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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

July 04, 1993|KAREN STABINER

DO CHILDREN NEED RELIGION? by Martha Fay (Pantheon Books: $23.; 237 pp.). In less subtle, sophisticated hands, this could have become a tract designed to support either the "yes" or "no" position. But the subtitle--"How parents today are thinking about the big questions"--gives away the scope and gentle wisdom of Fay's effort. She does not attempt to make an argument on either side; rather, she wants to examine the role religion plays in modern life, to question parents about how they were raised and how they, in turn, raise their children. She pokes at all the curiosities of this God business--at the Protestant theologian determined to aid his Russian Jewish wife in the raising of his stepchild as a Jew, at parents who ship their children to religious camps or retreats to compensate for their own lack of belief, at people who have abandoned traditional religion and no longer believe it to be a necessary staple of childhood. She arrives, finally, at an appreciation of the speculative mind, at a child's ability to wonder about belief, about life before them and after they're gone--which is a kind of religion, though not the doctrinaire sort.

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