Readers React: Why you should stop telling godless parents to take their kids to church

A child holds up a Bible during a Sunday school class in Santa Monica in 2014.

A child holds up a Bible during a Sunday school class in Santa Monica in 2014.

(Christina House / For the Los Angeles Times)

It took less than a year of zero church attendance or any profession of faith for my mother or other family members to abandon hope for my soul (or simply to stop talking about religion in my presence). But the moment I had kids in 2012, the spiritual feelers came out again: Will you baptize the twins? Can I take the kids to Sunday school? What’s wrong with teaching children about Jesus?

My story of parenting as a religious “none” -- one who claims no religious affiliation -- is probably familiar to others from a faith background now trying to raise their children in secular homes. As a twentysomething, I stopped trying to hide the fact that I had abandoned the Lutheran faith, a change that prompted none of the social rejection I feared aside from some polite bemusement from elderly Scandinavians, who seem trained from birth to avoid antagonizing conversations.

Evidently, some were just waiting until I had kids.

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Truth be told, I hadn’t given much thought to the novelty of rearing children (my flock is now three members strong) in a home where Bible readings and praying are practically nonexistent. There was nothing special about Christianity that imparted the obvious moral lessons a child should carry into adulthood, so aside from a lack of regular exposure to Norwegian culture that’s hard to find outside Lutheran churches, I feel no regret over “denying” my kids the experiences I had growing up a member of the faith.

But enough people are apparently unnerved by the fact that nones like me are reproducing and raising their kids without faith that science must now weigh in and try to answer the question: Can children be good without God?

The answer, according to one study: Yes, they can, and they are. They might even be better.

As topics on their own, parenting and religion tend to draw numerous spirited comments. Put the two together, and you have what’s below (and on the Los Angeles Times’ Facebook page).

Some readers focused more on parents’ influence on their kids’ morals than faith:

A handful of readers weighed in on the nature of religion itself and what value faith is to those who have it:

Some readers had fun with the topic:

The topics of faith and morality -- and how they affect parenting -- have been discussed in Opinion before. Earlier this year, Pitzer College sociologist Phil Zuckerman wrote that secular parents have little to fear from their kids growing up without religion; his Op-Ed article spawned a lively discussion between readers and a video talk hosted by Patt Morrison. Most recently, Zuckerman examined the claim that secularization is responsible for a number of social ills; some readers objected to his argument, which he defended in a Readers React piece on Saturday.

Tell me if I should take my kids to church: @PaulMThornton


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