July 11, 2014

Stories in Un-Indoctrination:
Watching Cosmos with my kids opens my eyes


Extra blog post today, because it's on my mind, and because I can do that, and because fuck the man, that's why.

This week, my husband and I bought Cosmos. We even splurged and got it on DVD--NO REGRETS! I am in love. I know, crazy, but the wealth of knowledge and the excellent execution--wow. Just wow. Give Neil de Grasse Tyson ALL OF THE EMMIES PEOPLE.

One of the most striking parts of the experience is watching my children--and stepchildren--come face to face with evidence that conflicts with what they have been taught.

Perhaps a little background is necessary here.

My husband and I were both raised in Christian households. Each of our families considers itself Christian and espoused Christian values we grew up. His family was never as fundamental as my own was for a time.

Our turn to agnosticism/atheism is recent. My husband's deployment to Afghanistan, and the things he witnessed, tried his faith and, eventually, destroyed it. He calls himself an agnostic. That was in 2009.

He was never pushy in his nonbelief. He did challenge me to explain things, he did make jokes from time to time--but it was never mocking or mean-spirited. His questions were always with a sincere desire to better understand things.

However, what he couldn't know was that there were already a significant number of questions swirling around, and his agnosticism fomented them.

In the meantime, however, I was still attending church, until we moved in together in 2010. I had been since my teens, and throughout my pregnancy with my oldest son--despite feeling incredibly uncomfortable and being an effective pariah (single mom, you know) in my prior circles.

My oldest son was thus born into the world of Christianity. In 2006, all 8 pounds of him came screaming into the very world that I now argue against. My pregnancy bolstered all of my religious beliefs and leanings. I was a thousand times more committed to my faith than ever before.

My son attended the nursery, then children's church. There was church camp in the summer. That was the first four years of his life.

His best friend attends a private Christian school. His family is relatively religious--I would probably describe them as spiritual. My son regularly comes into contact with religion and religious ideas. These, combined with his own early upbringing, have made him easily the most religious person in our household currently, especially since our youngest son has never attended church.

My stepdaughters are also quite religious. They have actually verbally stated that they can't believe in the Big Bang, because they believe in God.

So all in all, our Cosmos purchase, and watching it together as a family, has been guaranteed to be a trip. And it has been.

We've opened up so many conversations about faith and religion and science. We've discussed how a belief in a god doesn't necessitate ignoring scientific evidence--there are many scientists that believe, even as they research, because they accept that God works in ways that we can't understand...but that he wants us to.

There have been some truly difficult pieces to watch. The first episode shows Bruno burning because his beliefs conflicted with doctrine. It led to a difficult conversation about how sometimes religious belief hampers knowledge and growth.

My son has asked, "But where is God in this?" and we've talked about how some people don't believe in God. I truly feel like we are on the verge of having the Big Discussion about Mom and Dad's beliefs, and I am excited and anxious about the possibility.

It's crazy to watch how absorbed they get in the show. But it has also highlights how important it is, to me, to undo the early indoctrination for our older son, and to expose my stepdaughters to different points of view (for the record, we completely support their mother's right to instill her values too--we just want to make sure that they know other views exist).

For those that are facing a similar dilemma, I highly recommend this series. You won't regret it.

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