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  1. #1
    Senior Member Lily flower's Avatar
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    Default Passing on the Christian faith

    My question is for those of you who grew up in evangelical (have Jesus in your heart) Christian households.

    I would like to know what type of behaviors on the parts of parents encourage or discourage their children from keeping the same faith.

    If your parents were believers, and you are still a believer as an adult, what did your parents do that encouraged you to keep the faith?

    If your parents were believers, and you have changed your faith, no longer have faith in Christ, or have a very different set of religious beliefs, were there things your parents did or said that made you reject the faith of your childhood?

  2. #2
    Honor Thy Inferior Such Irony's Avatar
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    My mother is Roman Catholic and I was raised in that faith. I was dragged to church, to religion classes, and to confirmation workshops so that I could be confirmed. I hated every minute of it. Just because a parent is one religion doesn't give them the right to shove it in their kids faces. Growing up, I never felt like I was allowed to openly question religion in her presence. Now that I live on my own, I don't go to church and am an agnostic.

    If I ever have kids, I'm going to expose them to a bunch of different viewpoints, including non-religious ones as well as spiritual ones that don't follow a specified decision. I'm going to let my kids experiment with different belief systems and allow them to find a path that's right for them.
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  3. #3
    Iron Maiden fidelia's Avatar
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    I was raised as a Christian and remain dedicatedly so as an adult. Things I think my parents did right were:

    1) Recognizing inconsistency between church culture and Christian principles at times and being willing to acknowledge and discuss that.
    2) Making sure that I had a knowledge of the Bible early on, and in particular the foundation of Creation for understanding or believing the rest of the Bible. As an adult, I think that is the most foundational thing that gets overlooked.
    3) Not expecting that an hour of Sunday School or attending church/youth group regularly would take care of my religious education.
    4) Emphasis on Scripture memory.
    5) Lots of discussion and took me to debates, speakers, had books around that addressed different areas of the faith, biographies of heroes of the faith, exposure to many denominations and styles of worship etc. They were willing to spend time and gas to make sure that we got to a lot of events that would strengthen or impact our faith. They were solid on what they believed, but they were informed and had thought out why they believed what they did as well.
    6) Had both Christian and non-Christian friends, as well as working together with people of various faiths and philosophies. There wasn't a belief that all roads led to the same place, but I think it was healthy that we were exposed to more than just a small clique of people.
    7) Both parents lived out their faith practically - helping people, giving their time, etc. They were not hypocritical. It became very natural for us to be involved with people who needed help from a young age.
    8) My mum in particular was excellent at putting herself in our shoes. She usually anticipated how we would feel and offered positive options even before it was an issue, rather than just saying no to things we had chosen.
    9) Negative influences were not banned, so much as crowded out by better ones.
    10) Presents given reflected their personal philosophy and goals. They did not give us stuff that would directly compete with the goals that they wanted to accomplish in raising us.
    11) They recognized that sometimes it is very lonely (even in the church) to stand alone (choices of movies to watch, places to go, lots of inappropriate dating at young ages etc) and I didn't have to explain how I felt about it. They couldn't fix it, and knew it wasn't the same, but they did understand and provide some other fun things to do instead to help make up for it.
    12) The house was stocked with publications and reading material that related faith to culture and philosophy and current events.
    13) They did not abandon us to peer culture. Because I felt I was friends with my mum in particular (with her still in the alpha position), I was much more open to hearing what she had to say and giving it more weight. That meant a lot of hours of her listening to my drivel, spending time visiting in bed, hearing all about my day, working together, helping me achieve my goals, personal sacrifice for me, holidays as a family etc. She also chose to stay at home when she could have had a good career. I'm not saying that anyone who doesn't stay home will get terrible results, but I think her availability and extra margin of emotional resources and time did make a difference.
    14) We discussed the ideas that I encountered elsewhere and how they fit (or didn't) with a Christian worldview. It was never a matter of being told that I must think the same way, but I was given a chance to see what their reasoning was and because it made sense, I chose to adopt it.
    15) During university, I still stayed involved with family, which gave me a sense of responsibility as a role model, accountability, a positive place to spend weekends, company on the phone when I was lonely, and a sense of connectedness.
    16) They got involved in ministry within the church and elsewhere that continued to make them grow spiritually.
    17) We hosted a lot of travelling missionaries and pastors and billeted travelling groups visiting our church. I think as child, I learned a lot just from listening to them visit and exposed me to a wide variety of people and interest in the world.

  4. #4
    Emerging Tallulah's Avatar
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    I was raised very similarly to fidelia. I think my parents did a really good job providing a well-rounded, and non-crazy worldview, encouraging respect for others. I have had no desire to run away from my upbringing as a result, and remain committed as a Christian. My parents made it clear that I was expected to go to church, but it felt more like encouragement than punishment...they emphasized the positives, and as I sought answers to my own questions, I could also see the value in my faith. It did not feel like torture to go to church. When I had questions, my parents would do their best to help me find answers. They also didn't take a hardline stance on the way I dressed or the music I listened to. I mean, they exercised the right amount of parental concern, but they didn't make me look for EVIL all around me. There was no fearmongering. If I was advised to avoid something, they made sure I knew why, and I respected that.

    I don't really tend to enjoy discussing religion and politics in my downtime, so I may not be back. But I wanted to affirm that it is possible to raise an INTP that doesn't lean toward being agnostic or atheist.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member ZPowers's Avatar
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    I think it is wrong to encourage children toward your faith or discourage them from holding another faith or ideology full stop. Children need to build themselves up ideologically like all of us must, and pushing them towards one uncertain idea is not a good thing. Maybe they never think about what they believe and it lessens them as thinking, questioning humans. Maybe they hate you for pushing ideas. I'm an agnostic atheist, but I fully intend to tell my kids about whatever religion they wish to hear about (including my own beliefs) without passion or bias.

    Besides, if your religion is correct, and your kids are just, they'll believe it all on their own, won't they?
    Does he want a pillow for his head?

  6. #6
    Senior Member Lightyear's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ZPowers View Post
    I think it is wrong to encourage children toward your faith or discourage them from holding another faith or ideology full stop. Children need to build themselves up ideologically like all of us must, and pushing them towards one uncertain idea is not a good thing.
    But how does not steering your kids towards your own beliefs work in the real world? I was brought up as an atheist (until I converted to Christianity at the age of 19) simply because all of my family are atheists, it's not like they tried to push their beliefs on me, it's just that as a kid you naturally take on what the environment around you believes since you are not mature enough to make up your own mind and can't just have some belief-less void inside you. I am just puzzled by for example a friend of mine who thinks that "pushing your faith on your children" is child abuse. I mean you are their parent, obviously you are going to determine their world view to a large extent, if for example you are a Hindu or a Muslim or are into Hare Krishna that is just naturally going to affect your kids.

  7. #7
    darkened dreams labyrinthine's Avatar
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    I was quite devout as a Christian up through my twenties. My mother is very balanced and kindhearted towards people, moreso than the average person in the religion I was raised. She was also flexible in not making us go to church, so I think she did everything right to encourage a continued interest in religion. I'm no longer religious and I am aware that causes stress for her, so I find it important to avoid the topic or be reassuring about anything we still have in common.

    Growing up I had the chance to compare the reasoning and behavior between small religious communities and more diverse public communities. The same distorted reasoning and social problems kept emerging in each of the small religious communities. I reached a point when to be honest with what I actually thought, I had to admit that most of the religious teaching didn't make sense. I maintained the outward aspects as believer who was inside a "doubter" for a while, but eventually realized that at the core, honest level, belief is not a choice.

    The social dynamics in the small, religious communities were actually quite bad and strikingly unrelated to the teachings of Christ, but there was also a surprising amount of superstitious talk. I've lived in 30 different places over my life, so what I saw in Alabama was also what I saw in Washington, and so forth. The issue of "God's will" is almost always an extension of an individual's will who uses that as infinite justification for whatever way they are seeking to control your behavior and thinking. There was also a lot of fear about what happens if you leave the church. The most basic fear is being lost and facing eternal punishment. On a simpler level there was instilled the fear that once people let go of religion, they become really bad people. This latter stereotype has inadvertently aroused suspicion about me that I have had to "prove" to former friends and family that I'm not suddenly a horrible person because I don't attend church. That prejudice keeps people in the flock, but it is completely mistaken and harmful.

    Edit: I should add that I only describe the series of events I encountered and do not extend it beyond that. There is perhaps some type of sociological pattern with small groups that share certain types of beliefs in the context of larger more diverse societies. Even though I don't practice religion, I have respect for many people who do. Even for those who were harmful, like any group or individual can be, I think there are reasons in their background that conditioned them. What I would call my sense of spirituality now is to continue to work to understand people and alleviate suffering, rather than codifying and instilling a belief system. The best I've seen come out of all sorts of diverse belief systems are these simpler principles of providing sustenance and help to those suffering. I can see that these motivations can also come out of religion and support and respect that, although they are not wholly reliant on religion. There are other ways of reasoning to produce the motivation of helping others.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lightyear View Post
    But how does not steering your kids towards your own beliefs work in the real world? I was brought up as an atheist (until I converted to Christianity at the age of 19) simply because all of my family are atheists, it's not like they tried to push their beliefs on me, it's just that as a kid you naturally take on what the environment around you believes since you are not mature enough to make up your own mind and can't just have some belief-less void inside you. I am just puzzled by for example a friend of mine who thinks that "pushing your faith on your children" is child abuse. I mean you are their parent, obviously you are going to determine their world view to a large extent, if for example you are a Hindu or a Muslim or are into Hare Krishna that is just naturally going to affect your kids.
    There is a huge difference from parents just "being" who they are and letting that influence their kids to pounding their child with "this is the absolute truth" and brainwashing the poor thing not giving them a chance. Some are strong and will naturally question... and some will conform and remain ignorant

  9. #9
    LL P. Stewie Beorn's Avatar
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    Interestingly I was just reading an article somewhat related to this topic yesterday entitled How Religious Parents Royally Screw Up Their Children
    by Michael Spencer
    .

    Spencer's nine points were:

    1. By trying to raise sinless children.
    2. By telling children they are specially called by God- from birth- to ministry.
    3. By using religion as punishment.
    4. Saying "God told us to" as your reason for parental decisions.
    5. By having a constant fear of what is normal.
    6. By lying and consistently making ignorant statements.
    7. By obsessing on Satan and demons.
    8. By ignoring culture, and isolating your children from it.

    I think #1 and #8 are the most common mistakes that parents make in attempting to pass on their religion.

    Quote Originally Posted by ZPowers View Post
    I think it is wrong to encourage children toward your faith or discourage them from holding another faith or ideology full stop. Children need to build themselves up ideologically like all of us must, and pushing them towards one uncertain idea is not a good thing. Maybe they never think about what they believe and it lessens them as thinking, questioning humans. Maybe they hate you for pushing ideas. I'm an agnostic atheist, but I fully intend to tell my kids about whatever religion they wish to hear about (including my own beliefs) without passion or bias.
    You cannot raise children without imputing to them your values and beliefs and you cannot communicate about religion without bias. You are being hypocritical when you state that parents shouldn't teach children about the truth of their religion, because you're own beliefs about religion will be taught to them. If you believe that the truth is that all religions are the same than you are simply teaching your children that the capital T truth is that there are many valid religions and not just one. How is this substantially different from teaching that the capital T truth is that there is one religion?

    So this really isn't about how children should be raised, but a fundamental disagreement on whether there is one true religion or not.

    Quote Originally Posted by ZPowers View Post
    Besides, if your religion is correct, and your kids are just, they'll believe it all on their own, won't they?
    More importantly, if your religion is correct why would you withhold the truth from those you care most deeply about?

    Quote Originally Posted by Unique
    There is a huge difference from parents just "being" who they are and letting that influence their kids to pounding their child with "this is the absolute truth" and brainwashing the poor thing not giving them a chance. Some are strong and will naturally question... and some will conform and remain ignorant
    There seems to be this presumption that it is impossible to teach children that one religion is true without brainwashing them. This is simply not true. I know many parents who are raising children in the Christian faith and simultaneously developing them into bright individuals that are not afraid to ask tough questions and demand intelligent answers.

    This storyI posted a few months ago is an excellent example of the difference between brain washing your kids and raising them to be thinking adults.

    My pastor's 8 yo child was playing with some neighbor kids that were the children of uber-fundies. He told his father that the neighbor kids weren't allowed to read greek mythology because they think it's evil. My pastor asked him what he thought about that. The 8 yo thought for a second and said, "well the greeks gave us our alphabet, so I think we should at least know the stories that they used their alphabet to write."
    Now my pastor also has the children memorize bible verses and catechisms. That's not brain washing anymore than it would be brain washing to make a child memorize the declaration of independence.

    The child might be taught that he should or should not accept a certain truth. That in itself is not a bad thing, but a good thing. We shouldn't have to reinvent the wheel each generation, but build upon what has already been learned. Besides there is always a presumptive starting point in regards to any belief. Brainwashing occurs not by telling the child where the starting point for beliefs are, but by my mandating the stopping point of thought.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member lowtech redneck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Unique View Post
    There is a huge difference from parents just "being" who they are and letting that influence their kids to pounding their child with "this is the absolute truth" and brainwashing the poor thing not giving them a chance.
    Religious parents teach their kids to believe in religion because they believe its the truth and necessary for optimal personal happiness, just like most parents in the West raise kids to believe that democracy/capitalism/etc. are the best systems of belief for either intrinsic or utilitarian purposes. Brainwashing is an integral aspect of parenting; you just object to what the kids are brainwashed into believing. All else being equal, religious people tend to be happier than the non-religious, so I'm glad that my nieces and nephews are being raised to believe in a religion.

    I'm an agnostic, raised in a religious household; my lack of belief has much more to do with being an INTP and having OCD than with anything my parents did.

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