When were you first exposed to religion? Was it in primary school, high school, or college? Or did it occur much earlier at home? More often than not, exposure to religion occurs at a very young age from a child’s parents or guardians, particularly in religious households. Children raised in religious households often attend places of worship before they can walk, and are taught religious tenets as soon as they can talk.
Religious parents often teach their children religion at such a young age in order to instill ethics and values from a “moral roadmap” that has existed for millennia. Just as their parents did for them, religious parents often feel that it’s their parental duty to teach their children their faith in order to guide them for a life of happiness and moral success. Even non-religious parents will sometimes teach their children religion due to religion’s formal definitions of family dynamics. For some non-religious parents, teaching their kids religion is a form of “experiencing faith by proxy,” acting as a sort of “blank canvas” for them to paint a picture of what they themselves would have liked to believe.
However, as the world becomes increasingly secular, new parents are wondering if they are doing their child a disservice by teaching their children religion, or on the contrary, by failing to instill a sense of universal faith.
This increasingly relevant question has become even trickier to answer, as some studies show that growing up in a religious household can be a mixed blessing of sorts, with religious children often having enhanced social and psychological skills, but weaker academic performance than their peers.
Although it is clear that teaching children religion can have a strong impact on their development, the question is whether or not this impact is more helpful than harmful, and if its pro-social and psychological benefits can be obtained in secular households just as well.