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Study: Some atheists with children attend religious services
December 7th, 2011
06:00 AM ET

Study: Some atheists with children attend religious services

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – Nearly one in five atheist scientists with children involve their families with religious institutions, even if they personally do not agree with the institutions teachings, a recent study says.

The study, conducted by Rice University and the University at Buffalo, found that these scientists affiliate with churches for both social and personal reasons. Additionally, the scientists indicated a strong desire to prepare their children to make educated decisions about their personal religious preference.

“This was so surprising to us just because of all of the public discussion about the ways in which scientists are very against religions people,” said Elaine Howard Ecklund, a sociologist at Rice. “When in fact, those we might most expect to be against religious people are sitting alongside them.”

Study participants also indicated they were involved in a religious institution because of the religious preferences of a spouse or partner.

One of the most interesting findings, according to Ecklund, was that some atheist scientists want to expose their children to religion due to scientific reasoning.

"We thought that these individuals might be less inclined to introduce their children to religious traditions, but we found the exact opposite to be true," Ecklund said. "They want their children to have choices, and it is more consistent with their science identity to expose their children to all sources of knowledge."

Ecklund said there were cases in which survey respondents identified that not only did they introduce their children to one church, but they also attended other religious services in the hope that the children would better understand each denomination.

"I think that understanding how nonreligious scientists utilize religion in family life demonstrates the important function they have in the U.S.," Ecklund said.

Sociologist Kristen Schultz Lee of University of Buffalo co-authored the study, which can be found in the December issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

The data was pulled from a survey of 2,198 tenured or tenure-track faculty at 21 U.S. research universities. Around half of survey respondents identified a form of religious identity, while the other half did not.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Atheism • Church • Culture & Science

soundoff (2,129 Responses)
  1. Bryan

    What a stupid article.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • goddog

      The more scientific the public becomes and with the rise of Atheism articles like this are meant to justify science with religion in the hope that people will not question their faith, or be lead to believe that their religion is scientifically sound. You see the same ploy with creationism. It really is clever but it's a losing battle. Science and religion have nothing to do with each other and one should not have anything to say about the other.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
  2. Tim

    I think it's great when people claim that scientists are "against religious people", yet no one ever considers or realizes that most scientists actually DO NOT CARE about religious people or religion whatsoever. It is not on our radar. The only people making a big deal out of it are the religious people who want to convert the scientists b/c they're brains are too small to grasp that not all the truth in the world comes from one poorly written book.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Brandon

      Their* brains 🙂

      December 7, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • goddog

      So glad that you took the time to make that correction Brandon. It may make you right but it also makes you rude. How old are you, 13?

      December 7, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • goddog

      I agree with you Tim, except for the brain part. The ability to suspend disbelief is a phenomenon with equal distribution throughout the IQ range.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • Tim

      Haha, good points. The brain size comment, was certainly intended not to be taken literally, just a little satire. I certainly know a lot of scientists that have a huge capacity to suspend reality for their own purposes

      December 7, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
  3. kso

    "people of faith — people who seriously pin their hopes on a highly conditional and dubious promise of an afterlife — are led by an ancient authority, not by their own personal quest. Nothing about our experience of reality needs or requires faith. The only reason anybody needs faith is to accept unreality. Things not known to exist. Impossible things. Faith isn’t about the truth: it’s about denying the truth. Staking one’s life on faith is surrendering one’s quest for understanding. Faith and truth are incompatible. If you have faith, you don’t want the truth.

    Faith is the opposite of curiosity. Curiosity is about experience and learning: faith is about the afterlife and death. By denying the finality of death, faith prevents us from accepting it. It must be terribly frightening to face death knowing that your faith in a baseless promise of immortality will be put to the final test. And even then, your immortal soul could be destined for hell if you don’t measure up to God’s standards. Was your faith pure enough? Did you make God proud?

    Curiosity is far better than faith; especially if it leads you to accept life for what it is. Coming to terms with death, means coming to terms with life. And vice versa. Besides . . . would a Creator of the universe really be so petty and vindictive that he would punish you forever? If you really thought about it, you’d have no fear of hell . . . but the idea of heaven should really creep you out."

    December 7, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  4. CT

    As an atheist, I'm not at all surprised at this study. I grew up attending church, and it was where I met many people I still consider friends more than 20 years later. I made my own decision on whether to believe/not believe during my college years. I do not yet have children, but when I do, I fully intend to take them to church. How can someone decide to be for or against religion if they're not exposed to it?
    Perhaps the difference if that atheists are scientific thinkers, so they want to evaluate both sides of something before making a decision. Perhaps many believers (NOT all) think in more absolute terms, so they can't understand why an atheist would expose their children to something they themself do not believe.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  5. kace47

    I am an atheist, and I raised my children to make their own decisions about theology (and everything else for that matter) by exposing them to the resources and information they needed to make informed decisions. Part of my disgust with religion is the fact that free thought is discouraged, and I refuse to impose my beliefs, or lack thereof, on others. As a result, of my two grown children, one is faithful and one is an atheist.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Not All Docs Play Golf

      Good for you. Most people "inherit" their religious beliefs from their parents. Allowing your children appropriate exposure to both science and faith, then alowing them to find themselves, is excellent parenting.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • Junius Gallio

      And I would be willing to bet that you love both equally, and that their "belief" or "disbelief" matters not one whit.

      My hat is off to you, Kace. Would that more of us, from both sides of the debate, could learn from your example.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • Not All Docs Play Golf

      And I'll bet your atheist child is every bit as ethical and caring as the reigious one. Religion doesn't have a monoply on morality and ethics.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  6. Dustin

    Ecklund always spins the data to say exactly the opposite of what the data suggests. If you read her paper, only 17% of atheist scientists took their children to church at least twice a year (probably Easter and Christmas). Yes, there were cases where parents wanted to expose their children to other beliefs, but the vast majority did it because of the beliefs of their spouse/partner. It's not impressive that 1 in 6 scientists, although they know science and religion are incompatible (belief should require empirical evidence), choose to placate their spouses. Stop trying to make scientists seem more religious than they are.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • Jim

      @Dustin
      Thanks for writing that so I didn't have to.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • Jason

      @Dustin
      Would it be more impressive if 1 in 6 Christians taught their children that there is a possibility there is not a god. I think it would be just impressive, except I do not think that is true.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • Dustin

      Not if they did it to placate their atheist spouse. Most atheists (myself included), if you press them, will admit that God could in principle exist, we just find it highly unlikely/lacking any evidence whatsoever (although some say that absence of evidence is evidence of absence if the evidence should be there but isn't). A Christian who is married to an atheist scientist would probably freely admit they could be wrong. The problem is they have no empirical reason to believe they are right.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  7. Stephanie

    Dear Angry American,

    My mother was an atheist and died an atheist. There...now you know of someone.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
  8. Jackson Spade

    Someone once said, "Do no equate misunderstanding with non-existence.....just because we can't fathom a theory doesn't mean the potential for its proof would be impossible". I like what these scientists are doing because within the realm of science there has been no infallible evidence that a "superior being" doesn't exist, so they are exploring avenues of possibility. I think that it is an astute step toward an unbiased approach to rearing children.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • Dustin

      Yes, but a consequence of the scientific outlook is that you don't believe in something just because it can't be disproven. I can't disprove the invisible pink unicorn, but I and most rational people would say that it doesn't exists. Belief in God and Heaven are comforting, and their is nothing wrong with hoping, but I feel the default position should be skepticism. However, I do think it is good to be educated about widespread belief systems, I just don't agree with the interpretation of the author of this study.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • There are no gods!

      There is plenty of "infallible evidence that a superior being does not exist". If it did exist, where is it? No one has seen it, spoken to it, heard from it, etc etc etc. Yet, you and other religious nuts like you continue to demand that it does exist. Ok, if it exists. . . where is it? There. Are. No. Gods!

      December 7, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • Dustin

      I didn't get the impression that the author of this post was a religious nut...

      December 7, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • Mark from Canada

      Nothing in science can be stated with absolute certainty, except perhaps that we exist. The rest is theoretical and this does not mean a speculative guess either. Scientific theories are grounded in fact, experiments, evidence, and are disposed of when falsified by experiment. Some will claim that you cannot frame God as a theory, because it cannot be tested. I don't subscribe to this idea at all. God is not a thing of existence, but an idea embedded in culture and mind. We know that not a whisper of prayer was stated prior to the dawn of human kind, dinosaurs did not pray to God. Billions of years went by without the slightest thought of God. We can biogeographically trace the origins and spread of religion and study the linguistic evolution through religious text. It is clear that God is a linguistical culturgen that spreads from parent to child. It is not a force that telepathically communicates to Christians and Muslims while hovering in the stars. These things have been tested and proven. We can say that God as a culturgen is a fact in as much as the evolutionary history of life is a fact. Science is not a march toward certainty nor objective truth, it is a way of knowing and a collective enterprise that sets out to destroy ideas that cannot latch onto the reality that surrounds us. In this way, God is as invisible and as real as luminiferous aether. For this, millions of people go to war and die for their God. It is a shame.

      I am an athiest and I have a child that I also bring to church for the reasons outlined in this article. I bring my child to the Sikh temple on day and to a Catholic church the next. Sometimes we go to the protestant church or a Buddhist temple. We explore knowledge together, but mostly I'm interested in people and I love people of all races and all religions. I just wish the wars would stop and the right-wing extremism meshing politics with religion in the United States the likes of Gingrich and the rest of the GOP line-up is exactly what creates the wars and poverty in the world.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • fred

      Mark from Canada
      You left you Canadian Beacon exposed to the world with your last liberal sentence. Never forget it was an atheist’s communist that said “we will bury you grandchildren”. Never forget Stalin, Pol Pot and other great atheist war mongers. You like 80% of Americans that go to the polls each year vote like they did in High School. The democrats tagged religious nuts to the Republican Party and you buy it hook line and sinker. You probably think republicans are the party of the rich another false tag by democrats. Nine of the top ten wealthiest elected to political office in the U.S. are democrats. There is your fact, now pass the beacon.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • Yo!

      "Never forget Stalin, Pol Pot and other great atheist war mongers."

      Don't forget the war monger George W Bush that drove this country into the ground and LIED to the American people then of course we could talk about the Crusades...... You sir are an idiot.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • Dustin

      Really Fred, you brought up Stalin? Hitler and Stalin both had mustaches but nobody thinks that's why they were evil. The problem with Stalin's belief system is that it was too much like a religion....it left no room for doubt and was actually anti-scientific.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • fred

      Yo
      "talk about the Crusades"
      Fewer people were killed in the Christan Crusades than by atheist led godless crusades. It is people that do thes things.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Dustin

      That's because the Christians didn't have missiles...

      December 7, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • fred

      Dustin
      If Stalin belief system was much like religion can we also say most atheists have a belief system much like religion?

      December 7, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Dustin

      Fred, atheism is no more a religion than a-unicornism or a-leprechaunism. The fact is that nobody knows with absolute 100% certainty whether a supreme being exists. However, if there isn't sufficient evidence for something, the rational response is to not believe in it until the evidence arises. But the atheist knows exactly what would change their mind (hint: observable evidence)...the religious fundamentalist knows that nothing will.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • fred

      Dustin
      Atheists discount “observable evidence” when the cause of the observation cannot be proven. Atheists always take given observation beyond the observation itself to argue cause. An example would be a miracle that cannot be explained rationally or within reason of probability is dismissed with hypothetical other possible cause. This is so with creation where the “first cause” is scientific yet “in the beginning God” is dogma and without proof for them. Observable evidence would be along the lines 80 million people were transformed last year in China after reading the Bible. I say there is power in the name of Jesus and there is your proof. Yet, rules of expression label that fact as a logical fallacy thus 80 million observations are tossed out.
      Observation; I am not speaking to you in the present everything I have done and your very reading of this post is in the past. Observation; we do not live in the future yet I know you will be reading this post shortly. Observation; the present is at best nothing or at worst nonexistent. The science of the atheist ignores these obvious observations that surround their very existence. Atheists cannot explain this known proof of God because they cannot or will not see it. This is why when God said “let there be light” atheists are left flat footed in their ability to comprehend how the word of God did this. Flatfooted when John said “in the beginning was the word and the word was with God…and through the word all things were created”

      December 7, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • Yo!

      "Fewer people were killed in the Christan Crusades than by atheist led godless crusades."

      The point is EVERYONE KILLED including Christians, if you look at the various wars that Christians were involved with they too have killed millions and millions of people – that is not an Atheist only thing. DUH!

      December 7, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • Yo!

      "“Observable evidence would be along the lines 80 million people were transformed last year in China after reading the Bible.”

      LOL! Hey fred let’s use your logic. 1.7 billion were transformed after reading the Koran, 1.5 billion are transformed in believing Buddhism, 1 billion are transformed believing in Hinduism. It is all in the power of the name of Muhammad, Buddha, and ātman LOL!

      December 7, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Dustin

      Fred, scientists don't usually talk about a first cause in the sense that you mean. We know from multiple lines of evidence that the observable universe was once confined to a much smaller volume, but the events prior to that, if there were any, remain elusive to us. But we're working on it. We don't get anywhere by labeling our ignorance "God." If God didn't have to be caused, then why did the universe have to be caused? The rest of your post did not make much sense to me, so I can only suggest you pick up a text on the philosophy of science.

      December 7, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  9. PTL

    It is truly great that atheists are attending church services thus, at least acknowledging by that act that there is a God. And if they acknowledge that there is a God by taking the time to go and hear about Him, then what can normally follow is their desire to align with God and become converted. Hopefully, that will follow and all atheists who presently and mistakenly feel that they were self-created will then come to fully realize that they were not and that the One and Only God in fact, was responsible for their creation, thus, their life! We must pray to that end so that our atheist brothers and sisters can partake of all the great things, including Salvation, that God will give to them once they join His family!

    December 7, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • Chuckles

      Please....show me one atheist who believes he/she are "self-created"..... just one.

      Also, no, there is no implied ackowledgment that god exists by entering a church, the same way you don't imply you believe in the Roman gods when you go visit say, the pantheon. Gett.it?

      December 7, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • Derp

      So if you have your kids go to a mall and sit on Santa's lap, are you acknowledging that Santa actually does exist? Some people just like to pretend. Your logic is a joke.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • Bobs your uncle

      I used to do the church thing and now because of science and reason I do not believe any longer. The proof is in the pudding as they say. The church offered 0 proof and a lot of people who went and acted all high and mighty, went right back to being d-bags when they walked out the door..

      No thanks.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • xyx25

      Romans 10:17:
      17So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • Observer

      "It is truly great that atheists are attending church services thus, at least acknowledging by that act that there is a God."

      You didn't read the story. Do you "acknowledge" to kids the existence of Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, and the Tooth Fairy?

      December 7, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Michael

      @PTL – Your reasoning that 'by attending church, atheists admit there is a God' is absolutely baseless. If you disagree, please provide evidence of that deduction. I believe in Wicca, but attend services with my wife and children for precisely the reasons in the study – I have also determined that my atheist friends are also much more educated and cerebral than my friends who are blind followers of one or more mainstream religion. The communion and kindness of churchgoers is a wonderful aspect of religion; the judgmental and pious aspect, however, is 'unGodly' – there are many irrefutable arguments against the existence of a Christian God, although if 'he' were to exist, I am sure 'he' would condemn the distasteful and judgmental bullying of many of 'his' followers...

      December 7, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      They have only acknowledged that their is a church and a religion. That hardly affirms a belief in a god. I believe in the existence of churches, religion and believers. I attended church services as a child, was married in a church and have visited many churches as well as the Vatican. Yet I am not Catholic (never was) nor Christian ( only by birth?) nor believe in supernatural beings.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • B-one

      The best thing ever invented was the Weds night junior prayer meetings. The wife and I drop the kids off for a couple hours, and we get a free babysitter out of the deal, while we go on a quick date night. 😀

      December 7, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • buddget

      two fingers to you

      December 7, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • Michael

      @xyx25... please quote something more substantial than material from a book written by humans. Remember, only about 2.1 billion out of close to 7 billion people would believe anything from the Bible – your scripture has no relevance to the majority. I commend you for knowing the substance of that book, but I suspect more people can quote Shakespeare or Dr. Suess – and with just as much credibility, I'm sure. 🙂

      December 7, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  10. Bryan

    I read someone's reply to an atheist's comment "What if you are wrong?"... Well let's see, if atheists are wrong, then that's great! There is a God who's been looking over us and understanding us, and ready to guide us into an after life. If he's as understanding as he's made out to be, he will certainly appreciate the fact that there just isn't enough real evidence for an intelligent person to devote their lives to his teachings, most of which have been mixed and adulterated with human messages and attempts to gain human power. If the Christian is wrong, however, then there is no afterlife, hence our short, imperfect, Earthly life actually is the closest thing to heaven we will have. And those of us who have spent our lives praying away to a deity were actually just adults with imaginary friends who wasted a lot of their sacred time on the lies of men.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • Ben

      And boom goes the dynamite.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  11. Reasonable

    Maybe I don't quite understand the quote, but is Elaine Howard Ecklund of Rice University saying that atheists are against "religions people" and not the religion itself? This is a very troubling statement and is at the heart of all that divides us as a people. Atheists and the religious alike are smart enough to know that our different beliefs don’t make us “against” each other.

    Summation according to Elaine Howard Ecklund:
    Atheists teach their children about religion which is weird because atheists hate religious people.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • Bobs your uncle

      I have no issue with religious people as long as they do it over there and dont try to include me in it. Problem is, a lot of them wear religion on their sleeve and berate anyone who isnt them.
      Of course there are a number of athiests doing this too...

      December 7, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Observer

      "Atheists teach their children about religion which is weird because atheists hate religious people."

      Atheists don't "hate" religious people anymore than you "hate" them. Just wishful thinking on your part.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • fred

      Observer
      I hate it when your right

      December 7, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  12. Maddy

    Actually, this makes me so happy! My husband and I are athiests and this is exactly how we feel (though I doubt we'll drag our kids to church, that's a little much). We're expecting our first child in March, and we've always felt that our kids should be exposed to religion even if we adamantly don't believe in any because it's important to understand other points of view. We also feel that our kids should come to their own conclusion on religion – if they choose to believe in some higher power when they're older, they have that right.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • xyx25

      good idea!!!!
      Romans 10:17:
      17So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  13. Andrea M

    I somehow suspect that when the man and I have kids in a few years, we won't be taking them to church to give them an alternative view. They can get plenty of choices in religion at home since he's what I like to call an "evangelical atheist" and I'm the weird mix of assorted beliefs and traditions I grew up with. They'll get Christmas and Easter, but only in the nice family time to be normal sense. All this will go out the window of course if they spend a weekend without us at their Grandparents house, but a couple hours of being bored in a church never hurt anyone.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  14. Frank Houston

    One has to be very secure of his or her Atheism to do something like that, as an Atheist I have done this to multiple religious events that friends and family go to. It gives my children a better understanding of why people do things, quite often bad things in the name of religion.

    I don't have to worry about my kids taking on any of those believes. Children are born atheists, they learn religion.

    Now lets see Christians taking their kids to an Atheist event? LOL. They would be too afraid.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • JPX

      "Children are born atheists, they learn religion." Word.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • xyx25

      Psalm 53:1 "The fool [anyone without the wisdom of God] hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good."

      Romans 1:20-23 "20For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things."

      December 7, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Now he's having a go at the birds!!!!!!

      December 7, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • iminim

      I attend a Christian church. We have had seminars led by Jewish, Muslim & atheist leaders from the community. All of this was done in the spirit of understanding different beliefs. Our church youth regularly have organized trips to nonChristian services & meetings to learn about different belief & nonbelief systems. From this approach we have been able to bring different faith & nonfaith organizations together to work together for the benefit of our city. Choices about religious belief do not have to fragment communities. Through acceptance & repect of different faith choices of others, great things can be done.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • Michael

      @xyx25 – simply reprinting quotes from a human-authored scription doesn't make you correct, just a cleric. You must keep in mind that the words you are rehashing have no proven basis as being divine, only that they are written by the hand of men. Convincing men to you, perhaps, but otherwise, they have no more relevance than a casual editorial from the New York Times...

      December 7, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • JLK

      You seem to have all of us Christians pegged, Frank. I am a Christian who interacts quite frequently with non-Christians, atheists included, and I would have no qualms about taking my children to an event hosted by atheists so that my children could become educated about all different belief systems. Some of us actually do think that being in dialogue with people with whom we do not see eye to eye, without one trying to convert the other, is a good thing.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  15. Andrew

    II am on the faculty of a university, and many of my colleagues who identify as athiest/agnostic attend Unitarian Universalist or other liberal congregations which are non-dogmatic and encourage freethinking. These people attend chuch for the same reason mainline Christians do – to explore questions of ethics, belief, and the nature of existence in a welcoming community of like-minded people. There is no conflict here.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  16. kman821

    What utter nonsense ... they ARE NOT Atheists ... they ARE Agnostics!

    December 7, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • StClown

      No, attending a service and holding doubt in your heart with a question of belief in the service, are different things. The people described in the article are not presented as holding belief, only that they want their children to come to their own conclusions, or they stand by the old axiom, "A happy wife makes a happy life."

      I would say it's the insecure person who dogmatically pounds a certain set of beliefs or non-beliefs into its children just to make certain they're indoctrinated the same has s/he was.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  17. smithsdawg

    Yikes! I gotta say that a lot of the responses from atheists in this post are sounding as fanatic as some of the mainstream religions!

    Simon E, your kids are lucky. My Mom did the same and I was fortunate enough to experience many forms of belief which was an enriching experience.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • elflander

      That's because there is a difference between intellectually responsible thought that draws an atheistic conclusion and the sort of adolescent knee-jerk reactions to religion found in forums such as this. I suspect that such half-baked adolescent atheism is spouted by, well, adolescents.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
  18. Corvus1

    OH MY GAWD THERE'S AN ATHEIST THEY'RE FREAKING EVERYWHERE RUN!!!!!!!

    December 7, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
  19. Tony

    Am I the only one who sees a problem with this?

    First yes I am a Christian, I have no problem whatsoever teaching my kid about evolution. Sure things conflict in the teachings of the bible and science. Part of getting over that is Faith and having Faith. I also believe that some things God does are beyond my own understanding. While scientifically I can explain evolution and how it came about it may not always jive with the bible and I have to believe God has his reasons for this that will someday be revealed to me even if not in this life.
    Read a case for Faith by Lee Strobel, great book on how to deal with this conundrum as a christian.
    Ultimately unlike what some are saying here I have no problem exposing my kid to the rest of the world and its beliefs. For me personally it only strengthens my faith by exposing myself and questioning things I do not fear logic and reason I embrace it.

    Secondly what in the heck are Atheists doing taking their kids to church? I'm sorry but this only serves to undermine the church and that child's parents beliefs. It's confusing enough for a kid as is in this world as is without putting a kid in a dual situation. If you want to educate them do it yourself or have them take a religious studies course in a classroom. While church is educational it is also about belief. I welcome everyone to come to church and all are always welcome but only with the right intent.

    And the fact that some on here are hiding their own beliefs about being an atheist from their child is just ridiculous to me. Be open and honest with your kids about your beliefs don't hide it you can educate and still be honest. What does that say about your own beliefs when you feel the need to hide it from your children? And then take them to services for something you are essentially against. I gladly tell my children my beliefs while still encouraging them to make their own choices, the two are not mutually exclusive.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • Ben

      People lie to their kids about Santa Claus, same thing

      December 7, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • JPX

      "Part of getting over that is Faith and having Faith" In other words, don't question things that are obviously ridiculous, right? Faith is just another word for ignorance.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      As an atheist I am more in line with your way of thinking on this topic. I try to teach my children about the religions I'm familiar with and encourage classes and other opportunities to learn about any religion. Whatever your belief, religion is an integral and important part of our culture. My children are perfectly aware of what I think and they too seem to pretty much agree. However, they also know that if they at some time in their lives do become believers that I will not love them any less or not accept them in any way. I know that life situations can lead people toward belief and no one knows what the future will bring to anyone. I do not ridicule those that believe as long as they do not try to force their beliefs on me.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • George Marshall

      Tony there was thing in the article to indicate that the scientists are hiding their beliefs from their children.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • Patrick Lewis

      As an agnostic / atheist I'd ask you, how do you expose your kid to church without... you know... taking them to church? Sitting in a lecture hall listening to a person talk about God or UFO's or Supply side economics, what have you, does not undermine my belief that these things may be bunk and it in no way undermines the speaker. Maybe if I stood up and argued with the guy, but that's not the case here.

      It's arguments like this that make it hard to be respectful and tolerant of ever more radical American Christians. I believe different things than you believe and yet if I start to believe what you believe even a little bit, I have to buy the whole thing. Sorry. I can believe that christian teachings are moral and probably a good idea for a civil society without thinking that God will smite me for certain epithets uttered during the odd football game or while doing home improvements.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • Randy

      @Tony – Just the fact that you are a Christian and have taught your kids about evolution has "undermined" your beliefs and the church. You are telling atheists they can't have it both ways then neither can you. The church does not believe in the evolution of man. The bible explicity declares that man was put on this earth by god and has not evolved from monkeys. Aren't you confusing your children?

      December 7, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • LynCat

      Tony, I think you mis-read the article. With atheists taking kids to church – it is not about hiding anything. On the contrary, it about exposing them to a full range of choice – all beliefs – including not believing at all – so they are fully informed as to possibilities and confident to make their own decisions. Our daughter has attended many kinds of churches, temples and synagogs, with emphasis on the "bring your own God" type of demonations – such as Unitarian and Unity.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Walrus1967

      I agree with you, Tony. I would never send my children to church in order to learn about religion. As you said, church is about belief. The Sunday school teachers and the pastors will be treating bible stories, etc., as fact. When children are presented something as fact by adults, they believe it. They have no reason not to. They are so trusting. I would prefer to instruct them at home. They do need to know about Christianity and all the cultural stuff that goes with it, but church is the absolute wrong place for them to learn it.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • OS2toMAC

      Well, the reason I do not tell my young son that I am an Agnostic (leaning toward Atheism) and tell him why, is because I do not want him to be bullied/ridiculed by the children he goes to school with and others. I live in the south, not a great place to be an Agnostic (with Atheistic leanings).

      I was brought up Catholic, and fairly religious until about 12. We don't take him to church, though would if my Wife wanted to. He does occasionally ask questions about what God and Angels are (he must be getting some of this from school/classmates), I do my best to tell him what the christian belief is. I can't really get into other religions, as I have no background in them.

      He does like to ask about aliens as well (and watches "Ancient Aliens" with me at times.) I again do my best to explain that I don't know if they truly exist, but I think they do.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • goddog

      I respect your sentiments. As an Atheist I would only step into a church for companionship at the request of a loved one. I don't understand how an Atheist going to church undermines the church or religion though. You can't even look into the hearts of the ones who do call themselves faithful to see their motives. A good number of people go to church just in case there is a god. Science isn't about disproving a god there just isn't any evidence. If there were evidence the scientific community would be all over it. My kids know that I am an Atheist. I never preach that they should be or not be religious. My 12 yo son does not believe in a god while my 9 yo daughter does. I will support and love my children either way. I do have to admit that I have strong feelings against organized religion of any kind. You state that you are logical and reasonable as a lot of religious people claim. I have never heard anyone tell me what makes your god any more real than any of the hundreds of god that people worship? Is it just a coincidence that most likely a person will join the faith of their geography?

      December 7, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • StClown

      I tend to be a quiet atheist, only discussing it with close friends (and not in the OMG FLYING SPAGHETTI MONSTER way) when a relevant topic comes around. One of my friends had such a discussion with me for a solid month, give or take. She gave me, and I've read Lee Strobel's book. As an atheist, it did nothing for me. I can see why it reinforces a Christian's belief, but it will do nothing to sway an atheist. It glosses over the counterarguments, simply stating that this theologian or another that was interviewed for the book roundly defeated his atheist opponent in some debate or another.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
  20. Ryan

    I am not able to classify myself at the moment. If i had to, I would say I am atheist with a light shade of deist. My wife and family/friends attend church and i grew up in church so I am not overly critical of their views (anymore). The religious people I know are good and moral people with a strong sense of community, but they know that I am unable to believe what they do just like I couldn't convince them that the sky is yellow.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.