11th April 2012

“Non-religious parents almost invariably transmit their unbelief to their children, while half the children of believing parents fail to pick up the bug.”

David Pollock

17 Responses to “11th April 2012”

  1. reetBob Says:

    This quote says nothing about the truth of either worldview, but – although it relates directly to the UK – should be food for thought for any theist anywhere.

  2. Xhim Says:

    That’s pretty easy to explain. Most non-religious parents are convinced of their viewpoint (at least, I think so), whereas a rather high percentage of “believing parents” are in fact non-religious.

  3. Capt'Z Says:

    Not true Christians, right Xhim? I suppose that might be easier for some to believe than that the religious beliefs themselves are terribly compelling once you get and education and grow up.

  4. reetBob Says:

    Xhim, education teaches people how to think critically and assess claims on their own merits. Non-religious parents have effectively inoculated their children against fantasy through good education.

    Doesn’t it seem strange that most religious people follow the same faith as their parents?

  5. Sinjin Smythe Says:

    My parents both profess a belief in god which I suspect is due to them both having very religious parents. I think on one end they reject religious practice because of the fierce religiosity of their parents. On the other end holding onto one last thin vestige of what their parents tried to cram down their throats is respect for what their parents believed: belief in god, or so they say.

    I’m just the very fortunate benefactor of their disdain as it has allowed me to avoid the brainwashing and to live free of guilt, self loathing, and fear.

    I’ve been able to read the old and new testaments, along with a few other books, with an objective open mind. This has confirmed my unbelief. It is the closest I think I’d ever want to be to being blessed. Thank god I’m an ateist

  6. Scarlett Says:

    In the UK religious education is not too extreme but it can sometimes be put across as ‘fact’. I think it is important to counter this by teaching my children to think critically and not to impose my atheist beliefs. Unsurprisingly, all three of my teenagers have rejected religion.

  7. electra Says:

    It’s also helpful for doubting parents to expose their kids to religion and therefore take away it’s power to awe. I dragged my kids to Sunday School in annoying clothes and shoes to hear stories that they didn’t understand and be made promises that were patently impossible. Then there was the worship service where they had to sit quiet and smell the rotten breath of the old ladies singing behind them.

    They don’t care much for Christianity anymore, and if anyone approaches them with impossible promises they’ll have been there, done that – and most likely will say no thanks.

  8. Xhim Says:

    Good morning, y’all! Wow! Didn’t expect quite that an enthusiastic response! But some of what you said kind of confirms my point. Many of you have gone to great lengths to educate your kids to your perspective, which, even though I don’t share the specific perspective, I applaud. It is responsible of you to pass on to your kids what you think is important. Electra, my Dad (son of an alcoholic) used much the same method to inoculate me against drinking by taking me to bars as a kid.
    And CaptZ, the term “not real Christians” sounds a little judgmental, although I have to admit it doesn’t sound entirely inaccurate. Clearer, though, would be the term non-practicing. Even if parents go to church and drag their kids along, if they ignore the basic precepts of the faith they claim to adhere to (such as loving their neighbor – or their kids!) they are not practicing their faith, and are, in fact fakes. And kids recognize and abhor fakes.
    This, of course, is not the only factor. Some kids might be able to hang on to churchiness if they are never confronted with an alternative. But there are alternatives – including atheism – and they can be pretty attractive if you grew up in a community of Pharisees.

  9. Dan Says:

    Personally I don’t see a problem with Xhim’s first comment, and I’m a bit surprised at the response too. Afterall, if you grow up with non-religious parents it makes sense that you’ll be encouraged to evaluated various philosophies and forms of knowledge a bit more objectively, and you’ll probably come to the same non-religious conclusions.

    But if you grow up in a religious household, you may or may not be brought up with an open-mindedness that allows you consider that maybe, just maybe, there isn’t an almighty deity afterall.

  10. reetBob Says:

    Xhim, I hope I didn’t come across as too enthusiastic 🙂

    I’m lucky that my father was skeptical because most children who grew up in my church spent their formative years as social pariahs, crippled by anxiety over the secular world they were ill-equipped to understand, and unable to properly socialise or relate to other people their own age in a non-christian setting.

    It’s unfortunate that you ignored the possible irony of your analogy of your trips to bars, because one event that stands out in my memory of my path to disbelief was when a grown woman began chanting loudly in a made up language in the middle of a church service – drunk on the holy spirit – and other people crowding round her to drink their fill. The pubs looked attractive after that.

  11. Sinjin Smythe Says:


    I think for most, if not all atheists/agnostics, today’s quote strikes a chord. That “parents” and their religiosity impacts believers and non believers on a deep family level. I agree xhim’s first comment is better than his usual, even fair. I’ll be it is “parents” and what that invokes has more to do with the responses than xhim’s comment.

    I think we all agree parents should expose their kids to religion and really anything that is pervasive in the society they will live in for no reason more important than to educate them about it so they know how to deal with it. Drugs, porn, bullying, politics, sex, are all other examples of subject matter that it would be better for kids to know about than be blindsided by. It is exactly as electra says.
    electra Says:

    Scarlet makes a point about religion expressed as fact in the UK and here in the US that strikes me as similiar to how most people don’t undestand the definition of hypothesis and theory. Equating the hypothesis of creation or intelligent design to the theory of evolution is absurd, but we have politicians saying nonsensical things like “we ought to be teaching alternative theories to evolution” even though creationism or intelligent isn’t a theory at all.

    reetBob don’t you find that lots of people believe as their parents did? Politics/religion/sports team…

    Cap it is like Stockholm syndrome, you overwhelm the child’s mind and they end up loving religion. If you underwhelm the child they probably don’t but into it.

    If you are going to indoctrinate your kids into a nonsensical belief system you really have to overload them, crush their resistance. Logic and reason are powerful and convincing. You aren’t going to alter a person’s perception of reality easily.

  12. Xhim Says:

    Thanks, guys! I haven’t had this much fun on this site for a while!
    It may not be entirely relevant, but just for the record, this is how my Dad “indoctrinated” me: he loved his wife and his kids unconditionally (and actually, a lot of other people, too), he was never hypocritical, attributed everything good he had in life to what JC had done for him and in him. Growing up with an alcoholic father in the Depression, he had something with which to contrast that good.
    So when I began to consciously consider God, it was easy to conceive of a loving “heavenly father” since my Dad at home was such a loving “earthly father.”

  13. Dan Says:

    For sure, parents and the child’s upbringing effect the child into adulthood. I just found that to be an unremarkable observation.

    That may be a reasonable enough way to grow up into Christianity (or any belief), but at some point you have to reconcile the idea of a loving “heavenly father” with a tough world. It’s true, a sheltered, loving upbringing insulates you against that tough world, but it’s still there. And very sad fortunes still befall good people just as yourself and your family, even if yours was spared. Is that consistent with a loving God? It doesn’t appear so. Not to mention, if you’ve read the Bible, it is impossible to reconcile a loving God with much of the Old Testament (my favorite example is the Book of Job).
    And, if you or your father were objective in reviewing his past, you’d realize that how a guy purported did 2000 years ago has little effect upon the present, beyond the psychological effects of religious belief against the contrary. In my opinion your Dad should give himself the credit for pulling himself out of the unfortunate situation he was brought up in.

  14. Xhim Says:

    Thanks, Dan. In those couple of lines I could only summarize my history (you really don’t want the full version anyway!). But I guess I should have mentioned: I grew up anything but sheltered! Loved, yes. Sheltered, never! One of Dad’s priorities was that we have what he called “experiences,” which meant volunteering at the Salvation Army substance abuse programs for uninsured men, contact with homeless and mentally ill, a summer job at the state institution for the mentally handicapped (shades of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”!), and the list goes on. Dad saw God constantly at work in a tough world that He had created perfect, but He had given us enough freedom to pervert. And I’m afraid I’m a chip off the old block: I can’t look out the window without seeing God at work.
    The conflict that you see between the sad doin’s and a loving God centers around human freedom. How much can God protect us from ourselves without eliminating our freedom to choose? And with that I open a whole can of beans that will be really hard to explain without typing pages. Wanna come over for supper and jaw for a few hours?

  15. reetBob Says:

    Xhim, I admire your candour visiting an atheist site like this almost entirely in a spirit of openness, but I feel compelled to tell you that my dad, not religious, took on an unpaid directorship of a local charity for years after retirement, also going beyond the call of duty in other areas of civic life.

    Good works are not confined to the religious.

    I also would like to finish by saying that my dad is bigger than your dad, his car is faster and I’ve almost certainly got a bigger … er, that’s it from me

  16. Xhim Says:

    reetBob… 🙂

  17. Dan Says:

    Indeed it would seem that we have different viewpoints. I agree, it would be great to discuss these matters at length over a friendly meal or such. It’ll be difficult though, as I’m currently living in Cyprus (a quirk of where my life has taken me) – quite a distance away from most of you I think.