Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Religious Conflicts Start Early

I used to have hope for the future. I used to believe that much of the intolerance and hate was from the older generation and that as the younger generation came into their own, it would star to go away. I am less certain of that nowadays. Children seem to be indoctrinated into intolerance at an early age. Perhaps it is just another part of children establishing social hierarchy. Dunno. I'm seeing it more now because Maya is in public school. When she was homeschooled, she tended to be around children whose parents had a somewhat different mindset. Some of the encounters with her schoolmates have been amusing. The latest one has been very upsetting to her, though...

She was at school last week when a girl named Lynnette asked her if she believed in God. She knew Maya was Jewish. Maya said that she did. Lynnette asked, "Well, do you believe in Jesus Christ?" Maya said no. "Then you don't believe in God." Lynnette replied smugly. Maya insisted that she did, but Lynnette just reiterated her points.

When Maya told me about it, she was practically in tears. Having been picked on for a variety of reasons including my faith when I was a child, my heart went out to her. She was upset because she didn't like how Lynnette was treating her, but also because she had nobody there to stick up for her and she didn't know what to say. I had a few suggestions. "Tell her 'I don't poke holes in your mythology. Don't criticize mine.' or how about 'You are using an unproven premise to support your conclusion. Circular reasoning is a very ineffective debate technique.' " My wife stepped in with a less antagonistic suggestion, "Just ignore her. You don't need her permission to believe in God."

I hope that works, but I was struck by how young the proselytizing can start. I have no problem with anyone believing in their religion. However, just because YOU believe it does not make it a fact. And trying to control other people based on religion is why the world is as screwed up as it is right now. I think that is why I'm so reactionary to majority religions displaying symbology on public property. It's just one more thing to make kids want to conform. Now, a Christmas tree is a far cry from a frieze of the crucifixion, but how do you define the line?