Should Children Learn About God?
“We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.”—JONATHAN SWIFT, ENGLISH AUTHOR.
SWIFT expressed that thought in the 18th century, but many today would agree with him. In fact, some believe that parents should not have the right to teach their children about God. They feel that children raised in a religious household are somehow disadvantaged.
What do you think? Which of the following statements is most reasonable?
● Parents should not be allowed to teach their children about God.
● Parents should wait until their children grow up before they discuss religious matters with them.
● While the children are young, parents should pass on their own beliefs about God. But as their young ones mature, parents should encourage them to reason on the matter for themselves.
● Children must adopt their parents’ beliefs about God without question.
Does Religion Harm Children?
No caring parent wants to harm a child. But do the facts support the claims of those who would prevent children from learning about God? For decades now, researchers have intensely studied the effect that a parent’s religious beliefs have on children. With what conclusion?
Researchers have found that rather than being a harmful influence, religion can have a positive effect on a child’s development. In 2008 a report published in the journal Social Science Research* stated: “Religion has been shown to enhance the parent-child bond for both mothers and fathers.” This report also said: “Religion and spirituality appear to be an important part of many children’s lives and are vital to family relationships.” Notice how similar that finding is to what Jesus Christ said: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need.”—Matthew 5:3.
What about the idea that children should grow up before learning about God and religion? That view ignores this fact: A child’s mind is like an empty bucket waiting to be filled. Really, parents face a choice; either fill that “bucket” at home with the moral principles and beliefs that they feel are appropriate or allow the rainstorm of ideas outside the home to fill the child’s mind and heart.
What Is the Secret?
History proves that religion has the potential to fuel bigotry and hatred. So how can parents avoid the outcome described by Jonathan Swift? How can they teach their children beliefs that help them to love others?
The secret lies in finding the answer to three questions: (1) What should children learn? (2) Who should teach them? (3) What methods of teaching work best?
This study was based on information gathered from over 21,000 children living in the United States, as well as from their parents and teachers.