Religion and my brother

We went out to dinner last night with my brother, who is visiting from Northern California and my step-sister and her family. I rarely get to see my brother and feel our time together is so precious that when the topic of religion and politics came up, I got a little worried. As non-Christian liberals who practice attachment parenting, my brother and I are polar opposites in the majority of our core beliefs. I worried that he’d feel ganged up upon sitting amongst the four parents at the table who could easily be called "screaming liberals". He held his own, calmly and succinctly sharing his own views and firmly backing up his arguments and while I was very proud of his confidence and respected his strength of character, I really had a hard time with some of the things he said. I probably shouldn’t talk about them here, but since this blog is for my girls and I think it’s very important they understand my beliefs, I’m going to attempt to tread lightly and share the topics that have had me thinking and well, hurting. He often reads my blog, so if you plan to comment, please do so with respect. He’s an amazingly intelligent man, sensitive father and my big brother, so if you happen to disagree with his views, do so kindly. If you happen to disagree with mine, please offer me the same respect.

Item the first: babies are born in sin and are essentially “naughty.”

I believe that children are curious, not wicked. Lily seems interested in pleasing us most of the time and when she does not, I see those moments as her exerting her own control, finding her way in the world or exploring it in a way that we may not think of as social responsible. Some social behaviors do have to be taught, but they are in no way evidence of a wicked soul. We practice attachment parenting, which I would argue deserves the title “intuitive parenting” as we believe strongly that by following our own instincts and working with a child we can have an experience that is beneficial and rewarding to all parties. We don’t spank, we don’t “punish”, we try not to yell; instead we offer gentle discipline, work on a basis of natural consequences and as I snuggled my tiny daughter in bed this morning, I breathed in her scent and thought, “no way are you inherently wicked.” I don’t know how you could think a child full of sin, but it does shed a huge light on conventional parenting techniques, ones that I could never understand in the framework of my beautiful, shining, helpful, GOOD children. I can see how a parent would chose to spank if they believed their child wicked. I can see how a parent would feel it OK to allow a tiny person to scream them self to sleep, rather than co-bed if you truly thought of the child as sinful and in need of training. I can’t condone it, but I can understand the motivation. So many things that I think of as sad parenting choices would be so much more tolerable if I thought this way about my kids. But, of course, I don’t. I cannot see a single stroke of sin in these children I have been blessed with and instead believe it is my job to protect, gently teach and encourage the good in them. I don’t have to worry about the evil because I do not believe it exists in them. In my opinion, that is something that is learned, not inherent. To parent without that belief would be impossibly hard for me; it would be a devastating practice of frustration and sorrow; it would be FOR ME a worthless endeavor and I could not have ever managed to have another child after Lily if this is truly what I believed.

I’m actually hoping someone can better explain this issue to me, as I cannot fully understand how anyone could have faith in a God that saw children this way.

Item the second: without religion there is no morality.

Before I met my husband, I struggled greatly with my lack of faith, wondering how I could ever rear good children without the aid of the church. I thought that the only way a person could be moral was if they were brought up in Christ and since I was struggling so deeply with my own faith, didn’t know how to rear moral children when I got to that stage in my life. Then I met Mark. He was brought up in a home without religion and yet is one of the most moral, decent, spiritual men I have ever met; so basically good at heart that I was in awe of him when we first got together. I couldn’t understand it; he should be confused in the morality department! He was, after all, raised without the benefit of a church! Through my relationship with him, I have come to understand so much more about what faith, beauty, goodness and morality really is than all the years I spent going to church as a child. I have also taught him how to forgive some of the appalling behavior “Christians” have inflicted on him over the years and together, we make a pretty decent pair of souls.

What’s more, I feel that Christians get themselves into a very scary spot when they immediately write off non-Christians as amoral. It’s a dangerous belief and is undoubtedly part of what has led us to war with non-Christian countries. It’s what led Hitler to do the unspeakable things he’s famous for and it frightens the hell out of me. Again, I understand the thought process as I too used to feel that way, but now that I have seen the harm in that thinking, it just scares me. *

Item the third: Bush is fine!

Ah, no. He’s not. But that argument isn’t one I need to share with my children and so I’ll leave it alone here.

Overall, I adore my brother, we just don’t sit on the same page about these topics. I love though that we can discuss them and we can talk intelligently with each other about so many things. He’s such a good man at heart, I feel lucky to know him and blessed for any of the time I am given with him, since we so rarely get to sit down together. He’s my big brother and I love him. It’s just amazing at how very different we have become over the years.

*ETA: My brother didn’t say those without God are amoral; instead he just said that our definitions of morality are different. He did state that to judge someone as amoral wouldn’t be Christian. That paragraph isn’t about him, but about some of the Christian behavior I see. Just needed to clear that up!