Agnosticism, Atheism, Christianity, Faith, God, Morality, Parenting, Prayer, Religion, Society

To What Extent Should Parents’ Religious Beliefs Affect a Child’s Well-Being?

Mariah Walton was born with a birth defect that could have been fixed rather easily, if her parents had only allowed it (if there’s an ad in the video, it’s worth waiting through it):

I take parents’ rights very seriously, but how many examples of children being harmed by their parents’ belief in faith healing do we need before we step in? And is there any point at which faith healers will acknowledge that they were wrong? Or is it like prayer, where no response simply means the request wasn’t according to God’s will, or the person’s faith wasn’t strong enough? Do they never stop to wonder why life expectancy was so low back when virtually everyone had to rely on faith and superstition to heal the sick?

143 thoughts on “To What Extent Should Parents’ Religious Beliefs Affect a Child’s Well-Being?”

  1. Hm, I’ll ponder it.

    Again, I’m not militant or rude to others about it – just want reiterate that – just talking here.

    So, while one of your kidneys might save a life, the life is not one you had a part in before. Maybe it’s more like one of us stepping in to help that girl who’s dad wouldn’t take her to the doctor – he should do it, but if he wont, I don’t want to be forced to either – she’s not my kid and I have my own issues to deal with.

    A fetus, or whatever, is a life that depends on the mother. My toddler depends on me too, so mere dependence isn’t the determining factor, I think. Maybe in this case, the mother is more like the dad who wont take his kid to the doctor.

    I don’t want to step in take care of all the babies that are going to be aborted, but neither am I willing to step in a care for all the abused children, or the kids whose parents are religious zealots who don’t believe in modern medicine. But I am willing to care for my own, without question.

    I am not sure if life support is a factor either, but I’ll think it over. Is it a life? is it human?

    and if the pregnancy has a chance of harming or killing the mother, then I’d personally see abortion as difficult choice made in order to save life, even though it takes one at the same time – so I’m not really talking scenarios like that here.

    But, if woman tried killing herself or cutting herself, or wanted to walk into bear’s den, do you think that should all be supported as her right to do what she wishes with her body, or would you think she might need help?

    And I do see why people would want abortions. I’m not trying to set up legislation, or even trying to stop them, but to just think it through and discuss for myself, I guess.


  2. I agree Nate, but can’t she decide to practice safe sex so she isn’t put into this situation ? I know birth control isn’t 100% but even Bill Clinton when President said he would prefer abortion to be used less frequently.

    Pro Choice people tend to argue that a woman should have control over her own body. I agree totally. In many (not all) cases, she had control when she got pregnant . I’m just agreeing with Bill Clinton that there are ways to reduce abortion without abolishing it. That’s by making better choices earlier. AND I think it is BOTH the woman and man’s responsibility and goal to NOT bring an unwanted life into this world. No, it cannot be achieved 100% but it should be the goal.

    BTW, I’m speaking of abortion here in the USA . The worse thing that ever happened to 3rd World Countries was when the Catholic Church sent missionaries to tell the people it was wrong to use any birth control. This subject is for another time.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, absolutely. Birth control is always far preferable. And I think there’s more that can be done in our country to increase sexual education, access to birth control, etc. It’s not like there are women sitting around saying “I think I’ll try to get pregnant this weekend so I can have an abortion.” No one wants an abortion. But sometimes, whether it’s due to lack of foresight, poor education, or just lack of access to birth control, a woman gets pregnant when that was not her intention at all. If we could safely and easily remove the fetus so it no longer relied on her body for survival, then I think everyone would be in favor of that. But that’s just not scientifically possible right now. And while I agree that the life growing inside her is human life, there’s also her life to think about.

    But yeah, I agree with you. Almost everyone can get behind preventing the pregnancy altogether, and I think that’s where the real focus should be.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. When you say, “her life to think about,” are you meaning her life as in opposite of death, or as in quality or freedom of life?

    I can get reasons for abortion, and why it’s no easy choice. These are reasons why I’m glad I dont have to face that decision, and why I wont picket outside of abortion clinics, or attack a person he chooses abortion.

    But at the same time, if i tried I could similarly find reasons to kill anyone or in committing most crimes. These reasons make it understandable, not justifiable, if that makes sense.


  5. When you say, “her life to think about,” are you meaning her life as in opposite of death, or as in quality or freedom of life?

    I mean both. Modern medicine has made childbirth much safer, but it still has plenty of risks that go along with it. Not to mention the upheaval it can create in a person’s social and economic standing. I just keep coming back to kidney donation. That’s the analogy that’s helped me make the most sense of this very complicated issue.

    Back to the original topic, I don’t think parents should be able to keep their children from medical treatment because of their religious beliefs. There’s too much evidence showing the effectiveness of modern medicine and too much evidence showing the ineffectiveness of faith-based healing to continue allowing people to keep medical treatments from their children.

    But I wouldn’t go so far as to say that all religious teaching is child abuse. In a way, I see why people say that, because it’s teaching kids to rely on superstition in their decision making. But throughout most of human history, it would’ve been those of us who are nonreligious that would be seen as the abusers. I think you have to let parents be parents and hope that the children will grow up and be able to think critically for themselves.


  6. I’ll just exit the conversation.

    before I saw abortion mentioned, I saw this as pretty black and white, but after abortion was brought up, I am having a hard to separating the issues.

    I want to ask things like, “if a woman’s social and economic and emotional factors are justifiable factors in her aborting a human life, then why wouldn’t a parent’s emotional, economical and social factors justify them when they decide that listening to their consciences, rooted in faith, is best for their child by foregoing modern medical treatments?”

    I know I’m verging on the outer edges of the topic, but I can’t seem to separate the two now.

    I’ll just excuse myself.


  7. KC – atheist psychologist, Valerie Tarico, has a series of posts about the abortion issue, including some fascinating information as to the near 100% effectiveness of a particular kind of IUD in terms of birth control. I found these fascinating, well-researched, and very informative. They may be found at: – browse through the list. Personally, I’d recommend reading them all, I have.


  8. I’ll catch hell for this, but I can tell you from personal experience that there are some women simply too lazy or unconcerned to bother remembering to take a little pill every day. We humans went for a million years having no sure way to control birth – we pulled out, we counted days, we used sheep intestines – and one day, someone invented a tiny pill and said that if sexually-active women took it every day, there are significant odds that no pregnancy will occur. I have four daughters because all too often, unknown to me, the birth control pills stayed buried in the underwear drawer.


  9. I don’t think you will. Faith is a huge hurdle to jump, and I now think that most can’t jump that high.

    We’re breeding ourselves into population issues, and modern technology is as much to blame as Catholic Birth Control Doctrine.


  10. Time and education. It would help a lot if someone could get this 20th Century Pope (as opposed to all of the 19th Century ones we’ve previously had) to come out in favor.


  11. “We’re breeding ourselves into population issues, and modern technology is as much to blame as Catholic Birth Control Doctrine.”

    You certainly have a point there, William


  12. Maybe even step out on his balcony, whip open his robe and show us how to put one on —
    [I’m gonna get excommunicated for that, and I ain’t even Catholic!]

    Liked by 1 person

  13. It seems I set off a firestorm by even mentioning the word abortion. I wasn’t attempting to hijack the OP, merely pointing out that the same people who believe that you can pray yourself well are the same ones who seem to value life so much that they oppose abortion. If they are that concerned with life and who should have it, it seems to me that they would be concerned enough to use any means necessary or pertinent to preserve it. It just seems kind of backwards to me, is all. It wasn’t to draw a comparison between whose life is more or less valuable.

    Arch, did your wife want to get pregnant? Is that why she didn’t fulfill her responsibility and take her little pill every day? Because, y’know, it was her responsibility wasn’t it? Those people who pulled out, counted days, and used sheep intestines? You know what you call those? Parents.

    I have a friend who faithfully took her birth control every day. After she found out she was pregnant for the third time she sat down for a good cry and decided to have her tubes tied when the baby was born. I have another friend who didn’t know that when she had strep throat and used antibiotics it rendered her little pill null and void. After she had a good cry she decided to carry the child to term and had a beautiful baby girl.

    I, myself, would take in and adopt any number of babies because I actually want children and can’t have them. I just find it interesting that men, and I’m not saying any of you would or have done this, can participate in the merrymaking and walk off like nothing ever happened. You can just disappear without a trace, never having to take responsibility unless you want to.

    There are myriad reasons why women get pregnant in spite of trying any number of ways not to. But women are supposed to just keep their legs closed unless they can afford the consequences, eh?

    Liked by 2 people

  14. @ Ruth, “You can just disappear without a trace, never having to take responsibility unless you want to.”

    I totally see where you are coming from Ruth. And I’m certainly glad I included this in my comments. 🙂 “AND I think it is BOTH the woman and man’s responsibility and goal to NOT bring an unwanted life into this world. No, it cannot be achieved 100% but it should be the goal.”

    Liked by 2 people

  15. @kcchief1, I appreciate that you, nor likely anyone else who has commented on this would do that. From what I have read of all of you, you take/took responsibility and face/d life together with the woman who is the mother of your children, whether you are still together or not. It cannot be overstated that not all men are as responsible. The mother of your children is obviously not facing the same hurdles or complexities as a woman who is likely seeking an abortion.

    I, personally, think the goal should always be less or no abortion and more family planning and birth control options. But that little pill isn’t the be-all-end-all, either. It carries a whole host of other health concerns. Long term use increases cancer risk, the risk of blood clots, and other long-term health issues. Long term use also can lead to infertility, meaning never having children at all just because you didn’t want to for a while. It’s not so black and white as it may seem.


  16. Arch, did your wife want to get pregnant? Is that why she didn’t fulfill her responsibility and take her little pill every day?

    The reasons were at least twofold:

    1) She felt that a new baby was a good way to hang on to me.

    2) She had a psychological quirk (one of many) – after a baby reached two, it was no longer as cute as it was, so it was time to have another and turn the older ones over to me.

    After our four, she had two more by different men, after we broke up, and this didn’t count the one she had before we got together.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I sent Nathan the link to this story yesterday because it was both interesting, sad, and something we’ve discussed before that has been difficult for me to reach a clear conclusion on. Like Arch, I get really fired up when it comes to kids and religion. I think I’m more against it than Nathan. But when arguments are made about what would happen if we were forced to do the opposite of what we believe…well, it’s hard. Not because I think in anyway that my position isn’t the best one, only because I don’t want anyone else (like a government) telling me that my kids have to attend/believe/learn religious dogma as facts.

    I never saw the story about parents withholding medical care turning into an abortion conversation. But I guess I can see the bridge. Growing up I never I thought I would ever say that I’m both pro-life and pro-choice. But that’s really where I sit now. And I view it as a pretty moderate one. I don’t know that I could ever have an abortion, but then I’ve never been in a situation in which I needed to make that decision. I can sympathize, but not empathize, with the millions of women who have been there.

    Quickly, the biggest points that I thought of when reading through the comments:

    1. Like KC said, reproductive biology is a responsibility of both men and women. Though I think often times it’s said that way, but not fully believed. Where I live, when a young girl/woman gets pregnant accidentally/single status, etc. the female really carries the majority of the shame, guilt, and consequences. Maybe not all, but definitely most. “Boys will be boys and all that, but girls are, well, what a shame…”

    2. I feel pretty confident in saying that having a child affects both partners in a relationship. I just feel it affects the female more and I have evidence for that. Not only have I given birth to three of my own, but I work as an RN in labor & delivery and teach childbirth classes. Pregnancy, even uncomplicated ones, can be difficult. There are years of lasting effects on all systems in the body. Our thyroids and metabolisms are changed with each; osteoporosis is more of a problem in women, especially those with multiple pregnancies. There’s the usual physical changes regarding stretch marks, weight changes, stretching of tissues, ligaments, etc. Bladder and bowel incontinence, hemorrhoids, acid reflux, and so on. Every woman’s experience is different.

    I have a wonderful partner and father to our kids, but I still feel that having kids changed me in more ways. I was the one responsible for that child’s development in the uterus during pregnancy, and afterwards I was their primary source of nutrition and daily care. I was the one planning daily activities around another little person’s care. I like that in many ways. I felt empowered and needed. But it can also be draining physically and emotionally. And while some (not all) dads are really involved and supportive I have still heard them say things like, “I give her a break every day so she can go to the gym”. Really, how nice of you to “give that break”…there just feels like less responsibility there to me. How often are men asked if they’re going to “go back to work” after a baby is born? How many dads halt their careers to be full time caregivers?

    Very, very often when a young girl is pregnant and comes through childbirth classes the young dads aren’t there. The girl’s mother may be, but seeing those young dads just isn’t as common. Even if they’re still involved with the young girl and plan to be there for birth, they aren’t the ones coming every week, learning about labor and child care.

    3. Pregnancy and childbirth is 13 times riskier than a safe/legal abortion. Most abortions are performed prior to 13 weeks gestation, and most can be done medically (not surgically) so it’s no bloodier/more “violent” than a menstrual period. Simply check out Wikipedia or a Women’s Health website to learn more REAL facts about abortion.

    4. Different women use different types of birth control for many reasons. I don’t speak for all of us. We each get to speak for ourselves. But there are side effects to using birth control. Most forms are super effective when used properly, but we are talking about adjusting the body’s normal occurrences from the last several million years of evolution. And while the side effects been reduced over the last couple of decades they aren’t gone. IUDs can be rejected by the body and cause weeks of bleeding and cramping before expulsion; there’s an increased risk of infection and STIs especially if a female has more than one partner during the five year use of that IUD. Oral contraceptives/hormonal pills, and implants can cause headaches during the “off week” of supplementation, some report mood swings, water retention, nausea, etc. There are some truly great side effects to using birth control besides controlling ovulation:decreasing the risk of ovarian cancer is one. I’m just saying it isn’t always easy or fun to do so. How many guys would “remember to take a tiny little pill each day”, or want to do so if they didn’t like some of the side effects?

    And again, having an egg and sperm meet up takes both a woman and a man. If a man (ahem, Arch) doesn’t want to create life/potential life then maybe said man would do best if he took control of his own swimmers instead of solely leaving it up to the lady of his choice. There are vasectomies, condoms, and hey, scientists are even working on a pill for men!

    5. The number of abortions world wide each year has been on the decline. And that’s mostly due to the education and access to birth control. But still about 50% of the pregnancies each year are unplanned/not desired. And of course there are the rapes, incestuous situations, and threats to the woman’s life. There’s more we can do to educate, prevent, and give access to birth control and get those numbers even lower. Like Nathan said, no one wants to have an abortion.

    It’s the most difficult for me to watch the 14, 15, 16 year old girls having babies. I can’t say that if it was my daughter who had been raped by a step-dad or something that I wouldn’t consider it and discuss it with her. Because even having the baby adopted, well 40 weeks can be a long time to be reminded of a bad incident, not to mention those long term effects.

    Well, that was longer than expected. (I know, I know, that’s what she said…but just because she said it doesn’t mean she meant it…hahaha)

    Liked by 3 people

  18. I was the one planning daily activities around another little person’s care. I like that in many ways. I felt empowered and needed. But it can also be draining physically and emotionally.

    And what really drives you nuts (just so you know I’ve been there), is not having anyone to talk to all day who uses more than single-syllable words!


  19. So, psychological issues and character judgments notwithstanding, your wife wanted these children. Abortion was never a consideration. And apparently, neither was birth control. It was neither laziness nor lack of concern(unless you count her lack of concern for you, which I do), but deliberate.

    Good lord, as badly as I want children, when my (now ex) husband and I were having problems he dangled the baby carrot in front of me thinking it would fix it. I declined the offer. I can’t imagine wanting to hold onto someone who doesn’t want to hold onto me. Yowza!


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