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.
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.