disagree with you.

“To 'ridicule' anyone's ''holy book'' is to me is an act of cowardice!”

How is it cowardice to put my beliefs out there for others to read about them, and under my own name at that? Why would an all powerful god need defending anyway? The Bible has survived for nearly two thousand years. It can survive little old me.

“You try to bring a ungodly account to the book, and slander it for what you can. “

I'm not really all that interested in what other people think of the book. I am talking about what I will teach my own children about it and why. How can truthfully quoting verses or describing events in the book constitute “slander”?

“They pick out those 'juicy' ungodly events, actions, and stand on top of that invisible soap box....to try and bring some kind of 'enlightenment' to the World.
All under the guise of their own 'children' and how in some way they will be the better parent, for sparing their little ones from this big awful god.(my words). “

Actually I intend to teach my children the major stories of the Bible ('juicy' or no, and I am not sure how you can consider any of the events in your own holy book “ungodly” if they all happened according to and were recorded by the will of God) and discuss them. I think it's important that they have an understanding of it so they will know what Christians believe as well as being able to appreciate the book for its literary value (seeing as there are so many references to it in Western literature knowledge of the Bible means a better understanding of a lot of great books). And yes, I do think that doing so makes me a better parent or I wouldn't do it. I'm not sure why you put 'children' in quotes there. Are you implying that you don't believe I have children?

“To take prejudice into a public forum, and take cheap shots at what Millions of people consider (their) Holy Book, is nothing short of Contemptible and
certainly not the mind of a caring human being. “

Firstly, holding a different belief from you does not make a person prejudiced, or uncaring (I suppose “contemptible” is a matter of opinion). Secondly, if I had come to your site and posted this you might have a point, but you can't just come to someone else's site and demand that their writers agree with you or be silent. Have you ever heard the term 'Christian privilege'? If not, you might want to look it up. Basically, some Christians have gotten so used to being in the majority that they find it very confronting if someone challenges their beliefs. Unless you associate only with other Christians and read nothing but Christian texts and websites, people are going to challenge your beliefs from time to time. It may be your natural response to get offended but people aren't obliged not to cause you offence. Other people have their own beliefs and their own lives which don't revolve around you or your beliefs. Try to imagine for a moment how you would feel if I came to a site you wrote for, read an essay about your Christian beliefs and said it offended me and that you were contemptible and “not a caring human being” for writing it. You can't demand respect if you don't give it.
oops I seem to have accidentally posted my reply twice.
Good points, all! Thanks for the great article.
by lori
I LOVE this!


Thankyou.
I respect a person for raising their children according to their own moral code, principles and values. In fact, I would expect no less of a well-meaning parent, so good on you. Also, I'm assuming that the 'happy little herbivore' is yours. What a cutie!

However, I do not agree that ascribing to a religious worldview robs a person of critical thinking or the opportunity to practice it. In fact, as Christians, we strongly encourage critical thinking. Some of the world's greatest critical thinkers - scientists and mathematicians - were Christians.

Moreover, we certainly do not condone misogyny, the inhumane treatment of animals nor the subjugation and exploitation of the natural world. There's no doubt that Christianity - and other religions - have been used to justify these in the past, and sometimes even today in certain parts of the world. But, the distinctions we need to make are between religious belief as God intended it, contextual groundings of holy books like the Bible, and people's use and misrepresentation of these for their own agendas.

Unfortunately, what you've gathered is a warped misinterpretation of what Christianity is and stands for. There are so many people out there - Christians included - who've simply got the wrong end of the stick.

Anyway, those are my two cents, so I'd be a hypocrite to blame you for sharing yours. Thanks Jennifer.
by Vee
Thankyou Vee.

It is true that there have been many great thinkers who were Christians. That was bound to happen when in European history they have so often been the ones with the money and therefore the time to put into intellectual pursuits. But in many (not all) churches and sects there is an undercurrent of anti-intellectualism. And it is religion in general, not Christianity specifically, that I think hampers critical thinking. There's probably a whole other article in that, but I don't know that it would be suitable for this hub.

I didn't say that Christians condone misogyny, homophobia and racism, although obviously SOME Christians do (homophobia is still part of the official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, and there are loads of ministers who preach misogyny and racism from pulpits around the world), but rather that the Bible does (it's all in there). You can ignore those parts, or determine that they are later rescinded, but they're in the book and unfortunately people still use them today. I take the position that if God didn't intend the book to be misunderstood he might have been a bit clearer about the phrasing. Blah blah mysterious ways...I don't want to get into the problem of evil stuff here, let us just agree to disagree. Thankyou for putting your point politely.



Jonaj I can see that this article touched a nerve for you. However I think you missed the point of it a little. It is not primarily about atheism, but rather about the strangeness of the idea that non religious people should raise their children as religious. I have tried to unpack that idea and explain why I'm not going to do that. I did not write this to offend anyone, but I do not believe that religion is above criticism. It exists in the marketplace of ideas and as such it is up for debate like everything else.

“To say that the most famous book and most read book is not a terrific manual for ethical behaviour, is a sweeping statement from people who have not fully understood 'why' certain things ''did'' happen at that time in History. “

I'm aware of the historical context. That's kind of the point. Ethics has moved on since the bronze age, and a book written during that time, for that time is to a great extent (if not entirely) irrelevant in the modern age. The Bible gets used all the time in debates about topics which are never even mentioned in it (eg. IVF, genetic engineering) because they are modern issues that its authors didn't know about. On topics that are still relevant (biggies like whether it's ever okay to kill another human being, or the status of women) the advice given is often contradictory or ambiguous. Furthermore, the fact that the book is famous and the most read does not say anything about its value. That something is popular doesn't make it true. Lots of people read Dan Brown but that doesn't make the conspiracy theories in The Da Vinci Code fact.

I have actually read (yes, cover to cover, more than once) and studied the Bible so please spare me the “you just don't understand it because you haven't read it” stuff. I just disagree with you.

“To 'ridicule' anyone's ''holy book'' is to me is an act of cowardice!”

How is it cowardice to put my beliefs out there for others to read about them, and under my own name at that? Why would an all powerful god need defending anyway? The Bible has survived for nearly two thousand years. It can survive little old me.

“You try to bring a ungodly account to the book, and slander it for what you can. “

I'm not really all that interested in what other people think of the book. I am talking about what I will teach my own children about it and why. How can truthfully quoting verses or describing events in the book constitute “slander”?

“They pick out those 'juicy' ungodly events, actions, and stand on top of that invisible soap box....to try and bring some kind of 'enlightenment' to the World.
All under the guise of their own 'children' and how in some way they will be the better parent, for sparing their little ones from this big awful god.(my words). “

Actually I intend to teach my children the major stories of the Bible ('juicy' or no, and I am not sure how you can consider any of the events in your own holy book “ungodly” if they all happened according to and were recorded by the will of God) and discuss them. I think it's important that they have an understanding of it so they will know what Christians believe as well as being able to appreciate the book for its literary value (seeing as there are so many references to it in Western literature knowledge of the Bible means a better understanding of a lot of great books). And yes, I do think that doing so makes me a better parent or I wouldn't do it. I'm not sure why you put 'children' in quotes there. Are you implying that you don't believe I have children?

“To take prejudice into a public forum, and take cheap shots at what Millions of people consider (their) Holy Book, is nothing short of Contemptible and
certainly not the mind of a caring human being. “

Firstly, holding a different belief from you does not make a person prejudiced, or uncaring (I suppose “contemptible” is a matter of opinion). Secondly, if I had come to your site and posted this you might have a point, but you can't just come to someone else's site and demand that their writers agree with you or be silent. Have you ever heard the term 'Christian privilege'? If not, you might want to look it up. Basically, some Christians have gotten so used to being in the majority that they find it very confronting if someone challenges their beliefs. Unless you associate only with other Christians and read nothing but Christian texts and websites, people are going to challenge your beliefs from time to time. It may be your natural response to get offended but people aren't obliged not to cause you offence. Other people have their own beliefs and their own lives which don't revolve around you or your beliefs. Try to imagine for a moment how you would feel if I came to a site you wrote for, read an essay about your Christian beliefs and said it offended me and that you were contemptible and “not a caring human being” for writing it. You can't demand respect if you don't give it.
First Jennifer you ''do not own'' ''Whole-Woman'' forum....or do you?

If you do, then you must also remember it is there for others to access.
Plus it also is on the Internet, anything you write is Public Domain.

You know true and well that your Opening points of Teenage Pregnancy in America's Bible Belt....was your way of having a ''Slap in the face'(my words) at one group of people....Tacky may I say.

After all you and I are in Australia....so what is it to us?

I can tell you there would be a LOT of unhappy Americans who if read this would give you an ear full, and ask ''what was your point''?

Who makes you Judge & Jury ! why would you want to bring that up, if not to discredit Christians.

Why take cheap shots?

You have an ' agender' and people who read your artical can see .

In one line you say you don't:

''Think the Bible is a terrific manual for Ethical Behaviour''

Then: In your reply to me you say ''I intend to teach my children the major stories of the Bible''

Really Jennifer!...picking out what you like and you have also done that with those girls who are pregnant.Making a big story from modern day to 2000 yrs ago.

Your Title for this is ''Don't Hand Down Hypocrisy - Raising Children According To Your Own Beliefs''.

Have a look at your Title and read it over and over, and Think..!

Forums are not meant for you to 'vent' at one group of people my dear, they should be thought provoking, yet enlightening, insightful and one would hope helpful.
If you 'vent' be prepared to have others take you on.

You may think that as a Christian 61 year old woman I should be sweet and polite, well my dear you have just got the 'Grandmother side of me' and when you write such things.....there is No Way I can or will be quite, and I know a lot of people would understand that.

I have seen and heard more of life than you have at this point, and I feel you need to look for the 'Good' and stop with the negative.Our World is in need of some Love.





by jonaj
No I don't own Whole Woman, and I didn't say that I did. However, the editor of the hub read my article and not only found it acceptable to post here but told me that she liked it. What she puts up here is up to her. You can like it or dislike it but the writers here have a right to put their own opinions in their articles. The hub would be very dull and a bit pointless if they didn't.

“Who makes you Judge & Jury ! why would you want to bring that up, if not to discredit Christians."

Did you read the article I linked to? I was responding to specific claims that were made.

"You know true and well that your Opening points of Teenage Pregnancy in America's Bible Belt....was your way of having a ''Slap in the face'(my words) at one group of people....Tacky may I say.
After all you and I are in Australia....so what is it to us? "

You missed the point again. If you make the argument that greater knowledge of the Bible leads to less immoral behaviour, including premarital sex (setting aside that I don't believe premarital sex is inherently immoral) then an example of a place where teenagers have greater knowledge of the Bible but engage in as much if not more premarital sex proves you wrong. It doesn't matter where the example comes from, it only takes one example from anywhere. That's the trouble with sweeping generalisations. Dr Drexler used generalisations, and as such left herself open to being disproved that way. Also, I find it a bit odd that you describe something four paragraphs in to the article as “opening shots”. No wonder you didn't understand what I was getting at if you ignored more than half of what I wrote.

“I can tell you there would be a LOT of unhappy Americans who if read this would give you an ear full, and ask ''what was your point''?”

If facts make them angry, maybe they should actually do something about the situation instead of being angry with someone who points it out. But these are just hypothetical people anyway.

“You have an ' agender' and people who read your artical can see . “

Of course I have an agenda. What would be the point of writing an article if I didn't have something to say. Since when is having an agenda a bad thing anyway?

“''Think the Bible is a terrific manual for Ethical Behaviour''
Then: In your reply to me you say ''I intend to teach my children the major stories of the Bible''

Really Jennifer!...picking out what you like and you have also done that with those girls who are pregnant.Making a big story from modern day to 2000 yrs ago. “

Yes, I intend to read them the major stories that are of great cultural significance. If you're wondering, that is stuff stuff like the creation stories, Moses' story, including the plagues, the flight out of Egypt, Daniel in the lion's den, the good Samaritan, the stories of Jesus' life and the crucifixion... That's not an all inclusive list by any means. What I am leaving out at this juncture are the parts that are very dull, especially to a child. That would be things like the endless descriptions of the exact dimensions of the Tabernacle, long lists of names and who begat who, and which animals used to be forbidden to eat that aren't any more. I think you'll probably find that your average Sunday school teacher leaves out those parts too so as not to bore or confuse the kids. It seems odd to me that that makes you angry, but I suppose you have jumped to some other conclusions about which parts you imagine I will leave out or include. I'm not sure how you imagine me “making a big story” out of the Bible and why that would be a bad thing to you.

“Your Title for this is ''Don't Hand Down Hypocrisy - Raising Children According To Your Own Beliefs''.

Have a look at your Title and read it over and over, and Think..! "

Do you mean to imply that teaching my children about the Bible is somehow hypocritical because we are not religious? It isn't because the key word there is “about”. There's a big difference between religious education and religious indoctrination. As I said, I want them to know about the Bible so they will know what Christians believe and understand literature better. It's not the only religion I will teach them about either. My first born is already familiar with Greek and Norse mythology, which sure as heck doesn't mean she is about to start worshipping Zeus or Odin. We don't look at any of those books as our source for morality, but we can discuss the morality of the stories in them and how it might be similar or different from our own.

“Forums are not meant for you to 'vent' at one group of people my dear, they should be thought provoking, yet enlightening, insightful and one would hope helpful.
If you 'vent' be prepared to have others take you on. “

I can only repeat, you have missed the point.

“You may think that as a Christian 61 year old woman I should be sweet and polite, well my dear you have just got the 'Grandmother side of me' and when you write such things.....there is No Way I can or will be quite, and I know a lot of people would understand that. “

On the contrary, I think a 61 year old who stands up for her beliefs is a bit more interesting than the cliché. I don't equate “Christian” with polite though because unfortunately I have seen quite a few Christians be really horrible to people who disagreed with them.

You can get as angry as you like but I think your anger is misdirected. Why don't you take your anger and use it to do something useful like fight against actual injustice?


I must have missed this last part.
"I have seen and heard more of life than you have at this point, and I feel you need to look for the 'Good' and stop with the negative.Our World is in need of some Love."

There's a logical fallacy called the argument from authority, where you just shut someone down by saying you know more than they do/are older/wiser or whatever, which you are using here. You have attacked me for wanting to teach my children about the Bible without being a Christian. What is what I am doing if not "looking for the good"? Would you rather I threw the baby out with the bathwater and dismissed any possible insight in the book just because I don't use it the way you want me to?

Absolutely our world is in need of love. That much we can agree on. Obviously we have very different views on how best to get there.

''Why don't I take my anger'' to do something useful like fight actual injustice?

LOL....funny ....you know well and true I visit Brothels and Jails, and minister those in need, and I have been doing that for years and years.

If you didn't then you would have been asleep, during my time on Answer Angels.........but thanks for that tip.
by jonaj
I really don't keep track of everyone's replies on AA as it forms a fairly small part of my life, but good on you for doing that.
I am not a lover of putting out negativity on a topic that has had it's fair share.....without fully understanding that the people who 'do religion'' are but human.
In Any area where people come together can be found problems.

To say that the most famous book and most read book is not a terrific manual for ethical behaviour, is a sweeping statement from people who have not fully understood 'why' certain things ''did'' happen at that time in History.

The Bible is a book of 66 books.
It tells what happened down the ages of man.
It tells how 'man' treated his fellow man...It would take weeks to explain certain values, reasons why people living at that time, lived as they did.

In my 49 years of constant study of this book(I stated at age 12) it does not surprize me that people will and still do write ''only' on controversial topics, that they have not even tried to understand the full meaning too.

They pick out those 'juicy' ungodly events, actions, and stand on top of that invisible soap box....to try and bring some kind of 'enlightenment' to the World.
All under the guise of their own 'children' and how in some way they will be the better parent, for sparing their little ones from this big awful god.(my words).

That is a scary concept to me, because you most certainly have to say from where I am standing and other Christians that we Know that book a lot better, than people who ''pick and choose'' to try...unsuccessfully to give it a bad rap.
To 'ridicule' anyone's ''holy book'' is to me is an act of cowardice!

You try to bring a ungodly account to the book, and slander it for what you can.

I say that the problem is not the book.....but the person doing the prejudice.

What ever you wish to do for your children in their lives, is your choice and total right.

To take prejudice into a public forum, and take cheap shots at what Millions of people consider (their) Holy Book, is nothing short of Contemptible and
certainly not the mind of a caring human being.


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