The Raving Theist

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God Squad Review CXXX (Raising Interfaith Children)

May 31, 2005 | 22 Comments

An engaged interfaith couple (Reform Jew/Methodist) asks the Squad for advice on their plan to teach their children that both religions are “right,” raising them as Jewish until the age of 13 and then offering the chance to switch to Christianity. Failing to grasp that both religions are actually “wrong,” the answer builds upon the confusion of the question:

What you’re doing is good in that you are considering giving your children a real sense of identity in at least one of your religions.

It would be helpful if, as a part of this decision, only one set of religious symbols be brought into the home. Hanukkah, not Christmas, should be the only winter holiday celebrated in a home where you are trying to raise Jewish children. Passover, not Easter, should be the only spring holiday. Take your kids to the home of the grandparents who practice the “out” religion to expose them to the Christian faith.

Children in interfaith homes can be raised as proud members of one religion, but only if you help them. We don’t know how they will be able to make a faith-based decision to become Christians at age 13 if all they’ve been taught in synagogue religious school is Judaism (or conversely, how they could ever choose to be Jews if you raised them as Christians for 13 years).

We believe in choosing, but 13 is way too late in childhood to expect them to make such a momentous decision, which alters the core meaning of their identity. Conversion, which is what you’re really talking about, is a decision for adults.

You will know that your children are fully Jewish, even though you, their father, are Christian. We often see that the religion that sticks is the religion of the mother, so it seems as though you’re making the best of a difficult situation.

Let’s see if I’ve got this straight:

(1) One’s choice of religion is “momentous” and “core-altering” — but usually just a matter of parroting whatever mommy believes.

(2) The choice is so “momentous” etc. that it’s too late to make as a teen

Comments

22 Responses to “God Squad Review CXXX (Raising Interfaith Children)”

  1. AK
    May 31st, 2005 @ 2:12 pm

    Almost a week since the last post. Finally! :)

    And I popped the comments cherry for this one. Arent I special??

  2. Frank
    May 31st, 2005 @ 2:38 pm

    The notion of teaching your child that both religions are “right” is quite absurd. While Christianity is the completion of the Jewish faith (Jesus is the Jewish Messiah) the religions, as practiced today, are at odds with one another. Jesus Christ is central, indeed crucial, to the Christian faith. If He is not who he says He was and did not do what the Bible says He did then Christianity is worthless. Judaism rejects Christ outright. The two religions cannot both be “right.”

    Logically speaking, one of them must be wrong since their teachings are mutually exclusive. Of course, as RA pointed out, another option is that both are wrong. But the bottom line is that both can’t be right.

  3. The One True Commenter
    May 31st, 2005 @ 3:09 pm

    Well, I think you can clarify this further.

    We believe in choosing, but 13 is way too late in childhood to expect them to make such a momentous decision, which alters the core meaning of their identity. Conversion, which is what you’re really talking about, is a decision for adults.

    I’m guessing that what they’re saying here is that they think the parents should choose one or the other and stick to it. No one’s allowed to try to convert the kids until they’re adults (which gives the mental cement time to set).

    Otherwise, they’re saying that “we believe in choosing” but the kid isn’t allowed to get to an age where they can somewhat think for themselves, because they might make the wrong choice, so therefore it would be better if you, the parent, just choose for them when they’re still staring at the mobile above their crib and spitting up. This couldn’t possibly be what they meant, because it would be completely illogical, so – oh, wait…

  4. boywonder
    May 31st, 2005 @ 4:37 pm

    What a crock of hooey. The squad’s answer is surprisingly vague. If I wrote that letter, I’d be even more confused at the response. Ofcourse, if I wrote that letter, I’d be confused about most everything like a true christian should be. Who is the GodSquad comprised of? Is it a group of different faithed people? I somehow doubt that. The answer they gave in this column is the biggest runaround they’ve given so far.

  5. Reason is life
    May 31st, 2005 @ 4:42 pm

    Religion is dumb and should be hated.

  6. AK
    May 31st, 2005 @ 4:51 pm

    Wow, I agree with Frank! Looks like the God Squad is really fucked up.

    I understand that in their religious blindness they are attempting to be helpful to the community by giving feel good answers to ridiculous questions, but seriously! This one here is too much. Why the hell are they so popular? Wait a second, Im afraid of the answer to that question… it might permanently damage my trust of my fellow mans ability to think!

  7. Dave
    May 31st, 2005 @ 5:35 pm

    Clearly, the parents should convert to Islam and raise their child as a Muslim. Since Jesus was the update to Judaism, and Muhammed was the update to both Judaism and Christianity, then they would be remiss by installing either oudated ROS (religion operating system) in their child. Clearly, Islam is the latest word from the Desert Sky God.
    However, should they go with a Sunni or Shiia version?

  8. Mookie
    May 31st, 2005 @ 6:00 pm

    To expand a little on what Frank brought up, let us consider why we care if things are “right”. Does that mean to be correct? In one sense, yes. We like things to be correct, to line up well with reality. But for humanity as a whole, we want things to be useful and practical in our lives. It appears to many folks that religion serves a useful, practical purpose. In reality, religion is no more than the denial of reality. It is inherently impractical, inherently useless. We require other people to be as aware of the world (if not more) as we are. This allows us to cooperate and accomplish more than we would if we could not communicate effectively. We progress as a species by lining up our cognition with as an objective reality as we can create. Religion is a delusion shared by billions of people. Wonderful ideas that have enhanced all of our lives have been repeatedly (and almost systematically) suppressed and discouraged by religious institutions. An impractical, useless, and delusional memeplex seeks to dismiss practical, useful, and reality-based memes. The absurdity of this pattern goes beyond words. Humans intentionally prevent better ideas from becoming part of the memepool. Fortunately, we have websites like this that help other people see the ridiculous (un)nature of religion.

  9. Mike
    May 31st, 2005 @ 7:10 pm

    But if the majority exposed their children to different world views, allowing them to form their own thoughts…they would all be visitors to this site.

  10. Mijae
    May 31st, 2005 @ 11:04 pm

    Wow. ….the incoherence of this one just has me baffled.

  11. Lucy Muff
    June 1st, 2005 @ 1:36 am

    Dave is fool. Islam is bogus christianity and so must not be taught bevause will make Jesus sad. Best for parents to teach gospel from bible and then later if children are wanting jewishness that will be up to them, but they must have chance to get saved and know Jesus.

  12. Jim
    June 1st, 2005 @ 3:55 am

    Clearly the God Squad is trying to prove Richard Dawkins’ point that referring to, e.g., a 5-year-old as a “Jew” or “Christian” makes as much sense as referring to a 5-year old “Keynesian” or “monetarist.”

    Clever, that God Squad. Posing as theists to prove atheist arguments.

  13. Grotesqueticle
    June 1st, 2005 @ 7:52 am

    Clearly the Angel Moroni is the answer to this age-old American dilemma. Mormonism is the ultimate relegious update. I HAVE SPOKEN!

  14. hermesten
    June 1st, 2005 @ 8:19 am

    “Im afraid of the answer to that question… it might permanently damage my trust of my fellow mans ability to think!”

    Good. But all you really need to do to damage that trust is look at the bell-curve distribution of intelligence among human beings. A good 50% are downright dumb. Another 30% are none too bright. That only leaves about 20%, at most, with any chance at all of being intellectually “trustworthy” –and we’re just talking about potential, and we’re ignoring big factors like psychology and self-interest.

  15. MBains
    June 1st, 2005 @ 8:42 am

    I came onto the parenting scene rather late in my s-daughter’s life but here’s my take on what to do when the parents differ in such matters. My wife and I are fairly close in our thoughts but she is more open to some sort of deity than I am.

    I describe as much as my s-daughter can stomach about a multitude of belief systems. I try to keep her laughing, or awed by people’s imaginations and I always focus on critical thinking skills. I tell her how and why I don’t believe in gods or ghosts and that, while I haven’t seen PROOF that they can’t exist at all, there is proof that specific gods can’t exist as people worship and believe in them.

    I explain (though she’s gettin’ bored{!}) by now) why humans developed religious beliefs over the course of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of years (if you include pre-sapiens hominids) and why those were logical precursors to the scientific method of understanding the world around them.

    I assure her that she can choose to believe anything or nothing at all regarding the supernatural concept (she believes in angels and I ain’t ’bout to put that down though I do tell her I think angels are “lucky breaks” and that we make our own luck for the most part…), but that I think believing that stuff is a distraction and an excuse to avoid dealing with the natural and effectively Real world. I assure her that she is lovable intrinsically and her actions will dictate what she gets out of life and how other people treat her.

    Then she licks her finger and wipes it on me (in lieu of a kiss; uhhh… whatever…) and tells me that I talk too much. Oh, and I tell her that the God Squad are nutters. She thinks that’s funny too…

  16. MBains
    June 1st, 2005 @ 8:53 am

    She’s 11 now btw…

  17. simbol
    June 1st, 2005 @ 4:43 pm

    MBains

    Let me tell you a story.

    My wife is something like a deist( better described as betting with Pascal) and I am atheist. Rarely we speak about religion. Consequently our 11 eleven child knows nothing about religion. He was Baptized under pressure of my wife and according with her plans to send him to the best college in our country (very expensive and they teach Darwin, ??) which is a catholic one and where is almost impossible to get into unless you be baptized. Since I think by own experience that the best way to be atheist is studying in a Jesuit college, we were in agreement.

    Later on we came to this country. He is in a public school and joined Boy Scouts. I didn’t like very much this decision (boy scouts)but it was made by my wife who decides on minor aspects of our life like stocks, buy a house, child, traveling, budget, etc. I decide on the most important things like who is gonna win the elections, war on Iraq, etc. (is a old joke, ok).

    Boy scouts asked my kid to do a paper on his religion. He answered he had no religion. This was a real problem and we were called to a meeting with the scouts, and there they informed us that it doesn’t mind what our religion was, but my son must present his paper on religion or else.

    I proposed Greek polytheism, but wife strongly rejected, so we choose to do a paper on voodoo, but only after a big quarrel with the boss (she preferred one on Catholicism for not getting in hot water). It was a risky decision because there were some Haitians parents who believed in voodoo, and there were the religious boy scout bosses who could think we were mocking a religion since we are not blacks nor Haitians. The paper was presented very seriously, approved and badged. Preparing the paper was a joyful experience because the kid couldn’t avoid a lot of laughing on the foolishness of some voodoo rites but he was admonished on being very serious in his presentation. He was also told that some christian rites resembled voodoo’s. Then my son, fortunately and voluntarily quited Boy Scouts. Why? Very boring, he said but I think he didn’t like very much being the Pack 280 official adviser on how to make a doll resembling you enemy and stick it with nails. Kids are very cruel as you know. But my conclusion was that the experience was a very useful one for the starting of an internal inquiry by my son in the meaning of religion because we discussed some issues like: Why we were compelled to present something personal like our beliefs? Why some people think is decent to sacrifice animals for other reasons than eating or defend from them? why some religion sacrifice human persons?, why christian mass convey a sacrifice and by doing so they can not criticize the Aztec fashion of eating their enemies?, what is syncretism and their consequences?, not to mention to inform the Christians present in the act that voodoo maybe is older than christianism and judaism. They couldn’t believe that, even the Haitians.

    And about the god squad: You need to be very stupid or immature (it seem to be the case, the girl is 16)to ask a couple who is not impartial, how to decide about choosing religion for your children. Fortunately Jewish reformism has an edge. Is less poisonous than Christianity or islamism if you exclude its blindly prozionist stance. I don’t believe that this couple, god squad, are fools. Far from that.
    They are some like a oligopoly arrangement for maintaining market share. At some point, in a public presentation the jewish partner, jokingly, said something like this: “We are buying all the shares of Christianity Corportion”, the Monsignor retorted: “as usual, the jews get the money and we put the people”. If I were muslim I would ask for an opportunity to join the squad under the umbrella of a more balanced opinion. Thus, this could be renamed “The Triune Squad”. And for the contradictions and incoherence of the squad’s assertions, you must remember these are an undisposable part of their trade.

  18. hermesten
    June 1st, 2005 @ 11:21 pm

    Simbol, I find all this boy scout bullshit very amusing. No homosexuals (that would be “immoral”), and you must believe in “God,” and then you read about how boy scout officials lied about how many black members they have so they can claim to be progressive. Then again, I guess there is nothing inconsistent about being a liar and being a Christian. But then I’m just a fucked up atheist who think lying is often immoral, and homosexual sex (between consenting adults) never is.

  19. jahrta
    June 2nd, 2005 @ 10:11 am

    um, frank? where are you getting it from that jesus was the jewish messiah? the jews never stated that jesus was their messiah. quite the opposite, they often catch hell from xtians for denying that he was anything more than a rabbi and a carpenter who got nailed to a cross by the romans. the ROMANS mockingly labeled him “king of the jews”, and gave him his “crown” of thorns, or so the story goes. not that it matters much to me anymore, seeing as i now consider myself to be an atheist, but if you’re going to go trying to use religion or religious “perspective” to prove a point, you might want to check your facts.

  20. Frank
    June 2nd, 2005 @ 11:40 am

    jahrta — Don’t get upset about my answer, here, but I’m getting my information about Jesus being the Messiah from the Bible. Christ fulfills every single messianic prophecy in the old testament. He accepted the title of Messiah in the gospels. He was rejected by the Jews because their idea of Messiah was a political idea, not a spiritual one. They were expecting Messiah to come and throw off the Roman occupation of Jerusalem. But Jesus was about a much more important purpose. When he didn’t lead the Jews against the Romans they rejected him. And the Jewish rejection of Christ as their Messiah was actually a prophecy as well. So, that they think he was nothing more than a rabbi only supports the idea of Christ as Messiah.

    Thanks for the suggestion on fact checking, but I can assure you, on this matter, my facts have been checked and rechecked. There is no question about who Christ is.

  21. jahrta
    June 2nd, 2005 @ 12:31 pm

    actually, when it comes to facts and religion, the two are usually mutually exclusive, much like science and religion, or politicians and truth. if your intention is to use a particular version of the bible to back up your assertion that christ was who you like to think he was, then how do you account for the fact that there are so many other people out there who base their faith on another version of the bible that contradicts large portions of your bible? xtians can’t even agree amongst themselves on which version of their religion is worthy of recognition, while the rest of us are content to simply state that they are all equal and worthy of being forgotten.

  22. MBains
    June 5th, 2005 @ 8:36 pm

    Thanks for relating that story Simbol! MY only problem (cuz I didn’t stay in long) with the Boy Scouts was as a cub. My dad didn’t do anything with me so I missed out on about 1/3 of the projects (sucked and still shares time at the crux of my depression issues)… I got “asked to leave” the Cubs cuz our Den Mother’s nephew and son picked a fight with a quiet dude which I gleefully involved myself in! Oh the blood did flow! (alright, just a little…) Dad never mentioned that either. Whatever…

    Anyhow, you said I think he didn’t like very much being the Pack 280 official adviser on how to make a doll resembling you enemy and stick it with nails. and all I can say is that I would have rellished that gig; if I hadn’t been so Catholic at that age.

    Still, I hated being different too and have speant the last twenty years A - getting over it and B figuring out the ways that I’m diff that I WANT to be me and which ones are merely reactionary emotional rebellions. It sounds like your son will have a much simpler task and has already learned how to take responsibility for his own life. Good for you dude. THAT, to me, is the meaning of life for a parent: raising kids who are good and happy people.

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