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My Child Doesn't Believe in God. Is It My Fault?

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Elizabeth Lindell: My 11-year-old daughter told me last week that she does not believe in God. She said it firmly, said that she stands by it and that a lot of people feel the way she does.

kid inside a church
I told her that I agreed with her about evolution, and she replied with, "Well, then, what did God do?" I did not have an answer. I didn't know whether to feel extremely proud of her intelligence and strength to stand by her beliefs, or wonder if I had failed somewhere by not taking her to church or temple service. 

I grew up Catholic and attended Catholic school, but when it came time for me to make my confirmation, I didn't want to do it. I was in seventh grade -- a year older than my daughter is now -- and I knew that standing up in front of our church and promising things that I didn't mean was fraudulent. But I did it anyway, because I felt I had no choice. 

I wanted my daughter to have choices. In our house, we don't have a Bible, but we do have books about people who seek or have sought to bring about peace and change in the world. I didn't have an answer for my child when she asked her question, but a few days later, while I was driving to pick her up from school, John Lennon's song "Imagine" came on the radio, and some of the lyrics helped things come into focus for me. 

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today ....
Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace ....
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one.

Later, I shared the song with my child (who has recently discovered music), and I told her something I learned in therapy -- which is my church; the place I seek wisdom. I explained that good and bad exist in all of us. It's not either angels or demons. We choose who we are, we choose our lives and goodness comes to us not because we prayed for it, but because we shared it and reached out for it. 

I realized, during that same conversation, that my child knows who she is and what she believes, and is proud to say it. That has been my biggest hope for her.

next: Is Your Caregiver Undermining Your Parenting?
25 comments so far | Post a comment now
Mary November 8, 2010, 9:22 AM

This is sad.

JD in Van November 8, 2010, 9:26 AM

I am in the opposite situation as you. I’m an agnositic. I haven’t gone to church since I was about 13 and I really had no desire to. My 10 year old daughter has, with out my influence what so ever, come to feverantly believe in god, and has held onto her belief for several years.

You know what? I’m okay with that. I believe there’s a few things that we have to let our children decide on their own: Their politics, their faith and their sexuality.

In my case I attend church with and for my daughter because she wishes to be faithful. I keep my mouth shut unless she asks me questions and even then I do my best to keep my own biases from hindering her curiousity. I hope you give your daughter the same room to develope her own thoughts and beliefs, the rewards are great.

Because now my daughter is aware my views differ from hers and that, despite that I’ve allowed her to explore on her own, and even encouraged her to do so, she’s more trusting of me now to bring up other ideas she has that are differant from my own. This is crucial I think, to getting through the ensuring tween and teen years with our relationship in tact.

Anon November 8, 2010, 9:39 AM

I think the fact that your daughter can believe something different from you and tell you about it shows that you’re doing something right! Just share your beliefs with her and why you believe them.

I wouldn’t worry about it too much, she’s only 11. Many people change their mind about religion a few times in their lives.

Robin November 8, 2010, 11:53 AM

Religion and Evolution are not mutually exclusive. Just because one thing evolves from something else does not mean that there was not a greater plan or purpose behind that evolution. I’m always surprised that I never hear someone argue that things evolved because God wanted them to. Maybe I just have different perspective because I’m spiritually religious and not a Christian. Dunno.

Pamela Morrissey  November 8, 2010, 3:34 PM

Very intelligent young lady you have there well done

Pamela Morrissey  November 8, 2010, 3:34 PM

Very intelligent young lady you have there well done

really November 8, 2010, 4:34 PM

It really isn’t a problem. I love kids who are that confident. And it is possible to believe in evolution and in God. God,or Spirit, didn’t do things like the Bible said but was still the origin of the universe. Or put another way, God IS science. As your daughter grows up, she may change her mind on this issue anyway. The more I learn, the more confident I am about Spirit and the afterlife.

Renee November 8, 2010, 5:43 PM

Your daughter shows tremendous self awareness in stating that. Everyone has a right to their beliefs, and while she may have been taught to believe in God if you HAD gone to church, that wouldn’t change how she felt at her core. If she knows what God is, she’s either going to believe or she’s not.

I admire you for leaving religion out of the picture. When my children were young I was very careful to make sure I took them to church; however, when I realized that my own beliefs in the way the church taught religion didn’t mesh with what my children were hearing, I realized I needed to leave it up to them. Their father is buddhist, and I am now a happy pagan. There are copies of the Bible, the Tao Te Ching and several books on paganism around our house. My daughter is a fervent Baptist, my older son is fascinated with the Greek gods and my youngest…well, he’s still figuring it out. Whatever they decide, I’m okay with.

A Christian November 9, 2010, 5:14 AM

You say that you have given your child a choice, yet the story says that you have no bibles in the home, and have not taken her to church or synagogue. It sounds like you have not given her a choice, but have instilled your beliefs in her. A choice indicates that you have shown her both sides, and she has picked one, Congratulations on having a child that feels free enough to speak her mind, but you are fooling yourself if you feel she has made her own choice. She is merely voicing the opinion of the home, as she sees it. God and evolution are not mutually exclusive.

Maureen November 9, 2010, 7:05 AM

What a sad commentary. So another child is led by a moral compass spelled “ME.” Yes, mom. Sounds like you have taught her well.

Mom November 9, 2010, 9:15 AM

To “A Christian”…you don’t need a Bible around and you don’t need church attendance to be Christian. It is a value system and whether someone goes to a specific buidling at a certain time is unimportant.

Mom November 9, 2010, 9:17 AM

So judgmental, Maureen. I guess there is no room in your world for differences? She HAS taught her well. Bravo! We need more thinkers and less sheeple.

Linda B. November 9, 2010, 10:41 AM

So sad to hear that you think you don’t have God in your life and that you don’t even have a Bible. I am a Lutheran and blieve in God with all my heart & soul. Whether you want to believe is totally up to you, but just know that he is with you every hour of every day thru His Holy Spirit and the freedom from sin that His Son Jesus Christ won for you, your daughtter and every human being. I suggest you go back to your childhood and remember what you learned. READ THE BIBLE! I’m sure you will change your mind. Or I should say, the Holy Spirit will help change your mind. We have a Triune God, three in one, Father (God) Son (Jesus) and Holy Spirit. I will pray for you and your daughter.

TRUE BELIEVER November 9, 2010, 12:56 PM

This for so called MOM,PAMELA, RENEE and all the unbelievers out there.Step up and be the “PARENT” and not a spineless jellyfish.You need to teach your kids about OUR LORD,The one and only JESUS CHRIST!He’s the WAY,the TRUTH and the LIFE.Without him we are NOTHING!JOHN 3:18, He that believeth on him is not condemned:but he that believeth not is condemned already.Because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten SON OF GOD. Read PSALMS 9.Anyways,how can anyone believe in evolution when THE BIBLE clearly teaches & proves that GOD created the HEAVENS and the EARTH and made man(GENESIS 1&2) in his image.We did not not come from monkeys!You can not live a bless,peaceful and abundant life if you do not have knowledge of who GOD is. Our FAITH is not based on how we feel but who we know.Right believing produce right living.I’ll pray for you cause I see you don’t know the true GOD yet and that means that you must be praying to something that doesn’t exist and your prayers will never be answered.Hope you find the truth before it’s too late.

TRUE BELIEVER November 9, 2010, 1:00 PM

At least Linda knows what I’m talking about.

A Christian November 10, 2010, 5:40 AM

Obviously, this article has caused a lot of controversy. My comment earlier about the Bible and going to church doesn’t imply that you have to have those items to be a Christian. There are many people that do that, and are not true Christians, and others that don’t attend church and are very Christian. What I was trying to say is that for a child to have made a “choice”, as this author seemed to be so proud of, the child has to have been given the opportunity to learn both sides. If she has never been given the opportunity to learn about our loving God, how can she intelligently make a choice? Especially one that this parent seems to be SO PROUD of. Yes, the world is full of differences, and God wants us to be tolerant of our fellow man and not be judgemental. We need to love our neighbors. But, this article seems to be from a mother that is so proud of the fact that her daughter has decided that she doesn’t believe in God all on her own, yet she states quite clearly that she hasn’t taught her about God. This is not something to be proud of. And from the title…..that includes, “is it my fault?” makes you wonder if she realizes that she should have at least taught her about God. Then, if her daughter has been shown both sides, and chooses to voice her opinion freely, then that is different.
To use a song from what, the 60’s as her guidance?? Think about the 60’s….not the most ethical of times. I was around during the 60’s, and I wouldn’t use things that came out of that era as a measuring stick of good parenting. Read some of the other articles that this author has written….she is very judgemental about parenting. Someday she will be judged also. At least she can rest assured that God still loves her, and her daughter.

Carey Falter November 10, 2010, 9:08 AM
TRUE BELIEVER November 12, 2010, 10:39 AM

This for “A CHRISTIAN”.I do agree with most of what you said and it’s true that there are many people that call themselves christians when they are not. But I disagree where you said that some people don’t attend CHURCH and are very CHRISTIAN. That’s impossible!How can you say that? Are you a born again christian? If you are than you should know that in order to be a TRUE CHRISTIAN you need to attend church to hear the WORD, read the BIBLE and apply it to your life so you can have a relationship with the one and only OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST.

Rachel November 12, 2010, 12:31 PM

I knew there wasn’t a god when my father took me to church when I was three. I knew there wasn’t one when my mother took me to synagogue when I was seven. And, I know there is not one today. I have read the Bible, the Torah, and the Qur’an each in its entirety. I recognize the stories for what they are: fables—many with good moral guidance. But none contain absolute truths about our world, as evidenced by the fact that multiple such books exists. I wish all the believers (this group includes many of my closest friends and relatives) the very best, and I ask them to kindly refrain from imposing their beliefs on me. My children will have access to these books, and I will encourage them to read them all, but I will do so because of their place in the western philosophical canon and because I want my children to understand the belief systems of others, even if those others don’t always understand them themselves.

Rachel November 12, 2010, 12:43 PM

Also, as an FYI to True Believer: caps lock does not make your point any more valid or authoritative. It simply makes you appear to be shouting like a crazy person.

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