Why I Raise My Children Without God — A Response
TXBlue08, a mother of two teenagers in Texas, blogs about raising her children without religion. She said she shared this essay on CNN iReport because ‘I just felt there is not a voice out there for women/moms like me. I think people misunderstand or are fearful of people who don’t believe in God.’ Since it’s posting on the 14th, it has received the highest number of views for an iReport on CNN.com.
Here is what she had to say:
God is a bad parent and role model.
If God is our father, then he is not a good parent. Good parents don’t allow their children to inflict harm on others. Good people don’t stand by and watch horrible acts committed against innocent men, women and children. They don’t condone violence and abuse. “He has given us free will,” you say? Our children have free will, but we still step in and guide them.
We do step in a guide our children, but the best parents also know when to step back. No matter how much we may desire to protect our children from the world and its mistakes and their own mistakes, sometimes the only way the child will learn is from experience of making the mistake. Losing a job for the first time, or a friend is sometimes the wake-up call that a person needs that they will not understand by being told. The tragedy in Sandy Hook is an example. After the incident, there has been nothing but a strong force of discussion about gun reform. Additionally, we are now hearing about every gun incident, major and minor around the country.
As far as a role model goes, I do not need to mention the fact that Christ is the ultimate role model who through self-sacrificial love became exactly like His own creation in order to save it.
God is not logical.
How many times have you heard, “Why did God allow this to happen?” And this: “It’s not for us to understand.” Translate: We don’t understand, so we will not think about it or deal with the issue. Take for example the senseless tragedy in Newtown. Rather than address the problem of guns in America, we defer responsibility to God. He had a reason. He wanted more angels. Only he knows why. We write poems saying that we told God to leave our schools. Now he’s making us pay the price. If there is a good, all-knowing, all-powerful God who loves his children, does it make sense that he would allow murders, child abuse, wars, brutal beatings, torture and millions of heinous acts to be committed throughout the history of mankind? Doesn’t this go against everything Christ taught us in the New Testament?
The question we should be asking is this: “Why did we allow this to happen?” How can we fix this? No imaginary person is going to give us the answers or tell us why. Only we have the ability to be logical and to problem solve, and we should not abdicate these responsibilities to “God” just because a topic is tough or uncomfortable to address.
I recently read an excellent exchange between St. Anthony and God when St. Anthony was tortured physically by the demons:
‘Where wert thou? Why didst thou not appear at the beginning to make my pains to cease?’ And a voice came to him, ‘Antony, I was here, but I waited to see thy fight; wherefore since thou hast endured, and hast not been worsted, I will ever be a succour to thee, and will make thy name known everywhere.’ Having heard this, Antony arose and prayed, and received such strength that he perceived that he had more power in his body than formerly.
God lets these things happen and it may very well not be clear to us why they happened at the time. However, through his grace and in His time He reveals these things to us. Whether they be a wake-up call for humanity or for our own strength and fortitude.
God is not fair.
If God is fair, then why does he answer the silly prayers of some while allowing other, serious requests, to go unanswered? I have known people who pray that they can find money to buy new furniture. (Answered.) I have known people who pray to God to help them win a soccer match. (Answered.) Why are the prayers of parents with dying children not answered?
If God is fair, then why are some babies born with heart defects, autism, missing limbs or conjoined to another baby? Clearly, all men are not created equally. Why is a good man beaten senseless on the street while an evil man finds great wealth taking advantage of others? This is not fair. A game maker who allows luck to rule mankind’s existence has not created a fair game.
Not gonna lie, I laughed at this one. Isn’t the “not fair” complaint the one we use as children and teenagers? What do we learn in the workplace? It’s not fair and we have to deal with it. Again, I think many of these reasons are rolled into one. No, God may not be fair, but are we fair with our own children? Would we punish or reward a 2-year-old in the same way we reward a teenager? Certainly not. Would we challenge a 2-year-old in the same way we challenge a teenager? Certainly not. Do we grant our children everything they ask for, in order for them to be happy? Certainly not. We know that discernment is needful and wise. Likewise, God works with us at a level where we are fit. If that means answering a simple prayer to a family of little faith, then perhaps that will help guide them towards more fervent worship and love. Perhaps it means that a severe challenge will be placed in our path to make us more loving and compassionate, or to see the good and purity in others. If we did not have the poor, how could we learn to be charitable? If we did not have the sick how could we learn to be compassionate? If there were not medical problems with the body, why would anyone research and find the beauty in creation itself? God is unfair in that he treats us in the way in which will help us to grow the most in love, faith and charity.
God does not protect the innocent.
He does not keep our children safe. As a society, we stand up and speak for those who cannot. We protect our little ones as much as possible. When a child is kidnapped, we work together to find the child. We do not tolerate abuse and neglect. Why can’t God, with all his powers of omnipotence, protect the innocent?
Again, I say, how would we learn to be this team of compassionate individuals if we did not have the opportunity to do so? Do we not fabricate ridiculous “team-building” activities and “ice-breakers” how much more bonding are these terrible events and disasters? How much more grateful does it make us of our children and loved ones and indeed, life itself?
God is not present.
He is not here. Telling our children to love a person they cannot see, smell, touch or hear does not make sense. It means that we teach children to love an image, an image that lives only in their imaginations. What we teach them, in effect, is to love an idea that we have created, one that is based in our fears and our hopes.
“Blessed are they who do not see, and yet believe” Christ came 2000 years ago as a person in the flesh and he was still hated and despised, even after changing water to wine, feeding the 5000, healing the blind and raising the dead. We must have faith, because we do not even believe that which we can see. When we open our hearts to the love of God then we can and do feel it like fire in our souls. We see the face of God in every individual we meet. And of course, we consume the Holy Communion during the Divine Liturgy. God is present in the sunrises and the birds and the berries. His voice is in the wind and the thunder and the rain. We just have to seek and listen.
It is the Holy Spirit who makes us find joy in each flower, the exquisite scent, the delicate colour, the beauty of the Most High in the tiniest of things. Glory and honour to the Spirit, the Giver of Life, who covers the fields with their carpet of flowers, crowns the harvest with gold, and gives to us the joy of gazing at it with our eyes. O be joyful and sing to Him: Alleluia!
-Akathist Hymn: Glory to God For All Things Kontakion 3
God Does Not Teach Children to Be Good
A child should make moral choices for the right reasons. Telling him that he must behave because God is watching means that his morality will be externally focused rather than internally structured. It’s like telling a child to behave or Santa won’t bring presents. When we take God out of the picture, we place responsibility of doing the right thing onto the shoulders of our children. No, they won’t go to heaven or rule their own planets when they die, but they can sleep better at night. They will make their family proud. They will feel better about who they are. They will be decent people.
Much of the error in this is that we are not avoiding that which is wrong to keep God happy, rather we strive to do what is right in order to become like Him; perfect in every way. Additionally we know that we can never be perfect on our own, and so we rely on him to perfect that which is not perfect.
Who decides what is right, anyway? If right and wrong was up to each unique individual, we would never agree. No, as C.S. Lewis puts it, there is indeed a natural law which we, as human beings, are inclined to follow. We do not come up with these rules on our own, indeed they can be found in the Bible itself.
As for Hell, we understand Hell to be, in fact, the experience of the Love of God. If we do not love God and if we do everything to push him away, we will experience his Love as fire that burns.
Lastly, no one is Good. God alone is Good.
God Teaches Narcissism
“God has a plan for you.” Telling kids there is a big guy in the sky who has a special path for them makes children narcissistic; it makes them think the world is at their disposal and that, no matter what happens, it doesn’t really matter because God is in control. That gives kids a sense of false security and creates selfishness. “No matter what I do, God loves me and forgives me. He knows my purpose. I am special.” The irony is that, while we tell this story to our kids, other children are abused and murdered, starved and neglected. All part of God’s plan, right?
Please don’t tell me, Mrs. Mitchell, that you don’t tell your kid “they are special” or that you have not attended an event where every kid gets a prize or a trophy. Ok, now that part is out of the way…
We know that God will not forgive “no matter what” we also know that forgiveness will only come with true repentance. True repentance can only come from true humility, which is the complete opposite of narcissism. True repentance is not “I’m sorry” it is “Please forgive me for the mistake which I made as a result of my own pride”
The last portion of the article is what offended me the most. Mitchell writes:
I only want religion to be kept at home or in church where it belongs. It’s a personal effect, like a toothbrush or a pair of shoes. It’s not something to be used or worn by strangers.
This, my brothers and sisters, is the persecution we are living with in today’s free world. We are not killed for our faith, but there are those who want us to keep it a secret, keep it hidden, and live our lives as if it was not the foundation of our life. We cannot be silent, we must continue to educate. Above all we must continue to pray and love.