Should Children Make up Their Own Minds about Religion?

December 12, 2014 | Jason Stubblefield
About the author:

A recent trend among religious Christians allows children to decide whether to attend church. They must come to their own conclusions about religion, the thinking goes. Jason Stubblefield disagrees:

In all [religious] traditions, people learn to reason by a process of initiation—by living within the practices and beliefs of those traditions. It is only after they have learned the grammar of a particular tradition that they are able to begin reasoning within it. . . . As I contemplate raising my son, my own childhood memories of church begin to stir. I was not always willing to go. I did have some friends at church, and the hope of playing with them made attendance more appealing. However, children grow quickly (as I’m told I’ll soon discover), and my teenage self preferred sleep to Sunday school. While Christianity was in some sense intriguing, church was not. . . . Yet now I reflect on all these experiences as a United Methodist pastor. I am deeply grateful to my parents for taking me to church despite my objections . . . Based on my early church experiences, letting my son “make up” his own mind about religion would be misguided, because that conception of freedom fails to recognize how children learn to reason in the first place. Children do not choose religious identity à la carte, but by utilizing the traditions of rationality that have taught them how to think.

Read more on First Things:

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register Already a subscriber? Sign in now