I have two very precious, bright, energetic grandsons. One just turned 4, the other is 5 years old. They look at the world in such an excited way, it is completely refreshing to my spirit to be around them, play with them, and just listen to what they say!
As a teacher, years ago I was taught that children go through different stages of cognitive development. The child development researcher Jean Piaget’s cognitive developmental theory is what I will use briefly here. Source for information below comes from Simply Psychology.org
Piaget’s 4 Stages of Cognitive Development
Piaget proposed four stages of cognitive development which reflect the increasing sophistication of children’s thought:
1. Sensorimotor stage (birth to age 2)
2. Pre-operational stage (from age 2 to age 7)
3. Concrete operational stage (from age 7 to age 11)
4. Formal operational stage (age 11+ – adolescence and adulthood).
I am interested in focusing on the Pre-operational stage, which you’ll notice covers the ages of 2 to 7 years old. When a child is in this stage of cognitive development, the child is still geocentric, but capable of using symbolism in his/her thinking. The child is not capable of abstract reasoning, or logical deduction at this age.
Their world is very concrete and literal. They are very trusting and believe that what you tell them is the truth. Their worldview is in large part mapped out by their parents (or caretakers).
This being the case, I find these statistics rather interesting.
85% of children becoming Christians happens between ages of 4 to 14 years old. From 15 years old to 30 years old, the percentage drops dramatically to just 10%. And only 4% of those over 30 choose to become believers. Source: http://home.snu.edu/~hculbert/ages.htm
There is a 70% chance that when young people leave a church youth group, they will never return to a church. Source: churchleadership.org Wow! Why is this?
I have a couple of straight forward ideas as to these stats.
- Teaching a little pre-operational child, (who is incapable of logical reasoning, who believes that everything you tell them is true), that they are sinners, and going to burn in hell unless they ask Jesus into their hearts to save them is emotional and mental abuse. Of course anyone would do anything to avoid being burned alive forever! So when a young pre-operational child ‘accepts Jesus into their heart’, I postulate that they are incapable of loving an abstract, invisible God. They are doing so out of fear that has been instilled inside their literal imagination!
- Children generally want to please those in authority, and even at middle school age, they are quite pliable in molding their thinking and emotions.
- There is no real, observable, reliable supernatural power in our world, or in a young person’s world. There is, however, a glut of really bad influences via social media, rap ‘artists’ who perpetuate their horrible, criminal thug ghetto mentality on their minds and emotions. There are many lying liberal teachers who prey on their emotions, and manipulate their young brains with logical fallacies and appeals to emotionalism.
- So the balance between being taught that God is in absolute control, is loving, reliable, powerful vs the raucous reality of their lives guess what? ‘God’ comes in last as being unreliable, and irrelevant!
- But I think the most important thing here is that the young children were manipulated by fear when their young brains were incapable of logical reasoning. If their ‘faith’ was founded upon fear, then how could love ever even enter the picture? Answer: It wasn’t love, it was the need for survival, and continuation of living ‘religiously’ is not love so much as it is a need for the child to be accepted and approved of by his parents and those in authority over him.
So, do Baptists mentally and emotionally abuse their children? Yes they do with all the best intentions, but the abuse is still there at the core.
It’s all based on fear.
If Christianity was based on real, observable power, and made logical sense, then there would be a much greater percentage of adults converting later in life, instead of merely 4%. I think this is extremely telling!
I have more to say about the damage fundamentalists do to their children and why ultimately they are only gaining Pyrrhic victories with their children. (Including me!)