Friend Raising Kids in an Interfaith Marriage

Updated on November 11, 2009
Y.J. asks from Miami, FL
14 answers

My friend wanted some advice on raising her son in an interfaith marriage. Her husband is Muslim and she is Christian. They believe in religious tolerance. Her son is going 1 year old. Any advice re observing religious holidays, etc as a family.

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So What Happened?

Thanks to everyone who responded. I plan to show the comments to my friend whom I shall be seeing soon. You've all been helpful.

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answers from Pensacola on

I so very badly wanted to see 30+ responses to this. Some subjects are so popular that people can't resist to give an opinion but I guess this is not one of them. I too am in an
interfaith marriage and we have 3 boys under 6 years old. We are in the same quandry about religion. If there is anyone who has ANY experience, please post it! Some of us are lost and need help!! Also, please let us know what the decision is and how the two religions are dealt with. I would love to know.
Jen M.

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answers from Tampa on

I think the child should be introduced to both religions. His mother should practice the Christian ways with him. Celebrate Christmas, Easter, etc... in the proper way. Her Dad should teach her his ways. But the child should not be denied the religious holidays a Christian celebrates.
My Mom's friends daughter became a Johovah Witness and would not allow her children to celebrate the Christian ways in which all the other children in our nieghborhood celebrated. They were not allowed to celebrate their Birthday, Christmas, Easter, etc... They grew up to hate their parents for this choice that was made. When they got old enough to know what was going on they turned on their mother. They are now happily married and their children celebrate all the Christian holidays. Her Mom and Dad sit at home alone when the rest of the family gather for the holidays. They refuse to give in.....And it wouldn't be so sad but she was raised a Christian......and now she is missing out on her Grandchildrens lives because she refuses to accept them for who they are....

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Orlando on

It's interesting that the responses to this have really focused on celebrating the major holidays. I would be more concerned about the foundation of each faith, which directly contradicts one another. There is simply no way to "believe" both.

You can't raise a child to "believe" both Judaism and Christianity since Christians believe Christ was the Son of God, while Jews recognize him only as a good man and perhaps Prophet. That's sort of a big difference that can't be reconciled between the two faiths. (Well, unless you are a Christian Jew.)

You also can't raise a child to "believe" both Christianity and Muslim faiths. Again, Christians know Christ to have been the Son of God, but Muslims recognize him only as a prophet or teacher and deny Him as anything more important.

You have to deny Christ in order to accept the beliefs of of non Christian faiths. You can't have it both ways. Yes, you can be "tolerant" and recognize everyone has the right to believe as they wish, right or wrong, but you can't agree with a non-Christian religion if you are a Christian.

If it's just about holidays and ceremonies, sure, you can participate in all sorts of those regardless of the faith...but if you are talking about instilling a foundation of faith and a belief system in a child, you have to pick one and pray you choose correctly.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boca Raton on

Hi Y.! Well, it seems obvious to me, that as long as they both are open minded, that they celebrate all Muslim and Christian holidays together. Are the husband and wife open to celebrating each others holidays? I know you said they are tolerant..but are the participatory. I think that the child is lucky to be able to see that people from different religions can live in harmony. I think that it will only enrich his life to be able to participate and learn about both traditions. I think that is the only route they can take. I would tell my son that mommy believes in one path, and daddy believes in another. One is not better than the other, they are just different. When he gets bigger, he is welcome to choose one, the other, or something totally different. I grew up in a very Christian family, and was forced to follow my parents beliefs. It has backfired, and I am now agnostic, so I think that a peaceful and non-pressureful approach is best!



answers from Orlando on


My husband and I are an interfaith marriage (I am jewish and he is episcopal) and we seem to be making it work. I think the most important thing is to sit down together and discuss the things that are important to each of you, what holidays you like to do, what you want to share with your kids and find something that you are both comfortable with. We seem to have found a comfortable place but we definitely do a lot more of my religion with the kids but my husband is not very attached to his anymore. But I think talking about it together and making sure you are both happy is very important.



answers from Tampa on

Hello Y.,
THANK YOU for sharing this!

I read your query to my son, who stated that it's much deeper than holidays, and more about daily practice. He asked me to share with you how we went about this.

I taught my kids to respect all faith's beliefs
and own their own hearts, to nurture their OWN faith
as it evolves.

I did this in many ways, including sharing myths, creation stories, and any children-level materials I could get my hands on. I encouraged them to listen to ALL stories of faith (in any environment) and LISTEN RESPECTFULLY for the similarities. (as in...where have we heard that flood/ark story before?)

I also taught them to understand that every is based on stories. None are entirely wrong or right. Faith is in one's heart, not a book. (books are tools to EXPLORE faiths, in my opinion). Belief is a relationship of an individual with the Divine.

I asked them to listen for the different names kids call their parents. (Pa, Ma, Poppy, Mum, Da, Mom, etc) In this they learned that different NAMES do not define different roles. All words for the Divine are valid. All faiths based on love are to be respected.

We celebrated Yule(Winter Solstice)/Christmas
and read books about other traditions too.

One of my children believes in Darwinism
and the scientific concept of the Big Bang.
She is 22.
My other child prays most at ease
upon his Native American path
with a witchy influence to support it. He is 16.
I was raised (VERY actively)in the episcopal church,
and found the undercurrents of my Eclectic Pagan Witch faith was woven together in its foundation.

I am an ordained minister who works with people of all faiths and I hope (and see) where such diverse practice
and support of one's OWN developing, evolving divine relationship has served my children and my clients.

HURRAY for your friends tolerance,
mutual respect and interest in bringing up
an inclusive and well influenced child!
People such as these are to be applauded!
(they are a fabulous example of HOPE)

Blessed Be,



answers from Fort Myers on

Hi Y.,

My husband and I are of different religions as well. He's Catholic and I'm Jewish. Prior to getting married (but knowing we'd have kids together) we agreed that while our children should be exposed to the traditions and culture (including holidays) of both religions, you cannot in any way raise children as "both". We agreed that if we tried to raise them with both religions that our kids would end up having no religious foundation. It's just too much info flying around for them. Not to mention the fact that, while Christianity doesn't contradict Judaism, Judaism does contradict Christianity/Catholicism. For that reason alone, it's impossible to raise a child as both. We are raising our children Jewish, but we still celebrate Christmas, Easter, etc. with my husband's family in THEIR homes. Jewish holidays are celebrated with my family and at our house. We don't put up a tree for Christmas in our house, we don't hide Easter eggs at our house and the kids don't ever go to church. (They do attend Synagogue for important holidays. Our son had a Bar Mitzvah, too.) Through my in-laws, they get a taste of the way my husband grew up religiously and as they get older, they understand the difference between the two religions.

If your friends need more input, there may be support groups for interfaith couples through either (or both) of their houses of worship. That may also be a good starting place for advice from other couples who have some experience with this. Honestly, we've ultimately decided that this tug of war wasn't worth rocking our household over anyway. My husband and I love each other and that love spills over on to our kids, which is way more important than whether or not a family celebrates Christmas or Ramadan or Hanukkah... Our respective religions are just a very small part of who we are as individuals so we almost never let it get in the way. I hope your friends are able to strike that balance, too.



answers from Ocala on

i had neighbors growing up who were different faiths he was jewish she was Christian. they celebrated both holidays for the kids. i feel openness is important and everyone has a right to their beliefs. as long as someone doesn't try to force or argue me into believing as they do we will get along great and i love learning about other beliefs so can talk about the similarities and differences. that being said they should teach him both ways as he is growing up so he has the knowledge to choose when he is older. if he grows up not knowing god then he will probably never know him and thus have no choice if he grows up knowing both he can then make an educated decision as to which belief he wants to follow. god bless this family :D



answers from Miami on

I am in an interfaith marraige (5 years) and my parents have an interfaith marriage (39 years). My father is Lutheran and my mother is Catholic. I am also Catholic and I married a Lutheran. My siblings and I were raised Catholic because my father was non-practicing when they met and they decided that my mother would be "in charge" of religious upbringing. My mother took that seriously and she took us to church with her every Sunday and enrolled us in Catholic Sunday School - and taught at the Sunday School. She still goes to church every Sunday and when we visit her we go with her. My father didn't go to church with us except for Christmas, Easter and important religious ceremonies (baptism, communion, confirmation, etc). On those days we went as a family.

When I met my husband, he went to church for religious holidays and maybe 6 other times per year. He went to Sunday School as a kid but honestly didn't get a good basic religious education. He understood that I go to mass every Sunday (even on vacation) and my religion is very important to me. So he agreed that he would help me raise our children as Catholics. He doesn't go to church every Sunday but at least 50% of the time, we were married in a Catholic Church, our son was baptized in a Catholic Church. When we visit his family, we go to their Lutheran church for religious holidays and Sundays. We haven't had any problems but we attribute that to the fact that we discussed it all before we got married.

Our daily life is influenced by this also:
My son says a grace (prayer) before meals - these are either prayers learned at his daycare (which is at a Methodist Church) or from me (my husband couldn't remember any and his mom says they didn't say any prayer before meals).
My son goes to church weekly and has since he was born.
My son was baptized in a Catholic church when he was 12 weeks old.
My son says bedtime prayers. He has memorized the "Lord's Prayer" and "Angel of God" so far.
My husband and I say the Lord's Prayer by our bedside before going to bed each night - that was suggested by the priest who married us and it is helpful to us.
My husband and I recently started going to a Bible Study weekly as a "date night" at our Catholic church. He wanted to do a Bible Study that is very historical and academic oriented and I found out that the priest teaching it is a retired biblical scholar (used to teach at Georgetown U.) Honestly, I wasn't as interested in bible study but it has been wonderful and I am glad to do this for my husband.

I agree with some of the other respondents that it is very difficult to actually raise a child in both religions. Most religions have some form of religious education and some form of ritualization. I think your friend needs to decide whether their son is going to actually be a member of a religion or not and if so, then choose something. I have a Catholic cousin who married a Southern Baptist and they both converted to Episcopalian and are raising their children in that religion.

You can raise your children to be religiously tolerant without any religious affiliation. Perhaps your friend needs to have a good conversation with her pastor, to clarify what raising a child in her religion means.

I suggest that she and her husband pray. God Bless.


answers from Fort Walton Beach on


I was raised in a Lutheran home. My mom married a non-practicing Jew, whom I grew up with most of my adolescent life. Anyway, I was taught about the different things in the Jewish religion. My mom told me that it's customary for the wives to pick the religion in the home. She brought us to a Lutheran church and we followed the holidays and such. I used that in our home. I'm married to a non-practicing Catholic and I am raising our kids Lutheran. Luckily, they are similar; however, there are differences. I will teach our children differences of all religions and let them make up their minds when they are older. As to your friend, I think that she would be best to teach her child the understanding of different religions and possibly raise him in one. I think it's less confusing and gives understanding with clarification. Just a suggestion :)

Take care,



answers from Washington DC on

For those interested in raising interfaith children with Judaism and Christianity, I have a whole blog on this topic at



answers from Boca Raton on

What better way to teach children the wonder and beauty of the variety of people in this world than to fully celebrate different cultures and religions inside one home. Tell them to point out how lucky we are to live in a place where Mom and Dad COULD fall in love and have children. As long as everything is presented with tolerance and love, the child will love both pieces of who he is and as an adult choose his own way of life. Who knows, the tolerance they teach could give him the strength and self love to choose to be even something different from either of them.



answers from Pensacola on

they have a lot of planning ahead of them, and do not have to worry too much right now since the child is only 1 year old. they are fortunate right now to be able to take the time to work out what course to take regarding how the child should worship which would be feasible for each of their religions. I am christian non-denominational, I do not observe easter, I observe passover. I do not observe the birth at christmas, I observe the conception, because of the calendar and I study in Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic and Chaldee. I go to my family church for special celebrations to be with my siblings, worshipping my own way, and they observe passover and passover feasts with me.
Maybe if the child is allowed to observe the high holy days, such as Romadon for Muslim, and Christmas and easter (please excuse that I do not support "Easter", but the passover instead, but thinking that maybe the christian in this family does and respecting that) for Christianity, it will give the child some idea that his parents are religious people, they just worship differently. We believe in the age of accountability, and this child has a lot of years before he reaches that, if they believe it, they will have plenty of time to reach a peaceful resolution. I wish them the best.



answers from Orlando on

I was raised by a Jewish mom and Christian dad. We celebrated holidays from both religions and I was encouraged to go to church with friends to learn about other religions as I was growing up. I now am married to a Christian and I'm on my Christian path, but we still celebrate the "main" Jewish holidays with my mom so my children can have the diverse exposure. It really depends on how devout each is with their own religion, but I think it's important to teach your children your own beliefs as well as let them know that not everyone has the same beliefs.

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