A recent study from the Pew Research Center reported that a little more than a third of all parents surveyed want their children to grow up to follow the same religion they do. While answers to the question of whether it's important for children to follow in their parents' specific spiritual footsteps vary widely according to denomination and race, some key similarities ultimately stand out.

The Difference Between Denominations

The number of those who reported that is very important to them that their children share their religion differs across a few key demographics:

  • Protestant - 55%
  • White evangelicals - 70%
  • Black protestant - 53%
  • Catholic - 35%
  • Hispanic - 39%
  • Religiously unaffiliated - 8%

Across the board, those who identify as evangelical are more likely to consider it important that their children follow the same religion. This result is probably a function of the nature of evangelicalism itself. The Great Commission outlined at the end of the book of Matthew to go into the world and make converts of others is one of the core values of this particular strain of Christianity. 

Therefore, it makes sense that people who practice evangelical religion would want their children to keep the same faith into adulthood. After all, how can these parents expect someone to convert to a religion their own children reject? For many, their children serve as their first and most important victims.

Another possible reason evangelicals rate shared faith so highly is that they are less likely to separate sharing the gospel of Christ with others from living out the values inherent in the faith. They tend to believe that to embrace the religion itself is also to follow its basic rules for a moral life. When viewed in this context, the number of evangelicals who want their children to carry on their religion as adults makes a lot of sense.

The Importance of Shared Values

Having children grow up to embody their parents' general values as adults is something that most respondents surveyed hope for, regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof. Approximately 81% reported that they want to instill in their kids the desire to help those in need, with white evangelical parents reporting the highest rate of agreement (89%) with this statement. Showing acceptance of others regardless of differences is also a value the vast majority of respondents hope their children share.

Treating others with kindness is a basic tenet of most faiths. This value can take many forms. Many people of faith use social media to draw attention to needs in their communities and the world at large so that others can join them in alleviating the struggles of those who are hurting. They volunteer at soup kitchens and women's shelters. They educate people about conserving energy and preserving the environment for generations to come.

Whether they ascribe to a specific religion or not, most parents want their children to get along well with others. Parents can teach their kids to try to understand where people are coming from even when those people reach different conclusions about the world. Children learn to appreciate the nuance necessary to stand up for what they believe while still respecting those who follow a different path.

Leading the Next Generation

The main takeaway from this Pew survey is that most parents expect their children to grow up to be responsible citizens of the world. Regardless of their own specific religious leanings, these parents teach values that they want their children to embody and hope to give their kids the necessary tools to live good, moral lives in harmony with others.

Category: Freedom of Religion

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