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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?

help me pick my kids religion

Momlogic's Momstrosity: 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 atheist, 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 3-year-old that 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 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?

next: Gluing Nativity Scenes and Hearts
36 comments so far | Post a comment now
Sara November 30, 2009, 8:13 AM

You can visit a UU church. They’re filled with agnostics and the church school programs teach kids to decide what they want to believe.

Or just celebrate the non-religious parts of holidays. You can have a tree and stockings without a nativity and you can have Easter eggs without the crucifix.

Black Iris November 30, 2009, 8:26 AM

You could always give her the chance to reject your non-religions beliefs…

I think she’s going to ask you what you believe at some point. It seems a little awkward to me to tell her that you don’t believe anything at the church you’re attending, you’re just going so she can decide if she believes it or not. She’ll wonder why you would do that and really at age 3 she can’t make that rational a decision anyway.

If you want a community, UU is a good suggestion. There may be other groups in your area.

Another option - you two could try exploring religions yourselves. Let your daughter know that you are seekers and are trying to figure out what’s true and bring her along for the ride. Find a meditation or prayer center of some kind in your area and try some workshops. Go to all kinds of services, including Christian ones and get a feel for the people and their faith. Try looking for the truth that each place has when you visit. (I’m assuming since you’re agnostic not atheist that you would be open to this.)

Anonymous November 30, 2009, 8:27 AM

Here is second for the UU. It is a warm accepting community. Their religious education classes are great. They investigate all the worlds religions and respect nonbelievers. I wanted my child to learn about religions as they are an important part of culture and history.

Elisa November 30, 2009, 9:41 AM

I don’t think you have to choose a specific religion for your daughter to grow up feeling comfortable with her spirituality.

I would just focus on things common to most religions, like how people are not just their bodies but have a soul, and how it’s important to do good for others too, not just do things when you can get something in return. She doesn’t have to be religious to be spiritual.

As for the Christmas traditions, the tree and Santa Claus are lovely traditions, and they don’t belong to any religion in particular.

Emily November 30, 2009, 9:42 AM

Actually, Agnostic = belief in God. Atheism = don’t beleive in God. So you beleive in God, but just don’t have a “religion” that defines God in a way that you understand or agree with. :) That sounds like a good belief for your 3 year old to me. Let her know there is God, then once she gets older let her choose her own structure of her religion. at 3 years old, I don’t think that kids are ready to pick a “denomination” to live in. Give it a few years.

Heather November 30, 2009, 9:59 AM

Here’s another suggestion for finding a UU congregation! When our oldest son was about 4 we started attending a UU church and it’s been wonderful - it gives our family a sense of a faith based community and teaches our children to accept people of all faiths - including people without faith. My husband is agnostic and I am a believer in god, although in more of a buddhist/pagan way. However, we were both raised Christian so we do celebrate the secular parts of Christmas and Easter, and I do talk about the meanings behind the holidays for Christians because it’s so prevalent in our society.

trickee November 30, 2009, 10:28 AM

Christmas is its own celebration like halloween. You don’t need to complicate it with religion. Treat it has you would St. Patty’s or Halloween. Easy.

Kait November 30, 2009, 10:45 AM

I come from a generally agnostic family. But when I was growing up we had “Christmas,” that had nothing to do with religion or Chirst. We just got the family together, ate some good food (like Thanksgiving II) and exchanged gifts. The whole idea of Santa and presents at Christmas, I think, is a completely secular idea. What does Santa have to do with Jesus? Nothing. So let her go sit on the big guy’s lap if she wants, and bust open some sweet gifts on the big day. Because it’s fun, plain and simple. And if she decides she wants to explore a deeper spiritual meaning to the holiday season, that’s another matter altogether. Santa is safe and secular and perfectly acceptable.

Beth November 30, 2009, 11:11 AM

You don’t have to pick one. She will end up choosing on her own belief/non-belief in her late teens. For the meanwhile, just let her understand that there are different religions and try to explain the best you can without being biased when she asks.

T November 30, 2009, 11:15 AM

I come from an atheist family, and I was raised with the fun of Christmas/Easter. Make it about family love, remove the god from it, and its a wonderful holiday.

We never discussed religion until it crossed my mind in middle school, and /I/ brought it up.

Anon November 30, 2009, 12:42 PM

I though this was a very interesting question. As a practicing Catholic, I obviously celebrate a more religious Christmas than the average America, but I have many friends who honestly didn’t know that Christmas was a religious holiday until they were much older. I think that you get out what you put in when it comes to holidays. True, if you want to look into the deep religious symbolism, there is a lot of religious tradition that may not sit well with agnostics and atheists. However, it’s still a great time of year to teach your child about the importance of giving to others (especially those less fortunate than ourselves), spending time with loved ones, and appreciating family. These are values that are important and easy to learn at any age, and they represent the “spirit of Christmas” much better than a wish-list or visit to Santa. Try watching “A Christmas Carol” (since your child is younger, the Muppet version is probably the best bet), which has very few blatant religious themes and many important lessons about the spirit of giving and loving.

michelle November 30, 2009, 12:56 PM

Is it me or are all these commenters totally misreading the article? The author stated outright that she and her husband were atheists, did they not? So why is everyone insisting that they’re agnostic, not atheist, and recommending they go to some church? What? Momstrosity, I think you can pick and choose the traditions you like, make them your own (it is easy to celebrate holidays in a secular way), and just by doing this you leave the field open for your child to explore on her own when she’s older, when AND IF she wants to. You are obviously tolerant, open people — trust me, she will learn from you and absorb all the good lessons over the years without too much conscious effort on your part. But don’t feel guilty, like you have to pick a religion just because you “owe” it to her. You don’t. Have the courage of your atheist convictions — these are just as valid and worth passing on to your daughter as any organized religion.

debt help November 30, 2009, 1:29 PM

haha let them choose on their own and they will feel better about life

Black Iris November 30, 2009, 2:20 PM

@Michelle - I am completely confused. I could have sworn the article said they were agnostic when I read it???

chris November 30, 2009, 2:27 PM

You ran this same post last year at this time. So, what did you do about it last year???

Mommy Reporter November 30, 2009, 3:52 PM

Good question, Chris… I don’t think this post is a genuine cry for help since it’s being repeated again…

Judy Bradley November 30, 2009, 3:57 PM

I am glad I am Christian (Mormon) and don’t have all this confusion in my life - or my children’s. God has always been a central part of my life and I am grateful for that.

slimdave420 November 30, 2009, 4:00 PM

You’re kidding me right? Why force a religion on a child when you yourself reject it? Religion is evil, you made the right choice so do the right thing and bring your child up atheist. She’ll grow up unashamed of her sex, her feelings, her passions with the bonus of no guilt for something she hasn’t done. She can still participate in the secular side of the holidays. We all know that the church co-opted pagan celebrations and rebranded them as religious holidays to make the forced feeding of their religion tolerable to our gullible, uneducated ancestors. Since religion is unfortunately part of our collective history, explain what the holidays mean to some people, just not to your family. But please don’t apologize to her or the world for doing the right thing in rejecting religion. If only more people would actually stop pretending they are true believers, if only people would make believers feel shame for believing in bronze age beliefs, if only people would realize they only believe because they were indoctrinated at a young age by their parents who didn’t do it maliciously but did it none the less because they themselves were indoctrinated by their parents, maybe then the world would finally wake up from the stupidity and outright sham religion is, was and will be, and make the world a better place. Indoctrinating your children into any religion equals child abuse, of the worst kind.

Angela November 30, 2009, 6:48 PM

I don’t believe what my parents raised me to. My husband also chose his own path. You and your husband both broke away from your respective faiths so no matter how you raise her your daughter will eventually choose for herself what feels right. Personally I would decide between you and your husband what family traditions you want to continue in regard to the holidays and leave religion out of it. When she’s old enough to understand encourage her to explore different faiths for herself to find what feels right and let her know you’ll support her.

Krys November 30, 2009, 8:48 PM

Dont know if this will help but I am 56 yrs. old and I was raised Catholic. As I became older, the Catholic church was becoming more out of touch with the average person, re: issues like marriage and birth control. I left the church as a constant follower,my husband is agnostic. We raised our kids without a concrete religion but did teach them that there is a higher form of spirituality outside of our own existance. We raised them to be good human beings. May I dare say that there are multitudes of bad people out there that call themselves religious!! Now my daughter, who is 26, thanked us for not cramming a religion down her throat. She is a follower of the U.U. Church and is mostly pagan in her beliefs that there is a spirit. She is not agnostic but chose her own, comfortable place to be. My son has not grasped onto a definite religion but is also very cerebral and believes in another form of life above ours. He is also a very good human being. A religion is not necessary to be a good person. Parents need to teach their kids moral values and character as they grow- the church shouldnt do that for them. So many think that either the schools or churches will give that to their kids.Its ultimately what you teach your kids that is most important.

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