Isn’t taking children to church forcing religion on them? Why not let them grow to later decide for themselves?

May I answer this question using this illustration: There are some people who are not happy with their lives and have expressed anger at why they exist. Would it be justifiable then to assert that sexual reproduction is wrong because it precludes the consent of the child to get born? Too ridiculous a question but one which should provoke the common sense in you and I to know that when a male and female decide to bring forth another human being on this planet; much as the new person will later have an independent mind to decide his lifestyle – whether to be a vegetarian or meat-eater, an atheist or theist – he will have no other way to start life apart from first being in the complete control and care of his parents. The control should gradually recede as the person grows older. This situation would not have been so if humans were born adults. But we have found ourselves in a world in which the very initiative and possibility of one’s existence is in the control of his or her parents (i.e. they decided to make love and bring forth the child). Even after the child’s birth, parents will still decide what food or type of schooling is best for the child. When this child grows into adulthood he may adopt an altogether different way of life (become a vegetarian?) and philosophy (adopt theism or atheism?) quite different from his parents. This is acceptable; what should be avoided is indoctrinating the child. In the words of the famous atheist, Richard Dawkins, “What a child should never be taught is that you are a Catholic or Muslim child, therefore that is what you believe.” For once, I agree with him. However, an over-stretch of this statement to mean “carrying your two year old child to church is abuse and indoctrination” would be an exaggeration which would lead to various absurdities of trying to get a child’s consent on different issues which require personal choice (like the afore-mentioned case of birth-consent).

Wise and prudent parents do not force life’s journey on their child; they will give him an opportunity to see the world as they see it, and later when he is mature enough to use discretion, give him space to be aware of other worldviews and let him decide. Is it not for this reason that Richard Dawkins is a man who was raised up by religious parents but himself later became an atheist, and Francis Collins, a son of “free-thinkers”, was an unbeliever but later became a believer? Similarly, John Lennox had parents who, despite being Christians, encouraged him to think and analyse other world views.

In saying all this, however, I do not dispute your observation that some (or perhaps many) people force religion upon their children. Some religions are quite terrible on this. Some Christians are just as guilty when they tell people to believe because they just have to believe. In many churches today, sermons are so much filled with ignorance, even speaking against simple provable facts of science. But to be fair, try to recognise the fact that this is not representative of all Christians; there are still spiritual people (few as they may be) whose faith is not a blind one but one based on evidence and rigorous thought.

3 thoughts on “Isn’t taking children to church forcing religion on them? Why not let them grow to later decide for themselves?”

    1. Very good answer. I am a mother of 4 children, and I do firmly believe that when we have a child, we (I am) responsible for the education of my child, to raise him (her) as much as I can to be a good respectful valuable citizen. We do bring up a child, with manners, and politeness, respect to mom and dad, and others, even respect to animals… we train them how to walk, and talk, and eat, how to behave and ride their bicycles, and swimming etc.
      So If I am a Christian, and I love the LORD, and the life that Christ has given me is the most wonderful I ever had, then I would like to train, and help my child walk in the same God life style that I received from the LORD, and as brother Andrew says, when my child is of age, he will decide what he wants.

      “train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6)

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