I raised my children with the choice of any faith available, and provided them with the means to explore the options. My daughter and youngest son are atheists, my middle son is a Christian (he is a gentle, kind young man who would never hate or exclude anyone from anything, and he likes science).
In fact, on any issue, I always found my absolute best response to my children was “I trust your judgment”, rather than to lay down strict rules — it made them think about the consequences of their actions from a position of ownership of those actions — and it was remarkably effective.
Australian student Dylan O’Beirne is the sort of young man whose judgment is imminently trustworthy:
Dylan O’Beirne is open to finding out whether there is a god.
But the 16-year-old hasn’t yet seen strong evidence.
“If there was evidence to support a god, then I would believe in it,” he says.
“I choose not to believe, but I’m not going to dogmatically reject it.”
Dylan is in year 10 at Kingswood College in Box Hill.
He was never baptised and says his parents were happy to allow him to decide whether or not he believed.
“Mum and Dad raised me to know it was my choice,” he says.
Religious education classes in year 5 first prompted Dylan to question the matter.
He asked to be excluded because he found the classes boring.
But a Muslim student, also excluded, had him thinking.
“I thought, if she believes something else, why aren’t we taught about that?”
In year 8, Dylan’s mother presented him with the best-selling book, The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins.
“Everything came out with such clarity. But I didn’t just take his word for it; I started investigating what sceptics and atheists believe.”
Dylan says a visit to his school by the Jewish Christian Muslim Association revealed many of his peers are quite religious, but most rarely discuss it. He enjoyed the visit and has no intention of pressing his views on anyone.
He see Christmas as time for a family celebration.
“It’s not around messages about Jesus Christ, but more a time to get together and for Australian society to get together. Most of my family are somewhat religious.”
Teach your children to think and make informed choices, and trust their judgment, unless of course they demonstrate an inability to make good decisions — but if you start with love and trust, chances are, the decisions will be good ones.