From the Health section of The Washington Post comes this story of non-religious parents who expose their children to religion(s) in search of potential psychological benefits.
Reporter Stacy Weiner writes:
“Such parents may seek the sense of community or emotional security they hope religion will provide their kids; they may want a sense of purpose or tradition; and they may be looking for ethical or spiritual influences to mold their children’s lives. For some, a religious education simply means giving their kids a better shot at understanding a cultural force that they consider both powerful and pervasive.
Whatever the reasons, nonreligious parents may face a number of humbling questions. Are they willing to trade sleepy Sundays for 10 a.m. services? Is it a good idea to start down a spiritual path when their hearts aren’t in it? And what should they say if their 4-year-old looks up at them wide-eyed and asks if there really is a God?”
I am ambivalent about the enterprise she describes. Our churches are open to everyone from the devout to the uncertain to the unbeliever with kids in tow. If you feel attracted to our communities, maybe you will gradually become interested in the things we believe and the God that we worship. And as the communications director for the diocese, part of my job is to get people through the door. So I am happy to see them, no matter why they have come.
That said, I am not sure you get any “benefits” at all out of religion unless you actually believe in something deeply enough that it informs everything about you, including the functioning of your autonomic nervous system. And I admit to a low level of irritation with people who regard the church as just another facet of the personal services industry, or another of the many “resources” they can deploy in their creation of the perfectly balanced child. The point I think these folks miss is that faith is not about self-improvement. It is about self-transcendence.