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Last week, I called Atheist Revolution to task for suggesting that fundamentalism was somehow more rational and cohesive a theology than more progressive mainstream religious thinking.

I suggested that the author meant to “get the goat” of believers rather than honestly suggest such a ludicrous theory, or that he was utterly uninformed. As anyone knows who is not a fundamentalist of any religion, such mindsets and worldviews are anything BUT rational and fact based.

Another post by the same author has yet again rung so untrue that it got me to thinking about the subject in general. Basically, he suggests that parental insistence that children attend religious services against their will is tantamount to child abuse. And he points to his own experience as evidence. Again, I submit something else is at work.

While I’ve suggested that forcing fundamentalism upon a child can be child abuse (a significant portion of said indoctrinees become atheists when they enter the real world, and or are significantly deficient in science learning, putting them far behind in college), it is hard for me to realize how simply imposing a requirement of church attendance without more, can damage a child.

Here is my reasoning. Let’s say that parents A require child B to attend Sunday services. Now, as the child ages, certainly most rebel against this. But the rebellion has little to do with a professed adherence to atheism. The rebellion is the general rebellion common to all kids who are seeking independence. The child doesn’t rebel against God so much as he’d rather be with friends playing basketball. His priorities are different!

For those small numbers of kids who have at an early age developed a rational intellectual argument against the concept of a deity, I don’t think harm is the result. Rather, this rational child sees the whole process as primitive and outmoded. He argues with parents and others who will listen that there are better  and more rational answers to unknowables than a God. He is bemused certainly by the religiosity of others, and perhaps angry at his time being usurped in this manner, but a couple of hours a week can be “lived” with.

 I cannot for the life of me, find where some deep psychological harm would emanate from. Atheism prides itself on being coldly rational, an intellectual tour de force if you will. Religion to them, is cultish and ritual mumbo jumbo, hardly the stuff to torture the mind of a rational atheist.

So, I submit that the writer has other issues, perhaps ones that he has misunderstood as resulting from forced church attendance. (No doubt there are cultic forms of religion that practice harmful rituals, such as sacrifice of animals and such, that can be harmful, but these I submit are so minor as to be outside the norm of our discussion.)

Still, an important issue is raised. If it is right and proper for parents to require church attendance of their children, how much and for how long comes to mind. I have an opinion on this, but it is one born of what common sense tells me. It is the result of my life experiences either witnessed or read about. So, I’m interested in what tack others feel is appropriate or not.

My thinking is that family church attendance serves other purposes than the instillation of religious belief. Feelings of security, reliability, love, responsibility and such are served by making this a family affair. Modeling of intact family units, sharing, cooperation, and other attributes are offered by the family itself and by other congregationalists.

Up to a certain age, children have not the ability to rationally decide for themselves what is valuable and what not. But, age does play a significant factor. Age, and maturity. I would tend to place the cut off at 14. Here, children have had significant experiences of their own, they know what they believe or don’t (at least for the moment), and they have had a time to sift through the information offered in church settings.

If a child, at 14 (presumably an age when parents feel comfortable leaving a youngster alone for a few hours at home), decides that church is not for him, then I think it appropriate to allow him/her to stop. The inculcation of other values can still be imposed through family “time” on Sunday for an appropriate number of hours. After discussion, there may be “independent” study requirements to learn of other faith traditions or none to help the child sort out their true feelings and beliefs.

I would agree that forcing a child to not only attend services past a certain age, but also to participate in numerous other church related groups and practices is not appropriate and counter productive. This I do  think turns off kids, and creates either out right atheists or at least secular Christians (those I define as professing a belief in God, but a distrust of organized religion).

Anyway, that’s my take on the subject. It’s a thorny one, no doubt, and people on all sides tend to be assertive of their belief and protective of their position.  Can we talk to each other rather than across each other? What say you?

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