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How would you handle it if you and your spouse disagreed with your children's religious upbringing?

My husband and I had an interesting discussion today.  Or rather. . . the beginning of an interesting discussion, because we have so more to talk about.  The subject is far from closed.

It started when I was getting ready to leave for work.  My neighbor's children saw me and called to me.  I waved and told them to have a wonderful day and that I was off to work.  Then the older daughter--she's six--called out to me that she has gotten my younger daughter (she's seven and has autism) to "accept Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior".  She then told me that her brother has convinced my daughter to say a prayer to "God" every night before she goes to bed.

I approached the fence and told them that I know they are very excited to share their faith, but that it is up to me to teach my children about religion.  I told them that my daughter loves to play with them, though, and maybe they'll be able to play later in the afternoon when we all get home from school and work.  I wished them a nice day again, and got in my car to head to work.  I call myself Agnostic, but I lean more toward Atheism.

My husband called me on my cell phone to tell me that our neighbor called and apologized profusely for what her children had said and done.  He told me that he assured her that they had done nothing wrong, and that he had been meaning to start going to church himself soon, and to take our older daughter with him.

Here's the problem.  We were both raised in Christian households--his Southern Baptist, mine Lutheran.  When we got married, though, neither of us was religious.  We both felt that Christianity was not the right path for either of us and didn't believe in the concept of deities.  He did like to celebrate Pagan holidays, and I joined him in those, but I really had no religious affiliation.  I think he liked the Pagan holidays because they tied in well with his Irish roots, but I didn't think he felt any more about any religion than that.

Now, however, he has reversed his position, and wants to take my older daughter to church with him.  He's not worried about our younger daughter because he is convinced that children with learning or cognitive disorders have an automatic place in "Heaven".  I didn't realize that he believed in things like Heaven and Hell.  It's like I'm married to a stranger, and it worries me.

My older daughter has no interest in going to church, and I really don't want her to go, but I'm not sure I have any more right to prevent my husband from encouraging her to believe in something that I find nonsensical, than he has to tell me not to share my thoughts on religion.  I thought that she should make the decision about her spirituality and religious beliefs when she is older and beyond the influence of childhood fantasies.  He says that it's not fair to give her only one viewpoint if we expect her to be able to make a choice for herself.

I think, if we are to do her the service of exposing her to different beliefs, then why stop at two?  Why stop at his and mine?  If we are going to make her go to church, then she should attend services at different Christian denominations, a Jewish Synagogue, a Mosque, a Unitarian Universalist church, and any other place of worship that's available to us, so that she can really experience the ceremonies and beliefs of all religions that she possibly can.  If she now, at age ten, must be on a spiritual path to finding a faith, then let's give her the full menu.  Or better yet, let her look into these herself when she is older and isn't worried about pleasing her parents.

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Asked by jsbenkert at 7:52 PM on Mar. 1, 2011 in Religious Debate

Level 37 (89,331 Credits)
Answers (35)
  • I really don't know what to tell you! I think at this point, you may have to allow your children to choose for themselves.

    I'm not trying to be rude at all, but religion seems to be skipped over a lot of the time when people are planning marriage, unless they are from the same church. I just wish more people would discuss it thoroughly before they have children and plan a life with someone.

    Answer by Musicmom80 at 7:55 PM on Mar. 1, 2011

  • Oh wow, that's quite a shock to the system you got there.... Honestly, I don't know HOW I'd handle it if my husband all of a sudden decided he was going to go to church. I honestly don't know if I could live with that, especially not with our children involved. And I absolutely agree with you that if he's going to expose them to one religion, they should be exposed to all, so they can make up their own minds. At age 10, I really do believe your daughter should have a say in whether or not she wants to go. It's one thing for him to rediscover religion, but that doesn't mean he should get to force it on your daughter, too...

    I don't really have any advice, just sympathy for your situation, I hope it all works out somehow.

    By the way, I'd be furious at my neighbors if they took it upon themselves to indoctrinate my kids!

    Answer by Anouck at 7:58 PM on Mar. 1, 2011

  • Please dont feel like you are married to a stranger- then you will have a harder time talking to him. Just think of it as your marriage becoming deeper you are getting to know him even better than before. I think no matter what any of us offers for advice we could never know what is right for your family. So my suggestion is get a sitter, go for a long ride or a walk and talk to each other openly and honestly, and calmly with out attacking the others beliefs.


    Answer by Liberty979 at 8:04 PM on Mar. 1, 2011

  • It's interesting that your neighbors lifestyle would influence him so easily. I mean by now he should have known whether religion and church were important in how he raised his (your) kids. It would bother me a great deal that he's that easily swayed to take her now. I also agree that she should be introduced to all religions. I took my daughter to a Buddhist temple when she was searching for answers... we did not stop at the Christian faith. I believe we should allow our children to make up their own minds...

    Answer by parrishsky at 8:06 PM on Mar. 1, 2011

  • Oh and I am sorry you are not on the same page with your spouse, just realize that she will eventually have questions and will come to you both for answers. It's best that both parents are involved. Perhaps you can take her to a temple and he the church?  Just a thought...


    Answer by parrishsky at 8:09 PM on Mar. 1, 2011

  • well, we kinda do..although both xtian, we disagree on certain tenets/actions, if you will, of our chosen denoms, he being episcopalin (or more likely, a closet-catholic..his words) and me being protestant. but we've managed to agree to disagree and meet in the middle, in a somewhat quasi-liturgical setting of the methodist church.
    it is what it is.

    Answer by dullscissors at 8:13 PM on Mar. 1, 2011

  • Wow...I wonder what the deal is with him...odd...

    as far as taking ehr to church -I completely agree with you, why not take her to to experience many different beliefs rather than just one or two.
    I think that is a far better way for her to learn what works for HER

    Answer by charlotsomtimes at 8:16 PM on Mar. 1, 2011

  • My daughter went through two years of Catholic education in order to be "confirmed."

    It was important to my mother, and I didn't worry about it.
    I too had been brought up in religion, but today, I'm atheist/ignostic/humanist.

    And too, I was diligent in teaching my daughter about how easy it is to influence a human mind. I would ask her questions that would cause her to think critically about what she was hearing, instead of simply believing it because the grown up's said so.
    She is 14 now, and considers herself agnostic/atheist.

    Answer by clarity333 at 8:17 PM on Mar. 1, 2011

  • You and your DH took your own personal journeys to come to the conclusion that Christianity was not for you, however, it seems his journey has continued. Just because you got married, it doesn't mean he stopped being an individual.

    As for taking your daughter to church, there is nothing wrong with showing her where his/your journey began. Yes, she can be informed about other faith positions. However, if the church environment and message is the one he feels most comfortable introducing to her, what's the problem?

    I'm sure that debates can be had with your daughter, should she be interested (or a a family). Attending church periodically, isn't necessarily going to convert her and if for some reason it does, did you say you wanted the decision to be hers? If she isn't exposed to it, how does she know it is seems relevant? Also, she could in time decide it wasn't for her after all, no?...... people change.

    Answer by Awakened1 at 8:25 PM on Mar. 1, 2011

  • Forcing a person to go to church does not MAKE them believe. You need to tell him that is is up to your DD if she wants to go or not AND that he can NOT guilt her,scare her into going. It needs to be her own free will. Gosh I can't stand it when people PUSH like that.

    Answer by pnwmom at 8:47 PM on Mar. 1, 2011

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