Who is responsable for an unbised introduction into religion

I am an atheist and know that one day this is going to be an extremely difficult topic for me to cover with my children. I would never want to be accused of forcing my religious views on anyone especially my own children. I am 100% behind allowing free choice but I am certainly going to be one of the most influential and determining factors behind what eventually will become a very personal choice for my siblings. My parents never forced any religious principals on my sister or me. My parents are both moderately active in their local church community and enrolled us both into some bible classes in our younger most influential years of development. My sister by no means is considered a devout Christian but; she does believe in the basic teachings of Christianity, christened her new baby and sports a cross around her neck. Me on the other hand (even in these younger years) never took any of their religious teachings more serious than some very amusing yet, far fetched, cool and interesting stories about the culture I was apart of.
Bible school was a optional part of my development unlike mandatory having to take a Science/Biology class almost every schoolday from grades 6-12 then, even more intensely in college were it’s anything but optional. I weighed what I learned in each of the two teaching disciplines and chose the one that just seemed to make much more to me and then choose to further pursue my education into the one that I agreed with more and interested me most.
I however see a problem with this system. As for the time spent learning each alternative believe it has to have worked out to something like an 85%-15%b split. I am “almost” all for the doctrine of “The Separation of Church and State” but I see some flaws in this litigation. Where as (I assume) most of a family’s cultural and religious beliefs are mainly thought in the home. Where are my children going to be exposed to the teachings of “organized religion” if not by their parents, mostly I? As a young kid growing up and not quite grasping the idea that religious teaching in the school system were banned. Because I was mainly introduced to the theories and ideas of Darwinian Evolution on a daily basis this left me wondering why none of my teachers touched on any other religious contradictions. I figured that the teachers and their teachings must be correct or why would they be teaching these views without any counter points of view. being made!
Similarity, my children are not going to have quite as many alternative ways of interpreting these teachings as being anything but the truth when no one at home is really qualified enough to explain religious teachings. As hard as I am going to try to keep their minds open to process all available information on this topic. There is going to be an unbalanced amount of info (in their school system) to counter by beliefs and it seems they will only be bolstering my interpretations. That’s not really fair is it?
Now I’m gonna pull a 180 on one of my previous comments. My previous statement about agreeing with the “Separation of Church and State” I believe that there should also be some type of mandatory classes based on the Theory’s of Theology just as there is on Evolution. Unlike most other Atheists that fight to keep these teachings out of “Public Schools” it is painfully obvious (to me at least) that they need to show that there are two sides to every coin! My recommendation doesn’t seem to favor either side of the coin but needs to show that there are in fact two sides. Something that is presently not happening. If this way of teaching is not changed, I find it extremely difficult to believe that my son will have an even shot at acquiring his own free will in this very important, personal matter if most of the information he gathers on the subject comes from Biology Books.

Does any one know of any studies that have been done trying to determine the frequency of Atheist’s offspring becoming anything other than Atheist/or Agnostic themselves?
That would be a very interesting and telling study that would need to be looked at from a different light.
Sorry for the extremely long post but some points are harder to breakdown than others.
Please fell free to respond with any relevant info to this dilemma including the alternative points of “Evolution” being taught in Public School’s inplace of “Theology”!
Sorry for any typos, I Had limited time to fully edit!


If I had children I would certainly impose those values I considered correct into their psyche. Isn’t that one of the things parents are suppose to do?


I’m all for free choice but certainly not 100% for children. When they’re 3-5 they’re certainly not equipped to make important decisions that will affect them for the rest of their life.


I would imagine they forced other principals upon you and your sister.


Maybe an elective for middle or high school. I don’t see the need for a mandatory class.


Sure, but religion is such a private topic, that I’d also prefer to give my children an (relatively) unbiased view and let them make up their mind.

Who was it said that you don’t teach children, they learn from you?

The best way you can help them do this - learn for themselves and make up their own minds - is answer their questions as honestly as you can, expose them to a range of different adult opinions - they will see their grandparents going to church, and their parents not going to church - so this is good variety.

I get the impression that you are feeling some guilt or concern about not being able to teach them “church” stuff or something. Don’t worry about it. They will find this stuff out from other sources.

And explain to them - when they are old enough - that much of science is theory, and humankind doesn’t know everything yet. And probably never will.

What other sources? Where else will they get a theological eduaction if not from church/synagog/whatever? Maybe the parents but barring that I seriously doubt they will get a proper education from their friends/TV.

I am diehard agnostic despite serious indoctrinatoin attempts by my parents. In fact they still have at me about this on occasion even though I’m 35 (to be fair they’ve mostly given up and just take an occasional stab at it).

Nevertheless I think a theological education is important and you will not get it in the public schools or from mass media. It is up to the parent to decide on the approach they want to take. There is a lot of latitude in that however. Parents can indoctrinate towards one religion or try to expose their kids to many views or none at all. You can go round-and-round about what is right here but in the end it is the parent’s decision.

Theology is not really the same as religion, though. I know of atheists reading theology at university.

Nor is religion the same as morals/good citizenship classes.

It depends what you want.

I also find the science v religion dichotomy a little unusual. Evolution aside (and there are many Darwinist christians, as well as Darwinists in other religions) most of science and biology creates no issues with religion, eg learning about plant cells, or chemical reactions.

What does the OP want, theology classes or creationism classes? They are not at all the same.

I don’t see how religion is any more private then many of the other things you’d teach your kids. I wouldn’t leave my children to figure out right and wrong on their own. Why would you leave them to figure out religion on their own?


“right” or “wrong” is something that’s easily defined by the law. What’s morally right may vary and you are certainly correct that I would try to pass on to my children, what I deem to be morally right.
Religion is a different matter, because I don’t see it as an essential, but rather as a matter of opinion.

To give some examples, I’d try to offer my children my own views about what’s right / wrong and I’d teach them how to read / write, swim, program, etc. in addition to what they learn at school. I’d do this, because those are - to me at least - the essentials to get through life or just plain useful skills.

At one point or another, I’d probably expose them to my personal opinion on certain matters, but I wouldn’t want them to pick up my point of view on personal matters “just because”. What religion to choose and what political party to support (or none of the former) is really something everyone has to decide for himself (or herself) and I wouldn’t feel comfortable to give anyone a push into a certain direction.

Marc, just one quick thought. I grew up reading Heinlein, and was struck by Robinson’s remark that what reading Heinlein did for kids was teach them to think. No question that the OP is going to impose his values on his kids – they learn by example, and what his true values really are is how he’ll behave towards them, and in consequence how they will learn to behave towards others.

What I hear here is that he considers his primary value that of making a free, unbiased, and honest choice with all the data possible, and that’s what he wants them to learn. And I support the idea 100%.

It’s going to be a tough row to hoe, though – too many people have the absolute Truth (in about 57,000 mutually contradictory varieties)!

In my opinon, young children are not mentally capable to make a choice about religion, and are easily swayed by another adults’ opinion.

I am an atheist, and although my children are aware of my beliefs (and lack of them) they are naturally curious about religion as they live in a world surrounded by a majority of people who are theists. When my children started to show an interest in religion we researched the topic together. We went to the library and used the internet, and we looked a a wide variety of beliefs that people hold all over the world. They got a basic introduction to the world’s major religions, and understod that there are many different kinds of people al over the world that believe a variety of different things.

As my children age, they may or may not decide to become involved in a religion, and of course it is their decision to do so. I as a parent, strive to teach critical thinking to my children and it is my hopes that they will use these skills in any choice they make in any area of their life. I think a broad introduction to religion is the best way to prevent narrow mindedness, especially if confronted by someone who “has the truth”.

I would not be in a hurry to push children into religion. There are comparitive religion courses in college and people have plenty of time to make up their mind if they want to choose a religion to follow.

I agree with many of the above posters: teach your kids HOW to think, not WHAT to think. Religion gets plenty of air time in our culture, and I wouldn’t be worrying about compensating for the lack of time you seem to feel it’ll get in your home. It doesn’t need equal time in schools either, that’s not what schools are for.
One thing, though: you keep assuming in your post that evolution and religion are opposed, and that’s not really true. Opposite evolution is creationism, which is NOT something I’d teach to children (or anybody else) since it’s sheer stupidity.

I strongly disagree. The law does not define “right” and “wrong.” Rather, it is supposed to reflect right and wrong.

If the legal system were truly the authority on rightness and wrongness, then there would be no such thing as an unjust law.

Don’t know of any studies, but anecdotal evidence would indicate that children generally follow their parents’ religion.

Not always - Madyln Murray O’Hare’s son became a Christian minister, and she never spoke to him again. No doubt she tried pretty hard not to let him make up his own mind, and he did it anyway.

What I would recommend is for you to think carefully about exactly how far you want your children to make up their own minds. Suppose one of them came to you at age eighteen and told you they had decided to become Muslim and going to services on Friday. Would you begin trying to argue them out of believing in God? What if they wanted to join a nunnery, or a religious cult?

How far are you willing, in other words, to tolerate their mistakes?

My experience is that these things are far easier to be dispassionate about in the abstract than in the concrete.

FWIW. I have no hesitation whatever in teaching my children what I think is correct. Politics, religion, anything. I’m their father - it’s my job.


I have the intention of teaching my kids comparative religion myself. My parents took me to other church services every once in a while and let me go with friends; I think it was good for me, and plan on visiting other church services with my kids as well. I will also talk about other religious beliefs and try to teach them to have an interest in what and why various people believe what they do. (And I will be taking them to church with us every week and thoroughly teaching them our own beliefs.) Kids can’t make up their minds about what they want to do if they don’t even know what’s out there.

An awful lot of people grow up now knowing absolutely nothing about religion, and I don’t think that’s a good thing. It leaves a big gap in historical and social knowledge, and IMO often leads to an attitude that everyone before about 1960 was stupid. And it’s a big handicap for literature majors, too!

I agree with many of the other posts, especially regarding teaching children how to think and evaluate critically, rather than just to parrot words. My spouse and I are both agnostics (well, he’s more of an atheist). We certainly did our best to teach values: Don’t take things that don’t belong to you; Share; Be kind. We tried to teach by example that we valued trying to improve the world around us; we have always been active in community affairs and make contributions in time and money to causes we believe in.

But we never made any big deal about being anti-religion, either. If they wanted to go to church with their grandmother, or a friend, we encouraged them to do so and find out what it was about. They rarely wanted to, though, after the first couple of times. We always told them to be respectful of everyone’s religious beliefs, explaining things like freedom of religion and respecting differences of opinion.

Once at about the age of 8 or 10, our older daughter asked if she could read the Bible. I said sure, and gave her my copy of the New English Bible, which is easy to read and understand. Starting in, of course, at Genesis, within about 10 minutes she had noticed several contradictions. And then we talked.

At the same time, one gap they do have is relative lack of knowledge about many cultural references that are Biblical in origin: Doubting Thomas, Good Samaritan, “Your people shall be my people,” the beautiful poetry of the Psalms, Lot’s wife. In retrospect it probably would have been a good thing to read Bible stories to them, or try to get them to go to Sunday School. I was not willing to do the latter, though, since I didn’t think it was fair to make them get up on Sunday morning, wash and dress and go to church if I wasn’t going to do it myself. That would have been hypocritical.

Another problem I hadn’t thought of arose when other children asked them “What are you?” Some children, and even some adults, are very insistent that you have to “be something.” I told them to say they were a human being. That didn’t always fly. “Humanist” or “skeptic” works well in that situation, since these words sound like a religion.

Why, exactly? Why is it any more important for them to get an education in theology than in, for instance, the ins and outs of sports newscasting?

You can get a theological education from reading the works of theologians.

Apos, religion has been one of the big factors in human existence for as long as anyone knows about. History and society have been enormously influenced by various religious beliefs (or the lack thereof), and in order to understand our own society and those all over the world, not to mention what happened before you and I got here, we should know what people have believed, why they believed it, and what they believe now. I think it’s part of a basic education.

That’s not the same thing as theology (which are arguments for particular religious beliefs). You can learn about the impact of religion on human society in most well-taught world history and world culture classes. There’s nothing unconstitutional about it.

Actually both are just theories. Neither have been proven right or wrong. So your remark about creationism being just stupid is in fact just a biased opinion on your part.

I try to keep an open mind about all things. A closed mind cannot learn anything.

Depends on what we are talking about. If we are talking about science taught in science classes, done universities, and practiced the field, then evolution is as certain as most of the things we know about the world around us, and creationism is as objectively false as many other theories that simply don’t stand up to empirical evidence. In that sense, it is stupid to hold creationism up as an objective “theory” on the same level as evolution, and teach it as such in schools. They are both theories in that they are both bodies of explanation. But only one of them actually survives the process of evidence and criticism that we call science.

If you’re talking about something felt in the hearts of people, then creationism is “right” for many people’s worldviews, and that’s fine. It’s not stupid in that sense at all.

But to confuse the two senses is not a legitimate way to validate creationism objectively, nor invalidate it emotionally.

This is, unfortunately, a meaningless metaphor. While it’s true by definition that people unwilling to learn anything cannot learn anything, that doesn’t help us figure out what we have learned at the end of the day, and how we know we have learned it.

And when “an open mind” comes to mean “I remain equally skeptical of absolutely everything regardless of any evidence that can be presented” then we are simply dealing with yet another variation of a “closed mind.”