Tag Archives: indoctrinating children

Undercover unbelievers

An article from Freakonomics has caused a bit of a stir. A family from the Bible Belt confessed to feigning Christianity in order to fit in. It’s sad. If the church is pressuring people – either overtly or covertly to conform behaviourally without a change in beliefs first then it is not doing its job. The church should be loving and seeking the welfare of non-Christians – and Christian parents should be encouraging their kids to play with the non-Christian kid next door. If they’re so worried about their kid being converted by the friendly neighbourhood atheist then maybe they should reconsider their parenting strategy lest the kid make up their own mind when they reach his/her 20s only to discover a big and scary world of ideas beyond their sheltered milieu.

Here’s a quote from the article…

We found by experience that if we were truthful about not being regular church attenders, the play dates suddenly ended. Thus started the faking of the religious funk.

It seemed silly but it’s all very serious business down here. We don’t go to church or teach or children one belief is “right” over another. We expose them to every kind of belief and trust that they will one day settle in to their very own spirituality.

I know we Christians want our children to grow up just like us (and I’m not a parent – though I have been a child) but surely we can be just as confident that our children will make the right choice as the agnostic is about theirs… I wonder if there’s a correlation between the parents who don’t believe in vaccination and parents who don’t let their children play with the scary atheists.

This was not the most interesting part of that particular Freakonomics post. Oh no. The most interesting part was this study of the effect of using an open collection plate rather than a closed bag thing – this further demonstrates the hypocrisy inherent in the system.

In these churches, the collection was taken up in a closed bag that was passed along from person to person, row to row. Soetevent got the churches to let him switch things up, randomly substituting an open collection basket for the closed bags over a period of several months. He wanted to know if the added scrutiny changed the donation patterns. (An open basket lets you see how much money has already been collected as well as how much your neighbor puts in.) Indeed it did: with open baskets, the churchgoers gave more money, including fewer small-denomination coins, than with closed bags — although, interestingly, the effect petered out once the open baskets had been around for a while.

On indoctrinating children

There’s a great opinion piece in the Times alongside the article about the Christian children being used in atheist advertising. It takes apart the atheist argument that parents should not indoctrinate their children. The writer makes good points.

I commend the article to you…

If you believe something important to be true, then you shouldn’t pretend it is an open question. This goes for secular humanists as much as for religious believers. If, for example, you are a convinced atheist, and you think that belief in God is false at an intellectual level and damaging through its distorting effects on morality, then of course you would want to share this conviction with your children. It would be unjust to keep it from them. Similarly, if you believe in God, and you believe that this faith is not just a lifestyle choice or a cultural imperative but an objective truth with profound implications for human existence, how could you not share this conviction with your children? Yes, you want to nurture their freedom and you hope they will discover things for themselves. But if it is a question of truth – whether scientific or moral or spiritual – then you will inevitably want to guide your children along a certain path, knowing full well that they may one day choose to veer off in another direction.