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Over at the blog Piece of Mind, in a post called Doubt is a Higher Calling, Mark Tokarski has challenged me to define my thinking about childhood indoctrination a little more clearly.  It’s a valid challenge.  It’s worth reading his post before you read the following response:

Mark,

I’m glad we’re having this conversation… and this is good – you’re getting me started on my post about indoctrination. You don’t mind if I steal my own comments off your blog right? ;-)

The reason I have “dealt with this somewhat, but not thoroughly” is that my kids (all girls) are 4, 3, and 1 and when it comes to parenting I try to live by the rule that I don’t comment – not with apparent authority anyway – on things I have not yet experienced.

So, with my oldest being only 4 she is starting to ask questions, starting to pick up things here and there that she hears about “God”. This is where you and I differ – you have older children and you’ve already been through this. So I do appreciate your insights, and for that matter the honesty of your post.

I am in the process of determining proper responses to my daughters. Am I going to bombard them with theology that they have no hope of understanding? No, of course not. Am I going to answer their childlike questions in equally childlike terms that they can understand? Yes I am.

Where I have determined that I have found Truth I will tell my children. Where I have doubts I won’t pretend to be certain. That’s the way I work.

As for your childhood experience… yes, things tend to be overspiritualized in many ways. It’s an error I try to avoid. You have that in common with another one of my other commenters who I went out for a Guinness with last night (I still don’t like it BTW – I try to like it every 2 years or so). His point was similar to yours: things were so overspiritualized for him in a negative way that he couldn’t be in a dark room alone without being afraid.

Now this is all very unfortunate when it is the result of religious fearmongering. Do I believe demons and angels exist? Well, as a Christian, of course I do. But the manner of their influence is considerably more subtle, as a rule, than what is portrayed in a Frank Peretti book or for that matter a Stephen King book/movie.

The extremity of your treatment is common to some Catholic communities; I am far more familiar with extreme fundamentalism though, which is very common here in Southwestern Ontario (Canada). You have these groups nailed and I agree with you that they are involved in malicious indoctrination. I know many such people personally and they don’t even consider me a Christian. Seriously… especially if they read this and find out I had a beer.

If you don’t mind me asking, what was the “bolt of lighting that knocked you off your horse”? I’m assuming this is not the same flash of light that knocked St. Paul off of his.

You’re right on this too: children should know all of it, the good and the bad together. And here’s another point we won’t agree on but from personal experience many of the friends I grew up in church with ditched their Christianity when the other half of the truth was known. My belief is that they, along with a couple of generations in North America would still be Christians today if they had known all of it and been able to work out their faith with the knowledge of both sides.

I’ll make an assumption here so correct me if I’m wrong, but would your thinking be that given all the evidence anyone who honestly wrestled with it would choose Atheism?

You have my vote on doubt. I even wrote a song about it called Broken Hearted. The song is about the benefits and challenges of embracing doubt.

Cheers Mark, here’s to many more of these conversations.

********************************

(if you liked that song, there are more at http://www.michaelkrahn.com .  Shameless self-promotion, I know, but this is MY blog after all.)

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