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Outside the Religious Childhood Bubble

By Carl S ~

Consider the differences: Imagine a boy of 10. He is being raised by parents who allow him to understand the world as it is. They take him to see dinosaur skeletons and the aquariums, and leave him open to understanding the findings of evolutionary changes. They encourage his questions and respect his curiosity. This boy has several cousins living in another state. They have been raised to believe in a ten thousand year old Earth, in which dinosaurs co-existed with white humans. They attend purely Christian schools, and are taught not to question dogmas. All the parents are well-meaning and protective of these children, but some of them regard a human child, by virtue of being human, born in, and subject to, sinning, so that the child must be indoctrinated ASAP and thoroughly. If your experiences fit this latter example, you need to regain the child you were denied to be.

When I'm awake at 3 a.m. and the word “quarantined” comes to me it's not a “sign.” I might get the feeling that it's something from the back of my mind that's been waiting to spring out , like a word I 've been searching for “on the tip of my tongue,” since I had been thinking about how children are raised.

When I was a child, it wasn't unusual to see a “Quarantined” sign posted on the front door of a house, as a warning that the child within was suffering from a very contagious health problem. Usually, this meant measles or chicken pox. But, this also meant that the child could not go out and play. The parents honored the law regarding the quarantine for everyone's health.

But there is another way to see the word “quarantine,” as when the parents unknowingly and without awareness, isolate children not only to protect them from outside influences, but quarantine the children from infecting others.

Religious indoctrination, in its own endeavors to create a sanitized environment safe from the “evils” of the world, make the child immune from his curiosity-bent searches to make sense of the world. Christian family indoctrination creates an alternate and closed-cycle system.

If, as an African saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child,” then it's pretty obvious that it takes a cult to raise an indoctrinated child. This child is ill-prepared to deal with the real world of gray areas, with no absolutes of good/evil and plenty of nuances in emotions, other ways of seeing things, and other cultures. So, the child is no better prepared to advance mentally than the indoctrinated parents.

I remember a documentary about the Boy in the Plastic Bubble. Because of an immunity deficiency, he could easily have died from simple everyday doses of germs we humans experience. For his own survival, he was confined to live in the bubble. But that child was different. Most children normally accept the runny noses, snot, farts, all the disgusting crap of life, even the silly foul-ups of parents, and death itself, pretty much as facts of life.

Years ago I read a fictional story about a boy who was warned by his mother not to go outside the confines of his yard because there were “metal beasts out there who will kill you.” (his father was killed in a traffic accident, and his mother was fearful he might suffer the same fate.) And, he would be dead. This boy left the estate to go where he was warned not to go, and ran to enjoy the freedom he found. The story ended with him shouting, “I'm glad I'm dead! I'm glad I'm dead!”

The parent's fears should not be passed on to their children, but they are in over-protecting them, in training them to be “in the world but not of the world.” They want to make children the kind Jesus praised - gullible, obedient, believers. (Do they desire their children to go back to an innocence -laden state, before The Fall? This is not where the world has ever existed.)

My mother used to mention “innocent” children quite a lot. One day, my brother explained that “innocent” was just her way of saying “sexually unaware.” (Notice how religious training is geared to keeping girls “pure” until they are married off; in some cases, to much older men craving young, inexperienced baby flesh.)

In the religious indoctrination world, the cult dominates the family, and the parents unthinkingly believe this is virtuous. They don't know any better than their children. Sometimes the infected are encouraged to leave the quarantine they live in, thereby infecting the world. However, they, isolated, were taught to believe and reject the world “outside,” the real world the rest of us live in. Like alcoholics, they are comforted when others share their habit.

But, you can't blame these parents with good intentions paving the way to private hells of doubt and self-doubt for their children. Isn't the purpose of indoctrination to keep the children obedient, afraid to question and under the assured control of God's own commands? And if that's not enough, protected from all the parent's religious sect forbids - a list that keeps accumulating? Meanwhile, the child is not free to discover the fantastic, ugly, deceitful and delightful, often disappointing world, on her/his own.

Are indoctrinated children, even as adults, prepared to live in reality, since theological “truths” are incompatible with the real world? With this question in mind, I will give you an example of how I see the answer. My wife and I have spent many hours over the years in putting jigsaw puzzles together. On the puzzle box cover is a picture of the completed puzzle. Apparently, this is the way believers reference their lives: “The picture is 'God's plan for you.'” While you are picking up the pieces and locking them in place, you may put them in the wrong place and have to correct your mistake. Sometimes the shapes, colors, and patterns may look like they don't go where you think they should - but they do. You may get frustrated, bored, and weary from being challenged, but if you just keep the faith and persevere, ultimately, the whole thing will fit together perfectly and make sense.

Now, believers tell you, “Someday it will all make sense,” or “God has a plan for you,” or “We see now as looking through a glass darkly, but someday we'll understand face-to-face with God.” Simply put: Trust in the One who created this puzzle of life and you'll see. But life isn't a planned puzzle. It's constantly changing, adapting, and evolving. Life doesn't revolve around rigid doctrines requiring cutting up the puzzle pieces to make them fit the picture as “God plans will it to be,” and then having to do the same with other pieces.... In fact, as one commentator brilliantly said: Using scriptures as a guide for your life is like trying to put together a puzzle with the wrong picture on the box!

Life is unpredictable, surprising, sorrowful, joyful and full of gray areas in which we have to be responsible for our choices without references to spirits or absolutes. And frequently, the “picture” never materializes, because there is no big picture, because life isn't a goal or purpose, but is lived outside the bubble. And that's what we ought to teach our children to deal with, both by word and example.

And while we're at it, teach them that one Neil Shubin is worth more than all the theologians in history - and why.