In the opening montage of “Religion,” an episode on Aziz Ansari’s TV series Master of None, we see kids protesting miserably as their parents usher them off to church, synagogue, temple, and some kind of Scientology processing ceremony. They don’t want to go; they would much rather stay home. But their parents, it seems, believe they’re acting out of moral necessity: To introduce your children to religion, after all, is to give them a kind of road map to the art of being good.
Many parents assume that raising kids with some measure of religion is the best way to teach children how to behave ethically—both when they’re young and as they grow into adults. At the same time, in some societies, the role of religion has diminished, and people are becoming increasingly secular. Worldwide, the total number of religiously unaffiliated people (which includes atheists, agnostics and those who do not identify with any religion in particular) is expected to rise from 1.17 billion in 2015 to 1.20 billion in 2060. In the US, about a quarter of the population identifies as religiously unaffiliated today—up from 16% in 2007. In the United Kingdom, in 2017, 53% of adults described themselves as having no religious affiliation.