My boy turned an atheist when he was six. Here’s how and why!
As a child, he was introduced to Gods and poojas that we do at home and temples just like everybody else. The father and I do not believe in the necessity of introducing mythological stories to little children, so he had never heard stories of God until then. Many of his early questions were around understanding what God can be. Our answers were minimal for we wanted him to build his own perceptions instead of being taught everything about God and religion.
One day when he was six, he came back from school and declared, “Amma, God is not real. God is a lie.”
Apparently, in a school festival celebration, he had heard a story of a Hindu God who killed a demon and that it was in fact the reason behind the celebration. After he heard this story, he came to the conclusion that there cannot be a God.
If it were, a God would not kill, no matter what the demon did!
Period! Even today, he doesn’t come to the pooja room, recite shlokas, or is interested to learn anything related to God and religion.
And we could not be more glad, because he built a belief on his own perceptions of an abstract subject.
But now that he understands that krishna, Ganesha, and Shiva are not real, he has started asking questions about the ‘faith’ that we call as God and his quest continues…
F – Freedom: Allowing children to explore perceptions
Post #6 of the series: Instilling Social Equality in Children
To some, this story can sound ridiculous and I will not be surprised!
Preferences in following religions and practices can vary between families, parents, and even between siblings. While the boy has no inclination toward reciting Sanskrit Shlokas, the girl is fond of prayers – prayers of any kind. I include a variety of prayers for her, from Sanskrit Shlokas, prayer in the mother tongue, spiritual hymns to Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Where the mind is without fear’. More recently, she is enticed by the Ramzan prayers that we hear from a nearby mosque. She’ll open the door and run outside, stand still listening to it until it gets over. And she would often exclaim how beautiful the prayer sounds. Perhaps, some children like her can naturally connect to the underlying divinity irrespective of the religion, tradition, and language.
The intention of the post is to get parents into the thinking along these lines: if they have a child who is like the boy who loves to explore perceptions that’s different from what’s practiced at home or like the girl loves to embrace several forms of worship, would you support that?
Here’s yet another question for parents: Do we first of all, identify what our children think, believe, and perceive about what we follow at home? It can seem that it’s natural that children will tend to follow the family culture, which can be true as well, however, there can also be a possibility that they might develop an urge to see what lies outside ours.
It was Christmas time and once the boy was curious to know something about Christianity. I made him watch a children’s version of ‘The Passion of Christ’. At the end of the movie, he said, I think Christianity is a kind religion because even when the bad guys killed Jesus, Jesus did not kill them back – the lack of something he could not accept about the religion he was born into! An orthodox Hindu parent would not want to tolerate such remarks by their own children, but if we saw things without any filters, children can actually make unbiased observations.
Coming back to my question, would we allow our children to observe faiths that our not ours? Or, do we want to single-mindedly enforce on them what we believe in?
If you are one of those adults who was raised in an orthodox family and began your spiritual search during your 20s, you would have come to realize how you have evolved as an individual from what was dictated to you as a child to what you self-discovered on your way. Traditionally, we have been blind-folded and hand-held to follow that one rigid path. And at one point when we are left to ourselves, we have no clue where we are in the journey. And then we begin our search from the scratch only to reach that point again, this time with the understanding of where we came from and where we are though we might not know where we would need to head to.
What if we were never blind-folded and hand-held, but could walk parallelly with our predecessors? I don’t want to hint an answer. It’s an open blank for you to fill in with your own verse.
P.S. For simplicity sake, I took the example of religion in this post. Giving them freedom can be applied to castes, languages, or any aspect that has the potential to discriminate people.
A Hundred Little Flames is a post I wrote when the boy was four, about 100 random questions he had asked and how answering his questions changed many of my own perceptions.