Archive for Saturday, April 24, 2010

Should secular parents consider a religious education for their child?

April 24, 2010


The Rev. Peter Luckey, senior pastor, Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt.:

We humans are meaning-seeking creatures. Every child wants to know: Why am I here? What happens after you die? Is the world a good place? Can it be trusted? Is there a God?

Religious education, at its best, passes on a tradition, offered through stories, rituals, celebrations and sacraments. All of these give our children a place to “anchor” their deep questions about life.

At Plymouth, we believe that “hands on” activity, from bread baking to singing, from art to helping at the soup kitchen, is the best way to immerse children in the Christian narrative and a faith that is grounded in love and justice.

For the non-religious parent considering religious education for their child I offer both a warning and encouragement.

First the warning. Remember that children are very impressionable. The messages our young ones receive at an early age will be carried into their adult years. Before you enroll a child in a religious program, find out what is being taught. Are children allowed to think for themselves? Are they being taught to fear the world, or feel ashamed? Not all religious education is alike.

Now the encouragement. The significant question is not whether or not our children will receive an education, but of what kind? Our 24/7 world is teaching them lessons all the time. Our young people are being taught that what counts in life are things that can be counted, our possessions.

At its best, religious education, teaches our young an alternative lesson. Life’s greatest joy comes through serving others.

— Send e-mail to Peter Luckey at

The Rev. Kara Eidson, associate pastor, First United Methodist Church, 946 Vt.:

Statistics vary depending on which source you turn to, but most seem to agree that a vast majority of people around the world adhere to a religious tradition of some sort.

That said, a basic education in religion is important to raising a well-rounded child, regardless of what faith a family does or does not adhere to. Although people who claim the same religion can espouse vastly different belief and moral understandings of that particular faith, a basic understanding of religion offers insight into relating with others. Furthermore, religion is pervasive in a variety of culture: music, literature, art, etc.

Understanding religious implications can be important to interpreting the world around us. This is why a basic course in Religion 101 or World Religions is commonly a part of an undergraduate education. To understand where another person is coming from, it is vital to have some basic understanding of the basic tenets of his or her most deeply held beliefs.

Ignorance breeds intolerance, and this holds true just as much for religion as it does for race or ethnicity. Providing children with the basics of religious belief systems can help them to function with others who may believe differently than they do throughout their adult lives.

— Send e-mail to Kara Eidson at


John Kyle 8 years, 1 month ago

It's not religious 'education', it's indoctrination. Some of it borders on mental child abuse.

anon1958 8 years, 1 month ago

I suppose every religious education must omit the definition of "oxymoron".

tomatogrower 8 years, 1 month ago

I think you should teach your child about all religions and let them decide for themselves when they are older. Just don't let them be pulled into cult like places, and I am including certain Christian churches. Have them read the Bible for themselves. If they know how to read, they don't need a preacher to "interpret" the Bible for them.

Ron Holzwarth 8 years, 1 month ago

There are other religions not based upon the Bible that might be considered.

tomatogrower 8 years, 1 month ago

I agree. They should understand them all. Wiccan, Buddhist, Hindu, Islam, etc. I just don't want them to get involved in a sect of any religion where one man or woman says they have all the truth and answers. You must find the truth on your own.

Ron Holzwarth 8 years, 1 month ago

A friend of mine had extreme problems at home during his teens. So, his agnostic parents sent him to a Catholic boarding school because they didn't know what else to do with him. In his and my humble opinion, the problem lay with his parents, not him. Someone viewing all the facts from an objective viewpoint would have to agree, unless my friend has been lying consistently for over 25 years.

Today, decades later, he wishes he had been allowed to stay at the Catholic boarding shool instead of being allowed to attend there for only one semester. His fondest high school memories are of that one semester, and he mentions events that happened there quite often. Never mentions high school in any other context, and he's sure his life would have turned out better if he had been allowed to stay at the boarding school. And BTW, money was not really an issue for that family.

He's still agnostic anyway, but his life at the Catholic boarding school was so much better than at home. For some children, getting away from home is the best possible thing that could happen to them.

Attending a religious school will not make you religious, any more than attending a secular school will make you secular. At some point, every person will start to think for himself. You hope, anyway.

Ron Holzwarth 8 years, 1 month ago

About getting away from home, I just now got back from hearing Nate Phelps talk about his home life as a child and running away from it on his 18th birthday. It was the best thing he could have done. It's unfortunate that more of his siblings did not run away also.

I'm sure you've heard of his father, Rev. Fred Phelps of the Westboro Babtist Church.

So my comments are colored by people I have known and heard.

Liberty275 8 years, 1 month ago

"Should secular parents consider a religious education for their child?"


Tom McCune 8 years, 1 month ago

The Unitarians were the only church I ever saw that had an actual religious education (not indoctrination) program that looked fairly at many different religions and denominations.

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