Teaching Kids to Respect Other Religions

We live in a very diverse world with many different ideas and value systems that may differ from our own. One of the wonderful things about the United States is that you can express your diverse ideas with freedom. One of the freedoms Americans enjoy is freedom of religion. While around 70% of Americans identify as Christians (including Protestants and Roman Catholics), somewhere close to 10% are of various other religions and another 20% hold no religious affiliation. In such a diverse world how do we teach our children to respect others and their religious beliefs? Teaching kids to respect other religions is an important step to teaching students how to be good citizens in our changing world.

Respect

Understanding

Understanding your own religion as well as other religions is an important step. You can be devout and practice your own religion while respecting the religion of your neighbors and community. First, learn the tenets of your own religion and pass those on to your children. Then learn about and teach your children the basic beliefs of other religions so you can have factual discussion with your children. This is not about pointing out how your religion is right and the other religions are wrong. This is about understanding why others believe as they do and respecting their right to do so. You will probably find that many of your preconceptions about most religions are based on faulty sources and are not entirely true. Stereotyping religions is on par with stereotyping other races and should be discouraged.

Look for Common Ground

Many religions have similar customs or traditions. Look for common ground such as a version of the Golden Rule or some other basic idea that is similar to your own. If you know someone of a different religion, ask thoughtful and respectful questions to learn about other religions. For example, both Christianity and Judaism share religious writings included in the Old Testament. Islam even connects back to Christianity and Judaism through Abraham’s son, Ishmael. Most religions have tenets referring to charity or caring for family and community. Finding things you have in common with others fosters respect for their beliefs.

Common Courtesy and Respect

Educating yourself about other religions allows you to answer questions sincerely when your child sees a woman wearing a hijab or a man wearing a turban. If you know the answers to these questions, you can open a sincere discussion in which the natural curiosity of a child is appeased without judgment or stereotyping another individual. Children learn what they see and hear, and if they see you practicing common courtesy and respect to people of other religions they are more likely to practice the same themselves. No matter what your religious affiliation, you should always respect the beliefs of others and their constitutional right to practice their own religion. Being kind and respectful to others does not constitute lesser belief in your own religion, nor does it insinuate agreement with someone else’s; however, it does show respect for humanity that every individual is entitled to.

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