March 5, 2011

Religious Upbringing

Warning: If you're religious, you may want to skip this post. I am pretty opinionated when it comes to religion.

I make it no secret that I am an atheist (raised Catholic). The hubby is Christian, and while he's not a church-going Christian, his faith is near and dear to him. Before we started dating, he was made well aware of my atheism and that I had no intentions to change my beliefs (or lack thereof). Before the hubby, I had had a couple of boyfriends who, although they knew I was an atheist, expected me to adopt their religious beliefs should we ever have gotten married. One was Jewish, and one was Catholic. The hubby, on the other hand, respects my atheism, as long as I don't cross the line and start insulting Christianity. You'd think that we don't discuss religion at all in our marriage, but we do. We both have the same opinion about organized religion, so we have great discussions on this topic, when it does come up.

I love that the hubby respects the fact that I'm an atheist. And I love that he didn't look at me funny or call me a heathen when I told him that I wanted a church wedding. He is Christian, after all. He totally respects my opinion and I respect his. We obviously don't see eye-to-eye in religious matters, but that's cool. I have a real hangup with married couples in which one half of the couple converts for the other as a pre-requisite to marriage. The fact that your partner expects you to convert is bad, because it shows a total lack of respect for the other person's religion. And if you're the half of the couple that converts, it shows that you have no convictions of your own.

Similarly, I find it weird when I talk to couples who were never church-going, and yet as soon as they have children, then suddenly decide to start attending church because "it's good for the kids". Excuse me, but how is that good for the kids? You didn't even like going before. Now you're forcing yourself to go. And you're dragging your kids too. So now nobody is having fun, and you've wasted an hour of your Sunday, which could've been spent sleeping in. Or not going to church. Are you tempted to throw darts at me yet?

Now on to my particular case. Me: atheist, hubby: Christian (Unitarian). Our child was baptized at 6 months in the Presbyterian Church, by the same minister who married us (his parent's minister). The baptism was totally my idea. The hubby was more than happy to go along with it, but didn't pressure me either way. And before you think I'm some crazy hypocrite, the baptism was, for me, more of a symbolic gesture, to honor my late grandmother's memory, since I know how much she wanted PK to be baptized. (As a fairly religious Catholic, just like my mom, she didn't quite understand my exit from the Church.)

It has been two years since PK's baptism. The hubby and I have touched upon religious upbringing here and there. Our strategy is as follows: the hubby is more than welcome to teach PK about God and Jesus and the Christian way. He may even take her to church if he wants to. I, on the other hand, will simply make her aware of my point of view - i.e. that I don't believe in god. If she asks why, I will tell her. If she asks if I ever believed in god, I will tell her about my upbringing and how I came to be an atheist.

Some may argue that such a mixed upbringing in the faith department may be confusing to a child. Especially when one side has no religion. But the way I look at it, we are giving PK the opportunity that so many children are not given - exposure to two different schools of thought. Children are so often expected to adopt the family religion because well, it's the family religion. They are not supposed to question it. They must simply accept it and follow it.

I am perfectly aware of the fact that PK *may* side with me, or she *may* side with the hubby. She may even choose another belief system. The point is that with this type of upbringing, she will get to explore her own faith, rather than have it spoon fed to her. Which is why we won't push one belief or another. We'll simply expose her to both.

I realize that this may very well be very idealistic. I also realize that the best-laid plans go to the pooper, but it's worth a shot. If there's any takeaway from this, it will be that PK will hopefully learn about tolerance of beliefs. And isn't that a great lesson to learn in this day and age?


Fawn said...

I just have to say that I am chuckling somewhat about your penultimate sentence regarding "tolerance of beliefs" when you start out saying how opinionated you are. :) I do get it, though.

I've never met you in person, but I get the sense that tend to express yourself in "black and white" terms, even though you actually do see the gray areas.

For example, a blanket statement that a person who converts from his (or her) religion to his partner's doesn't have any convictions of his own? What if he never had the opportunity to learn about the other religion before and found it suits his philosophy? What if the religions are pretty close in nature, anyway? (If a Catholic becomes Anglican, does that count as conversion? Or only a "bigger" leap, like Christianity to Judaism?) Asking a partner to convert doesn't necessarily show lack of respect, particularly if the partner is laid-back about religion in general. Why get up in arms about that? Why would you ever want to judge someone else's religious choices or the nature of someone else's relationship?

I hope I'm not coming across as snippy, because I really don't mean to be at all! I found it interesting in your post of a few days ago when you called yourself out for being a hypocrite regarding the single vs. multiple children issue. I think that's the key to human behaviour. We're ALL hypocrites about some things in our lives, because there are always shades of gray. I wrote a post a few years ago about how wrong I think abortion is, yet I am completely pro-choice. These are two positions I find difficult to reconcile, and yet they co-exist within me.

Sorry I'm getting off-track. But it's all such great fodder for discussion, isn't it? :)

Finally, before I shut up, I think that people who talk about children being confused (whether it's because they are learning to be bilingual from birth, have parents with different last names, or parents of different religious backgrounds) are idiotically unaware of how smart children are at figuring things out. How's that for a wonderfully tolerant comment?!

Mr. Shiny and New said...

I have to agree with Fawn regarding people converting to marry. I think it stands to reason that people who are super-strongly convinced that they have the one true path probably won't convert; the rest are probably a bit flexible especially since Judaism is similar to Christianity in many ways. Islam is even quite similar in many respects.

Frankly, if a person is really convinced that they have the backing of the deity, shouldn't they A) refuse to associate with non-believers, and B) of course only marry among the faithful?

Anyway, I can also explain why people might start being more religious after they have kids. As you know, it's a very emotional process filled with many wondrous things. A religious person will see the work of god in those things. And anyway, I'm sure you do things now that are "good for the kids" that you didn't do before. Attending church is just one of those kinds of things.