A lot of parents, even atheist parents, think they need to raise their children with religion in order to teach them ethics and morals. Now, obviously you can do these things without religion. I mean, even kids can tell you why lying and stealing is wrong because they want anyone to do it to them and Jesus never comes into the equation. Some parents teach to their kids religion because their parents, or their relatives, want it to happen that way. But I want to tell you that raising your kids with religion, especially if you don’t believe it, is a really bad idea. Here’s why: Religion often teaches children to do the right things for the wrong reasons. If you want to teach your kids to act a certain way; that they should tell the truth, for example, many parents teach their kids that God doesn’t want them to do it because it’s a sin. If you lie, God will get upset or angry. God hates sinners. God killed Jesus because people were sinners. You got blood on your hands, kid. How awful is that? To tell a kid, who probably just doesn’t know any better, that he’s guilty of a crime that put someone to death. That’s silly anyway. I mean, you shouldn’t lie because society wouldn’t function if everyone lied to one another. You want people to be honest with you? Then you have to be honest with them. That’s how it works. That’s why you shouldn’t lie. And what about when they’re older? That same sort of mentality stays in effect. I mean, it’s a good thing to teach children to value their own bodies. But religion often does that by saying: masturbation is evil. Or that if you do any sort of sexual activity before marriage, you’re making the Baby Jesus cry. This is the awful power that religion has. It teaches kids morals and values, but often they do it through guilt, and fear, and shame. Why would you do that to them? I don’t want my kids to behave a certain way just because they always worry that God is looking over their shoulders. As a former math teacher, teaching kids to apply religious thinking to ethical situations, it’s kind of like handing students a cheat sheet, a formula sheet right before a test. Yeah, they might get some answers right, but they really don’t have any understanding of how to apply these formulas in different situations. You’re better off teaching them how the formulas came about, and how they can be applied in various situations. And how they don’t always work in every case. There’s some nuance to ethics and morals. And there’s a discussion to be had with certain beliefs people have. And you’re not going to get that with a black and white religious sort of thinking. Religion often teaches children to suppress their doubts and questions. How often are children told to just have faith, when they ask difficult questions? How do we know God exists? How do we know the Bible is true? Well, we just do. But as they grow up, they realize we have different methods of discovering the truth. But as they grow up, they realize we have different methods for discovering the truth: Observation, experimentation, reason, logic. Those methods apply to every aspect of your life, except religion. Religion plays by its own rules which makes sense, I guess, because if you apply reason and logic to religion, it’s going to crumble. Now, I should say not all religions teach kids to suppress their doubts and questions. Of course, I know that. Some of them welcome questions. I mean, Christian apologists want to arm you with responses so that, when you ask these questions, you’re satisfied with an answer. But most parents aren’t equipped to offer any answers beyond, “Because I said so”, when it comes to questions about religion, or having doubts about it. And if that’s the case, your kids are better off without religion. Kids will believe whatever you tell them. So, don’t lie to them. And this applies especially to those parents who are atheists themselves, but they want to raise their kids with religion. Kids are gullible. I mean, it’s fun to mess with them. You remember reading Calvin and Hobbes where Calvin would ask very good questions, but his dad would make up these crazy fictional answers just to mess with them? It was funny. But that trust can fade. If you want your kids taking you seriously later in life, when the stakes are much higher, you can’t lie to them from a young age. And that’s a problem for religious parents, since religion is all about telling lies to anyone who would believe them. Parents teach religion to children in the hopes that they will eventually embrace the faith. They mean well. But it doesn’t mean the religion isn’t bullshit. Even Christian leaders know you got to get them while they’re young, before they’re old enough to know any better. In fact, go to Wikipedia right now, and type in “The 4/14 Window”. That’s the age range when some evangelicals want to indoctrinate children. Because they know you’re not going to go along with the whole Jesus story if the first time you heard it, was when you were 28. But when you’re 8, you might actually go with it. So, if you tell your kids that the Bible is literally true, they’re going to believe you. But eventually, they’re going to grow up and realize you’re wrong. And when that happens, your bond is broken. At least, a little bit. And they’re going to wonder whether or not they can trust you on other important matters. By the way, some atheist parents feel the same way about Santa Claus, too. They don’t tell their kids about Santa Claus, they don’t play that game, because they don’t want to lie to their kids on principle, ever. You know, even if it’s all in good fun. It suggests that faith is a virtue. We all want to raise kids, who are creative, and curious, and imaginative. But religion often puts a halt to all of that. Religion teaches kids to be obedient and to take things on faith alone. You should never believe anything just because a figure of authority says so. I mean, that’s unwise at best and dangerous at worst. And as a parent, you never know what messages your child is going to come across. You can’t keep them in the bubble forever. You have to prepare them for what’s going to come their way. So, you have to teach them how to treat this new information. You have to teach them how to ask the right questions. You have to teach them how to discern whether or not an idea is true. If kids are taught to take things on faith, and not question them, there may come a time, later in their life, when they are taught something, that is way more dangerous than just some religious ideas and they won’t be able to handle it properly. They’ll believe it because of who said it, and how it was presented to them. And at that point, you won’t be able to do anything about it. It teaches kids to accept bad explanations. Religion is a set of bad answers to good questions. Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? Why do bad things happen to good people? Those are great questions. And they don’t all have answers. But religion has created answers based off of nothing. And people accept those answers because they don’t like to live with uncertainty. But we shouldn’t settle for bad answers when there are better ones out there or if there are no answers at all. Let’s not stifle the incredible curiosity of children by giving them the answers to questions that they need to work out on their own. But that’s what religion does. Now, why am I telling you all this? Because I want to live in a world where children are taught how to think, and not what to think. I don’t want to live in a society where we just pass down bad ideas just because it’s tradition. And look, I’m not a parent yet. I mean, I know this is all easier said than done. But when I talk to parents who raise their kids without religion, I promise you they are just as ethical and moral as anyone else. It can be done. And just to be clear, I am completely in favor of teaching kids about religion. They need to know what others believe. But let’s not give these religious ideas any more respect than they deserve. My name is Hemant Mehta, and I write at FriendlyAtheist.com What do you want to see a video about? Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll be sure to check it out.