You are a parent without faith living a normal life in today’s materialistic society. You watch your children grow, and you are proud of them. However, you see they need structure and a purpose in life that you can't provide for them.
Something is missing that leads your children to experience bouts of depression and anxiety. You sense they need something spiritual, but you are not religious. You are afflicted. What do you do?
Raising children in today’s world is not easy. Parents’ dilemmas are compounded by the many challenges youth face. Scholars, for example, report a growing frequency of depression, anxiety and even child suicide. Children as young as five are falling victim to these disorders.
A recent study suggests that the lack of religious beliefs and practices can have a major impact on the lives of young children and teens. Parents would do well to cultivate belief in God and take them to church. It is almost an insurance policy that helps guarantee positive outcomes.
The Benefits of Religious Observance
The evidence in favor of God and religion is compelling. The findings show that just a belief in God is not enough. Regular attendance at religious services produces the commitment needed to deliver results.
A 2018 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology reports on how being raised with religious beliefs impacts mental health. The study’s Harvard researchers found that children who report attending weekly services registered higher levels of psychological well-being and lower risk of mental illness than those without religious observance.
Weekly church attendance lowers the probability of drug use, early sexual encounters and other vices. Raising children with religion gives them a sense of mission, a facility for forgiveness and a willingness to volunteer. Children benefit immensely, knowing they have a loving and personal God in whom they might confide. The idea of heaven instills in them the notion that good acts are rewarded, and evil deeds are punished.
Drastic Measures: Lie
The benefits of raising children with religion are so great that some professionals recommend drastic measures. Even atheists will recognize the benefits. When parents with no faith ask therapist Erica Komisar how to transmit faith to their children, her reply is blunt: “Lie.” In her Wall Street Journal op-ed (12-5-19), Dr. Komisar believes there is little choice since “The alternative is to tell them they’re simply going to die and turn to dust.”
She claims that children need God to cope with today’s chaotic world. Without God, the child experiences difficulty in dealing with the important life-and-death questions. Their young minds need something to give meaning and purpose to their existence beyond nothingness. Life is complicated enough without adding a nihilistic overtone to growing up.
She believes that children need religion because it contains all the necessary elements to build the strong character needed to combat anxiety and depression. Religion creates a sense of community that resists today's narcissistic individualism. It reinforces identity in a world where people do not know who they are and why they exist.
Modernity’s Contradiction about God
Of course, lying to children about God is self-defeating since the end does not justify the means. Lying is always wrong, especially at the service of religion that condemns sin. However, her conclusion does call for reflection. God is vital to child development.
God exists, regardless of what a person without faith thinks. To tell a child “there is no God” is also a lie with grave consequences. Considering the benefits of the knowledge of God on the child’s development, parents without faith would do well to find a way, perhaps through friends and neighbors with faith, to introduce their children to God. Considering the child’s eternal salvation, this exposure becomes urgent.
However, the modern world avoids exposing children to God and religion despite all the evidence. The Harvard study is not the only one to confirm their good influence on the development of the child. Numerous other studies confirm this conclusion.
An Unscientific Approach
And yet, the response is always the same. Modernity ignores such studies. People adore science as if it were a god. In the case of God and religion, the science is overwhelmingly favorable to the benefits of belief in God.
The need for exposure is urgent and undeniable since the mental health of children today has reached crisis proportions. The empirical evidence for God and religion as a solution would mandate the maximum exposure if only for the psychological well-being of the young child.
However, science takes an opposing, unscientific approach. It declares religion to be an enemy to progress. It treats Christianity as a childish myth that is the refuge of weak people. At public schools everywhere, the name of God is handled like a dangerous substance. Prayer is forbidden speech in classrooms. Christian religious symbols are discouraged. The Ten Commandments are considered dangerous guidelines that cannot be permitted in public space, despite the fact they outline the rules for living according to human nature.
It is as if all things religious are radioactive, and children must be shielded from them at all costs. Adults are expected to not believe in God.
Denouncing the Secular Fiasco
It is time to denounce this unscientific approach to God and religion that pressures people and children to not believe in God. Secular education has failed miserably to provide meaning and purpose to young lives. The stakes of eternal life are too high to be squandered on educational experiments that destroy certainties and promote sin. Schools have become little more than just information factories that churn out graduates without character or lasting principles.
Everything begins with the children. If given an irreligious childhood, they will pursue a materialistic adulthood. Children deserve the best that society can offer. The best is found in God and His Church.
To tormented parents who do not know how to transmit the faith to their children, they need not lie. Perhaps they might take some time to look at their own lives and reflect upon God. They can have recourse to the infinitely perfect and loving God that answers the prayers of anxious children—and afflicted parents.