Let Your Children Decide Their Own Beliefs–Not!

I grew up in a home where my mother and father, both fallen-away Christians, wanted to let my sister and I “decide our own beliefs.”

The idea, of course, is that we are blank slates and my parents would not indoctrinate me into a particular religion, thus letting me collect data and inputs over time and eventually grow up and choose my own beliefs or worldview. I can see how someone would think this makes sense.

But in fact my sister and I both became agnostics, mirroring the (un)belief system of our parents. This was no accident, because it’s impossible to rear your child in a vacuum. Whether you like it or not, you are teaching them things about the world, existence, and faith (through your actions, the things you say (and don’t say), etc.).

They bought us books on evolution that claimed humans evolved from single-celled organisms; we never once said a prayer in our home thanking “someone” for the many blessings we had; we only went to church for a short time, and that was at the Unitarian Universalist one where people believed all kinds of contradictory things. In short, the guidance we were given supported an atheistic materialism worldview and argued against a Christian one.

It is not surprising then that my sister and I both became agnostics (though in truth I was militantly atheistic, seeking to convince Christian friends that God did not exist). Did we choose this? Yes, but the unbelief of our parents was an instrumental influence in our decision, as it is with any child.

There is no escaping influencing your child. The only question is: what will you influence them to believe? 

This great responsibility is all the more reason to yourself delve into philosophy so as to understand the right use of reason, allowing you to penetrate into the truths of existence and ultimately supporting the assent of faith in Jesus Christ and His Church. Along these lines, I would highly recommend Dr. Feser’s book The Last Superstition, which refutes the New Atheists via the right use of reason. Reason is on the side of Christianity.

You can only give what you yourself possess: form yourself in the truth that you may pass it on to your children. Do not be fooled when an atheist claims you are “indoctrinating” your children into your belief system. You are teaching them the objective truth of existence. They are seeking to do the same, only their beliefs are false and so they pass on errors to their children.

Whether Christians or atheists, we have the responsibility as parents to teach our children how to reason cogently. If we instruct them in this invaluable skill, we can be hopeful that they will be able to discover the truth.


Devin Rose is the author of If Protestantism Is True and he blogs at St. Joseph’s Vanguard.


Devin is the author of If Protestantism Is True and he blogs at St. Joseph’s Vanguard.

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  • Victoria

    So true. I was raised in a nominally Christian home, but remember wondering as a teenager how the adults in the congregation could listen to the amazing statements made in the readings each Sunday, and then just chat about mundane things after church. I think it is important to take note of what is said at mass so that children know that we have heard and believe it, not just take it as “of course we know and believe that.” To the young, these concepts are all new.
    The lesson I drew was that Scripture was a fairytale, since my parents never talked about it. I thank God that He is real enough to make Himself known in spite of our shortcomings.

  • Pargontwin

    Mr. Rose, yours is only one more example of the fallacy of letting your kids “choose” their belief system.  A friend of mine once told me that her parents, one Catholic and the other Protestant, tried doing that.  She grew up learning both viewpoints, and to this day, she is still unbelievably confused and has given up trying to make a decision. 

  • Pargontwin and Victoria, thanks for the confirmation of my experience!

  • chaco

    Thanks Devin.  I see one of the main tools of “The Liar” is to Bombard a soul with an over-abundance of information. [ I once read a of Pope stating; “We are in a constant battle with the mind.” ] Do you believe in such a thing as “SPIRITUAL AFFIRMATION” ? I equate this with “Mary ponderered these things in her Heart” (Lk 2: 19). I hold that if children see prayer as part of their parents life, much of the rest of  their discerning will be taken care of. I see this to be at least as vital as proper reasoning. [ “For those who believe, no reasoning is necessary – For those who don’t, no reasoning will suffice.” ] Just imagine the value of our children recieving a SPIRITUAL AFFIRMATION  in regard to the Eucharist & Our Lady; The only conclusion would be that The Catholic Church is the only belief that can bring this SPIRITUAL AFFIRMATION. [ St. Don Bosco’s revelation of these 2 “Pillars” of faith reinforces this notion. ] Not to belittle the value of reason though ! It nurtures great confidence to stand “Toe to Toe” with an agnostic, but for those who have other responsibilities, being able to leave much of that to “Holy Mother Church” is a great comfort. 

  • Clock Four

    It’s unusual that your parents bought you books on evolution.  Do you think there was a particular reason they wanted you to study this subject?  Is the notion that man evolved from more primitive forms incompatible with your current belief system?  Although evolution is not a religious teaching, I don’t think the Roman Catholic Church specifically rejects it – am I wrong?  Even if one chooses to interpret the Bible literally, it’s not as if the text explains how God creates things.