April 22, 2010,
J.B. asks from Burbank, CA on April 19, 2010
Advice Needed on Split Family Religous Beliefs
My husband and I are split on religious beliefs. We were both raised Catholic. I admit I am non-practicing but will still take communion at the masses I rarely attend. On the other hand my husband is an atheist (since adulthood). I would like to raise our children catholic and I am willing to attend church regularly to enforce their teachings but my husband says he cannot support me. He has his own beliefs and says he cannot "lie" to our children. This is difficult since we agree on a lot of other things but this one is weighing heavily and is a constant point of contention. Is there any one in a similar situtaion? have you found any middle ground? what has worked for you?
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So What Happened?™
Thank you everyone for your responses. I read them all and respect all your different point of views. I am very moved by some of the shared experiences and I must say that before posting my question I was depressed about our family's situation but now I'm actually excited and have a whole new outlook. What I plan to do is first have an another open discussion w/my husband (making sure he knows that I respect his beliefs and will not try to enforce mine onto his). I was reminded of one of the reasons why I fell in love with him in the first place... because we respected our differences. We knew we weren't identical twins, we each had our own thoughts, beliefs and used to enjoy debates. Deep down I am still Catholic. I'm not the same person I was when I stopped attending church regularly (around confimation age). I have a lot of self reflection I need to do, "reintroducing" myself as an adult and mother. I will hunt for a local church, one that speaks to me and I feel that will be a great community for myelf and my chiildren. Thanks to all the mama who helped bring me to this decision. My children will learn about Cahtholosim from me but my husband will surely encourage them to keep asking quesions. I will raise them with this foundation until, like the rest of us, they are old enough to make their own disicions.
D.P. answers from Pittsburgh on April 19, 2010
Honestly, it doesn't sound like you are really committed to the Catholic faith, but most likely, it's what you know, hence you would like your children to attend. If you think you're interested in something else, more, different, whatever, I wou;d encourage you to explore your area and go "church shopping" to see if you can find a place that you will want to attend and commit to, without feeling like you are going to a mass where you "will still take communion at the masses I rarely attend." You might get more out of it and who knows? Your husband may be curious to attend as well. I say forge ahead on your own for your children. They will not be exposed to any religious ideals if you don't see that they are. I am going through this right now. My husband's not an atheist--he's a golfer :-) Good luck!
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J.S. answers from San Antonio on April 19, 2010
The bible says teach a child in the way they should go and they will not depart from it. Teach them your beliefs and attend regularly and just explain that dad doesn't share the same beliefs and let God do the rest.
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H.A. answers from Dallas on April 19, 2010
I'm an Agnostic Atheist, husband was raised Catholic and wrestles with what he believes. Basically, I lean towards believing there is no god, he leans towards believing there is. :)
I know you lean towards Catholic, because its what you know.. but what about a Unitarian church? http://www.uua.org/ UU's accept Atheists, or any other belief. Maybe something your husband could join in with you and the kids, an exploration of what you all believe together, while still learning good rules to live by. Maybe something like that could be a middle ground?
I understand where you husband is coming from - he shouldn't have to say he believes there is a god if he doesn't believe that. He shouldn't have to lie to the kids. He should be able to tell them, "Some people believe in this, I don't. Your mother does. But what you believe is up to you." I don't see anything wrong with that.
Personally, we do not take our kids to any kind of church. (There isn't a UU church close by) When the topic of a creator comes up we discuss what each of us believes - including us asking the kids, What do you think? We talk about scientific theories, religious theories, all of it. The reason I don't want my kids going to main stream church is because the information would not be presented as a possibility, it would be pushed as fact. I certainly don't want my kids made to think they MUST think only one way and if they don't they will burn in a firey hell. It's a shame, I do like the social aspect of church -- the sense of community, making friends with other married couples that have kids.. I just won't lie and say I believe something I don't. Oh well!
Good luck to you. I think you should be brainstorming this with your husband. Find out what he is comfortable with and see if you guys can find a middle ground.
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A.A. answers from Denver on April 19, 2010
There isn't a lot of middle ground to be had. You can take them to church and follow your own beliefs until they are old enough to make up their own minds. But realistically you can't make him pretend to believe in something he doesn't. That wouldn't be a fair demand to place on him. He won't and shouldn't be part of it if he doesn't believe in it. You have to be honest with your kids that not everyone agrees about this, and you and their Daddy are among those with different beliefs.
My MIL handles it by just going herself and always inviting family along. Her husband doesn't believe, so he always says no. But he and the kids were all invited along if they wanted to attend. If they don't want to, you get some time alone with your god, and he has to watch the kids.
Religion shouldn't be forced, anyway. Let their curiosity carry them to their path.
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V.W. answers from Minneapolis on April 19, 2010
I was in a somewhat similar situation. My boyfriend is atheist, I am Wiccan, and both of our families are Christian. When the baby gets here we didn't really agree on what to teach him/her. In the end we just decided to wait until our child was old enough to understand each religion, and let him/her decide on his/her own. In the end, your child will decide what he/she wants to believe anyway.
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D.W. answers from Indianapolis on April 19, 2010
My husband and I are in a similar situation as is my sister and one of our neighbors. I'll point out each scenario and how it's been resolved.
In our case, I grew-up a poorly-practicing Catholic. My husband grew-up STRICT Baptist and was taught Catholics are not Christian. We've chosen not to pursue either religion with our children and are seeking a common, middle ground that we're both comfortable with since how we were brought-up has so many philosophical differences.
We have our core beliefs and try to teach the commonalities and be honest in areas we either don't agree (and explain why) as well as areas we simply don't understand.
My sister also grew-up Catholic, sought out Methodist when she had her kids and is now Born Again.
Her husband doesn't go to church but lets her make the calls with several church services/week with 2/3 kids (the oldest gets a pass for being heavily involved in baseball?). She's a little off the deep end, and he's completely not involved religiously.
Neither of the younger kids like or feel comfortable in her church at this time, but have no choice (they are 11 and 13 years-old).
Our neighbors just had 2 boys. Mom is Jewish, dad grew-up Christian. They chose to follow Judaism because it was more important to Mom than it was to Dad. He hasn't converted, and they explain the differences to the boys (20 months and 3 years). The boys understand that the rest of us on the street believe in Christianity, and she does well to explain the differences. Dad attends important events at the synagogue.
I think as long as you're honest with your children and explain the differences and give them some backbone of religion, you've done a great job. My mom converted to Catholicism when my parents got married. They believed it was their job to take us through Confirmation when the church recognized us as adults, and left the path of our discovery in Faith up to us.
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P.G. answers from Dallas on April 19, 2010
Check out Unitarian Universalists - wikipedia defines it as the "free and responsible search for truth and meaning." They tend to be focused on supporting people in their spiritual journey, which sounds like it might be more appropriate to where you are. They teach the different schools of faith, so your children won't be ignorant of your Catholic heritage. Enjoy
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J.P. answers from Los Angeles on April 20, 2010
<sigh> I thought I had wirtten this for a minute! Actually, my husband isn't an atheist, but he never mentions prayer, God, or anything, but was raied Lutheran. I don't even think he knows where he stands. I'm a non-practicing Catholic. We have 3 kids. We sent our first son to Christian preschool and he came home with all kinds of whack ideas. "God made my bike. God makes everything." Ok, back up Nellie.
Here's where we are. We read a children's bible, which told 1/2 the story and I found it very lame. We just bought a Bible Story book and are reading that, but I explain it right then and there, so there is some common sense going on. We've been to our friend's Christian church a few times, gone to church with my SIL, but we don't go regularly. I remember going to church like it was torture. I didn't get anything out of it until I was about 10.
Our oldest is 7 now and we discuss God, read stories, the bible, etc. We are just deciding to get into it a little more, but we aren't forcing it. We are planning on getting ALL of our kids baptized this next year - Catholic and then they can get re-baptised if they want, as adults, as anything they want. I just want it something that they have in their lives, but I don't want it to be so intense that they can't think for themselves.
My dad was raised Mormon and never went back to church after he was 17. I've never heard him pray and his take on religion is pretty harsh...but he's at least honest about it. I did appreciate that growing up. He's very clear that religion and spirituality are not the same things. My mom raised us Catholic. I got baptised, first communion and at 16, confirmed. I never really went back to church after that. I mean, I do, when I feel the desire to go, but it's not for confession, or for forgiveness. It's almost like I feel the need to reconnect, like calling a good friend that I haven't seen in a while.
I think your child has a very lucky situation. Your children will have a good balance and will figure it out for themselves later - we always do! I think a religious foundation can be really good. I say, thank your husband for at least knowing where he is, rather than pretending and being a hypocrite. I think it's great that he will have that religious relationship with you. Your children will probably always come to you for religious questions and that's ok. My husband doesn't answer questions like, "How does the babby get in the uterus." I do. Your husband doesn't have to answer, "Am I going to hell for lying." You do.
I just had this conversation with an adult where her parents sort of intorduced religion, but not really, as a 40 year old woman, she wishes she had more of it and found more comfort in going to church. That's what prompted me to really sit down and think about it and what I am doing for my children.
I think you raised an excellent question....and celebrate that you and your husband are different and will have different takes on things.
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