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Not only does religious indoctrination endanger the mental health of children but in extreme cases it also endangers their physical health. Take the case of Dale and Leilani Neumann who have been sentenced to second-degree reckless homicide, and face up to 25 years in prison. Their daughter died of a treatable case of Diabetes. Dale Neumann told the state of Wisconsin that he believed god could heal his daughter. In court he said, "If I go to the doctor, I am putting the doctor before God, I am not believing what he said he would do."

As for the mental health of a child Innaiah Narisetti, who is a writer, the chair of the Indian branch of the Center for Inquiry, and humanist, has a book that covers many aspects of religion and child abuse. Forced into Faith: How Religion Abuses Children's Rights. This is the foreward from that book:

"Foreword by Naveena Hemanth

In 1989, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, proclaiming elementary rights for children worldwide. Among other provisions, the Convention safeguards children's religious freedom and their freedom of thought. But because child rearing is recognized as the primary responsibility of parents, the question of what children are raised to believe is left up to their mothers and fathers.

In this controversial critique of the UN Convention, humanist Innaiah Narisetti forcefully argues that children's rights should include complete freedom from religious belief. Narisetti proposes that the choice of religious belief or nonbelief should be deferred till adulthood. Just as most societies recognize that marriage and civic responsibilities such as voting are adult prerogatives that children should not be allowed to exercise, so should the choice of a belief system wait till an individual is competent to exercise mature judgment.

Narisetti cites numerous examples of the ways in which early religious indoctrination leads to later negative attitudes such as intolerance, suspicion, and outright hostility directed toward those who believe differently. He also notes that religion provides a cloak for such obvious evils as sexual abuse, genital mutilation, and corporal punishment of children. While most societies are quick to condemn such abuses, Narisetti suggests that they should be willing to take the next logical step and look to the role of religion in such problems.

Including the complete text of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, this candid, unflinching critique of childhood religious education will provoke much thoughtful discussion."

There are multiple resources on this topic, a few links are provided below.

A different opinion

When we talk about 'mental health' we most often refer to the set of attitudes, expectations, and even prejudices which will best enable an adult to function in the society where they find themselves.

So, for a modern day Muslim living in Iran it is an important function of mental wellbeing that he sees nothing wrong in the public execution of homosexuals, or flogging teenage girls for uncovering their hair. A modern day urban Hindu must cringe at the thought of eating beef, but see no great problem in including cowdung as part of the ingredients of a milkshake. A modern day American must consider female genital mutilation an abomination, but male genital mutilation a neutral - or even desirable - cosmetic enhancement.

But what happens if someone is born in Seattle, but then moves to Isfahan (perhaps because she has converted to Islam and married a Muslim)? For that matter, what happens when a society is committed to the ideals of ecumenism? Is female genital mutilation OK where the parents approve of it, or where it is a cultural tradition?

Whether raising your children religious advantages or disadvantages them will depend on which religion you raise them in, and where they grow up. Interfering with a private individual's faith choices because of your social prejudices is a problematic business. But then not interfering with a person's faith prejudices can also cause problems: the British Empire effectively eradicated the Thuggee faith during the 19th century, and it was right to do so.

Some questions don't have easy answers - or even the same answer each time you ask them. There is no reason why every life choice should be trivial.

Dealing with complex moral issues on an internet public-access answers site is not always possible.


But you are talking about cultural expectations and defining a "healthy" individual as one who can conform to those tropes and ignorant beliefs that surround them. They are deliberately made to fear being different or challenging the status quo. This is why religious indoctrination is effective. Skeptics are not admired.

Mentally healthy individuals are free of paranoia and anxiety, which are conditions caused by the fear mongering and wish mongering that religious indoctrination produces. The point is not about interfering with an adult's faith choices it is about parents and institutions instilling unhealthy dogmatic habits of thinking about reality. Parents have a duty to teach their children to think critically. In this way children do not fall victim to irrational ignorant prejudices.

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Q: Does religious indoctrination of children endanger their mental health?
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