A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?

On the way to have Ben’s surgery today we were listening to an NPR session featuring TED2008 winner Karen Armstrong about the Golden Rule and how it applies across pretty much every religion. Particularly awesome to me was the point made about how every religion seems to think that they have it right when really, just the act of thinking that your religion might be The One is breaking that rule since you wouldn’t want somebody else to tell you that YOUR religion is wrong, you should in turn never think that about another.

Did that make any sense at all?

Anyway, a lady called in and pointed out that she is an atheist and she raised her children without religion but still taught them The Golden Rule. Karen Armstrong was quick to say that it’s a concept that really has no boundary. Religion or not, it’s universal rule that EVERYBODY can live by, and should.

And all of this was a very long winded way to bring me to what I wanted to post about today which is the question Ben and I inevitably get when he tells people he’s an atheist and I tell people that I’m agnostic: What do you teach Cassidy about religion and what will you do if she grows up to be *insert person’s religion here*?

We teach Cassidy that she should always ask questions. Question everything, even us! If you don’t encourage that then kids learn at a pretty young age to just accept what people say to them as fact and I don’t ever want that for her. I think it’s important to teach her about religion, ALL religions, and let her ask questions and make the best decision for HER about HER beliefs. One of her BFFs is Episcopalian and she’s been to church with her a handful of times. She also goes to church with her step-mom when she goes, and to Bible school when she’s there in the summer. If she wanted to go to mass with a Catholic friend I’d encourage it and if she wanted to go to worship with a Muslim friend I’d encourage it also.

Ben and I have discussed it and think that an important part of her being able to make her own decision about this is to actually experience different religions and since we obviously aren’t going to church, going with friends or other relatives is the best way for her to do that. Yes, we as an atheist and an agnostic, ENCOURAGE OUR DAUGHTER TO GO TO CHURCH. This has elicited the most interesting responses in people you could possibly imagine and I have to giggle to myself each time we explain WHY we do this and shatter the most common misconception people have about us; that we (non-believers) hate all religion/church.

If Cassidy grows up to be Christian, Buddhist, Catholic, Muslim, Wicca or any other religion, I will love her. As long as there is a mutual respect about our feelings and opinions, her religion will not matter to me and I think that is something every parent strives to teach their child regardless of what religion they are, or aren’t.

12 thoughts on “A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?

  1. VERY well written Anna. My husband is “loosely” Christian (I say that with the utmost respect, heh) and I am Agnostic. We absolutely plan on taking the same approach as you guys do. Even with him being Christian (and I do attend church, non-denominational) we have every intention of teaching him EVERYTHING about religion that we can. Whether he decides Athiesm or Christianity or WHATEVER is for him, we will love him and raise him to be respectful of others in general, and do the best we can to give him understanding and respect, the way my mom raised me. I was raised by both parents until I was 12, and the Lutheran religion was basically shoved down my throat. I resented my dad, and I can comfortably say that I *HATED* religion and anything related to it for YEARS. Only within the last 2 years (and I’m 24 now) have I tried to find myself and my beliefs, and I’m finally pretty much past those feelings. Once we started talking about the subject regarding raising Matthew, we agreed that we wanted to educate him about religion in a totally different manner. You hit the nail on the head with this ‘article’ and I really enjoyed reading it.

    1. I’m glad you liked it, Jenn! I know that the church you have been going to has been such a positive experience for you from all your facebook posts about it and I love when I see stuff like that. THAT to me, is what church should be for a person.

      Matthew is a lucky little guy, you are a great mama. 🙂

  2. I think you’re taking a good, levelheaded approach to this. I used to go to church with different friends, and even now I have a healthy interest in learning abourt other people’s beliefs. If you’re honestly curious and not looking to debate, people will generally share a lot. It’s a lot of good to know. Even though I do not practice a religion, I understand things like why muslims might not want to go out for lunch for a few weeks in the fall and am better able to support them in their religious beliefs because I have basic knowledge of their beliefs.

  3. I’m glad I’m not the only one who gets the “If you’re an atheist, what will your kids be?” question from EVERYONE. lol. I always thought it would be pretty obvious to just teach your kids about many religions and let them come to their own decisions, but I guess not every person sees it that way. (Sadly.)

    (Also, I say question everything all the time. It’s the only way you can learn! 😀 )

  4. My mother did this for us kids as well. She was raised in a very strict Catholic home and never wanted us kids to go through that. Though I am atheist, I do know quite a bit more about religion than most people because I’ve had the freedom to explore and question openly. That’s definitely something I want to do for Claire.

    1. I actually know quite a bit about different religions too because my Catholic high school had a mandatory religion class and although Catholicism was obviously a main focus, we explored a LOT of different religions.

      I even know the Bible better than most of my REALLY religious friends which can make debates really frustrating for them. 😉

      If found that a lot of time people think that atheists or agnostics don’t know a lot about religion and that’s why they don’t believe and I think it’s actually the opposite for most of them that I know, like a lot of the commenters here, the more I do know about most religions, the less I like them. heh

  5. I appreciate this. As Atheists, people sometimes recoil from us or look at us in a way that states they can’t grasp that people can be ethical AND Atheist — and the idea of “Ethical Atheism” and that morals and values are not something you develop thanks to belief, but can be seperate from — really shocks people.

    My dad raised me without religion, but let me figure things out, and that’s how I plan to do it. I don’t have qualms with religion itself, moreso the Bible and the division that religion brings to the table — but as a child, I went to Christian Camps and varying outtings and Sunday School moments with friends…had Jewish friends, Chrisitan friends, Buddhist and Hindu friends, read the Bible — and because we were raised in a home that loved to QUESTION and RESEARCH things for ourselves — I picked my end choice quite freely.

    And I love that you give Cassidy that option.

  6. My mother raised my siblings and me like this. She was brought up in a strict Catholic household, and never wanted that for her kids. I hope to extend the same freedoms to Claire and Logan. Though I may be atheist, I’d have no problem with my children choosing to have faith in some higher being. Andrew is Presbyterian and it’s never been an issue because we never made it one.

  7. I love this.

    My parents took the same approach with me. My dad was athiest while my mom attended the Korean church. I am not baptized; my parents always felt that should be my choice. My mom did take me around to a few churches, from Baptist to Lutheran to Methodist. I went to church with my friends, one of whom was a Catholic. I distinctly remember going on a Korean church trip, being surrounded by the rest of the youth group and looking around at their passion, their devotion and realizing I didn’t feel the same way.

    But I never would have known if I didn’t try.

    These days, I’m more agnostic than anything. There are days when I would love to be religious, to find comfort and peace in God and prayer, but it just doesn’t work for me. I don’t feel it in my heart and I just can’t bring myself to fake it for the sake of being holy. I have my thoughts on religion and spirituality but, getting back to the point of your post, I couldn’t agree more wholeheartedly with your approach!

  8. I just read this, and reminded Anna, I’m Agnostic (not athiest).

    my Father’s parents were Jewish, so he was raised Jewish, but when he raised me, we mostly went to a non-demoninational church on Sunday mornings. At the time, I had a newspaper route. This meant I was getting up before the crack of down and carrying heavy loads of news to the masses. So, the last thing I wanted to do after that was go listen to some religious learned person tell me how to think.

    Even now, I never feel connected to organized religion. I have LOADS of faith (Out the EARS!), but I don’t ultimately believe that organized religion is helpful (more harm than good, imho).

    My favorite quote about religion:
    “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to the garage makes you a car.”

    A close second:
    ““Religion is not the opiate of the masses, it is the Placebo.”
    -Dr. House, tv show “House”

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