I am currently working closely with an indigenous children’s home based in Malaysia. They are undoubtedly the most wonderful bunch of kids I have met in my life. Their attitude towards life, and the drive to break out of a socio-political system that seeks to marginalize them is a lesson by itself. These kids have been raised as Christians by their pious caretaker – and “mother”, as she’s lovingly known to the children – who in my opinion, is an incredible human being. She took these kids out of the jungle, and raised them almost single-handedly – providing shelter, education, and food.
The other day, during the English tutoring session I conduct weekly with the children, one of the young ones asked me,”Do you go to church? Do you love Jesus?” I smiled, as best as I could, showing off my rarely revealed dimple in an attempt to avoid an awkward situation. When I realized he was still looking directly at me, I diverted his attention by talking about a Smurf’s book I brought along for class.
This whole incident got me thinking: To what extent should I allow my personal beliefs and principles dictate my influence on these children?
On one hand, I have nothing but respect for their caretaker, who has treated me dearly, cooking wonderful meals for me frequently; she reminds me of my late grandmother. I respect her for what she’s doing, and I respect her personal belief. On the other hand, I am this Militant Atheist and Humanist, who is adamant that religion should not dictate education. Take the issue of Creationism versus Evolution, I am certain that evolution is real, because of all the facts and evidence presented by Science; while the evidence for Creationism or Intelligent Design wouldn’t even complete two sentences. The kids believe that god created them, I held my tongue back furiously when I heard one of them making that statement. Do I attempt to challenge the status quo of this peaceful and loving eco-system, or am I forcefully pushed into a corner of silence, accepting that Christianity is the established system of belief at this home, with these children?
For now, I have decided that I would be more helpful to them by educating them sans the destruction of the religious bubble they reside in. I would not want to risk angering or upsetting the caretaker and ruin my relationship with the children.
However, I can’t promise myself that I wouldn’t strike back the next time the science of reality is challenged by the bogus science of religion.