In an age in which the notion of conventional religion is being called to question at rapidly increasing rates, finding ways to ensure the installation of a moral compass within our children is much easier said than done. Moreover, this task is further complicated when you do not subscribe to any particular religious ideology and do not have one set leader or deity to look to during times of turmoil and trouble. Nevertheless, making sure our children have a firm foundation despite the lack of dependence on religion is vital for raising children who become healthy, well-adjusted adults. That is to say, in order for our children to become happy and successful, we must give the tools to thrive in the face of adversity. That said, the following is a short guide to helping your children overcome issues with peer pressure and conformity as an agnostic mother.
First thing’s first, for the sake of clarification, let’s discuss the notion of “agnosticism”. While this is largely considered to be a bit of a dirty word among religious circles of all kinds, I like to believe it is just a misunderstood concept. Above all, being agnostic rests on the belief that there is no way to know who or what “God” or a “God-like” being consists of in this lifetime. It is neither the denial or outright belief in any given deity or religion. To make the distinction between agnostics and atheists, while atheists are strong in their belief that God does not exist, agnostics believe that there is no way to know if god exists or not. From a personal standpoint, while I do believe in a higher power of some sort, I also believe that any such power would be too complex and grandiose to be understood by the human mind. I believe that it is a very human inclination to try to explain away the unexplainable and since “God” or the ”Gods” don’t seem to be taking any Q&A sessions, all the pondering and figuring of the universe is left up to those of us who are simply a product of it. Therefore, as much as it pains people to consider, it is just as likely that man made God in his image as it is that the opposite is true.
As a single mother of two boys, raising children in this age is a challenge, and when you don’t have the comfort of conventional religion to lean on, at times, it can become downright difficult. Given that most of the world subscribes to one of the mainstream religions, it can be difficult to find other parents who have similar beliefs as you do as far as raising your children is concerned. Either way, the basis of agnosticism is the freedom of choice. As an agnostic mother, I do not believe it is right to try and force any given belief system down my children’s throats, even if it is my own. Although I make it very clear that I do not believe or follow any given religious framework, I do read about and explore all religions, and encourage my kids to do the same. I am not of the belief that religion is innately evil, rather, like countless other ideologies, it has been used in order to promote hatred and carry out evil deeds. Therefore, being exposed to any given religion does not automatically make a person good or bad. Quite the contrary, in fact, many religious ideologies hold the keys that can free our minds and set us on a more pious path in life. However, I feel there is great danger in basing your entire existence on one book; one deity; one way of thinking.
As far as peer pressure and conformity is concerned, the aforementioned information serves as the framework for helping my kids get over anything. While I readily acknowledge that there is some power in studying certain aspects of religion and even conforming to those ideals, I also make it a point to emphasize the importance of being an individual and learning to form and assert your own opinions. In other words, there is nothing wrong with doing as others do, as long as those actions are beneficial to you. However, in the case in which the actions of the group may be detrimental to ourselves, we must learn to break away from the group and point out the potential negative consequences to others. In my personal opinion, it is not the fact that people have a tendency to conform that is the problem. Rather, that people tend to conform even if it means the end results can be detrimental to themselves or others. Therefore, in order to raise a child to stand against peer pressure as an agnostic, you must teach them to think for themselves in any and all situations and act accordingly.
For example, while some kids may not drink or do drugs because their religion forbids it, an agnostic child would hopefully refrain from such things because they realize the negative consequences, or at the very least because their parent has explained to them that this type of behavior is unacceptable for children. On the flip side, in the case in which kids may become argumentative over things such as culture and religion, the agnostic child would most likely serve as the voice of reason by reminding everyone of the commonalities among each of the separate religions, rather than contributing any negative rhetoric to escalate the situation.
Overall, being an agnostic parent is certainly not without its challenges. Nevertheless, I believe it is an important and potentially revolutionary act to do so. According to recent studies, mainstream religion is on the decline. This means, while in the past many people had religion to lean on for their entire lives, many will not have such a foundation. Whether we admit it or not, I believe that one’s religious beliefs tend to change and shift over time. For instance, although I was raised in a devoutly Christian home, I have since explored Buddhism, Catholicism, Islam, Atheism, Wicca, and much more. By raising my children in an agnostic environment, I am simply giving them the freedom and support to explore their personal relationships with “God” and spirituality while asserting to them that they must learn to make right and sound actions regardless of which deity they pray to or where/if they attend to attend a religious temple.