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Should Parents Choose a Religion for Their Children?

catholic education

Most American children do not choose which, if any, religion they want to follow. (Please see Why Most Americans are Christian.) Children, almost without exception, adopt the religion of their parents and family. Often, religious worship is part of the ebb and flow of family and community life, so it should come as no surprise that children embrace that religion. And therein lies the problem. Most Americans believe that worshiping God is important, and many of them take it a step further in believing that it is essential that their children worship a specific God, namely the Christian God.

In most Christian sects, children are encouraged to make a conscious choice to worship Jesus. In the Catholic church, children, often as young as 7 years old, go through the sacraments of initiation: baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist. In the Lutheran church, children, usually around the age of 12, go through the rite of confirmation. In the Evangelical church, children are encouraged to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. It is not uncommon to hear adult Evangelicals say that Jesus saved them when they were 5 or 6 years old. In the Baptist church, it is not uncommon to hear testimonies of youthful conversion and a re-dedication to that conversion during teenage years.

Regardless of the Christian sect and its initiation practice, young children are encouraged, and often expected, to embrace the tribal God. Many secularists, including myself, think that children should not make the choice of a particular religion until they are old enough to rationally do so, say, teenage years or older. If, as most Christians say, believing in and worshiping Jesus is vitally important, then shouldn’t children wait to embrace Christianity until their reasoning skills are such that they can intellectually understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus and a member of a particular church?

Many Christian sects either baptize or dedicate infants, resulting in that particular sect putting its mark upon the infant. They are saying, in effect, this baby is ours.  From that point forward, children are indoctrinated in their parent’s religion. While many Christian sects hide their motivations for indoctrinating young children, Evangelical groups such as Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), are quite clear about why they go after young children. Thirty years ago, David Shibley, a  proponent of CEF methodology, wrote about the importance of evangelizing children:

I want my two young sons to have bland testimonies – no sensational stories about rescue from drugs, perversion and rebellion.

I want it to be natural for them to trust the Lord Jesus early for salvation and then to trust Him for everything thereafter. I believe in the validity of child evangelism.

For one thing, statistics are on its side. 19 out of 20 Christians receive Christ before the age of 25. After that, the odds against conversion become astronomical.

Early conversion saves not only a soul, but potentially points an entire life toward service to God and man. In 15 years of ministry I’ve met no one who is sorry he came to Christ early in life. I’ve encountered many who are sorry they didn’t….

Shortly before his second-century martyrdom at age 95, Polycarp said, “86 years have I served the Lord.” 18th Bible expositor Matthew Henry was converted at the age of six, hymnwriter Isaac Watts at nine.

W.A. Criswell, pastor of the large First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, was saved when he was eight. Evangelist Stephen Olford came to Christ on his 7th birthday.

65% of those enrolled in America’s largest seminary Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary were converted before their teens.

Children are reached more easily than adults. Jay Kesler, president of Youth for Christ International, has well said, “Any evangelism after high school isn’t evangelism. It’s really salvage.”

Young children are notably tender. Their sincerity is never in doubt. Their heart attitudes contribute to genuine conversion. And Jesus told adults that they must become as children to experience the new birth (Matt. 18:3).

True, children who make an early profession of faith sometimes struggle with assurance and make a second public commitment later. They often say, “I didn’t know what I was doing the first time.” More likely, however, the personal worker attending the child didn’t know what he was doing.

We need not fully understand the Gospel to be saved; we need only believe and receive it. What adult fully comprehends the rationale or the magnitude of redemption?

Some argue that children are unable to stay true to their commitment. Yet the late English preacher Charles Spurgeon noted, “Out of a church of 2,700 members, I have never had to exclude a single one who was received while yet a child. Teachers and superintendents should not merely believe in the possibility of early conversion, but in the ferquency (sic) of it.”

Child evangelism assists in the formation of character. The Bible clearly teaches that man’s only capability for good lies in the imputed righteousness of Christ. We do not expect unconverted adults to act like Christians. The same should be true for children.

Christians seem to be the only ones who believe they should wait to influence children’s minds. Advertisers don’t wait. Child abusers don’t wait. Neither do humanist educators, false religions and cults, or Satan.

The church that reaches its children has a better chance of reaching its adults. Often newly-converted children win their parents and grandparents to the Lord. Those children grow up to be adults who can nurture their own families to faith in Jesus Christ.

Lest we forget, Christianity is always just one generation from extinction. We must reach the coming generation with the Gospel.

The late G. Campell (sic) Morgan, for many years pastor of London’s Westminster Chapel, said that the church that always seeks the child is the church that is “seeking the Kingdom … A vision of the desire for the Kingdom of God is the master passion in all work for children.”

Trudi Bils, wife of Steve Bils, the one-time executive director for CEF in Northern Colorado, wrote an article in 1990 for the Grace in Focus Newsletter titled “Can Children Be Saved?” detailing the importance of evangelizing children when they are young:

To many of us, this is a ridiculous question. For in fact, we were saved as children. Statistics are on our side as well, revealing that 85% of Christians made the decision to trust Christ somewhere between the ages of four and fourteen. Further, those of us who have been actively learning and practicing the discipline of soul-winning have probably led a child to Christ, perhaps even one of our own….

Though some have tried to alter or add to the meaning of the word believe (mentioned as the sole condition for salvation over 150 times in the New Testament), its definition remains as God intended it. “What faith really is, in biblical language, is receiving the testimony of God. It is the inward conviction that what God says to us in the Gospel is true. Faith is… taking God at His word. It is nothing less than this. But it is also nothing more.”

This is a message that is all inclusive — no strings attached. Even, and especially, a child can grasp this message and place his faith in Christ for eternal life, and many do.

R. A. Torrey said, “It is almost the easiest thing in the world to lead a child from five to ten years of age to a definite acceptance of Christ. . . . The younger the children are when you seek to lead them to make an actual acceptance of Christ, the easier the work will be, and the more satisfactory” (from Frank G. Coleman’s, The Romance of Winning Children [Cleveland, OH: Union Gospel Press, 1973], p. 14). Thank God for the faithful witnesses who led me–and perhaps you–to Christ at an early age!

Sam Doherty, a man who has dedicated his entire life to evangelizing children, wrote a handbook for Child Evangelism Fellowship titled U Can Lead Children to Christ: A Step by Step Guide for Counsellors of Children (link no longer active). Doherty lists four reasons why it is imperative that Christians evangelize children:

  • Children can be saved
  • Children need to be saved
  • Children are open to the gospel
  • A Child Saved is a Life Saved

According to Doherty:

  • They (children) are spiritually dead
  • They have a sinful nature which shows itself in
    sinful acts
  • They are outside God’s Kingdom
  • If they have reached the age of accountability
    they are under God’s condemnation

Doherty believes that once children reach the age of accountability, the age when children know the difference between right and wrong, they are in danger of going to Hell if they don’t accept Jesus as their Savior. What parent wants his or her child to go to Hell, right? So then, it should come as no surprise that many Evangelicals press their children to profess faith in Jesus at a very young age.

peter ustinov on religious indoctrination

Let me give you an example of how this works in the Evangelical church. Ron Adkins was the pastor of the Methodist church a few blocks from my home. This church was the last church my wife and I attended before we deconverted in 2008. According to Ron’s bio on the Ney/Farmer United Methodist Church website, he was saved at the age of seven and his wife asked Jesus into her heart at age eight. Should it come as any surprise, then, that all four of the Adkins’ children were saved at age five?

In the type of Baptist churches in which my wife and I grew up, children are sent to Sunday school and children’s church so they can be exposed to the church’s teachings on Heaven, Hell, Jesus, salvation, death, and God’s judgment. Children are often emotionally and mentally coerced into asking Jesus into their hearts. Children’s church teachers will often ask their young pupils: do you want to go to Hell when you die? or how many of you want to go to Heaven when you die? What young, immature and impressionable child doesn’t want to avoid the flames of Hell or enjoy the wonders of Heaven?

In many ways, Evangelicals who evangelize children are like door-to-door salesmen selling their customers on the importance of owning their product and the danger of putting off a buying decision to another day. Years ago, I sold Kirby vacuüm cleaners. I would praise the virtues of the grossly overpriced vacuum, trying to get prospective customers to see how much better their lives would be if their households owned a Kirby. If the positive approach failed to work, I’d resort to the methods meant to show them how poorly their current vacuüm was working. I’d even go so far as to use my demo Kirby vacuüm to sweep the prospective customer’s bed, showing them all the dead skin and “mites” the mighty Kirby removed from their bed. The goal was always to get the customer to make an impulsive decision. And this is exactly what happens in many Evangelical churches. Uninformed children are wowed with the wonders of Heaven and threatened with the horrors of sin and Hell. Most children who are exposed to these kinds of sales techniques will “choose” to get saved.

Once children are saved, their parents and churches continue to indoctrinate them in their sect’s particular teachings. Remember, these children do not have the rational capacity to make this choice, nor have they been exposed to alternative religions. Are confirmed, initiated, or saved children really making an informed decision to believe the central tenets of Christianity? Of course not. They lack the requisite intellectual skills necessary to make such a decision. Wouldn’t it be better to expose children to a variety of religions, along with humanism and atheism, and allow them to make a reasoned choice of which to follow when they are old enough to do so?

Unfortunately, what is best for children often collides with the objectives of organized religion: increasing membership and income. To put it bluntly, the goal is asses in the seats and money in the offering plate. Without a steady stream of people who were indoctrinated as children and teenagers, churches would suffer declines in attendance and offerings. While Christian sects, churches, and parents argue that they are most interested in making sure children believe in Jesus, the truth is that they know without young, impressionable, and easily-manipulated children being assimilated into the church, Christianity would die. If they wait until children are in their teens to indoctrinate them in the ways of Jesus, they know they run a huge risk of children leaving the church when they reach adulthood.

In fact, things are so bad for American Christian churches that adults, despite being immersed in the teachings of Christianity, are leaving the church anyway. The percentage of “nones”— those with no religious identification — and the increase in the indifference of young adults towards religion has resulted in much hand-wringing in the Christian community. What should we do, pastor after pastor asks. Our churches are getting increasingly older and young adults are leaving and never coming back. These pastors know that if they don’t do something to stem to tide of young adult membership loss, their churches will close and they will be forced to get real jobs.

What prompted me to write this post is an article on ESPN about whether children should be permitted to play high-impact sports. Dr. Bennet Omalu, “the first to publish findings linking head injuries, particularly concussions, to the development of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in football players,” thinks children should not be permitted to play high-impact sports “until they reach the legal age of consent, usually 18.”  In a New York Times article on the subject, Dr. Omalu states:

Our children are minors who have not reached the age of consent. It is our moral duty as a society to protect the most vulnerable of us. The human brain becomes fully developed at about 18 to 25 years old. We should at least wait for our children to grow up, be provided with the information and education on the risk of play, and let them make their own decisions. No adult, not a parent or a coach, should be allowed to make this potentially life-altering decision for a child.

We have a legal age for drinking alcohol; for joining the military; for voting; for smoking; for driving; and for consenting to have sex. We must have the same when it comes to protecting the organ that defines who we are as human beings.

If children are not old enough to understand the risks of playing football, and, as Dr. Omalu says, if they should be prohibited from playing it until age 18, shouldn’t the same hold true for indoctrinating children in the teachings and practices of a particular religion? Shouldn’t they be of age and have all the relevant facts before they make a decision to embrace a God, or no deity at all?

While it is naïve to expect Christian parents to keep their children away from their tribe’s religion, society should require them to not unduly indoctrinate their children. That we don’t reflects the fact that we give Christianity a pass on almost everything when it comes to children. We allow Christian parents to pull their children out of public schools so they can be indoctrinated by evangelists, posing as teachers of knowledge, for their particular sect’s beliefs. We also allow Christian parents to homeschool their children. Millions of American children are homeschooled or attend Christian private (and parochial) schools. These children are taught reason-defying myths such as the virgin birth of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and wine and crackers miraculously turning into Jesus’ blood and flesh once they are prayed over. They are regularly reminded that they are sinful, broken humans in need of forgiveness and salvation, and that Heaven awaits them if they believe, and Hell awaits if they don’t. These types of teachings do incalculable emotional harm to children, often resulting in low self-esteem or psychological problems.

Worse yet, these children are taught lies about the natural world they are very much a part of.  Many Evangelical homeschool parents and private schools teach children that the earth is 6,023 years old, evolution is a lie, and the teaching of the Bible accurately reflects the one and only way to understand the world. While parents and teachers will most likely teach their wards science, they often teach a Christianized version that repudiates biological evolution. They also, thanks to a literalistic reading of the Bible, reject most of what cosmology, archaeology, and geology tell us about the age of the earth and the universe. As a result, children who have embraced this kind of indoctrination are crippled intellectually. Ask any secular college or university professor how difficult it is to reason with children who have been indoctrinated with Fundamentalist Christian beliefs. The intransigence of these students is heartbreaking. Stunted intellectually, they often go through life ignoring vast swaths of human knowledge because it does not fit the narrow confines of what they were taught as a child. Of course, this is EXACTLY what Christian churches and their leaders desire: intellectually-neutered people who continue to look to them for answers.

Zoltan Istvan, the author of the novel The Transhumanist Wager, believes that it should be illegal to religiously indoctrinate children under the age of 16. In a September 2014 Huffington Post article titled Some Atheists and Transhumanists are Asking: Should it be Illegal to Indoctrinate Kids With Religion? Istvan wrote:

Religious child soldiers carrying AK-47s. Bullying anti-gay Jesus kids. Infant genital mutilation. Teenage suicide bombers. Child Hindu brides. No matter where you look, if adults are participating in dogmatic religions, then they are also pushing those same ideologies onto their kids….

A child’s mind is terribly susceptible to what it hears and sees from parents, family, and social surroundings. When the human being is born, its brain remains in a delicate developmental phase until far later in life.

“Kids are impressionable,” said Dr. Eunice Pearson-Hefty, director of the Teaching Environmental Science program of Texas’ Natural Resource Conservation Commission. “Anything you tell them when they’re real small can have a lasting impression.”

It’s only later, when kids hit their teens that they begin to think for themselves and see the bigger picture. It’s only then they begin to ask whether their parent’s teachings make sense and are correct. However, depending on the power of the indoctrination in their childhood, people’s ability to successfully question anything is likely stifled their entire lives…

…”Religion should remain a private endeavor for adults,” says Giovanni Santostasi, PhD, who is a neuroscientist at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and runs the 10,000 person strong Facebook group Scientific Transhumanism. “An appropriate analogy of religion is that’s it’s kind of like porn–which means it’s not something one would expose a child to.”

Unfortunately, even though atheists, nonreligious people, and transhumanists number almost a billion people, it’s too problematic and unreasonable to imagine taking “God” and “religion” out of the world entirely. But we do owe it to the children of the planet to let them grow up free from the ambush of belief systems that have a history of leading to great violence, obsessively neurotic guilt, and the oppression of virtually every social group that exists.

Like some other atheists and transhumanists, I join in calling for regulation that restricts religious indoctrination of children until they reach, let’s say, 16 years of age. Once a kid hits their mid-teens, let them have at it–if religion is something that interests them. 

16-year-olds are enthusiastic, curious, and able to rationally start exploring their world, with or without the guidance of parents. But before that, they are too impressionable to repeatedly be subjected to ideas that are faith-based, unproven, and historically wrought with danger. Forcing religion onto minors is essentially a form of child abuse, which scars their ability to reason and also limits their ability to consider the world in an unbiased manner. A reasonable society should not have to indoctrinate its children; its children should discover and choose religious paths for themselves when they become adults, if they are to choose one at all.

While I think we are several generations away from neutering the effect religion has on American children, we do owe it to them make sure they are taught to think critically. I’ve long been a proponent of junior high children and older being required to take classes in world religions, logic, and philosophy.  This would expose their evolving minds to methodologies and thought processes that will enable them to make informed choices about religion. Doing so will certainly swell the ranks of the non-religious, and it is for this reason the religionists will fight tooth and nail any attempt to remove them as the sole arbiter of religious belief.

The fight is on and I’m convinced that skepticism and reason will win the day.


Both my wife and I first made professions of faith at age five. As is the custom in Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches, both of us made rededication decisions as teenagers.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar

    All true, but we’ve been over there. If there is Hell to pay for not worshiping Jesus, I sure as Hell am going to do all I can to steer my child toward Heaven! You guys can restrict my ability to do this over my dead body.

    It’s not going to be easy, relieving mankind from his cherished delusions. I truly have no idea if man can escape irrationality. Am not terribly encouraged. You are trying – thank you.

  2. Avatar

    I am against pressuring or coercing children to make professions of faith. But I think it is unrealistic to expect parents to segregate their spiritual life from their children. Children learn what they live with. Children learn through thousands of interactions and observations a day.

    My parents had this philosophy that children should not receive any religious instruction and should make their own decision in time. They did not practice religion, themselves. My mom was agnostic but she had a code of rules that was every bit as unattainable as any Puritan. My dad was an angry atheist. All the time I was growing up I heard his “there is no god and if there is he is a SADIST” rant. His face would turn purple as he spit out these words. Watch the news and see something horrifying, suffer a personal loss, hear of an injustice: hear the rant. I understand my dad’s frustration, I grapple with the same issues, myself. But it was a bleak and depressing belief system to grow up with. The sense of meaninglessness my dad felt came out in myriad ways every day, it was not something he could segregate into a corner that he did not communicate to his children. Parents are human beings and who they are comes through loud and clear to their children.

    I don’t mean to characterize atheists in general as my dad, I realize the negativity he felt is not part of the territory. What I am saying is that, whatever you believe about the meaning of life will be a big part of your childrens’ lives and there is no way around that.

    One would hope that people could examine the belief system they are practicing and think about how appropriate and child-friendly it is but to legislate such a thing… how could that even be done?

    At the least, children must be protected against violence and deprivation, whether as a part of a belief system or not. I think we can do that. I think we must.

    • Avatar

      Indeed, those who raise and influence children are better teachers by their actions than words. By all means reject the violence & deprivation!

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        Yulya Sevelova

        Speaking for myself, I had my tribal beliefs from an early age and assumed I would always think that way. I was a Tenger worshiper(Eternal Blue Sky) and until O hit 18 had no reason to change this, until I hit about 18. I heard the Gospels on the radio at night. I was intrigued with the idea that I didn’t have to endure reincarnation another tim . And leave the cycles of birth and death. Learning about hell and the possibility of it being real came later. No way would I have tolerated children’s church or Sunday School if it was imposed on me. No two kids are alike. Let the kids go for Jesus if they want to. But don’t bully them into doing something they may not understand. People can’t be forced at gunpoint to believe. .. ….All the more reason to go after these creeps in churches who stalk the kids ! That’s where the Black Collar series helps one see how high the stakes are. As for young adults leaving the churches, it’s usually because they were mistreated by parents and others–I remember thinking as soon as the kids are too big to assault, they will be gone and never return. If you who are churchgoers are upset by youth fleeing the churches, stop being jerks then.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      The problem I have is that Evangelical Christianity is an all-in sort of religion. I’ve yet to meet an Evangelical who thinks it is OK to let their children choose their own religious path. In fact, any attempt to do so will likely be viewed as rebellion against God and parental authority. I don’t have a problem with children being exposed to their parent’s religion. However, when coercive means are used to get a child to believe, convert, get saved, etc, then I think such behavior is child abuse. Threatening a child with hell if they refuse to believe that a virgin-born God-man killed himself to atone for the sins of the people he created, only to resurrect himself from the dead three days later, is abuse of the worst kind.

      • Avatar

        Yes. The comment gawd spits back my one word response and insists that I write more but it is just yes; well, yes with tears rolling down my face but just yes.

  3. Avatar

    Fabulous post. I was “saved” as a very young child, too. Luckily, I had more than evangelical influences in my religious upbringing. Love won out.
    The Unitarian Universalists are the best at religious education, as they expose kids to as many world religions, including pagan and humanist studies. The kids get a truthful, from the source, education.
    This would do everyone a world of good.

  4. Avatar

    My Baptist upbringing scared the living bejeebers out of me as a little kid. It was, is and will ever be child abuse: To tell a child that they are in need of Christ’s forgiveness is abusive. It scares children. It marked me from early on and I first accepted Christ so that my skin wouldn’t have to drip off my arms in Hell forever.
    Extreme religion fucked me up royally. It is wrong. It hurts.
    To Christian parents who do this to your children, go jump off a bridge. The pain you leave your progeny will be easier to bear in the future this way. Go right now and jump.

    • Avatar
      Canadian Atheist

      I came to the comments to write the same thing. Bringing children up in certain religions (e.g. radical Islam, Baptist – as I was raised) qualify as child abuse. I am still recovering from the psychological effects of the abuse from a young age. It took a long time for me to overcome anxiety about hell and other things that no child should be fearful or anxious about. It is abuse.

      The other day my young son and I were out walking and went past a church. He asked what that place was and I told him it was a church – a place where people go to talk to God and think about God. He said: “But is God real?” I responded: “Some people think he’s real and some people don’t. You have to decide for yourself.” Of course he asked: “But do you think he’s real?” I told him I did not and left it at that. I challenge any Christian to have that level of conversation with your child and leave it at that.

      As for kids playing football…given what we know about traumatic brain injuries, no child should be playing football! But, that’s a battle that no one is going to win.

  5. Avatar

    “I want it to be natural for them to trust the Lord Jesus early for salvation and then to trust Him for everything thereafter. I believe in the validity of child evangelism.”

    The kink in your plan is that it isn’t ‘natural’ at all. How hard must you work, how much must you invest, how much time must be spent ‘doing church’ in an attempt to make it stick, how much behavior or curiosity do you discourage and deny to force this ‘natural’ occurrence? There is no ‘validity’ in child evangelism, because it isn’t evangelistic. It’s despotic.

    You may very well get your way with your child(ren). But it will be no more authentic than the other religions and belief systems that you decry from your corrupted and malignant pulpit. You’ve simply done an effective programming job. Congratulations, I guess. Pity you couldn’t devote that degree of inculcation to something useful and healthful.

  6. Avatar

    Parents are almost always the best advocates for their children. It is also best for parents to have religious custody for their children rather than the alternative, which would be some sort of government indoctrination. That said, religion has been described as a mental illness that is repropagated every generation. The best thing to do is to work on the adults. Children have a limited breadth of knowledge and credulous nature, if they weren’t indoctorinated at a young age religion wouldn’t have lasted as long as it has. Unfortunately, most children who switch from their parents religion will still have baggage from the experience for a long time and of course many just carry on what they are taught and contaminate the next generation.

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      Troy, can you tell me a bit more what you mean by this? Your statement that government indoctrination is the only alternative to religious custody by parents is not a sound statement. I do understand your fear of government especially given how fucked America has become with flags and religion but I have to say that your idea of parents being the best advocate for religion is unfounded. My parents were extreme Baptists, fundagelicals. Had I been able to be exposed to other religions or lack of them, I would have been better off… there is no doubt about this in my mind. I was brainwashed, terrified into compliance.
      Religion, when imposed in any manner by any agent (but most importantly by parent/guardian) is abuse. It is introduced to harm the child. One need not be aware of this need to harm to commit the deed.
      I believe that one day we will be able to understand this reality in a more generally accepted fashion.

      • Avatar

        I also have to disagree that parents are ‘always’ their kids’ best advocates. Quite frankly, there were a few other ways in which my parents were NOT my best advocates, and those limitations were spun directly off of the compulsion to religiously brainwash me.

        That kind of illness rarely remains within the confines of religion only. Exposure to ‘worldliness’ is seen as so sinful that parents can’t help but thwart any knowledge of normal, everyday things – or basic science – that are only ‘harmful’ within a very narrow context.

  7. Avatar

    I found this kind of abusive, too- I went to vote at the local grade school and the bulletin board in the entry was covered with art projects of young children. They had all done the same exact picture- it was the earth- blackened, smoking, rotting, cracked- and dire captions about the future. I feel like it isn’t really appropriate to saddle 2nd or 3rd graders with anxiety like this about the future. I wonder if this is less scary to them than the idea of hell?

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      I believe any unhalanced, extreme view has done harm but when it comes from the nuclear family without perspective or opposing reference, it is abusive and harms, very deeply. Ideas at school or in public discussion are less so but can be very dangerous in excess.

  8. Avatar

    Here are some quotes from John Holt that I love:

    “A child whose life is full of the threat and fear of punishment is locked into babyhood. There is no way for him to grow up, to learn to take responsibility for his life and acts. Most important of all, we should not assume that having to yield to the threat of our superior force is good for the child’s character. It is never good for anyone’s character.”

    “To trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves…and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.”

    “If I had to make a general rule for living and working with children, it might be this: be wary of saying or doing anything to a child that you would not do to another adult, whose good opinion and affection you valued.”

    “The idea of painless, nonthreatening coercion is an illusion. Fear is the inseparable companion of coercion, and its inescapable consequence. If you think it your duty to make children do what you want, whether they will or not, then it follows inexorably that you must make them afraid of what will happen to them if they don’t do what you want. You can do this in the old-fashioned way, openly and avowedly, with the threat of harsh words, infringement of liberty, or physical punishment. Or you can do it in the modern way, subtly, smoothly, quietly, by withholding the acceptance and approval which you and others have trained the children to depend on; or by making them feel that some retribution awaits them in the future, too vague to imagine but too implacable to escape.”

    John Holt interview:

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      Holt was an award-winning teacher who learned his way into knowing that children learn best when free to follow their passions. He was really, is really a visionary regarding learning.
      Another teacher/dad who became a modern visionary with regard to parenting was Norm Lee. Fascinating history, his and the amazing path he followed to non-punitive parenting. He helped me let harming-children -for-good, die in my heart. I remember reading his email to me years ago, saying, Brian, go to the school right now and go as if it was on fire and rescue your kids! What an incredible human being!

  9. Avatar

    Wow, Brian, I looked up Norm Lee and read about him. I cried.
    It’s amazing what the human spirit can endure and yet remain decent and kind. Thanks for telling me about him.

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    Reecey Piecey

    Thank you. This was a great read. Religion scarred me as a kid, but I now embrace that pain in order to relate and encourage kids in my same position. I would love to promote this cause. Kids deserve free minds. We all do

  11. Avatar

    Your fundamental problem is that you are viewing knowing and loving Jesus (Yeshua) from man-made religion and your own scathed experience turning from religiousity / churchianity to your cynical atheistic beliefs. Everything you see is through dark glasses because of that.

    Your second problem is thinking that parents do not have the right to guide their children; what utter hogwash! It is their responsibility! Unfortunately, no one in this country must undergo training or certification/licensing to become a good parent. So a lot of people, Christian or Atheist, wind up getting hurt by their parents, schools, religious, and other institutions. It’s a fact of life, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it other than complain.

    Your third problem is using questionable sources, such as the Huffington Post, as an attempt at credible justification.

    All people, regardless of age, make their own decisions, and sometimes change those decisions, including you. What gives you the right to tell parents what they should or should not do? This is the Republic of the United States of America. People with attitudes like yours are attempting to ruin this nation and wind up hurting so many more people than they are trying to protect. This “article” reads more like a sixth grade essay. Yes, it is your opinion, but only that, and obviously, I disagree.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser
      Numerous articles were referenced in this post, yet you single out the one. Why is that?

      Religious indoctrination can and does harm children. I stand by everything I’ve written in this post. However, I’m only a sixth grader, so what do I know?

    • Avatar
      ... Zoe ~

      Perhaps you should take a moment to take off your own dark glasses clairestreb. Then make a list of your own problems.

      Your response to Bruce reads like a grade one bully. Take up your fight for your Republic to your President. He’ll probably help you with your studies. I’m sure he’d agree with you.

  12. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    Good repost! The problem with respecting children and allowing them to make up their own minds while providing them with whatever information and history you are able is anti-Christianity. The evangelicals cannot but follow the guidance offered in the black book.
    If you cannot love yourself and believe that you are a worm in nned of forgiveness, then your neighbor is a worm and so are those darn kids! The self-hating person is led to believe that accepting Christ as Saviour is ultimate love freely given. It is of course quite something else when hardened into the concrete of evangelical faith.

  13. Avatar

    This was definitely an interesting post, Bruce, full of a lot of material to ponder.

    I do regret that my mom and grandparents indoctrinated me into evangelical Christianity through church, fundamentalist Christian school, and home life. I felt like I was trapped in a cage, my natural curiosity and skepticism were suppressed (even scared out of me with fear of hell and punishment from an omnimax deity), and I was angry and depressed. Fortunately, my grandfather impressed upon me that education would be key to my success in life – he just didn’t know that I figured out that education would be key in my escape back to rationalism and out of the oppression of evangelicalism.

    I settled into progressive social justice Christianity for awhile. My husband and I took our kids to church with us when they were little. They watched Veggie Tales and went to Sunday school. But when they were 5 and 7 I realized that Christianity was just another blood sacrifice tradition in attempt to assuage and influence an angry and aloof deity, and I took “a break from religion” which continues to this day. I still kind of feared hell, and sometimes I struggled with the possibility that I might be condemning my children to eternity in hell through an internal Pascal’s wager debate. I got over that. But I decided that my kids should determine what, if any, religion they want to follow. I have offered to take them to services of their choice, but they always said weren’t interested. At 18 and 20 they are nonreligious. They have a variety of friends and relatives who are in different types of religions (mainly some flavor of Christianity). They personally know people who are social justice liberal Christians, and they personally know far right culture warrior evangelicals. They have sense enough to draw their own conclusions about those different stances. In fact, my daughter has said she finds the social justice liberal Christians to be admirable and sweet, but she doesn’t believe in deities and doesn’t want to join them. The only “religion” she finds appealing is the Satanic Temple because they are atheists devoted to opposing religious overreach.

    My kids have asked me about my religious background, and they have talked with their dad’s parents who were brought up in Catholic school. Their grandparents have trouble with the idea that their grandchildren are atheists – they can’t wrap their heads around how their grandchildren are so morally and ethically grounded without deities or religion.

    I believe that indoctrination of children in fundamentalist religion is child abuse. Fundamentalist religions are harmful, teaching kids to not trust their reasoning and observation skills. They blunt mental growth. While they teach some good things, their harm far outweighs the good. But I don’t know what to do about it.

  14. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    Children will learn their parents’ true values. I can’t see having passionate religious beliefs and not feeling obligated to try to make certain your children will have the same beliefs. If you’re a decent parent, you’re far too invested in your kids. When the religious beliefs involve the Fundagelical understanding of Hell, well, you really don’t want to screw up and get your kid sent there! You love them far too much.

    I’d like to see mandated education in the US. Either you send your kids to public school or an accredited private school, or you educate them at home but are required to demonstrate that they’ve learned a core curriculum. This might involve having to haul the kid somewhere and have them be tested periodically. Tough. And part of that core curriculum, besides modern science, will be world religions and world cultures, so kids can learn that other people don’t believe the way their parents do, and don’t necessarily subscribe to the core cultural beliefs their parents do. Mom and Dad can say “we have to teach you this, but of course it isn’t true!” all they want, but at least the kids will know that there are alternatives out there that other humans find convincing.

    I think that really does plant a seed in anyone who’s been able to retain a vestige of curiosity. Escaping from parental control in their late teens, kids can learn more if they want because they know there is more to learn. I think that’s a real key.

    • Avatar
      Brian Vanderlip

      There has been a game-changing, major shift in information availability now that the web is prevalent and often freely available to kids. Of course, as Karen says, if fundagelical parents work hard to isolate their kids, it is at least half-possible for a time but with the web everywhere, they don’t really have a chance as kids begin to grow up.
      I suspect I would have freed myself from the bondage of ‘Jesus saves’ far sooner had I been able to see and read about alternative views. (I am a dinosaur who can talk about life before the internet when libraries, even with their banned lists were dangerously fascinating places to get informed.)

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Bruce Gerencser