I do not have kids.
...Yet. I take it for granted that in some capacity I probably will someday.
I would obviously raise them without religion and encourage them to think critically about any authoritarian beliefs they come across. However, seeing as kids do not and will not always agree with what their parents think, I see it being entirely possible that at some point, some friend, romantic interest, or close relative may influence them to visit a church they end up getting really attached to. After all, when you become part of a religious community, it's often like getting adopted into a whole new family, which is hard to come by when you live in an area where you don't know any secularists other than yourselves.
So here's the thing - if a child of yours came up to you and said "Mom/Dad, I believe in Jesus now, and Reverend Honeycutt [I don't know] said that he'd baptize me next Sunday if you said it was okay", what would you do?
On one hand I could see myself saying "Fuuuuuuuuuck NO", and I'd tell said child they could join whatever church they wanted when they turned 18, only because by then I wouldn't have a say-so anyway. On the other, if religion or church is treated like it's "forbidden", it could have the opposite intended effect and make them want it more. Added to that there's the issue of wanting to keep religious BS out of the house (or if the ministry they want to join is particularly obnoxious or offensive) versus allowing your child to think for themselves and make their own decision, even if you strongly disagree with it.
Where do you guys stand on this? I honestly don't know what I think about it right now. Would your answer differ depending on age? How would you handle it?
PS, I just realized there's a similar discussion to this from March, so if I need to delete this then that's fine lol.
In my experience, it might be a good point for the young person to have close friends that are also of independent minds.
During high school, my friends with our science club honed our debate skills on the local evangelists. They did not always like to see our three person debate gang, with our stocking caps to cover our long hair(at the time), but we always came away with new insights.
A few times we noticed how effective and intimidating 'being prayed over to cast out demons', could silence a well meaning young debateor. This can be unnerving to a young kid without backup.
'Love bombing' nearly took out a gal friend and myself once during a debate/conversation. A skillful religious troll can offer an experience that can create a deep state of enlightenment into the religious/theist mind, and into method for the creation of belief.
Me too, but first, I'd make sure they were exposed to the basics of as many belief systems, including atheism, as possible, so they'd know what their options were.
I would tell the child, you can do as you please when it comes to ideology and beliefs. However I would not support the actions of the child unless they could give me a "Why". "WHY do you want to get baptized?" And the child will likely have a response, to which I would reply in a manner which doesn't push atheism on the child but pushes critical thinking and force them to rationalize their thoughts.
I have taken a liberal stance on this in the past, but I've changed my position.
I view ALL churches of ALL religions as "cults" because they ALL teach delusions as facts and demand loyalty to only their own particular delusions.
If you wouldn't send your children off to spend the day with Mormons or Scientologists, then don't let them hang out with Southern Baptists or Pentecostals, either.
Just my 2¢.
Here, have a personal story. It should be roughly relevant.
My sister and I were both raised without religion. My parents never even mentioned the fact that there are people who believe in god. It doesn't come up much in conversations with toddlers.
We each had our first religious experiences around 6. My sister's best friend convinced her that religion was the next best thing. She came home talking about churches, and god, etc.
Up until this point, my parents simply hadn't mentioned god, but after about two weeks they sat down with my sister, and explained that they personally didn't believe in god. (And why they didn't.) They told her that it was fine for people to to believe, but that she should wait. They explained that she could still be friends with her best friend even without converting. They agreed that if she waited a year and still wanted to go to church, they would work something out then.
As my sister had been raised without one, she agreed easily (based on personal experience, god has to be introduced pretty early. By like 5, the only thing appealing is community. By 18, even the community seems a bit creepy. (no offense intended. I had to visit a church for my history class and it was one of the strangest things I have ever been through.))
She never mentioned god again. It's been 4 or 5 years now, and she's as firm an atheist as the rest of us.
Little kids trust their parents, especially if their parents use reason. Most older kids won't see the appeal. By high school, even most of my formerly semi-religious friends were questioning. (The really religious ones weren't).
If they want community, tell them to join a club or something.
In short, go with your first instinct, but be rational about it.
First off lets ask why would a child want to join any religion when he or she was not indoctrinated into it by their parents. Now, assuming you as a parent were open and communicated about your lack of superstitions to your child and you made a point of explaining the foolishness of religion the child would be seeking to join a religion for the same reason children do anything stupid and ill conceived. Peer pressure.
Lets face it, religion is all around us, the media is filled with it. There are entire channels that are blatantly christian. In popular media atheists are almost always antisocial outsiders with all manner of bizarre issues. Christians are portrayed in a positive light and even if the "bad guy" is a priest the other characters are very apologetic about faith. Unless you have found an atheist private school your childrens friends are most likely christians and they talk about going to church and all the fun things their church does. Field trips, camps and movie nights are all used to indoctrinate the children into the faith.
Now, if your child came home and wanted to do other things that peer pressure pushed him or her toward would you allow them to make that decision? Would you let your 12 year old smoke? Do drugs? Have sex? Drop out of school? Purposely fail tests so they weren't seen as a brainiac? All of these things are seen as what the "cool" kids do and there is plenty of peer pressure pushing them toward those bad choices. All of those things can have long lasting negative effects on your child just like having a religion can have long lasting negative effects.
What negative effects? Well on an individual level the damage is not easily seen. After all someone who has a religion can have a good career, family and friends. It may seem harmless enough but the major damage done is to society as a whole. One christian isn't dangerous. Several million of them get us into stupid wars, keep us from reaching for the stars and stop us from seriously achieving greatness as a species.
So, I ask you. If your son or daughter wanted to start smoking would you blithely buy them a pack of smokes and a lighter figuring they can make decisions about the rest of their life and hope that they would find it distasteful and give it up? Or would you take them aside, explain the dangers of smoking and tell them if you catch them with a cigarette or even smelling of smoke they will be grounded for so long they will think its a career. I know what my choice would be. Now, knowing the damage that religion has done to the world and the way it holds us back would you let your child become a part of the problem or would you explain to them why they need to be part of the solution?