I finally gave up Christianity when I was 15,” wrote the famous atheist Richard Dawkins in Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide. Dawkins hoped to reach the rising generation of kids with the good news that they don’t need religion. In the decades since the New Atheist movement launched, you might think this was the only message sounding from the academic world. But this is simply not the case.
Religious belief was supposed to decline as modernization swept the world. But it hasn’t. Being a world-class academic and a serious, orthodox Christian was supposed to be increasingly untenable. But it isn’t. Giving up on religion was supposed to make people happier, healthier, and more moral. But it doesn’t. In fact, even Dawkins has had to acknowledge (grudgingly) the evidence that people who believe in God seem to behave better than those who don’t.
Broadly speaking, religious belief and practice seems to be good for society—and good for kids. Writing in The Wall Street Journal in 2019, therapist Erica Komisar gave this provocative advice: “Don’t believe in God? Lie to your children.”
Komisar was not shooting in the dark. There is growing evidence that regular religious practice is measurably good for the health, happiness, and pro-social behavior of our kids. In a recent study, the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health found that it contributes to a wide range of health and well-being outcomes later in life. Of course, none of this means that belief in God is right, or that Christianity is true. It should, however, give us pause before assuming our kids are better off without religion.
If this data is challenging for nonreligious parents, then declining interest ...1
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