I had an interesting exchange with a member of the religion-hating parents club recently. They’re people who not only take opportunities to badmouth religion in general, regardless of how anyone else around them might feel about religion and without concern about offending anyone, but also while uttering a completely outrageous “plan”  about teaching their kids on the subject.
If you’ve been reading me for a while, you should already know this. If you haven’t, you might want to know. I think it’s important that I say it once in a while: despite the fact that I’m a Christian and that my faith is very important to me, I don’t walk around with some notion that I have a corner of the market on all of life’s answers or that I’m somehow better than those who choose not to believe in God.
It’s equally important that I occasionally point out this: I don’t think that people who dislike religion are somehow bad people. There are phenomenal people who do more for their fellow man than some Christians yet these non-believers have never even set foot inside a church. It would be silly for anyone to pretend otherwise.
Being mean-spirited towards others doesn’t make you a bad person, either. It just makes you look like one.
I mention all of this to reference an interesting exchange with an anti-religious parent, the kind who seems to enjoy taking verbal aim at organized religion. Given how wrong Christians sometimes get Christianity, I completely understand why some people feel negative things about religion itself. They’ve been hurt. They’ve been disappointed. They’ve been mistreated. Ironically, some of that pain they’ve experience came at the hand of believers who thought they were doing the right thing but couldn’t see how hurtful they actually were.
But like many other anti-religious parents I’ve heard make such a proclamation, this one added that while he didn’t think parents should shove religion down their children’s throats, he intends to let his children form their own beliefs.
Any parent who honestly believes he or she is maintaining the kind of neutrality necessary to truly allow their children to form their own beliefs when the parents in question openly take pot-shots at religion among people they don’t even know has either forgotten what it’s like to be a kid or is just living in complete denial.
Most of us remember back to our own childhood: most of us can, if we take even only a couple of minutes, to come up with examples of things our parents were sure they’d kept secret from us that we knew long before they realized it. Most of us, I suspect, can also come up with ways our parents influenced us in ways they didn’t mean to. Some of those influences, if we’re lucky, were good. Some of them, if we’re honest, weren’t.
Children are smarter than they’re given credit for.
If you truly want to raise children to “make up their own mind” about what they choose to believe, common sense might suggest that you should check your negativity at the door. (Or, at the very least, temper it with a little balance.)
Otherwise, you run the risk of either keeping kids away from a belief system that might actually help them (regardless of how much it might have hurt you), or it forces them to consider keeping their beliefs from you out of shame.
Why would parents want to put that kind of block in front of their own children?