Passed over

I used to be a good Catholic. Well, “good” if that equates going to church (most weeks), going to Confession (and telling the priest almost everything), and attending CCD (though I remember nothing of those classes except which girls were nice to me).

Oh and I remembered to pray when I needed/wanted something.

But, really, I was a pretty pathetic Catholic, especially when you consider that I didn’t learn what the Trinity was until I was in (Catholic) college. “Waitaminute—Jesus is supposed to BE God and the holy spirit too?!?!” Blew my mind.

Since abandoning that faith in my twenties, I’ve dabbled in Unitarian Universalism and, now, agnosticism (another way of saying, “The eff if I know!“).

With kids now, I’ve been determined to raise them with an open mind and allow them to come to their own conclusions about faith and religion. I figured they’d hear me talking about my belief in a higher being (which I call “god” most of the time) and latch on to this.

Instead they find my quasi-beliefs sort of quaint and ridiculous.

When I was explaining the story of Jesus at Christmas and did my typical, “Some people believe. . .blah, blah, blah“, one of my kids scoffed at the notion of any god at all.

“What do you call people who don’t believe any of it?” “An atheist?”, I said quietly.

“Well, that’s what I am then.”


And while I respect their decision, whatever it may be, my suppressed Catholic beliefs squirmed uncomfortably in my gut, as if them uttering those words will bring a bolt of lightning down onto our house.

Good thing I no longer believe in hell or I’d really be nervous.

Interestingly, while all this has been going on, I read Stacey’s post at Is There Any Mommy Out There? where she wrestles with her child’s growing belief in the “saved” vs the “damned” from their attendance at a Christian school. Her dilemma is the yin to my yang.

But if I had to choose between my child having no religious faith, or thinking that people could burn in hell for eternity for having different beliefs, I think I’ve got the better end of the staff. (heh)

Though they’d better still stay up late and watch The Ten Commandments with me. I want to impress them with all the lines I’ve memorized.

Are you raising your kids with formal religion? Is it the same religion you grew up with or is it something different? How would you feel if your kids’ beliefs differed greatly from your own?

Also, I realize religious discussion can be something of a hot button, so please be respectful. If I don’t like a comment, I will feel free to smite it with my all-powerful finger.


  1. I grew up without religion, and I'm bringing my child up that way. I had a funny thing happen with her in the office yesterday, but it's a little too personal to share. Let's just say that it involved this photo:

  2. I grew up a "good Catholic" but I stopped going to church when I went to college. I'm not bringing my son up to be any particular religion mostly because I can't bring myself to go to Mass regularly (for my own reasons,) but I also can't see myself going to any other church. He's starting to ask me questions though, and it's definitely a tough subject. Of course, I still have good old Catholic guilt over all of this.

  3. If I understand it correctly, "atheist" is someone who doesn't believe in god. But they do hold that belief. Compare that with "agnostic" which has no belief (or disbelief) in god. The agnostic believes that knowledge of a deity is unknowable. An interesting distinction.

  4. Fairly Odd Mother says

    Yes, dear husband, I think you have that right: An atheist outright denies that there is a god; an agnostic thinks it's impossible to know one way or another. At least those are the definitions I'm going with for the purposes of this post. Maybe I'm a little too wishy washy to be a true agnostic.

  5. I was raised as a protestant but attended Catholic school for 11 years. I'm now an atheist. My husband still believes in God but not organised religion. Like you, I'm raising my son to have an open mind. My little science boy quite openly declares "I don't believe in god." Causes a stir amongst the very Catholic in-laws, let me tell you. Its bad enough we homeschool, but to be blasphemers as well… 🙂

    But yes, the good old Catholic guilt is still there. Its Good Friday here and my son just ate meat. How can I be twisted up over that when I don't believe in god anymore??! I tell you what, conditioning has a lot to answer for!

  6. My beliefs are forever evolving. I heard my kids talking this morning in the car and Ty asked me if there was a god. I told him that he can believe in God if he wants to and that there may be one. He told me that he does believe in God. Lucas then said that he doesn't believe in God. I think their differences have to do with the fact that we are raising them Unitarian Universalist and allowing them to explore for themselves their own truths. I think that the way we live is so much more important than what we believe in. Kindness, compassion, acceptance and honesty speak volumes about a person. Their belief in God(or lack thereof) doesn't tell me much about them at all. I like this topic. Can you tell?

  7. It's astonishing and interesting how this can be a challenge in parenting from so many different perspectives. I loved the comments on my post and I love reading more about your thoughts.

  8. Suburb Sierra says

    I so want to respond! But I have so much to say…and not in a judgmental way just in a philosophical way…

    I wish we had a bottle of wine and all night to chat. Hey, that's not a bad idea………

  9. For the longest darn time, I was one of the true believers. Raised Catholic, I quickly fled that life and ultimately ended up Episcopalian. That's where the kids were baptized. That's where we took them to church.

    Note the past tense. I've had so many doubts the past year that I've all but left any church. At their ages now, the kids are totally fine with that. "We don't have to go to church! Hooray!" So my crisis in faith is all good in their minds. And I don't know what's going to happen next.

  10. Check out the lyrics to the Iris Dement song, "Let the Mystery Be." One of the lines is "I believe in love and live my life accordingly, but I choose to let the mystery be." It is what we ascribe to with an open mind and heart. Happy Spring!

  11. solsticemom says

    We go to a Unitarian Universalist church but we aren't religious about going. heh. I teach my son about different religions/spiritualities. Sometimes he leans more towards Christianity, sometimes it's paganism or Buddhism. Sometimes, he says he believes a little of everything.

  12. I found myself this week explaining the God parts of the Hagaddah to my kids with, "well some people believe there's this guy who's magic.."

    After all these years about worrying about what I would say, I think that kind of sums it up, right?

  13. Issas Crazy World says

    I was just having this conversation last week with some friends. I am not sure I have any answers. I was raised by a lapsed Baptist and an Atheist Jew. Which is to mostly say, I was raised to believe whatever the hell I wanted. Ha.

    I guess I'd say, that I'm Agnostic. If I were to have to choose. I believe in something…I'm just not sure I know or care, what that really is. My deal is that spirituality is a personal choice. One should be allowed to believe in what they want. Which is why I tend to tell people I'm a fan of faith but not religion.

    My kids have gone to church lately with their dad's aunt. Not often, but more than I'd really like. I've found though? That they say they believe in god, but don't seem to care much more than that. They go for the crafts it seems.

  14. Issas Crazy World says

    Another thing I always find interesting? When you are raised in a certain religion, even if you choose to not go with that one…it seems people question faith and religion a lot more.

    My mom is a big questioner. Me? Meh. I don't have those issues, because I was never told this is what we believe, or this is the only way to believe.

  15. Nan | WrathOfMom says

    I identify myself as culturally Catholic. This means I don't attend mass but I get pissed off when my non-practicing Anglican husband makes jokes about the pope. Whereas I'm free to make jokes about his peoples' pope: The Queen.

    We're raising our sons as agnostics (love the Iris Dement lyric someone quoted – thanks!), but they keep telling us they are Buddhists. I'm cool w/ that.

  16. Krystan says

    I can't believe I missed this great post! Good discussion. I was raised Catholic and am now kind of comfortable calling myself an atheist, though my mom shudders at the word. I teach my kids about religious beliefs, and I think they find it interesting. They consider Christian teachings in the same way they consider Greek myths: really good stories that often teach important values, but often not. Most Christian holidays were originally pagan holidays altered by the church, so I don't feel hypocritical celebrating them. Homeschooling can be a little bit of an issue only because I feel like we need to hide our lack of belief a little bit.

    Otherwise, I agree with tunewicz. It's more important how you live your life. You certainly don't need religion to teach kindness and compassion for others. My husband was raised Buddhist, which does not require a belief in a god, but does talk about a connection between all living things. I kind of like that idea. Anyway, super topic!

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