Friday, 3 August 2007

Being happy with who YOU are

The other day I was in a conversation with someone who started talking about how I will bring up my future children. Midway through our discussion, I mentioned something about my parents' Christianity, and how they'll want my children brought up to know about Christianity and God etc (neither Dan nor I, of course, are Christian) and the person I was talking to made some sweeping statement about how my parents will have to support my beliefs as equal to theirs, or something to that effect.

I think it's very easy for people to talk about respecting other people's beliefs, when most New Zealanders don't have any firm beliefs themselves. But as someone who has had a firm belief in God in the past — even if I don't any more — I think that's rubbish. I don't mean respecting people's beliefs is rubbish; but the people spouting off that phrase usually don't honestly understand what it means to hold a strong belief.

Say I had a kid. My parents believe that if this kid doesn't become a Christian, she (we'll assume it's a girl) will go to Hell. In that case, I think the most loving, caring thing they can do for their granddaughter is to tell her about God to at least try to prevent that.

I'm not saying I'd bring my kids up as Christians; that makes no sense, when it's not something either Dan or I believe in ourselves. But if I had a kid, I'd talk to my parents about it, and as long as they don't tell my kids "Mummy's wrong and is going to hell", I've no objection to my future children learning about Christianity, deciding they want to be Christian or Buddhist or Hindu or whatever. Hell, Christianity might be true, in which case I don't particularly want my kids heading for hell either! I wouldn't undermine my parents' talks as long as they wouldn't undermine me and my partner. I don't think they would, though.

But respecting other people's beliefs is only relevant if you believe it doesn't matter in the end. "As long as you're OK with you." Truth is relative, the afterlife's unimportant, and as long as you're happy and healthy it doesn't matter if most of the world is quite literally going to Hell.

I don't really know what my point is here. I did have a point, at some stage. I think my point was that people might potentially be critical of some people (like my parents) who have strong beliefs, because my parents don't hold that all other beliefs are equal and good and irrelevant so long as the person themselves is happy. That doesn't mean that people like my parents wouldn't equally respect a Muslim or a pagan or an athiest. Just that they don't believe any belief is OK.

It's that whole thing again, being intolerant of the intolerant. So ironic.

Unfortunately, truth is not relative, facts are facts, and if there's an afterlife I'm very worried. If you're happy your whole life long and then end up in an eternity of torture, it does matter.

I don't believe in Christianity. But if any of these spiritual theories are true, then "being happy with who you are" just isn't enough, in the long run.

And people who believe that they respect all beliefs, should respect the beliefs of people who don't respect all beliefs.

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