To Sunday school or not to Sunday school?
To the intriguing question of how parents without religious affiliation raise their children, the answers vary, as do the parents studied here. Manning (Religious Studies/Sacred Heart Univ.; God Gave Us The Right: Conservative Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, and Orthodox Jewish Women Grapple with Feminism, 1999, etc.) opens with data about the rapidly growing number of people in the United States, especially those under 30, who list “none” when asked to indicate their religious affiliation. The author divides the “Nones” into four categories—unchurched believer, spiritual seeker, philosophical secularist, and the indifferent—which she takes pains to differentiate. She discusses the plusses and minuses of five strategies by which parents attempt to transmit a worldview to their children: going back to church, finding an alternative community, doing it oneself, letting others do it, and finally, doing nothing. In addition to using existing surveys and demographic data, Manning conducted interviews with Nones across the country, seeking to discover how they differ from churched Americans, asking what choices they made about including religion in their children’s lives, what strategies they adopted, how community and family pressures shaped their choices, and how having children affected their own worldviews. A self-identified None, she clearly established a rapport with her subjects that enabled her to extract thoughtful, revealing answers. She summarizes some responses and quotes extensively from others, making the book longer than absolutely necessary but more pleasurable than a more academic text. Having presented the results of her study and analyzed its significance, the author then muses on the meaning of choice in religion, the significance of this trend toward personal choice, and its impact on the culture at large. As to whether it is better to raise children with or without religion, her conclusion is that more study is needed to answer that question.
Refreshingly nonpolemical—will be of special interest to secular parents struggling with some of the issues presented.