Religion or manners? Which values lead your list to teach your children?

Print More
Crosby, Stills and Nash crooned about our message to the next generation in 'Teach Your Children Well.' Photo from YouTube concert video.

Crosby, Stills and Nash crooned about our message to the next generation in 'Teach Your Children Well.' Photo from YouTube concert video.

We all want our kids to be responsible, hard working, helpful to others and well mannered, too.

What about religious? No, not so much, evidently.

A new survey released today (Sept. 18) by the Pew Research Center finds that adults’ political ideology and their religious identify often make a significant difference in the qualities they say are the most important to teach their children.

Cue the Crosby, Stills & Nash here.

Pew conducted the research with 3,243 adults responding by mail or online between April 29 and May 27. They were asked to rank the importance of 12 different qualities and choose their three most important traits.

The answers align like a scouts’ handbook: Being responsible was important or very important with almost everyone (93 percent overall); hard work (89 percent) and being well mannered and helpful tied for third in the rankings (at 84 percent).

Religious faith, however, registered last on the list of 12 qualities for overall importance (53 percent) — below curiosity (59 percent) and obedience (60 percent).

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 4.28.17 PMBut some stark differences appear once you sort the answers by political ideology, religious identity, and race.

I’ll leave the ideology aside and just zero in on religious variations here.

For all those who identify with a religion, reaching faith ranks very important for 37 percent.

But for white evangelical Christians, 60 percent say teaching that’s ”among the most important qualities to instill,” according to the report.

For African-Americans, 41 percent picked faith among the top values.

And for those who claim no religious identity, only 3 percent put high importance on instilling religious faith in their offspring.

The values divide on other issues is narrower but still noteworthy.

— People with no religious brand are about three times more likely than white Protestants, from evangelical to mainline, to say curiosity tops the list.

— White Protestants are the most likely to set a high value on teaching obedience to their children.

— Catholics are very strong on manners (27 percent cited this as very important).

Your turn.

Pew’s list to pick from included: independence, hard work; being responsible; creativity; being well mannered; helping others; persistence; religious faith; obedience; empathy for others; curiosity and tolerance.

What would you rank as most important? Second or third? Write in candidates?

  • Could it be that the competition is less between manners and religion, and more between self image and selflessness? Teaching manners yields a sense of pride through the “good” behavior of the child. In contrast, faith is formed internally and less obvious to the observer. Your survey is a very sad commentary of our culture. Well written and thought provoking. Thank you, Cathy.

  • Karla

    What happened today is bad mouthing religion backfired and people are now
    spiritual instead of Biblical. Many think they can say/do whatever and still go
    to heaven cause so many people started bad mouthin religion. That’s why so
    many in the church still get drunk,gamble,are mean/have sharp tongues and
    have pride,gossip,covet,sleep around/still fornicate because people wanted
    to not live right so they made religion seem bad, If you say you love Jesus
    and then don’t follow the Bible/religion no Truth is in you! Ephesians 5:18 says
    don’t get drunk and also 1 Corinthians 6:10 says that all drunkards go to hell.
    The wine that Jesus made was from the fruit of the vine/new wine/diluted and
    the Bible says don’t get drunk on strong wine so people who get drunk with
    wine are also wrong/go to hell. People today seem to forget that Jesus said
    you are one of Mine only if you follow Me and many will say to Me Lord,Lord
    and not enter heaven! The Bible says Repent or perish! We all must Repent!

  • Larry

    Why am I not surprised that Evangelical Protestants found instilling their religious belief is more important than tolerance, creativity, curiosity and acting polite/civil to others?

    So they teach their children, so they act as adults.

  • ronald

    If you teach your children faith in Christ, obedience and good manners will come naturally so you don’t need to teach those ones specificly.

    I don’t think curiosity, tolerence or creativity should necesarily be considered virtues. Curiosity killed the cat and also can lead to things like athiesm, other religions or experimenting with drugs and homosinuality. There are things that should not be tolerated, such as any Biblical sin such as the ones I mentioned above. And creativity can lead to creating graven images or living the “artist” lifestyle of drugs and fornication and Satanism. There are many gay or athiest artists.

  • The Great God Pan

    “Many think they can say/do whatever and still go to heaven…”

    …as long as they believe in Jesus, which makes sense since that is the central doctrine of Christianity and the US is overwhelmingly populated by Christians.

  • Karla

    The Great God Plan-Bible says we must Repent so people that think
    they can say/do whatever and then go to heaven are not Christians at
    all. The Bible teaches we must Repent then follow Him/the Bible/Jesus
    and Jesus said many will say to Me Lord,Lord and not enter heaven!

  • opheliart

    not sure what you mean by “artists” lifestyle of drugs and …

    Artists can be many things:
    writers, painters, film makers, photographers … even scientists, doctors, and religionists (I am sure you’ve seen some of this Performance Art … ) How well the “art” moves people to well being is another matter. I am Artist and paint what is within me to paint, as well as write what is within me to write. Imagination is a splendid thing, and serves in societies in many ways, for some, it is a means of survival. I “perfected” the art of imagining I was somewhere else while listening to Orthodox Presbyterian sermons every Sunday both morning and evening for nearly sixteen years 🙂

    Peace to you, man …

  • Gary

    I wish the question had been phrased differently. There is a difference between ethics and religion. If by religious values one means teaching belief in God, Jesus, Allah or some other super natural being that is very different from teaching ethics, as in right from wrong. There are many ethical atheists and many unethical believers and vice versa so the values of unaffiliTed people seem obfuscated by this general descriptor.

  • Thecla

    The designers of the survey were selective about the options. They didn’t mention my chief goals for my children: (1) to be good conversationalists: interested in ideas, articulate and clever and (2) to appreciate beauty in nature and the arts, and to have good taste.

  • Fran


    Jesus also said that the meek would inherit the earth (not the heavens) according to Matthew 5:5; and Psalms 37:29 brings out that the righteous will live on the earth forever.

    Only those who are spirit-anointed humans who become spirit persons (1 Corinthians 15:50) to form God’s kingdom or heavenly government (144,000 according to Revelation 14:1-5 and 20:4-6) with Jesus as King have a heavenly hope.

    The majority of meek mankind will live on a paradise earth, cleansed of all terrible conditions and man’s governments. (Psalm 37:10,11; Isaiah 11:1-9; Revelation 21:1-4). They will also enjoy the loving, righteous and just rule of God’s kingdom during its upcoming 1,000-yr. rule.

  • rob

    Well of course if one asks the unregenerate they will be given an answer only for the temporary rather than the eternal..

    ask a Christian and they will want eternal life for their kids any day and into eternity over there kids being polite for this world.

  • rob

    Faith and Reason..

    When reason is made Christian That is when a person can look beyond this temporary world and see how important Jesus is..
    only if they are in Jesus do children never really die..

  • Jack

    That is only true, Pan, if faith is defined narrowly as creedal affirmation rather than the biblical way — ie genuinely trust in God. The evidence of one’s trust in God is how we treat our neighbor. Defined thusly, faith must lead to ethical behavior. You can almost train a parrot to recite a creed. You can’t train it to trust and to act accordingly.