Here’s a question…

I wanted to invite my new friends at FriendlyAtheist.com for a discussion I thought of while reading through a recent thread. I didn’t address it over there because I didn’t want to take the thread off track. It was a post about a recent article in the Chicago Tribune regarding a summer camp for non-religious families called Quest Camp. If you’re interested in that thread than head over there. (That post is a few days old by now so that site may not see my recent comment. Hopefully my current agnostic/atheist blogging friends will help me out here. 🙂 )

Now for my twist. Christian parents generally try to raise their children in a “religious” environment. Yes, I’m being VERY general here but its ok. I didn’t want to spend 4 paragraphs on definitions and disclaimers. Sometimes, the children “stray” from their upbringing whether its a choice not to pursue a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, taking blatant turns toward crime, or not believing in God at all. And the Christian parents lament over the paths the children have taken.

Here we go…do non-religious families have a similar experience when/if their children decide to believe in God or pursue a religious experience? Do atheist parents lament if their children stray from their non-religious upbringing?

I’m not trying to pick a fight and I’m asking my readers to discuss this as grown-ups and without attack. Parent to parent–what do you go through? Is it a non-issue?

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10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jen on July 7, 2007 at 6:09 pm

    Hello from FA.com! I am in my 20s and I have no intention of raising children (honestly, I would probably leave them at the mall or something), but I have to say, were I to parent, I think I would be disappointed if my kids turned out religious. It would mirror my upbringing, where my mother is disappointed I don’t buy her Bible. I think it’s natural to hope that your offspring buy into your way of thinking.

    That said, and I know you probably didn’t mean it this way, but why say “Sometimes, the children “stray” from their upbringing whether its a choice not to pursue a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, taking blatant turns toward crime, or not believing in God at all. And the Christian parents lament over the paths the children have taken”? That seems to be lumping in rejection of religion with crime, which is basic Atheist Misconceptions 101. Again, I am assuming you don’t mean that all children who reject your god are going to commit crime, especially considering how many religious people do break the law. I rejected your god, and I have never even gotten a parking ticket.

    Reply

  2. Jen, I do not equate rejecting religion with committing crime. I actually separated those on purpose. Now that I reread it though, I see how that sounded. My bad. Thanks for pointing that out. And thank you for being a safe driver!

    Reply

  3. Joni – Very interesting and thought provoking angle. Still sitting here trying to wrap my mind around it.

    We have taken a little heat for having Friendly Atheist on our blogroll, so we’re glad to see others seeing the value in a dialogue.

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  4. I think religion is just one aspect of a child’s personality/life choice that a parent has to accept may stray from the family’s intentions. Each child is an individual with their own passions and interests. We can teach them what we know and love, but ultimately we cannot force them to become a doctor if their passion lies in teaching. Neither can we make them an athiest, Catholic or Jew if Buddhism resonates in their soul. You give your children roots, but as adults they have wings. Love is the only common denominator.

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  5. Growing up from a strong catholic background I personally went 150% against religion and at one point considered myself an athiest.

    I am raising children as followers of Christ. I suspect they may at some point get a little rebelious and stray at times but I stick to the fact that the seed is planted and that they will come back like I did, which can I just say was the greatest of all of my choices so far.

    If my children chose to go against their beliefs in God one day I am sure I would be sad and dissapointed but I would never want to be one who shoved it down their throats.

    It’s their choice. If they choose something else would I be able to love them less??? Heck no!

    I know this was more of a question to the non-religious families but I really really wanted to comment today. (Its all the caffeine!!!!) lol

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  6. I’m glad you commented Gretchen. I think there can be a misconception that love goes away when kids choose different than their parents. Its a great point that love for our children is the immovable. Perhaps it is a uniting factor among “religious” and “non-religious” families. We love our kids no matter what.

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  7. In my family, my parents made the other kids (the older ones) go to church a sunday school. I’m not sure why – I think maybe because it was what people did then. By the time I came around they had stopped going to church. I have never been to church or sunday school. My parents had no interest in religion. I know my dad saw many things in his life that lead him to the conclusion that religion was a scam and God was conspicuously absent. Out of the 6 people in my familly (mom dad 3 boys and one girl) only my sister is religious. She’s not just religious, she’s hyper religious. She used to real drive mt dad nuts with it. He had heard it all before and wasn’t interested. My sister though cannot shut up about god and jesus, and she’s very judgmental. I heard once that sometime one kid will try and make up for the rest of the family if the family is not doing something considered to be a norm in society. So maybe she’s compensating for the fact that the rest of her family is a bunch atheists that have no use for religion. I don’t know.

    I have a song now and a baby on the way. I would be somewhat disappointed if either of them become hyper-religious. But I feel that i have no control over that and trying to control what they believe is harmful. So I’ll love them whatever they believe, but if they really start annoying me with it I will let them know.

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  8. Whew–Joni has opened a big can of worms. There’s a country song that says there are three things we don’t talk about–politics, religion, and love 🙂 We’ve got two of them here!

    I think it would be hard on any family to see children grow up and go off on a completely different tangent than how they were raised. However, I don’t think Atheist families would be torn apart if their children grew up to be religious as long as they weren’t “hyper-religious” as the previous poster said, constantly preaching their beliefs. And Christian families aren’t necessarily torn apart by non-religious children, when they are living otherwise good moral lives. I think all of that depends on how extreme they get with their behaviors.

    My own history is kind of a good example–non-church going for most of my childhood, saved at 12, and now we are regular church attenders and we live a good solid life. My blood relatives, on the other hand, especially my brother–they’ve all strayed into immorality and irresponsibility and I distance myself from them because they just make me uncomfortable. I still visit occasionally and help out my disabled dad when I can, but I’m glad we live 2 hours from them, know what I mean?

    It’s not that I don’t like them because they are not religious, but because of the life choices they make–I hope I’ve made some sense.

    Good discussion Joni! I’ve been lacking that in my blog–I’ve got blog-writer’s block!

    Reply

  9. Posted by Steelman on July 10, 2007 at 10:40 pm

    Hello, Joni.
    I consider myself an atheist (I don’t believe in any gods), an agnostic (I don’t know if there might be some gods hiding out there somewhere), and a humanist (I think human beings are responsible for solving their own problems on this planet, with no help from the supernatural). In other words: I don’t know if there are any gods or not, but I doubt it.

    I have two boys, one in preschool and one in first grade. I’m doing my best as a parent to give them well rounded educations. This includes all the usual academic subjects, as well as philosophy, critical thinking, and world religions. Religion plays an important part in U.S. culture, and in cultures around the world, they need to know what different people believe so they can understand them better.

    The only thing that would disappoint me would be if the boys strayed from their open minded upbringing and adopted dogmatic beliefs, religious or otherwise. I get along with most Buddhists and liberal Christians, for instance, so I wouldn’t have a big problem if they adopted one of those faiths as their own. Now, if they became Marxists, or fell into Christian Dominionism or Islamism, then we’d have serious issues. I’m not a fan of authoritarian ideologies that thrive on an us vs. them mentality.

    Reply

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