Is anyone here in a mixed marriage -- atheist + theist? What kind of issues come up? How do you deal with raising the kids (if any)?

I'm an atheist but have not really been "out" or thinking much about it for a long time. My wife of 18 years considers herself Catholic, though she doesn't really think about it much either, doesn't go to church, and doesn't buy into any of the crazier Catholic-specific ideas (wine=blood, crackers=flesh, pope=infallible, birth control=bad, etc).

But she does want our 11-yr-old son to continue going to CCD, like he has for 2 years now. CCD (Confraternity of Catholic Doctrine) is like Sunday school on a weeknight. Until recently I was unsure what to do about this, but now I have decided I would rather he did not go.

Partly I think it is a good time because he seems to be coming into his own rationality and skepticism. He admitted he no longer believes in the trinity of Santa / Easter Bunny / Tooth Fairy. He has long shown interest and ability in science and math, and even an understanding of the scientific method, etc. (Good job local public school!)

So I started to ask him questions such as how someone determines what to believe and what not to. He is into Greek myths so I asked him what ever happened to all those gods. To these types of questions I was pleasantly surprised about how rational his responses were. Eventually he summed up the conversation by saying "Dad, if somebody tells me something and they can't prove it, I am not going to just believe them."

I like to think my sense of humor also had some good influence. We have sort of a running joke where I make up completely crazy stories and try to convince him. For example: "You are a martian that your mom and I adopted." "We used to have two kids, but you ate the other one when you were a baby." "I have a submarine parked in the basement, but I am not going to let you see it right now." ... etc. Usually I let him offer points about why a story isn't true, then respond with still crazier rationalizations, before finally letting him win and admitting that, yeah, fine, it was all made up!

So now I am thinking about how to discuss with my wife the fact that I don't think he should go back to CCD when it starts again in the fall. (He doesn't want to go either.)

Also, I have not talked with him specifically about being an atheist so far, but I know that at some point I will want to. And if he does identify as an atheist, I know he will eventually find out that this will not a very popular thing to claim -- within our extended family, or his Boy Scout troop, or maybe with some of the kids at school.

Anybody have similar experiences or relevant advice?

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I have no similar experiences - my husband is an atheist, and we don't have kids. But I'll throw in my two cents anyway. :) I definitely would not want my child going to a religion class. That being said, it sounds like you're equipping your son really well to be able to evaluate claims. If your wife really wants him to go, let him go, but encourage him to ask questions and challenge what he's being taught and then report back to you. Maybe you could help him come up with ideas on why the things he's being taught don't make sense. On the other hand, if his questioning leads to him being picked on in class, you should talk to your wife about it and explain that you don't want him going because of how the other students and/or teacher treat him. Maybe she would accept this as a good reason to pull him out.
As you know (you read the "New Here" thread, of course), my father's an atheist, and my mother's incredibly religious - she's Catholic. I remember going to church with my mom every once in a while. She never forced me to go with her every Sunday (she didn't even go every Sunday), so it was usually on Christmases or Easters for me. I don't remember ever seeing my mom and dad fighting about religion, especially when it came to how they wanted to raise me. I remember going to church on Christmas, and asking my mom why my dad wasn't coming with us. She would just give me predictable answers, like "he has to cook for later today".

I really started to question religion around the age of 12, and it kinda felt like questions I had a few years back were finally being answered. I didn't tell either of my parents about my doubts, so I just went on with my life, trying to find out as much as I can, without offending my mom. Growing up in a religious family (my dad's Venezuelan, so his side of the family is also very religious), the last thing I ever wanted to do was talk about how I didn't quite believe that God existed. That would have been an easy way to get myself killed. :-P

The older I got, the easier it was for me to talk about my doubts with my dad. This is how I came to find out that he has been an atheist for over 25 years. I finally understood why he never went to church with us, and things of that nature. It's still very much a "don't tell your mom that you think Jesus was just the world's first magician" type of thing, though, but I don't mind that. I love the fact that I can talk to him, and if I chose to be religious, I could talk to my mom.

Now that I've finished ranting (sorry 'bout that, haha), I guess I should just give my opinion.

If religion is extremely important to your wife, than I don't see why she can't just go to church with him a few times a year. Granted, I don't think she should force your son to go to CCD. If he doesn't want to go, forcing him to go will truly not make him develop an interest for it. I grew up in an extremely religious family, with preachers and everything. I went to (and still go to) Catholic school. My point? If I could find my way through all that crap, I'm sure your son could, too. If your wife wants to do certain religious things with him, she should - as long as it's not "Jesus Camp"-esque. You either have the faith, or you don't. Even when I was 7, I would sit in church and go "now, how the hell can a guy walk on water!?". It sounds like a very simple and stupid question, but it's thoughts like that that make a little kid start doubting the bullshit that people call the bible.
Im going a similar experience right now, my mom(who doesn’t know im am atheist)has me go to CCD every Wednesday. I usually don’t pay attention to what they say, but it cuts in to my LOST time and that bothers me. This year we talked mostly about abstinence and how birth control is evil because it gives women power.
That's the kind of crap that particularly scares me. Basic "reading the bible" activities and feel-good platitudes are one thing - I don't really have a problem with him understanding what the religion is all about. But guilt trips, bad advice, and sexism are completely another. I guess I should be more involved in understanding the content of those classes.
Yay misogyny!
I was baptized as a Catholic, as was just about everyone else I knew on Guam, where there is a church off of every other street. My father has been an atheist as far as I can remember. When I used to ask my mom why dad didn't believe in God, she told me that some people just decide not to. I've always known that it was a personal choice to believe in God, just as it is a personal choice to not believe in God.

I attended CCD until the 8th grade, when I decided I just didn't buy it anymore. I asked my mom if I could stop going and she didn't force me to do otherwise. Your son will come to his own conclusions in time.
Again, I'll be utterly unhelpful being that my boyfriend is atheist, we don't have kids, nor are we ever around kids. From this lofty perch I'll still cast down my judgment and expect you to obey!!

All kidding aside, if your kid doesn't want to go.. maybe you should let him present his case to mom.
If you attempt it, it might seem like the conflict of belief is motivation. If HE attempts it, and is able to argue his side in a rational, intelligent way of which you've described teaching him, it might make it more neutral. Her argument might be some such that it isn't perfect but it will help him learn how to be a good person, ect. I'd suggest a compromise of replacing the CCD with some humanitarian volunteering? A little personal (but secular) self enrichment never hurt anyone.


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