Sharing our Values, or Brainwashing?

I was raised Catholic. Went to Catholic school, attended church every Sunday. I was taught basic tenets of the Catholic faith as Factual, right along with “the earth is round” and “2 + 2 = 4”.

Catholicism and I were never a good fit. I like to question everything, and as a child in school that was not exactly encouraged when it came to “matters of faith”. The spiritual world was exactly as they told me it was, and people who didn’t believe that went to Hell (or at least needed some serious intervention).

When I went to University I was suddenly immersed in a world where everybody was different, where I could see walking, talking examples of those destined for Hell, and there didn’t seem to be anything particularly horrible about them that they deserved such a fate. Slowly I unburdened myself of those mental shackles – it was never my Faith, anyways, but the Faith that was chosen for me. It was not easy. When something has been drummed into you since birth, it is a tough thing to say “I don’t believe this anymore”, even when it seems obvious to you that you shouldn’t.

So it will be no surprise to you readers that I refuse to bring my child up with any religious faith. Besides the fact that I don’t hold to any myself, I think raising kids in a religion that states “this is the way it is” is akin to brainwashing. My DH and I had a discussion about this ages ago where he pointed out that *everybody* has a faith that they pass on to their kids, even if their faith is non-religious. We teach kids things all the time that we expect them to take for granted, such as “violence is not the answer” or “treat people kindly”, or even more benign things about how the world works. We teach them about the planets and the stars and the creatures in the sea, about history and literature, but even these things are largely matters of faith, albeit one with more built-in checks and balances than religions have.

I couldn’t find an answer for DH at the time. But I read this post on a new blog I found, and it summed up what I was trying to say:

The last thing in the world that I would want is for my children to blindly follow my beliefs, never challenge them…In order to have strong convictions about something (without being brainwashed) we have to come to those conclusions through debate, struggling to understand the world and tossing around all the alternatives in our brain, and in practice, first. Allowing our children to want things we don’t like is giving them the freedom to figure out what is right for them and for their world…My hope is that they will have gone through all their many struggles, trying on different ideas and pursuing things that I don’t agree with *before* they leave the nest, so when they get into the world, they will be confident in their choices…because they had a chance already to play around with lots of different ideas and perspectives.

What I want to teach my children is not what they should believe, but how to decide whether or not something is believable to them. I don’t want to teach them “the Truth”, but instead give them the tools to find their own truths.

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One thought on “Sharing our Values, or Brainwashing?

  1. Anonymous

    Your blog is now on my ‘faves’ list to check. I appreciate all your entries, especially the ones about self doubt, setting limits, and anger. I certainly wasn’t prepared for the outbursts of anger in ds1, nor the feelings of anger I had for him when he was being violent with me. You remind me to take a deep breath and just ride out the amazing journey of trying to be the best parent we can be. I appreciate your words of wisdom and honest perspective. Can’t wait to try out the butter experiment too!

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