Stuart Stevenson (Letters, December 27) tries to refute my claim that the survival of religious faith depends on the indoctrination of young children by pointing out that Christianity did not die out in the USSR.

His argument fails because, despite the Communist regime's efforts to eliminate the public dissemination of Christianity, the most powerful religious influence of all – that of parents on children – persisted in private. It was not illegal to be a Christian; the number of believers made a total ban on religious expression impractical; and the regime lacked the resources to monitor activity in every home. Moreover, the failure of Communism to satisfy the populace in material terms and the brutality with which dissenting ideologies were suppressed propagated a widespread, if covert, desire for a counter-culture, and Christianity presented itself as the most obvious candidate. The example of the USSR proves only that heavy-handedness can be counter-productive, and parental influence is not easily usurped.

A contrasting model, which supports my claim, is offered by the pluralistic secularism of western democracies, whose populations are nearly all growing less religious. This is because the children of religious parents find a competing rationalist influence in fact-based education, which often leads them to discard the instilled faith of their early years, whereas the children of atheists more rarely make the opposite journey.

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Robert Canning,

Secular Scotland,

58a Broughton Street,