Saturday, November 23, 2013

When Religion Hurts

I had planned a lighthearted post for today, but something happened tonight that changed my mind. Some things need to be said.

Our family has struggled to find our place in the homeschool community in a part of the country where the majority of homeschoolers are Christians who don't want us to participate in their activities. This summer, a couple other moms and I set about putting together a teen group for secular homeschoolers. This doesn't mean there aren't any Christians in our group. Rather, religion is not central to the group.

Tonight, while those teens were off being themselves, religion got brought up. It doesn't matter how it happened. I am of the strong personal opinion that teenagers should be able to discuss religion.

However, there is a right and a wrong way to discuss religion. Any way that hurts another person is the wrong way to discuss religion. Let me repeat this. Any way that hurts another person is the wrong way to discuss religion.

My children have some pretty strong views about religion. Unfortunately, those views have mostly been formed because of pain inflicted on them by religious people, which means those views are very negative. I refuse to allow my children to speak in a hurtful way about religious people for two reasons. First, not all religious people are like those who have hurt them, not even those of the same religion. Second, when you get in a habit of speaking poorly about someone or something, you will eventually hurt someone, even unintentionally, because you will speak poorly about that person or thing in the presence of someone who can be hurt by your speech.

I do not know exactly what was said. I do know that at least some offhand remarks were made that were hurtful to one of the few Christians in the room. And this leads to my point. There is a wrong and a right way to talk about religion. First, both parties must be fully in agreement that the discussion should be taking place. Second, both parties must always be respectful of the other's beliefs, or disbeliefs. Third, at no point should derogatory comments be made.

Religion is deeply personal. It is something that transcends all other aspects of life. Even for those of us with no religion, it is a deeply held, personal disbelief system. And being disrespectful about someone's religious beliefs is not okay, no matter what their religious beliefs are.

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