I’m Not Religious But My Baby Son Is

28 Jan

I love cults.

Allow me to clarify before everyone starts screaming: I love cults in theory. Not in practice. Well, I love Scientology in practice. That shit’s hilarious.

I find the concept of “cults” fascinating. A bunch of people in thrall to an idea, blindly following a leader who is usually exploiting them for sex or money or world domination (or all three), and who often has a highly entertaining and/or incredibly dangerous god complex. Not that there are many beneficial types of God complexes, your opinion on Jesus and The Lawnmower Man notwithstanding.

"I am God!"

I’d almost join a cult to get in on some of that action. Non-stop entertainment, at least until the Flavor-Aid starts flowing. Unfortunately, I can’t even work up the guts to go watch the Scientology orientation movie for fear of being brainwashed.


I was raised Catholic. Like everyone else who was raised Catholic, I am what you might call “lapsed.” (In reality I am actually just “not a Catholic anymore,” but my parents might read this, so let’s go with “lapsed.”) I don’t put much truck in religion these days; it has its purpose for some people, and I don’t begrudge them their beliefs, except of course when they use those beliefs as a rationale for violence and intolerance and hatred and war and etc. Which is a lot of people, but it certainly isn’t the majority. So go ahead and pray if you like; I just won’t be joining you. But my son might.

As of now, my son is not a member of a cult. He hasn’t even been baptized into one of the few acceptable ones, like most of the rest of us.

As a new dad, the question is: should he be? Should I brainwash my son the way I was brainwashed by my parents and my catechism teachers and my high school and Kirk Cameron and the backs of all our money and Tim Tebow and etc.? Or should I leave him alone, give him a nice little religion free Christmas every year, and let him find his own way?

You might be surprised to learn that I’m leaning towards getting him baptized. And not just to hedge my bets! I honestly believe it’s better to give him a base from which to have his faith eroded than to start him at zero. The way I see it, indoctrinating him early is the only real way to give him a choice in the matter. If he rushes a religion now and joins up in time for First Communion, he’s a lot more likely to bow out when he starts thinking for himself than he is to glom onto a random set of beliefs after starting with nothing. And being religious as a youngster has few consequences, so long as you don’t count the lifelong fun-annihilating guilt he’ll be saddled with every time he masturbates.

Humility. Kindness. Selflessness. Hope. Discipline. Most religions focus on these virtues as building blocks, and I don’t disagree. But even thought I think my son needs to grow up with a solid foundation in such values, I don’t have the time to teach this kind of wishy-washy stuff! So I’ll get some guy to pour some water on his face and let them do the heavy lifting for the first 12-15 years of his life while I sit back with my feet up and wait to see what happens. At the very least, if there is a hell that is governed by byzantine rules about not swearing too much and avoiding meat on Fridays and something absurd called original sin that punishes infants for no fucking reason other than to scare parents into worshipping a vengeful angry boogey-man in the sky, my son will be protected for a little while. The biggest drawback for me is that in order to sell it, I’ll probably need to go to church with him a lot more than I’d like.

And if he decides to stick with religion, I won’t protest. Unless he starts shooting people that disagree with him, or joining the Crusades.

I’m not a big God guy. I don’t believe in him and I think that belief can be toxic. But I’m still planning to raise my son with a modicum of faith and a background in one. Because I think it’s important for him to learn for himself, rather than be told straight out, that God is a fraud. He’ll figure that out eventually, when his countless prayers go unanswered, his idealism is slowly eroded and extinguished with age, and he ultimately realizes that no, things don’t happen for a reason. And until he figures that out, there’s a lot of good to be found in religion – ideals that need not be conjoined to a belief in a higher power, sure, but it’s not a bad shortcut to getting some of that stuff to stick.

But I’m not gonna be the one to break it to him. As tempting as it may be to puncture what I believe to be a misguided faith in the supernatural, I’m not sure it’s really my place to tell my son there’s no God. Because as sure as I am that there isn’t, I can never be positive. And just because you believe in Jesus doesn’t mean I think you’re evil. I might think you’re a little silly but I don’t think you’re destined to burn in hell and I’m not going to spend my time convincing you that you will.

Sadly, that realization is one of the biggest and most infuriating differences between those who are religious and those who aren’t. That will be one thing I impart to my son on my own: be happy with your own beliefs and let other people be happy with theirs. Unless they’re Nazis. Then just run.


One Response to “I’m Not Religious But My Baby Son Is”

  1. denise and sandy March 23, 2013 at 9:28 am #

    i tried to encourage faith, not dogma. it’s the dogma that wrecks it all. my son once told me he thought i was a Tsaoist. i looked it up (interesting when your middle schooler knows more than you do) and i think he was right. we did go to an episcopal church for about five years – wallpaper catholics is how some people refer to it. i felt like i gave them the exposure and left the final decisions up to them.

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