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Raising Children Without God?

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On a recent CNN iReport, a user named TXBlue08 provides seven reasons why she chooses to raise her children without belief in God. Her essay has already been viewed over 800,000 times. Given its popularity, I'd like to examine her seven reasons:

"1. God is a bad parent and role model.

Good parents don’t allow their children to inflict harm on others. “He has given us free will,” you say? Our children have free will, but we still step in and guide them."

Parents discipline their children, but they don’t reprogram them to be mindless, obedient robots. If God eliminates all evil his children commit, will any of his children even be left? God loves his children so much that he allows them to exist, even if they disobey him.

"2. God is not logical. 

How many times have you heard, “Why did God allow this to happen?” And this: “It’s not for us to understand.” Translate: We don’t understand, so we will not think about it or deal with the issue."

While TXBlue08 says God is illogical, I think she really means humans are illogical. She complains, rightly so, about people who give trite answers for evils like the Newtown school shooting (i.e., “God is mad we banned prayer in public schools”). But Jesus says that God doesn’t cause evil in order to punish sins.

When they saw a blind man, Jesus' disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him" (John 9:1-3).

God can allow evil so that goods, such as love or courage, can also exist. Since God has made us our brother’s keepers, we have a responsibility to care for each other. If atheism is true, we can ignore problems in the world that don't move our conscience, since in a strictly material universe there is no objective fact that we ought to help others.

"3 – 4. God is not fair. God does not protect the innocent.

If God is fair, then why does he answer the silly prayers of some while allowing other serious requests to go unanswered?...Why can’t God, with all his powers of omnipotence, protect the innocent?"

These two reasons are essentially the perennial question, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” I can’t fully answer this question in a blog post, but a few points may help shed light on this mystery.  First, God is fair in that he does not favor certain groups of people more than other groups. Jesus says God makes “his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust” (Matt. 5:45).

Second, we are not in a position to know if God can bring more good from the evils he tolerates. The goods that result from evil may not emerge for hundreds or thousands of years.

Finally, God bears the sufferings of all people and redeems them with his sacrifice on the cross. Ultimately, good will defeat evil, and the innocent in God shall have their eternal reward.  But if atheism is true, then all suffering is pointless, and our deceased loved ones are nothing but worm food. For more on this important topic, I recommend C.S. Lewis's book The Problem of Pain.

"5. God is not present.

Telling our children to love a person they cannot see, smell, touch, or hear does not make sense."

It makes as much sense as telling an adopted child his mother loved him even if the child cannot experience physically his mother’s existence. The fact that the child exists is evidence he had a mother, just as the existence of the universe is evidence of its cosmic creator.

"6. God does not teach children to be good.

It’s like telling a child to behave or Santa won’t bring presents. When we take God out of the picture, we place responsibility of doing the right thing onto the shoulders of our children."

If God does not exist, then the concept of “good” is meaningless. Think about it: If there is no God, then we are just atoms in motion that came into existence as part of a cosmic accident. Morality deals with the way things should be. But if life is an accident, then there is no way anything should be, and morality is a feeling we can ignore like any other feeling.

Under Christianity, God teaches us to be good because he teaches us to be like him, the perfect Good, which we were made to follow. Scripture says, “Like obedient children, do not act in compliance with the desires of your former ignorance but, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct” (1 Pet. 1:15-16).

"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 makes them think the world is at their disposal and that, no matter what happens, it doesn’t really matter, because God is in control."

This is backward. It is atheism that encourages narcissism, because if everything is an accident then all that matters is how life turns out for you. The only alternative to narcissism for atheists is nihilism, or the belief that nothing really matters, since the universe has no plan or purpose.

If God exists and has a plan for us, then that is truly humbling, because the infinite creator of the universe wants us to cooperate with him to bring about good. And he will give us grace to help! If that doesn’t make you tremble with joyful fear, I’m not sure what will.
Originally posted at Catholic Answers. Used with author's permission.
(Image credit: JChristoff.com)

Trent Horn

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Trent Horn holds a Master’s degree in Theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville and is currently an apologist and speaker for Catholic Answers. He specializes in training pro-lifers to intelligently and compassionately engage pro-choice advocates in genuine dialogue. He recently released his first book, titled Answering Atheism: How to Make the Case for God with Logic and Charity. Follow Trent at his blog, TrentHorn.com.

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