Written by NPN Guest on August 12th, 2011

Balance, Belief

Jorje's 8th Grade School Picture, Monte Cassino Catholic Benedictine School

I kind of admire parents who want to expose their children to many different religious beliefs without pushing their own. I was raised Catholic and even attended a couple of Catholic Schools. When I took the time to read the bible, it did not speak to me. Sermons did not speak to me. For me, church felt like a fashion show / popularity contest (much like school). For a while, I wanted to be Wiccan – and I still feel that it is a beautifully romantic belief system. I don’t share those beliefs either, though. What I believe shouldn’t really matter to you and isn’t really my point.

When Tyler was very young, just old enough to have play dates, I found myself to be a bit of an anti-Christian. You do find a lot of Christians as well as Pagans in the homeschooling community, especially right here in the buckle of the bible belt (Oklahoma). You would have thought I was protecting my child from… troublemakers, I guess. I didn’t want her hanging out with “those kinds of people”! Yes, this is judgmental and awful. I also wound up becoming very close friends with people who have strong religious beliefs.

The other trouble with my attitude was that I did still want Tyler to make her own decisions regarding faith. I just didn’t want it pushed on her. And as an Agnostic (at best), leaning toward Atheist, I probably didn’t (deep down) want her to have faith. My sister has two daughters and they go to church every Sunday. Another close friend of Tyler’s goes to church every Sunday. This complicated sleepovers. When she had her friend over on Saturday nights, she had to leave early for church. And when Tyler stayed over there or at my sister’s? Well I finally gave in. Tyler really liked going to church. I don’t think she has ever asked me to take her, but she does believe in God. And that is okay. Really.

I’ve made a point with her, when asked, to make it clear that what SHE believes is all that really matters. That carries over into other parts of our lives, such as Santa. When arguments came up with classmates about Santa and she asked me if Santa was real, I asked her what she thought – what she believed. She believed he was real. That was all that mattered. Her classmates’ opinions and beliefs didn’t matter, so long as she knew in her heart what she believed.

I support my daughter’s rights to believe whatever speaks to her. It doesn’t have to be what speaks to me (or, more appropriately, doesn’t speak to me). I still support her right. I want her to be able to discuss her beliefs with me, just as I can discuss my own with friends who don’t share my viewpoint. It doesn’t have to be a battle to convert each other. We aren’t bad influences on each other. We can coexist.

Photo Credit: Author

Momma Jorje is a slightly crunchy momma (and wife!) embracing her crunchiness and striving to be ever crunchier. She is passionate about breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby signing, elimination communication, and general attachment parenting.

Natural Parents Network is happy to present an ongoing series about “Belief and Parenting.” We welcome contributors from any faith (or no faith at all) to speak about how their spirituality affects the choices they make as parents: whether you are a Buddhist whose beliefs led you to gentle discipline, an atheist whose worldview encourages consensual living, a pagan who emphasizes the beauty and reverence of nature, a Christian who seeks biblical guidance, or if you’re walking another path entirely — please share your experiences with our natural parenting community. See our Contributor Guidelines for details on submissions, and then email Dionna {at} NaturalParentsNetwork {dot} com to submit your story.

18 Responses to Anti-Faith

  1. Charise@I Thought I Knew Mama  

    Great post! I love how you handled the Santa situation with Tyler. You’re so right. What the child believes is all that matters!

    • Momma Jorje

      Sorry, didn’t post this as a “Reply” originally…

      Thank you! It always amuses me that we can really relate Santa (Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, etc.) to deities quite easily and make sense of it all.

      We used to have a “knot fairy” to blame for all the knots Tyler got in her long, beautiful, thick hair! (Of course, the knot fairy was a BOY.) lol

  2. Momma Jorje

    Thank you! It always amuses me that we can really relate Santa (Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, etc.) to deities quite easily and make sense of it all.

    We used to have a “knot fairy” to blame for all the knots Tyler got in her long, beautiful, thick hair! (Of course, the knot fairy was a BOY.) lol

  3. Debra

    Very interesting…The development of spirituality, not necessarily religion, is important to every human being, in developing their best selves and coming to terms with what one feels is her purpose in life. After 54 years, I practice aspects of many types of organized religions..I think it’s important for parents to expose children to various types of spiritual practices (not cults, etc…)and to discuss them.

    • Momma Jorje

      I love the idea of taking whatever suits you from different practices, if that suits you. I, however, don’t even feel like much of a “spiritual being” most of the time… so I may have done a pretty shoddy job of exposing / sharing that with my daughter.

      Then again, I’m not sure if I place the same importance on it. I do want my children to be “good” people, but it comes from a desire that they care about nature and their fellow man. Make sense?

  4. June

    Love the article – I can totally relate.

  5. Alicia C.  

    Yes! my sentiments exactly. I am “agnostic (at best)”, raised Catholic. My husband has been searching for a religion that fits him. Right now he’s attending Jehovah’s Witnesses church meetings. Fine with me – just don’t try to convert me! My oldest was not raised as any religion. He goes to church with friends, family, and my husband when he wants. He and I have talks about our beliefs. I am not judgmental about any religion – we just talk. You know, those old, “I wonder if…” and “Do you think…” questions that don’t really have any answers. His beliefs, and Little Guy’s, are their personal choices. I can only share what I think and let them find their own spiritual paths.
    I have become good friends with many “religious” bloggers. As long as we all can respect each other’s beliefs (and non-beliefs!), everything’s cool!

    • Momma Jorje

      Oh, I *love* those late night talks about “maybe it’s like THIS” or “what if it’s like THIS!” It can be so cathartic and bonding to share ourselves so openly. (Because, really, humans can come up with all kinds of crazy ideas of how things work!)

      Actually… I have this fond memory of a sleepover of all the girls in my 8th grade Catholic school class. Two of us stayed up all night and as the sun came up we were sitting on the driveway… I was speculating that if heaven is above and hell is below… and you spend time in Purgatory to earn your way into heaven… then maybe Earth IS Purgatory!

      • Alicia C.  

        I can’t have those talks with my husband. I think that my reasoning is too logical for him sometimes and he starts to lost his own faith. He NEEDS that in his life because without church, he ends up off the wagon 🙁 He’ll try to ask me things like, “Well, what do you think happens after we die?” and “How do you think life started on Earth?” I used to answer and then he’s get all bent out of shape because maybe, just maybe, the things he’s believed all his life aren’t true. UGH! Like I said, I don’t talk to him about this stuff anymore! LOL
        My kids? All of the time!

  6. yaydesign

    refreshing. it’s always great to hear about others who can relate to you. my husband and i will now refer to this article often. love it.

  7. Janine  

    You are better than me – I am an atheist as well and the idea of my son being religious sort of makes my skin crawl. I want to be tolerant, but it’s really hard, especially when I feel that society is mostly tolerant of all religions but decidedly intolerant of those who have none.

    • Momma Jorje

      Oh it still makes my skin crawl a bit… I don’t like that she is such a believer, but I can’t really fight it out of her and do totally want to support her in her own beliefs.

      I count myself lucky she hasn’t asked me to take her to church!

  8. Lauren  

    This is really interesting, Jorje (of course!). I think my life would be easier if Sam and I and the rest of our families all had a unified belief or non-belief. As it is, I’m the only one questioning everything, and it makes things sort of awkward. Because, in our family’s belief system, we really do have to teach our kids what to believe, because it’s not at all intuitive (one of my problems with it, but I won’t get into that here). So then I’m stuck wondering: Do I teach it to our kids to pass along that culture and that aspect of belonging to our (extended) family and friends and community (and it’s very important to their dad), or do I present it as a choice and suggest that not believing in it is equally valid? I kinda know what you would respond. 😉 But to me, the answer is not so clear-cut, and it’s been very challenging within my own heart and mind to find the right path through it. Whatever I do feels off. If I answer Mikko’s religious questions with our religion’s party line, I feel like a liar, and if I answer with something wishy-washy, I feel like, contrary to offering him a choice of what to believe, I’m basically telling him, It’s not true. (Because he trusts me to say what is and is not true, you know? We’ve been honest with him about Santa and the Tooth Fairy, so why not this as well? Sigh.)

    Ah, well. I admire your clarity of vision, and that you’ve given your children their right to choose what to believe. It’s interesting that Tyler right now has chosen belief, though that might change as she gets older. Or not. My husband’s father and three brothers, mostly not raised much of anything, ended up as adults with four different belief systems among them (atheist, evangelical Christian, Roman Catholic, and Mormon). Go figure, huh? I have to say, I’d be taken aback if my kids ended up religious but a different religion, lol, but I hope I’d be gracious about it whatever they decide.

    • Momma Jorje

      Your own doubts don’t have to mean it isn’t true. Maybe instead of worrying about the religion you teach him “properly,” perhaps it is more important to be honest about your feelings. Just tell him you’re not sure.

      Doubts with regard to religious are, imo, normal. Based on that, it is a feeling he’ll experience someday. So what would be so bad about him seeing the normalcy in that from his role models? And maybe he’ll actually say something so profound (as only children can) to strengthen your faith. It could happen. 😉

      That was quite a bit of soul-baring there, thank you for sharing.

      • Lauren  

        That’s a very interesting and wise perspective. As someone who did not doubt, at all, until a few years ago (couldn’t conceive why anyone would!), I didn’t think of doubt as having a place within faith. But now that I am doubting, I can’t say it isn’t so, can I? 🙂 I think that’s a pretty good road to take, then, to tell my kids, Here’s what our church believes, and here’s where I’m not sure; what do you believe?

        Well, I’ll let you know how it goes from here on out!