Sat Dec 29th, 2007 at 09:56:47 AM EST
When I read kcurie's A Christmas tale, I thought it is a nice story, but somehow I couldn't relate. After sleeping one over it, I realise it has to do with some personal experiences that lead towards a matter not showcased by the four families in the tale.
At the same time, I realise this family thing also has something to do with my reluctance to see a separation of 'spirituality' and 'religion' some others see.
In all four families in the tale, the issue is whether the families are practising religious rituals for their son. But what about making the son "do religion"?
I have a vague sense that those who see religion and spirituality not just as different, but disjunct (or even diametrically opposed) things, make so by contrasting individual experience and (a) hierarchical power structures and/or (b) rigid dogmatic rules (held personally or enforced from above).
To me, experience in collectives of various size (in congregation, at a festivity, on pilgrimage) already blurs the line. But where I see these things inextricably interwinded is at a middle level: the family. There, spiritual experience, dogma and enforcement can be united in a single act.
I am a second-generation atheist. Meaning, my parents didn't believe in gods, and never felt the need to instruct me either way. (In fact to this day I never asked them how or even whether they lost belief, or just pretended from the earliest age.) My first vague awareness of religion was as something in history, something people believed in the past like flat Earth and dragons. My first experience with live religion was that of my grandparents when on holiday with them. To be more precise, that of my grandmother (devout Catholic).
What made this a painful experience from the start was my parents telling me to not tell the grandparents that I don't believe.
Imagine the conflict in a six-year-old having to go along with a lie (I guess at that age one doesn't even have a full sense of lies), having to sustain a lie for a long period of time, and having to lie just to the beloved grandparents. Going to Sunday mass and feeling a hypocrite in God's house, without believing in that God one is hypocritical towards. Listening to the pastor's sermon and swallowing critical questions or moral disagreement. Being made to recite prayers every night without believing the words said. Feelings of guilt, hypocrisy and betrayal (of Granny), which induce mental attempts to reconcile the inreconcilable.
What Granny believed was that my parents don't have time for church stuff besides work, and that she has to make up for that, and that with all this she is saving our souls. From her, this wasn't the loveless ritual afew speaks about re his family. It was an expression of love and care within the bounds of her beliefs.
Those beliefs were what institutionalised religion wanted to deeply imprint into its believers. (Including the belief that children should be indoctrinated, emotionally blackmailed, and made feel guilty in a thousand ways.) However, at the same time, they were deeply internalised. Her religion wasn't -- like so often -- to show off before society, it was a folk version, and it was emotional enough for her for prayer to get tears in her eyes. And I suspect the main vehicle of her own indoctrination was family, too.
Now my situation as a grandchild under parental orders to shut up and go along was special. However, I'd imagine the fact that a child is permanently with its parents and is dependent to them in many other ways, more makes up in potental for exposure and pressure. So, in families where child participation in rituals/indoctrination is considered part of care, some don't need the push and are 'inspired' themselves; some submit, to keep up the family bonding, and get indoctrinated; some rebel and the family learns to accept the situation; some won't rebel openly, pretend and are conflicted forever; some rebel and the conflict blows up the family; some rebel later and carry deep scars.