The IMPORTANCE of Pagan Children

I was looking for some stuff about Pagan families and children because I day dream a lot.  And I day dreamed about my kids saying or doing something that wasn’t nice because, let’s face it, at some point everyone’s kids do something that isn’t nice.  And I was thinking about how I would reprimand my kids, and how I would teach them that what they did or said wasn’t pleasing to others or to the Gods, and to correct what they did wrong, they should ask forgiveness of the person that they hurt and then make sure they didn’t do it again.

I came across this website where the author says, “While it is important to realize that, ultimately, our children will indeed make their own spiritual choices when they are grown, to raise children without any solid spiritual beliefs and practices is to leave them without a spiritual foundation upon which their own adult spirituality can be constructed.  It is to leave them without a experiential spiritual “sense” by which they may evaluate all other spiritual structures, forms, and belief systems.”

Wow.  That hits everything I believe right on the head and explains, pretty perfectly, exactly what I want in my family.

Over at Musings of a Kitchen Witch, there was an article posted by Neal Jansons called “How To Raise Pagan Kids.”

Here’s one of the points that Neal makes:

[…] some Pagans who, in an attempt to respect their children’s freedom of belief and avoid the nasty connotations associated with the idea of “indoctrination”, refuse to in any way teach their children about spirituality. These people have instead chosen to avoid the subject, allow their children to be “exposed” to a variety of religious beliefs, and then make their own choice. I believe this to be wrong, and here is why: either you actually believe what you claim or you do not. If you believe it, then you believe it to be true, a matter of fact. It is your job to teach your children matters of fact, and trust me, if you don’t teach them the facts as you see them either secular materialist culture or monotheism will gladly take your place. Your kids are going to get their ideas about these issues from somewhere, and the first place should not be television or the kids at school. It should be their parents. These things are far too important to refuse to talk to our children about them in some misguided desire to respect their freedom of belief.

This might sound a little harsh, but it’s the truth.  If we, as pagans, don’t teach the next generation about our faith, then they will learn about spirituality from another source, and there’s a very good chance that that source will NOT be friendly towards us.

I live in the South, and many people here are Christian.  I’m fairly certain, in fact, that I’m the only pagan at my job.  On top of that, when some people found out that I was pagan, they weren’t happy about it.  If my future kids go to school and say, “My parents are pagan,” and I haven’t given them the proper tools to defend that faith, they will be turned against it.

Don’t get me wrong: I am a firm believer that the Gods will call each person they wish to call.  We are all chosen by the Gods we worship, and they act in us and through us every day.  Maybe my child ends up being called by the Christian God, and if that’s the case, then that’s fine…

But there is a HUGE difference between mainstream Christianity and actual Christianity.  Actual Christianity has people who don’t just believe in Jesus, but they emulate him.  They aren’t judgmental, and they aren’t going around telling everyone that “If you don’t believe the way that I do, then you are going to hell.”  They may have experienced divine nature in such a positive-life-changing way that they want you to experience it as well, but if you tell them “no,” they drop it.

Mainstream Christianity, on the other hand, tends to be full of hate, judgment, and hypocrisy.  They’ll say that if you don’t believe like them, you’re going to hell, and that usually means that if you aren’t just LIKE them, you’re also going to hell.  Mainstream Christianity is the majority of Christianity here in the South.  It’s changing, but it’s a slow process.

Neal continues in his essay by saying, “While there is no “right, true, and only way”, there are wrong ways, and there is nothing wrong with telling your child you believe Christianity to be wrong and why.”  And I’m going to go ahead and say it: I have no problem with Christianity and people who are Christians.  In fact, I have a lot of really good friends who are Christian.  My BEST FRIEND is devoutly Christian (she’s even going to seminary.  Way to go, T!).  But I believe that a lot of mainstream Christianity is wrong.

  • I believe that us living in a constant state of sin so that we require constant divine forgiveness for not being able to live up to a perfection that we will never be able to reach (because Jesus was the only one who could) is wrong and damaging to a person.
  • I believe that seeking divine forgiveness for wrongdoings over seeking forgiveness from the people on this planet that we wronged allows us to forgive ourselves and not worry about the hurt and pain we caused others.
  • I believe that a constant need for forgiveness from a higher power implies that the higher power is upset with or angered by our actions, which does NOT imply a never ending, unquestioning love for us.
  • I believe that we are “saved” for “heaven” by our actions and how we treat people, not by how much we beg the higher powers for it through praying for forgiveness.
  • I don’t believe that we need a savior so that our sins would be forgiven because if the Gods truly love us, then we should be forgiven… without the need for a savior.  That individual implies that we weren’t loved enough by God to save us, but that someone had to die for us to show that we were worthy enough for God’s love.

And I am NOT afraid to say this, and I am NOT afraid to tell my future children this.

As Neal puts it:

That is really the trick if you want to be responsible about these issues without indoctrinating: actually know why you believe what you believe and be able to answer the “why’s” when they come…and trust me, they will come. This is not indoctrination, this is teaching, and if you understand what you believe and have good reasons, you should be able to communicate those beliefs and reasons. Give them an argument, not a “believe or else” ultimatum, but please, give them something.

Indoctrination means teaching to blindly accept ideas without questioning them.  Dictionary.Com has the synonym for indoctrination as “brainwashing,” and Merriam-Webster adds that it is “to teach (someone) to fully accepts the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group and to NOT consider other ideas, opinions and beliefs.”

This is different than raising children in the faith as long as you can, as Neals says, explain what you believe and back it up with good reasons.  It doesn’t mean that you don’t teach your child about other cultures, but it means that your culture… your family’s culture… becomes the number one priority.  If, after all their education from you, they are called to a different path, then they are free to follow their path.

This isn’t indoctrination (because we aren’t asking them to believe blindly).  This isn’t conversion (because that implies they already had a belief in something else to begin with).  This is teaching our children what WE BELIEVE to be true because that is our job as parents.  If we don’t, then we imply that we don’t have the faith we say.  And as Pagans, that is something we cannot afford to do.

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Posted on April 25, 2014, in Belief, Faith, Life, Pagan Blog Project, Paganism, PBP, Raising Kids, Religion, Spirituality and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. My husband and I are now approaching this situation in our lives, as we have a 13 month old. Our approach right now is to do this – we will raise our son as a Pagan to give him a foundation for celebration. Since much of our family is Christian, he’ll also likely have some exposure to church and all of the high holidays. Through friends, we hope to include the celebrations of other beliefs. We will teach him that every person’s faith is unique because we all see the world differently, and diversity is a beautiful thing.

    Bright Blessings to you!

    • Bright blessings to you as well!

      I love how you say “every person’s faith is unique because we all see the world differently” because this is exactly the reasoning I use when explaining why there’s no “one true and right way” to anyone! Love that!

  2. Reblogged this on My Bardic Year and commented:
    Brilliantly put and exactly why my husband and I involve our daughter as far as she wishes in our faith related activities

  3. I tried to give my kids freedom and let them form their own beliefs. As they get older (they’re now 13 and 16), I find myself wishing more and more that I’d raised them with my own beliefs. I realize that my firm spiritual base as a child, even though it was in a faith I ultimately left, was important for my spiritual development as an adult. I wish I’d realized the value of it when my kids were younger, but I was so focused on not cramming something down their throats that they’d rebel against later that I didn’t give them anything to work with at all.

    • Do you talk to them now or do they ask questions? I was 16 when I first started down my path as a devout pagan, and I wished an wished for an experience adult mentor who could help me and answer questions.

      • They do ask questions sometimes. My 16 yr old asks a lot more questions. My 13 yr old seems to mostly not care one way or the other but sometimes he surprises me by starting a conversation about it. I feel like it’s too little too late sometimes, though. Then again, even though I was raised with religion, it’s not like I was raised in my current path, and I did my own exploring when I was ready. Maybe it all works out somehow, but I feel like I missed opportunities when they were young.

  4. This was a beautiful post. I have a 17 month old and this has given me a lot to ponder on what do for her spiritually. I am glad you felt called to share this topic with us.
    -Lindsay

    • Thank you! While I don’t have kids of my own (yet), my partner and I are in the early stages of planning, and the topic comes up every now and again. You should read the article by Neal Jansons if you haven’t already. He breaks down things to really know and be prepared for to help people start the journey towards teaching children the faith.

      All the blessings to you!

  5. While I did not teach my children all of my beliefs, they were taught the importance of HAVING a spiritual connection. That was most important to me. As they grew, we discussed and learned about many different religions and what believers practiced. They were taught to give thanks and be grateful and they were taught VALUES. One of the first lessons I taught them was how everything they do has an influence because we are all connected. I took them to a pond and had them each toss a rock out as far as they could. We watched the ripples, how they rolled outward to the shore and how they touched each other. Then I told them that everything they said or did was like those ripples, reaching out and touching others and that they should always be careful with their words and deeds. ‘

    This was a good post.

    • Teaching values is so important! And it’s surprising how many parents *don’t* do that anymore (I teach high school, and it’s crazy). I love your lesson with the pond and I’m going to have to remember it so that I can teach my kids when the time comes! Thanks so much!

      • I’ve noticed something else that parents aren’t teafching and that is respect: for others property, for their feelings, for their personal space. What a ZOO we will live in if things go on this way. I am glad to pass along the pond lesson. It’s an easy one for kids of any age to learn and is an old Native American teaching.

  6. Thank you! I am so sick of the wishy-washy mentality of so many Pagans. I too, respect the rights of children to form their own views as they grow, but you can teach them your faith & values without oppressing them. There’s a huge range between those two extremes.

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