Today's Religious Education in Ethical Societies
Florence W. KlaberFrom Florence W. Klaber, "TODAY'S RELIGIOUS EDUCATION IN ETHICAL SOCIETIES," in Ethics as a Religion.
Let us consider our children and ask ourselves: What do we wish for them?
Knowing that tomorrow will bring greater insights, can we agree today on the following hopes for our Ethical child? That he:
If all these objectives are achieved, a self-reliant, mature person should develop who has gained the power to live life fully and appreciatively; who has achieved the inner strength to bear its frustrations and sorrows; who does not expect special favors for himself; who accepts his share in the common lot and continuously discovers resources and compensations from which he can draw ever-renewing strength.
If this is what we want for our child and of our religion, it is obvious that we need a broad, expansive education for him. No one area from the past or from the present will suffice for him. Nor can we neglect areas that may be full of enrichment for him. We must see that he is exposed to the wisdom of the ages. We have deep reverence for the ethical insights of the prophets and teachers of old. We want him to sit at their feet, but we do not want him to accept them unconditionally. We want him to think, to reason, to use the resources of his mind and his emotions. Therefore, we must give him a wide range from which he can draw his inspiration. Sometimes the material used is recognized by the world as religious; sometimes it is considered secular. To us everything is appropriate if it works towards the child's fulfillment.
But . . . religion begins in the home.
Before he is exposed to anything which the Ethical Society Children's Assembly has to offer him, he is exposed to his home, and it is in his home that he gets his early religion. Let there be no misunderstanding on that score. Sunday Assemblies will, in time, do their share to enrich and deepen the home experiences, to help the child make wider intellectual contacts, tap broader sources, and learn life in many ways. Through the Assembly he will then build his own religion. In childhood the attitudes, the beliefs, the actions of his parents, which at first fill the child's complete horizon and into which he has to weave his own life with all its desires and its mysterious frustrations; the love, the attention, the permissiveness, the authority of the home; and the attitude of the home towards religion — they build in him a positive religion or a negative attitude toward it. Later on, when friends of other faiths begin to question, where does he find security? In his home. Are father and mother in harmony with the world? Do they have a religion that seems good to them? Then it is good for him, too. Only as adolescence breaks the bonds, does he question. Then may come a number of strenuous years — often of extreme mysticism or atheism — until, with adulthood, religion is again stabilized according to the new adult's needs and development. We discover and grow together.
The Children's Sunday Assembly of an Ethical Society assumes its role in a sense of dedication. Yet there is one thing that must be emphasized before its procedures are discussed. It cannot teach religion. One of the great differences between orthodox and liberal religions is this concept. Orthodox religion, which bases its teachings on a positive creed, says: "Religion must be taught; it cannot be discovered." Liberal religion takes the completely opposite position, and says': "Liberal religion cannot be taught. It must be discovered." It is of course the difference between the belief that the ultimate truth has already been revealed and the liberal-seeking point of view which feels that religion is born of ever new light. The possibilities of discovering this light we want to present to our children in as many forms as opportunity allows.
This document is part of a larger document, "Understanding Ethical Religion," edited by Howard B. Radest.
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