Raising Children With or Without God

By Robin Schumacher

CNN's iReport recently carried a blog post entitled "Why I Raise My Children Without God" (which CNN says is the 2nd highest viewed post ever on their iReport site) by an atheist Texas blogger named TXBlue08. Her blog site, "Kids Without Religion", is all about "raising kids as independent, logical thinkers".

In her post, she puts forth seven reasons why she's decided to bring up her children without a belief in God. Being a Christian and a parent, I thought I'd work through each one of her arguments and explain why, as opposed to TXBlue08, I've decided to raise my children with God.

Argument #1 – God is a Bad Parent and Role Model

Four out of her seven arguments deal with the problem of reconciling an omnibenevolent and omnipotent Creator with the fact that we live in a world full of evil, pain, and suffering. The problem of theodicy is typically an atheist's primary objection to God and has been dealt with and debated by believers and unbelievers for centuries.

The first argument is that God is a bad moral role model. She complains that good people "don't condone violence and abuse" and anticipates the often-used free will argument of Christians for explaining evil by proactively responding, "Our children have free will, but we still step in and guide them."

And God hasn't?

"For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6). God has shown Himself to us personally in Jesus Christ, who can easily be analyzed as to His role model "worthiness".

When is Jesus—the second Person of the Trinity and God incarnate—ever recorded as condoning violence or abuse? Isn't He the one who tells us to love our enemies and turn the other cheek? Doesn't His teaching serve as a perfect guide for living and treating others with love and compassion? What possible atheist role model would be better than Jesus?

Contrary to what TXBlue08 says, Christ is the finest—dare I say "sinless"—role model ever, with His life having more positive moral impact on the world than any other in history. This is one reason I choose to raise my children with God.

Argument #2 – God is Not Logical

Her second argument is really a repeat of the first. She says that, in the face of so many tragedies such as the recent Newton massacre, God is just not logical. If the Christian God existed, then (a la Scottish skeptic David Hume's famous argument) evil wouldn't.

Some atheists like TXBlue08 complain a lot about evil, which I find interesting, because with atheism, there really is no way to concretely identify good or evil. This assertion usually causes a visceral reaction among atheists, however it shouldn't. It's something that has been clearly and correctly articulated by a number of key atheist spokespersons down through history, including thinkers such as Nietzsche [1] and Richard Dawkins [2]. What you have in atheism is emotive human opinion regarding good and evil—nothing more.

Such isn't the case with God. As C. S. Lewis observed, "A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line" [3]. With God and His Word, we have a clear, transcendent source and standard of objective moral values and duties vs. having nothing of the kind with atheism. This is another reason why I choose to raise my children with God.

Argument #3 – God is Not Fair

Her third complaint is, again, a repeat of the first two. She argues that if God existed, then all prayers would be answered in the way that people want, human deformities would not exist, and evil people would not flourish here on earth.

Regarding the persistent atheist complaint about evil, I've had the following exchange with atheists a number of times that helps them think about the thing for which they're really asking:
Me: You think God should remove all evil from this world?
Atheist: Yes, if God existed, He should rid the world of evil!
Me: What if He starts with you?
Atheist: [silence]
But let's return to the subject of fairness.

First, what standard does the writer appeal to for fairness? Atheism's framework consists only in survival of the fittest, which knows nothing of fairness. According to atheism, mindless matter and blind impersonal forces accidentally produced a hostile and meaningless environment that cares nothing for its offspring. You certainly don't get equality and fairness from that.

But what you do get is something that is responsible for the overwhelming majority of human suffering and brutality in history. Contrary to popular atheist rhetoric, it is not religion but secular regimes and their naturalistic philosophy that have consistently steamrolled over human life and dignity in the past [4].

Second, no, God is not fair. But believe me, none of us wants God to be fair. If God were fair and we all got what we truly deserved, then we would have a repeat of something like the universal flood where God actually did choose to rid the world of evil.

But even though Jesus said we are all evil (Matthew 7:11), God "makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:45). He offers His gift of salvation to unworthy people as well, which includes all of us (John 3:16). No, God is not fair; instead, He is incredibly merciful and forgiving.

God's kindness and goodness teaches my children mercy and grace. This example instructs them to extend such things to undeserving people and forgive as God has forgiven us. This is another reason why I choose to raise my children with God.

Argument #4 – God Does Not Protect the Innocent

Her next argument is that God "does not keep our children safe" and asks, "Why can't God, with all his powers of omnipotence, protect the innocent?" It's yet another rehash of the God and evil line of reasoning but in a different key.

I find this rhetoric interesting as almost all atheists I've encountered champion the right of abortion. I wonder if TxBlue08 does? If so, then it would be interesting to see her reconcile this complaint with the fact that you can't find another being more innocent than a baby in its own mother's womb.

Regardless, I would argue that God does indeed protect the innocent and those in need through His people and moral law. God's Word says that pure religion is to "look after widows and orphans in their distress" (James 1:27) and that God hates "hands that shed innocent blood" (Proverbs 6:17).

History bears this truth out in stark clarity for all to see. When the Greeks and Romans were tossing their unwanted babies off bridges, it was Christians in boats rescuing the children from their otherwise certain death. The countless Christian hospitals, food kitchens, homeless shelters, orphanages, adoption agencies, and other similar institutions, all founded on the desire to show God's compassion toward those in need, is a clear testimony of God protecting the innocent.

But what about such places founded on the atheist worldview. Are there charitable institutions purely guided by the naturalistic/evolutionary philosophy? If they exist, the numbers pale in comparison to those started, run, and motivated by a belief in a loving God.

When you contrast the teachings of Christ with those of atheist thinkers like Nietzsche who despised religion precisely because it cares for the weak, it's not hard to understand why I choose to raise my children with God.

Argument #5 – God is Not Present

This argument takes a detour from the first four that focused on evil and asserts, "Telling our children to love a person they cannot see, smell, touch, or hear does not make sense."

It doesn't? I've lost a number of loved ones in my life that I can't see or hear right now, but I still love them.

But, in general, what she seems to be saying is that God is imaginary, something not real and created by humanity's fears and hopes. In essence, this isn't really an argument at all but more of a personal assertion that cannot be proven at all and something driven by her naturalistic worldview.

However, I would argue that God is indeed present. The Psalmist said, "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there" (Psalm 139:7-8).

Further, God has indeed been present with us in tangible form. Jesus, as God, took on human form and became like us so that we could see could experience Immanuel, "God with us" (cf. Matthew 1:23; 1 John 1:1-3; Philippians 2:6-8).

But God is also present today in His followers. Christians who have been changed from the inside out by Christ's life reflect Jesus back to the world so that they can see God in action.

This fact was captured well by C. S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters, wherein a devil complains about God and says, "He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself—creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His" [5].

So because God is real and not imaginary, and because I want my children to reflect Christ's goodness to the world, I make sure I raise my children with God.

Argument #6 – God Does Not Teach Children to Be Good

On the surface, that seems like an unreasonable argument as God's Word clearly contains instructions on what is right and wrong. But her primary complaint here is that God uses threats to make people obey. She says it's "like telling a child to behave or Santa won't bring presents".

Indeed, the Bible does say, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10). But what kind of fear are we talking about?

With small children, all parents use some form of consequence to get their child's attention and help motivate them to do what is right and what keeps them safe. Very young children just aren't mature enough yet to understand why, from a reasoning perspective, they should or shouldn't do something, so some form of consequential training is employed.

But as we get older and mature, there's a different type of fear that motivates us where those we love are concerned. For example, my wife might make me a wonderful dinner and during the meal she might ask me, "Do you like it?" "Yes, I love it!" I say (as I always do). To which, she responds, "Oh good, I was afraid you wouldn't..."

Was the type of fear my wife articulated something based on her worry that I would beat her if the meal didn't taste good? Not at all. Rather, she loves me and was hoping to please me with what she had done.

This is the mature fear Christians have of God. The Bible says, "God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance" (Romans 2:4). I obey God not out of the worry that His hammer will come down on me if I sin (if that happened, I'd be on the ground all day long), but out of gratitude for His patience and love toward me and because of what Christ went through on the cross for those He loves.

Also, don't forget that, as stated earlier, atheists cannot call anything truly "good" because they have no transcendent standard or objective moral framework to use for the definition other than what a particular culture might prescribe for the moment. Because of this, and because I want my kids living their lives for the right reasons, I choose to raise my children with God.

Argument #7 – God Teaches Narcissism

"Telling kids there is a big guy in the sky who has a special path for them makes children narcissistic."

It does? On the contrary, it is our current, secular "me-first" driven culture that is producing a generation of narcissists, as Dr. Keith Ablow recently argued in a convincing manner [6].

I'm not sure why she believes that purpose and meaning are bad for children. Atheism's alternative is to teach the young that there is no rhyme or reason to their lives, no real purpose or meaning, and that we're just some big cosmic accident whose only goal, as one evolutionist said, is to slither along like a snail as far as we can go until we die. Not exactly a motivator for getting out of bed each morning.

Regarding egotism, the Bible tells us, "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves" (Philippians 2:3), which is the absolute opposite of narcissism. So because I want my children to have real meaning in their lives and live a life that is opposite of a narcissistic one, I choose to raise my children with God.

The Main Reason I Choose to Raise My Children With God

At the outset of her essay, TXBlue08 describes her internal conflict about answering her children's questions about God this way: "Like most parents, I love my child so much that I didn't want him to be scared. I wanted him to feel safe and loved and full of hope."

For an atheist, I have to admit that I love the way she describes how a Christian feels with God: "safe and loved and full of hope." By contrast, the atheist lives in a world that is anything but safe, where love is nothing more than a chemical reaction, and where there really is no hope that humankind will ever be any better than it is now, and certainly no hope of life beyond the grave or that anything better is coming.

But to her credit, she says this: "But the trade-off was that I would have to make stuff up, and I would have to brainwash him into believing stories that didn't make sense, stories that I didn't believe either."

She and I do agree on one thing: the only reason to believe something is because that particular "something" is true.

This is the main reason I choose to raise my children with God.

You want to talk about evil? I watched my wife die at a very young age in a terrible way, leaving me alone with our baby daughter. I know all about injustice and the pain that goes with it. If there was anyone ready to throw in the towel where God was concerned, it was me.

But I didn't.

I'm a Christian today not because of any Freudian wish-fulfillment factor or because I can't cope with life. I follow Christ today because I am firmly convinced that God is real, and that belief in His existence is backed by very compelling philosophical, empirical, and historical evidence for anyone to investigate and embrace if they're willing [7].

This is why, for my children, I "bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). It's my hope and prayer that you will too.

[1] Nietzsche wrote: "You have your way, I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, it does not exist."
[2] Dawkins wrote: "The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference."
[3] C.S. Lewis Quotes
[4] See my blog post "The Myth of Religion Being the #1 Cause of War"
[7] For a good introduction to this evidence, see "I don't have enough faith to be an atheist" by Geisler and Turek

Image Credit: computerwhiz417; "A girl and her Bible"; Creative Commons

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Published 2-12-13