Welcome, and if you haven’t read part one you can find it here.
All children face religious crisis. For Christian children, they may be pressured by someone they know who is atheist. An atheist child may face the same thing. Pagan children and those born into faiths such as Hinduism and Buddhism (whether you consider them pagan or not) face pressure from both sides. I’m not sure why these two groups tend to trend in that direction, but they do.
Children raised in a pagan home are likely to have someone with the best intentions, pull them in either, or both, directions. Our children are going to face authority figures, or even friends, who want to save their souls or make them see reason. These people may have their best intentions at heart, but are usually under informed or misinformed as to the nature of our faith. Others simply believe that their path is the only appropriate one. This is not to say that every Christian or Atheist is going to go after your child in this manner, only that there will be those that do so. Some of them are going to tell your child that he/she worships the devil or that you are hippies. Other’s are going to quote the information they got from the most recent occult Hollywood blockbuster.
The point here is that some of your child’s acquaintances are not going to promote a safe environment in which your child can express their religious beliefs. This can hurt our children’s feelings or cause them to feel insecure in their faith. This means that we must educate or arm our children with the knowledge that everyone has different beliefs and that they have a right to those beliefs. More importantly, we have to teach them to be tolerant of the faiths of others.
The Beat of Your Drum
Let’s face it, we’ve all had to explain our religion to a ton of people. Our children are going to have to do the same. More importantly, the questions are only going to get tougher as they get older. A little kid says their parents worship the Goddess and the adult looks at them strangely. A teenager says the same thing about their family and the adult is going to ask a lot more questions. It is something that we have to accept as inevitable. Some will ask out of curiosity, others will start an argument, and others will attempt to convert.
This means that our children have to have a firmer foundation in their belief. This particular topic hits home with me. I came out in high school, but my parents still wanted me to attend church while I explored this new faith. I didn’t mind. I enjoyed it some weeks and I even joined bible bowl for a short while in a misguided attempt to learn how to defend my faith. It was hard explaining why I was in church and why I believed what I believed.
Sometimes I would get so frustrated that I would ask my peers, or the questioning adult, why they believed as they did. Suffice it to say, very few had substantial answers. Of course, since then I’ve met people who had better answers that sparked riveting discussions of faith, but at the time, the answers I received were pretty dismal. Most of them said some variation on one of the following: 1. Because I said so 2. The bible tells me so. 3. Because Christianity is the only true path. (and my favorite) 4. Because I don’t want to go to hell.
None of those told me why, well, aside from the final answer of fear. Still, none of those people gave me substantial answers. And while I understood the fourth response, I still wondered why some of their rules were in place and why they believed that no other path could be correct.
Suffice it to say I know how hard it can be to field these questions in a time when you are unsure of everything and are still discovering yourself. It took a lot of soul searching and sometimes I struggled for the answers. If my child pursues my faith long term, I want her to not have to face those same tribulations with her peers. That’s actually the real reason I started my other blog. I wanted to make sure I had all my personal ducks in a row, i’s dotted and t’s crossed, before I tried to share any aspect of my faith with Freya.
In any case, your child has to better understand why your family believes the things that they do so that they can explain and educate others. I agree with the original author that many of us have a tendency to “go with the flow”. However, if you want your child to be able to field these questions we have to be able to answer them ourselves and make sure that our children can answer them.
Solidifying Your Beliefs
One of the questions we have to ask ourselves as pagan parents is are we more traditional or eclectic? While neither answer is wrong, it does affect how we raise our children within our differing paths. The first sets you up with a distinct set of beliefs, ethics and gods, which means that most of your work is done. You have some history and tradition to back you up. If you’re more eclectic or a mix of both, you have a bit more to explain. Having been eclectic, it’s something you get used to.
As an eclectic you have to think about your views on the Gods and Goddesses. By definition, a pagan tends to be polytheists. However there are many differing views among polytheistic. There are those who believe that all the Gods and Goddesses are facets of a larger power or supreme cosmic energy. Duotheists believe that the ultimate power in the universe is divided along gender lines. So all the Goddesses are the Goddess and all the Gods are the God. Finally, you have hard-theist who believe that the Gods are exactly what they seem to be: diverse and unique constructs who establish their own relationship with those who follow them. In addition to these common answers you may meet individuals who still have other answers.
For example, I know a pagan who believes that the Gods and Goddesses are constructs of their subconscious. Others may believe they are advanced alien races (while I believe in the potential existence of other lifeforms, I personally find this one dubious) or humans from the past who became deified.
It’s important to come to a conclusion regardless of where you fall. You may have a hard stance on some of these topics or fall somewhere in-between two of them. I know in some instances I find myself in between two of the choices, and there are good reasons for that. Regardless, critically thinking about this can and will encourage you to work out your own beliefs and solidify them. It may even cause you to grow. I know I faced this when reading one of my books for my third class with Lady G. It was hard, and a few of the questions were painful, but overall, it was a good thing for me to go through.
This also makes it easier for you to later be able to communicate those beliefs.
As a result of many of the other issues, we also have to critically consider our ethics in relation to our faith. Some paths follow the Wiccan Rede, while other paths have their own code. Others believe in cosmic forces such as karma or the Rule of Three. If so, then why? This is a place where a little bit of soul searching and some philosophical research may come in handy. At some point I’ll have to find my class books and recommend the text that we went through together. I know this helped me gain a firmer stance on how I explain my concept of right and wrong to others.
Issue # 9
Summer land or Crossing the River Stix?
Generally, we all share a common view on death. It is inevitable and a part of the natural order. It isn’t to be feared. Beyond that, the views are as varied as the individual. Whatever your personal ideas on the topic, we need to be able to explain them. While I know all these issues ultimately tie together, and some overlap, this is still an important topic. Even if our answer is “I don’t know”, we should be able to expalin to our children why we feel we cannot answer the question.
The truth is that this is going to be a big issue for our children when being pursued by monotheist. Most of them are very concerned with the afterlife. It doesn’t matter if you even believe in an afterlife, reincarnation, or oblivion so long as you can make sure that your child understands why you view it the way you do. The same goes for your thoughts on karma and how that may or may not have consequences after your death. The same thing goes for your views on ghosts, and ancestor worship.
Different Folks Different Strokes
Pagans have various activities that individuals consider to be worship. Some keep altars to specific deities or their ancestors. Many of us celebrate the changing seasons. Some even have relationships with entities that are not Gods, such as the fey, nature entities, angels, patrons, ect.
When our children hear about different pagan families and the Christian families they know, they are going to ask what is worship or why is everone’s methods of worshiping different? Yet another issue with no absolute answers. Do you serve your Deities or are you friends with a more powerful entity than yourself? Do you emulate their actions and do you seek to please them or are they more passive in your life? These answers help define what worship is for you so that you can turn around and define it to your children. For example, if you worship a God you aren’t likely to treat them like family. In comparison, if you practice ancestor worship, you aren’t going to serve your family like you would a God.