Raising Children with and without faith

What would you do if?

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Do you think a marriage between an atheist and a Christian can survive parenthood?

Poll ended at Wed Jun 03, 2009 2:59 am

Yes
1
33%
No
1
33%
Not without one parent allowing the other control
1
33%
 
Total votes: 3

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Bio-logical
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Raising Children with and without faith

Post #1

Post by Bio-logical »

This is a question I have been looking for the right forum to discuss, and I think this may be the right one.

My wife and I have been married just under 2 years and together 8. We have discussed many things and we always try to be open and honest with each other including the topic of religion. In the last 5 years I have gone through a long journey in an attempt to find faith including a study on her college campus and the Roman Catholic RCIA program and ending in me defining myself as an atheist while she remains loyal to the traditions of her past if nothing mare than a Christian leaning deist herself. This has never been a major issue for us since we both accept the other's beliefs and let that be, but we are now approaching the time in our lives when we are hoping to bring a new child into the world, and therein lies the problem.

My wife has a colleague who divorced recently due to this very issue, and she is becoming very scared. As I pursued faith in my life I always told my wife (then girlfriend/fiancee) that I was okay with raising our kids catholic since it meant so much to her, but I am no longer so Laissez-faire about this.

The questions I would like to pose directly, but feel free to chime in on any aspect, are these:

Do you know anybody in this situation?

If so, how did they work it out?

Any suggestions on compromise or parenting tips for children raised in an environment where the parents do not agree on the existence of God?

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McCulloch
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Post #2

Post by McCulloch »

Let me throw this out here. If she was really serious about her faith, she would not have dated and married someone without faith.
Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
First Epistle to the Church of the Thessalonians
The truth will make you free.
Gospel of John

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Bio-logical
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Post #3

Post by Bio-logical »

McCulloch wrote:Let me throw this out here. If she was really serious about her faith, she would not have dated and married someone without faith.
I hear what you are saying, but I am not sure if I was clear enough about my position when we started dating. Atheism is a recent thing for me, before that I was a deist-leaning agnostic at worst. My wife was very clear that she wanted to raise our children Catholic and I was okay with that at the time, but now I am not so sure. I would much rather raise our children Atheist or Rationalist-Deist now, but I agreed prior to our wedding that I would raise our kids Catholic. I even went through the RCIA (becoming catholic) program before we got married because I as actively trying to find some sort of faith, but in the end it resulted in me confirming that I cannot bring myself to believe something without evidence.

My wife is at fault for many things, but this one falls entirely on me. I just am looking for input on whether or not people know ways that our opposing beliefs cannot spell doom for our marriage like it has for so many others.

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Post #4

Post by McCulloch »

Bio-logical wrote:My wife was very clear that she wanted to raise our children Catholic and I was okay with that at the time, but now I am not so sure. I would much rather raise our children Atheist or Rationalist-Deist now, but I agreed prior to our wedding that I would raise our kids Catholic. I even went through the RCIA (becoming catholic) program before we got married because I as actively trying to find some sort of faith, but in the end it resulted in me confirming that I cannot bring myself to believe something without evidence.
I think that you are honor bound to the terms of your agreement. You cannot with any integrity, not allow your children to be baptized into the church and taught by their priests. Your best strategy, in my opinion, is to instill in your children a great respect for evidential truth, healthy skepticism, free inquiry and the philosophy of science, in general, not just about religious claims. These will inoculate them against the effects of religious superstition. I am sorry, the American education system will not be much assistance in achieving these goals but the advertising and media do provide a lot of raw material to work with.
Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
First Epistle to the Church of the Thessalonians
The truth will make you free.
Gospel of John

cnorman18

Raising Children with and without faith

Post #5

Post by cnorman18 »

When I first read the title of this thread, I thought that the best solution was for each of you to be honest about your own beliefs while not denigrating or demeaning the beliefs of the other, making it clear to your children that people have different opinions on these matters and are allowed to.

That said, after reading your OP, I have to agree with McC here. You are bound by your agreement to have your children raised Catholic and baptized into the Church. I don't think that means you have to conceal your own beliefs, but you might cultivate ways to remain noncommittal while your children are very small. I never had kids, and the ones I taught were at least nine years old, so there I can't help you.

Good luck.

For the record, I am Jewish. We believe in letting everyone believe what that want; theology is only theology. Ethics are the important thing, and I suspect you can find common ground there. Don't make doctrinal issues a bigger deal than they are.

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Post #6

Post by Bio-logical »

Although it will be hard for me to accept, I think in my heart I always knew what both of you have said. I just hope I can instill the proper values of questioning everything and taking nothing at face value so that they can make their own choice to embrace or reject their faith later in life and be proud either way.

For the record, I would have no problem having very faithful and religious children, I would just prefer they choose that of their own accord without indoctrination.

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Post #7

Post by Goat »

Bio-logical wrote:Although it will be hard for me to accept, I think in my heart I always knew what both of you have said. I just hope I can instill the proper values of questioning everything and taking nothing at face value so that they can make their own choice to embrace or reject their faith later in life and be proud either way.

For the record, I would have no problem having very faithful and religious children, I would just prefer they choose that of their own accord without indoctrination.
Any time you bring up children, you indoctrinate them one way or another.. this is known as the learning process. What you can do is teach them how to think for themselves, to learn and make their own judgments, and not to merely accept what people say because they are in a position of authority.
“What do you think science is? There is nothing magical about science. It is simply a systematic way for carefully and thoroughly observing nature and using consistent logic to evaluate results. So which part of that exactly do you disagree with? Do you disagree with being thorough? Using careful observation? Being systematic? Or using consistent logic?�

Steven Novella

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Post #8

Post by David E »

That said, after reading your OP, I have to agree with McC here. You are bound by your agreement to have your children raised Catholic and baptized into the Church.


There can be no binding agreement to abdicate, even in part, one's role as a parent. And that's what such an agreement amounts to.

That's not to say that they shouldn't be baptized (it makes no difference to what they'll end up believing) or exposed to the church. But each of you should share and express your views to your children. In the end, they'll make up their own minds.

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Post #9

Post by Furrowed Brow »

Bio-logical wrote: My wife was very clear that she wanted to raise our children Catholic and I was okay with that at the time,
If your wife had been very clear that she intended to apply liberal use of corporal punishment and you were prepared to accept that, but now no longer believe in corporeal punishment, would you still agree to your wife’s views coming first?

The answer I guess is how passionately you believe what you believe.
...but I agreed prior to our wedding that I would raise our kids Catholic.
People are allowed to change their minds. I don’t think you are bound. Relationships are about negotiation and re-negotiation. However, if you don’t want head butting arguments you either go along with your wife’s views and just keep quiet, don’t have kids, or accept that though you are atheist the issue is not worth worrying about.

I have friends who are catholic. I have atheist leaning friends who pretend to be Catholic to get their kids into a better school. They all seem pretty well adjusted to me. Atheism is more fun when you discover it for yourself anyhow.

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Post #10

Post by TheOneAndOnly »

Teach them about Catholicism. That should be fine to do. Whether you like it or not, religion is a vast part of societies around the world. You would be doing your children a disservice not to teach them.

And along the way, teach them about Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddism, Christianity, New Age, Humanism, General Philosophy, Greek history, Science and chemistry, Ethics. etc. Teach them the pros and cons of all of them, to the extent that you are able. When old enough, teach them to research for themselves.

But, lest I forget, teach them the most important things of all. Teach them to practice common sense, reason, rationality, skepticism, and critical thinking skills.
Also, teach them to learn all they can about these things on their own, and make sure that they know that they are allowed to form their own beliefs for themselves. Teach them that you will love them no matter what beliefs they choose, whether you agree with them or not O:)

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