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Is Raising Your Kid in Religion a Form of Child Abuse?

A few years ago, I was having dinner with a friend talking about atheism. Curious me, was asking lots of questions at one point they said, “I think that raising your kid in religion is a form of child abuse”

At the time, I was strongly opposed but now that I’ve spent some time outside of the world of religion, I’ve gained a different perspective. 

I think if you asked a handful of adults who grew up in the Christian Church about their experiences, you’d get about three different general responses. They would say something along the lines of,

“It was alright, but not for me”

“It was a blessing to grow up in a Christian home and it was a blessing. I will raise my children the way my parents did”

“My parents were very religious was sheltered. I have a lot of traumas from being raised in the church”

I don’t think that I can come up with a conclusion on this concept without receiving a hate email from those who are active in church, or the ones who aren’t. I see somewhat valid points on both sides. 

My perspective at the time was, what if Jesus is the true one and only god? By that logic, if you don’t share the gospel, you aren’t sending your child to hell (because god sends people to hell), but you also aren’t doing anything to prevent it. I understand why Christian parents have such a sense of urgency to get their children dedicated and baptized within the Christian church. The thought of your child dying, and going to eternal damnation would be terrifying. My question is, would these parents have these same convictions if they were born in a different part of the world and to a different family? Would they be as passionate about Christianity if they grew up in a different religion? Do they have genuine belief or did the anxiety of judgment that has manifested into a genuine belief? 

On the other end, from experience being within the ultra-Christian community, can have elements that are traumatic to a child. While my parents were not neglectful, I had certain worry’s when I was young, that I had no business being worried about such as, not being modest (Which is crazy now to look back on), being “Left behind” or dying without having true salvation. I think a lot of my childhood, I spent having anxiety but also feeling left out because I wasn’t allowed to dress like my peers, listen to mainstream music, or even have the same school curriculum in school as most kids my age. 

While my parents didn’t neglect. I know of many children whose parents didn’t provide the bare minimum within the name of god. The parents did things like refusing to use birth control then having kids that they weren’t financially or physically ready to have. They “Blanket trained” the babies (look up the book ‘To raise up a child’). The older children ended up being the main caretakers for the younger siblings. Not believing in traditional medicine and not taking their kids for proper checkups and vaccine appointments. Not using hardly any other textbooks besides the bible in homeschool. In my state, there are hardly any requirements for homeschoolers and zero equivalent testings.

Is there a middle ground? Can you expose a child to Christianity or any religion for that matter without them developing trauma? Can the gospel be presented without shame? Is it alright as long as you aren’t neglecting your child from education and culture? At what point is it appropriate to start introducing the different religions? 

I don’t know the answers, and I don’t know if there’s one specific correct answer. I think being flexible and having frequent “Check-ins” with your child is the key. 

– Lama-Leah 

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