“That’s not fair!”
How often do we hear children scream that little gem? As parents, we try to teach our kids that there is justice. We may speak in terms of karma or heaven and hell, but we try to communicate that fairness does exist.
At the same time, we tell them that life isn’t fair. This can create some significant cognitive dissonance. As adults, we deal with this belief that the world should be fair and that it isn’t fair because we understand that we strive for fairness, but fall short. The legal system is a perfect example of this. However, children do not have the ability to cognitively deal with the discrepancy between the goal and the outcome.
Faith is a convenient tool to use to deal with the discrepancy. This world is not fair, but fairness will ultimately win. Now, I don’t intend to say that faith is only a convenient way of dealing with those types of issues, rather that it is a good tool in addition to its other benefits.
I also used this as an example as to why faith is such an important tool for raising a child. Children have complete unadulterated faith. When you tell them something, they believe it, absolutely. They will leap off of something into your arms because they have faith that you will catch them. They lack the cynicism that plagues so many of us. Children understand faith, not conceptually, but in practice.
When considering morality, there are a number of philosophical systems that can be utilized to develop a moral system. However, few of them are internally consistent. For example, one might argue that the correct moral choice is that which provides the greatest good for the greatest number of people (this is one of the most popular philosophical systems in use today). However, under this philosophical system, it is never possible to be completely confident in any moral decision. You can never determine the long-term impact (the good) for every person in the world. Even if we could determine the impact on every person in the world, we could not be sure that there are not other people (aliens?) who would be impacted either positively or negatively. Many religious moral systems maintain a strong internal morality. There is plenty of controversy and disagreement over those systems, but they provide the tools to make decisions.
For example, if a child is trained to analyze decisions through a religious lens, they can consider whether they should steal a bag of candy. Under the ‘greatest good’ philosophy, they could decide that the greatest good (candy) for the greatest number (them and their friends) means that they should steal the candy. In contrast, a religious based morality simply states ‘don’t steal.’ This simple, clear and consistent moral absolute provides the kind of religious instruction that we seek for our children.