raising religious kidsThe vast majority of Earth’s population claims at least some religious affiliation. While the numbers of people actively attending religious services (particularly in the West) is declining it is impossible to deny that Faith is still one of the most powerful forces in our lives. The particular faith a person chooses to identify with is perhaps the single most life-defining choice that they will ever make. While some people come to find their religion in adulthood, it is extremely common that individuals will be educated in the tradition practiced by their parents. As any new parent comes to know, you’ll encounter about a dozen answers for every question you have. We spend billions of dollars and hours every year seeking these answers so that we can do the best for our children, often feeling unsure of ourselves.

One of the most important questions that parents face is whether or not they should be raising religious children. Should we be encouraging those cycles to continue? Or should we allow our children to decide for themselves?

The Bounty of the Faithful Family

raising religious kidsThere are valid arguments to be made on either side of the debate. Most commonly, particularly in the United States, faith traditions are passed down family lines. This might be the most appropriate course of action – studies have shown that children raised within a religion who are attending church services regularly see a slight boost in mental performance while others suggest that they are also end up being more disciplined individuals.

People have pondered for years why we may be seeing these correlations. One of the most popular theories posits that families that exist within a particular religious faith may view the act of managing and raising a family as a more serious and sacred one than their more non-religious counterparts … naturally, the stakes for raising a well-behaved child are raised significantly when you’re talking about the difference between some legal trouble and eternal damnation.

raising religious kidsConsequences of a Religious Upbringing

Before you take your kid’s game controller and put a Bible in her hands, though, it’s important to note that some potential downsides to raising your children with religion have also been identified. Quite recently, one study found that children who are raised in the church may actually be more selfish than their more secular counterparts. In the experiment, researchers found that children raised religiously were much more likely to punish their peers and much less likely to display empathetic behaviors than their counterparts. Those who wrote the study even went so far as to establish that children from certain faiths, like Islam, were slightly more likely to exhibit the selfish behaviors than those children who may have been raised in a different faith.

raising religious childrenAnother potential problem that could crop up from raising a child in the church could be that you are affecting their ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality. Last year, a paper was published alleging that children raised in the Church were less able to identify that stories including magical events were fictitious than their peers raised in more secular environments, who were readily able to identify that the stories including magic couldn’t be true. Naturally, this inability to distinguish could have enormous consequences. This particular study was conducted on children aged 5-6; it’s unclear whether those cognitive issues would linger into adulthood.

 

Have you raised children? Or are you actively childrearing? What do you think: should we be raising religious kids? Do you wish you’d been raised differently?

25 comments

  1. David says:

    I don’t know but I was in church every time the doors opened and I was very rebellious and totally discarded everything at a young age. At least I got older where it paid off I guess

  2. Kathryn says:

    From what I have read, heard and experienced, religion is a divisive force. It deals in arrogance and an ‘us vs them’ philosophy. Of course, much of this depends upon the teacher and therein lies the problem. Children are able to become good adults, citizens and parents w/o the type of indoctrination most religions require. Good parenting does not necessitate implanting implacable attitudes which are a disservice to raising rational, free-thinking, world citizens.

  3. Diane Baum says:

    Raising children in a tradition, be it Catholic, Protestant or something else gives them a sense of belonging, of responsibility, of being held accountable. Even Jesus was raised in the Jewish tradition, going to the synagogues and temples to pray. That being said, it is also important to teach them as Jesus taught: to love others unconditionally, to do good to others, though they may hurt you, to always serve and not wait to BE served, to treat others with respect, with love and to never strive to be better than the rest but to be the best we can be towards all. This is what true devotion to God is. It is not “how much I put in the collection basket.” It is not “how good I look when I go to church.” It is not “praying in the pews, then walking out as snooty as I was walking in.” It IS all about being humble and walking with my God…knowing that I am imperfect, but through Him, I am His Child!

  4. sue says:

    One youdont know where they went to get the kids for their studies.In any group you are going to have people who are restive to what is the norm around them. Especially her in the US we are bombarded with so much ideals from so many groups that want to be totally right that we miss the creator and having a relationship with him. I think we should teach our children what we believe and why,I think being around others that believe how we do is important

    1. Mark Wynn says:

      All children of God should never be called a kid. A kid is a goat. We don’t call our moms and sisters the b word do we. No because that’s a dog. Well a kid is a goat. Read Mathew 25 : 32 and see what God says

  5. HSW says:

    I agree that you should teach your children what you believe and why. In my case that belief includes all of the things that Diana Baum refers to except for the religious part. I have three children, two of whom are Christians although very different in their beliefs, the other is an atheist like me. I see very little difference in the way they walk through the world, with my atheist child being slightly more likely to go out of her way to help without being asked, including volunteering in the community. She’s also the only one who has a child of her own, and is passing on her belief in logic and science to her child.

    My belief system doesn’t in any way include magical thinking, and two of my three children seem to have adopted that, even while one of them identifies as Christian. I believe everything can be (or will be) explained by science, and if I was going to embrace a “faith” it would be Buddhism, as it seems to be the one belief system that has expressed a willingness to adapt as both our understanding of the world and our knowledge grow.

  6. Alvin Jones says:

    Children Should be initially raised in a religious atmosphere (taken to some church). But the “Home atmosphere” should place a child’s focus on the spiritual. When they are old enough to make their own decisions, they can choose between being a part of a religion or just continue on a focus being the best person they be, which spirituality promotes. (Smile…Amen!)

  7. Rev says:

    Yes, raise them in a religious household but not one where the children are severely punished if they question or do something that it seen to be going against the belief of the house as I have seen since being Clergy. there are parents that are fanatical and will beat religion in to their children and use the wrath of God to threaten them with. This is a no. Bring them up in love, kindness, with the knowledge of God. If they make a mistake which everyone has and will in their lifetime, then sit and point it out to them gently. As the child grows older, they may not feel the same about the religion and go their own way, as parents, we should all give them the freedom to do that as long as it is not a way of hatred. Whichever path your child takes though, one must always ensure that the path is clear for them to walk back to you on and the door always open if they do wish to return.

    1. Diane Baum says:

      When I was young, my parents joined the Jehovah’s witnesses. My mother would do just this: beat me if I even questioned anything of that…that….sect’s? belief’s. She held my younger brother out of school when he was ready for kindergarten in 1974 why? Because she claimed the sect said that Armageddon was imminent, so why even bother to send him to school! So much of that sect’s belief’s were based on “the end times!” They forgot how to live for the present time! By the way, many of the kids that I knew from that sect also dropped out. Sadly, according to their “rules,” if one leaves for any reason, they are considered a “non person,” and one cannot associate with that person anymore for any reason. Two cases in point: when I was 18, I married a man who was Catholic. They would have nothing to do with me. Case number two: when my mom was very old, she didn’t go to their meetings anymore. When she was sick, no one visited with her…and when she died, not even their minister would give her a eulogy, let alone show up at her funeral. Rules? Regulations? Jesus, when He was here, taught us to follow TWO commands….Love God…love your neighbor as much as yourself. Obviously this sect didn’t live up to that.

      1. Rev says:

        Diane, was sad to read how tough life was for you, my heart goes out to you but I hope that your story will inspire others, you came through it, strong and hopefully lessons will be learnt from this. God Bless you

  8. HeidiAnne Sekreta says:

    My son who is almost 15 and lives with his Dad, and is being raised Roman Catholic. So is his sister who is 16. She is involved with the Church, while my son hasn’t gotten his confirmation because some of it goes against his values. He is in favor of gay and lesbian rights. He is the most gentle loving people I ever met. He not only knows the words of the Golden Rule, and what Jesus said about Loving your neighbor as yourself and not judging one another, but practices these principles on a daily basis. When I asked him, why he didn’t want to be confirmed, he answered that he didn’t need to be confirmed to know who he is. I then asked him, who that is and he answered a child of God. In my opinion, a parent’s responsibility isn’t important to raise them in a religious household, but one that follows the Golden Rule. I feel if more people follow that, and not religion, our world would be a better place.

  9. CB Cuff says:

    The question itself is a bit obscure, “raising” religious kids. If it asked “indoctrinate”, would people answer differently? Parents of any religion have no right to distort the mind of a child, based on their own personal beliefs. Children do not have the capacity to reason the complexities and vagaries of organized religion. Courts are slowly beginning to recognize and confirm the emotional abuse often experienced by children ‘raised’ under such conditions. We as adults determine what is of value to us through our personal experiences, not from the stories of others. Christianity is a good example of myth and story, we should not be so crass to think children will or should believe, simply because we are their parents.

  10. Alvin Jones says:

    Amen!!!

  11. Alvin Jones says:

    Amen Rev!!!

  12. Gerri says:

    Every child should know GOD

  13. Ed Kennelly says:

    Religious people scare me.
    Spiritual people inspire me.

  14. Kingsley chimtuwa luke says:

    For we parents to be able to deal off religiousness out of our childrens force,we must present God to be their number one goal in life which they should know that He God should be presented our other things fellow without comprising whom God is in their life, with this our children will know that God is the head of all and would ever be

  15. Johnny Hyphen says:

    Which one? If you need an answer from the Bible: The God of Melchizedek (for the sake of a name, if you must have a name), but that’s another story, long ago forgotten and distorted.That God includes YOU within the equation of being-ness. Names are available everywhere though, as God is both all names and nameless.
    As for children….. Geniuses and prodigies are not rare. Every child is born perfectly. Their gifts are slowly, methodically, programmed out of them. This is what was meant by “all men are created equal”. Perspective is often confused with opinion or conclusion through observation. But perspective requires no conclusion. It is the geometric manifestation of a person through angular trajectories, momentum alterations and vectorization within a vibrational field. As we rectify the vectors that divide us, we move closer to sacred center within each rectification. We also change from alternating(as in “current”) to direct ( and the less divided-schizophrenic we become). We also find that we exist within a fractal paradigm built upon Euclidean triangles, rather than dualism. For those who think this “hard to believe” we need only look at 3d graphics to have a better understanding. This also does away with the question of “Trinity”. We are active participants, creators in our own right, thus “the image of God”. Unity in diversity is a concept only for those who do not reside in it. It is possible to reside there, and for separatism to be the illusion or concept. It is all just a thought away.
    As many people seem to be embracing the idea that ” you have to love yourself before you can truly love others”, this is an all encompassing truth. The yin and yang of love is not love and hate. It is love of self/love of others. Hate resides at a different degree within the wholeness. We rectify these easier when we apply Hegel’s Dialectic in our lives. It is also this (Hegel’s) dialectic which has been used in reverse to separate us This is why we are taught that 99>1 and yet we seem to live in a world where 1>99.
    Conclusion; The best thing I can do for my children is to focus on my own vibrational state of being while observing them through my sacred perspective as perfect and in need of nothing. Need is the illusion of a material reality. A material reality is the illusion produced through vibration… “Then God said”. This state of being is Christ. And remember, Christ is not a noun, it’s an adjective. Did I say in the 1st paragraph ” the God that includes YOU”? Did that make you shiver with thoughts of blasphemy? Jesus said ” I and my Father are one”. and followers of Jesus are to imitate that, Why? Because belief is nothing more than practiced thought. Faith is the belief. Atheists have faith, faith that they are correct in their belief.
    I want to add one more thing…. It doesn’t matter whether Jesus is real or a myth. We are real. We are myths. Some of us know it, some of us don’t. All are thought form for the sake of contrast and expansion through what seems to be a very real experience. Thought forms have as much influence and input as seemingly real things. Fairytale is one example of the thought forms that have influenced the distortion of love. It’s even helped provide a psychosis when severely divided; “Cinderella Complex”.

  16. Anber says:

    I went to church on Sundays and Wednesdays.. I grew up like that. I teach my kids the bible and teach them about God and jesus. They go to church sometimes. It’s not about making them very religious, its about raising them knowing there is something greater than this.

  17. Monti Skiby says:

    I believe children should be raised with God in their home as used as part of the foundation of learning what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Today’s children are growing up with very little guidance and I believe it should come from their home and with the teaching of what is right and wrong. The best way to do that is through God’s word, the Bible, and what is taught in the Bible as to what God accepts as right and what is wrong or unacceptable in God’s eyes.

    Children need a strong foundation from which to grow. They need guidance in the decisions they make and to know they are not alone when confronted with decisions and temptations. If raised in a Christian home when confronted with temptations they will know to turn to God for answers and know what is right-hand what is wrong based on the Christian foundation they were raised with.

    A strong foundation with structure, morals and values is very essential for the the child Tod feel the security of knowing and feeling love and a sense of belonging to a family. A child needs that sense of belonging and the security of having a family. But most importantly a child needs to know there are rules that guide his or her behavior and there are consequences for there behavior for breaking rules that have been established. I believe a Christian upbringing helps a child understand the difference between right and wrong and to respect what is acceptable behavior.

  18. Rev. Robert says:

    Teach your children how to think instead of what to think! They will certainly have an easier time understanding the difference between reality and fantasy.

  19. Pastor Poet Phil says:

    Yes, but, only to instill a love of others faith traditions, to raise spiritually aware human beings. Religion, is the letter of the law. It’s nothing but words without a context to put them in

  20. Josh Gillman says:

    As a deist who is raising an eight year old son, I have strived to teach my son to think for himself when in comes to matters of religion and spirituality. My son does believe that there is a God, but I am not sure when he stands on religion.

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