How Come So Many Kids Lose Faith and Don’t Believe in Our Society?

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On spirituality, anti-intellectualism, and existential struggle

by Gail Post edited by O Society Feb 15, 2020

A troubling online comment highlights the complicated intersection between spirituality and science. Written by a family after touring an air and space museum, they proudly announce their children’s response to depictions of the solar system’s formation.

“We let it go in one ear and out the other!” The family – and their Facebook friends – gush with pride over how their kids are being raised the right way.

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Anything to contradict a literal interpretation of the Bible, even if firmly grounded in scientific knowledge, should be ignored or dismissed.

The above family in question is entitled to their religious views. They might find, though, encouraging denial in a world filled with readily available scientific information may work with a very young child – but it won’t fly as children get older.

And it certainly won’t work for gifted kids, who question just about everything, investigate concepts in detail, and sometimes plunge into existential despair in their search for meaning. When gifted children awaken to the world around them, they question authority, religion, political opinions, and anything else that seems without a solid foundation. If it lacks credulity, they will jettison the idea or belief.

In families where science is vilified, where facts threaten faith, and where anti-intellectualism runs deep, children who question long-held family beliefs and “truisms” often feel lost. They may feel this way for a long time. While religion or family values were once comforting and reassuring, now Billy cannot reconcile seemingly contradictory information gathered from school, friends, and even a simple Google search.

Some families believe providing a solid unified front, a clear sense of direction, and an unwavering perspective will alleviate any doubts their children might hold. Yet, gifted children are especially likely to poke holes in any argument, and reluctant to trust beliefs or values that seem rigid or ignore basic scientific facts.

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So where does this leave faith? Gifted children need the same support, guidance, and spiritual nourishment as any other child. But when faced with highly inflexible beliefs, many needlessly struggle. Some become depressed, experience existential angst, and feel isolated.

Others may doubt themselves, feel guilty, and think they are “defective” – something is wrong with them for challenging long-held family beliefs. Some rebel and reject religion and family values completely. These are not the outcomes families want for their children when they try to instill faith and family values.

Acknowledging facts about the world at large should not disavow one’s faith or religious beliefs. Not all scientists are atheists. And most religious and spiritually-informed families do not eschew science. Gifted children and teens will question “unproven” beliefs unless given some context for understanding them.

Rather than pretending or denying the existence of science, parents can serve as anchors to dispel confusion and demonstrate they can live with some ambiguity. They can help integrate scientific knowledge with their beliefs, and point out how science and religion can interface.

It’s okay to let your child know there is much we don’t understand. There is much not yet proven. This does not mean your family beliefs are necessarily wrong – rather spiritual beliefs just haven’t been “discovered” by science because they do not fall within the scientific domain.

Highly sensitive children especially need your help to carefully integrate the wealth of knowledge they devour on a daily basis with your family values. Pretending “facts” don’t exist is confusing, devaluing, and ultimately backfires.

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As a psychologist, it is not my intention to offer “spiritual guidance.” Yet I am clearly aware from experience of the confusion, despair, and unnecessary turmoil to arise when families fail to help their children integrate science with faith-based beliefs. Children feel lost and alone.

Parents feel angry if their children challenge or abandon cherished values. It can tear families apart. Rather than suffer in silence or rely on formulaic views that no longer work, consider seeking the support of an open-mind leader in your faith-based community or a licensed mental health professional.

Openness, flexibility, and compassion regarding different perspectives will assure your child he/she can lean on you for guidance when grappling with these existential concerns.

4 thoughts on “How Come So Many Kids Lose Faith and Don’t Believe in Our Society?

  1. Depends on which people you’re talking about, I supposed. For one large group, we’re over 20 years into the Democrats’ war on the poor, which today’s liberals have obviously supported. Majority of poor are young, and things do look quite hopeless to them.

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    1. Really? It is the Republicans who gave the billionaires and millionaires tax cuts so good? 60 corporations this year with billion dollar profits? Paid not one single dime in taxes and some? Even got tax refunds.

      It is the Republicans who are doing all they can to cut the social safety net to the poor and middle class who are sinking while the rich are rising. Each year the Republicans seek to do away with these social safety nets.

      They do not mind giving tax breaks to billionaires, but no breaks to students drowning in student loan debt huh? Or how I know for a fact? They cut such programs from Vocational Rehabilitation and Social Security’s PASS Progran that helped disabled people get retrained and go back to work. But again? They gave those massive tax breaks to their rich masters.

      When states under Democratic control raise the minimum wage to $15 bucks an hour? Repugnants fight that tooth and nail. And? Some Republicans even want to do away with minimum wages and go back to the sweat shop days.

      Repugnants do not care they in office get the best health care our taxpayer dollars can afford, but want no one else to get health care.

      So you keep spewing your Faux Nitwit Newsless, Repugnant and Trumpanzee lies, cause that is all you are good for.

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  2. Kids have lost faith in Christianity cause christians? Are so bloody hypocritical and want nothing to do with your psychotic religion of bigotry, hate, misogyny and death. They want nothing to do with the Repugnants cause they see just how evil they are.

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