Saturday, December 29, 2007

Question from fsmismyhero...

FSMismyhero said... P-momma,...Your post reminded me of a question I've been wanting to ask you.
How do you keep your religious relatives from preaching/indoctrinating your children?
My husband and I are starting to think about having children and one of my biggest concerns is how I'm going to raise them as agnostics (we're atheists but I want them to make up their own minds) when we have some extremely religious family members. I'm not so much concerned when their p1 and p2's ages, but when their more like P3 and p4's age and more impressionable. Any advice/experiences you could share would be extremely helpful :)

Well, as always, if you have specific questions, I'll be happy to answer them in an e-mail. Every family is different, so my advice might vary with the circumstance. :)

It really depends on the relative. My parents, while still Catholic, seem to regard (rightfully so) religion as something that's completely up to the parents. I think there's some disappointment that P4 was never baptized, but they haven't forced the issue. Of course, they are the family that lives closest to us, so I think -for them- they see that we're doing a good job without religion and it's not a concern. KWIM? Dr. Possum's (he didn't spend six years to get a PhD to be called Mister, thankyouverymuch. LOL) family is a different situation. His parents are Catholic and actually attend church on occasion (mine don't). And, there's been this landslide of grandchildren (six in five years) that has made all of the baptism stuff an issue. They haven't really mandated that we have Owen baptized, but I know it's something they would like to see. It's not going to happen. But, I'm sensitive to the fact that that would be their desire. I can see how they might be disappointed: if for no other reason than it's a tradition. We have, and this is a new revelation for the readers here, an added "family", tough, too. I was married before I married Dr. Possum and P1 and P2 were adopted by Dr. Possum. My ex has nothing to do with the kids...but, his parents do. THEY are very, very, very involved and invested in Catholicism and THEY are the proverbial thorn in our side. It helps that they have no legal say so and limited contact. But, as you might have inferred from my x-mas detox post, it is almost always an issue when they go visit.

I think the best approach is to decide which battles are worth fighting. You're going to be your child's role model. If your relatives are the type that will insist on mandatory church attendance for everyone, during visits, then you (and your DH) need to decide if you're going to participate. If your family does a prayer at dinner, then you need to figure out what you're going to say (to your family and your daughter). If you sit down and think about how religion plays a roll in your gatherings, you can think about what you want to do (or how to approach it). Personally, I don't ban the kids from going to church. I think it's better to let them see what's going on inside so it's not some mystery. It's easier to proselytize to those who have no clue about what REALLY goes on in a church or religion. But, that doesn't mean you have to reserve all comment or judgement in your home or with your family. You don't have to give up being agnostic or atheist to make someone happier. If they do ask you to do so (or to "be a team player"), then I suggest my favorite response: "Ok. We can go to Church with you, but then you have to watch The God Who Wasn't There with me later." Make it clear what your boundaries are and then stick to it. If you and DH present a united front, it will be harder for the family to manipulate the facts and emotions. And, if someone does cross a preach or proselytize your kids, then you need to be willing to tell them that they've crossed that line. Really, the best advice is to know what you want, set the boundaries, and then enforce them. :)

Good luck!


SWE said...

I think that's excellent advice. Especially the part about boundaries. Clear communication and enforcement are key.

And, it's worth noting that your family ~may~ react differently than you'd expect once you have a babe in arms. I really expected to have issues with my mom (a soon to be ordained Lutheran minister) and they just never materialized.

Family (especially prents) can do some weird things when you have kids, so it's nice to be able to use the boundaries you set for religion as practice for setting boundaries in other areas as well.


First there should be a clear definition of God, say by the debaters accepting one meaning of the word "God" in a commonly accepted dictionary. This will never take place because there are thousands of dictionaries.

Till then the words theism, atheism, deism, agnosticism etc. will not add any meaning to the word God.

Anyway thank you.

Carla said...

Well said P-momma.

Thankfully, the relatives we see most often are very aware of our atheism and leave it alone, at least when they are with us. They might be talking abou

All the other ones, if and when they find out, will have their opinion, but it won't hold any weight.

The people I care most about and may have tension if they expressed disagreement, see that we are doing a good job, continue to be accepting and loving despite some differences.

I am sure as the kids grow, there will be questions asked of us or situations that will make me angry.

Good luck!

Mephitis said...

It grieves my mother that I won't get my kids christened. I'm of the opinion that if they take on a religion in later life they can do all the rituals at that point. I can't say it'd be something I'd be glad of, should it happen, but once they're adults, their choices are their own.

My mum also nags me that they should attend church at times, which is utterly bizarre since she doesn't attend church herself! I've said that she is welcome to take them if she likes, but she never takes me up on it.

She tells me I am CofE anyway due to my own christening and confirmation as a child, my disbelief notwithstanding. Most peculiar.

AlisonM said...

I'll go along silently but respectfully with the rituals others go through in their homes, but we've always talked to the kids about how different families do things differently, and how to act when you're a guest. As they've gotten older, we can talk about the religious aspect of other peoples' ways, and that no matter how foolish you think something is, you still need to behave like a guest. I'm fortunate in that my family (including in-laws) is pretty much nonreligious, as are most of my friends.

It takes a while to get the hang of telling relatives who want to tell you what to do and how to do it, whether it's religious in nature or not. You just need to practice being patient but firm, maybe throw in some humor ("Now, Uncle Bob, you know that we disagree on this, and a fight to the death would really ruin the party, so how about we change the subject?") and eventually it will be brought up less often and less fervently until it's a non-issue.

FSMismyhero said...

Thanks P-momma, and everybody else.
When I asked this question, I thought that it was important to keep relatives from discussing religion with the children, but now I see that it can be useful in broadening their perspectives as long as I teach them critical analysis. I have decided that I need to clarify my position with religion with my relatives before having children, so that will be my New Years resolution :) . They know I'm an atheist but still insist "she's just not into god right now" What fun this will be!
Thanks again for your responses, I learned a lot!

Hope everyone has an excellent new year!