The Sydney Siege rocked our little Australian fish bowl and tipped us into the ocean of the world’s religious issues. It inspired me to respond with an open-mind and a kind heart, as I shared in my December post “What I Want My Son To Learn From the Sydney Siege” (you can click this link to read the 5 lessons).
But how do you find a positive lesson from the utterly pointless attack on the Charlie Hebdo office, in Paris, on Wednesday?
There was no real greater cause. No freedom fighting. No legitimate statement to be made. 12 people were murdered because some of them mocked and satirised someone else’s deity. How more unbalanced can a reaction be? Some people drew some silly cartoons and now they, and their co-workers, are dead. Murder posing as religion.
If death were the penalty for taking the piss, there wouldn’t be many Australians left.
And this is why I am scared for my son. How can we prepare our kids for a world that seems to be becoming less rational each day? To protect them from people who just want to hurt others, pretending to have a valid reason to justify their evil actions? We can’t. But maybe there is another approach.
I am sure that many of you will shake your heads and say “The world has always been like this”. And you’re right. But my world hasn’t been like this. And modern Australia has, for the most part, been spared from religious extremism.
So here is my blunt statement:
No religion is good religion.
(And yes, I did just model that argument-starting sentence on The Muppet Show; “No gnus is good gnus”).
For a moment I’m going to ignore all of the good that religious believers do on our planet and say, that I would feel safer living in a world where horrific acts of violence and intolerance couldn’t be waved away with the excuse of “My Bible/Tanakh/Qur’an/Prophet/Cult Leader/etc said it was okay”. Look across history to see the horrible things done in the name of a myriad of religions. More recently, look at Bosnia-Herzegovina, at Israel & Palestine, at Syria. Every religious army justified (on the surface) by beliefs that can be no more substantiated than their opposition’s.
Here’s the thing, though; I’m not a total idiot. Although I believe that doing away with religion would definitely improve the world, it’s a childish notion (has there ever been a society who managed to get by on just treating each other nicely?). Religion is too ingrained, too needed by some, and too advantageous to others.
Clearly, I’m not a spiritual person; at least not in any way that is defined by churches or temples or best-selling books. Little E will grow up in a house that has christian-based morals because we live in Australia, and them’s the laws. But he won’t be in a house with no religion.
Instead, my son will grow up learning about all religions.
I can’t stop other people who might hurt him, hidden behind their veneer of religious fervour. But I can help to make sure that he doesn’t fall victim to the pied-piper song of those who would use him. Remember that the world’s zealots were once adorable little two year-olds? The best weapon to combat narrow-minded beliefs and blind-faith is a beautifully simple one: knowledge.
So I will teach Little E about lots of different religions, and myself at the same time! Arm ourselves with the educational version of WOMDs [weapons of mass destruction] so that any religious recruitment attack can be met with reason, rational discussion and a broader understanding of how the world works.
Hopefully the most powerful thing he can learn from every religion is that, at their heart and before they are twisted by the ambitions of men, they revolve around the notion that humanity can be better than it is. We should all strive to improve our world.
What are you going to do to prepare/protect your kids? Leave a comment below.
(Though my real belief is that only an alien attack can save humanity from killing itself. Seriously. Just like the loud-mouth hitchhiker you pick up on a long drive, an alien invasion will give everyone who is arguing someone else to hate).
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