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Religion, Children And The Rise Of The ‘Nones’

Saints Constantine and Helen Church in Cambridge in October 2012 (Alex Kingsbury/WBUR)

Saints Constantine and Helen Church in Cambridge in October 2012 (Alex Kingsbury/WBUR)

The religious landscape in the country is undergoing a tectonic shift. And it is as jarring as it is unprecedented. Five years ago, 15 percent of American adults were religiously unaffiliated. Today, that number has jumped to 20 percent. One in five American adults — and one-third of adults under age 30 — have no religious affiliation.

That doesn’t mean they’re atheists, just uninterested in joining a church or synagogue or mosque. But divorce from a religious community comes at a cost, especially when it comes to raising children.


  • Katherine Ozment, a Boston-based freelance writer, her recent cover story in Boston Magazine is “Losing Our Religion.”
  • Chris Stedman, assistant humanist chaplain at Harvard and author of “Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious.”
  • Thomas Groome, professor of Theology and Religious Education; chair, Department of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry, Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry


Other stories from this show:

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  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    My wife and I are atheists and are raising our children without the belief in a deity. This doesn’t mean that our kids are ignorant about religious beliefs, however. We approach religious belief as we would any myth. Parents should be more concerned about the moral examples they set at home then filling their children’s heads with superstition disguised as facts. 

  • Jmb8087

    For me, the most important benefit of raising my children in our local UCC congregational church is that they have an understanding that they are part of a community that is bigger than them, and bigger than our basic family unit. I don’t think that they have exposure to “better” experiences, or “better” ethics, or “better” morals becasue of that church affiliation. But I do believe that it gives them a deeply rooted understanding that their experiences, ethics, and morals are tied to a larger community … and that those experiences, ethics, and morals should contribute to the overall good of that community. But communities like this exist everywhere, and look like many different things. It was just the UCC community that worked most naturally for my family.

  • Jennie

    I was raised without religion, raised my children without religion and my daughter is raising her child without religion.  I feel that they were given great life’s lessons without the dogma.  I feel that religion is the root of all evil.

  • J__o__h__n

    So he invented a new label – faithiest – whatever that is

  • MC

    This topic reminds me of a refreshing book I read earlier this year by Alain de Botton titled “Religion for Atheists: A Non- Believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion.”

    A self- described Atheist,  de Botton defends the idea that all things beautiful (art, architecture, music etc) do not have to be  religious to be beautiful and that the atheist community would do well to borrow from the traditions of religion, especially tradition and community. 

    To quote from the NYTimes:

    “He is calling on secular institutions to adopt religion’s pedagogy, to mimic the rituals, habits and teaching techniques that churches, mosques and synagogues perfected over centuries. For example, religious people were smart enough to combine spirituality and eating, aware that while dining in a group, people tend to be in a convivial, welcoming mood.”

    “Religion for Athiests” is a quality read for anyone who feels drawn to religion for its morality, inspiration and sense of belonging, but cannot fully commit to the existence of God. 

  • J__o__h__n

    If people don’t find religion to be of value to their own lives, why would they think their children are lacking something if they don’t inflict it on them? 

  • DisOp

    I’ve found the cost to be small and the benefits great.  Rituals aside, how much longer can we afford to love our gods more than each other? 

    • Cmacd1

      I haven’t read ALL of EVERY religion’s major texts, but I have done my share of reading over the years, and I have yet to come across any text that tells the members of a particular religion to love their god(s) more than each other.  I know many say to love god as we love each other or love each other as we love god, but I think your comment is a gross oversimplification of the matter.  We need to remember that religions and texts are constructed by human beings; therefore, just as individual humans make mistakes and misinterpret, so do the humans who are in charge of organizing and dispersing “religion.”  It is true that many people and nations have started and continued acts of violence and horror while invoking the name of their respective religions, but that does not mean that religion is the problem.  Maybe individual people are the problem, some of whom may be religious or in charge of disseminating religion.

  • Cmacd1

    This was such a great topic!  Thomas Groome’s words, as well as the those of the other guests, truly spoke wisdom to a very real modern dilemma.  This has been on my mind since the day I found out I was pregnant with my first child (almost seven years ago).  My husband and I were raised as good “Scottish Catholics” – Catholic school, alter servers, the whole nine yards.  However, after high school, we both stopped practicing and did not practice for many years.  We are not married in the church.  When my daughter was born, I felt drawn to provide her with some sense of Christian tradition and community, so we sporadically attended the UUA church near us.  I love this community and its openness, but as Groome mentions in the introduction of “What Makes Us Catholic,” I felt I was missing something, leaving something behind by not acknowledging our Catholic roots.  Last spring we made the the decision to enroll our daughter for kindergarten at a local Catholic school.  The decision was prompted initially by the poor school system in our city, but it has come to pose some serious faith questions for us.  I want my daughter to benefit from the sense of community and tradition the Catholic Church provides, but I also still possess serious concerns regarding the Church’s positions on the role of women both in society and the Church and same sex marriage and I am still scarred by the “sex abuse” scandal of the early 2000s.  After yesterday’s show, I promptly downloaded “What Makes Us Catholic,” and I am hoping that reading this book will help us to make some important decisions for our family and our future involvement in the Church.  Thank you so much for providing this forum and the many informative perspectives!

  • gaylespeck1

    What about the support members of religious organizations get when they’re ill or in need?

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