By: Jackson Graham
“That sounds so stupid”
“That’ll be so boring”
“I just don’t want to go”
I’m sure every parent has heard these words from their kids. Regardless of the activity your kid just refuses to go.
For many families this happens when going to church. Many kids dislike being dragged to participate, pray, and perceive the world through a lens they don’t want to.
I’m one of those kids.
Religion has always been a big part of my life. Part of my parents vows were to raise me and my siblings as Christians. Every Sunday we’d go to Mass, and like every child I would complain about going. This wasn’t for any particular reason other than I thought it was boring.
Over time, through Sunday School, I got to learn more about what it meant, and I enjoyed going.
Then we moved overseas and it became harder to attend every Sunday. Over time I grew further from religion. This would lead to fights about going to church between me and my mother. I had lost the spark that had started to form when I was younger.
Now I’m taking classes to get confirmed. Although I’m agnostic and don’t really believe, I’ve once again been able to learn and personalize what Christianity is. Religion is a journey and you can’t force your kids to the end. There have been moments where I’ve wanted nothing more than to be doing anything else, and moments where I couldn’t get enough. This has led me to the conclusion that parents should let children learn, understand and make a connection to a religion instead of forcing them into it.
Religion can be a wonderful thing for children. A 2001 study linked religion to less drug use, depression, higher levels of hopefulness, and life satisfaction.
However, through the very act of trying to give their kids these benefits they are taking them away. With the same study psychologists have found that to actually receive these benefits children have to believe and not just go through the motions.
It can actually cause a lot of tension within your family. A 2008 study in Social Science research found that a disagreement regarding religion can affect intergenerational relationships in families. This means that children are more likely to get into fights over religion with parents and grandparents if they are forced to attend, creating discord in the household.
So why force your kids into religion?
Well, that’s because some parents believe that without being religious you’ll be an immoral savage. In the United States of America 57% of people believe that to be moral you need to be religious, and around the world most countries believe you need religion to be moral.
Unsurprisingly this isn’t the case. It has never been found that to be moral you must be religious. On the contrary it has been found that children develop morality on their own at a young age. At 4 years old they already want to cooperate and dislike freeloaders.
That isn’t to say that religion has no effect on morals. Keeley Parker, a high-school student, uses the moral code molded by religion to passionately defend her beliefs. She does this by defending the outcasted and mocked at her school. She stands by herself because she understands her faith, and agrees with it.
If you’re a parent I implore you, don’t force your kids to go and create a tiresome and bitter argument week after week.
Give them a chance to deepen their knowledge of the world and your religion.
Give them a chance to make the decision on their own
Give them a chance to believe
You might see better results if you do.
MacDonald, G. Jeffrey. “How parents keep the faith: mandate a moral code, not theology.” Christian Science Monitor, 19 Dec. 2010. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A244858478/OVIC?u=60iskl&sid=OVIC&xid=16232c64. Accessed 4 Apr. 2019.
McKay, Ryan, and Harvey Whitehouse. “Religion and morality.” Psychological bulletin vol. 141,2 (2014): 447-73. doi:10.1037/a0038455
Timsit, Annabelle, and Annabelle Timsit. “Should You Raise Your Kids Religious? Here’s What the Science Says.” Quartz, Quartz, 24 Aug. 2018, qz.com/1301084/should-you-raise-your-kids-religious-heres-what-the-science-says/.