Talking to Your Kids About Religion
Religion is the way that people deal with ultimate questions and concerns such as life after death, a purpose in life, morality, and a divine or transcendent reality. Generally, it involves devotional and ritual observances, some sort of sacred text or texts, and a group of people who have similar beliefs and practices. It may also involve a belief in one or more gods, a goddess or goddesses, or an omnipotent god or gods.
Anthropologists and sociologists have sorted many different beliefs into the category of religion, and they continue to debate how best to define the term. Some scholars are “monothetic” in their approach to the concept, and they believe that any religion will share some defining property or set of properties that will distinguish it from other religious traditions. Other scholars take a more “polythetic” approach, and they believe that it is important to look at the characteristics of religion as a whole rather than trying to find some essential property or set of properties that will distinguish one type of religious tradition from another.
The concept of religion has a long history in the study of human culture and social organization. Emile Durkheim, for example, emphasized the function that religion serves in a society, and his work has continued to influence the way that sociologists think about the concept.
In addition, there are a number of philosophers who have wrestled with the meaning and nature of the concept of religion. In particular, some philosophers have tried to determine whether or not there is such a thing as a religion “as such” or whether or not it is better to think of the concept as a family-resemblance notion instead of an abstract category with necessary and sufficient properties.
A common idea is that religion began with a primitive form of spirituality based on tribal totems and the worship of ancestors, but over time it developed into a complex system of beliefs. Typically, these belief systems dealt with the world’s creation and evolution and included myths about individual gods and goddesses. They also usually involved a concept of salvation, which could mean either a literal, afterlife-type salvation in heaven as in Christianity or an end to suffering, such as nirvana in Buddhism.
Talking to your kids about religion can be a challenging task, especially because of the wide variety of beliefs out there. Ages seven and eight seem to be a good age for starting, because children at this stage are fascinated by the topic. Encourage your children to discuss what they think about the big questions in life, and don’t be afraid to share your own thoughts with them. Emphasize the things that all religions have in common, such as sacred texts, life-cycle celebrations, and views of the afterlife. This will help your children to see that all religions have some similarities, and it will make them less likely to be judgmental about the differences between them.