General Question

wenwen's avatar

What are your thoughts on choosing a child's religion for them ?

Asked by wenwen (331points) December 9th, 2010

I was thinking about this recently, and I came to the conclusion that I am really very against labelling a child with a religion.
Thinking about my childhood , it created a divide within the classroom, as children asked each other what they were (meaning catholic, protestant, Jehovah’s witness etc) and they would form friendships accordingly, and sometimes not integrate with children from a different religion as they thought they were weird etc.
I think a child should be aware of all the religions out there, and also aware that many go through life without religion playing a part in theirs, and if they want to , then choose what they wish to believe.
I was brought up Church of England, in a church school, around a family of relaxed christians (or believers probably describes my family better) , however , it took me a long long time to shake free from the idea of a god ( I was scared & ashamed to admit it to myself or anyone else at first) Maybe I could have saved myself all the personal anguish if my family had never labelled me a Church of England Christian in the first place.
I don’t think it’s a matter of choosing for them so they grow up with good ethics & values , as these can be instilled in a person without religion can’t they?
What do you think about choosing for someone else?

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159 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I’m listening to Shinedown’s Shed Some Light. You should do the same. 99 percent of the jellys probably will not get what this means.

marinelife's avatar

I think that a child raised without religion is unlikely to find religion as an adult.

I think you can raise a child in a religious tradition while teaching that there are other faiths and beliefs and even no belief.

filmfann's avatar

Finding your faith is a very personal thing, but when you have done it, you should try and enlighten those around you to it.
It’s not like telling a child that Strawberry is his favorite flavor, when he thinks he likes Orange.

BoBo1946's avatar

I vote for @marinelife answer. Exactly <spot on>

Qingu's avatar

I actually think this question is a bit of a red herring.

Parents should educate their kids, pass down certain values to them, and teach them things that are true. I’m not aware of any religion that actually falls into these categories.

To put it another way, imagine a parent trying to decide whether to teach her child homeopathic medicine or to allow the child to choose for herself what to believe about homeopathy. The fundamental problem here isn’t that the kid is being prematurely labeled as “pro-homeopathy,” but rather that the parent thinks homeopathy is true in the first place.

meiosis's avatar

All children are born atheist, there is no such thing as a Christian infant (they are the child of Christian parents), but it is impossible and undesirable to attempt to prevent parents from raising their children in whatever religion they desire. I was raised CofE and abandoned what faith I had during confirmation lessons as a teenager, as the foolishness and wishful thinking of theism (imho) became more and more apparent, but I can’t say that the years beforehand attending Sunday school and church did me any harm. To be fair however, being brought up CofE is not exactly an upbringing full of rigid dogma and fire and brimstone threats of damnation.

“I think that a child raised without religion is unlikely to find religion as an adult.”

I’d be very suprised if this was true. I’ve known quite a few believers who came to religion as adults, having had completely irreligious childhoods. Indeed, my childhood church used to have a regular “touched by the light of Jesus” presentation of such converts.

janbb's avatar

I think, along with other values they pass down to their children, parents should pass down the traditions of the religion they believe in, or atheism – if that is their belief. They should also teach that other people hold other beliefs that are valid to them. By the time a child is a teenager, they should be encouraged to explore and think for themselves about religious issues along with their formation of their own identity in other respects.

misstrikcy's avatar

I have no issues with parents guiding their children toward’s a religion.
Just as long as they have an open mind and our prepared/ok with said child changing their mind later in life if they so wish.
My mum got well upset when at 14 I told her I thought it was all nonsense. She couldn’t accept that I was growing up, and making my own decisions about life that were in direct opposition to hers. I think she took it personally.
I’m not annoyed that she decided for me to be a christian, but I did get annoyed with her when she couldn’t respect my decision to head down another road…

Blackberry's avatar

Not good, obviously.

fireside's avatar

I agree with @janbb
Parents should do what they can to explain their beliefs to their children and encourage them to be able to think for themselves.

There are many aspects of raising a child that can be subjective and open to interpretation, from what to watch on TV to what religious beliefs one holds. If the child is exposed to a parent’s beliefs and is given information and exposure to opposing beliefs, they will have the best chance of being able to form their own opinion when they are older.

starsofeight's avatar

I was raised in a Christian family, but not a church going family. They dropped us off at church and went their way. In school, I had a Hindu friend, but religion never came up.

I think that if anyone has a right to raise a child in a particular religion, it is the parents rather than others.

On a general level, when a parent teaches a child, the communications are more than sterile information – the communications are actually part of who the parents are: standards, values, beliefs. In this way, the child becomes the parent. In this way, the parent is not lost, but lives in the child.

It’s all good.

Summum's avatar

I think a parent uses all the tools he posses to try and bring his/her child up in the best way possible. So if a parent is Christian and believes in it then the child will be brought up with that as well. Also as any other type of religion or non religion would. I’m a firm believer in teaching correct principles and then the child will govern itself when he becomes of age. We as parents have a great responsibility to bring a child up and give them the best start we can. you may ask what are the correct principles I would say they would be what and how the parent believes them to be the child can’t know at an early age.

AdamF's avatar

Ideally children would grow up learning the distinction between evidence based beliefs and non-evidence based beliefs, and taught the critical thinking capacities necessary to differentiate the two. With this tool box, and broad global knowledge, its truly their choice to accept the faith based claims or not of any or none of the world’s religions, as an adult.

Unfortunately, if I try to place myself in that surreal worldview of fire and brimestone that some religious people believe in, I have a hard time accepting that it is reasonable (within the constraints of such perceptions) for such a parent not to brainwash their kid likewise. If you honestly believe in heaven and hell, and that this life is merely a dress rehersal for the part you’ll play for eternity, then how can a parent burdened with that worldview, not be scared shitless of losing their child to an eternity of torture. Religious parents of the majority of the worlds religions must indoctrinate…it’s part and parcel of the faith for the majority of the faithful. That’s why its such a dangerously effective meme.

The only slow solution we’re already witnessing is to break these chains via education and security at the societal level, and likewise, breaking any links between public funding and myth indoctrination. This pattern is relatively consistent throughout much of the world; security and education increases, religosity decreases.

So to be honest, although I disagree with indoctrinating and labeling a child with the parents religious affilation (or as a Liverpool football club supporter, democrat, piscean, or economic rationalist), pragmatically I think the solution lies primarily at the societal level, rather than at the parent child level. That said, the mere fact that this issue is being increasingly discussed and debated (thanks in part to promotion by Richard Dawkins), coupled with decreasing religious fundamentalism (in some parts of the world), perhaps more religious parents will feel comfortable not passing on the dogma, just as they feel less comfortable believing that a loving god would roast little johnny.

Nice doco here on related issue.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

You saying ”...and they would form friendships accordingly” absolutely horrifies me. No, I dont’ think any child should be indocritaned with any religion.

janbb's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir But you are raising your children as vegans and non-gendered – in other words, with your values. How is someone who believes in religion raising their children that way any different in approach? Not looking to criticize in any way, just a reaction.

john65pennington's avatar

I grew up in the Church of Christ religion. i never gave this a thought, as a child. i just accepted what my parents taught me. one day, when i was about 12 years old, i was listening to a sermon about the Church of Christ as being the only religion. a lightbulb went on in my head as i asked myself. “if this is the case, then why are there so many other religions out there. is this true?” i never went back to this church. I soon married and my wife and i decided to visit a Presbyterian Church. their beliefs seem to fit our beliefs. we both were baptised.

I believe that when children are children, their parents tend to raise them in their religious beliefs. their guidance is correct, while their child is young and really not in a position to understand the fundamentals of various religions. when a child is old enough to know the differerence between right and wrong, is the time to let a child make a religious decision for themselves.

This we did with our children.

klutzaroo's avatar

I think that children should be exposed to religions, but not told that any one is the right one and what they should believe. I think that a general moral guide can be instilled without relying on religion and that if a child, as they grow, desire to learn more about a relgion and join that they should be able to make an educated decision or none at all if that suits them. forcing specific beliefs on children is wrong, IMO, but telling them what you believe and letting them learn about religion and their world is a way to let them know what you’d like them to think about without shoving it down their throats.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@janbb Food choices and gender are social constructs just like religion – to me it’s not about values, at all when I try to not limit their expression in terms of gender or try to keep them away from harmful foods. Religion is a bit different, they are exposed to all of them and to my ideas about it but they can make their own choices. Ultimately, when they can make choices about what to eat and how to express their gender, they will, obviously. Finally, telling a child how boys should act and what God to believe is harmful, in my opinion, and therefore when I ‘don’t gender’ them I reduce harm by placing less limitations on them. In terms of veganism, I can see how not letting them eat meat and dairy can be perceived as limiting by others (and that’s your call) but as a parent and because toxins and carcinogens and animal suffering actually exist (whereas god doesn’t and I don’t care if he does, it’s not relevant to actual daily life) I make the choice, as a parent, to lessen the physical harm to my children and to animals. So, to sum up, I am not raising them with atheism (which is MY value), I am raising them with options, same for gender but I draw the line at veganism because that’s not all about value but health, as well.

food's avatar

I don´t see anything wrong with raising your child with a particular belief. If both parents share the same religion, I think it´s perfectly healthy for them to share it with their child. There´s nothing wrong with having an identity.Like john says, when the person reaches the typical phase of questioning things (often in adolescence), then that seems like a more ideal moment to let the child decide what to do. However, like janbb says, if you don´t want to raise them with a religion because you don´t believe in it, that also seems natural…
In other words, in my opinion, it definitely depends on what the parents believe.
As far as tolerance of people from other religions, that is separate from your own religion. If you want your child to be tolerant (and that can be of anything, not only of religion) then you should specifically teach them that. There is no reason why they can´t be firm believers and also respect and be close friends of firm believers of other faiths.

Summum's avatar


As a parent you will teach your children your values as do all parents there is nothing wrong with that but don’t justify you teaching yours as different than any parent who cares and loves their children. I’m a firm believer that things will be what they should be and the child will end up ultimately choosing for himself.

amyh2477's avatar

I believe that a child needs to know a religion. Once they are wise enough they can expolre other religions but must brought up with something.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Summum I wasn’t justifying it in relation to any other parent. Of course, most parents love and want what’s best for their children. I was explaining whether my concerns about gender and their food intake were about values and they’re not.

Winters's avatar

I feel that an introduction to religion is a good idea, let the child experience it with some parental guidance. Eventually, the parents should let go of the reins and let the child/preteen/teen choose for themselves from there.

That’s pretty much what my parents did with me, I was raised baptist and now I am morally and existentially nihilistic and on the border of agnostic and atheist.

Through out my childhood, I rarely saw children forming friends based on religion. I know I had more friends who were catholic or buddhist than those who were also baptist.

sleepdoc's avatar


I think that what you said here is not true.

“The only slow solution we’re already witnessing is to break these chains via education and security at the societal level, and likewise, breaking any links between public funding and myth indoctrination. This pattern is relatively consistent throughout much of the world; security and education increases, religosity decreases.”

Your supposition is that given enough education individuals will naturally come to a conclusion that they should not be religious. Perhaps you are meaning people adhere less to the dogma of any one religion. There are many well educated and successful people who still believe in a supreme being. Their religious practices are as varied as any other imaginable spectrum in the human race. For most of them, at some point they had to “proof” what they belived and reconcile that with what life, experience, school, and society had taught them. The fact that the continued to believe in a supreme being, does not mean that have somehow failed society.

Additionally, when you see the world a certain way it is extremely difficult not to pass some of those views on to your children regardless of where they lie, but @AdamF you did mention that at the outset of your answer too.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Parents do nothing wrong when they teach their child the tenets of their faith. However, they should also tell the child that when they get older, they will need to decide for themselves what they believe. The same thing should be true of most life-choices, such as marriage, career, etc. Equip your child with the tools for proper decision-making and let them make those decisions when they are able.

YoBob's avatar

I’ll give the short version.

Children need a framework on which to build. During their early spiritual life religion provides that framework. The religion itself is not that important. However the framework of religion as used to teach some very real concepts vital to becoming a well rounded human being is, IMHO, extremely so.

Later in life when they have some real world experience and start really thinking about their true beliefs regarding a higher spiritual nature or about basic concepts of moral responsibility, at a minimum the early religious dogma at least gives them a foundation on which to build. They might totally reject that framework, or they might zealously embrace it, but either way, without it they have nothing which they can push against on their personal spiritual journey.

mattbrowne's avatar

I agree with both @marinelife and @Qingu. At a certain age children need to understand the difference between a belief and a fact. I highly value the concept of

In the West it is usually administered later at the age of reason or in early adolescence. In Protestant Churches, the rite tends to be seen rather as a mature statement of faith by an already baptized person.

Our children did this when they were 14.

coffeenut's avatar

Religion wouldn’t last long if “they” couldn’t brainwash kids.

Nullo's avatar

It’s the parents’ business to teach their children what is right and good. Presumably, their faith is right and good, and so ought to be passed on to their kids.

Religion is not a hobby, nor is it a sweater; the choice has serious consequences. Adherence to a faith requires conviction; anything less is just tangy agnosticism.

ragingloli's avatar

I equate it to making a deal with another family that the the child marries theirs when they grow up.
Not only do you rob the child of making a conscious and informed choice about something grave in its life, by forcing it to believe something without any evidence whatsoever you are also sabotaging its intellectual and mental development.

“Religion is not a hobby, nor is it a sweater; the choice has serious consequences.”
Yes, and that is exactly why it should not be taught to children.
Is “I believe it because my parents taught me so.” really a sound basis for “true faith™”?

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

If I had a bear trap on my leg, I wouldn’t put a bear trap on my kids’ legs just so we’d be the same. If they want to put one on their leg later, we can discuss it, but I see no reason to limit my childrens’ perception of the universe to a narrow belief in the unprovable, the inconsistent, or the unreliable.

cazzie's avatar

@sleepdoc statistically speaking, you are wrong. and I’m surprised at you! Offering up anecdotal evidence in support of something you think is true? Not like you.

Statistically speaking, the more educated and secure a society is, the less religious it is. Helmuth Nyborg did studies….

Ivan's avatar


“I think that a child raised without religion is unlikely to find religion as an adult.”

And what do you think we should conclude from this?


“Presumably, their faith is right and good”

Why on Earth should we presume that?

cazzie's avatar

@Nullo…i vote for more tangy agnosticism in the world, then perhaps we’ll start evolving socially as a more intelligent species.

JustJessica's avatar

Personally I’ve let my children attend all different kinds of church(and temple), they are a little older 16 and 12. But I have always encouraged them to believe in God, that’s as far as I take it though. I’m not a very religious person at all, but I feel it’s my children’s choice to choose their religion if they choose one at all.

But I did ask my children just yesterday as a matter of fact, if they believed in God. They both had a hard time answering either way. This surprised me, but also proved they have their own minds and will believe what they choose, and I encourage that.

AdamF's avatar

@sleepdoc I don’t think it follows from anything I wrote that highly educated people can’t be religious, or that they can’t postively contribute to society. I don’t believe that, and if I did, I certainly couldn’t justify it.

As @cazzie indicates, there’s an issue of scale here that perhaps is causing the miscommunication. I am framing this at the scale of large populations and at this scale, there seems little controversy in suggesting that increasing security (eg. decreasing poverty) and increasing educational attainment, both repeatedly correlate with decreasing religiosity.

With respect to education

“A letter published in Nature in 1998 reported a survey suggesting that belief in a personal god or afterlife was at an all-time low among the members of the U.S. National Academy of Science, only 7.0% of whom believed in a personal god as compared with more than 85% of the general U.S. population.[115] In the same year, Frank Sulloway of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Michael Shermer of California State University conducted a study which found in their polling sample of “credentialed” U.S. adults (12% had Ph.Ds and 62% were college graduates) 64% believed in God, and there was a correlation indicating that religious conviction diminished with education level.[116] An inverse correlation between religiosity and intelligence has been found by 39 studies carried out between 1927 and 2002, according to an article in Mensa Magazine.[117]”

citations in

It’s not a coincidence that Somalia and the Sudan don’t have many nontheists, whereas in Scandinavia they are the majority.

I hope that clears up any confusion.

Sarcasm's avatar

My parents are both smart. Dad’s got a Master’s in Computer Engineering, and a Bachelor’s in Marine Biology. Mom’s got a Bachelor’s in Accounting, and spent time studying Psychology. I trust a hell of a lot of what they say.
But I never assume it to be the 100%, undeniable truth. I’ve never used “because my Dad says so” as a reason for something to be true.
They were both raised Catholic. We went to church until I was 5, and after then, I didn’t hear a single peep out of either of them about religion for the next 15 years. When I was 20, I did a research paper on Atheism in America, and my mom asked about it. Dad wandered into the room, joined the conversation, and says “I just have a hard time believing that this all happened by accident” and that was it. No arguments, no effort to convince me, all he did was say his beliefs.

If parents knew everything, we wouldn’t have schools. Everybody would be home schooled, and they’d be goddamn geniuses. But instead, we ship kids off to learn from people who know more than us about certain subjects.
If “Because my parents taught me that way” is a basis for any kind of belief or understanding, then you’re building upon incredibly shaky ground. And I feel bad for you when they come tumbling down.

So, in case the answer wasn’t clear: Forcing a certain religion upon your child is a bad idea. And blindly accepting religion from your parent is a bad idea.

cazort's avatar

Wenwen, I’m with you on this one. I think it is absolutely inappropriate to choose a child’s religion. I think that it’s great for a parent to teach their child everything they know about their own religious tradition, and to do their best to instill good values in their children, but this should be done by example and by respectful conversation, rather than by forcing it on them.

I also think that a lot of western religion overemphasizes the importance of correctness of belief. I’m a practicing Christian, but I think that institutional Christianity over-emphasizes belief. For example, I do not support the use of creeds in church. I think religion is a personal matter between an individual and God, and I also don’t think that it’s appropriate to judge a person based on their belief in God or lack thereof, or by their identification or affiliation with any organized religious group. A lot of Christians will say otherwise, but this behavior violates the basic teaching that Jesus emphasized strongly, for us to not judge others. And whether or not you’re Christian, it absolutely violates common sense.

Although I am personally monotheistic, I think that we would do well to move back to a more traditional, pluralistic world of religion. Religion is something we should practice and study, rather than believe in. And that’s what I believe.

cazzie's avatar

@Sarcasm Your parents sound pretty cool. You’ve gone to college and learned to think for yourself. Unfortunately, you are a minority in the world.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Many people are incapable of thinking for themselves, and some of those who are capable of thinking for themselves are scared of doing so.

cazzie's avatar

@cazort You come out with a decision, but then you don’t appear to choose a religion of sorts yourself. You seem to follow what @Nullo called tangy agnosticism. I like that, though, and I see it as progress.

Nullo's avatar

@Ivan The parents, having their convictions about their faith that most of the faithful have (that is, that they’re not wrong about being right) presume that their faith is right and good, and so ought to be presented to their kids so that they, too, will be set firmly on the path of salvation.

@cazzie I don’t think that hypothesized temporal social evolution is worth my everlasting soul, nor that of my kids, my friends, my family, etc. etc. etc. Pascal’s Wager (or something rather like it) still holds here, since we are talking about Religion vs. Anti-Religion.
Keep in mind that the world’s problems boil down to people being people. Most religions are aimed at curbing our nastier tendencies.

cazzie's avatar

@Nullo You choose to believe in an ‘everlasting soul’.... I choose to believe in the real world and understand that the choices I make effect me in the here and now, not the here-after. Nor am I reliant on a ‘forgiving god’ but I am reliant on my fellow beings who I know deserve my love, respect and empathy, because I live along with them and share their struggles. I don’t need a deity, nor does anyone, to understand that.

Nullo's avatar

@cazzie I disagree. Your culture was forged by religion; your attitudes were in turn shaped by your culture.
It is not wise to up and say that there is no God, particularly when you can’t prove it.

cazzie's avatar

@Nullo prove there is. I don’t think it shows much wisdom to claim there IS a god. and…..‘My culture?’ what do you think you know of ‘My culture’?

AdamF's avatar

Let’s imagine for a second the christian god is real, and he is really keen on being worshipped, adored and praised by his creations.

Let’s say he also has some understanding of science and indoctrination. Surely therfore he is well aware that a significant % of kids stay with the religion of their parents…a quick check suggests around ⅔.

Now if I was god (and for some unknown reason had a thing for genuflecting), I’d want to be worshipped because someone decided I was deserving of such worship, and not because Mom and Dad told some tiny tot before they could talk that they were a Catholic (for example), and took them to church and sunday school, and made them a worshipper before they had any choice in the matter.

It’s kind of like the religious arguments originally put forward in Christian countries against punishing people for apostasy (I have a vague memory that Austin Dacey discusses this in his excellent book on secular nations). If people are forced to believe something, then the value of the religion is diminished. Religious faith benefits from freedom of religious belief.

Seems logical to extend this to children. Better fewer believers who believe and worship by choice, than as a mere chance byproduct of familial inheritance.

Does anyone know of any religion that has adopted such logic…ie God wants free love (I just pictured bearded dude giving the peace sign from a 67 flower decorated Kombi), not coerced love, and therefore doesn’t encourage parental indoctrination?

Then again, I imagine that it wouldn’t be a coincidence if the religions that did that, didn’t survival the cull of time…or they’re very new…

DominicX's avatar

I was raised Catholic and I can honestly say I don’t view that as negative. Yes, I have developed into more of an agnostic atheist, but I haven’t outright rejected the church. Both of my parents are Catholic and it’s only natural that they’d pass that on. I suppose maybe I should be opposed to this in principle because it would be better for someone to discover religion on their own and make an intelligent decision about rather than simply being indoctrinated into it, but one can still make their own decisions later in life. I certainly did.

I’m a little torn on this issue, so I’m admitting my answer is wishy-washy.

cazzie's avatar

I don’t think we should let ‘culture’ and religion get too mixed up. Families have a culture and sometimes it involves the hereditary attachment to a physical church structure or a religion. Communities have been raised around them in ‘recent’ pasts and so on… we can accept that. What the question is directly addressing is the actual choosing of a religion for a child, through early baptism, or circumcision, and even ‘confirmation’ when it occurs before the age of consent. All these issues are enforced cultural norms from the parents to the child and we are trying to discuss the right and wrong of this. Am I right? @wenwen or am I presuming too much?

I’m sure my view on the issue is clarified. As a parent myself, it’s my job to limit and prevent any permanent damage to my child’s physical or mental well being.

deliasdancemom's avatar

I was raised without religion and have been an atheist my whole life, I know a great deal about all major religion…I have never stolen, never cheated on anyone etc…morals are human, not religious….religion goes even further by giving you an out when your actions are unsavory, god will forgive you….absolving people of personal accountability….so in my opinion morals without religion are superior you must answer to yourself and society….real entities. With a real face to which you must account for your actions….to say sorry to an invisible man for beating a woman is easy….to appologize to the woman and her family, well that’s a little bit harder isn’t it?

YoBob's avatar


I submit that atheism is a religious framework and that being an atheist your whole life simply means that you more or less adopted the moral/religious framework you were raised under.

deliasdancemom's avatar

I was simply taught right from wrong, atheism isn’t a religion, I never studied religions til I was much older….we simply didn’t believe in god, never even heard of the guy til I hit school age, my mother explained why some people were religious to me, it was a relatively short discussion as this wasn’t part of our lives it was part of the lives of others and we simply moved on. We didn’t read atheist books in my home or discuss atheism, we just existed as humans….I use the term atheist to explain my upbringing in a loose sense in that there was no religion or god or mysticism involved

Nullo's avatar

@cazzie Unless I am mistaken, you were born in, raised in, and moved around in (before settling down in) areas whose cultures were strongly influenced by the spread of the Church for some time. That kind of influence does not fade very quickly.

@AdamF You know how you have some expectations of random strangers? A little bit of respect for your personal health and safety (that is, not squashing you into paste with their cars), that sort of thing? God is not all that different, once you account for scale.

AdamF's avatar

@deliasdancemom “so in my opinion morals without religion are superior”

You might appreciate this then. If you define superior morality (as I would) by “lower levels of prejudice, ethnocentrism, racism, and homophobia, greater support for women’s equality, child-rearing that promotes independent thinking and an absence of corporal punishment”, then I’d say there’s science in support of your opinion.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

This is really more about perspective: some people think it’s harmful to impose religion, others think it’s harmful to not raise kids with that kind of core; some people think atheism is a religion and you could bang your head against the wall all day trying to get them to see otherwise and some people don’t think it’s a religion. Personally, I don’t like when someone makes a statement like “I’m an atheist, I’m not religious” and someone else invalidates them by saying “Uh, hey hey, it is a religion” – that’s just semantics; you can call me religious all you want but at the end of the day I use my own definition, thank god (pun intended).

Qingu's avatar

@Nullo is correct. You cannot prove that Lord Marduk, he who defeated the sea, crafted the earth, and absorbed the names and stations of the Anunaki, does not exist. Presumably this is why he is such a devout follower of Lord Marduk and constantly assails those who presume Marduk is a fictional invention of bronze-age Mesopotamians.

Qingu's avatar

I also agree that my culture as an American was forged by religion. In particular my country’s history of slavery and ethnic cleansing in service of spreading the true religion across the land, both of which are mandated in the Bible’s code of laws.

Though I’d disagree that the good parts of my culture were forged by religion.

YoBob's avatar

@deliasdancemom As you indicated, you adopted the moral framework your parents raised you under. I presume that you have questioned, clung to, or both these ideals as you have proceeded with your study of major religions.

This is the point I was trying to make in my original post. For many religion is used as the vehicle through which one is taught some rather important concepts about being a human being, namely right and wrong. It is the prerogative of all parents (in fact, I would argue duty) to teach their kids about morality and for many this boils down to religious beliefs. I think it a very poor parent who ignore this responsibility for fear of being accused of “pushing” a particular religion. Children are not yet equipped to really understand the big questions regarding our higher spiritual nature. At that level it simply boils down to a framework for distinguishing right from wrong.

Children can (and will) question their beliefs as the get older. It’s a part of the growing process. Having a starting point in the form of whatever religion their parents believe in is an assett in this journey, not an impediment.

Qingu's avatar

Some frameworks for distinguishing right from wrong are godawful.

Such as: any framework based on the Bible or the Quran.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Qingu Godawful – that’s a useful word, all in one like that.

deliasdancemom's avatar

Its a shame that some grown people are so confused they don’t know right from wrong without an archaic book filled stories of murder rape and slavery in the name of a fearful vengeful god to outline it for them….of course I am being sarcastic….they could put down the book and do just fine, in fact most feel better once they lay the tomes aside….people have been putting aside religious texts as long as people have been clinging to them. It sure does free up a lot of time for other things, like learning, and improving society.

cazzie's avatar

@Nullo Historically speaking, the ‘Christian Church’ is a very short blip on the timeline of the places I have lived. Try a less ‘Christ-centric’ view of the world.

YoBob's avatar

@Qingu Pretty much any framework can be godawful depending on how it’s interpreted.

AdamF's avatar

@Nullo “You know how you have some expectations of random strangers? A little bit of respect for your personal health and safety (that is, not squashing you into paste with their cars), that sort of thing? God is not all that different, once you account for scale.”

Would you mind stating clearly what you mean by that? I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.

cazzie's avatar

I’ll bet on the random kindness of strangers before I bet on the intervention of a god. Statistically speaking….. I’m correct. Any other view is not rational.

wundayatta's avatar

I don’t think it can be done. Choosing a religion is up to the individual. I’m sure a lot of parent try to force religion on their children and are successful, but other get out from under the thumb of nonsensical beliefs on their own.

However, we should remember that religion isn’t just about religious belief. A large component of religion is culture. It provides a way for people to gather together and to socialize and to attempt to feel like they are part of something larger than themselves. There are a gazillion ways of doing this. I call them spiritual technologies, and they work regardless of the dogma or history associated with them.

But religions have stories, and these are the stories of a people. It’s not just the stories of the Bible, but mainly the stories of that particular congregation that bind them together. So when you are brought up in a religion, what you are mostly doing is being brought up in a community, with the stories and rituals and spiritual technologies of that community.

When you grow up with something, it can be difficult to change, unless you get a lot of education and learn to be tolerant of others. This is true for atheists and every other belief that has a label. But if you get more education, and a lot of atheists do, it becomes easier to understand and empathize with other people; other congregations; other communities.

With more education, you become an amateur anthropologist and find it easier to slip into the ways of a different subculture. We are all chameleons to some degree and are all able to adapt to local custom when we need to. Of course, some adaptations are harder than others. Like language. Or beliefs. Or understanding of the world.

But we all grow up with local customs, and some of those customs are relgious and others are not. And we have no choice. We grow up where we grow up and we become most familiar with the local customs and ideas and ways of doing things.

An atheist child will grow up with exposure to atheist ways,, and maybe some religions. I grew up in a non-religious household. My parents rarely talked about it. At one point the neighbor girl told us we should go to church. We asked our parents why we didn’t go to church. They shrugged their shoulders. So we asked if we could go to church. We went to church for a couple of weeks, and that was that. We no longer had any interest. But if we had grown up in a religious family, it would have been second nature to us and it would have made sense.

You just can’t choose for your children. You can only let them grow up in the schools and neighborhoods of your choice. If everyone is the same, it is likely your child will share those similarities. If people are diverse, then children will grow up understanding there is much diversity, and they can choose what they want. Usually they choose their parents way. But not always.

meiosis's avatar

@Nullo Pascal’s wager is a foolish proposition. What if god does exist, and it’s one of the jealous one’s like Baal? He’s going to more annoyed at those worshipping false gods than those worshipping none at all.

cazzie's avatar

@Nullo Pascal’s Wager? Really? Nothing to lose? I submit that to believe in the existence of a god and submit yourself to all the trapping is to throw reason and common sense out the window and to invite mumbo jumbo and his friends hypocrisy, and irrationality in through the front door. I will not do it, nor will I train my offspring to do so.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Must this discussion devolve, as most such discussions of religion on here do, into agitated verbage, unprovable charges, and other abrasive denunciations? If you don’t agree with things that ( for example ) @Nullo says, just so state. It’s not necessary to test that thin line between discussion and stone-throwing.

cak's avatar

We follow a set of beliefs in our house, and are comfortable with sharing that religion with our children; with that said, my daughter did tell us that she doesn’t believe the same way. I would never force her to believe a certain way just because we do; however, we do expect her to respect our choices, just as we respect her choice. I believe it’s our job as parents to teach morals and values and create a structure, but to force something they completely don’t believe in, it’s just not something I could do.

I have had to ask one side of the family to stop telling her she’s going to hell. It was a bit much.

CaptainHarley's avatar


Great answer! : ))

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] This is our Question of the Day!

deliasdancemom's avatar

Pascals wager is laughable, wouldn’t an omniscient god know you were faking it I would think that would make him even more pissed than being honest and saying you didn’t believe to begin with….and what should one wager on? The christian bible pieced together from scraps of ancient cults and paganism? The koran? The teachings of the buddah? Dyanetics?

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Putting my own atheism and dislike of religions aside, I think trying to choose a child’s religion is damaging to the development of healthy intellectual inquiry.

Religion is something that is deeply personal, and different people feel comfortable in different religions. Rather than gaining values and thought patterns from religion, as adults we tend to choose religions that reflect our existing beliefs. This is a healthy way to join a religion, because (hopefully) existing beliefs have been formed through experience and critical analysis.

Children tend to absorb what they are taught and model themselves according to what adults tell them is right. In the case of religion, very few religious groups are open to the idea that their religion isn’t right for everyone, and they tend to state that they are the only ones who are right. This is harmful to children, as it stifles their natural desire to question and learn. Starting from the axiom that the religion they were brought up in is solely correct, children are blinded to alternatives not only in the religious sphere, but they will start to assume that their initial position is correct regardless of what it is and how it was formed.

But then that is the aim of many religions – get them while they’re young, and they will be a part of it for life.

boffin's avatar

. . .choosing a child’s religion for them ?

augustlan's avatar

I opted not to do it. I was born into a Christian family, and my ex-husband (father of my children) was born into a Jewish family, but we were both ‘lapsed’. We ended up choosing neither religion to bring our children up in, but exposed them to the beliefs, customs, and traditions of both. In addition, we’ve exposed them to many other religious cultures and atheism, always with an attitude of “this is what some people believe, this is what other people believe, when you’re older you’ll decide what you believe”. In short, we’ve raised them to be agnostic until they’re sure of what they believe. Passing on our values to them has been an important, but separate, ongoing endeavor. Human values, not religious ones. As of now, all three are teenagers and are agnostic with atheistic leanings.

mattbrowne's avatar

@coffeenut – You claimed that religion wouldn’t last long if “they” couldn’t brainwash kids. Even got 11 GAs. Maybe you meant religious fundamentalism wouldn’t last long if “they” couldn’t brainwash kids. Maybe not.

I’m aware that some atheists are absolutely certain about their own points of view and all they got left for religion is deep contempt. Makes me wonder about Barack Obama’s brainwashing as a kid. He’s 49 years old and a Christian. The same brainwashing must have happened to Martin Luther King and millions of other remarkable people, who kept their Christian belief as adults.

So @coffeenut, either you backup your claim or you choose your words more carefully when talking about religion and victims of brainwashing. To me there’s one key factor: brainwashed people are no longer able to challenge their assumptions.

Are you able to challenge yours?

coffeenut's avatar

@mattbrowne I can but I’m not going to… I’ve said exactly what I wanted to say.

Except that the word “they” is to represent all the Religions.

Response moderated (Personal Attack)
AdamF's avatar

@mattbrowne How would you define brainwashing?

I guess i would define brainwashing as existing at the bad end of a continuum from suitable parenting…with the relevant factors being
1) the lack of supportive evidence for the claim being conveyed
2) the importance of the claim to shaping the child’s worldview
3) unpleasant outcomes from non-acceptance of the claim
4) lack of freedom with respect to self identity
5) repetition and reinforcement of the claim
6) the age of the child

If a parent tells a young child they are a Yian, repeatedly makes unsubstantiated claims that Y exists and has these properties and these demands, and failure to live as if Y was true and not living according to Y’s ways will result in eternal punishment in future life, or isolation, deprivation of love, etc… Then I’d say that successfully classifies as brainwashing.

Just a thought, 1) if children of parents who susbcribe to even rare religions, are more than likely to believe that religion, and 2) if the metaphysical claims of the world’s religons cannot all be true, and therefore most are not true (compare what supposedly makes god(s) happy even among Christian religions, let alone between say Islam and Hinduism); then it’s inevitable that by shear probabilities alone, religous teaching of children generally involves a signficant amount of conveying factually incorrect information to children, often under threat of punishment for non-belief.

Curious to hear your and other people’s views on this….

mattbrowne's avatar

@AdamF – Like so often, the Wikipedia description is quite useful. It defines brainwashing as a process in which a group or individual systematically uses unethically manipulative methods to persuade others to conform to the wishes of the manipulator(s), often to the detriment of the person being manipulated. Religious fundamentalists, dangerous cults, or perverse ideologies like Nazism do in fact use unethically manipulative methods to persuade others. Harm is done to the victims of this indoctrination. We should be glad that the majority of people who are religious do not belong to the group of religious fundamentalists. Our world would be a different one. Sometimes even a minority of fundamentalists can be the main political power establishing totalitarian states.

Tolerance is appreciation of diversity, the ability to live and let others live, the ability to adhere to one’s convictions while accepting that others adhere to theirs.

Most atheists are tolerant. I’m a 47-year-old Christian and I do appreciate tolerant atheists. But I don’t tolerate intolerance. I don’t tolerate intolerant atheists or intolerant believers. I fight this with the power of my words.

The belief in God is a belief. It is not a fact. Claiming that one particular religion is the only true religion and all others are wrong is a belief (which I don’t share) and not a fact. It is also a breeding ground for intolerance. Aggressive atheism is also a breeding ground for intolerance. Most atheists realize this at some point. And they become able to tolerate or even appreciate tolerant believers. They joint forces with them to fight intolerance. People are capable of change. Intolerant people can learn to challenge their assumptions and become more tolerant. Trying to build bridges. It’s what we need.

Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.—Anne Frank

AdamF's avatar

Thanks for the the response.

Just a couple of comments

“The belief in God is a belief. It is not a fact.”

Belief in god, his/her/their desires, afterlife, etc. is the acceptance of factual claims about the nature of the universe. In other words such beliefs are either true or false, even if we can’t prove whether or not they fall into one or the other category.

“Tolerance is appreciation of diversity, the ability to live and let others live, the ability to adhere to one’s convictions while accepting that others adhere to theirs.”

I hoenstly think this sounds lovely, but it needs to be qualified. Tolerance is a positive quality in many circumstances, but tolerance of other worldviews, cultures, religions, needs to be subservient to issues of human rights, suffering, justice, etc..

As such, I think exhibiting (perhaps measured, productive or place suitable qualifier here…) intolerance of some cultural/religious practices or claims (ie homophobia, punishment for apostacy, misogyny, etc), is in fact to demonstrate tolerance for what really counts, humanity/other sentient life forms.

I am not suggesting we disagree on this point, just clarifying.

CaptainHarley's avatar


I love Monty Python! : D

mattbrowne's avatar

@AdamF – It seems there are two ways to answer the ultimate question for the origin of our natural laws: a divine author or a self-explanatory super law (for a level 4 multiverse). From a science point of view there is zero evidence for a divine author of the natural laws in our universe and there’s zero evidence for a multiverse. Religions are not just about a divine entity. They are also about the deeper meanings of our existence and they can offer some good advice how we people can get along with each other. People are not perfect. Societies are not perfect. Religious people are not perfect. Non-religious people are not perfect. And once in a while it’s a good idea during all this finger pointing to ask ourselves the question: Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

cazzie's avatar

I call for teaching kids tolerance, not religion.

@mattbrowne and I don’t agree on the difference between religion and spirituality. An atheist scientist can be humble enough to realise there are bigger things at work than he/she can claim to know about without being religious. You can have a healthy amount of wonder and awe without going theist.

Back to the discussion: How does one ‘choose’ a religion for a child before they are able to consent? In the name of religion, parents maim their children’s bodies, tell historical inaccuracies, and pass along prejudices and irrational fears. They also try to instil virtue, values and ideals. I argue, that children who are raised without religion can find religion through other ways if that is what they decide, or find a more broadening spirituality when not indoctrinated into their parent’s religion.

AdamF's avatar

“It seems there are two ways..”

If a single currently proposed scientific explanation for the existence of natural laws turns out to be wrong, we can’t jump from that point in our understanding, to a “therefore god” conclusion. It’s simply not an either/or issue, but it does sound awfully like god of the gaps fallacy. You seem to be trying to equate two explanations (one theistic, one scientific hypothesis) that because they don’t have evidence (on your account), they are therefore on equal footing. Past records of scientific successes using naturalistic explanations for everything from disease to biodiversity suggests thats not a wise approach to take when trying to find jusitifcation for one’s theism…especially as it doesn’t actually provide justification for theism if the scientific explanation turns out to be wrong.

“They are also about the deeper meanings of our existence…”

They try to be. But the shear diversity of mutually incompatible answers doesn’t indicate that religions offer insights that are any deeper than those otherwise available to any mortal who takes the time to ponder their own existence or the universe. Revelation simply doesn’t have a successful track record for answering those questions we eventually end up being able to challenge. It’s rather convenient that it somehow comes into its own as a source of insight the moment we move onto subjects that can’t be challenged.

“they can offer some good advice how we people can get along with each other. ”

They can. Unfortunately they often don’t, probably because they are often anchored to views that lack several thousand years of societal learning about what works and what doesn’t for maximising human wellbeing.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

If there’s a plank in my eye, feel free to point it out. There might be something there, or on the other hand, you might be imagining it.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

I often remember when my friends who are devout Catholics were teaching their son about make believe and real and having him name things that are make believe. I think he was 3 or 4 at the time and he named things like dragons and cartoons, and then said “Jesus.” Interesting anyway.

Qingu's avatar

Ya’ll should clearly define what you mean by the word “God.”

mattbrowne's avatar

@cazzie – We should teach kids values that are important to us. This includes tolerance, open mindedness, forgiveness, fairness, thirst for knowledge and so forth. Teaching them about one religion (if at least one of the parent is religious) will help them understand other religions and other world views. Parents and schools should expose kids to all major religions and world views. Parents should also encourage their kids to make their own decision and respect their choice.

Summum's avatar

When a child is very young you have to make the decisions for them but the parent really doesn’t choose the religion for them. When they grow up they will decide on their own and there is nothing wrong with teaching your children what you think is best for them. We all do that and try to help them become the best they can be.

mattbrowne's avatar

@AdamF – When I mentioned the plank, I was talking about @coffeenut, not you. His claim that being religious as an adult depends on brainwashing during childhood otherwise religion would go away is a radical position fostering intolerance. Anti-religious zealots make matters worse, not better. We need respect. We need bridges.

I wasn’t talking about a god of the gaps. I was talking about the ultimate explanation. Saying that since we don’t why there is thunder God must have been angry, is god of the gaps thinking. Saying that since we don’t know how DNA came into being God must have done it, is god of the gaps thinking.

The alternative for the ultimate explanation and dealing with infinite regress is a self-explanatory super law. What does this mean? This law must be able to explain its own existence. Something like this is unlike anything we came across so far, because our known natural laws are not self explanatory. We cannot explain the electroweak force by referring to the electroweak force. We need a GUT. Then we need a ToE. Now unless the ToE cannot only explain the GUT and gravity, but also itself, we still haven’t reached the ultimate explanation.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Summum – Exactly. There are people who were baptized as babies and later chose to become atheists. And there are people who grew up in non-religious households and chose to become baptized as adults. East Germany is a good example. The socialist regime that ruled till 1989 promoted atheism. China is another good example.

AdamF's avatar

@mattbrowne Thanks for clarifying and for the sharing your views.

deliasdancemom's avatar

On a lighter note I should clarify I was baptized roman catholic, as my fathers mother (who badmouthed all her children to their future spouses familes in the hopes they would dump the, so they would stay home with her the reat of her life) feared satan would burn my sweet baby soul if I died as a child LMAO…..the preist asked my mom if she was prepared to raise me as a catholic (knowing she was an atheist) and she replied “nope, I could give a damn wethere you baptize her or not, im just appeasing my mother in law you seem to have brainwashed into believing that god would send this adorable little baby to hell” LMAO I freakin love my mom

CaptainHarley's avatar


Um… that’s largely what religion does… defines God and his/her relationship with us. : )

Qingu's avatar

Okay, so which god are you talking about? @mattbrowne‘s god is not remotely similar to the Yahweh of fundamentalists, and is much more similar to Einstein’s Nature-with-a-capital-N-like god.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Interesting question. I would have to answer, “The God who has followed me all the days of my life, who protected me from more than anyone will ever know while I was in Vietnam, who helped me care for the children he gave me, who kept me from killing myself in my incessant search for adrenalin highs, who found a bright, loving, compassionate woman to be my wife after my first wife divorced me. The God who has put a love in my heart for all living things.” That God. : )

cazzie's avatar

@Qingu this isn’t the god that sanctioned innocents to die in Vietnam, to die at child birth, who allowed people to kill themselves and abuse themselves with drugs and allows women to divorce their husbands. K?

Qingu's avatar

@CaptainHarley, would this be the god who ordered the Hebrews to enslave and in some cases commit genocide against their neighbors?

Or are you talking about a more abstract god that is essentially a warm fuzzy feeling you have sometimes and a vague sense of order in the chaotic universe we live in (and not the god of the Bible, or the Quran, or any particular religious text…)?

@cazzie, the clockmaker deity is famously unconcerned about the world he “created” and the people who live in it. Likewise for pantheism/Nature. I’ll let Matt answer the problem of evil question for himself, though. I think if you define God as a vague, abstract force of good in the world, the best you can hope for is something like a tendency in the universe towards greater cooperation and complexity. Though I wouldn’t call that “God” because, well, that has absolutely nothing to do with what most people mean by the word, i.e. a deity with a personality who is profoundly concerned with what humans are doing.

cazzie's avatar

@Qingu all the theism is Greek to me…. so…... I really don’t know what sort of god people see… I think they see the god they want. When things go right, they thank him… but my argument is if you can thank him and ‘raise his name in praise’ when things go wrong, you also need to really ask him why people die with no apparent reason, and when natural catastrophe strikes etc…. if he’s taking credit for the good….. why do they accept the bad from him with no reference? One small child on a crashed plane lives and it’s ‘OH! Praise Gud, it’s a miracle.’ I mean…. Really? A miracle? The plane crashed. Hundreds dead. sheesh. How about a plane crashes in a fiery ball and no one dies? I can’t teach my child that.

CaptainHarley's avatar


Neither, actually.

We tend to see those attributes of God most clearly which s/he needs to use with us because of circumstances or personality or need for growth. Those are the attributes I see, so that is largely how I define my God.

Qingu's avatar

@cazzie, you probably know the response, though. “The lord works in mysterious ways!”

I’ve also seen religious folks explicitly say that anything good that ever happens is because of God, and anything bad that happens is because of human sin and/or Satan/Iblis. It’s quite a win win situation for the deity in question, or more accurately, the people running the deity’s cult.

CaptainHarley's avatar

How many times should we ascribe favorable events to “coincidence?”

cazzie's avatar

@CaptainHarley Everytime. or at least give the doctor, rescue workers, safety equipment etc, some credit instead….

CaptainHarley's avatar

Indeed. But when there is coincidence, after coincidence, after coincidence concernign essentially the same thing, the human tendency is to seek an antecedent cause.

crisw's avatar


“when there is coincidence, after coincidence, after coincidence concernign essentially the same thing, the human tendency is to seek an antecedent cause.`”

No, the human tendency is to conveniently forget all of the events that didn’t fit the pattern of the coincidence and to selectively remember those that do.

meiosis's avatar

@cazzie Precisely. I always find myself shouting at the telly when I hear people praising their god for their rescue, outrageously ignoring the real people who have worked extremely hard, often in conditions of danger, to help them. And don’t get me started on the sheer self-centered gall of the survivor of a disaster claiming that their god kept them safe, thereby implying that their god didn’t care about those who died, is disgusting.

CaptainHarley's avatar

With all due respect, @crisw , I disagree. There comes a point in time where “coincidence” is no longer applicable as an explanation. The odds against a repetition of the same circumstance ( such as a last-minute, life-saving “fluke” ) just become far too great. And when the same pattern repeats itself over time, one must conclude at some point that there is something going on besides mere “chance.”

In short, NO one could be that “lucky!”

mattbrowne's avatar

@Qingu – Einstein’s understanding and my understanding of God and that of @CaptainHarley don’t necessarily have to be contradictions. To me deism is not good enough to live a meaningful life. Someone said that the God of deism simply double clicked the cosmic execute command and walked away. Yet to me revelation can happen in many ways. An example would exploding stars starting the wonderful evolution of molecules which eventually led to planets setting the stage for the awesome evolution of DNA and proteins. But revelation can also occur when humanity meets people with great insights shaping entire societies. Seeing Jesus as the son of God has a symbolic meaning to me and not a biological one.

I share the view that God protects us while we face grave danger, helps us care for our children, helps us find love in our lives, and helps us love and appreciate all living things. God helps us discover the strengths inside us. God can grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference. But the way this works is that we are in charge. We do all this ourselves. We ask God for help. We ask him to give us strength. But we don’t sit back and relax and wait for God waving a magic wand. This would be childish. Our strengths are all part of our human nature. And our human nature is the result of God’s wonderful universe. And it works so well it doesn’t require a micro manager with magic wands bypassing the natural laws. All revelations happen within the boundaries of the natural laws.

Holy books are the result of human beings who once again are in charge. And human beings and their religions evolve. The god who ordered the Hebrews to enslave and in some cases commit genocide against their neighbors doesn’t exist anymore. We replaced him and now have a better understanding of his nature. Christians believe in a God of love.

crisw's avatar


Can you give a specific, verifiable example of exaxctly what you are talking about? That would be much more analyzable and helpful than vague generalities.

To give you an example of what I am talking about:

On some internet discussion group I read, there was a woman who claimed that her presence turned off street lights; that she had some kind of electromagnetic power. Her evidence for this was sometimes she was near the lights and they turned off. No amount of explaining that she remembered the few lights that turned off in her presence versus the thousands of lights that she passed every day that did not turn off would sway her!

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
CaptainHarley's avatar


“Verifiable?” I doubt that, since many of the incidents I’m thinking about happened over 40 years ago in Vietnam.

cazzie's avatar

@mattbrowne ‘Einstein’s understanding… of god’? Please explain…...

deliasdancemom's avatar

Einsteins understanding of god? Im quite interested in knowing what religion belief Einstein subscribed to as well :)

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@cazzie and @deliasdancemom From what I have read of Einstein’s writings, he used the term ‘God’ as a metaphor for the unknown quantities in nature, and as an answer to metaphysical questions that are beyond the reach of physics. Stephen Hawking uses the term in a similar way, though I do not know of any evidence that either is/was religious in their regard of this ‘God’.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Children should be educated in religion(s), if only for a foundation in what they will be exposed to as they grow up. A top schollar at the college I attended once confessed that she envied me for having a relgious (Christian) background, as she didn’t, and so much information she was exposed to daily referenced religion. It’s very similar to learning a new word or phrase and then seeing it on a regular basis. I never noticed it until she mentioned this.

What is sad is when parents don’t understand when their children take a different religious route. It is much like when a parent wants their child to go into a certain profession and don’t support their pursuing their dream.

Qingu's avatar

@deliasdancemom, Einstein sometimes said the word “God” (e.g. “God doesn’t play dice,” regarding his discomfort with quantum mechanics’ statistical nature).

But his God bears no resemblance to Yahweh or the god of any religion. It’s not a personal God. He uses it, like many educated people, as basically a synonym for “Nature.”

deliasdancemom's avatar

I have personally found that religious people often don’t know very much about their religion/holy books….not saying all, but a great many when compared to those who would be concidered very atheist, I have often had devout friends ask, me questions about the bible (ie: what book is this in, is this old or new testament etc…) I think if people really understood what was written word for word in the texts of their religious books….we would have a lot less religious people….how many people out there follow leviticus to a tee when descriminating against gays, but fail to notice the forbidding of shellfish or handling any part of a pig which is but a few verses away….how many christian children will be told homosexuality is a sin after a meal of scallops and a game of football? :)

Afos22's avatar

NO. Parents should Not choose a child’s religion or bring them up with religion. The first reason is not just that ‘God’ is make-believe. But, raising a child in such a way is a sin in the way that it hampers further human development and understanding of the universe, that aids scientific progression. Simply put: if there was less religious brainwashing in the past, we would be a more advanced society today. Things like understanding human behavior, understanding the universe, explanations of the world around us, and evolution. If religious brainwash hadn’t played such a large role in our past, imagine what could be done today, with more understanding in these fields.
Yes. Brainwash. It is brainwash. Children are not dumb, but they do have a very limited selection when it comes to how/where they learn about the world. Which means that parents play an enormous role in how children learn what things mean, what they are, and how the world works. If I teach my child that humans created the moon, and made it out of cheese, the child will believe it because: How is the child to know that it isn’t? Of course, when the child goes to school, it will learn of my lies. Additionally, the child doesn’t have a hard time accepting what he/she learns in school because the child would see that I never had my facts strait. However, a child raised with religion will have a harder time believing anything else. A child raised with religion becomes surrounded by family, and church members that continue to propagate the parent’s wild stories. Atop that, the child is threatened. The child is told that “if you do not believe this, you will spend an eternity in a very bad place.” Now, how can the child go wrong believing the religion? And the child will go on to become a religious adult who will do the same to their children. If my child, who was taught about the cheese moon was also threatened, and surrounded by others who back up my claim. Well, then that child will grow up believing these falsities. It is brainwash. Imagine the devastating consequences had I taught my child that animals can’t feel pain, women shouldn’t show their faces or that homosexuals and the mentally handicapped go to hell.
People who support parents raising their children on religion say that children need religion. They need to know what is right and what is wrong. I agree with deliasdancemom, when she says that “morals are human, not religious….religion goes even further by giving you an out when your actions are unsavory, god will forgive you….absolving people of personal accountability”. Religion is one of the few unnecessary things in this world.
Teach your children morals if they are little deviants. Teach a child science and facts so they may help to advance future society. And stop teaching children baby-fairytales. The less religion there is, the more science, acceptance, open-mindedness, and intelligence there will be.
and @CaptainHarley Vietnam what? How many of these “non-coincidences”, had an opposite outcome it a different case?

augustlan's avatar

@CaptainHarley I’m sure many, many believers were killed in Vietnam… what makes you so special that God spared you instead of them? I’m not trying to insult you, really I’m not, I just want you to think about that for a moment.

Winters's avatar

Einstein was what we call a deist.

here’s a link to one of many sites that state this.

deliasdancemom's avatar

Because religion felt the need to cannonize religion doesn’t speak to its higher authority, quite the opposite to me actually…if they have to explain basic human knowlege of right and wrong to their followers than they are deprogramming them at the most primitave levels of the human mind.

mattbrowne's avatar

There’s some controversy about Einstein’s views of God. He said for example: “What separates me from most so-called atheists is a feeling of utter humility toward the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos.”

Richard Dawkins talks about the concept of an ‘Einsteinian God’. Many people claim that Einstein was a deist, see for example

It contains the quote: “I don’t try to imagine a God; it suffices to stand in awe of the structure of the world, insofar as it allows our inadequate senses to appreciate it.”

mattbrowne's avatar

@deliasdancemom – I agree. Most atheists know more about theism than many theists.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Afos22 – Are you another advocate of denying the existence of non-brainwashing religious upbringing and free choice? People of intellect should be able to distinguish between religion and religious fundamentalism. So my advice is: all of us need to be very careful with the usage of the word brainwashing.

AdamF's avatar

If we take Einstein’s quotes at face value, I think it’s more accurate to describe him as an agnostic/pantheist, rather than a deist. For a pantheist, god=nature.

“You may call me an agnostic… I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.”

“It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”

“The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. It was the experience of mystery — even if mixed with fear — that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms-it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man. I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls. Enough for me the mystery of the eternity of life, and the inkling of the marvellous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavour to comprehend a portion, be it never so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature.”

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes, @AdamF, therefore I said, that there’s some controversy about Einstein’s views of God. It’s also possible that he drifted between views during his life and was open to changes of his own thinking.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

I, for one, won’t decide how I raise my child based on Einstein’s religious views either…

Qingu's avatar

@Winters, I’m not sure I’d call Einstein a deist… more of a pantheist, if anything.

Deist: there is a God outside of nature who set it all up like clockwork and has simply stood aside and let it run its course.

Pantheist: God is Nature, with a capital N; either the “Laws” of Nature or the totality of everything that happens in Nature.

The point here, though, is that neither of these Gods particularly gives a shit about you.

Summum's avatar

There are laws of the Universe and they exist and even God has to obey them. The laws of the Universe allow the Natural or Universal laws to govern the Universe and the Planets. So God is not responsible for the good nor the bad things they are what they are.

crisw's avatar


“There are laws of the Universe and they exist and even God has to obey them.”

Where do you think those laws came from?

Summum's avatar

They have always been and will always be @crisw.

cazzie's avatar

@crisw ‘Where do you think those laws came from?’ Gravity is the new god.

Kids should be taught facts and facts and fiction and fiction. Spirituality and religion are not the same.

When I was in high school and asked my religion I would say what my parents were, to help with cultural definition only, but then say I didn’t have one. My parents were cool with that, especially my mom.

mattbrowne's avatar

The tools of science cannot make a judgment about the validity of science itself, i.e. we can’t use scientific method to observe scientific method itself and come up with hypotheses or corroborated theories about it. This requires metascience. Science is about observing phenomena and explaining them.

So ultimately if a divine entity isn’t the origin of the ultimate super law, we can’t rely on science to make a judgment about the validity of the super law both explaining all physical laws and explaining itself.

I think a lot of atheists have trouble wrapping their heads around this dilemma.

So, yes, God might not exist (although I believe he does), but science won’t give us a definite answer about the alternative.

Qingu's avatar

If God exists then science is easily the best tool humans have to understand him/her/it. As opposed to bronze-age religious texts.

Also, claiming your pet god is “above the laws of science” isn’t this metaphysical dilemma, it’s just a cop-out. I could claim that fairies may or may not exist, but if they do, science wouldn’t be able to see them (because they’re magic and invisible). But this isn’t a metaphysical dilemma; it’s a silly claim supported by ad hoc reasoning.

mattbrowne's avatar

If some god exists as a natural phenomenon, yes, we can use science to understand him/her/it. This doesn’t solve anything. What explains the explanation of this god? What explains the explanation of the explanation of this god?

At some point the ultimate explanation must be self referential. Either an uncreated creator or a self-explanatory super law.

There are many ways to interpret infinite regress. One is seeing it as a metaphysical dilemma.

Qingu's avatar

There is no such thing as a non-natural phenomenon.

The difference between a “natural” phenomenon and a “supernatural” phenomenon is not intrinsic to the phenomenon; the difference is that we understand the first but don’t understand the second. Lightning was supernatural, until we learned about electricity.

Now, maybe our brains cannot physically understand all phenomena, like my cat’s brain can’t understand quantum mechanics. But then, maybe in the future we’ll invent better brains, or smarter robots will evolve. Your infinite regress can be countered by an infinite progress.

I think the real question is to what extent is the universe capable of processing information about itself… and I am not sure what this question even has to do with gods, necessarily. I think the word “god” is an outdated and loaded term for approaching this kind of question.

cazzie's avatar

@mattbrowne We use meta analysis all the time in science and the use of science is a method, granted not always properly done, but, when done correctly it is a result of critical thinking and observations of reality.

Your ‘metaphysical dilemma’ has more to do with philosophy, not science.

Suggested reading: Cycles of Time by Roger Penrose.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Qingu – If everything is a natural phenomenon, what explains the explanation of everything?

@cazzie – Thanks for the tip. I’ve heard about the book and of course I know Penrose. I’ll check it out.

Qingu's avatar

@mattbrowne, if there’s an explanation, then it’s natural by definition.

If there isn’t an explanation then we can just say “We don’t know.”

My problem here is that I think “supernatural” is an inherently illogical category. It is defined not in terms of anything intrinsic to the phenomenon in question but rather by our level of willful ignorance about it.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Qingu – I don’t see any difference in terms of willful ignorance between your atheism and my theism, because as you pointed out: if there isn’t an explanation then we can just say “We don’t know.”

Qingu's avatar

The difference is that “We don’t know” is not a claim about something intrinsic to the phenomenon in question, whereas “it’s supernatural” is. And it’s usually ephemeral and subject to later falsification as we learn more about the phenomenon.

Consider lightning. What is lightning and how does it work? If you were an ancient person before developed electric theory, a good answer would be “I don’t know, but I sure am curious.” A bad answer would be “Lightning is the supernatural weapon of sky gods.”

Afos22's avatar

hm, so that’s what we think about choosing a child’s religion…

mattbrowne's avatar

@Qingu – Both the concept of an uncreated eternal creator and a self referential ultimate eternal natural explanation get around the problem of beginning and uncaused cause, but both are outside the realm of scientific method and empirical evidence, so we can’t expect any final answers from science.

As long as theists are tolerant and do not cause any harm to other people why not live with the fact that they believe in something they call God (outside of nature), while atheists call this self referential ultimate explanation (inside of nature). It was theist scientists who discovered the principals of genetics or the big bang for example. Educated theism does not lead to ignorance.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Afos22 – I think it boils down to this:

If we choose, but leave our kids no choice, it’s unethical.

If we choose to tell our kids how we feel about religion and how other people feel differently about it and stress that it’s their choice how they feel about it, it’s ethical.

Response moderated (Spam)
everephebe's avatar

I think it would be great if parents would say, “Mommy believes such & such, but she could be wrong. Daddy believes such & such, he could be wrong.” And explain why they believe what they believe, and what other people believe and then, just ask the kid what they think. Leave it at that.

iamthemob's avatar

Caveat – I have not read through this thread.

My opinion – There is no good reason to choose a child’s religion for them, as there is no good reason to indoctrinate a child in anything. A parent’s as well as an educator’s – any type of mentor’s – job should be to provide the child with the analytical tools to approach any theory or idea critically. They should be taught how to get to the answers rather than what the answers are to the extent possible. I would argue that this inevitably will get them to a good answer, regardless of whether that answer is the right one or the best one.

mattbrowne's avatar

The researcher

found that religiosity is mainly determined by genes and not by upbringing (using identical twins raised apart). Environmental factors, like attending religious ceremonies with family, affect our religiousness as children, but genes most likely keep us attending and believing as we become adults.

So parents don’t seem to choose. Their children do.

cazzie's avatar

@mattbrowne so, you’re suggesting it’s in someone’s genes to believe in a Flying spaghetti monster? No, I think you’re quoting a tv show that has misquoted Dr Bouchard’s work.

Next you’ll be defending ‘The Bell Curve’?

mattbrowne's avatar

@cazzie – so, you’re suggesting the belief in a Flying spaghetti monster is the same as the belief in God? No, I think you’re quoting someone who flunked Atheism 101.

Next you’ll be defending elementary logical fallacies?

cazzie's avatar

@mattbrowne you said ‘religiosity’..... not belief in God with a capital G.

mattbrowne's avatar

@cazzie – I was merely referring to findings of twin studies. Here’s another article

“Your culture may dictate which God to believe in, but the belief in a supernatural agent who operates in the world is universal to all cultures because it is hard-wired in the brain, a conclusion enhanced by studies on identical twins separated at birth and raised in different environments.

In one study of 53 pairs of identical twins reared apart and 31 pairs of fraternal twins reared apart, Niels Waller, Thomas Bouchard, and their colleagues in the Minnesota twins project looked at five different measures of religiosity and found that the correlations between identical twins were typically double those for fraternal twins, a finding suggesting that genetic factors account for approximately half of the observed variance in their measures of religious beliefs.

This finding was corroborated by two much larger twin studies out of Australia (3,810 pairs of twins) and England (825 pairs of twins), that compared identical and fraternal twins on numerous measures of beliefs and social attitudes, concluding that approximately 55 percent of the variance in religious attitudes appears to be genetic. The scientists also concluded that people who grow up in religious families who themselves later become religious do so mostly because they have inherited a disposition, from one or both parents, to resonate positively with religious sentiments. Without such a genetic disposition, the religious teachings of parents appear to have few lasting effects.

Of course, genes do not determine whether one chooses Judaism, Catholicism, Islam, or any other religion. Rather, belief in supernatural agents (God, angels, and demons) and commitment to certain religious practices (church attendance, prayer, rituals) appears to reflect genetically based cognitive processes (inferring the existence of invisible agents) and personality traits (respect for authority, traditionalism).”

So it’s about religiosity with or without gods. And I didn’t say this was my opinion. I’m using these articles as food for thought because they are relevant to @wenwen‘s question.

cazzie's avatar

Ah,,, yes,.... belief in supernatural things? in general. I can grasp that, I guess. But not a ‘Christian God.’. and religion, in this context is filling a certain psychological propensity for the supernatural these people have. yes.. much better.

I’ve seen Dr Bouchard studies stretched beyond all logic to define and defend all sorts of prejudices, and your short response left me filling in your blanks with my doubt. But in reality, if someone with this gene, as you say, was exposed to other myth and legends they’d be just as likely to believe in them.

mattbrowne's avatar

Well, I thought a flippant remark required a flippant response ;-)

Afos22's avatar

@mattbrowne Why would you state that cazzie would defend logical fallacies, yet you do just that?

cazzie's avatar

@Afos22 That’s our thing…. Matt and I throw barbs at each other from time to time. He accuses me of being a ‘bad’ atheist and I poke fun at him being so smart and understanding science, but yet being Christian. I don’t really think he’s a bad person and I actually totally respect anyone’s belief, as long as they don’t stand on the proverbial street corner, blasting other people with it. Matt is very respectful, actually, but certain things rile him and I know that. In this case, I mentioned the ‘Flying Spaghetti Monster’ out of the context he’s used to. So, perhaps it was me being rather naughty in this case.

What my actual beef about his comment was, was that he was vague in his first explanation and it sounded rather illogical. Once he calmed down and wrote out his thought better, I got what he was getting at.

I don’t like it when psych studies are misquoted to defend reasoning behind prejudices and justification for poor behaviour, and his initial post about Thomas Bouchard sounded exactly like that.

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