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  • Writer's pictureJason Capp

Why Do People Follow and Leave Their Parents' Religion?

People often seem to follow the religion of their parents. Why is that? And why do so many people leave their religion as well? It may have something to do with "practicing what you preach."

When it comes to the practice of religion, there is one factor that is the single most important source of influence, and that is your parents' religion. It is more influential than culture, education, socioeconomic status, and even race. Al-Ghazali, a prominent and influential Muslim philosopher and mystic, even recognized this over 1000 years ago. He said, "I saw that Christian youths always grew up to be Christian, Jewish youths to be Jews, and Muslim youths to be Muslims."

It does not take a rocket scientist to see just how powerful influence of a parent. They are able to convince children that make-believe things like Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny are real things that serve real-world purposes, and they are able to mold the mind of the child whether they are actively doing it or not.

The often stellar YouTube channel, ReligionForBreakfast, released a wonderful video recently touching up on this topic and why it is so important.


What it ultimately boils down to is practicing what you preach, also known as CREDS (Credibility Enhancing Displays). Children who end up following their parents' religion usually do so because their parents were strongly dedicated to the faith and set a rock-solid example.

On the other side, children who end up walking away from their faith usually do so by citing hypocrisy, whether it be in their own parents or in the religious establishment that the parents frequent. What they hear and see are often two different things that immediately raise red flags, and many of these children decide it is much easier to walk away than it is to deconstruct their faith and rebuild.

"Over a relatively short period of time, our view of a supernatural god that's supposed to be feared can transition into a cute folktale based on the cues we received from others in our social group," Andrew Mark Henry points out in the video. The simple reality CREDS play in our lives is incredible. Children who are exposed to high level of CREDS by their parents almost certainly maintain their religious faith, while children who experience very little CREDS almost always leave their family's religion. It makes you wonder how often your children witness you practicing what you preach. For what it is worth, we should always be real and honest with our children. Having deep and meaningful conversations is what will create an atmosphere of learning instead of dictating or manipulation. What will we leave behind?

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