History: According to a new study on adult atheists, the less parents "walk on the path" on religious beliefs, the more likely their children will turn away from the faith.
Background: In 2009, psychology professor Joseph Henrich proposed the idea of Credibility Enhancing Displays (CRED) to indicate people who transmit a belief but actually believe in something else or have a low level of commitment to of belief. For example, researchers have found that past CRED exposure – like being close to people engaged in religious activities – is an important variable for predicting who does or does not become a religious believer
A study recently published in Religion, brain and behavior used the concept of CRED to determine when a person refuses religious beliefs modeled on them during their upbringing.
The study questioned thousands of atheists to assess the ability of CREDs to predict the age at which an individual has become an atheist. In the first analysis, CREDs have been positively associated with a delay in the age in which a person becomes an atheist, with religious variables at the family level (religious importance, religious choice and religious conflict) that moderate this relationship. In the second analysis, CREDs remained a stable predictor of age when an individual became an atheist while controlling demographic data, parental quality, religious variables, relational variables, and institutional variables.
The research found that religious importance (that is, families in which the parents acted on their religious convictions) foresaw a delay in the age in which people became atheists, while the choice (leaving the decisions of faith to the children) and the conflict within the family hastened the process.
What does it mean: The conclusions of the study are not exactly encouraging, since delaying the age in which a child becomes an atheist is not the goal of any Christian parent. But while limited in the application, the study helps to confirm the importance of parental religiosity for children.
Another recent study for Harvard's Human Flourishing Program found that parents who raise their children religiously can be reassured that, on average, they are creating important psychological and behavioral health benefits that their children will bring with them. ;adulthood.
According to researcher Tyler J. VanderWeele, children who grew up in a religious or spiritual environment were subsequently better protected by the "big three" dangers of adolescence: depression, substance abuse and risk-taking. With respect to the absence of participants, at least the weekly frequency of religious services has been associated with greater satisfaction of life and positive affects, a series of characteristic strengths, less chance of using marijuana and early sexual initiation and fewer sexual partners. during life. It has also been shown that religious education contributes to a series of positive outcomes, such as greater happiness, more community volunteerism, a greater sense of mission and purpose, and higher levels of forgiveness.
As adults, children who regularly attended religious services were 33% less likely to use illicit drugs and 30% less likely to start having sex at a young age. They also had 87% more chance of having high levels of forgiveness and 47% more chance of having a high sense of mission and purpose.
The Bible says: "Train a child the way he should go, even when he is old he will not go away" (Pr 22: 6). This is a proverb, not a promise. But we can help ensure that our children get the benefits of a life of faith by being an example of real life. We must tell our children, as the Apostle Paul said to his spiritual children: "Look at me".
As Paul told the church of Corinth, "because in Christ Jesus I became your father through the Gospel, therefore I exhort you to imitate me" (1 Corinthians 4: 15-16). He also told them: "Follow my example while I follow the example of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11: 1). Paul repeated this warning several times to the various people and churches he served as a spiritual father (Phil. 3:17, Phil 4: 9, 2 Ps. 3: 7-9, 2 Timothy 3: 10-11).
We have an obligation to follow the example of Paul. As Don Carson, president of the TGC says: "Have you ever told a young Christian:" Do you want to know how is Christianity? Watch me! & # 39; If you do not, you're non-biblical. "
Paul was able to say "follow my example" because he was worthy of imitation. And he was worthy of imitating because he himself was committed to imitating Christ. If we love our children, we will do the same, bringing them to God by showing them how Jesus seems to follow.