Letting Children pick their religion


I’ve run into a number of folks who feel that the parental-correct thing to do is to let a child pick their own religion – something that they are comfortable with and happy with. I, personally think that parents have a duty and responsibility to guide children in the faith.

I would be interested in hearing convincing arguments for which ever side you support.


I don’t have any children, but I’ve nannied and from that I learned just how independant and strong willed children are.

I love the Bible quote that goes something like this, “raise a child in the truth and they will grow to be righteous”

I think that there HAS to be a fair amount of choice in the religious process. You simply can’t forcefeed a child-or anyone for that matter-religious rules. Well you can forcefeed, but that causes mental problems.

I believe you must show children the TRUTH to Catholocism. You must explain from an early age why, and must show them other religions (according to their personality) and explain the good points (peace, modesty) but also the not-so-good points. (eg. their God is a statue, they have an extremely regimented and restrictive prayer life, abuse of women).

Sooner or later a child IS going to choose. Offering him/her the choice early in life when you still have control over true and false information will be what leads him or her on the right path.


It always amazes me that some people (usually those who are not particularly religious!) say that parents should not bring up their children in their faith!

If parents have faith why would they not pass it on? If I believe (and I do) that the Catholic Church is the one and only Church that Jesus Christ instituted, why would I not teach my children that and why would I want them to pick any church that attracted them when they are grown? That is almost like not sending my children to school but allowing them to decide what they want to learn when they are grown up. Or not instilling good manners in them while they are children but thinking that they will pick the manners they want to practice when they are grown.

It’s just not logical!


There does seem to be a growing trend in parents prefering not to parent.


We are obliged to bring up our children as Catholics, even if we were to marry someone of a different religion or Christian sect (either requires permission as I understand it).


all child rearing should follow this model
allow them to choose their own diet, but of course do not teach them anything about food and nutritition because you might infect them with your own biases toward vitamins and minerals, and against trans fat and sugar, which would compromise their free will choice. Just because you were born into a family that ate 3 squares does not give you the right to inflict your own cultural bias on your children.

allow them to decide on their own which hygenic practices they will follow, but by no means should you influence their conscience and fill them with guilt feelings if they don’t bathe, brush, floss, or wipe their bottoms properly, or know enough to come in out of the rain, because that would be oppressing them with your own childhood hang-ups.

Let them choose which laws they will obey (somebody inform the local police you will releasing a bunch of delinquents on an unsuspecting town). If they choose to think that stop signs and traffic signals are artifical constructs of a society hidebound in a defunct western culture, encourage them to disobey those devices “if it feels right”.


The only religion I grew up with was going to Church with my Catholic grandma once in a while. My parents instilled very little religion in me, which I believe was a detriment to my upbringing. I never learned that God is there for you when no one else is, I never learned that premarital sex is not ok and can lead to terrible consequences. My mother never ever talked about the facts of life, but if she had some religion, she could have brought it up that way, possibly. I am already grown, and found my religion as an adult, maybe if I had some religion growing up, I would not have gotten into trouble like I did as a kid. My kids are growing up with Jesus and Catholicism:)


I was raised with the mentality of pick your own religion when you are old enough to make your own decisions. My mom was a fallen away catholic. My dad was raised Methodist. When I turned school age, they decided that us kids should go to church so we can learn about God but never had us baptized (so that we could choose our own religion as we got older). We went to Sunday school at a free will Methodist church. My parents did not drive us but rather had an older couple who my dad met thru work take us. (these were good memories for me and as an adult, I realize the sacrifice this couple made as they had to backtrack to come and get us EVERY sunday–so my parents could sleep in I guess). My dad would sometimes come and meet us for the Sunday worship (sunday school was before Sunday service) but mom never came except for Easter and Christmas. My sister, brother and myself all attended this until high school. I knew my parents believed in God but talking about Him really only occured on Sunday (until the football game came on). Sending us to Sunday school and service was a way to help guide us in choosing the denomination of our choice.
Fast forward to my early 20’s and it dawned on me that I had never been baptized. Long story short, I entered into the Catholic Church. My mom was very happy for me (I think this brought back some memories of her upbringing…she attended Catholic schools etc.). My dad said that I could have picked any religion except that one and did not come to Easter Vigil.
Presently, I raise my kids Catholic because I believe it is the TRUTH. I take care of their daily needs: shelter, clothing, food etc. because they depend on me, their mother, to provide them with that. I make sure they see a dr. to keep them healthy because they are not old enough to make those decisions for themselves. Why would I wait to take care of their soul until they are old enough to decide what it is they feel about God? It makes no sense to me.
My sister entered the Catholic Church a few years ago and is raising her kids Catholic…her DH, who didnt really think too much about religion is currently in RCIA and is on fire!. He is a breath of fresh air.
My brother is not baptized yet (we are all in our 30’s) but has met someone who has set him on a journey of finding some sort of faith…he believes in God but not sure where he stands on organized religion…I think it’s just something he doesnt’ really think about.
An interesting note: My parents divorced a few years ago after 31 years of marriage. My mom remarried…in the Catholic Church. My dad is dating a woman who is catholic:hmmm:.


*Children don’t know enough, to make such an enormous commitment to one religion, without guidance from parents. I believe in raising kids with Truth…if they choose to abandon Truth when they are adults, I can’t stop them. I can discuss things with them, ask questions as to why they would be abandoning their faith. But, as children, I feel that as a parent, a huge part of my responsiblity, is to help them see the beauty and depth of the Catholic faith, which is Truth.

Many children are running the households these days, not their parents. As Dr Phil has been known to ask…’‘how’s that workin’ out?’’

I have read many studies that kids admire and respect parents who care about their well being, and their futures. They respect their parents who are trying to give them some structure. It is a common myth that kids envy other kids’ parents who let them do whatever they want, but in reality, those kids are not so happy. My dd has met a few kids in her class in Florida, and they literally can do whatever they want. Get F’s, no one cares. I said, would you like me not to care about what you do in life? She said, no way…it’s good to come home and have someone there to tell me if I’m messing up.

Kids need parents who care about them…and help them to grow in holiness. We have largely been getting away from that in our country, and we can see the problems it’s caused. Just my two cents. *


To me its like saying, don’t teach your kid Math. If they want to decide that 2+2=6 let them, even if you know that it equals 4. Don’t teach them how to speak/write English correctly, if they want to think the correct way is “What that doose?” like my 3 year said, instead of “What does that do?”, so be it. Let them decide. And forget about History, don’t impose on them any of that. And Science, let them figure out all the laws of gravity, heck the laws of Thermodynamics, when they grow up, don’t impose any of that information on them. If we know the Truth about God, why should we withhold it from our children? We care about them learning at school, in fact if teachers took that approach, of not imposing any truths on children, parents would be outraged. So, how can we leave them on their own when it comes to God, much more important that knowing what a logarithm is.


I think this is a fallocy which leads directly to athiesm, and I think that in many cases this is the intent whether explicit or somewhere below the surface. Faith is a gift in that the seeds of faith are planted “in our hearts” by God, but in order to grow and develop it must be nutured. I would suggest that choosing not to form your childs faith is parentally irresponcible. Do you personally beleive in God? Do you personally value your faith? Do you personally value the morals upheld by your faith? Well if the question is yes here, then why wouldn’t you pass this heritage on to your childeren?

Now, on the flip side, will it ultimatly be up to your childeren to choose their faith for them selves (even to not have any)? Yes, ultimiatly it will be their choice, they will at some point make the choice to either continue, or switch churches, or leave all together. This is where I find this “teaching” so disingenuous, we all do at some point make this choice! You have to make this choice if you’re going to give your self fully to God.


I think those that carry that opinion have never been exposed to what someone with a “healthy faith” looks and acts like. Clearly that opinion is stemming from some deep seeded discrimination or lack of proper instruction, so we do have to be *charitable *in responding to those with that opinion and not pounce on them as “heretics”, kwim? :o

A “healthy faith” is part of your *everyday *LIFE. It’s how you live, and breathe, and behave. It isn’t a brainwashing session in a classroom that is *separated *from the rest of life. The Mass and the faith needs to be LIVED in our EVERYDAY lives in order for it to truly be a “healthy faith”. I think this basic misinterpretation is guiding this opinion far more than a true lack of belief.

There’s a beautiful section of the Catechism that speaks to this:

VI. The Domestic Church

Christ chose to be born and grow up in the bosom of the holy family of Joseph and Mary. The Church is nothing other than “the family of God.” From the beginning, the core of the Church was often constituted by those who had become believers "together with all [their] household."166 When they were converted, they desired that “their whole household” should also be saved.167 These families who became believers were islands of Christian life in an unbelieving world.

In our own time, in a world often alien and even hostile to faith, believing families are of primary importance as centers of living, radiant faith. For this reason the Second Vatican Council, using an ancient expression, calls the family the Ecclesia domestica.168 It is in the bosom of the family that parents are "by word and example . . . the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children. They should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each child, fostering with special care any religious vocation."169

It is here that the father of the family, the mother, children, and all members of the family exercise the priesthood of the baptized in a privileged way "by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, and self-denial and active charity."170 Thus the home is the first school of Christian life and "a school for human enrichment."171 Here one learns endurance and the joy of work, fraternal love, generous—even repeated—forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one’s life.


You took the words right out of my mouth. I was going to add, don’t make them go to school or have school in any way.

I speak from experience. My husband was brought up without a religion, so he could choose when he was an adult. His parents were/are Catholic, and did have him Baptized Catholic. My parents took me through the second grade CCD, so I also made my First Communion. But they left it at that. It took a number of years for me to come back. And when I did, I didn’t come back all the way. (My sister never made it back.)

After the birth of my our son, I fully reverted. I kind of feel sorry for my husband. He didn’t sign up to raise his child Catholic. And he didn’t think I was really Catholic. Now our son and I attend Mass every Sunday and some weekdays too. We never miss a Holy Day. We fast and abstain during Lent. And, I introduced him to the wonders of NFP.

He got to choose when he grew up, but I am sure this isn’t what his parents thought would happen. He is Catholic in everything but the final trip in the door. (:gopray2:)


This makes as much sense as allowing children to pick their native language. Do those parents refuse to talk to their child because they don’t want to influence the child to speak English or French, or Spanish or whatever?

I think what you’ve really run into are folks who decided they don’t want to practice religion. They use this “let the child decide” argument to ease their own consciences.


My ex-brother-in-law had the bright idea to raise the kids with no religion and let them choose when they turned 18. Guess what they chose? NO RELIGION! Go figure…


About two years ago, I left Catholicism and started going to a unitarian universalist church. Even with my change of heart, I believe that children need a firm foundation in order to decide later in life.

We are raising our 3 year old daughter Catholic. My wife takes her to Mass, and I go to “Daddy’s Church”. I honestly don’t know how unitarians raise kids. They need concrete answers to their questions.

Once we’re adults, we can understand the truth that there really is no absolute certainty. But that is not what a kid needs.


Some years back, a third grade student of mine invited me (his music teacher) and his classroom teacher to attend his church’s Easter play that he was in. His classroom teacher and I thought it would be really sweet to go see his little play so we went together.

Turns out his “little play” was a full-blown, two hour long, musical of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. My friend (the other teacher) had never been to church in her life, because her parents wanted her to choose her own religion when she grew up. All through the play, she kept whispering her questions to me – who are those men with Jesus? why did they follow him? how did they know what he was saying was the truth? what are they doing now (last supper)? why are they killing him?.. It certainly was a learning experience for me trying to simplify my life-long faith into quick, short answers.

Anyway, she told me the next day that she’d gone home after the play and called her parents with one question: Why didn’t you ever teach me anything that was in the Bible?

Their answer: Because we wanted you to be free to choose your own religion.

Her response: How can I choose a religion if I don’t know anything about any of them?

We both moved on to other schools in later years, so I don’t know where this ever led for her.

I agree with another poster that some of the parents who want to let their children decide are using that line to avoid getting involved in religion themselves.

Personally, I think it would be unthinkable for a parent who had a relationship with God not to share that with his/her child(ren). Whether one is a devout Hindu, Jew, Muslim, or Catholic, etc. – if a parent experiences a relationship with God, they simply must share the religion with their child(ren). It would be the height of hypocrisy not to do so!

The only parents I know who actually follow the “let the children decide” practice are people who have no faith, or who believe there is no one Truth. And they either don’t practice anything as a family, or they occasionally light candles, or light incense, or do yoga, or hold crystals, or meditate, or send positive energy. But most of them would be shocked and horrified if their children chose Catholicism as adults.

Come, Holy Spirit – shock these dear parents! :thumbsup: :smiley:

(thanks for letting me ramble :slight_smile: now it’s back to the basement…)


Not till they are 18. If we take vows in the Catholic Church, we are obligated to raise them Catholic.


My dad was an ex-Catholic. My mom was an ex-Southern Baptist. When they married they discussed what they should teach their kids about faith before we were even born. Both of them had left their respective churches and fully believed that any and all institutional churches were inherently corrupt. Although they had given up their churches, they had not given up believing in Jesus. They thought that we needed to know about Jesus, so that we could make a choice as adults, so they sent us to Sunday school, sporadically, read the Nativity from Luke at Christmas and talked to us about Him. I think we went to a Lutheran church a couple times, but I was pretty young and don’t remember much except having to sit for a long time on a hard pew while someone droned on and on. Doctrine was a little thin on the ground, and while my mom would occasionally criticise her old Baptist church, I got a lot of anti-Catholicism from both of them. Basically, I was taught that church was not necessary to a life of faith.

In addition, I grew up in Saudi Arabia, with a short stint in New York for 3rd grade, then back to Arabia. Islam was ‘in my face’ every day. When the call to prayer came, the gardeners and other workers would stop whatever they were doing, spread out their prayer mat, and pray. That is the one thing I will admire about Muslims. While I didn’t have any belief in their religion, the quality of their faith spoke to me: Fervent, which is what God wants of us.

As a teenager, I got involved in the occult. I read palms, and was fairly good at it because I was always being asked to do it, held seances and used a homemade ouija board to contact spirits. Nobody had ever taught me that this was a dangerous thing to do. Mostly, I was taught that such things were toys and games.

This is one of the things that can happen when you don’t teach your kids your faith, they get involved in all sorts of crazy, dangerous things.

Learning about Jesus isn’t learning faith, it isn’t learning to know Jesus. It is just a history lesson. I look back and really wish I had known Him when I was growing up.

Despite it all, God had other ideas for me and took me by the scruff of the neck and gave me a good spiritual shake. One day I didn’t believe much of anything, the next, I fully believed that Jesus is God Incarnate, Second Person of the Trinity, come to earth to suffer, die and rise from the dead, and that I needed to be baptised ASAP. Now, what church…?

God led me home. I had been looking at Baptism as an end, so little I knew about it. ‘Now I’m washed and I’m OK.’ WRONG - its only the beginning, a new birth into life in Christ.

I expected the most opposition to come from my mother, from whom I had had the most of the anti-Catholicism, but my dad was the most upset. Still, they came around and accepted my choice.

I determined to teach my sons my faith, only I had no confidence in my ability to do so and relied on the Catholic schools to teach the particulars of the faith, while we practiced at home, praying together at least when they were young, saying grace at dinner, going to Mass every Sunday and participating in the life of the local Church.

They know how I believe but when it came time for my youngest to be confirmed, he outright told me that he didn’t believe any of it and refused confirmation. My eldest had been an EMHC for his school Masses, but after he left high school, he stopped going to Mass and now practices nothing. I feel like such a failure. It was so important, and I didn’t manage to pass my faith on.

I guess my point is that while parents have the best of intentions in raising their children, they will go their own way. My parents didn’t teach me any faith at all while I attempted to teach my sons. I ended up with faith, while my children don’t believe. God worked a miracle in me, I can only pray that He will do the same for my sons.


It’s funny, but I had an argument with a friend of mine about just this thing yesterday afternoon. He just had his first kid and is firmly in favor of not making her adhere to any particular faith until she’s old enough to make her own choice. I asked what age that would be and he said it was somewhere between 13-18. He was raised in a non-demoninational church by very strict parents. He doesn’t want to put the same restrictions on his own kids and wants them to be free to explore God on their own. He said he would read the Bible and discuss God and their faith with them if they choose, but he won’t force anything on them and will only take them to church if they ask to go. He thinks I’m clueless when I tell him that if he raises them without religion then that’s most likely what they’ll stick with.

We’re facing a struggle with our son now in regard to his views on religion. He’s been taking a world religions class and tends to develop a manic attachment to the various aspects of other religions that appeal to him–not the entire religion, just the things he picks and chooses. He believes he can have this buffet-mentality and still consider himself Catholic. He’s gone to Catholic schools all his life and I’ve always been pretty straightforward with him about what he’s expected to believe. Even with that background, we’re having these problems. I can only imagine what things will be like for my friend when his kids get to be the same age.

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