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As we move into adolescence, some of the ideas learned from our parents start to be called into question and modified as peers have an influence in our lives. However, many of the learned behaviors and ideas go unquestioned because they are so ingrained in us at this point.
Learning from outside sources
With independence, social maturity and greater reasoning comes another type of learning. We take in more knowledge from other sources as we interact more with others and the environment outside the family. This knowledge we can choose to accept or refuse. We can experiment and test concepts to gain information.
As we develop into adolescents, this learning plays a greater role in our lives. This is the learning we try to use to surpass our parents. We use this learning to modify and change the bad habits that were learned from our parents.
Each generation thinks it can be better than the one before by using this knowledge. A simple example would be replacing nonstandard speech patterns learned in childhood, by more widely acceptable speech patterns for better communication.
Under stress we revert to old ways
However, when we become angry, we revert easily to our earliest learned speech patterns. Likewise, no matter how hard we try to be better parents than our parents, when under stress we go back to the way our parents raised us. Therefore, an abused child often becomes an abusive parent and it takes much work to overcome this cycle.
Frequently, when we are sick we resort to mother's old home remedies for what ails us. The learning from parent to child runs deep.
Learning about God
Many of our ideas about God begin with our parent-child bond. Unlike other concepts learned during that time, thoughts on God are not directly relevant to our physical well being or our relations with other people. Religious ideas deal with a relationship between us and an unseen, intangible entity. How can we question and test them in adolescence?
We can only take in new information from others and refuse it based on what we have been taught by our parents or modify our beliefs based on others’ beliefs. Yet as adolescents, we are still with our parents and generally continue the same religious practices even if we may not fully believe as they do. If a parental figure's value system has spiritual well being as a low priority, a child may neglect or reject religion entirely in lieu of materialistic goals.
It is not until young adulthood that we really get the opportunity to practice what we as individuals believe. Some may give up their parents' religious beliefs to share the beliefs of the people that they identify with as they move out of the “nest.” Still, most adhere strictly to what their parents believe, without question, because their parents' beliefs have become part of their inherent nature.
Too many conflicting ideas
With so many existing religious ideas, is it any wonder so few people try to seek the truth? Anyone trying to examine other systems of belief opens himself or herself to be inundated with mounds of confusing information. We know from the scripture that Abraham examined belief in the idols, the moon, and the sun before he discovered the One who created all (6:76-79). On the other hand, we have access to much more information on religion to consider.
This makes the mathematical proof within the Quran, based on the number 19, a mercy from God for those few who open their minds to learn about
Him (74:30-31). We are promised in the Quran that God guides those who seek the truth, but we must be willing to break with all the falsehood that we have already learned (5:16, 22:54, 24:46).
Choice must be made
A conscious choice must be made to learn about God and to read His scripture to attain knowledge. Children who have been fortunate enough to receive the truth about God from righteous parents have an advantage, but they too must examine their practices and beliefs (17:36).
Following parents blindly is never a substitute for belief, and is a form of idol worship (2:170, 7:28, 173, 37:70).
They found their parents astray. And they blindly followed in their footsteps. (37:69-70)
We also should be aware that even if we change our beliefs, it is so very easy to revert to our original practices when we are tested, just as we revert, under stressful situations, to what we first learned during our childhood. This may explain why God promises twice the reward to converts (28:54).
Honor your parents
“Honor your parents” is a commandment often found in the Quran after “Worship God alone” (2:83, 6:151, 17:23).
We made a covenant with the Children of Israel: “You shall not worship except GOD. You shall honor your parents and regard the relatives, the orphans, and the poor. You shall treat the people amicably. You shall observe the Contact Prayers (Salat) and give the obligatory charity (Zakat)....” (2:83)
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