I’m never sure of how I want to talk about religion. I’m not religious but I find religion to be culturally interesting, and I’m respecting people who are. I’m always a little afraid that if I say I don’t believe there’s a God, people who do will not want to be my friend anymore or something. You know, not the fundamentalists, ‘coz these wouldn’t be reading my blog and I wouldn’t want to be their friend anyway, rather normal people who live in our world but also happen to have religious faith.
But there you go, I decided to jump, partly because it’s now around Easter and it is the one
I grew up in a Catholic surrounding, in a sense that my hometown was not culturally diverse at all and it was just historically there. Here in Quebec, the Catholic Church pretty much ruled the entire society for centuries, and by that I mean the government, the schools, the health system, the laws, the communities, the businesses, the families and their reproductive rights, everything. And well, it's an understatement to say that they screwed up. In 1960 a big society change called the Quiet Revolution happened and the Church was kicked out. Since then, Quebec has very much blossomed and developed incredibly fast, both in terms of economy and progressive mentality. But people simply rejected the Church's influence as a whole and never looked back. This is the society background.
My parents were non-practicing, even though they still had us baptized because it was "the thing to do". But they also sent us to private school. There was only one in our hometown and it happened to be VERY religious. I would say fundamentalist. So this is my personal background. Going back in time a few centuries each time I passed the school door, being brainwashed, going home with my little heart full of guilt and sorrow because my family were not up to these standards, they were drinking wine and were very rarely setting foot in a church and oh my god were even laughing at what we were taught.
I bought it for a few years, praying for my family to become holier and such. When I was seven I drew a picture of a nun, and explained that this is what I wanted to become one day (I don't think I could have made my mom sadder or more perplexed!) And when I was about ten, I realized that not everybody believed what we believed. That there were other faiths. So came the question: "Then what makes us think that we are the ones who are right?" And I thought and thought about it and the only answer I came up with was: "Well, we certainly are not."
So I stopped believing, but also developed major issues with the Catholic Church (and I clearly don't seem to be the only one). About the crazy negative and harmful side of it all, about how in all my years in this school I did not see anything spiritual or positive or nurturing or enlightening, just pure gore and nonsense and hypocrisy and guilt and fear and a culture of unfairness and cruelty. Even today, the Church's stance and policies on most topics, its blatant clulessness and refusal to admit past errors, still infuriate me in a very personal way and shake me to my core.
M's family background is the same, but since he went to public school he doesn't know all the stories, sacraments, rituals and prayers that were once my second nature (I may be agnostic but I know my stuff). Like me, he also grew up to become a strong free thinker and is generally extremely wary of any organized religion, the one we were accustomed to in particular. So we're very like-minded on this topic.
Then comes LP. And the question about what to teach him in this regard. I mean it was pretty clear we wouldn't raise him religiously, but in day-to-day life it's much more complex than that. We didn't have him baptized/christened, which was the morally correct thing for us to do, but which surprisingly ruffled some feathers around us (because as strange as it may seem -to me at least-, most people continue to do it, even if they're not religious and even not married). But as he's growing up and becoming more inquisitive, I sometimes wonder what we are going to do...
How do you explain death (or even war, misery, extreme hardship, etc.) to children in a world without God? How can I make him learn about it from a cultural/historical point of view, without the notion of belief? How can I teach him to be respectful towards religious people but always keep a rational distance? And how can I reconcile all of this with the little place religion still has in our lives, during Holidays for instance?
I guess the main thing I want to emphasize is that I do not think growing up without religion leads to a life that lacks good values, quite the contrary. I may not be religious, but I'm a humanist, I genuinely care about others, and respect is of the utmost importance for me. I simply hope that above anything else, I can transmit that to him.