I’m republishing this post I wrote two years ago for BabyPotential.com (which is no longer online) because these issues and questions still come up in our household. I’d love to hear what you think: Can you / should you / how do you raise kids without religion?
Our daughter’s been asking questions. And I don’t exactly mean The Birds and The Bees kind of questions (although I’m preparing myself for The Talk which will take place sometime in the near future). No, our daughter is asking bigger, broader, meaning-of-life kinds of questions:
“God made everything, right? Except the houses. Yeah, he didn’t make those.”
“How does God make people, Mom?”
“Why does my cousin go to church and we don’t?”
“Did Jesus invent ice cream?” (OK, answering this one is a no-brainer because everyone knows it was the Chinese who invented ice cream. Oh. Wait. Maybe that’s spaghetti. The Chinese invented spaghetti. So, it’s entirely possible that Jesus invented ice cream? I’d better Google that.)
She’s confused. And she’s not alone. Welcome to your friendly, neighborhood home where the parents don’t subscribe to any particular religion.
My husband (who was raised Methodist) is agnostic.
I was raised Catholic and although I don’t really like the phrase I suppose some would label me as being of the “recovering” variety.
When I was a kid we went to church every Sunday (or, really, every Saturday evening ’cause God apparently doesn’t mind if you sleep in on Sunday as long as you punch the celestial clock at some point during each weekend). I attended CCD (even though I didn’t know what the acronym stood for until I Googled it for this post – CCD stands for the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, what the church teaches about itself). I received my First Communion, I went to confession, I was Confirmed in The Church. But no one was able to really explain Catholicism to me, at least not in a way I could completely understand or get behind. There were (and are) things I love about The Church but I have many issues with it too.
When I turned 18 I informed my parents that I would no longer be joining them on Saturday nights and I most certainly would not be dragging myself out of bed for church on Sunday mornings either. I effectively broke my mother’s heart, she who attended Catholic schools from grade school through college. It wasn’t my proudest moment but I knew I was being true to who I was and I had to stick by that since I certainly didn’t have any religion to stick to.
After I abandoned the only church I ever knew I didn’t try to find another. As much as I didn’t feel like a Catholic, I felt equally guilty at the thought of cheating on The Church with another. Yeah, Catholic guilt’s hilarious like that.
I believe in God. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. I am a Christian but I do not attend church. My children attend a Methodist preschool because we like and trust the people who care for them. They attend chapel at their school about once a week. They learn about the Bible in those vague ways that preschoolers learn about anything: Good vs. Bad, which I’m sure helps (a little?) to keep them in line in the classroom. And that’s fine with me. I guess I’m glad they’re getting Christian information of some sort at least.
But the lack of religious education and structure for my kids (and for myself) is confusing. And I imagine that my children are only likely to become more confused about religion as they get older. Right now I work to confidently instill my core beliefs in them but I do so in pretty general of terms (treat people as you wish to be treated; be kind, loving, helpful, non-judgemental, and giving).
As our kids grow from babies into people I’m starting to wonder: Can you really raise kids without religion?