Arian Foster is one of the best running backs in the NFL. He’s also one of the smartest and most unusual, not exactly the dumb jock type. He majored in philosophy at the University of Tennessee and, in a recent piece he wrote for Yahoo on the six things he wants to teach his daughter, he included this:
6. The flying spaghetti monster. There are billions of people on Earth with hundreds of religions and sects that trickle off each other. I will never tell her what to believe in. I know parents are very influential on kids’ spiritual beliefs and that can be a positive or negative thing. I can give her a basic understanding of religions when she starts showing interest and asking questions. But I will remain silent otherwise. How can I make a young mind believe this is the truth for them when they don’t yet have the capacity nor the cognitive desire to delve into something like this? If she shows interest I would advise her to fully investigate a religion and see if it fits her. And if she chooses none of the above, I’ll be fine with that as well. The values I instill in her should guide her to her decision. What’s most important, I believe, is to support her decision no matter what.
I think this is exactly how it should be handled. Teach your kids about all of the religious traditions and about humanism and other philosophies and let them figure out whether they think any of them is valid. Teach them to think for themselves and to ask questions. And that includes asking questions of themselves: Why do I believe what I believe? Is it reasonable? Is it supported by the evidence? And to ask those same questions about every claim and belief. That’s what my father did with me, exposed me to a wide range of ideas, nurtured my curiosity, taught me to love books and libraries and then let me figure it all out for myself.
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