Every once in a while I come across a comment by someone talking about how it makes no sense for anyone to be religious in modern society. More often than not the religion in question is Christianity. The idea is that with things like access to the Internet and exposure to all sorts of information, kids should have enough sense to know that their Bible stories aren’t true. It takes a dim view of how kids grow up in houses where parents are religious, and how those parents themselves are pressured to make their children believe as they do.
Learning how to teach Christian beliefs to children is a big business.
Just Google “raising a Christian child” and see how many results you get. More than that, there’s advice and resources everywhere to help adults teach beliefs to their kids. Some offer advice to preach to children that aren’t even a year old. Others specifically try to help children avoid the influence of evil non-Christians (most often atheists).
There’s also pressure that gets put on parents to become more religious than they already are. The idea is that kids follow by example, so in order to make sure your kids get to heaven, you have to live a more godly life. In the link – it’s from Billy Graham’s website ministry – parents are even told they’re going to be held accountable if their kids don’t make it to the pearly gates. To people who believe that there’s an eternal afterlife, that’s a pretty big deal.
Absent these concepts, there’s also how Christians are taught to be in the world, but not of the world. Here, the idea is that good Christians aren’t going to pollute their minds with things that diminish their faith. Most often it gets presented as avoiding media glorifying sex and violence, but it does apply to anything that contradicts the faith. Even this blog post is something good Christians should avoid, since it’s written by an atheist who isn’t supportive of the faith.
What this all means.
I can speak from personal experience that there is no magical talisman against one belief over the other. People will believe any and all silly things as long as they can get away with it (here is a link to some myths about sex, for example). Whether or not a person is religious depends on many different things, not just whether or not people know the world is billions of years old.
To put it more bluntly, the amount of times a person is told something as well as trusting the source can greatly affect what a person believes. This is true even into adulthood. It’s why Facebook and many other social media outlets have to worry about what gets shared on their platform. Someone might think that vaccines cause autism for no other reason than some famous person shared a meme 10 million times.
Why this matters.
It’s easy to forget what they share with someone who believes something fundamentally different than what they do. Being dismissive of those with faith doesn’t do secular communities any favors. At best, it’s treating some Christians in kind with how they treat non-Christians. At worst, it tells people who doubt their faith that they’re stupid for even trying to leave something that’s hurting them.
When I was young, I didn’t have anyone tell me that the world will be the same whether I believed Jesus died for my sins or not. Being afraid of manufactured consequences is something that helped keep me believing whenever I learned that the world wasn’t 6,000 years old or that people evolve just like every other organism. Seeing non-Christians who were well-adjusted and happy did more to shake my faith than the specific points they made. The people who just said religion was stupid were easy to ignore.