I invited Molly to write a post. Since she is the minority (but well-respected) voice here, I thought it was only fair. Thanks, Molly, for taking the time to share your thoughts and for providing a great topic to discuss:
Children Taking a Different Path
I was flattered when Deb asked me to write a post and thought I would stay true to her blog vision and talk about parenting. Of course most of us have different beliefs and often don’t agree on certain topics, but I think we all want our kids to be happy, healthy, safe, kind, and contribute positively to the world. We probably also want them to share our beliefs. For me, it would be difficult to have my children fall away from the Catholic Church. I imagine likewise, you would be saddened if your children fell away from Atheism.
While Atheism is on the rise among adults who choose to leave their current religion (thus the overall number of Atheists is growing in the U.S.), some data indicates there are low retention rates for children raised in an Atheist home. Of course, all religious groups have a percentage of population that fall away. To capture a few, the report stated Atheists have a 30% retention rate, Jehovah Witness a 37% rate, Buddhists a 49% rate, Catholics a 68% rate, Mormons a 70% rate, and Hindus a 84% retention rate. The report is referenced here.
Now please don’t misconstrue this post is a “dig” at Atheism for what appears to be a low retention rate among children raised in Atheist homes. That is absolutely not my point and it’s certainly not a competition. A 68% retention rate for Catholics doesn’t exactly have me bursting at the seams with pride (and what percentage of that 68% are even “active” Catholics…). The link I shared is from an Atheist site and he picks apart the data anyway. I just wanted to use the report to discuss the prospect of your children leaving your belief system, and how you would handle it.
My questions for you are as follows; and I would love to hear your perspective:
1. What do you suspect could be the reason(s) children raised in an Atheist home may become believers? Particularly when so many adults are losing their religion?
2. Do you think a child’s departure from their parents’ beliefs is more, less, or equally as painful for a non-believing parent as it is for a believing parent?
3. And most importantly, how would you handle this?
(These same questions can be answered by any believers too, i.e. in the event your child should leave your belief system or abandon the belief in God entirely)
Question 3 is particularly difficult for me. I wouldn’t want to encourage my children to leave the Catholic church but I also wouldn’t want to alienate them as so many of you have said you felt alienated by your families. Since many of you are first-generation Atheists, you will probably be the first people to face these situations or answer these questions. Just curious on your thoughts.