I am not very religious but I do know this - when I look at my life and the decisions/mistakes I've made, if I had followed the 10 commandments and the other things Christianity (and I assume Judaism) teach, things would have gone MUCH more smoothly and turned out MUCH better.
Religion manipulates, but so does lack of religion - the belief only in one's self. That definitely tends to lead one astray. There are worse fates a person can suffer than being manipulated into being a good, decent person.
, I know you and your wife are not on good terms, but have you ever expressed your concern to her in the way you did here -- that as wonderful as church may be, her insistence is driving the kids away from church, and putting a wedge between them and her?
Yes I have, it doesn't work... we are in therapy and just tonight she defended abusive-type behavior toward our kids in order to "pass along the faith."
I don't know how overboard she is with this religion thing, but from the outside I could see her perspective being that there are so many bad influences in the world, especially for teens, that she wants to keep them busy with church people and church activities so they are more likely to be surrounded by people with shared values and less likely to be around bad influences.
I get that and that is the upside, but they also have sports and studies (and me) so I'm not too worried about drugs and bad influences, although I fully realize the potential for this.
If you get at the heart of exactly what is driving her desire, there might be something else that the kids would like that accomplishes the same goal. (Unless she is just fanatically religious.) For example, my H and I go to college ball games and we know a lot of families that are really into them. I think it's so great because it's something a family can do together, that the teens like too.
There is NOTHING else in her view that can compete with the infallible teachings of "Holy Mother Church." LOL However, I am here to balance that out, I have coached all of my kids in youth sports, help with homework and will remain active in their lives as long as they want/need me.
It's very hard with teens. At some point you really can't make them do anything. Her controlling behavior is just going to drive them away.