Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Religion (Faith) IS For Children: A Response to an Athiest Who Doesn't Want Her Child Invited to Church

I realize that I am preaching to the choir here, for my regular readers. This post is my response to a post I read called “Stop Inviting My Kid to Church: Religion is Not for Children.” I hope that sharing my thoughts will help us become more confident in shining as a light in an increasingly relativistic culture.

The vibrant hues of sunsets and sunrises, the intricate beauty of flowers like irises, lilies and orchids, the melody of birds chirping, the complex structure of a cell and the total failure of brilliant scientists to create “even the most basic chemicals used as building blocks for the larger chemicals of living cells” all attest that nothing is here by accident, but rather by the work of a brilliant and benevolent Creator.  [1]

As I sat outside, reading with my children, and marveling at the sheer glory of the early summer day, it all evidenced to me, as philosopher Blaise Pascal has written, that one has only to look outside in nature to believe there must be a Creator.  Considering the wonder of all living things and how everything fits together so perfectly, it seems absolutely absurd to believe—as many do—that this is all the result of freak of nature, a big bang.

Even my seven-year old son sees holes in evolutionary logic. “What caused a big bang?”, and “How do people get their ideas to make and build stuff? And how are there ants and bumblebees and hornets and flies?” 

This conversation commenced after I told him about an article I read this weekend, called “Stop Inviting My Kid to Church: Religion is Not for Children.” In it, the author—Ms Joy FG, an atheist—expresses her angst for people who invite her children to church. She believes that children are easily impressionable and will believe whatever they are taught, so she aims to stay neutral (or so she says) on the “big beliefs” and not steer her children toward any belief, but rather let them arrive at their own beliefs.

She writes: “There are a lot of things I believe in. Love. Family. Honesty. Gravity. Kindness. Nature. Science.”

But where do virtues like love, honesty, and kindness originate? Where does one’s conscience come from? The big bang?

She goes on,
“I understand why these children feel it is imperative to invite Miss N to church. It is a fun place where they sing songs, eat a snack and talk about the underlying fear of what happens after you die. These children love Miss N and even though they can't quite articulate it in this way, they think we're failing Miss N and her brother by not taking them to church.
This part will be touchy for people who do not believe the same as we do and I respect that; I'll raise my kids and you can raise yours. I do not think religion is for children. I think that they should be exposed to the beliefs of all people, and while I will tell my children "this is what Mommy and Daddy believe," I do not expect her to believe the same thing…
Ms JoyFG is sadly mistaken, in my opinion.

“Religion” (although I would prefer to use the term faith, as it involves the mind and the heart, rather than a weekly ritual) is absolutely for children. Here’s why.

If we were made, not by a chance explosion (which just happened to be the most brilliant accident ever) but by a Creator, then wouldn’t it make sense to introduce the children the Creator has made to their Creator at an early age? Wouldn’t you want to teach them about the Creator who created them? Yes, going to church (“religion”) is part of that process, but there’s so much more. And it doesn’t involve a treat-bag “bribe,” as Ms Joy FG states. (But isn’t she for acts of kindness?).

It’s like this: If I was invited to a famous movie-star’s house for dinner, one of whom I was, and I could invite a friend, I would want you to go with me. Simply because you’re my friend. I care about you, and I want you to meet him, too. I want you in on the experience.

Ms Joy FG writes that there are many “right ways in the world”, but what happens if my right way clashes with your right way? Whose is wrong? The flaw in this logic can be seen in something as simple as streets. In America, the right way to drive is on the right side of the road. In England, you drive on the left. If you both try to follow your right way in the other’s country, you will have a head-on collision). People cannot always be right, at the same time. Absolutes are necessary (although they’re getting much harder to find in culture today).

I am unapologetically a Christian, just as Ms Joy FG is unapologetically an atheist. My right way is Jesus, and yes, I believe there is enough proof from both history and written texts to make that an absolute. But I also understand that many do not believe the same. We can debate ideas, while respecting people and treating them kindly.

No matter what we believe, I think we can all agree that Jesus was an actual historical figure. And he was quoted as saying, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14).

That’s what we’re doing when we’re taking our children to church, and inviting other children to church. We’re extending an invitation for them to meet the one we believe created all that is seen and unseen. We want to get to know Him better and follow His ways. And yes, sadly, not all churches or Christians are great examples. But we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

While Ms Joy FG defends her view that religion is off-limits for children because we shouldn’t talk with them in absolutes, does her absolutes-are-out-of-style approach to child-rearing extend to other beliefs, such as what foods they eat at meals and snacks, what kind of shows they watch, what kinds of behaviors her children engage in? Or are setting, and sticking to, absolutes there as parents ok?

 Despite her efforts to keep her daughter from any sort of religion (because she’s too impressionable), she has indeed done what she set out not to do: gained a follower in her atheism, which is—ironically--a religion. “I am very proud of Miss N,” she writes, “that she tells her friends that she has her own beliefs and their church is not the place for her -- it's like school for people who believe in their god, it's not really our place.”

Ms Joy FG says she doesn’t judge us and asks us not to judge her, but yet, her statement about church—“It is a fun place where they sing songs, eat a snack and talk about the underlying fear of what happens after you die”—sounds pretty judgemental to me.

What if Ms Joy FG is wrong in her assessment that the invitations are motivated by fear?

Could it all be motivated by love (and truth)? Everything. The creation we see—nature, like trees, flowers, stars, and people—our beautiful children, friends, family, neighbors; and the things we do, like learning about God, and even, inviting others to church.

As you go to church, read your Bible, and learn about Jesus, you realize there is no fear of what happens after death. We’ll all come to know the absolute truth of what he said in the end. In the meantime, I’m taking my kids to church, and we might even invite some kids to come with us…
Although I would not normally quote the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), our state's ACLU director was quoted as saying (paraphrased): when we disagree on issues, we don't silent discussion. We have more discussion. That's what I'm aiming to do with this post.

Sharing With:
Women Living Well
We Are That Family
Raising Homemakers

[1] Institute of Creation Research (http://www.icr.org/creation-cells/)


  1. Nice article! I was raised Unitarian in the Bible Belt. Several of my friends invited me to their churches of various mainline and evangelical denominations, and several of them visited my Unitarian church. I think we all benefited from learning about each other's beliefs, but it did not make us BELIEVE each other's beliefs. (I became an Episcopalian when I was a teenager because of my self-guided searching, not because an Episcopalian brought me to church.)

    I think there is an inherent contradiction in Ms. Joy FG's thinking:
    I do not think religion is for children. I think that they should be exposed to the beliefs of all people
    Why then is being "exposed to the beliefs" by attending the church such a horrifying idea to her? I read her article in full, but I still don't get it.

  2. I completely agree. I had many of your same thoughts as I read her post, especially that she is teaching her child her beliefs as much as I'm teaching my child mine. I often find that people who preach "tolerance" are tolerant of everything BUT conservative, Christian beliefs and she seems to be no exception.

  3. I enjoyed your article as I had enjoyed reading hers as well. I don't feel the invitations were necessarily as she perceives them to be, because i also didn't care for the definition of what goes on in church. I am one of 6 children and we all went to church. We were given the tools to follow or not to follow into our adulthood, as I am sure she is doing in her belief system as well. I don't like blanket statements like "Religion is not for Children", as for some it is very important. It would be like using "Atheism isn't for children". It is if you and you family raise them that way. I think some kind of belief system needs to be shared at home and when the children are older, they can decide for themselves. I don't think there is one way to raise a child and if everyone does what they think is best and is respectful then all is good. Just decline invitations, accept invitations, it is up to you.

  4. I think the words I want to say are THank you for writing this...and I love how you explained your faith.......