« Why I am not a Catholic nor Protestant Christian, Part 12: AngelsThe Problem with Humanism as a Worldview »

Is Religion Good for Children?

11/24/10

Permalink 11:39:00 pm, by Norgaard Norgaard Email , 754 words   English (US)
Categories: Traditional Religion is Flawed

Is Religion Good for Children?

I was brought up in a Catholic household. From an early age I went to mass every week and learned the rituals and prayers and traditions of the church. I learned many Bible stories including the creation story, several stories about Jesus, and stories about the history of the Jewish people. I also learned a moral system through which the rightness of actions was in large part thought to be determined by what is in concert with God's will.

For anyone raised in a given religion as I have, the detailed aspects of the religion tend to form the early developing mind in a way that really makes children see everything through the lens of their religion. As they grow older, their religious upbringing will probably be the single most influential series of experiences in their life. Even if they try to break away from this religion later in life, this is done in relation to the religion of one's youth.

Now, as I have written about in prior posts and as many other authors have explained in detail, there are many religious beliefs that are harmful to people and to society. This applies to some religions more than others, but this is true at least to some extent to all religions that largely rely on blind faith. Yes, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam do indeed rely heavily on blind faith. Hinduism also relies on blind faith at least on par with the Abrahamic faiths. Buddhism probably has less reliance on blind faith, but is not immune to the phenomenon where children are taught to believe things just because.

All of these religions involve beliefs that are to be taken on blind faith that are harmful to people. Young minds are not able to know the difference so for nearly all children brought up in a faith based religion, they will end up with beliefs that are harmful to them or to others. This may include beliefs that they are the chosen people over others, this may include beliefs that only people who believe as they do are in concert with God, this may include beliefs that some people are born in a higher caste than others, and this may include beliefs that there ultimately is no true self. All of these beliefs are harmful to people and are quite popular beliefs within certain faith based religions.

I don't have children, but when I do I am actually thinking that they would benefit from not simply being told from a young age to believe in things just because. I don't think children should be taught to believe anything on blind faith, include belief in the Bible or in this mystical Jesus figure. Many millions (or even billions) are told to believe in certain scriptures or supernatural things from an early age and I think that this practice is a disservice to the developing mind.

Some will argue that children brought up with a religion are better off later in life because they have a more solid moral structure. From my experience, it took me several years to unwind the strict Catholicism that I was force-fed throughout my childhood, so I disagree with the idea that children are better off being raised in some organized religion just for the sake of having some organized belief system to provide them with. I am wondering - would it be so bad to simply lay out the facts for the children (or better yet, lay out the most reasonable principles for finding facts) and let them figure out what to believe?

I believe that this is possible. Certainly it makes sense to begin to teach children right and wrong from a young age and that young children do not yet have the ability to think critically about things so they need to simply be told what to believe. This is true, but it is the wrong idea to try to teach children things for which there is no real evidence in the world. If we just teach children things for which they can find evidence and for which they can understand makes sense, then they will have an easier time later in life thinking critically and realizing the truth for themselves. Also they should be more likely to avoid the pitfalls of believing things just because they were told to.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Is faith virtuous, or is it harmful? Let your voice be heard in the forum.
You can also email the me at brandon@enlightenedworldview.com

PermalinkPermalink  

No feedback yet