It’s my feeling that all religions should be heavily scrutinized. Religious leaders and adherents create their own narrative of ‘truth’ (“truth” with no evidence = fiction, aka. bullshit) and create and enforce absurd dogma to support it. While I find this in and of itself not really worthy of any action beyond a furrowed brow of disapproval, it’s how religion spreads its ‘truth’ that I find troubling. The means and methods which have been used to spread ‘religious truth’, particularly Christianity and Islam, are particularly egregious, with a track record of ruthless subjugation, censorship, and extraordinary violence.
To add insult to injury is the fact that religious institutions enjoy tax exemptions in practically any jurisdiction they operate in while taking in billions in donations and gifts. Imagine if all the money spent on religion was spent on medicine, science or space exploration, etc.? Developing cancer would probably be something of a minor inconvenience and we’d probably be Skype-ing our friends on Mars by now. Anyway, the reality is that Joe Taxpayer has to pick up the tab where religious organizations have paid absolutely squat. Not that we should be taxed in the first place, but that’s another discussion for another time. The insidiousness of religion’s reach into the laws that govern society is even more offensive to me, from its influences on marriage, procreation, and euthanasia, to its active opposition to scientific knowledge and progress (e.g. creationism in schools / dissent of stem cell research).
And so it comes to my specific dilemma and problem. With my feelings about religion being decidedly unfavorable, I have nonetheless enrolled my kids in a private Catholic school. Why? Well, for one, I distrust public education in their ability to teach competently and fully engage my children’s’ intellectual potential. Despite the violent history of the church, they also have an exceptional track record for education in their Jesuit and Salesian institutions, despite some disciplines being tinged with religious malarky. The tuition cost is something my wife and I can afford and the school is conveniently located to where we live, saving time and more money in travel costs. I know that my dollars are not paying into the bloated bureaucracies prevalent amongst public schools, nor do they support substandard teachers that should not be within a 10-foot radius of a classroom. I am aware that the tuition is subsidized by the coffers of the diocese and that we are benefitting from parishioners’ donations and taxpayers through tax write-offs. If Joe Taxpayers like myself were not so burdened, we’d have more choice, time, and money to spend on other educational options. It must be noted that regular mass attendance (my wife does the attending as she was raised Catholic and has more stomach for it than I) and donations help to ensure our tuition level expense.
I experience guilt and sadness for feeling that I have compromised my children’s education and free thought in some ways for convenience and economy. I feel relief that they are not languishing in public school and a moat of happiness that they seem to enjoy their experience there, in no small part due to the teachers and staff there, I suppose.
‘Conflicted’ is a pretty accurate word to describe my feelings when the topic of my children’s education comes up. I often think to my own upbringing through the Baptist school I attended and how I came to dispel the haze of religion with logic and common sense. It was easier for me to shed the religious veil. I was never really into church, going through the motions to keep up appearances, and holding on to a lukewarm belief that God actually existed for a time. Getting rid of God was easy for me. Will it be the same for my kids? What if they don’t arrive at the same conclusion that I did? I put them on this path because the circumstances suited me at the time. I’m all for exposing my children to different cultures, belief systems, and whatnot, and letting them decide what they want to adopt in the process of ‘growing up.’ But I feel with enrolling them in a Catholic school, I have slanted the playing field a little too far to one side. I sometimes find myself censoring my real thoughts about religion in front of them, or my wife predicts an oncoming rant and admonishes and reminds me of the potential awkwardness that I could cause should I let my tongue loose. Time will tell if they shed religious belief like older or more enterprising kids shed belief in Santa Claus. Until then, I’m holding my breath, crossing my fingers, and hope my kids will grow up as rational, free-thinking adults.