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Help Me Pick My Kid's Religion

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The holidays are right around the corner -- which one's best for my child?

toddler girl with religious symbols

Momlogic's Andrea: I'm in BIG trouble. Thanksgiving is over and Christmas and Hanukkah are just weeks away. And no, I'm not stressing because I haven't bought my holiday cards or started my shopping. I'm freaking because I haven't picked my daughter's religion. Since my husband and I are both agnostic, we know it's only a matter of time before we either have to go back to our religious roots (I was raised Jewish and he was raised Catholic) or start explaining to our three-year-old we don't believe in God.

Time's running out. She's starting to catch on to the whole Christmas thing. She bumped into Mr. Claus at the mall yesterday and called him by his first name.

Why would we be considering a religion for our child if we ourselves don't believe in one? We don't want to impose our religious -- er, non-religious beliefs on our child. My husband and I both came to our own conclusions at an early age. Shouldn't we give her the chance to at least reject religion just like mom and dad? We don't want to be a hypocritical and teach her things we don't believe in -- but at the same time we want to give her a chance to join in on at least some form of holiday celebration. But if we let her sit on Santa's lap are we indirectly embracing Christianity? Then why not just dabble in a bunch of different religions? I hear Islam, Buddhism and Sikhism are popular ones. Maybe we should give those a shot.

The truth is my husband and I believe there are valuable aspects to almost all religions, we just don't buy into one -- but for our daughter's sake is it time for us to find God ... any God, quick?


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33 comments so far | Post a comment now
Natalie December 3, 2008, 8:48 AM

My husband and I don’t not believe in God, but we don’t necessarily believe in him either. We’re going to teach our children about all religions, and they’ll be able to choose for themselves which one they mostly believe in, or if they don’t believe in it at all. I think religious education is so important in this day and age! People really need to understand where each religion is coming from.

Charles December 3, 2008, 9:35 AM

Start small. Let her watch Veggietales and read her stories from the Bible (Old testament). When she has questions about God, tell her what you know and be honest with her about your choice of agnosticism. Whether she chooses to embrace the stories as fact or as good moral tales, they are beneficial either way and will lead her on the path to her own self discovery.

Anonymous December 3, 2008, 10:54 AM

Our western culture is founded on Judeo-Christian values and they have managed to help us develop democracy, liberty and the idea that everyone is valuable and should be protected. Our human weaknesses don’t always allow our governments or indidividuals to always live up to those ideals, but they stand as the best in the world. Christianity is the culmination of Yehweh’s(the Jewish God’s) plan. Jesus is the happy ending to the Bible. It is a story basically told in two parts. Start with proverbs and you will at least be able to give your daughter the wisdom handed down from the God of both your religions. Then let her decide if it is true. Maybe you might discover something that you never saw before as well.

Narinder Singh December 3, 2008, 11:38 AM

I am blessed to be in Sikh religion. I think you would be surprised to read Sikhism’s view about religion itself.

ਸਰਬ ਧਰਮ ਮਹਿ ਸ੍ਰੇਸਟ ਧਰਮੁ ॥
Of all religions, the best religion

ਹਰਿ ਕੋ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਪਿ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਕਰਮੁ ॥
is to chant the Name of the Lord and maintain pure conduct.
.

lolasmom December 3, 2008, 1:43 PM

As I the subject of religion & the question of God has always fascinated me, I got my degree majoring in Religion. My problem with religion is just that - a problem with “religion.” The world’s faiths were started in a much more organic way than what you see displayed by their practitioners.

I have no problem with faith. You can teach your child to have faith in something that is greater than herself, be it God, goodness, human society…

If you are looking for a non-religious, religion, have you checked into the Quakers/Society of Friends?

califmom December 3, 2008, 1:45 PM

Are you wanting religion or faith? To me, those are 2 entirely different things. We took our kids to a protestant church when they were young, on a somewhat regular basis. When they stopped wanting to go, we stopped going. But, we still express our faith in something “bigger” than us, and celebrate our Christian heritage.

I see no reason why you couldn’t expose your daughter to religion though celebrating the religious holidays that are part of your religious heritage.

I also think it’s important to understand the bible as a literary work, as so many other works in art and literature have been shaped by it. You can teach her the stories as you would Greek mythology or folktales. Most children’s literature has a moral to the story.

LPT December 3, 2008, 1:49 PM

Sounds like this is less a question about picking a religion as it is picking a holiday to celebrate. Right?
If so, why not give Hanukkah gifts _and_ have Santa deliver some. You can expose her to traditions from both of your childhoods without getting heavy into the religious beliefs behind both.
It may only be delaying the inevitable discussions you will need to have with your child about religion, but at least you will have time to prepare for them instead of rushing into it just for the sake of celebrating something at the same time all her friends are doing it.

Esha Doshi December 3, 2008, 1:50 PM

Celebrate as many religious holidays as you can while teaching your child about the values and significance of each. Maintain an open mind and expand her knowledge of different faiths and cultures.
At the same time, protect your child from belief systems that teach hate and disrimination.

Anonymous December 3, 2008, 2:22 PM

I have the same problems. I have two young children and I was brought up Luthern and hubby was brought up catholic. I believe in ‘something’ I just don’t want to believe in one thing. I do want them to go to church because I enjoyed going as a child. Just not sure where to set my sights

Anon December 3, 2008, 5:53 PM

Give every religion a shot. Some choices might be better than others for example, today our society is very anti-Muslim so Islam may not be a good choice. Buddhism might be a good choice. Let them go to a church, take them to a synagogue, a mosque, a Buddhist retreat. It is not so much the concept of god you should teach as much as the concept of good morals, values, faith, and love that can help your daughter become a good person.

JoAnne December 3, 2008, 9:31 PM

I think you should look into Unitarian Universalism. Unitarian Universalism is a caring, open-minded religion that encourages you to seek your own spiritual path. Our Faith draws on many religious traditions, welcoming people with different beliefs. We are united by shared values, not by creed or dogma. Our congregations are places where people gather to nurture their spirits and put their faith into action by helping to make our communities—and the world—a better place.

Unitarian Universalism is a centuries-old, free thinking liberal religion guided by shared values. At its core, this faith emphasizes the worth and value of every person and the interconnectedness of all things.

I am an atheist, my wife is ex-Catholic, and we wanted a place that would respect both of our perspectives, as well as the beliefs of others including jews, muslims, christians, etc. We wanted our son to learn all the wonderful things each religion has to share, but still let his mind remain open to form his own beliefs about God and other universal questions. UUism was it, and we have a valuable religious home in the process, filled with like minded people, all respectful of each other’s paths.

jaibir singh December 4, 2008, 1:24 AM

mam , go through the faith of every religion , for mind peace and for euality u should go for sikhisim , becauses it teaches equality , the male - female discrimination is over as u come to sikhisim , the bravery and martyrs of our guru will develop courage in her and the martial arts ( gatka as spoken in punjabi ) training will make ur daughter self dependent in life….
but i prefer to go through every religion and select best for her , as i am a sikh i have put an overview of what a sikh religion is, but u should get knwoledge abt every religion , and then decide …

best of luck …………

Linda December 4, 2008, 11:46 AM

why are you so worried? your child will grow up with no interest in religion just like you have. Religion isn’t a shopping experience. You don’t need to try one on for size. If you don’t need religion why do you think your child might? Christmas isn’t about religion it’s all about getting presents. She’ll understand that, even at a very young age. Of course statistically as an adult she might suffer some spiritual anxieties and be a bit more prone to be sucked into a cult but it didn’t happy to you so you should be just fine.

Jan December 8, 2008, 9:34 PM

I was raised by a born Jewish but agnostic, bordering on atheist mom and a lapsed Catholic dad who said he had no problem with a supreme being, but believed in no religion. Nevertheless, I attended Hebrew school and made a Bat Mitzvah. (It appeared mostly to be an effort to annoy my father’s family, as far as I could tell.) Surprisingly, I have an affinity for Judaism, attend synagogue weekly and consider myself moderately observant. My parents, now deceased, made it clear they didn’t want my kids raised religiously and I was kind of afraid of them and didn’t expose them to Judaism enough. I would do it differently if I could do it over, but at that point I had less courage and faith. My son is agnostic and my daughter is agnostic but a little more observant - someday I think she may come around. So you never know what the kids will get out of it. I feel my parents, although decent people, could have been so much more spiritually than they were.

Jewels December 8, 2008, 11:26 PM

Perhaps you should teach your child (in an age appropriate way) that people celebrate the holidays in different ways, and examine how you celebrate and what is really important to you.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you decide how to tackle this issue:
Am I raising my children to treat people with respect? Am I teaching my children to be honest and have integrity? Am I teaching them how to love others and have healthy relationships? Am I teaching them about forgivness and making allowances for the imprefections and mistakes of others? Am I teaching them to be kind, thankful, generous, responsible for thier own actions and choices, giving, and positive with a good attitude?
You can give your child a set of moral guidelines without cramming a religion down their throat. My opinion is that RELIGION IS MANS WAY OF TRYING TO PUT GOD IN A BOX THEY CAN HANDLE AND MANIPULATE, TO PICK UP OR REJECT WHEN IT SUITES THEM. FAITH IS NOT MEANT TO BE A RELIGION BUT A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.

No matter what you decide to tell your child about the holidays, it’s up to your child to choose his or her beliefs, when they are old enough to understand. Is your child asking about God? Usually I have found that if a child is old enough to ask the question, they are old enough to understand the answers.

Sara January 9, 2009, 3:58 AM

My family let me choose for myself, and it couldn’t have worked out better. P.S. Santa is not Christian, so don’t worry about him.

Victoria January 10, 2009, 10:08 AM

I was raised catholic but I married a muslim when I was 21 and converted to islam. I am now divorced and don’t practice any religion. My son who is 5 is having lots of questions mainly because of my ex’s believes. The only way I feel I can explain religion and spirituality to my son is that there is a supreme being or force that created everything and that is everything. That some people feel that praying a certain way or going to a certain place of worship is the way they should live their lives and that we have to respect that.
I don’t have anything against muslims. As a matter of fact the mosque my husband attends helped me through the divorce with money and with moral support. They were understanding of our differences and agreed with our decision of not living together anymore. I just don’t feel that I can be a muslim or a catholic. I don’t like all the conflicts religion brings to this world and I intent of explaining that to my son as well. I will just wait until he is older.
My son likes to thank god for the day he had when he goes to sleep and he also likes to ask him for things he feels he “needs” (like toys).
I feel that I have to wait for him to grow up. He will then have all the information he needs decide what he wants just like I did and all I will have to do then is to give him my support,


David January 11, 2009, 2:12 AM

Sound like the people responding to this thread need to do the soul searching for themselves! not for their children! I pray that the Lord leads you all to find Him in the only true religion. Hope to see you on the other side!

Kara February 8, 2009, 8:03 PM

Goes to show that a person should get to know a little about something BEFORE they join up with it. I just became a “Twitterer” today and added your column as one to “follow” cuz I thought it might be cute. After looking through some of the posts, I was amused by several. However, after reading this and seeing a couple of other things you posted, I see what a huge mistake I made joining up without getting to know what you and the columns are all about. Several things I read disturbed me, but when I came across this one I knew that it was time for me to take my leave from this drivel. I pray that your precious daughter is able to see past your ignorance and disbelief and that your lack of faith doesn’t condemn her.

Anonymous March 9, 2009, 9:21 PM

challenge yourself: read “the Case for Faith” by Lee Strobel. Its a fascinating read and who knows, you may choose to give “religion” or better yet, faith, a second chance!


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