October 18, 2007

Losing My Religion

I went to a private Baptist elementary school. Ironically, it was the most hellish educational experience I've had in my entire life. Why? God was the curriculum and deviation was not tolerated. We attended chapel services at least twice a week as a class. Once a week the entire elementary school (there was also a secondary and high school) headed towards something referred to as sanctuary. Logan's Run (one of my favorite movies ever) fans among you will be disappointed to learn that this trek to sanctuary didn't involve breaking out of a domed city in which all of humanity lived in order to escape into the wilds of a post-apocalyptic earth. Instead we were marched into a church of unbelievable size and forced to listen to a millionaire minister spew random thoughts from his god-addled brain in an attempt to try his Sunday sermon out on us. Just about as bad. Instead of licensed teachers, we were taught by bible college graduates. Instead of learning math, we memorized bible verses. Instead of social diversity, we learned in a world populated by rich white people.

To say I didn't like it is like saying that George Dubya is a flawed president or Jenna Jameson dabbled in a little adult entertainment. I hated it. I couldn't really fault my parents - they sent me there not out of religious fervor but because they'd heard that I'd get a good education. They were wrong. I told them so. They pulled me out.

One day in the fourth grade, I was sitting at my desk half-listening to a lecture about god from my crappy teacher. Without warning, she called on me.

Teacher: Chris, do you and your family go to church on Sundays?
Me: Um, no.
Teacher: Why not?
Me: Um, well, we have better things to do on Sundays.

Without another word, my teacher headed to her desk and hastily scrawled something on a piece of paper, folded it, and handed it to me. It was a note for my parents. It asked them to explain the statement I'd made. My parents did. They backed me up. And I became an outcast. Obviously, this is when we pulled the plug on my private school career. I transferred to public school where I quickly realized I'd learned approximately nothing.

The side-effect of all this is a deep skepticism of religion and ambivalence about my own faith. Yet I do, somehow, have an abiding respect for those with that faith, regardless how or in whom it manifests itself. The reason I've bored you with this long, drawn out tale is that I'm now trying to think of how we should talk to Mia about religion. It is, no doubt, going to come up sooner rather than later.

So, for those of you with kids, those of you who plan on having kids, or those of you who are kids, I ask you this - how do you deal with the topic of religion? How do you view religion?

Posted by Chris at October 18, 2007 7:04 AM

dude thats a tough one - i think the way i think of it is that religion is a bit like a sporting team, different people barrack for different teams, but ultimately everyone wants the same thing, and while you might prefer your team, it doesn't mean that the other teams are better or worse than yours, just different. And sometimes the best teams are those that don't have all the rules and regulations, but are just a group of people that share the same spiritual goal of the world. i dunno - sounds corny when i write it now.

Posted by: Ally at October 18, 2007 7:43 AM

dude thats a tough one - i think the way i think of it is that religion is a bit like a sporting team, different people barrack for different teams, but ultimately everyone wants the same thing, and while you might prefer your team, it doesn't mean that the other teams are better or worse than yours, just different. And sometimes the best teams are those that don't have all the rules and regulations, but are just a group of people that share the same spiritual goal of the world. i dunno - sounds corny when i write it now.

Posted by: Ally at October 18, 2007 7:44 AM

I consider myself to be a spiritual person, but I am far from religious. My dad was not very "into the church" as I was growing up (still isn't), and my mom was a Christmas/Easter Catholic-church attendee. Since I didn't grow up deeply entrenched in religion it's not something I miss in my life, though I don't deny that I know so many people who find comfort in it. With my kids, I plan to do what I wish my parents had done for me - when they get older, I'll let them read about different religions, and I'll take them to any service for any denomination... if they choose to adopt one as their own, that's cool with me. If they decide not to, that's fine. I believe in letting people find the right fit for them, rather than adopting a set of beliefs simply because mom and dad said to... but that's just me. ;)

Posted by: Sarah at October 18, 2007 7:49 AM

SUPER tough one....MD and I have had many a discussion about how exactly we are going to tackle this.

We both grew up on the French Catholic church in small communities. We grew up being taught that almost all indulgent things in life would send us to straight to hell, that all other religions pretty much didn't get it (and would probably go to hell) and that we should feel guilty for the original sin every day of our life...lest we would end up in hell...popular place. Wonderful way to bring up a child...really.

Needless to say, we both ran from the church as early as we possibly could. Our parents however are still church attendees and we've already begun to face heat about our decision (which we've made vocal) to not baptize our baby once he is born (going to hell, remember?).

While I consider myself to be spiritual and a believer in something (somewhat of an agnostic, although I hate that it's considered fence-sitting) MD is an atheist. Pure and simple...he does not believe. We respect one another's beliefs and on a day to day basis, it works quite well.

What we *think* we are going to do...is expose ALF to ALL KINDS of different religions (in an age appropriate way) of course and encourage curiosity and that he develop his own kind of faith (should be inclined). It's hard though....we're already anticipating questions that will be hard to answer (especially coming from a fence-sitter and an atheist).

Posted by: wn at October 18, 2007 7:58 AM

I just finished this wonderfully inspiring comment and your thing told me I'd tried to post too many comments!! I'll try again later....grrr...

Posted by: laura at October 18, 2007 8:03 AM

We worship at the church of Springsteen!

The Man defines us, as Christians who don't believe in god or Jesus.

For The Boy, we explain that many believe in God the same way he believes in Santa Claus and the Toothfairy. We do not, but it is important to respect other people's faiths. It's an ongoing topic. Hard to be almost-7 and have mom tell you that God is dead and there may not be a Santa, Toothfairy or an Easter Bunny.

Posted by: Nat at October 18, 2007 8:03 AM

I consider myself a Christian, as does my husband. However, we do not attend church. We've tried more than once to find a church where we feel comfortable, and it just hasn't happened. And, well, like you said...we have better things to do on Sundays. Especially DH, who works a midnight shift on Saturday night.

Our babysitter, however, is very devout (not a fanatic, just devout. There's a difference). Church twice on Sundays and again on Wednesday nights, plus bible studies, youth groups, and revivals. The children who stay with her say a prayer before meals, and sometimes they watch bible-themed cartoons or she tells bible stories. This is fine with me--we knew going in to this that this is how she works. There is no pushing of her religion, just an understanding that this is how she sees the world.

And, my point with this whole rambling story is...so far I haven't had to answer any questions. To this point any and all questions have been satisfied by the babysitter. It seems she answers the inquiries before they're even asked. Questions about death I've had to answer, but not about God. My children speak of God as if they know him personally, and that's fine with me. They're secure in their innocent knowledge. I imagine that one day soon there will be questions, and I suppose I'll just answer with my own personal beliefs and let them question/believe from there.

Make any sense?

Posted by: Alissa at October 18, 2007 8:04 AM

I'll be interested to see how some of these answers turn out. I was raised in a very conservative religious tradition; we were Pentecostal. I have since moved very far away from that. Probably could be called agnostic.

We will probably go the way of Sarah and wn. Wait until they are old enough to understand religion for what it is, not see it as some sort of magic or something you have to believe in. From there, let them learn about as much religion as they can/choose. Then they can make their own decisions about all of it.

I just don't have the heart to cram it down my child's throat the way it was crammed down mine.

Posted by: brandy at October 18, 2007 8:06 AM

Ugh! I am so confused on this issue as well. I hope you will do posts in the future on just how exactly you are going to bring this up with Mia and the new baby.

On one hand, I don't want them to grow up to be clones of me--and on the other, how do I teach them about something that I have absolutely no faith in?

A couple of months ago, my daughter's little friend was trying to teach her some church song (I am a child of god), and my little girl kept singing I am a child of dog--and I was cringing and laughing at the same time, all the while wondering how in the world am I going to let her experience her world and not live mine. Make sense? Eh, not to me either, I am ready for bed and loopy tired.

Posted by: Nanette at October 18, 2007 8:15 AM

It's a tough topic especially if you don't have a a specific belief.

Teach her what you believe.

Posted by: William at October 18, 2007 8:20 AM

my mom was southern baptist...all my friends growing up went to the catholic church down the street...she worked weekends... and i asked if i could go to church with my friends... she said yes, got a chapel veil that i thought was pretty cool at the time, even got rosary from a nun that for some reason lived in the front flat next door...even though i could not understand a word they said... it DID lead me to taking latin all thru high school...then i got into the eastern philosophy... organized religion is ritual and dogma... you can explain about god...without your own feelings i think... faith lives in the heart...let her know that... guide her to find her own path..encourage her to ask questions and to find her own truth...my wife is an ordained minister of holistic theology....we do not discuss religion...
we are both very spritual people...

Posted by: the unicorn at October 18, 2007 8:20 AM

Chris~I don't have children of my own, but my husband's biggest regret in life is not making religion part of his children's lives while he was raising them after his divorce from their mother.

Posted by: Dawn at October 18, 2007 8:32 AM

I enjoyed reading this post and the comments so far. I'm in much the same situation, in that I went to Catholic school for my entire education despite the fact that religion at my house consisted of a crunchy mix of Jesus Christ Superstar and The Force. Luckily, although I was always open about my skepticism, I was never ostracized.

After a LOT of agonizing and soul searching, I decided to have my two boys baptized (at ages 4 and 2) so I could enroll them in the Catholic school across the street. Admittedly, a large portion of our decision was based on convenience and proximity, but I do also think that they'll get a slightly higher quality of education in the Catholic system. I'll just have to tolerate the dogmatic bits.

Now my 5 year old son comes home talking about Jesus with rather alarming frequency, and I find myself straddling a fine line. I don't want to contradict what he learns in school, and I want to wait until he's much older to begin to teach him about critical thinking - at least in the context of religion. So for now, we don't go to church and we're not overtly religious, but we do support what he's taught in school - even if it means swallowing my own beliefs every now and then. Mostly, I try to frame what he's learning to make it more about God and love and tolerance and less about Jesus and dogma. Hey, it worked for me.

Posted by: DaniGirl at October 18, 2007 8:32 AM

This is definitely not an easy question! I'm a Christian, which I think you already knew, but I'm not 100% sure how I'll handle it with my kids when the time comes. I don't want to turn them into little zombies, spouting off what *I* believe for no reason other than not knowing better, but I do want to share that belief with them - and I hold it to be truth.
Yet - I want to make sure that they know that they, and others, have the right to disagree, and encourage them to do so respectfully. I don't want to be fear-mongering about hell, but I do want to tell them the stories of Adam and Eve, and Noah, and Jonah and see them all as a real part of the faith's history, not just bedtime stories.
I think that children can gain a lot from a simple faith in God, and I would greatly cherish the opportunity to say bedtime prayers with them. But by absolutely no means do I want them to grow into the bigots that some self-professed Christians are...and no matter what, I want them to know I love them madly. (I mean, I already do and they don't even exist yet :P)
Obviously there are any number of conflicting opinions on this one, and all I've really done is shared with you my particular set of questions!
On another note, I graduated from a Christian school, and I still managed to do quite well on my Provincial examinations ;-) (I guess, the equivalent of SATs, or something...high 90s/100.) So not all Christian schools suck, and not all Christians are ignorant twits. (And I'm fairly sure you already knew that. But just felt the need to throw it out there :P Not that my rambling is helping to prove my point...)

Posted by: Heather at October 18, 2007 8:36 AM

I had taught my two girls at home about Jesus and God and the children's bible stories that you can get in those little kiddie books.
Then when Katie died, Amanda (Age 8 at the time) sort of lost her faith. How could this happen? I let her go. I didn't force religion on her. She knew the basic premise and I thought as she grew she would either seek it out, or develop it on her own.
Well she is 31 now, and she has a nice belief that there is a "heaven" a place where she will see her sister again. I think she believes in a higher power of some sort. But she said she was glad she knew the basics, and then that we allowed her to decide for herself later.

Posted by: Maribeth at October 18, 2007 8:45 AM

Why are you trying to make us think so early in the morning? At least this wasn't a Monday morning post!

I was raised Catholic and so was my husband. I lived my childhood in fear of "going to hell" when I died. I have many issues with organized religion and see much of it as a form of brainwashing. It's all very cultish and ritualistic. We are raising our kids in the Catholic Church and Connor attends a Catholic School (mainly because its a great school and our public school leave a lot to be desired) but we teach them to question and not take everything at face value. That living a good life and being a kind, caring person is more important than going to church services every week. I want my kids to learn about all the worlds religions and make their own decisions on what to believe. I can't support any religion that does not practice tolerance of others beliefs. I am also greatly disturbed by all the money issues. The Catholic Church is incredibly wealthy, why do I need to give my hard earned money to support child molesting priests? Why can't the Vatican give up some of their riches to take care of their own.

One of my grandmothers changed her religion every few years. If her church got a minister she didnt like, she would change churches ...

I admire churches where its more of a community getting together, offering support to that community and it's members rather than "worshipping" and being "absolved" of my "sins"....

Posted by: Lisa at October 18, 2007 8:47 AM

This has been a strange issue for us, too. My wife is a Lutheran, raised in the church, but she doesn't frequently attend services. Her father, who died in April at age 96, was very devout and a faithful churchgoer. Primarily out of respect for him, I would go to church for Easter and Christmas, and that was about it. I was not raised going to church, though my parents call themselves Methodist. I'm an atheist who is willing to concede that there are some good lessons that a child can learn from the bible, but also from many other religions that one may not fully embrace. I take more comfort in Buddhism than any other labeled religion.

So where does this lead our son? He is six now. At four, after I weakly protested, we started taking him to Sunday school, but basically we would drop him off at 9:45, go get his Granddaddy, take Granddaddy to services at 11:00, pick up our son and come home (without joining Granddaddy for services).

Now that Granddaddy is gone, we are still taking him to Sunday school but not attending services. I'm certain I will never attend church, but I'm not sure if our son is on a path toward first communion and confirmation and all that. That's going to get awkward, but I'm not willing to go through the charade week after week just to avoid a few awkward events down the road. It would be less awkward if my wife we're to attend from time to time, but that's her decision. She did go last week with another family and my son and the other kids were all wiggly and disrespectful, which I think, up until now, has been her reason for not attending more often.

I'm not sure yet how I'm going to answer when he asks why I don't go to church. I guess it's time to start thinking about my response.

Posted by: Jeff St Real at October 18, 2007 8:58 AM

I'm very spiritual, but I don't believe I'm religious. Religion, in my view, has failed us and I cannot come on board when each faith believes their religion is the only one that will get to heaven.

We do not go to church, but the "grandmothers" took our daughter to church with them when she was young and as she got older she chose a church for herself and went for a bit.

For myself and her dad, we just tried to teach her tolerance and that there are many different ways to believe and you have to choose your own path. But that the most important thing to us is how you treat others.

Posted by: daisy at October 18, 2007 8:59 AM

My husband and I are atheist. When our two-year-olds are old enough to discuss the topic with us, we're going to be completely honest with them about what we believe, and we're also going to tell them that there are lots of different approaches to this topic. They'll need to find their own paths, and we will support them whatever they end up choosing. The most important thing is that they learn respect for all people, regardless of their faith (or lack thereof).

Posted by: Kelly at October 18, 2007 9:12 AM

Organized religion makes me verrry uncomfortable. Partly because of situations like the school experience you described, and partly because people use it to justify all kinds of horrible things. I consider myself very lucky not to have been raised in any particular religion. We read Bible stories but they were just that -- fictional stories, sometimes with a leeson about being brave or telling the truth or whatever. I guess you'd call me agnostic? I'm not even sure what to call myself.

Oddly enough, blogging has allowed me to "meet" some people for whom faith and organized religion are very important. I've learned that it's just as bad to judge someone for being "Christian" (although I have to admit the term still makes me cringe) as it is to judge someone for not going to church.

Luckily, my husband feels much the same way I do, so there's no conflict there. If we have kids, we'll raise them to accept that opinions about religion are one of those many many ways in which people vary. I'll share my beliefs with them -- simplified, of course -- but I'll let them know that if that's something they want to explore I will (cringingly, I admit) accept and encourage it as much as I can. Ultimately I want to raise them to be able to think for themselves no matter what, and I would never tolerate someone trying to force fire and brimstone down my kid's throat.

Posted by: Fraulein N at October 18, 2007 9:19 AM

I was brought up in atheist/agnostic family and that's still my belief but I remember having a phase of wanting to go to church but I think that was because a friend of mine told me you got free cards or something.

It's not a massive issue in the UK (yet) but the athesit/humanist newsletters and blogs I read from the US make me glad I live where I do. Look up Humanist Network News as they have been having a fair few articles about parenting, and there's also the Agnostic Mom blog.

For my own approach, I think I'd go with what Kelly says above.

Posted by: Katherine at October 18, 2007 9:22 AM

My wife and I are both Atheists, though we didn't have as traumatic childhood religious experiences as you. My sister in law and her husband and their family however, are all very religious. When the time comes, we figure we'll just give our kids the opportunity to go to church with them (if they so desire) and feel it out for themselves. Then, after they're old enough to understand that not everything an adult says is the truth, we'll explain that we disagree with what they tell you in church and that you don't have to go if you don't want to.

Posted by: Adam at October 18, 2007 9:31 AM

You know, there is no one right answer to this type of question. It all boils down to another parenting situation, fraught with pitfalls and people on either side of the fence telling you that you are wrong. It's another version of the breast vs bottle, unmedicated vs medicated birth, working out of home vs stay at home... and on and on and on.... Our primary goal, as parents, is to do the best that we can to do right by our kids. How we all come to that is a personal choice.
For myself, I live in the buckle of the Bible Belt. I'd been a fallen away catholic for many years of my life and my husband is not religious by any means. His family, however, is VERY actively involved in their church, with several of them involved in the church school. I realized very early on that if I did not take an active role in trying to expose my kids to a faith system, teach them how to think critically, etc... my in-laws would try to do this instead. To the degree that there was a huge argument when I told them that our son would not be attending their church school (also baptist, btw, and with the same teaching structure that you described Chris). They tried to talk up the reduced cost, the "christian" environment, the sad shape the public school system is in (which they are right about)...etc etc. All of this was couple with them trying to talk my son up about it. Finally, I made it very clear that he would be going to the catholic school attached to my church, where he would go for free...and that if his head would be filled with fairy tales, they would be filled with MY fairy tales, as I was his parent and it was my right to screw up my child whichever way I saw fit!
Here's the thing, if I lived in CA still, or in many other states, this might have never come up. But I live in the buckle of the Bible Belt, where my children will be influenced by SOMETHING regardless and where every corner is filled with some fanatic crying hellfire and brimstone. So I felt like I HAD to get involved in this part of his upbringing. This way I get to help guide his critical thinking skills.
Just this weekend, on the way to Mass, we talked about how some people believe in re-incarnation. It was a great conversation, and he's learning that there are different belief systems...and that's ok.

This got very long and rambly...sorry!

Posted by: Varinia at October 18, 2007 9:37 AM

Religion is going to be really tough for us to instill in our son. I was raised Catholic but am lapsed due to the fact that I don't believe half of their teachings anymore. I still have faith but it's not one particular religion. My husband is an agnostic and sort of against the whole going to church thing. I think we'll probably just teach him the golden rule sort of things and to have faith but in what, I'll let him be the decider.

Posted by: Claire at October 18, 2007 9:43 AM

First, let me just say I keep finding out things about you that reinforce why I like you so much. "Logans Run" has always been a favorite.

Okay. Religion. Wow. Can of worms. I was raised Methodist. Sort of. My father lost faith sometime after my mother died (when I was three) and his mother died (in my teens). They never ever went to church, but sent me to MYF (youth group) weekly. If you've read my recent posts you'll see how well that took (I skipped to go see an elderly great-aunt). Anyhoo... I started going to church by myself during the whole "Jesus Christ Superstar" era and tried to figure out what it was all about. Got burned out when money became the primary message. Moving forward a few years, married a man who was RLDS (no, not the mormons). His family was very involved in the church and I tried to get into it. It didn't "take". We divorced, and although his parents continued to take our two children to church camp and with them to church on weekends, no extreme effort was put into forcing religion on the kids. I became frustrated when the people in the church turned into the biggest proponents for taking my children away from me. Not a happy time.

More time passes. I marry a man raised a Lutheran who is also not a church goer. We were married in church and have been back a handful of times, mainly for funerals. We had two children together (raising the number to four, if you're keeping up) and we did not force religion down their throats. I tried to explain the "stories" of Christmas and Easter to the children so they wouldn't feel clueless, but basically we chose a hands-off style where we tried to teach the "golden rule"... do unto others...yadda yadda. We always figured when the kids got older they could choose what was appropriate and felt right to them.

Although I don't believe in 'organized' religion I do belief there is "something" more and greater than I am. I believe in a soul and that all living things have some kind of spirit. I also allow that there are people who won't agree with me and that's okay too. Part of what makes the world interesting.

Posted by: sue at October 18, 2007 9:59 AM

I'm reading your post and nodding here and there,... and feeling incredibly jealous of you in other spots. Imagine growing up in a very strict religious sect where women were treated more like pretty property than anything else and the rules were endless AND the basis of one's worth. I wasn't mindless enough to fit in, and I was an outcast too. Unfortunately, it wasn't until I was an adult that my parents agreed with me. So when you mention deep skepticism of religion, I can relate. Actually, I have a deep fear of most religious people, since they've been the ones to cause me the most pain in life.

After a long path of learning about other belief systems, I've decided that I still believe in some basic Christian principles, but tempered by logic and reason. I figure that if God gave me a brain, He must not have a problem with me using it.

My son's all of a year old, so I've not really had to deal with how to do the religion thing yet. We enjoy Veggie Tales and have those for Gabe, since they're in general upbeat and amusing. I want Gabe to grow up to have strong values, but that doesn't mean I want him to be a mindless religious zombie,... and that means that I'll teach him to think for himself and support him when he does:o)

"I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
Mohandas Gandhi

Posted by: Heather at October 18, 2007 10:05 AM

I'll be back in a minute. I can't answer this without coffee.

Okay, this is better. What a question at 6:30 a.m.

I'm not an atheist; I'm not sure what I am. I call myself a Christian but I think much of the Bible is myth and that bigots use isolated passages to justify their bigotry.

I use isolated passages to justify the better parts of our humanity; mainly the teachings of Jesus. I think he'd be appalled at the things done in his name and I think if he came back today his "followers" would crucify him all over again.

I recommend a book by an Episcopal bishop called Sins of the Scriptures. Fascinating.

Anyhow, I was raised Baptist. My parents were active and so was I. It was in the north and the church there is quite different from the Southern Baptists. We split over slavery and haven't agreed on much of anything since.

When I moved first to Memphis and then over to Arkansas during the Viet Nam era I joined the Southern Baptists not realizing the difference. I unjoined very quickly. They were segregated, didn't ordain women, supported the war. All the things I was fighting. I knew something was wrong when they tried to insist I be rebaptized. I told them not to hold their breath and they caved.

The Methodists were different. I started visiting, they needed an organist, and I switched. That was around 1970. I've never regretted it. I drifted away for many years but now I'm back.

These days I belong to the UMC here in California. The church is the most socially active in town (for our size which is small). You name the liberal cause, we support it. When we began hosting the local PFLAG meeting, the husband and wife co-pastors received hate mail from other "Christians". How could I not like the place.

I'm still not sure what I believe but the church provides something in my life. Community, stability, friendship? The opportunity to help fight the injustice in the world (depending on the particular church)? I just know that in the years I drifted and fought against it, I was unhappy.

This is way too long. Briefly (honest) I do believe there is a higher power and I'm not it. My life is better than it was.

And I don't preach. Ever.

Posted by: ann adams at October 18, 2007 10:08 AM

I am so interested in this topic as we will go through the same thing when Peanut gets older. It's especially relevant here in the (Baptist) South where the first question most everyone asks is not your name or what you do, but where you go to church. I have not read it yet, but I've been recommended the book "Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion" by Dale McGowan that I believe may be relevant to your search for answers.

Posted by: Shelly at October 18, 2007 10:10 AM

I am studying and have studied religion in college. It's such a broad topic and as many posters have already pointed out, it's a very personal choice. My husband and I differ slightly on what we believe, but I would like to think that I believe in something, but not the Christian/Jewish/Muslim "God". I like Neil Young's version...a "Great Spirit" or something that surrounds us and is everywhere (including all non-living things) but isn't quite like "God". I think it's too hard to explain here...

As for growing up with religion, I went to a non-denominational Christian school and had a very good learning experience, allbeit saturated with the Christian God, Bible verses and Bible lessons. I'm thankful for that basic background. I definitely ran quickly from it, though. I went to a public high school and by my sophomore year I proclaimed myself athiest. I've since realized that may not be the way for me...

As for raising my future kids, I think that T and I will have to have some serious discussions, but I basically agree what a lot of individuals said already. I would hope to teach my future kids that religion is an individual choice and that everyone has the right to believe what they choose.

Wow, a big topic!!

And related, I saw this (http://cosmos.bcst.yahoo.com/up/player/popup/?rn=49750&cl=4501215&ch=61492&src=news) video on Yahoo! News yesterday. It fits this topic well. If you can view it by using the link, try going to Yahoo! News and searching "Child Ministers"...it should be the only video that comes up.

Posted by: Arwen at October 18, 2007 10:15 AM

I was born Jewish and am now an atheist. My husband is also an atheist. We will not be teaching our child about any specific religion for obvious reasons. (This influences my book and toy choices also.)

However, as my father and my extended family lost many family in the holocaust in the worst possible ways, the discussion of religion will happen. It will be in the context of pride for my ancestry and family culture, education on what Jewish people believe and celebrate and most important of all, the importance of religious tolerance.

Naturally some of these conversations will wait until my 26 month old son is much more able to grasp the concepts.

Posted by: Jacqueline at October 18, 2007 10:16 AM

I think we went to the same school located in alternate universes because mine was Catholic hell... I hated it as well and for many of the same reasons only the alternatives seemed far worth so I was stuck there from 4th-8th grade (should I mentioned that my hatred for this place was fueled by the fact that my family was in shambles?)

It was a private Catholic school where I was made to wear a green plaid skirt... UGH. As a family rule we did not attend church at all while the rest of the people were hard core. Also, it was in a VERY VERY VERY rich town where we did not live so I was an outcast for being a mere middle class person and my daddy only made a $100k versus the average income of millions that most of these kids with their gated homes enjoyed... to say it sucked for me would be an understatement.

Also, I got to HS and found I had learned very little if anything... THIS IS NOT ANSWERING THE QUESTION YOU ASKED IS IT?!

SO yeah, I totally am not into religion though I do believe in spirituality. That calmness of spirit is a better way to put it. I have tried to talk with my husband about religion with regards to Matthew but he is even worse than I about religion (for seemingly no good reason!) I think when the time seems right or Matthew has questions or wants to explore something I will be open to it. I would not want to limit his spiritual growth because I had the above mentioned experiences.

Finally, as I ramble uncontrollably because this as it has been on my mind off and on for about a year, I am reading this book called Calm & Compassionate Children. It is something to consider because while the author mentions God, mostly she talks about inner spirituality and how that is more helpful to children to learn how to become calm and compassionate beyond just learning manners that may or may not stick. Check it out at: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1587612763/ref=wl_it_dp/105-7350719-6650841?ie=UTF8&coliid=I7C47PATBIWVR&colid=222WUTDJFPYGD

Posted by: Christina at October 18, 2007 10:22 AM

I waited until my kids were old enough to ask about it, and we had a conversation about what beliefs are out there and a little of what they encompass.
After that whole spiel, my son asked, "But which one should I believe in?"
My answer? "Whichever one you want."
I still don't know which he chose, nor am I worried about it.
To me, it's far more important that he be a good person than a religious (of any sort) person. If that makes any sense?

Posted by: Traci at October 18, 2007 10:26 AM

I'm pagan and my husband is Lutheran. Considering the broad differences, it's always seemed a good idea to wait until they're older before really explaining much of anything. Once they start asking questions though... hoo-boy.
We approach religion as a personal choice. After my poor Catholic school experience, and his unhappy background in private Lutheran education, we are loathe to force a religion onto anyone, especially a child.
*DISCLAIMER: G did attend a Lutheran preschool, though simply because it's about 4 blocks from our house. He came home utterly terrified at one point because he said there was a man that could see him all the time, even when he was naked.

Posted by: Alicia at October 18, 2007 10:27 AM

Boy, that's a tough one. I can only relate how I came by the big 'R'. My grandmother told me about her faith and why and how she had come to have it, then with very little fanfare, she basically pointed at the bible and indicated that I needed to work it out for myself. This is why I revere my grandmother and have an incredibly strong faith...I did work it out on my own, asking difficult questions, finding the answers, and then having my faith carry me through some extraordinarily difficult situations. I don't, however, go to church because I have a serious aversion to organized religion, with all of its well-dressed dogmatic baloney.

I think you need to wait until Mia's old enough to read and ask questions, then introduce her to the ideas behind all religions, not just Christianity. It always strikes me as a subtle and unfair form of brainwashing to take a child and tell them that they either need to believe in this one idea or spend eternity burning in hell. Tough choice.

Posted by: You can call me, 'Sir' at October 18, 2007 10:28 AM

I don't post too often but i felt the need to share today. First off i do not have children and am not sure if i will have children but i have thought on the matter, why? Well, because i am a weird individual who would like all my ducks in a row before jumping into shark infested waters. Anyway moving on... My religious beliefs are varied. I was raised catholic, even went to a catholic school for a while. While i do believe in "something bigger than myself" i am not completely down with the whole organized religion thing. Much to my mothers chagrin, this is partly her doing. See my parents let me have my own mind! They taught me that every religion organized or not, everyones faith and beliefs deserve respect. Though i had a background of going to mass and Sunday school they not only let, but encouraged me to seek out alternatives. I can remember going to temple as a child, we were not Jewish, i can remember going to Baptist, and other Christian services as well. Anytime i had a question or wanted to see or experience something they let me helped me get my answers whether through books on Hinduism or taking me to see a Rabbi. We went over it all anything i ever had a question about we explored it (even a brief curiosity with satanism, though we did not go to a satanic church for that!)They even took me to churches even when i wasn't that interested. They thought i should know all that there was to know. So all i can say is education and openness. I knew and know where my mother and father stand on religion and i respect and understand them, but due to their openness and willingness to not only teach but learn with me i was able to make up my own mind and they respect that of me (I think!)And i hope that if i ever have a child i would do similar. I would express my beliefs and show them others.

OK that was pretty drawn out but i was making up for lost time. I'll go back to my little internet hole for a few more months :)

Posted by: Regina at October 18, 2007 10:29 AM

I grew up in a very liberal, kick back church and yet, I still fell away from it as a teen and haven't made it back. My husband hasn't had any sort of religious upbringing at all. We've struggled with this as well, but when it comes right down to it, we are not Christians and don't expect to transform into them.

So we do a lot of talking about the idea that different people do different things. My mom is very active in her church and so we kinda let her handle showing her point of view (which she does very respectfully). Then we just talk about what we believe when it comes up.

I still feel like the hard questions are coming and I'm not totally prepared to answer them. But for now, we're building a community the best we can and respecting that our kids will be smart enough to form their own beliefs.

Posted by: Elaine at October 18, 2007 10:32 AM

Hmmm, your post-y thing doesn't like me. I'm going to try again, but please know that my original post that the post-y thing ate was WAY better than this...

I've had this conversation with my boys a lot. And it gets harder and deeper and much cooler the older they get. From the beginning I made it clear to my boys that all beliefs about religion and faith deserve respect. That was my one and only faith non-negotiable. After that, it made it much easier to talk to them about what I think/feel/believe and what I am totally confused about. I'm not a world religions scholar but I have a basic knowledge of the biggies out there today - and I try to be sure that we talk about them too. I want my boys to see the good and the beauty that is there in all faiths. I want my boys to understand that for some people, faith is simply not an option.
The most tragic thing is when someone who practices one religion (or another, or none, or all) decides that anything else is unacceptable and intolerable.

As for how to talk to Mia, my advice is tolerance and honesty.
Good luck, amen, shalom, om namah shivaya, peace out mo'fo!

Posted by: Kim at October 18, 2007 10:35 AM

My wife and I both believe the important parts of religion are the values and morals and ethics that the religion imparts, not the rote behavior that most organized religions try to instill in you. Therefore, we are going to raise our children to be Jewish, even though my wife is not Jewish and has no plans to convert.

Although my kids will learn the prayers and go to synagogue and get bat mitzvah'd, we're hoping the main things they get out their religious education are how to treat others, what is morally/ethically right/wrong, and how to live their life as a good person.

Although I'd like them to practice Judiasm when they grow up, I'd be more than happy for them to never enter a synagogue once they're an adult, as long as it meant they turned out to be "good people".

Posted by: Ross at October 18, 2007 10:45 AM

I came from a country where Buddhism is more or less a national religion (although we don't declare it that). My family is Buddhist. Mom was more religious than dad, but pretty much the belief base for us is Buddhism. That was a good base because there is nothing that said we MUST only believe in Lord Buddha. Belief, just don't lose your head in something. The Middle Path, sort of thing.

Since an early age, all I know is the Golden Rule (do unto other...) and that there is somebody "up there" watching out for us. That could be Lord Buddha. That could be a Christian God. Just that there is something more. I guess that leaves me open to just about anything.

I went to Catholic school but because we're a Buddhist country, the Catholicism wasn't forced upon us. All we were required to do was to say Hail Mary/Our Father in the morning, celebrate St. Angela because she's the patron saint of our school, and know the basic of Catholicism. It felt more like a school tradition being taught to us instead of a religion, really. We weren't forced to go to mass or bible study or anything.

Only Catholic kids go to masses and attend bible study during Religion Class while the Buddhist kids do our Buddhist things. And who's what religion is decided according to the paperwork your parents filled when you entered school. At 9th grade (end of our jr. high), the class is switched so both sides get to learn about the other religion. At 15, they believe we're at least know enough to decide for ourselves regarding our belief. From that point on, if you want to switch the religion in your paperwork, that is up to you...with your parent's approval, of course.

My point is that I was taught to be open minded and my religion actually allows for it. It worked out well for me and my brothers. :)

Posted by: oakley at October 18, 2007 10:56 AM

oh boy, that's a big question, isn't it?

I was brought up Mormon, which obviously I rebelled against around the age of 17 or so when I realized I am waaaay too liberal to be a Mormon.

I believe in a "god" as a higher power - something or someone who kind of guides and controls life. A parental, all-loving figure who loves me unconditionally just as I love my own child. I don't believe in a lot of religious dogma. I don't consider myself Christian. I think all the religions of the world can be "right" if they teach love and tolerance of others. This is what I teach my child.

I don't take him to church, but he's gone to Wednesday night youth group thing w/ his friends. It's at a church that is Christian but very open-minded and all-inclusive and liberal so I'm OK w/ that. If he wanted to go to the huge Southern Baptist church here that I refer to as "Fort God" I'd be a little apprehensive.

I guess the thing of it is, if you believe in something, you have to understand what you believe, and then teach your child that. I think we have a certain responsibility to teach our children what we believe but we also have to give them room to grow and question and form their own beliefs.

Posted by: kalisah at October 18, 2007 11:12 AM

When you figure this out, let me know! When it comes to religion, my fiance and I are as different as night and day. Although I was raised in a Catholic family, I find myself as a non-believer, maybe a bit agnostic. He was raised in a very religious family (father is a retired pastor) and definitely a believer. Although, I respect his beliefs, I can't follow them. I'm already dreading the possible obstacles that may arise from our different beliefs and I have NO idea how we are going to tackle this issue when it comes to future children. Keep posting, I'm curious about your thoughts/decisions on this matter.

Posted by: Lori at October 18, 2007 11:28 AM

I went to a pentecostal church for many years as a child that left a bad taste in my mouth. For instance: the sunday school lesson about people who get divorced burning in hell.
So I've been agnostic since I was very young. I think I was seven when I told my mom I didn't want to go to church anymore. My daughter's father is likewise agnostic. We wanted her to choose for herself, however. I think shoving atheism down a child's throat is just as bad as shoving religion down their gullet. I've taught her a little about Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and Christianity. I know there's so many religions I'm missing but I figure we'll get to those when she's older and shows more interest.
For now, though, she's somehow a christian. I don't take her to church or read to her from the Bible but I don't protest if friends or family want to do that with her. She's decided she likes the concept of god and I'm not trying to dissuade her from that.

Posted by: betty at October 18, 2007 11:33 AM

I'm a PK. Don't ask me. I talked to my daughter about the idea of heaven when she was about five. She wanted to know what happens when we die.

That's about the extent of it. Just teach Mia what you believe.

Posted by: Alison at October 18, 2007 11:33 AM

I am an atheist, but as long as people who follow a religion have respect for me, I have respect for them. I believe that religion is a choice for adults and adults only. I do not believe in indoctrinating kids. When Cole asks about religion, we will learn about all religions and I will tell him that he can choose what to believe as an adult with knowledge and experience. My husband and I have both read many religious texts, including the bible, and I feel that we are both educated enough to give him a good idea of what most religions are about. I'm certainly not above learning more if necessary.

I also think that religious education should come from parents, with outside help only as needed. My daycare provider is quite religious, but she firmly believes that it is not her right to teach the kids she cares for about religion and so there is no indication in her house (her place of business) of her beliefs. I appreciate that.

Posted by: heels at October 18, 2007 11:34 AM

Pretty intregal part of our lives. Realized that when I became a stepmom I had to decide in no uncertain terms what it was I believed - kids need consistent, solid messages. With very little thought, I realized I believed what was taught to me. And there it was - faith. And it's been so much easier ever since then.

We teach The Swimmy about G-d and his expectations for us - and how our faith centers on a good deal of personal accountability. G-d set the path, but we have to make the choices. If we follow the basic goodness he's asked us to do -- good path.

By giving her a sense of being connected to something larger - and that a little piece of that is inside her - she learns respect for others and herself. It's easy to argue with parents - but knowing that even PARENTS answer to something greater weighs with even more influence.

I'm sorry your early experience was bad. But it doesn't have to be now. And adding this into your relationship as a family is something extraordinary.

I hope your search goes well.

Posted by: Pammer at October 18, 2007 11:45 AM

I believe in nothing.

Right now my kids are still pretty young. I will answer any questions as honestly as I can. Like "Some people believe ... and some people believe ...".

My mother took us to Sunday School. My mother taught Sunday School. My father was brought up Jewish, but is pretty much Agnostic. So I'd come home and ask questions and my mom would say what she belived and my dad would tell me what he believed and so I made my own decision.

I would like my kids to be able to do the same.

Posted by: Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah at October 18, 2007 11:46 AM

While the personification of a God-like deity is something I struggle with, I find that a respect for the laws of Nature and an acknowledgement of an enigmatic, mysterious, universal power that is greater than ourselves is good enough. To explain God (like the fundamentalists do) is to limit God. To give God gender or religious affiliation. To say that God cannot reveal itself through Mohammed or Buddha just as well as throughJesus is stupid and short-sighted. While it is normal and human to try to hang onto and perpetuate stories or parables that attempt to explain God's/the Universe's motivations for why things happen to us the way they do, the real harm comes from using it to threaten, marginalize or extort converts who believe differently. The need to be right dominates most major religions, but none commits this crime with more ferocity and violence than the Fundamentalists in every major religion and Christians are, in many ways, just as bad as the fringe adherents to Islam )and their jacked-up interpretation of it)who are responsible for 9/11.

Begin teaching Mia about Nature and about the Universe and the nameless power responsible for all of it. Call it Mystery...if you need to. Her job is to find her own faith her own religion and her own name for it, but helping her find the ability to believe the wonder of the known and unknown world(and its laws) is a good start.

Posted by: wordgirl at October 18, 2007 11:46 AM

I hope it is clean (and maybe it isn't) that I'm not slamming Islam. I know several wonderful Muslims. It is the fault of fundamentalistm and the irrational grip it has on normal, religious people which strips them of reason and encourages them to be hateful and violent. This is, as I said, as equally true about Christians as it is true for Muslims.

Posted by: wordgirl at October 18, 2007 11:57 AM

Wow, a ton of posts before me. Obviously, you struck a nerve.

I grew up without religion; my husband was brought up a Catholic. I always lamented my lack of fact and knowledge about religion, and didn't want my children to be so completely ignorant of something that, like it or not, is part of every day life.

I had a brief run where I was taking them to church every Sunday. My husband shunned me, and refused to help or accompany, and my kids absolutely hated it. We eventually stopped going, for various reasons. So despite my best intentions, they still know absolutely nada about religion. I just hope this doesn't cost them the Final Jeopardy question some day.

Posted by: Candy at October 18, 2007 12:03 PM

Decided to go light and fluffy today, hoping that no one would comment much? Ha. BTW, my two best friends lost their religion in Catholic elementary school before being pulled out due to bullying, corporal punishment, and general self-image issues at the hands of the nuns and priests.

To me, the religion/God thing is going to be harder than explaining sex, death, or Clay Aiken. Z recently went to a "friends night" at Cubbies (awana.org) and came back to tell us that God made the whole world and he can make things appear out of thin air. It was friends night... that's all good... she's not going back because the kids were mean and the teacher wasn't paying attention to the kids, oh, and because of Jesus.

I think we're going to talk about God in general terms because that's what we believe anyway. We know there is a higher power, but don't believe that any human can really comprehend that level, nor that the stories are true. I think it's cool to believe in God and to hear that wherever she goes, but I'm not teaching her a specific religion, and I'm going to tell her that Jesus was a man who lived a long time ago who was special, but that the stories written about him are just that... stories.

Posted by: Brad at October 18, 2007 12:20 PM

My family was what you could call “cultural” Christians, in that we celebrated Christmas and Easter but never really went to church much. Growing up, my best friend and his family were Christians and they are still the most loving, compassionate people I’ve ever met. My earliest introduction to Jesus Christ was through them.

I went to college and had only a superficial interest in religion, although I did read up on a lot of the major ones then. I did a lot of the normal college craziness, but the whole time I always felt that someone or something was looking out for me…

In my mid-twenties I put my faith in Jesus Christ. I don’t classify myself in a particular denomination, although the church I attend I guess is classified “non-denominational.” This decision was both emotional and intellectual; I read the Bible and did read up on other religions again but He was the only one that had satisfactory answers to the questions I had. And although I always considered myself a “good person,” never really felt as – I don’t know how to explain it really – alive, as I do now. I feel like I am content with myself and where I am in life but at the same time I have a hope for the future as I press ahead with what Christ has in store for me.

The road with Christ isn’t always smooth and He never promises it will be. A few years back a few people died that I was really close to, and I guess you can say I had it out with God, but it lead to my “Lt. Dan” moment where I finally was able to make peace with Him. I know life will not always be easy and I can accept both the good and the bad and I know it is not an indication of “wrath and judgment.”

Since I came to my faith as an adult I didn’t have the negative childhood experiences many of you are describing. It breaks my heart to hear these kinds of stories, and I am ashamed of the people that call themselves “Christian” and be so unloving. I guess if I am remotely qualified to speak for “Christians” I have to say that I apologize, and please be assured that that is not the Jesus of the Bible. I am all too aware of how difficult “going to church” may be, and the church is full of imperfect people and I am one of them.

But to the topic at hand, I think it is important for children to have a foundation of faith from their family, and should be taught about other religions as well. They should be taught to love and respect people of all faiths and backgrounds. I look forward to the day where we can have civil discourse and debate about what we believe, because (and I know this will not be very PC) not all religions are the same, nor do they claim to be. I think it is important to be able to articulate why you believe what you believe, whether that belief is in Jesus or the “Great Spirit.” If someone is worshiping a chair, I think it is fair to challenge them on why they believe that, just as someone would be fair to challenge me on what I believe. Again, this should always be done with compassion and respect.

My wife and I don’t have kids right now but when we do we will definitely bring them up in our faith, and explain why we believe that instead of saying “because I say so.” When they are old enough to understand (whenever that is), they will be free to choose whether they continue in our faith or not without any pressure from us because I believe it is the most important decision that each human individual makes. Regardless of what my children will believe, we will always love them unconditionally. Yes, it is important to teach children to be good moral people but I believe that is not the ultimate point of a faith in God or religious belief. To borrow an old cliché, “Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good, he came to make dead people live.”

Posted by: Drew at October 18, 2007 1:13 PM

Oh GOD. Haha! I said God! ;)

After years of reflection and crap like that, I've come to consider myself a Christian mystic. What would I teach any children I might have? Probably that this is what Mommy believes but there are so. many. other things out there that you (you being my future child) should explore them and see which one makes the most sense to your own personal self. I love learning about other religions, seeing where they all parallel, where they differ. I think teaching a willingness to learn new things is important when it comes to religion and/or spirituality.

Posted by: Sparkle Pants at October 18, 2007 1:18 PM

i think we could go on and on about this, and I know I'll be going into it in greater detail on my blog, as I'm going through my own religious baggage lately and hey, why not air it out on the internet? It's fun for everyone! But I will be happy if I teach my kids 2 things:

1. It's your path to choose, whatever it may be,
2. your path is yours, someone else's may not be the same.

IE: Do what's right for you. Respect others' paths and don't push yours on them.

Posted by: amy at October 18, 2007 1:31 PM

That's a tough one Chris! We have talked about the same thing. We believe in God, though we're both not raised in religious families. We do not believe in going to church as part of our religion plus we're very free in how we interpretate the bible. A devoted church-going Christian would probably say we're not Christian.

I bought a bible for children. And sometimes read from it, as I would do with any other book. Without declaring it's "The Truth" bible stories do teach great lessons of life (whether you believe in God or not). Maybe it's a way to introduce the subject to Mia without pushing her to choose to believe or not.

Posted by: Nadine at October 18, 2007 2:14 PM

"How do you deal with the topic of religion? How do you view religion?"

I don't have children. I try to change the topic when religion comes up in conversation. I attended 12 years of Catholic school, including 4 at an all girls high school. It left me skeptical, but respectful of others who have deep faith, and also leery of zealots/Holy Rollers. Does that make sense?

Posted by: Maria at October 18, 2007 2:39 PM

Wow, you brought us all out of woodwork on this one. :)

You know my story and how my faith and my particular community of believers means so much to me...and how much it hurts me to think of you in that narrow-view sort of school. Even now I'm teaching at an Episcopal preschool, and there's no dogma, no agenda. I have a Jewish kid in my class, so we don't talk about Jesus - every once in awhile we sing songs about God, but we definitely sing BINGO more often than not. Sure we sing a blessing thanking God for our food and friends and family - that's not a bad thing altogether, remembering to be grateful, I think.

What to teach Mia and the forthcoming son - just that they are loved by God, I think. Religion is just categories for people to fall into, and they all have their strengths and weaknesses.

Posted by: Sam at October 18, 2007 2:40 PM

My Mom sat each of us kids down with a big book of religions and told us to pick one. I don't think I ever fell into just one, but it was wonderful to learn about them all and know I had the choice.

Posted by: Tink at October 18, 2007 3:08 PM

I'm a Christian who attends a non-denominational church. I grew up in a faith-centered house and share the faith of my parents though its one I've choosen myself with a fair amount of wrestling along the way.

As for what you teach Mia and what we'll teach our son Asher - like other's have said. Teach what you believe. I don't entirely understand people who say they don't want to choose for the child. I choose all sorts of beliefs for my child. I choose to teach him about tolerance, respect, understand, empathy, grace, etc. I don't let him wait and grow up and see if these are things he wants to embrace. I teach him what it means to be part of our family and how we live and see the world. In our case, religion is on that list as well.

Posted by: Amy at October 18, 2007 3:08 PM

And on another note, I read this post around 11, and have been singing the song all day since. Lucky for you, I love that song, or I'd be totally pissed at you right now.

Posted by: Candy at October 18, 2007 3:15 PM

My wife and I are very much the atheist couple. She grew up not attending church, and I went because of the parents until I turned 16 and got a job where I could schedule myself to work Sunday mornings.

Our oldest has recently started attending a pre-school that is run by a Methodist church that is close by. She has 20 minutes of chapel each day where they tell stories from the bible. I think at this point, she gets to make up her own mind on what she chooses to believe. From our perspective, we think it's a good thing that she's exposed to all different sorts of views that differ from our own.

Posted by: Rex at October 18, 2007 4:11 PM

I don't think that "faith" and "religion" are necessarily the same thing. My husband and I are of the mindset that if you can find a place of worship that you like, that makes you think, go with it and temper it with what you believe. Any of the major world religions really have the same basic philosophies- love each other, be kind, do good. That basis is good for everyone to learn and internalize. Mia and soon-to-be-named-Cactus-baby will learn more about faith, goodness and fairness by watching you and Beth than by attending religious services. Remember, all those guys in the mob used to go to church every Sunday. Practice what you preach is my advice. I hope to do the same.

Posted by: Annie, The Evil Queen at October 18, 2007 5:36 PM

I ask myself this same question all the time. I grew up the daughter of a liberal baptist minister, so going to church was just a normal part of life. My parents were excellent - my father believes faith is something that should challenge you, something you should question and not just blindly accept, so I was taught to ask questions, to think deeply about religion. And in doing so as I got older, encountered many people who felt differently. That faith should be blind. And I started to turn away from the church.

But I still do have some faith - in what I've not completely defined. Which is why I haven't gone back. But I am happy I had my religious eductaion, and I think that if I can find a church that is liberal and thinking, when I have kids I'd like to take them, at least for a while. It will give them something to rebel against, if nothing else, and it will give them a connection to their grandfather, and an understanding of the basis of a lot of mythology and literature...

I once found a children's book that I wish I'd purchased because I want to share it with my future children - it was a summary of the major religions of the world including taoism, shitoism, islam, christianity, judaism, and hinduism. And a few others too I think. I thought it was brilliant...

Posted by: suze at October 18, 2007 5:47 PM

Wow, I come here for the laughs, and I get insight and provoked thoughts. (I like those, too.)

It is a tough question indeed. I'm just glad your parents had your back, and that they pulled you out.

Posted by: Vaguely Urban at October 18, 2007 8:00 PM

My godson was born this past weekend. His parents are basically going to have him baptised because the father's dad is a Lutheran minister. However it was important to the parents that his godparents have religious views similar to their own so we could basically teach him their beliefs as opposed to the Lutheran beliefs (they figure eventually he won't listen to them like most kids do and they wanted some back-up).

I consider myself agnostic. I didn't go to church as a child but I attended Vacation Bible School every summer. My parents wanted to let me decide for myself what to believe, and when I was 15 I decided I wanted to be baptised. But Christianity was the only religion available to me in my small town, and as I grew older I learned more and more about other religions. I eventually came to believe that religion is more of a result of people's need to believe in something rather than something to believe in.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that my advise is to teach her different people believe different things because I wish I had learned more about other religions earlier on in my life. As she gets older she's going to learn about people going to war because of differing religious views and will most definitely have questions. I don't think you should avoid the topic altogether, though, as too much in this world revolves around religious differences.

Posted by: Beth in StL at October 18, 2007 9:17 PM

I am the same as you...while I didn't go to a religious school, I was raised in the Catholic church by very devout parents who have become even more devout in the past ten years, and who make me pretty dang uncomfortable sometimes. (I do respect their faith, but wish they'd respect my lack thereof.)

Needless to say, I left church at 15 and haven't look back. I dabbled in other stuff like Buddhism until I realized I was just agnostic or maybe a humanist.

As for our daughter, we want to raise her with a healthy skepticism of religion, but with a knowledge of different world faiths. So, I am most likely going to take her to a Unitarian church, because I've heard they tolerate skeptics like me, and their religious education program for kids is supposed to be great. Of course, I have to check the place out myself, and see if I could stand it, first. (I don't plan on being a member.)

Luckily, my husband agrees with me 100%.

PS, I also love Logan's Run.

PPS I also blogged about this a while back. Now I don't feel as alone!

Posted by: Dawn at October 18, 2007 9:53 PM

Oh yeah, I didn't mention that the reason we want to teach her about all faiths and maybe take her to the Unitarian thing is because I don't want her to a) rebel against me and become a fundie (yikes!) or b) fall prey to some of the cults out there when she's a teen..

Posted by: Dawn at October 18, 2007 9:55 PM

I was raised Baptist, my husband Catholic. I am now an atheist and my husband practices Buddhism. To confuse things even more, my son is very close to his great grandmother who is a very religious Baptist. He's 12 so needless to say religion has come up.

When he was little we generally tried to avoid the topic. But he occasionally went to church with grandma so we told him people had different ideas for how and why the world works.

We've always stressed the word and concept of "idea" over "belief" because I think "ideas" are always open to new information and reinterpretation based on experience while "belief" tends to be static.

As he's gotten older we've told him that everyone has different ideas about life, death and the purpose of being alive. We've told him he is free to figure out which ideas he likes best and make him most comfortable. He now knows where each of us stand when it comes to religion and the idea of God but he's told me he thinks God exists. Trying to be the "open minded" person I claim to be, I smile and say OK.

In the long run, I really don't care what he believes as long as it makes him a better person...and not a televangelist.

Posted by: wendy at October 18, 2007 11:18 PM

That is a tough one and no one will have the same answers for the same reasons.

Myself I grew up in a home where my Mom was and Orthodox Catholic and my Dad a Baptist. I personally decided (at the age of 14) to pull rank and boycott church/religion all-together. I just didn't get it or understand it, and I still don't. I have never really looked back, even when my Dad was dying or when I had several misscarriages, a difficult pregnancy and a sick baby.

I think that Rito is going to be exposed to may different beliefs, and when he is at an age where he may be curious I will take him where ever he wants to get his curiosity satisfied. If he wants to; he is free to participate in a religion or belief, but it won't be because it is "what our family believes in" but because it is what he feels may be right for him.

Posted by: SleepyNita at October 18, 2007 11:41 PM

Dear lord baby jesus this is a tough one.

We recently moved to an area of town where the majority are christian and LDS. Kids in our neighborhood are talking to my kids about things like prayers (they're confused why we don't say them before meals), god, and the bible. Now my 5 year old son wants to know more, and we're trying to support that. We've given him a brief overview of Jesus and god. Dusted off the bible (after a very, very long search) and read some to him. He seems to be satisfied at this point.

We also told him that religion is something that some people believe. There are many different kinds of religion.

I don't have a problem with religion, but I don't want him to get that "my religion is the best one" fervor either.

Posted by: Andie D. at October 19, 2007 9:12 AM

I imagine that you've read enough of my blog to make this redundant, but here goes:

My husband and I are both athiests. I was raised JW and he was raised without religion. We both, for very different reasons, are sceptocal at best of organized religion OR faith in any manifestation.

Our kids are Jesus lovin', Bible thumping kids.

They came to it all on their own. The listened to friends, their grammma took them to a few services, and they embraced it all.

I think it's good for them, the same way I think Santa and the tooth fairy are. It brings them comfort. I'd never take it away from them. My angle on it is to teach them a rounded view on religion. I know way too much about way too many religions (call it a hobby) and this allows me to have the 'well, some beieve this and others believe that' conversation with them. They are fascinated by the way people form different belief structures and I think it makes them kinder, more tolerant men. They know we don't believe, and they don't care. They do, and we let them. We answer questions honestly and without agenda. We keep several different holy books in our home for them to flip through.

Because we do this, it makes putting the brakes on things easier. Like, one day my middle kid came home talking about hell. Someone had told him about it, and I looked at him and said, Honey, that's a lie they tell you to scare you into behaving. It's not true. And he believed me because I have given him a reason to.

Long commment, short form. Learn about reigions and wiat for her to come to you with it. She will. Take her to church if she wants to go, by her bible stories if she wants them. Just keep it an open dialogue. You've got at least 3 years before it starts to become an issue.

Posted by: Mr Lady at October 19, 2007 3:59 PM

We say we are agnostic, but the truth is we do believe in a higher power of some sort (mainly because I just can't get my head around humans being the smartest things going), just not any specific religion.

This is gonna sound really kooky but sometimes I think that God is some Borg-like being, in that he/she is the culmination of all our spirits and and that's where we go when we die... and then when a baby is born a piece of the Borg breaks off and enters the body. Weird, I know.

So... talking to Declan about it? Who just turned 5. Well...

Christian holidays were a bit of a crisis for a while - do we celebrate and feel like hypocrites? But we finally decided that yes, we would - but it was more about the spirit (the real spirit, not the marketing spirit) and tradition of the holidays than anything else.

We have started telling him about most major religions and say it like "some people believe..." Basically getting him acquainted with other cultures/customs and also instilled the idea that what people believing different things is OK.

When my FIL died we talked more about his body not working anymore but how we can be with him in our heart when we think about him, or tell stories about him, or look at pictures. He is still grappling with the death thing, though.

But it's a tough road. We have discussed attending a progressive church up the street from us, just to see what it's like... (On Nobel Prize day they had a sign up that said "Thank God for Al Gore!") but in general, we are big believers in following the golden rule, doing the right thing, being good people, respecting others... and teaching Declan that.

That's our religion.

Posted by: aimee/greeblemonkey at October 19, 2007 7:15 PM

We have never been big church goers. We attend when we go to family functions. My youngest attended a Methodist preschool and kindergarten. She thrived there and loved going. I enrolled her there because it was inexpensive and very close to our house. I try to teach my children to respect others. You don't have to agree with everything others say but you do have to show respect. We do not make fun of or say someones religion is wrong. I personally believe there is more than one road to GOD and if your heart is telling you to go in a particular direction then it must be the right one.

Posted by: Marsha at October 20, 2007 9:57 AM

I didn't go to Baptist school but I did grow up going to Southern Baptist churches. I switched to the Presbyterian church when I was about 19 but hadn't attended in probably 10 years when I met my husband, who was a Unitarian.

We joined a local Presbyterian church (PC-USA, definitely less conservative than PCA) before we got married and have attended regularly ever since. Lilli was baptized when she was five months old.

We have many different religions that are practiced in our extended families and have talked to Lilli about them. I think she understands that no religion is better than another one (big discussion about this after the Jehovah's Witness ladies came to visit) and that includes non-Christian religions.

If at some point she wants to attend other churches, we won't discourage her.

Posted by: Kelley at October 20, 2007 5:00 PM

Hubby is an athiest and I've come to the conclusion that organized religion is evil.

I realize it's not fair, but too much is done that's crazy and simply hateful in the name of religion. I will never understand it.

Despite my lack of attending church and/or believing--I feel I'm an outstanding member of my community and moral. I tend to give those that believe and are religious the benefit of doubt, but I feel that same consideration is never given in return to those of us that don't practice any religion.

Harley started getting hammered in elementary school because so many believe and preach that your going to hell if you don't attend church every Sunday and live a certain way.

A year after these discussions on the playground, he asked for a bible. I went out and bought him a children's bible. He read it and asks all kinds of questions on a somewhat regular basis much to my displeasure and hubby directs all questions to me if he's asked.

I feel it's important to be honest and follow your heart. If you don't want to go a certain way, I wouldn't force it. I feel honesty is always the best policy.

If Harley asked, I would take him to church. I wouldn't like it, but I would do it.

I feel that religion is like everything else and that kids will figure things out for themselves when they are adults like everything else in life. If they are meant to be religious, I feel it will come anyway and I believe that kids should be allowed to make some decisions for themselves.

Posted by: Diane at October 20, 2007 11:28 PM

My husband was raised Christian, I Catholic. We don't attend church but we are somewhat spiritual. Our kids only attend church when their grandparents take them. I don't think my in-laws are too thirlled about that, but whatever. When my son asks questions like "who were the first humans on Earth", I give him both sides of the story by telling him that some people, like grandma and grandpa, believe that it was Adam and Eve, while other people believe in evolution. I try to explain as indepth as I can. I want them to know both sides of the story, or as many sides as possible and hope that one day they will choose what's right for them.

Posted by: Meemo at October 21, 2007 5:08 AM

I didn't read all the zillion comments before this, so someone may have already mentioned it, but I really liked these two books for my daughter (who was a preschooler when we got them): And God Created Squash; and What is God? I, too, am a recovering Baptist (spent the last half of my life in recovery!), so I know what you mean...

Posted by: janewilk at October 22, 2007 1:31 PM

Funny, but my going to Baptist camp for a week in the second grade cured me of any belief in organized religion.

I have no idea what I'll tell my kids, but I won't lie to them about it. I don't believe, they're welcome to, but I won't be attending church. Ever.

Posted by: Phoenix at October 22, 2007 6:57 PM

Your longest comments yet! I was raised catholic. Hubs was raised mormon. we each came out of the experiences a wee bit less than thrilled by organized religion. we raised our daughter to be open-minded. when I home-schooled her in middle-school, we spent some time studying world religions. at that time she wanted to dive a little more deeply into buddhism, so she and I attended Sunday morning meditation at a Zen center 20 minutes from our home.

She then thought she might spend some time attending catholic church with her grandmother (who was thrilled). that never panned out, but we never stopped her from following any of the ideas she developed an interest in. She spent some extra time reading about wicca. She is out of the house now, and has very little respect for organized religion, but bashes nobody for their faith. And we'll continue to support her however we can.

Posted by: Keri at October 22, 2007 11:22 PM

I also went to Baptist school when I was a kid...two different ones actually, from Kindergarten clear up through eight grade. Neither of them were of the wealthy white brand, but other than that, they sound pretty similar to the one you went to. They very much came at us with all their fundamentalist guns a'blazin. We were taught creationism as science, that evolution and Charles Darwin were evil, blah blah blah. Teacher's certifications were, of course, questionable. And we were in chapel, if memory serves, every day. And I believed every bit of it because, you know, I was a kid and they were adults, and I had been taught that adults knew what they were talking about. My question-everything streak didn't hit until much later. My mom didn't send me to that school for religious reasons. Hell, we rarely ever went to church, a fact that I was always scared the teachers might find out. Rather, she had just noticed that kids in the local public elementary school couldn't read, and didn't want me to end up like that. And it's true, I was reading and doing more advanced math than the kids in my grade level at the public school, but it all evened out by high school, and I wanted to be able to get into a good college, so I switched to public school.

Through high school and college, as I came to learn more and more about just how ridiculous so many of the things I'd been taught in those schools were, I grew more angry and disillusioned with religion as a whole. That was the face of Christianity for me, and really all religion, and if that's what it was, then fuck it.

A few years ago, after some very bizarre, very difficult life experiences, I felt an inexplicable lure back to religion. I fought it like all hell because of what I thought I was being pulled to, but in the process, I ended up unlearning a lot of the garbage that I'd been taught. I was able to kind of reclaim my own faith from the assholes who'd try to fill my head with so much nonsense. Thus, the God I believe in now is very different from the one I was so very scared of when I was little. I do consider myself a Christian, but I don't believe that Christianity is the only way. I don't buy into the us vs. them nonsense. In some sense, I think the world's religions are all oriented towards the same thing, though perhaps at different angles. I think fundamentalism is dangerous, stupid, and so very sadly offbase.These days, I don't make it to church every Sunday (like you say, sometimes better things to do) but when I do, it's in a place with all kinds of people, all races, all ages, straight, gay, you name it. All are equally welcome. And I think that's the only way I could have it.

As for my kids, I'm not particularly worried about whether or not they decide to be Christians. Still, I want them to know what Christianity is, as well as what it isn't. I want them to learn the value of doing the right thing, even when it's not the easy thing. I want them to have an appreciation and respect for all faiths and the people who follow them. I want them to know that it's okay, no, that it's RIGHT to question, that their intellects are a gift, not something that they have to cast aside.

Sorry this went on so long.

Posted by: Holmes at October 23, 2007 12:32 AM