This article may piss some people off. I’m sorry if it’s you. But this is something I think needs to be said. Religion has become a hindrance to the normal psychological growth of children. There is no scientific study I know of that proves this theory, but if you look hard enough, you can probably find one.
I was raised Catholic. (thanks for saying I’m sorry). Now I know things have changed since the 1800’s when I was in Sunday school. But being raised in a Catholic house was at the least, challenging. My Mom had her black belt in guilt and made Bruce Lee look like a yellow belt. She could guilt you into anything. I’m sure if she wanted me to assassinate a world leader, she could get me to do it just by floating out subtle hints about how this leader was not Catholic and not fit to hold office.
Guilt was used on my father too. He would walk around for weeks wondering what he had done wrong and sometimes took out his frustration on us. Can’t say I blame him, we sure weren’t a bunch of angles. But because my Mom controlled the mood in the house, she controlled his attitude.
When I was in Sunday school, we had a priest who liked to dip into the sacramental wine a little more than often. He was also angry all the time. I remember being in 4th grade and the priest walked in. Let’s call him Father Asshole. We as a class being in fourth grade and wishing we were anywhere else forgot to stand when he walked in. He went ballistic. He said he was going to step out of the classroom and if we didn’t stand when he returned, there would be hell to pay. (I guess he had the power to send a bunch of 4th graders to hell) he walked out and then walked in and of course, being scared of Father Asshole, we all stood. A lecture lasting about 5 minutes followed with him saying that he had earned that kind of respect from us. Wrong.
I had some good teachers too. Most of those were not nuns. They can have a really bad attitude too. Maybe by the time they realized they hated being a nun, it was too late. Although I must admit, they burned into our brains the rules and regulations of the church including telling our parents to put more in the offering basket because we needed a new parking lot and it was our parent’s duty to pay for it. Here’s an idea! Call the Vatican an have them sell one painting and they can re-do all the parking lots in the U.S.
Sunday school ended in the 8th grade with the sacrament of confirmation. The only thing I remember about that was I got an extra name. I don’t use it, but I’m sure the Saint I picked (Paul) was excited I choose him. They crucified him upside down, so I figured that someone that tough would be a good Saint to have on my side. Great in a street fight. Probably going to hell for that last statement.
Needless to say, as soon as I hit 18 I stopped going to church. I was married in a Catholic Church, but only because the new priest liked my father and let it slide. I’m afraid after that, I haven’t been much of a churchgoer. I did try some different denominations, some that I did like. Until they started begging for money. That would be the end of it. People give what they can afford. Find another way to raise the money. All denominations have a central church or “Boss” if you like. Most of those churches make tons of money from shut-ins and rich benefactors trying to get into heaven. Have you seen Joel Olseens’ house? Amazing.
So here’s what I did. I talked to my children about God. I would explain that God was an understanding, forgiving, and loving God. I don’t believe in teaching “the Rath of God”. It doesn’t fit with the narrative of a loving God. I believe Jesus was God’s son. I also believe that Buddha, Mohammed, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many other great people were the children of God. The people who made a real difference in the world. Made things better for all. Not just the rich like the Pope’s did in medieval times. If you read about the Popes back then, you’ll be astonished.
My kids were raised to make their own decisions. They have their own relationships with God. I try hard not to interfere. As you get older and closer to death, a lot of people go back to the church. I’d rather see them help out at a soup kitchen for the homeless. I think God would like that too.
Remember, beating religion into a child’s head will eventually drive them away from the church. Don’t miss a child’s baseball game so you can drag them to church. It just makes them hate it more. Talk to them about God. Tell them how good God can be. And don’t forget, this will make a lasting impression on them more than any church sermon they are not paying attention too.