To Train Up a Child

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

How true that statement is. In fact, I can hardly read that verse without my mind instantly putting it into song, one of many songs that we listened to constantly in the car to help with Bible verse memorization. Yes, I was that parent. Of course, if you had told me that I was indoctrinating my children, brainwashing them into the Christian faith, I would have vehemently denied it. No, that's what Muslims do, or Mormons, or Jehovah's Witnesses...definitely not me. Why? Because I had the truth, of course!

I can remember when my husband showed me that video for the first time. An overwhelming feeling of sorrow overcame me, knowing that that is what I was doing to my kids. The pain that I see in some of the children's faces disturbs me to the point that I can't watch without tears forming in my eyes. Of course, I could never convey my thoughts as eloquently as Richard Dawkins. However, in my mind, I see three insurmountable problems with Christianity that serve as an emotional impediment to children, potentially haunting them for the rest of their lives.

One of the primary tenets of the Christian religion is this notion of coming into the world as a sinner. How tragic it is that children, innocent and free, should be made to feel that God had to kill his own son, Jesus Christ, because they were so unworthy in his eyes. The look on that little girl's face says it all. I'm not enough. I'll never be enough. I can never do enough. Those are the feelings that followed me well into adulthood. That is exactly how you're supposed to feel as a Christian, because if you didn't feel that way, you wouldn't need a savior. And if you don't need a savior, then you don't need Christianity. It's beyond reprehensible that an innocent mind should be corrupted at such an early age with such abhorrent thoughts.

The next horrendous tenet of Christianity that is so damaging to children is the idea of eternal damnation if they don't believe. Imagine how a child processes and internalizes hell, a place of torment, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Imagine the fear that possibly some of their loved ones might go there after death, or that they might go there if their skeptical mind impedes belief. Once this instinct of self-preservation (the fact that hell is certainly a place that they don't want to go to) is initiated within the mind of a child, their ability to reason and think rationally about conflicting ideas or facts is often hindered beyond repair. Furthermore, even if an adult can deconstruct their faith, often the trauma inflicted by the fear of hell continues to plague him/her.

Last but certainly not least are the ridiculous Bible stories that are forced onto children every Sunday (or almost daily in the case of my children). How does a child learn to think critically and logically when they're told that Jonah lived inside a fish for three days? How can a child separate fact from fiction when learning about Samson and his magic hair or about Lot's wife turning into a pillar of salt, just to name a few stories that have absolutely no basis in reality. Even more damaging is the fact that these stories are typically being taught to them by a trusted parent or adult.

In an article titled Religious "Indoctrination" of Children, Focus on the Family clearly recognizes why it is vital to indoctrinate children. "What makes this assignment all the more urgent is that you have a fairly narrow window of time in which to carry it out with maximum effect. There's a brief period during childhood when kids are wide open to spiritual and moral training..." The article goes on to say, "In some cases a lack of appropriate training during the early years may even handicap an individual in terms of his or her capacity for spiritual insight and deep, sincere devotion to God." I wonder why that is? Could it be that it is necessary to take advantage of a child's naivete and trust? 

What a shame it is that well-intentioned parents fall victim to Focus on the Family's flawed view of child rearing (obviously influenced by the verse above) - an innocent child whose intellectual development will forever be negatively altered by the parents who had the responsibility to teach them things that are TRUE. I can say it because I know it. I did it. And the good news is that I have the power to change it. My kids and I are good without a god.