On Religious Upbringing

Are a person.s religious convictions chosen or are they created from their upbringing? It seems only natural for a religious parent to raise their children within the same faith, and our group will analyze the effects that a religious upbringing (or lack thereof) would affect a person. How does being raised in a religious household compare with parents who let the child find their own path within religion? Does raising a child in a religious setting affect their attitudes towards values, morals, and life in general? Our program covers the attitudes people have of their own upbringing and compares it to other childhood experiences to determine some similarities and differences between different lifestyles. Religion is a powerful force and can pervade through the years. Could the persistence of religion, contrary to doomsayer.s claims that religion will fade away, be attributed to parents passing their faiths down from generation to generation? Some topics to be discussed are where to draw the line between raising a child in a religious environment and indoctrinating impressionable young children into the religious beliefs of the parents. How do peers, family, and schools affect the religious outlook of young children? Does a religious childhood instill more moral values or conservative attitudes in a person when compared to someone who hasn.t had the same upbringing? Taking a closer look at people.s religious upbringings can shed some light on people.s motivations to continue or break away from their faith. Our interviewees will include people from a wide variety of backgrounds with varying beliefs towards religion and different childhood experiences. For example we will contrast Richard Dawkins, a prominent British atheist, to Desmond Tutu, the archbishop of the Anglican Church in Johannesburg. Dawkins was raised by Anglican parents with a religious upbringing while Tutu.s upbringing was non-religious. Tutu originally wanted to become a physician ... Read More

Related Links

  • Faith Healing Gone Wrong

    A child's death comes at the expense of her overly religious parents who refused medical treatment.

  • Westboro Baptist Church

    Known for indoctrinating their kids from an early age that take extreme views from the Bible. (See pictures)

  • Religion is Child Abuse

    An interesting site that argues that religious indoctrination is child abuse.


Resources for further inquiry: Books

"Soul Searching: The religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teens"
by Christian Smith and Melinda Denton
The book Soul Searching is an interesting looking into the lives of American teenagers past, present, and future. The book compares views of the teenagers of the past that were more secular with the views of the present where the book uses a term "moralistic therapeutic deism" to describe what teens seem to be moving towards. The book is based on evidence gathered in nationwide studies and surveys conducted by Christian Smith and his associates.

"Parenting Beyond Belief"
by Dale McGowan
The book Parenting Beyond Belief is meant for parents who have decided to raise their children in non-religious environments. The author says the book is important because religion gives children community, rites of passage, consoling explanations of loss and death, and many other useful things. One of the major reasons parents raise children with religion is to instill moral values. Without religion, this duty is left to the parents. The author says the method in the book results in the same moral values, but leaves out the negatives of religion, such as aversions to questioning authority. The sequel, "Raising Freethinkers," addresses the most common questions young kids through teens have about the world around them that religion typically explains.

For more books: Click Here

Interviews Ahead

Fred Phelps

Head of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas.

Read More

Resources for further inquiry: Articles

"Hand on Religious Education"
by Peter Gardner
Gardner wrote this article in response to a popular article by Michael Hand where he calls religious education a form of indoctrination. Hand says that religious education falls into the category of indoctrination because it is theoretically the only way to get children to believe something that has no factual base in many cases. ... More

"Religious Participation and Moral Expectations"
by Christian Smith
In his study, Smith hoped to prove that parents that raised children in a religious environment possessed higher moral standards. He surveyed parents how they would feel if their children were involved in less than moral activities including having sex, fighting, and skipping school. Smith's survey confirmed his hypothesis. ... More

For more Articles: Click Here

Desmond Tutu

An Outlier: Interview with Meeka Simerly

Meeka Simerly is the Cantor of the Temple Emanu-El in San Jose, California. On a brisk Tuesday morning we had the opportunity to stop by and discuss religious upbrining from the a very unique perspective. We were suprised early into the interview when Simerly proposed to us that Reform Judaism instils morals, a later question asking whether a religious upbringing instils moral values in children warranted the respons, "Absolutely, yes. Abosolutely". When we asked about her convictions about the moral values from public schools in the United States, she was hesistant because she has only lived in the United States for around fifteen years. Asking about her own relgious upbrining, we discovered that she was born in Israel where the Israeli and Jewish Identitity are closely linked. Neither her nor any of her immediate family were religious Jews and a large portion of our further questions prepared for the interview became useless by this odd twist. From this point on, we were pursuing Reform Judaism as a positive form of education. We learned that the Reform Jews focus on reaching out to the community by volunteering at soup kitchens and family shelters. The goal of the upbringing and education of the Reform Jews seemed to be producing good human beings. Religion seemed to be on the back burner in many cases and Simerly left us with the quote by Abramham Heschel, "Tradition has a vote, but not a veto."

Richard Dawkins


  • http://letfreedomrain.blogspot.com/2009/02/god-hates-fag-group-to-protest-victims.html
  • http://mwillett.org/atheism/religion-is-child-abuse.htm
  • http://www.yoism.org/?q=node/235
  • http://pewforum.org/
  • http://www.beliefnet.com/
  • http://canuctude.blogspot.com/2009/04/time-to-break-out-kool-aid.html
  • http://www.stkatharineofsiena.org/childrens_corner.html
  • http://www.templesanjose.org/