If Christianity is true… Wait, calm down everybody, this isn’t going to be Pascal’s Wager, I promise. Hang on though, first a little background, and the motivation for this direction of thinking.
My wife and I have three amazing kids. Four year old twins and an almost three year old. We deconverted about a year and a half ago, and I am so incredibly happy that we left Christianity when we did. We never began teaching our kids any kind of religion, and they won’t be taught, at least not by us. We are raising them as freethinkers. We encourage them to reason things out on their own, and when they ask questions, we try to give realistic answers. These answers need to be age appropriate, of course, so it’s not always easy to figure out the best approach. If they ask where babies come from, well… we don’t feel a need to launch into an anatomy lesson then straight into sex ed. It’s more along the lines of “well, babies grow in mamma’s tummy”. That’s usually good enough.
They recently asked about death though. That’s harder. A lot harder. We watch a lot of science and nature shows, and some of them involve animals doing what animals do: hunting other animals. They’ve also seen dead birds and the like. They’ve stepped on bugs. They get that animals are alive, and then at some point, they aren’t. We didn’t choose to teach them about death, but dammit, they’re smart. They figured it out on their own.
They also put two and two together and asked if they’re going to die. We told them that everyone dies, and that yes, someday, a long long long long long time from now, they will die. One asked if her body will fall apart and will you be able to see her bones (where they come up with this stuff I don’t know). But she doesn’t want her body to fall apart. Well… you won’t know. It’ll be like you’re asleep and you just won’t wake up. At that point she seemed satisfied and ran off to play again.
It was heartbreaking. Should we have comforted them with a myth that they’ll have some kind of afterlife where they go to a happy happy joy joy place to play with Legos forever? Is it easier for Christian parents to give a shrink-wrapped feel-good answer that makes everyone happy and everybody can move on? It seems clear that it is easier at the moment, but is it better? Does it ultimately help? Is it a positive thing?
I submit that it is not. Belief in an afterlife doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and ultimately, even if not right away, there will be more questions surrounding the idea of an afterlife. And of course the ultimate goal of Christian parents is to teach their children Christian beliefs. But is that a good thing?
If Christianity is true (and for the sake of argument we’ll assume that the Christian god is good and moral) then believing in and teaching Christianity would be good. In fact it would be the best possible thing one could do. Not believing would be terrible. Of course Christian parents believe that what they are teaching their children is true.
On the other hand, if Christianity is not true, then believing in it would be a negative thing. What’s more, teaching children to believe:
- There is an invisible being in the sky who watches us every moment of every day
- We are born broken and can never please this being
- We must beg forgiveness for simply being born
- We can be convicted of thought-crime
- We can be sent to hell to be tortured forever
- We can pray to alleviate our guilt for, and avoid consequences of, bad actions
- Angels and demons exist and evil spirits can tempt you or even possess you
- We should devalue our life now in favor of another one after we die
- We must devote time and money to a church organization
If the Christian god does not exist, teaching children these things would certainly be a terrible thing. In fact I think any reasonable person would conclude that if these things are false, then teaching them to children would amount to no less than emotional abuse. I can hear the objection from a Christian parent now though.
“So you think I’m abusing my child?”
While some atheists would, I would not go so far as to say Christian parents are abusing their children by teaching them to believe in Christianity. I would draw a distinction between that and an abusive SYSTEM, of which the parents are also victims. Christian and atheist parents are equally capable of loving their children, and they want what’s best for them.
So we have two sides. Christianity is either true or it is not. If it is true then believing and teaching it is very good. If it is not true then believing and teaching it is terrible. Now what?
Provide evidence. If Christianity is indeed true, and the claims of the Bible are true, then evidence should be no problem. Not only that but there should be no evidence of any kind that contradicts the Bible.
Yet despite all the yelling and screaming from the Ken Hams and Eric Hovinds of the world, much of the Bible is still either not evidently true, or evidently not true. There is far from sufficient evidence to support the extraordinary claims of the Bible. Were such evidence available, every rational atheist would cease to be an atheist.
That’s the funny part. I know of Christians who say nothing can change their mind. They say they know they are right, and will deny anything that may indicate their belief could be wrong, including science and even reality itself. Rational atheists, on the other hand, will readily change our views if provided evidence. It doesn’t matter what we want to think, we will accept what is indicated by evidence.
So why doesn’t their “evidence” convince us? Because none of it is logically or factually sound. Of course, Christians will disagree. Since is seems convincing to them, there must be some other reason, but that’s another post.
But until we have some reason to think Christianity may be true, we will continue giving our kids answers based in reality, and I think that’s better.