This week’s question: How would you handle raising children with a religious spouse?
I have often contemplated my future life as a father. To have a son would be both awesome and fucking terrifying (a daughter, for me, even more so), but it would also be something so good not much else in life would seem to matter in comparison. Nothing would matter more than giving my son the sincerest effort in his upbringing. If there is anything truly sacred, it is the practice of raising a child. There is nothing more deeply moral, nothing more fundamental to human life, than the function of a parent to introduce a child to existence, to teach him, to watch him learn and to see him grow. It’s how our species gets on. And if we are to continue to get on, we have to put our children first.
But how could I possibly get on if my child’s mother — my wife — were religious? Deal-breaker, you say? Perhaps; but perhaps not — there is an extent to which I’d tolerate religion in my family, albeit a vanishing short one. Expressions of dogma will simply not be put up with in my family, especially in front of my son. Most women for whom religion is central would probably, and reasonably, find this unacceptable; indeed, such a family’s success would be unlikely. But that would be my condition because, for a child, seeing the world properly and having the right view of things is essential to true maturation.
Brian Gallagher is a fourth-year philosophy major.
Raising kids with a spouse who is religious would probably range from excruciatingly difficult to truly impossible. And frankly, I don’t think I could concede much ground at all. Parenthood is probably the most important task you or I will ever undertake. Not all of us are doctors or firemen, but we are nearly all potential parents, and the only test one must pass in order to become a parent is quite unrelated to how good a parent one will make. And I’m no different. I don’t know everything about how best to raise a child. But one thing I do know is the importance of intellectual integrity.
Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize winner and professor of physics renowned for his ability to mold young minds, describes this most-important attitude in the closing chapter of his memoirs. He calls it “scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty — a kind of leaning over backwards.” Whatever one knows, one must respect that knowledge and incorporate it, not ignore it. I could not convince myself that my child would be unaffected by a religious upbringing, that he or she would flourish despite being taught that wrong was right and slavery is love. Raising children who are intellectually hollow is a crime I would not commit. And if I found myself married to someone who was as steadfast as I am about religious education or ritual genital circumcision, it would be the end of the marriage.
Connor Oake is a fourth-year political science major.
So you mean my partner isn’t going to think, value and react in the way I’d always dreamed they would? How curious. All sarcasm aside, this question boils down to what I would consider the most fundamental idea of a loving parental relationship. This idea is that love is based off the sacrifice of oneself for another. Are we not using our child’s persona as the ultimate prize in this spiritual tug-of-war? In our rush to soothe our personal egos are we not forgetting that we must both lay down our arms, come together and focus on the most important person in this conflict, our child?
Instead we must work together to find common ground. Together we can search out mutual morals and values for our child’s development. In an overly publicized religious America, where even atheists care more for preaching than for private practice themselves, we are able to teach our children through the simple ideas of Aesop’s fables, Dr. Seuss and Greek folklore. Would integrating the teachings of the Christian, Muslim and atheist, without emphasizing an intensely spiritually personal concept, be so horrid? In doing this we are handing over the power of choice to our children who, later as adults, will make their own decisions. More importantly, with both parents sacrificing, we are also teaching them how to truly love. And that, I hope, will make our children stronger than any ideology, including my own, could ever hope to make them.
James Cobb is a third-year global studies major.