Credibility and Comfort

I knew that homeschooling would teach me a lot, but as a secular homeschooler, I hadn’t really expected it to make me think about (let alone write about) G-d so much, but here I am, doing it again.

Here’s the thing: I want to inculcate in my children a scientific view of the world, but I don’t want to rob them of the undeniable comfort that some elements of spiritual thinking can bring to their lives.

I learned Genesis before I learned Big Bang.  My kids are getting the opposite approach, which I think is important, esp as my daughters want to be astronauts, not priests.  Space is just that, not ‘the heavens’, but, well, I couldn’t bring myself to say that our cat was all gone but for the ashes we keep in a box in the living room bookcase.  I said that he’s in heaven.  They needed that solace.  So did I.

I have had a hard time dealing with some elements of my life, and have transformed some of them into symbols that let me deal with them better, and helped me get through tough times.  Things like saying that losing my Grandmother right before I got pregnant with my girls was because she got tired of waiting, and had to go pick them out, then couldn’t decide, so she sent both of them. 

I’ve heard it said that where our rational minds can’t venture, our brains invent spiritual answers to our questions.  Personally, I think that there is just a whole lot of science that we don’t know yet, and that higher math and physics will eventually explain many things we still think of as magical/miraculous.  I don’t know that my mind could compute such disciplines even if they *were* advanced enough though.  The steps above multivariate calculus and God are pretty much synonymous in my mind. 

So, when I am lying in bed and feel a warm spot up against my leg shift, like a cat in sleep, even though there is ‘nothing’ there, I don’t argue with it.  Either I am completely delusional, or there is something going on, either with an actual spirit, or just with the complex dance of memories and perceptions in my own mind. 

Regardless, I am comforted by the sensation. 

So I want to teach my kids both.  The catch is that *I* am ok with that certain level of cognitive dissonance, and I have no way of knowing if each of my three kids are, or when they might be. 

Can I teach my kids critical thinking, and give them comfort during the hard times too?  Sure, I could say that our cat had a good long life, and that we’ll remember him.  I know that, and so do they.  Somehow it just doesn’t cut it though, you know?  I talk to him, like I sometimes talk to my Grandmother, and it helps.  Yes, I am likely just talking to the memories of my self-concept and my perceptions being with them, *but it still helps.*

I am going to teach them various mythologies of the world, including Abrahamic ones, as stories that humans created to bring them comfort; maybe this will come up, maybe it won’t.  Simply put, belief is not a rational concept without proof.  Neither is a placebo, but if it works, I say don’t mess with it.  Even when I am *aware* that I am using the placebo effect, it still seems to work. 

We don’t know everything.  If I can help me kids understand, and be inspired by, *that*, rather than scared of it, I think I’ll be happy with the job I’ve done, the reality/unreality of heaven regardless.

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2 Responses to Credibility and Comfort

  1. Wonderful post. It’s such a hard issue. My children have had to deal with a heavy load of death. Not only are they growing up without both of their grandparents on my side, but they’ve lost several beloved pets, a neighbor, and the big one — one of my daughters’ closest friends.

    It is so much harder when you have to say “I don’t know” to those hard questions. I’ve told my children what some people think and what I hope, but I can’t personally give them the security of an absolute. I don’t know what happened to their beloved Hannah or my mother or even my son’s much loved cat, Whitefoot.

    I wonder how many parents also don’t believe, but think that the most loving thing they can do for their children is to give them the peace of mind of heaven and religion?

    I’m in a somewhat different place than you are. I was raised without traditional religion and while I have questions about spirituality and the afterlife, I can no more believe in organized religion than I can believe that taking my picture will steal my soul. It’s just not possible for me to believe those things, even though I actually tried for years because it seemed so much easier and I wanted to be part of that “family.”

    It sounds as if you’re balancing things perfectly. To truly and honestly educate our children, I think it’s as important to teach them the things we don’t know as the facts that we do. That said, it’s also a gift to give our children any sense of comfort during hard times that we can.

    • Siggi says:

      I was raised with organized religion, but don’t practice one now. (Why should religion get to be the only organized thing in my life, eh? 😉

      Thanks for the support; I could use it after the conversation we just had about guns over dinner. (Someone shot my car!) I want them to understand how bad someone being dead is, but not take comfort away from them when it comes to thinking about someone who has died.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment – twice now! 🙂

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