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Kids and Faith: Raising Children With - or Without - Religion

Respect is the common theme with this group of Moms as they raise their children with their own feelings about religion.

This week is Holy Week for Christians with Easter Sunday marking the end of Lent, the seven days of Passover started on April 19th at sundown for Jews, Buddhists will celebrate the Theravadin New Year, Jehovah’s Witnesses will celebrate the Lord’s Evening Meal on the 18th and Hindus celebrate Hanuman Jayanti that same day. And for others - it's simply school vacation week.

This week the Moms' Council is addressing the topic of religion. Our group includes Christians as well as Atheists.  While brainstorming for topics we learned from each other that it can sometimes be just as hard to raise children with faith as it is to explain why some families don’t – all while respecting differences.  Respect is key within this group of ladies as we learn and grow from each other. 

We welcome your input – let us know your thoughts in the comment section!

Tasha Schlake Festel
We are atheists. We are not agnostic. We are committed to our knowledge that there is no proof of god, higher power, Supreme Being, Heaven, afterlife or anything of the sort. We are as committed to that knowledge as we are to the fact there are no dragons, fairies, Easter Bunnies or reasonably priced 4-bedroom homes in top-notch school districts in Massachusetts. Such ideas can be comforting and sometimes unifying, but alas, unproven and therefore not within our beliefs.

It is estimated that between 4-9% of the US population does not believe in god. While that’s not a huge number, it’s not insignificant either. (In Canada, as many as 19-30% of the population classify themselves as atheists or non-believers.) Unfortunately, people in the United States are less likely to admit to being atheists due to social stigma and fear of retaliation, despite religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution – including the freedom NOT to believe.

I have never worried all that much about religion. I was raised without it being a part of my life, as was my husband. We have both come to the same conclusion confidently and independently: it’s all about science. I choose to live my life by reason, not by faith. I don’t push my views on anyone and expect the same respect from others. I have a nice life, a good reputation and a strong moral compass. I have healthy relationships, a large social circle and live without guilt or regret. Religion has been largely irrelevant to me.

Then we had kids.

While my husband and I share the same religious beliefs, and have raised and will continue to raise our kids to be thinking beings, questioning what cannot be proven, our beliefs do not jive with most of the families of their friends. My kids are getting older and conversations can turn very deep (you know, for 5- and 7-year-olds) and sometimes include religion. In fact, just this week at the playground, my 5-year-old was in a heated debate with one of his buddies about god. My son simply said he thought it was a made up story and his friend was appalled and would not accept that as a position. I was proud that my boy stuck to his guns, even when his friend was screaming at him that he was wrong.

A few years ago, we went to a baptism. It was the first time my kids had ever been in a church. My then-5-year-old daughter’s first question was, “What’s that hairy half-naked guy doing on that “T” and why would you hang that up as a decoration?” Good questions, I thought! We did our best to answer them factually and non-judgmentally. It is our job as parents to teach our children about the world around them, guide them, and ultimately let them make their own decisions. Even when it comes to religion.

Now my daughter is in 1st grade and her friends are starting to go to CCD, their Sunday mornings are busy, and they go to church camp for a few weeks in the summer. She’s starting to feel left out. I tell her time and time again that we don’t do things we don’t believe in just to fit in with our friends. It’s important to adhere to your own beliefs and hope that your friends understand and don’t judge you, just as we don’t judge them. (This message obviously goes far beyond this particular issue!)

The way I explain it, she has friends that aren’t in Girl Scouts, don’t play basketball and don’t go to the same elementary school. And they’re still friends even with those differences. She seems to respect and understand that. Unfortunately, she has learned that it’s easier not to tell people that she doesn’t believe in god, even at age 7, than it is to defend her beliefs to children that don’t generally respect her opinion and vehemently tell her that she is wrong and going to hell. (Yes, seriously. Amusingly though, that threat doesn’t hold much water with a kid who thinks Hell is just as made up as Dragon Land.) I’m saddened to see that while I teach my kids tolerance and understanding, kids around us with religious upbringings don’t always have that same consideration. I’m sure they are not taught intolerance, but it does not seem that they are told others may have different religious views.

We have explained to our kids that different people believe in different religions but neither of us believes in god. While I hope that when they are older they believe the same as my husband and I do, they will decide for themselves what they believe. I think it is unfair for parents to impose religious or non-religious views on children. We can introduce them to our way of thinking and answer their questions. We can guide them and give them a strong basis for making a decision, teaching them to use reason and logic and to trust the workings of their own independent minds and the evidence of the world around them. But they are their own thinking beings and need to come to their own conclusions. We have told them that science and reason can explain what religion was created to explain, that morals/ethics are not tied to religion, and that people who do not believe in god are good – or bad – just as those who do believe in god are good or bad. Only time will tell what my children will believe when they are old enough to make that decision based on their own opinions, research and experiences.

Most importantly, we teach tolerance and respect. I hope the religious community around us will do the same.

Laurie Hunt
I was raised Catholic and have had my share of ups and downs with my personal feelings about my faith.  I can honestly say that as I got older I realized when the going got tough I always turned to my faith and it was my faith that got me through. I think this is what made me realize I should be just as committed to my faith when the going was good too.  I also think this is why one of my favorite poems is Footprints.

When it comes to my children I feel the more they are exposed to the better when it comes to faith.  I want them to know, to feel, to understand and believe in it.  I feel it is my responsibility to model good behavior, guide them and teach them the way I know and when they are adults I want them to choose what feels right to them and I will support them.  I respectfully don’t understand the mentality that a child can choose their own path towards a religion as an adult without any teachings at all as a child.

One of my daughters goes to Catholic School; the other attends CCD and sings in our church choir.  I volunteer in the CCD program at my church and do my best to get to Mass each week but it doesn’t always happen.  I also don’t agree with each and every aspect of my religion.  I am not perfect.  I respect those who do not have faith and respect those of different faiths the same way I respect people with other differences.  I know families who are Christian but do not attend the Catholic Church, families who are Jewish, families of mixed faiths as well as a family who are Jehovah’s Witnesses.  What do they all have in common?  They are all good people.  This is also what I point out to my children because that is what really matters to me.

I have a great deal of frustration with those who choose to mock those with faith and/or attempt to change traditions of different faiths.  I have seen this done even by friends… I don’t think they mean any harm but that doesn’t change the fact that my traditions are important to me, they are not silly to me and some of these same people are very vocal about not wanting their traditions, or lack thereof, ridiculed so I ask, please, for that same respect in return.

As a Catholic I see a lot of attempts to change/rename our traditions and it bothers me a great deal.  A Christmas Tree is not a holiday tree, as we approach December 25th there is nothing wrong with saying “Merry Christmas”, and the latest I heard was a school choosing to re-name Easter Eggs “Spring Spheres."  While reading online discussions about the story I read some that stated that Easter Eggs are either Pagen in tradition as well as being commercial.  While I won’t debate the first group to use eggs as a symbol I do know Christians, for centuries, have used eggs as a symbol of resurrection as they contain a new life inside while dormant.  Additionally rolling eggs is more than just a game – it is symbolic of the rolling away of the rock from the tomb of Jesus Christ before his resurrection.  Easter eggs are dyed red representing the blood of Christ in Orthodox Churches.  The hard shell of an egg represents the sealed tomb of Christ and the cracking symbolizes his resurrection from the dead. I don’t want that taken away from my faith anymore than I would like to see someone call a Menorah a magic candle holder.

Our children are taught about Kwanza, Hanukah songs, how to play with a Dreidel and what a Menorah is so why can’t we also have a Christmas Tree and Easter Eggs?!  Teach it all but don’t go changing traditions under the guise of political correctness thankyouverymuch. 

Holly DeSouza
Someone recently asked me if Easter was only about the Easter bunny and a big meal.  As far as I am concerned for my daughter, for the time being it is. 

I grew up in a very religious home.  I had a believer baptism when I was seven, went to Sunday School, stayed for the Sunday Morning service, went to the Sunday evening church service, went to Wednesday night bible study and participated in Youth Group.  I was only allowed to date boys of the same faith.  It was a “fire and brimstone” mentality where you either believed in all the same beliefs or you agreed you would burn in hell for an eternity.  I was scared into submission and never actually took a step back and tried to figure out what, exactly, I believed and felt was the truth.  And because of that, as an adult with a family of my own, I have no idea what to believe.  I have utmost respect for those who have extreme faith and believe in whichever version of religion they believe in.  I am just not one of them. 

It’s because of my religious history I am adamant my daughter will not be swayed in any one direction.  There is no shortage of churches in Wakefield.  No matter which bucket you put yourself into, Christian or not, you can find a place to worship and have your questions answered by someone educated in that faith to do so.   When my daughter starts asking questions, I will make certain to find her the appropriate person qualified to answer her question and get her the answer she needs.    My hope for my daughter is she will discover her own religious path in her own time and follow what she believes as true.  And, unless Jim Jones’ followers are making a comeback, I will support her decision. 

So, for the time being, Easter will be about the family getting together to take a moment and enjoy a great meal, relax, find some plastic eggs filled with junk and eat a lot of chocolate.  Chocolate, that is, which is shaped like a bunny. 

Regina Martine
My husband and I were both raised Catholic, although he was more of a “believer” than I ever was. I went to church and CCD and completed the sacraments, but it never really meant anything to me personally. I know that religion provides a sense of community and comfort for a lot of people, but I have never felt like that was missing from my life, I just find it in other ways. As adults, we have both walked away from organized religion. I wouldn’t call myself an Atheist (although my husband calls himself one) but what I believe doesn’t really conform to any one religion. 

Right before we had kids we had a big discussion about whether or not we would have our babies baptized. At the time, my husband had a deep sense of guilt-induced dread at the idea of not baptizing our children, but he felt a little hypocritical about it since we have never gone to church for anything other than a wedding or a funeral. I didn’t really want to, but I was ok with doing it if the alternative was my husband worrying about the fate of their souls for the rest of our lives. To me, it was just another church ritual that symbolized something I didn’t believe in. The more I thought about it, the more I understood that many of the ideals the church stands for conflict with my own beliefs. It doesn’t make sense to me to pick and choose the “good parts” of religion and pretend the undesirable parts aren’t there. 

It seems to me that a lot of people (at least those who were raised Catholic) raise their own kids with these rituals because they want their kids to have some kind of religious instruction and go with what they know, and what their families expect them to do. I have talked to many people who feel that they don’t even agree with most of what the church stands for, but do it anyway. In the end, we decided not to have them baptized when it became obvious to us that we would be doing it to fulfill the expectations of other people instead of being true to what we believed and how we intended to raise our children.

Now it is ten years later and I feel that we are raising our children to be kind, respectful, and ethical people, but not religious ones. They understand that there are many different religions in the world and that everyone has their own traditions, beliefs, and interpretations of the “meaning of life.” I personally think that religion tries to answer the questions that science cannot, but I don’t feel that any one religion is better or “righter” than any other. I want my children to be aware of other religions, and curious about different opinions but not feel like they have to conform to any one prescribed set of beliefs. So far, it seems to be working out just fine. I want them to appreciate the differences and more importantly, the similarities between people of different cultures and religions. They will believe what they want and what makes the most sense to them, but I can’t tell them what—if any—religion that will be.

Peggy Barresi
Officially Catholic, I belong to the first generation in my family to receive very little religious guidance or instruction. My grandfather had been an altar boy, his sister an almost-nun, and both my mother and aunt attended Catholic schools from kindergarten through twelfth grade. By the time I came along, Catholic fatigue had set in.  There was a half-hearted attempt to make sure I wouldn’t completely burn in hell so I was baptized and made my first communion. When I asked a nun how there could have been an Adam and Eve as well as Darwin’s theory of evolution, my CCD career ended. I was in second grade.

Religion became something strange, foreign, and somewhat frightening. As with many things we don’t understand, I would make fun of those who believed too much. At the same time, I felt I was missing out on something. While I was taught good values, to be a kind and generous person, I know I could have benefited from more structured guidelines and from having a strong sense of faith as I navigated my teen and early adult years.

My husband comes from a devout Catholic family. When we married, I became confirmed in the Catholic faith, and looked forward to raising my children within a solid religious structure. As a modern woman and mother of two girls, however, it is difficult to support many of my Church’s tenets. I believe priests should be able to marry, women should be allowed to be priests, divorce is not a sin, gay marriage should be legal, and pedophiles should be swiftly and harshly punished. I believe a woman’s body is her own and that contraception is a good thing. So I am what you call a “Cafeteria Catholic.” I take what makes sense to me and leave the rest on the buffet line. So do my children.

Many would not consider me a Catholic at all. And, perhaps if my husband were not as devout, we would switch to a different type of church. But a church it would be. I want my family to live with faith, be part of a strong and loving community, strive to do good for the world, and have a touchstone to lean upon when times are tough. If I’ve done that for my children, regardless of how they choose to worship as adults, I will have succeeded.

Robert Hagedorn April 20, 2011 at 09:21 PM
There is always room for common sense in religion. For example, pet stores don't sell snakes that speak human language and grocery stores don't sell knowledge of good and evil fruit. So...does this mean the story of Adam and Eve is nonsense, or is there meaning beyond their disobedience? Do a search: The First Scandal. Then click twice.
Jillian Sallee April 20, 2011 at 09:44 PM
I'm not sure what I believe...I was not raised religious at all, my mom is Jewish (and when you go to Brandeis, that's enough Jewish blood for some boys!) and my dad is Protestant. We had no religious training in either faith and when my husband (Methodist) and I decided to have kids, I got nervous that our children would have no faith. I did some research, read some books (Tasha, you know how I like my books!) and one that was particularly interesting to me was The Case for Faith and The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel - both tried to answer some big questions about faith and very interesting reads. The didn't convert me to believe in God but they did answer some questions I had. I think that when the kids start to ask questions we can learn about different faiths together and they can make their own decisions. What I do teach them is to have faith in family, to respect other people and their opinions and I think on that score we are doing ok. I thought I needed to have faith before my kids could but I don't have to have faith in God, faith in myself and in our family is enough for us right now.
Laurie Hunt April 20, 2011 at 10:04 PM
I appreciate all the comments so far. @ Tasha ... the man in the red suit is, of course, SAINT Nicholas... or in the Netherlands Sinterklaas, the name given to Saint Nicholas when he arrived in the Netherlands by steamboat. Here is another fact - candy cane's were made from a straight candy stick bent into the shape of a shepards crook by a choirmaster in the mid 1600's and given to children at church services in Germany. Others say it was made in the shape of a J for Jesus Christ and the red and white stripes represent Christ's blood and purity.
Michele April 20, 2011 at 10:38 PM
Very interesting articles , and such a different point of view from each one of you. It seems that the moral of each story is that we should all be respectful of each others religions and beliefs, and not to ridicule a persons belief (on lack-thereof). Personally, I would add an exception to that rule, that any so-called religion that brain-washes it's membership and promotes hatred, cruetly and discrimination. To me that is a cult, not a religion, and should not be tolerated as it can become extremely dangerous to it's followers, as well as it's enemies.
Willey April 20, 2011 at 10:58 PM
I don't Think it's important at all to introduce religion... I am raised an episcopalian which is to say I am lazy about churchand I don't care. It really is a bunch of made up nonsense but I get the fact that a lot of people look to their religions for guidance, if you need that fine. My wife is Jewish and we will only celebrate the holiday because they give joy to everyone. Since religion is the basis of ALL wars why should we intRoduce religion at all? It's only going to make them hate someone that is not like them.
Tasha Schlake Festel April 20, 2011 at 11:09 PM
@Willey, I'm not sure that all religion does is introduce hate. The intent is the exact opposite, and many people find comfort and community in it, as you mentioned. I think Michele hits it on the head when she says the danger happens when religion becomes cult. I think the best we can do is to raise our children responsibly, leading by example, and hope others do the same. @Jillian, thanks for another book suggestion! @Laurie, argh! Again with the hidden religion polluting my commercial holidays??? :) Hahaha!
Michele April 20, 2011 at 11:10 PM
um, right, as I stated previously it's important to be TOLERANT and RESPECTFUL.
lared April 21, 2011 at 03:51 AM
As one of Jehovah's Witnesses who has raised two children to apply Bible principles the rewards are astounding. They are two fine young men, mannerly, helpful, obedient, and respectful. At the same, full of life and humor. We continually get compliments on their dress, grooming, speech, and conduct. I am so proud of them and they have expressed their appreciation for their childhood.
Vinny April 21, 2011 at 05:09 AM
Your kids sound like little robots. And if these perfect kids EVER said thanks but no thanks ma, the JW's just aint for me any more, then guess what happens? Mamma Lared will shun them and cut them off entirely. THAT folks is just one reason why the JW religion is viewed as a cult by most people today. Amazing stuff from this religion. Vinny
Tasha Schlake Festel April 21, 2011 at 11:25 AM
To "a human" I would say that I am an athlete, yet I don't play every sport. I am a baker, yet I don't make every dessert. I am an omnivore, yet I do not truly eat everything. The fact that I don't do *everything* associated with the broad categories in which I place myself does not make me any less of an athlete, baker or omnivore. And while I am not a religious person, I don't feel that because a person thinks about the lessons and beliefs taught by a particular religion and rejects some of them makes them any less of a Catholic, Jew, Buddhist, etc. than anyone who buys in completely. In fact, in my opinion, it shows that they have truly considered what is being taught and therefore have made the conscious choice to believe rather than being indoctrinated into a particular faith. I think the implied insult that these thinking believers are not truly believers is hurtful and unnecessary. Tolerance and respect are the underlying themes of our posts. It's disappointing when that is not given back. Thank you, however, for your contribution to our conversation. I hope you enjoyed reading our differing view points, and we appreciate you sharing yours.
B.V. April 21, 2011 at 12:22 PM
Tasha, Your closing remark makes a nice appeal for the same tolerance and respect from the religious community that you allegedly show them. Yet that's a little hard to reconcile with your opening statements that put some's religious beliefs in the same context as "dragons, fairies, and Easter Bunnies." Real respect for people's beliefs don't include flippant remarks made in an effort to be cute, or the condescending view that religious folks choose to worship because their beliefs are "comforting." Every one of us, religious or not, holds some beliefs or values sacred that cannot be fully proven to a scientific certainty. They can be religious, political, cultural, or even allegedly scientific but as yet unproven, and atheists don't occupy a position of moral or intellectual superiority because they are skeptics on the religious front. Global Warming, Affirmative Action, the Death Penalty as a crime deterrent, and whether tax cuts stimulate economic growth- all of these are unproven concepts/views that many nonetheless believe with near-religious intensity; respected scientists and charlatans sit on both sides of the equation. We can deride the beliefs like these all we want, but it's intellectually dishonest to do so while claiming we're at the same time truly showing them respect and tolerance.
Susie Festel April 21, 2011 at 01:14 PM
@ The Authors: I really enjoyed reading all of your perspectives on religion and non-religion in your daily lives. It is admirable that the 5 of you were able to discuss this as a group rationally and respectfully and be able to maintain your friendships afterwards. I think it is sad that Tasha's son and daughter are already feeling pressure to keep their beliefs private because they don't conform to the norm. Hopefully some of those children's parents will read your articles and start teaching the same tolerance to their children that you have. I've been an atheist since I was about 12 but didn't feel comfortable as a kid to openly share my beliefs except with my closest circle of friends. As an adult, I am as open talking about my atheism as other people are talking about their religions because I refuse to let the majority force me to be quiet or feel ashamed. I often see a look of shock on the face of whoever I'm talking to, but when they realize that I'm not putting them down for their beliefs, they follow suit and the look goes away and we go on with our lives. Maybe by pushing the boundaries and being open, I can make things a little easier for the next generation.
Tasha Schlake Festel April 21, 2011 at 01:17 PM
@BV, my comment was intended to be a joke, obviously, but perhaps you are right. Maybe this is not a topic where I should do that. I do not intend to offend. My apologies for that, but I stand by my views on both my reasoning and teaching respect and tolerance on all sides.
R.D. April 21, 2011 at 02:31 PM
B.V., Accusations of intellectual dishonesty are beyond the pale here, when the intent was obviously to lighten up a topic that can be such a hot button issue. Your combative and accusatory tone doesn't bolster your argument. Regarding the magical fairies vs. God issue, the fact of the matter is that both claims to the existence of those supernatural/fantastical entities are arbitrary, and as such, are philosophically _identical_, not just "in the same context." They are not difficult to prove; they are impossible to prove, by design. They are not open to analysis by reason, and instead must be accepted on faith. So while the comment may be seen as "cute" or "flippant," it is nonetheless factually correct. If one does not believe in any supernatural entities, such claims are factually equivalent. The differences lie in how socially acceptable they are, only. While you take great offense, an atheist would see nothing controversial in those statements. Regarding the "comforting" aspect of religion, I ask you: do you not know any casual churchgoers who are somewhat agnostic and yet enjoy the comforting sense of community of their chosen religion? I certainly do, and they make up most of the "believers" I know. In fact, a commenter above suggested that very thing. It is not condescension to identify this -- especially when the author is an atheist who would not look to a religion for any more substantive guidance in life -- and to characterize it as such is unfair.
Sara Jacobi April 21, 2011 at 03:07 PM
Just a note to all commenters: Please be sure you follow Wakefield Patch's terms of use, which state no aliases can be used to mask your identity. Please use your REAL first and last name. Additionally, comments not relevant to the topic (spam) or comments that make personal attacks can be removed. Users currently in violation have been contacted. (You can read the rest of the terms of us here: wakefield.patch.com/terms). And another note: Thanks for such a lively discussion! Clearly this is a topic that lots of parents struggle with, and it's been interesting to hear all sides.
B.V. April 21, 2011 at 03:36 PM
@ R.D., You're entitled to believe that I was beyond the pale- apologies if that offended you. Incidentally, Tasha's (well written and reasoned) column didn't offend me, and I'm a lot closer to the atheist/agnostic end of the spectrum than my input may lead on. Still, I can point out that the author's tone struck me as trying to have her cake and eat it, too- treating religious beliefs as cute and clumping them in with believing in fairies and Easter Bunnies on the one hand, and asking for more tolerance and respect for her views on the other. I understand the philosophical identity of the beliefs you and Tasha list and accept them (just as I recognize that it's impossible to prove there is no god, unlike proving, say, there's no radon in your basement). However, the "in the same context" remark I made was specific to Tasha equating all those beliefs in her article, done in a cute way or not. If I say I believe in the right for gays to marry (which I do), and follow it up with, "Then again, I feel it's fine for fish, children, and Fisher Price toys to marry," it undermines my taking gay marriage seriously, wouldn't you say? Good point re. the comforting remark, but it doesn't reveal oversensitivity on my part. I hear someone say "comforting" about religion and think of Karl Marx's "religion is the opiate of the people" and his dim view of the faithful. Tasha probably didn't mean it in a condescending way, but it's a charged term nonetheless in this context.
Ellen R. April 21, 2011 at 03:51 PM
I was born into and raised in the Jehovah's Witness cult. I was never given a choice and was forced to do the bidding of the cult. My childhood was wretched. I was always unhappy and was jealous of all of my classmates. At 14 years of age, I attempted suicide. I was told that obviously I was under the control of demons because I wanted to die. My parents had NO RIGHT to decide what my beliefs were to be. It was a violation of my human rights. Too many people are concerned about the "rights" of parents to indoctrinate their children. What about the child's right to a sane and rational upbringing? I lost count of the sleepless nights I had as a child due to a belief in demons and the devil and how they wanted to devour me. Your children ARE NOT YOUR PROPERTY. They are human beings with rights. Your rights end where theirs begin.
Mary Bright April 21, 2011 at 04:58 PM
I was raised Catholic and I am raising my children Catholic. I do have many different opinions from the church, I'm a very Liberal person, which differs on many accounts from the Catholic beliefs. I guess I'm one of the people who take from the church the things I like and disregard the things I don't...and teach my children this openess as well. I have lost many people that I love, and this is where I find myself praying and looking to God. Believing that there will come a day that I will see my loved ones again, is my greatest hope. Though this isn't a "scientific" view.... it's definitely Faith based, it helps me get through very difficult times. I feel that there has to be more than "this world". I pass this on to my children, since they have lost loved ones as well. I feel this may help them get through difficult losses in their lifetimes, which is inevitable. Is there a Heaven? I have Faith. And as long as you are a good person you may end up there. How cool is that!
Tasha Schlake Festel April 21, 2011 at 10:14 PM
@Mary, I agree that the thought of Heaven is a very comforting one. I recently lost my beloved grandmother and truly wish I believed there was such a place where I would see her again. Not long after she passed away, an extended family member died and there was a full mass at her funeral. I listened to the words of the service and was pleased that those who believed would find comfort in them. I have an elderly dog who is a huge part of our family, and I know she will not be with us forever. It would be easier to explain her death to my children if I thought there was a "better place" for her. It's a much more elegant and comforting thought than what I believe to be true. It sounds as though you have chosen from your religion what works for you and your family, and I applaud you for that. Thanks for your response.
Regina Martine April 21, 2011 at 10:29 PM
I am interested to hear more of WHY people believe what they do. Was it a personal experience that made them believe that a particular religion is the right one for them, or were they raised in a particular faith and never thought to question it? I said in my piece that religion serves to answer the questions that science cannot. It seems that some religions try to disprove what science has already proven. Why is that? For example, I had a roommate in college who believed that fossils of dinosaur bones were put there by God as a test of the historical accuracy and truthfulness of the Bible. Why are the faithful willing to believe what can't be proven and not accept what can?
Erin Calvo-Bacci April 21, 2011 at 11:15 PM
I have a strong Christian belief and like Laurie, I am committed to my faith in good times and bad. I was raised Catholic and I don't agree with how I was taught religion, because it was as if nothing else existed. Thanks to a childhood friend I occasionally attended The Congregational Church of Reading with her family, was married there and then when time came to have children my husband and I joined First Parish Congregational Church of Wakefield. It is important that my children are raised with a faith. I'm the only committed believer among my parents and siblings and they don't share my views and I don't push mine on them. I do question aspects of religious teachings and I understand Tasha's view. Why are people putting a "politically correct" stamp on religious terms like calling a Christmas Tree a "Holiday Tree" instead or "Holiday Spheres" instead of Easter Eggs? Changing the name will not change the meaning. Not too long ago I read in the Atlantic Monthly that the war the United States is facing is a religious one because believers are coming under attack which will weaken our country and open us to attacks of other dominant religions which do not allow for religious freedom. I feel blessed to live in a country where there is freedom of religion and I don't want that taken away. On Sunday my family will attend Easter Service after our girls have looked for their Easter Eggs and until then I'll be busy (God Willing) selling Easter Chocolate!
Tony Martine April 22, 2011 at 12:27 AM
Not trying to be disrespectful of anyone's beliefs, but why does faithful mean believing in religion or god? The definition of faith is simply trust in the truth of something. It has become synonymous with religion and used in a disparaging way to describe non-"Believers". My faith is that people are generally good and that if I treat people well it adds to the overall good feeling in society. It has nothing to do with religion or god or fear of eternal damnation. It simply is the right way to be. I do feel that religion - and mainly the zealots - do more harm than good. I think true tolerance is not taught in an organized religion. It mainly accepts those with the same beliefs and excludes those that are different. I do appreciate that people find comfort in religion, however, I often wish those people would realize the strength comes from inside them, not some all powerful being watching over the details of every believer's lives. I don't know why a supreme being would really care about the details so much. I will teach my children to be accepting of other's faith or beliefs and let them make their own choices in life. I have faith they will find their own truth and what works best for them.
Mary Bright April 22, 2011 at 02:16 AM
I believe what I do mainly because I was raised that way. I think most people don't choose their religion, they are born into it. There are those that were raised without religion, or didn't connect with the religion of their parents, and discover one later in life (or not at all), but the majority are born into it. I don't have a problem if people believe as I do, or they don't....it's all about tolerance. So if someone believes they will be reincarnated, good for them....or even if dinosaur bones were put there by God...it doesn't really matter to me, as long as they are peaceful about it.
VS April 22, 2011 at 02:57 AM
I think my brother and I are a unique case for this discussion. My father is an atheist (he's a geologist) and my mother is non-practicing Catholic (she is Mexican-American and religion was a huge part of her childhood). They raised my brother and I sans religion. We are not baptized. They preferred that we decide what to believe and practice. Both he and I went to church, youth groups and Sunday school with friends to experience different religions and ceremonies. My parents educated us in the ins-and-outs of many cultural beliefs and also examined the history behind each belief system. Growing up, my brother and I felt left-out of our friends' lives at times but, at the same time, religion really wasn't that important to us. Instead of religion camp, we went camping or the pool, was on the swim team and played baseball, and went on trips. My parents taught us the only faith we needed was that in ourselves, family and friends (relationships). We were members of a wonderful community of family friends, so we weren't missing out. Now that I am grown and my husband and I are thinking about kids, I can honestly say that I am an atheist. My brother holds the same beliefs (or non-beliefs). My husband feels the same. That said, we celebrate the typical "Christian" holidays out of tradition but without religious overtones. We plan to raise our kids the same way my parents raised my brother and I. Religion or absence there of, the most important concept to impart is faith in yourself
Erin Calvo-Bacci April 22, 2011 at 09:46 AM
to Tony & Victoria, thank you for the reminder that we should have faith in it's truest definition and also we should be good because it adds to the general well being. If anything we should have learned from Egypt and Libya that people want freedom, so working towards the "agree to disagree" and accepting diversity is the best way towards a peaceful life. None of us are "right", but we are doing what we believe is "right for our families" and best for our children. I have more respect for Tasha who can stand by her convictions than someone who goes through the motions halfheartedly or simply for the pomp and circumstance.
Michele April 22, 2011 at 10:38 AM
I will try give my story in the briefest manner possible. I was brought up Catholic, not Bible thumping but we went to Mass on Sunday, I made my Sacraments and after Confirmation (9th grade) going to church was not required. As a teen and young adult I became a skeptic, and after losing a dear friend in college I became angry at a God that would allow such pain in good peoples lives. "Why" was a big question, and then of course the pedophile scandle was my final excuse to avoid my religion altogether. When I gave birth to my daughter she was in the neo-natal intensive care ward after delivery and I recieved a visit from a nun and she prayed with me for Alicia. This moved me to tears and I was very surprised by my reaction. It was after this that I started researching and learning about the Bible, Jesus, and God. I have read many books on the subject, watched many shows on TV (history channel mostly) and have had many lengthly discussions with friends weighing in on the "facts" It wasn't quick, and I still had many times where I was angry or disapointed and questioned God and religion, but I have now come to peace with my decision to have faith that there is life in Heaven after death, that while there is suffering there is still hope, that Jesus in my savior and I want him in my life. There is not enough room in this comment section to give details, but I can assure you that I have had several situations in which I feel that God was listening, and has answered.
Michele April 22, 2011 at 10:56 AM
OK, ran out of room so I"ll finish in a second section. I also want to point out that because I did my own research, I do not blindly follow the Catholic religion with no questions asked. There are some issues that I disagree with, and in my mind I believe that it is not my position to judge, therefore I live and let live. However, since I have opened my heart and mind to God, and started to attend Mass on a regular basis (approx. 5 yrs ago) I have become a much better person, wife, mother and daughter. I am fulfilled, peaceful, less judgemental, and happy, and you may call in a coincidence, but my life is better now than it has ever been. There is always something said during Mass that I can identify with and use in my daily life. Many of my prayers have been answered, and I encourage my children to open their hearts and listen as I have. My children attend Mass, and while I'm not a bible thumper we do enjoy Mass as a family and our faith is part of our lives. I do not believe to find comfort, as some might think, on the contrary, I find comfort BECAUSE I believe.
Laurie Hunt April 22, 2011 at 02:42 PM
Michele your thoughts really moved me, thank you for sharing. I can completely understand how you feel like a better person since deciding that you really want Jesus in your life. My relationship with Him is so much different and more powerful now than it ever was.
Danny Haszard April 25, 2011 at 05:58 AM
Often when in critical need of an emergency *whole* blood transfusion the Watchtowe Elders and Hospital Liaison committee members will 'strongly encourage' patients to hold on to their faith in Jehovah and stick to JW no blood doctrine trusting in Jehovah to raise them from the dead. Acts 15:29 'abstain from blood' is a biblical passage taken out of context and that every Jehovah's Witnesses is phobic indoctrinated with. So,....when they go into ER for themselves or their Kids and are in need of EMERGENCY BLOOD from critical loss of blood volume.....they are brainwashed "ABSTAIN FROM BLOOD" and in all the heat of the moment and trauma they don't think of all the fine print of Watchtower legal subterfuges that ALLOW them to take just about every aspect of blood and they reject all the help.... because they are so confused and end up dying. Are you confused too? So,why are there Watchtower directives that let a JW take cows blood (Hemopure) and platelets and other fractions on and on and on...? So,when their kid dies and the parents find out that it was unnecessary the Watchtower legal can show them the rulebook in court and squirm out of wrongful death lawsuits
Laurie Hunt April 08, 2012 at 12:32 AM
Commenting to bump up this article from last year as we approach Easter 2012.

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