Why Even Atheists Should Teach Their Children about God

As a therapist, Erica Komisar is often asked by parents, “How do I talk to my child about death if I don’t believe in God or heaven?” Her answer is always the same. Can you guess what it is?

Comments (16)

(6) Anonymous, August 26, 2021 8:31 PM

And isn't this the greatest proof of G-d's existence?

Why would a group of mammals randomly descended from Orangutans need a belief in G-d so desperately to stay sane?

Ra'anan, September 4, 2021 10:11 PM

Hmmm...because human beings are...

wired to believe in G-d?
Who would wire them that way & why?

(5) Yael, August 26, 2021 8:28 PM

This is beyond incredible

Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. Thank you Aish for sharing!

(4) Gary Colwill, August 25, 2021 2:33 PM

Faking vs Lying

I don't think the presenter said to lie. She said to "fake it". You can categorize this as lying, but you can also see it for what it is: an acknowledgement that, even if your instinct is that there is no God, maybe you could be wrong about that. It's like smiling when you don't feel like it. Is it a lie to smile when you feel grumpy? Or is it you acknowledgement that you can "fake it" and the feeling of happiness that a smile indicates might follow (and usually does)? It's a mistake to believe that actions should result from feelings. Usually, the opposite is true: feelings usually follow actions. "Fake it 'till you make it" is a tired old saying, but it's also true, I've found.

Anonymous, August 25, 2021 8:44 PM

Actually, in the long term, faking a smile removes the association with smiling and happiness, and it can even create an association between smiling and bad feeling, which would cause a feeling of depression to follow every expression of genuine happiness.

Gary Colwill, August 25, 2021 9:47 PM

In My Experience

In my experience, when I wake up cranky and my first instinct is to react to others in an unpleasant way, and I allow that instinct to instruct my actions, I always regret it. However, when I instead resist that instinct and interact in a pleasant way, including smiling when appropriate, I find that eventually that cranky feeling goes away and is replaced by genuine feelings of conviviality. Anecdotal, I know, but true for me.

I don't mean to say that if I have a good reason for feeling unsociable (for example, dealing with the loss of a loved one, or dealing with clinical depression, or a myriad of other examples) I should "put on a happy face". What I'm saying is that, if there is no good reason for me to treat others badly, except that I am not a morning person, then I consciously resist the desire to do so. And that conscious choice moves my mood into line with reality.

Same with religion. There are many reasons to participate in a religious community. The presenter of this video gave good examples of the benefits, and none of them require belief in God. What participation does require is an open mind, not only to the idea that there might be a God, but also that your idea of God from your childhood might be a version meant for children, and that you should let that one go and attempt to develop a new conception based on your observations of lfe as an adult and as an adult participant in traditions that have been used for thousands of years to cultivate right actions.

In the end, orthodoxy does not inform othopraxy as much as orthopraxy informs orthodoxy, in my humble opinion.

Jewish Mom, August 26, 2021 2:50 PM

Read this

I'm copying a post (#4) to that article which quotes a classic Jewish source supporting the recommendation:
This is in keeping with the insight noted in Sefer haChinuch (The Book of Education) Mitzvah 16 that "the hearts are drawn after the actions" (in the Hebrew original: אחרי הפעולות נמשכים הלבבות). Act kind and you will become kind, act happy (such as smiling) and you will feel happy.
Shana tova umevorechet to all - a very happy, blessed year of health, happiness and fulfillment.

Gary Colwill, August 28, 2021 1:38 AM

Loved it

Great article you referenced, and great comment there as well. Thanks for sharing it here.

(3) Dvirah, August 25, 2021 1:25 PM


As regards this video, I agree with the commentators about the danger of lying to one's children. Growing up in the US I heard many people say that they would practice religion IF they had children. But if one does not truly accept the truth of a practice, what is one really teaching? My answer to those people has always been that if it is worth teaching the children, it should also be worth practicing for oneself.

(2) Marlene Forster, August 25, 2021 1:47 AM

Try to tell the truth

So many of your arguments are valid. But the underlying idea of lying to your children if you yourself do not believe is, IMO, not a good way to go. One must seek to make available all the positives of a religious affiliation without giving them a false sense of security by believing in an unseen protector, who, more often than not, fails to provide provide.

Gary Colwill, August 25, 2021 2:54 PM

Agreed, Mostly

"Fake it" is her advice, not "Lie". There is a difference. Lying would be knowing something without any doubt and telling someone else something that opposes that knowledge. Faking is an acknowledgement that you don't know for sure, and you see the value in acting in ways that contravene your own instincts for the benefit of your children and maybe even yourself.

So, here's a question: Is it that you don't believe in an "unseen protector" or is it that the protector "...more often than not, fails to provide"?

In other words, do you believe that there is not God, or do you believe that God has failed you and/or the world?

It simply can't be both.

(1) Anonymous, August 24, 2021 7:51 PM

Never lie to your children

As a child psychologist, the advice in this video is very troubling. There are many ways to teach children about kindness and gratitude outside of religion. But I would never advise a parent to lie to their children about god if they do not believe in one. Children can thrive and develop well with truth from their parents.

Gary Colwill, August 24, 2021 10:26 PM

Why Troubling

As a person completely uneducated with respect to psychology, I've read about the differences in approach to mental health (and getting there for those who struggle) by psychologists (a general term) vs psychoanalysts: "Clinical psychologists want to shape how patients think about their lives and themselves." vs "Psychoanalysts, on the other hand, want to help patients explore how they relate to themselves and why, so they can better understand their thoughts, feelings, and desires to move past psychological distress."

Maybe this difference in approach is the root cause of your trouble regarding the advice the psychoanalyst presents in the video?

She also gives some pretty compelling conclusions about a (presumably) peer reviewed study from Harvard (NOT a bastion of religious apologetics nowadays):

* Kids who attended religious services at least once a week:
* scored higher on psychological well-being measurements
* lower risks of metal illness
* higher rates of volunteerism
* lower probability of drug abuse
* lower probability of early sexual initiation
* a sense of purpose

These are presented as facts, in the form of conclusions of a study. My question to you is why do you find the advise, based on facts, troubling? Do you question the conclusions of the study?

Gary Colwill, August 24, 2021 10:33 PM



Gary Colwill, August 24, 2021 10:38 PM

Study Reference


Gary Colwill, August 24, 2021 10:36 PM

Study Article Reference

I presume that the study is the one discussed in the following URL: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/religious-upbringing-adult-health/


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