DO CHILDREN NEED RELIGION? by Martha Fay

DO CHILDREN NEED RELIGION?

How Parents Today Are Thinking About the Big Questions

KIRKUS REVIEW

 The answer seems to be ``yes,'' although Fay (A Mortal Condition, 1983) so hedges her answers in this thoughtful but meandering discussion that some readers may close the covers more bewildered than before. This much is clear: Fay, an ex-Catholic, doesn't write for the majority of Americans who fit snugly into a traditional faith; she addresses herself to baby boomers who have abandoned their childhood religion but feel uneasy in a home emptied of God (a subsidiary target is boomers in cross-faith marriages). Fay raises issues that most child experts (e.g., Spock, Leach, Brazelton) fail to address: What do we tell Jack and Jill about God? (``Will it be a revisionist She or the ancient He, a black God, a white God, or one tactfully disembodied and color-free?''). What about death? Heaven? The meaning of right and wrong? Fay asks friends for their advice and opinions, describes her own Catholic upbringing, tells how she responds to the questions of her young daughter, Anna. She dips into child psychology and faith development, and sometimes loses herself in statistical material. Gradually, the real issue emerges: not whether kids need God, but whether their parents do. As anecdotes proliferate, the impression grows of a generation that has lost something precious and doesn't know how to recapture it. Some claim cultural rather than spiritual allegiance to a faith; others jump to new religions or try to jazz up old ones. In each case, it boils down to parents searching for their own religious bearings before passing the compass to their children--a risky business, as Fay points out (the next generation may inherit spiritual myopia, as well as an inability to swim in what Fay calls ``the symbolic stream of Western culture''). Too hesitant for baby boomers looking for clear-cut advice-- and for just that reason, an intelligent presentation of the price of uncertainty.

Pub Date: March 15th, 1993
ISBN: 0-679-42054-1
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1993