Saturday, October 8, 2011

Religion in Schools

I realize that there are many families out there that have very strict religious beliefs. It is only natural to want to instill those ideas on your children. However, what I have noticed in my son's 6th grade social studies class some of them do not teach religious tolerance as well.

In this particular class they were talking about Hinduism and their idea of reincarnation. It is understandable that a Christian child would not believe in the concept of reincarnation, but when that same child was asked "If you had a Hindu friend how would you tell him about your idea that reincarnation is not real to you?" The boy answered, "I would tell him that reincarnation is stupid." The conversation went on with other children weighing in on the subject. Most of the class agreed that there cannot possibly be anything awaiting them after death except heaven.

I do not have a problem with the concept of heaven. I don't even have an issue with children being raised Christian. My son, in response to the question answered, "I think everyone has the right to believe how they want. If I had a Hindu friend I would let him tell me about what he believes and we could share our ideas together." He also realized that calling his friend "stupid" would probably not be a very friendly act. My son also told his class that he was not Hindu nor Buddhist, but that we did have some Hindu and Buddhist objects in our home. No one commented.

In this same class it was brought up that Yoga is also a Hindu practice. His teacher told the class that the word "yoga" means "union." Some of the classmates admitted that they or their parents practiced yoga at some time or another. Yoga also was said to bring spiritual insight and tranquility, a concept that no one seemed to have a problem with. It was said then that this practice had been taken over and Americanized so that made it okay.

I remember not too long ago that I had brought up to some people the idea of meditation and reflection in our daily lives. I find this to be an extremely good practice for relieving stress and giving myself some time away from issues and problems. These people looked at me as if I had two heads and was spouting nonsense. One woman very calmly told me, "I just pray. Praying to God is what gets me through."

I don't have a problem with prayer. I pray. However, just because you meditate doesn't mean you can't pray. I have taught my children to meditate. I remember my now sixth grader when he was only 3 years old sitting on the end of the bed with me crossed legged, closing his eyes, his little hands resting on the ends of his knees and his thumb touching the tips of his middle fingers. His brother and I were watching him and smiled broadly. Then we started breathing deeply. As we settled into our breathing we heard, "Ommmm... ommm... ommm...." We looked up to see his eyes clenched tightly and him rocking slightly back and forth chanting. We started laughing. Even though he had been raised with us meditating daily, he had seen something on television about meditation. That one image and program had changed his entire aspect on what we were doing.

I say, if you need to pray - pray. I recommend meditation. I also say that if it comforts you to believe that you can come back to another life to live it better - go for it. If it brings you comfort than it is doing something good.

We need to be careful what we do to our children. Making them too rigid may very well make them miserable adults.

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