Our beliefs should be able to survive us exploring the facts.
Continuously questioning the world around us is vital.
While it is the responsibility of parents to raise their children, in reality, the world around them and the narrative they are exposed to often shapes them in ways we cannot.
One of the biggest influencers of our children is the religion they are born into – generally the basis of their morals outside of their house.
Most religions are based on similar ideals. A deity, or collection of them, encourages us to love each other, respect life and honour the traditions of our more spiritual ancestors.
The religion I was raised in was Christianity. I attended a Roman Catholic school, went to church on the weekends and am happy to credit it for the fact I have never committed murder – or coveted my neighbours’ animals!
I didn’t even hesitate to send my children to a Catholic school. The psalms, the parables, even the hymns – I want them to experience it all.
I know, from experience, that a relationship with a religion gives you more than faith; it teaches you love, humility and self discipline.
Religions give people structure and belief but, like any historical accounts, they are vulnerable to variation and Chinese whispers. Even the most devout worshippers would have to accept that all of the versions of Christianity we experience today have been diluted and modified. The only question is to what degree.
I learnt once that after Jesus’ death there were up to 20 gospels written about his life. 20 different accounts of who he was and what he did on Earth. Eventually, it was whittled down to the 4 that now exist in the New Testament. These are now considered the most accurate and some of these chosen books were written more than 40 years after Jesus had died.
Stepping away from any individual belief systems, what other story would we accept as ‘gospel’ that consists of only 20% of the original accounts? What other testimony would we consider unquestionable if it was given four decades after the fact?
I don’t say any of this to challenge the bible, or suggest that we should automatically doubt Christianity. If the missing gospels are inaccurate they shouldn’t be included. But should we be told they are unreliable or be encouraged to explore their validity for ourselves?
Today, reports of a carpenter suddenly performing miracles, walking on water and defying death, without any scientific evidence, would be laughed off as a conspiracy theory!
Any narrative should be be prodded and examined without bias.
And I am not rubbishing any religion, at all, but I think it is important to draw a parallel between what we simply choose to accept from our past and the modern day reports that we form instant opinions on.
Christianity, like any religion, has adapted and modernised throughout it’s history. But the overall direction has not changed. If this is because it has survived sufficient scrutiny, then that is brilliant. When it comes to religion, though, individuals haven’t always been able to have a different point of view, and certainly haven’t always been safe to voice it.
Any truth should encourage us to want to know more, not just tell us what to believe.
The more we understand, the more we want to investigate. The more we look for answers, the harder it is for us to blindly accept.
Thirst for knowledge is a good thing. We have to remember to stay open minded.
There is rarely a version of events that is seen as a consensus. Everyone can express an opinion on anything and these can be shared and manipulated worldwide, in seconds.
A single message can now be heard all around the world but we need to remember that the loudest voice is not always the most reliable. Expert knowledge should be valued over the viewpoint of a popular online profile. But neither should be considered fact without our own research.
In recent years, targeted advertisements and the evolution of fake content have increasingly influenced the way we think and feel about issues that affect the world we live in.
Nowadays, no one has to circulate a book to convince you of anything. Propaganda has become much more persuasive and harder to identify. We are faced with a real problem.
How do we make informed decisions with a huge amount of dubious information?
Big business and government promise to manage the reliability of what we are exposed to, but frankly, have conflicting interests, and are currently falling short.
Part of the solution has to be refusing to rely on any one source of information. Unfortunately, it is often difficult enough to trust an individual, so we should be even more cautious of the intentions of organisations.
We have incredible access to information so should explore all sides of any issue.
The other part of the fix is us encouraging our children’s tendency to question absolutely everything. ‘Why?’, ‘How?’ and ‘What?’ questions create a more robust understanding of events.
It is one thing to believe a story but something else, entirely, to know if it is true.
The truth should be the truth our research has led us to believe and more often than not, a compromise of very different versions. Facts should be considered challengeable and tradition should never hinder transparency.
For any religious, political, corporate or national institution to thrive moving forward, it should want to be able to invite and withstand examination. It creates a better bond with the people it serves.
Often I mention the attributes our children will need for the challenges ahead but this is an area we have to tackle immediately.
The modern means available to inform and influence are so sophisticated. If we do not ensure we are inquisitive and willing to be proved wrong we will stand still as the story is conveniently fed to us.
The next generation will struggle with what to trust and will not know how to understand their reality. If we choose not to question our world, they won’t even know the difference between fact and fiction.