How could i raise a child secular when my girlfriend wants him/her to be religious?

My girlfriend and i are planning getting married some time in the future, she consider herself christian while i'm a open atheist, but not vocal about it. Obviously, how we'll raise our children has been a topic of discussion; while we agree on the most part, she wants him/her to be a christian from day 1 while i want him/her to decide for him/her self when the time is right be it any religion or none at all.

I'm the only non-religious and anti-religious from both sides of the family, i sometimes think there will be a war over my children's mind and i don't want them to live through that or see their family waging over fables.

What would be the best course of action?

Tags: children, parenting, secularism

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This too is my first reply and i also was urged ti sign up because of your situation to be with your girlfriend.

The advice you have been given is sound, however Fabio gives the best solution. I had to send my daughter to a faith school, as it was a good school, apart from the god bits, but she knows I and her brothers, are atheists.  

Welcome Brian.

I think your comment may spark another debate :D Even if a faith school is rated highly enough I still wouldn't send my child to it, sorry. Having been to a faith school & experienced it, im in the 'ban faith schools' corner. Its my view that religion is a place for home (if you are a believer) & should be kept out of educational institutes. Learning about religions, cultures & customs is fine, but only as topical subjects regarding the modern society we live in today. 

Hi Stephen

I will not argue with you about faith schools, I went to one, (All my friends that went there, are atheists now) I also agree that faith schools are wrong and serve to split peoples, As for my daughter going to one it will only be for another two years and then she is free.

Ps I am a kind of Pat Condell, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchins kind of Athest, how do they sit with you ?

Hey Brian,

Its important to teach tolerance of course, thats one way to counter balance & at least understand what you went through. I know many who wouldn't.

Im a huge Hitch admirer, read all his books & essays & I honestly feel he is sadly missed since his death. I never had the chance to see him, but I have seen Dawkins as well as read all his books too. Our species should feel honored to have Hitch & his wonderful mind. As for Pat Condell, he's on my to read list. 

Hi, I'm 51 years old and have been married for 29 years... two kids. My sincere advice to you is do not marry this person or at least do not have kids with this person. Sorry, but the truth can hurt. You will never win the battle you are facing, especially when you have already admitted you are the only atheist on both sides of the family. If you care about your future children and want to be a part in raising them, look for a new partner.

Hindsight is 20-20.

And I'm passing on the benefit of having it.

Before your marriage I believe you need to work out ALL the details surrounding your differences about invisible beings. Indoctrination is a necessary tool for the religious and don't kid (unintentional pun) yourself if you think that there won't be any emphasis on getting your child properly indoctrinated. At the very least you need to have a one on one session with your offspring and prepare them for the nonsense they will most assuredly be asked to swallow. Teaching your child to think on their own, critically and free of expectations, is great but they are also very naive creatures at a young age. I expect a certain amount of confusion is going to be present since each parent will be providing different viewpoints on this explosive subject. 

Not every child raised in a religious household turns out to be religious. Look at me. I was raised by two devout Catholics with 12 years of private Catholic schooling….. And I turned out ok.

If you want your children to be secularist…perhaps they should walk a few miles in the shoes of religion. My anti-theist ideology is fueled from the knowledge and experience being raised in a religious family.  Don't support your wifes intent to raise the child with religion, but don't hinder it either.

Reading all the wonderful recommendations here should give you an idea of what you have to look forward to. Good luck!

The potential pitfalls that you may face on this subject may changes on a few factors. The first, quite obviously, is your girlfriend. Just how religious she is will matter a lot. At first you said she wasn't very religious, but later you said that she almost broke up with you for questioning Christianity, and that she has tried to convert you as well. To me, that doesn't sound like someone who isn't very religious. She may not be going to church anymore, but the question is why. It could be that you have caused he to doubt. Another is that she's cooling it on the religion stuff a little in order to try and convert you less directly. Or maybe she's made peace with the fact that you are both of different mind on the subject. But it is very very important not to assume to know how religious she really is. Before you get married, please make sure that there won't be any unpleasant surprises waiting for you. But hey, love can be a powerful thing. It certainly is possible that she loves you and truly wants to be with you even if she believes that you are destined for eternal torment. So if she truly does love you for you, and doesn't wish to try and change you (anymore), then there's no real reason not to get married. But kids... If she isn't that religious, a compromise should be possible. The best case would be to raise the child secular, and to let them make up their own mind. State that once he/she decides, you won't stand in their way. The nice bonus is that this gives you a few years to teach skeptical teaching skills. A more balanced approach would be to let them take the child to church, but also allow you to say your piece. You could maybe even agree to go along so long as you are allowed to give your son/daughter the atheist rebuttal to that weeks sermon. But if she is more religious than you think she is, I fear you have a tough road to tread. You'll have to ask yourself if the love you have for her is worth indoctrinating your innocent child into the religious dogma that you reject. I'm not going to pretend that that is an easy question to answer. It isn't. But should the worst case be true, can you live with that? Or would you instead decide to marry but abstain from reproducing? Find a new mate that shares your views? The course of action you take will depend on your feelings and hers as well. If you are 100% sure that she is 'the one', then there's very little you wouldn't do for her. That said, you have probably already done this. Otherwise you wouldn't be here asking this question. Interfaith relationships can work. When we got married, my wife was Wiccan. We've been married for a few years now with no issues. We were open on religion from day one, agreed not to try and convert the other, and we actually agree on much. Today she's would tell you she'd consider herself somewhere between a Wiccan and an atheist. So find out how much, and what her religion means to her. If you can have an open and honest dialogue, I have no doubts that the two of you can come to an amicable agreement that you both can be happy with. But if you two can't openly and honestly discuss what and why you believe, I would seriously worry. I know and respect where my wife is coming from, as she does with me. So while I may not agree with some of the particulars, there is no problem. Just mutual respect and understanding.

The second an possibly bigger worry is the extended family. Remember, even if you can get her to agree with you, they will likely heap pressure on her to give in and 'pass on' the 'family religion'. Depending on how she is, she may be able to stand up and tell them you are sticking with your compromise, or she may cave in. But worse, if you can't get her to compromise and instead try to plant the odd seed of doubt in the child's mind, you will be forever outnumbered. That doesn't always matter. I still wound up as an atheist even though my entire family is Catholic. So maybe an atheist dad against a hoard of Christians does stand a chance. But also realize that if she and her family succeed in raising the child in the church, it may not be long until they turn their sights on converting you 'for the child's sake'. I can tell you that some things that you wouldn't consider could become a huge deal. If my wife and I ever decided to conceive, we would raise the child to decide for themselves. But we also would not get them baptized. Something that I'm sure would shock and dismay our Catholic families.

Sorry if my advice sounded pessimistic at any point. Such was not my intent. My true intent was to point out that there are very many factors that need to be taken into account, and that it is a really serious topic (as I'm sure you were already aware). Best of luck, and may the result be one you are happy with.

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