Answer the actual question
I’ve heard a lot of parents (invariably nonreligious ones) boast about their ‘tolerant’ parental approach to religion. Usually, it goes a little something like this:
“I tell my children, ‘You can believe whatever you want. If you decide to be an atheist or a Christian or a Muslim or a Buddhist or a Pastafarian or a Wiccan, I will love you regardless.'”
I realize that these parents are generally just trying to take their acceptance out of the equation. I think they are trying to tell their kids, “Choose a belief system on its own merits. Don’t believe X just because I do.”
Unfortunately, a simple “I will love you regardless” statement doesn’t convey “Choose a belief system on its own merits,” and neither is a very useful answer if the question is “What religion should I choose?”
If your child — let’s say your daughter — is seeking your advice on belief systems, it’s probably because she wants to know which one will be best for her, not which one you will approve of. She may even be concerned with how to get to heaven or how to avoid hell. So the most respectful answer is one that addresses the actual question!
Another issue: The ‘tolerant’ approach is generally touted as superior to ‘pushing religion,’ regardless of what the parents believe . But if you believe that your child’s choice of religion has grave eternal consequences, how can you possibly see ‘tolerance’ as loving or respectful? Won’t you do whatever is in your power to ensure that your child makes the ‘right’ choice?