On Raising My Child Among a Majority Christian Family
My wife is a devout catholic. My mother and her family are devout evangelical christians. My father is dead. I’m an atheist. Go figure. At some point, we are bound to have some… differences. How should we navigate them while retaining the relationships we hold dear?
I don’t give crap about religion. Well, really, I’ve come to resent organized religion. I hate the way The Church* openly indoctrinates children, and in fact society as a whole, practically since birth. I am certain that the reason why most people comply with religious belief, even though they don’t actively go to any church, discuss religion or otherwise engage in formal religious affairs is because of how effective The Church has invaded every aspect of social life, imbuing it with religious beliefs, iconography, rites and lore. That is why I will say “God Bless You!” when you sneeze, almost reflexively, and will feel weird and wrong every time I consciously attempt to drop the “God” part, or just say something else instead. It’s also why we agree on separation of church and state but will feel it’s going too far when someone proposes removing the meaningless swearing over the bible in a court session. I’ll probably make a whole post just on this dark puppeteering of our society by The Church.
I don’t give a crap about religion because I know that, in the end, it doesn’t matter. Nothing really matters. And that is maybe the most terrifying but liberating part of being an atheist.
But my family does give a crap about it. They give all the craps. Which, normally wouldn’t bother me. But, you see, my wife and I have a child. And that’s where the lines become messier.
You might ask me how did I let this get so far? I was an atheist before I married my very very catholic wife. Why did I even marry her? Why did she even marry me? Again, this can be an entire post on its own. But lets just say, I didn’t know better.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love my wife, I truly do! I love her for what she is, for who she is. Her strength, dedication, and moral compass are qualities I know she would have even if she weren’t catholic. I was also younger, still coming out of my shell in the “spiritual” sense (if it can be called so). So we can say I was a compliant atheist. Enough to not care for going to church but not to be abrasive to christians or find them too abrasive either. So, we managed, and focused on the multitude of other aspects of our lives. We even married through the catholic church, which is a cool story in and of itself, again, for another time.
So. We had a child.
Our daughter is beautiful, inside and out. I know ALL parent must think and say the same. Fuck you, though. This is my blog and she is my child. And she’s beautiful.
She’s very thoughtful and analytical. You tell her something and she’ll grind that thought in her mind in her attempt to understand it on a deeper level. She’ll often return with very insightful questions about whatever it is you told her. Those questions will make you think and even rethink your original answer. They might even be questions you’ve asked yourself in the past and just didn’t mind to follow through to getting an answer yourself.
I try not to let her questions go unanswered. And I do my best to say “I don’t know” if I can’t truly answer them. It’s a humbling experience, because my daughter is realizing at a very young age how much I truly don’t know about many things. However, I take those situations as opportunities to grow alongside her.
If I don’t know something, I’ll admit it and work with her to either investigate it (if it is textbook type knowledge), or discuss it (if it is more of philosophical in nature). I often learn much more in these discussions than I expected, and we enjoy them a lot.
One thing I try and try to always emphasize is to think independently, even from us, her parents. Which is a fine line to walk. On the one hand, we are her parents and need her compliance in many ways in order for the relationship to work. On the other, she must learn to think for herself, and strive to act upon understanding what she is told, not just by believing and blindly following it. Fun times!
Of course, religion doesn’t play nice with free thinking and introspection, and that’s the fine line we walk every day at home.
My wife, being the devout catholic she is, attends church religiously (pun intended) every week, at least once. I’ll accompany her sometimes, although I stay home most of the time. Our daughter is out of luck, though. She’s gotta go attend that Sunday School every week, enforced by my wife and supported by my family.
Now, I’ve been very open to my daughter about my feelings on religion — Open, but in digestible chunks. I don’t tell her I think The Church is a terrible influence on society as a whole, but she knows I am not a believer.
I am uneasy about the indoctrination I know is taking place every day, but I don’t want to come off as indoctrinating her myself. I will not force my atheism onto her in the same way religion is forced down her throat. What I try to do is confront her inevitable religious biases as they are formed and exposed by discussing them.
I believe that any religious bias cannot stand up to logical reasoning. This is because it is not logical in any natural way. I say natural way because The Church has a way of installing a different version of logic onto their followers. Child indoctrination has much to do with this. Once that logic is tightly woven onto children’s soft and malleable brain, it’s tough to modify or remove without emotional and psychological scarring.
So it is important for me to just talk with her. Reason with her.
One of my first conversations on the issue was showing her it was wrong to try to force me to want to pray along with her and her mother.
Now, I could just play along and pray with her. But, why should I? I don’t believe in prayer, on a fundamental level. And putting up a charade doesn’t help anyone.
It was important that she understood how to respect people who don’t think like, or believe or do what she does. If what they think say or do are not threatening her or others in any way, then their beliefs should be respected.
She came around to understanding in a way that I know will cause friction in the future, but it will be her place to work out that friction, and, hopefully, she has the tools to do so when that time comes.
Another important concept I’ve tried to make sure she understands is how she should never blindly believe anything anyone tells her. She must understand things and make sure they make sense and are verifiable. As I said earlier, that’s a hard one, and the message will surely evolve over time as she matures and her level of understanding deepens even more.
In the end, I hope she is able to break out of the matrix on her own, just as I did. No red or blue pills here.
But, if she doesn’t, that’s OK too. I will still and always love her. As long as she’s happily aware and in control of her decision, it doesn’t matter. At the very least we’ll probably have great philosophical discussions on the topic, prompting some awkward thanksgiving reunions.
Hope you liked my post! I don’t post as frequently as I want to, but every post comes from the heart, not some medium hack game trying to up my popularity.
I will work on increasing my frequency though. This is probably the largest blog post I’ve ever written. Comments and criticism are welcome!
I do understand that there are christians out there who may disagree with my views and methods. I invite healthy discussion but please realize that if you come to a blog that is openly about being an atheist, you will likely encounter thoughts which may make you feel uncomfortable. I make an effort to be as respectful of religion and The Church as I can without bowing or agreeing to its beliefs, so I won’t be calling anyone a bible-thumping-a**hole, but you won’t particularly find my views “nice” or “compliant”.
I’d appreciate the claps if you believe I deserve them!
*When referring to “The Church”, I mean the traditional christian based church, which includes catholic, baptists, and classic evangelicals, without delving into the myriad of sects littering the scene.