Sample Argumentative Essay: Should Parents Impose Religion On Their Children?
It is common for children to adopt the religion of their parents. This is due to the influence of religious beliefs on household practices and child upbringing. For instance, parents attending church and religious events are likely to bring their children, or religious holidays that the parents observe can affect the child's schedule. It is also a common practice for parents to indicate their child’s religion in a birth certificate. Since a newborn cannot choose a religion, the birth certificate reflects the religious affiliation of the parents. Despite these traditional practices, many individuals have begun to argue against parents’ imposition of religious beliefs on children. Some believe that parents should avoid imposing their beliefs on children while others argue in defense of traditional practices. This argumentative essay argues that parents can impose their religion on children as it can provide positive effects on their social competence, mental health, and worldview.
Religiosity and Positive Social Skills Development
Most religions have teachings regarding ethics and proper behavior towards other individuals. From these teachings, individuals can develop moral codes that promote self-control and social competence (Bartkowski et al., 2019). As parents impose religion on their children, they can help in the development of strong social skills. Religious moral rules, such as the Ten Commandments and The Five Pillars, can promote self-control in children. The instilling of these rules can prevent a child from developing negative behaviors, such as envy and hate. Additionally, as children participate in religious group activities, they can develop their socialization skills and be more confident around others. This can aid their public speaking skills and become more comfortable with themselves.
Religion Improves Mental Health
Aside from promoting positive social development, religion can help children improve their mental health. Religious education teaches children about morality which can be useful in developing healthy reactions to problems (Estrada et al., 2019). Children can utilize religious teachings when internalizing issues. For example, a Hindu child may be experiencing the death of a relative. Instead of developing fears about death, the child may refer to the “doctrines of samsara” to establish a positive view regarding the experience. They may internalize that the death of their relative is not the end but an opportunity for the continuous cycle of life and death. Most religions have teachings about the significant aspects of life that can be helpful for the developing minds of children.
The positive mental health effects of religion also include its effect on a child’s general well-being. It can promote the development of self-esteem and avoidance of substance abuse (Estrada et al., 2019). Most religious teachings emphasize the sanctity of the human body and its role in maintaining a healthy relationship with a deity. This promotes self-care in children which can help them avoid using addictive substances like alcohol and drugs. Religious events, as mentioned earlier, can improve a child’s self-esteem as they socially engage with members of the organization. Through these events, children may develop social relationships that can further improve their self-esteem and positive worldview.
Religion and Diversity
Lastly, the proper and fair imposition of religious beliefs to children can lead to respect for diversity. According to Estrada et al. (2019), religious education provides a venue that allows adolescents to acknowledge religious diversity. As children learn about their parent’s religion, they may also tackle topics about other beliefs. This will allow children to understand that there are many worldviews and that it is important for them to respect the belief of others. However, some may argue that some parents can be extremely religious and prevent their children from learning about other beliefs. While this is true, responsible parents will refrain from such practices. Instead, they may teach their children about other religions and let them understand the diverse cultures. The imposition of religion on children should not only focus on indoctrinating them to one belief but also allow them to recognize other religions.
Positive Effects of Non-religiosity
Some of the opposing arguments against the imposition of religion on children tend to originate from the effects and promotion of non-religion, such as atheism and agnosticism . Some studies have suggested that non-religion can promote self-mastery, individualism, and a diverse worldview (Farias & Lalljee, 2008; Houtman & Mascini, 2002; Schnell & Keenan, 2011; cited in Coleman et al. (2018). Non-religion allows an individual to perceive the world outside of religious beliefs, which includes the influence of a deity. For a child, this can promote individualism as they will not rely on a higher power to help or support them. Additionally, without the filter of religious institutions, a child can develop a greater sense of diversity. They can acknowledge other beliefs without the fear of offending their church or committing a religious offense.
Strong Religious Values can Lead to Depressive Disorders
Another argument against the imposition of religion on children is its possible adverse effect on mental health. While religion can lead to high self-esteem and social competence, strong spiritual values can promote depressive disorders (Park et al., 2019). This adverse effect can occur when an individual prioritizes religion and puts it in high regard. This can be due to the moral requirements and pressure that a religious institution can instill in its members. An individual may develop depressive tendencies as they fail to comply with religious standards. This can be an important issue with regards to children as depressive disorders can lead to teen suicides and similar issues.
Religiosity Leads to Poor Academic Performance
Aside from religion’s adverse effect on mental health, some studies have suggested that strong religiosity can lead to poor academic performance. The negative attitude of religious members towards the sciences can lead children to perform poorly in science, math, and reading (McPhetres & Zuckerman, 2018; Bartkowski et al., 2019). It is common for religious individuals to deny certain scientific facts which they can instill in their children. Disagreements, such as the creation versus evolution debate, can make it difficult for a child to accept and learn science topics. Some studies correlate religiosity to poor intellectual development (Darnell and Sherkat 1997; Sherkat 2010, 2011; cited in Bartkowski et al., 2018). This further supports the argument that imposing religion on children can lead to suboptimal academic performance and growth.
The Same Studies Both Refute and Support Religious Imposition
Most of the mentioned studies, such as Park et al.’s (2012) and Bartkowski et al.’s (2019), provided data that both revealed the negative and positive effects of religion on human development. While strong spiritual values can lead to depressive disorders, religion can help treat depression and relapses (Park et al., 2012). Religion can provide a child with a positive worldview that can help them avoid or overcome depressive tendencies. Additionally, religious organizations provide a sense of community for their members, including children, which can have a positive effect on their growth and mental health. Park et al. (2012) also noted that depression can lead an individual to seek religion as a coping method. Religious coping can improve an individual’s contentment and protect them from the long-term effects of distress (Manea, 2014, cited in Estrada et al. 2019) This emphasizes the role of religion in treating depressive disorders which can undermine its negative effect on mental health.
In Bartkowski et al.’s (2019) study, the authors highlighted that religion harms academic performance. However, the same study also mentioned that some forms of religiosity can improve a child’s academic performance. Parent-child discussions on religion can improve a child’s performance in reading while other forms can enhance a child’s approach to learning (Bartkowski et al., 2019). This suggests that only the parents with negative attitudes towards the sciences can negatively affect the academic performance of their children. Parents that are supportive of the education system, despite their beliefs, can promote exemplary academic performance in their children. It is also important to note that poor performance in mathematics and science can be due to children’s lack of number-fact, visual-spatial, and information skills (Tambychik & Meerah, 2010). The lack of these skills implies that mental development may be a more significant factor in poor academic performance than religiosity.
While imposing religion on children can have adverse effects, its positive effects showcase the greater benefits. Imposing religion on children can improve their social competence, mental health, and worldview. They can develop high self-esteem, avoid substance abuse, cope with distress, respect diversity, and gain a sense of purpose. Furthermore, the effects of parents’ imposition of religion on children will largely base on the attitude of the parents towards various topics. It is up to the parents to secure child development and raise the future generations that will lead and manage society.
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Bartkowski, J., Xu, X., & Bartkowski, S. (2019). Mixed Blessing: The Beneficial and Detrimental Effects of Religion on Child Development Among Third-Graders. Religions, vol. 10(1). Available at https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10010037. Accessed February 1, 2022.
Coleman III, T., Streib, H., & Hood Jr., R. (2018). An Introduction to Atheism, Agnosticism, and Nonreligious Worldviews. American Psychological Association. Available at https://psycnet.apa.org/fulltext/2018-36594-001.pdf. Accessed February 1, 2022.
Estrada, C., Lomboy, M., Gregorio Jr., E., Amalia, E., Leynes, C., Quizon, R., & Kobayashi, J. (2019). Religious Education Can Contribute to Adolescent Mental Health in School Settings. International Journal of Mental Health Systems. Available at https://doi.org/10.1186/s13033-019-0286-7. Accessed February 1, 2022.
McPhetres, J. & Zuckerman, M. (2018). Religiosity Predicts Negative Attitudes Towards Science and Lower Levels of Science Literacy. PLOS One, vol. 13(11). Available at https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0207125. Accessed February 2, 2022.
Park, J., Hong, J., Park, S., & Cho, M. (2012). The Relationship Between Religion and Mental Disorders in a Korean Population. Psychiatry Investigation, vol. 9(1). Available at ttps://doi.org/10.4306/pi.2012.9.1.29. Accessed February 2, 2022.
Tambychik, T. & Meerah, T. (2010). Students; Difficulties in Mathematics Problem-Solving: What Do They Say? Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, vol. 8. Available at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2010.12.020. Accessed February 2, 2022.