551. Indoctrination

Parents tend not to want their children to end up being punished eternally for the way they’ve lived their lives. Most people I know don’t think that’s going to happen. I don’t think it’s going to happen. Never having actually died myself (as far as I can remember), I can’t be sure, but it just doesn’t seem likely to me. If I’m wrong, and especially if I’m one of the unlucky ones who lived the wrong way, I’ll sure be sorry. But I think I’m doing mostly good stuff. And I think if there is a deity I’ll meet when I die, she/he will be pretty nice.
I recently had a conversation with a child whose parents see things a different way. I like the parents, and they like me, I think. Same with the child. But this child is being taught that the only people who are going to go to Heaven are the ones who see things a certain way – a way that’s different from the way I see things. So even though we have friendly conversations and enjoy each other’s company, they believe that I’m either going to start thinking the way they think or burn eternally.
I try to avoid talking about religion when I talk with this child. I think parents have the right to raise their children the way they want to, and if they don’t want their child to question what she’s been taught, I don’t think I should question it when I talk with her. When she brings up the subject, I try to show interest, and not to let her know that I don’t like the kind of religious education she’s getting.
The religious education I got taught me to question lots of things, and to come up with my own answers. I got the impression that I wasn’t supposed to convert to another religion, but I didn’t get the impression that I would be punished eternally if I did. The god I was supposed to believe in was open-minded, and had a sense of humor. My rabbi was that way, too, and so were and are my parents.
But the conversation I had with my young friend worried me. She was being taught that there was a “right” thing to believe, and that anyone who didn’t believe that “right” thing was eventually going to suffer a horrible fate. Not believing in what she believes in is, in her mind, a sin. She was going to get into Heaven, and I wasn’t.
I believe in freedom of religion, so I think parents have the right to bring up their children with any religion that doesn’t teach clearly antisocial things. But talking with this young girl reminded me of a scene from a movie about a housekeeper in Nazi Germany. The housekeeper was friends with a child, but when this child discovered that the woman was not a Nazi sympathizer, she turned her friend in to the authorities.
I intend to maintain my friendship with the child who thinks I’ll burn forever for not believing what she believes. But I hope her monolithic thinking doesn’t result in problems later on.

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