Do Children Need Religion?: How Parents Today Are Thinking about the Big Questions

Overview

Parents today - especially those who have drifted from their childhood faith or are married to someone from a different religious background - face a choice: whether or not to give their children religious instruction. Providing one's children with religious training was once among the simplest of parental duties. One did as one's parents had done, then waited for the blessings certain to follow. Now, in the space of a single generation, religious observance has gone from being the norm to being a social ...
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Overview

Parents today - especially those who have drifted from their childhood faith or are married to someone from a different religious background - face a choice: whether or not to give their children religious instruction. Providing one's children with religious training was once among the simplest of parental duties. One did as one's parents had done, then waited for the blessings certain to follow. Now, in the space of a single generation, religious observance has gone from being the norm to being a social elective. Drawing on her experience with her own daughter and interviews with believers, non-believers, and those struggling to define their beliefs, Martha Fay explores the questions most often raised about religion's benefits and its limitations. How do parents answer their children's questions about the origins of life and the meaning of death outside the framework of a religious system of belief? How do they instill a moral code? How do they convey a sense of community? For a psychologically sophisticated generation of parents there is the concern of balancing the structure and comfort religion provides for children against the rewards of making sense of the world on their own. Both thought-provoking and reassuring, this is a book that helps parents decide for themselves what is right for their children.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The importance of religion as a social element in our nation's society has changed considerably in the last 50 to 100 years; it is no longer considered a requirement but an option for many. This book is aimed at parents seeking information on transmitting religious beliefs to their children. Fay, a mother and the author of A Mortal Condition ( LJ 11/1/83 ) , a journal of the struggle of eight cancer patients, conducts interviews with believers, nonbelievers, and those undecided. She discusses how questions of life and death are handled without a religious system of belief. She finds that many traditions and holidays can be lost if parents choose not to involve their children in religion. One cannot help but wonder whether Fay's nonbeliever status hinders her efforts at objectivity; she speaks often of her own disillusionment. However, this book is not designed to provide an answer to the question posed by its title. It provides varying viewpoints on an issue that can only be decided by individual parents. While it is recommended for general collections, a useful accompanying text is Robert Coles's The Spiritual Life of Children ( LJ 11/1/90), which is a more objective and thorough treatment of the subject.-- Joanna M. Thompson, Bluefield State Coll. Lib., W. Va.
Ray Olson
Considering instead of answering the question it poses, Fay's book will annoy dedicated believers. It speaks not to them but to persons like herself--middle-class professionals brought up without religion or seriously alienated from it after childhood who find their offspring's existential curiosity or their own desires for communities supportive of their families impelling them toward church or synagogue. There are five large reasons, Fay suggests, for resorting to religion after launching a family: the "Big Questions" about life and death to which children want metaphysical answers; children's curiosity about God; inculcating children with a system of ethics and virtue; acquainting children with the Judeo-Christian underpinnings of Western culture; and giving children the sense of social identity religious affiliation confers. Fay offers a big chapter on each reason, filling them all with the opinions of the dozens of peers she interviewed for the book. The result will vitally engage any socioeconomically similar parent who is discovering a child's spirituality and, in so doing, rediscovering his or her own.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679420545
  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/19/1993
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 256

Table of Contents

Introduction
Big Questions 3
God 43
Ethics and Virtue 69
Tradition and Culture 117
Identity 167
Acknowledgments 233
A Note on Sources 235
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