The second installment of my series on “Why I Won’t Raise my Children in Religion” has to do with the issue of guilt. Richard Dawkins, in his book The God Delusion, quotes the American comedienne CathyLadman as stating “All religions are the same: religion is basically guilt, with different holidays.” While she may have been exaggerating the point, I find truth there as well.
When I consider the Christian creation story, what stands out to me is the immediate entrance of guilt onto the scene. This perfect, omniscient, omnipresent God creates the world and all that’s in it in six days…and it was good. This God creates the perfect world and the perfect human (except God did mess up since it was an afterthought that he realized that it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone). Regardless, everything is going swimmingly until Adam and Eve (perhaps Eve was most at fault) were deceived into eating of the tree of knowledge. Even if you hold this story as true, you must realize that Adam and Eve couldn’t have been created perfect as they had an obvious curiosity that needed to be fulfilled. Something was missing, they wanted to be like God. They were not living according to their nature which is to pursue knowledge. A favorite defense of this is that they were created perfect, but God also gave them “free will.” Free will is a much offered explanation of Adam and Eve, and our situation since the fall. I find this an argument that makes God out to be even more deplorable than usual because, according to the Christian:
- God gave mankind free will so as not to have “robots” worshiping him;
- Mankind chose to use that free will to reason and gain knowledge, in essence to not behave like robots;
- God punishes mankind for using the one thing he gave us that truly separates us from the other animals.
Religion has through the ages guilted mankind into a faithful servitude. It provides a constant denigration of mankind and who we are as fools who will never do right or know right without god. I am tired of being told that I am not worthy of what god has done for me, when in fact, I have only lived according to the nature that he supposedly gave me. I am tired of religion preaching to us how base and vile we are without the holy spirit.
The other night I watched the movie Religulous for the first time. There was an interview with a U.S. Congressman who couldn’t say whether or not humanity would know right from wrong without God. This was a U.S. Congressman! The idea that we get our notion of right and wrong from a god that created us six-thousand years ago is insulting. Religion specializes in the art of debasing humanity, and as a population here in the United States, we seem to embrace it.
So, I refuse to raise my children under an umbrella of guilt. I will not tell my son or yet-to-be-born daughter that they are unworthy of anything. They need to know that they have the potential for doing nearly anything they want in life, and I will encourage them to pursue that to the highest and most ethical degree they can. I choose to raise my children to the best of my ability with an appreciation for the uniqueness and diversity of humanity, to question authority (even mine as painful as that can be), and to think for themselves; that when they are pursuing their utmost, they have an abundant capacity for empathy and compassion. I think this is the greatest gift I could ever give my children, the confidence to be, love, and appreciate themselves.