The Religion Post | Ask Your Dad Blog

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Religion Post

Hi Everyone, 

This post has been a long time coming.  I have written and rewritten it. I have three different versions sitting in draft. It started as a simple question; Should Stevie and I be taking our kids to church? Then, much like every other question regarding religion has done in my life, it led to more questions. Which church? Why? How often? Should we try multiple churches? Shop around? And bigger questions… is religion necessary for morality? Will my kids be ostracized if they don't have a religion? And then, finally, the biggest question. What if I don't believe? Do I lie? Do I pretend? Does that do more harm than good?

And so it goes… over and over and over. Now, the file titled "The Religion Post" is the only thing I can see in my working folder. It is always there, staring at me, telling me to open it, to finish it, to make a decision. It has gotten to the point that I can't write anything else. It is killing my creativity. This religion post is my white whale!

So here, take it for what you will, judge, comment, argue. Let's get it over with. I need to purge the topic from the editorial calendar of my soul. I need to get back to writing about important stuff – like whether dogs are like kids and pooping in McDonald's Play Places

Jesus on Toast
I couldn't think of a picture, so you get Jesus toast. 


The Religion Post

I live in Utah. Utah has a very large population of Mormons. Good people. Kind people. Wonderful friends, family and neighbors. No tails, no more than one wife per family, unusually good basketball players. Sometimes the missionaries stop by my house, but they know I'm not really interested anymore. Last winter they offered to shovel my driveway, and the one kid said "You don't even have to get baptized!" I found that hilarious. I know he was joking, but the thought of trading yard work for eternal salvation strikes me as appropriately silly and wonderful. So like I said, Mormons – wonderful people.

Growing up in Utah as a non-Mormon was really, really hard. It was lonely. It was confusing. At times I felt marginalized, outcast, and angry. Sadly, the angry part carried me through much of junior high. I was never bullied because I wasn't a Mormon. I was never told I was going to hell, or that I couldn't participate in a social activity because I didn't belong. On the contrary, I was often invited and welcomed to participate. I was even asked to say the prayer a few times, or stop by church on Sunday, or come over to their house and hear the missionaries speak. All of this was done sincerely and with kindness. I believe that. But it led to me feeling that I was viewed as 'less than' and 'unfinished' in my friends' eyes. And that hurt, even if I didn't believe it.

Things got better. I grew up, found my own path, and became comfortable not just with my own beliefs, but with others' as well. I got to a nice spot where I understood how faith is incredibly important to some people, and not as important to others, and that how we treat each other is much more important than which set of beliefs gets us there. All was well. For me, the religion thing was settled. And then I had kids.

Now, like me, my kids are going to grow up in Utah as non-Mormons. I don't want them to go through the rough parts. I don't want them to feel marginalized, outcast, and angry like I did. Yet, I know that someday, in the near future, they are going to come home from school and ask me "Dad, What religion are we? Are we Mormon?" I'll be honest with you. I have no idea what I am going to say.

I know what my mom said when I was in third grade and came home to ask that question.

"We're Presbyterian."

It was the first and only time I had ever heard the word Presbyterian. Even now, in my thirties I still couldn't tell you what a Presbyterian is. Still, the word was a gift. I was something. I had an answer for the kids at school. I practiced saying it a couple times, went to school the next day, and proudly told all the kids in my class that I wasn't a Mormon. I was a Pregnantarian. They shruggedly acknowledged my newfound religion as "Not-Mormon" and that was enough for them.

Unfortunately, I proceeded to call it Pregnantarian for the next five years. No one ever corrected me. Ever. Which explains why, when I tried to find out more about my blossoming Pregnantarianism in the school's encyclopedia, I never found it.

The word helped though. It gave me something to tell people. At the very least, I had a religion – and in the world I grew up in, that was much, much better than not having a religion at all.

So there's option number 1.

I tell my kids that we're an easier to pronounce branch of Protestantism than Presbyterian. Lutheran is easy to say. I could go with that. I can tell the Christmas Story, and I can explain heaven when one of Stevie or my parents eventually die in 50-60 years... or never, 'cause they’re never going to die.

We can go to church once in awhile, and I can do what I usually do when I go to church: contemplate the similarities between Jesus and the Superman mythology. Seriously, bearded guy in the sky sends his only son to save humanity. Son makes a big entrance, hides for 20-30 years, and then gets busy saving. I can't be the only one who has thought of this. I digress.

We keep things simple; Duchess and Captain have a religion to name when asked, and as a bonus they get a foundation on which to build their own belief system.

Or there's option number 2.

I can be completely honest with my kids. I don't know what is out there. I have serious doubts about religion. I don't think of myself as a Mormon or a Lutheran or a Pregnantarian, and I think that is perfectly ok.  I can explain to them that there are many religions in the world and that commonalities can be found in each, and that a desire to see order within the chaos of the human experience is a natural, humbling, and comforting thing. God exists to different people in many different ways, and to some he/she doesn't exist at all. And that is ok too. Sounds great!

Except then my kid goes back to her class, tries to explain agnosticism in a language she has yet to master, and all hell breaks loose. Can you see my dilemma? The nuanced/don't-offend-people approach I generally take when begrudgingly explaining my beliefs to others does not lend itself well to kid-speak. You think you're mad when your kid comes home after someone tells him there's no Santa Claus. Wait until mine tells your kid there's no God – because kids don't deal in nuance. They deal in absolutes, and we live in a world of maybes.

So maybe I'll do a little of both. Maybe Lutheran with a big spoonful of pragmatism on Sunday nights. Maybe I will teach them about other religions, too. Maybe maybe maybe maybe. Maybe I'm going to drown my kids in a sea of maybe and they're going to grab the first hand that reaches down to pull them out.

Or maybe I'll set them on a path up a mountain of understanding and at some point during their journey they'll realize that it's not the top of the mountain that supports life, but the sides.*

Or maybe I'm just over thinking this, and all kids feel lonely, marginalized, and angry in middle school. Maybe there's nothing I can do. Maybe I just need to have faith.

Faith in my kids. Faith that if Stevie and I fill their lives with confidence and love and reason, that they will find their way to whichever joy they choose. I'd be ok with that.

The other night Stevie and I were having our normal bi-weekly "discuss our kids' futures and possible choices they might make" conversation when she threw me a curve ball.

"How would you feel  if Captain or Duchess decide to get baptized Mormon someday?" (It’s not out of the realm of possibility. I have plenty of friends who have converted.)

I chuckled a little. "There are a lot worse things out there that our kids could become. A Mormon doesn't even make the list," I replied honestly.

"Very true. What's on your list?"

"Drug dealer, Prostitute, Zombie, Republican. Yours?"

"Murderer, Crime Lord, Evil Leprechaun."

"Good lists."

"Yes. Good lists."

And then we high-fived.

So I guess Lutheran it is. And Agnostic. And Pragmatic.

There you go Captain and Duchess. We're Pragnosteran.

Hey, it's easier to say than Presbyterian.

Love,

Dad

*Sigh… leave it to me to unknowingly plagiarize 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' by Robert M. Pirsig. Here's the actual quote my subconscious cribbed.  

“Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you're no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn't just a means to an end but a unique event in itself. This leaf has jagged edges. This rock looks loose. From this place the snow is less visible, even though closer. These are things you should notice anyway. To live only for some future goal is shallow. It's the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here's where things grow."

47 comments:

  1. I wrote about a similar dilemma on my blog. Not that my kids will be ridiculed for not being Mormon, but that I'm not sure how forthright to be when he asks about God and etc. My mother flat-out begged me to have my son baptized, for her, and I have yet to carry through but I've considered it.

    Unlike you, I grew up with a religion, Catholic, and, like many people, grew out of it once I saw through it. But going to both Catholic high school AND college, I learned a lot from religion - mostly abstract things like humility and disciplne, which aren't exclusive to religion, obviously - that I wouldn't mind my son picking up, and religion offers a structure and delivery system for those things that I prefer to something like the military. So again, I've considered baptizing my son and raising him with some kind of faith, but the incongruity of doing that while I don't believe is tough. I also think it's easier to shed belief as you get older than it is to take it on, and that's another reason I've considered honoring my mother's request.

    So I still haven't gotten him baptized. It's easy to want your kids to come to their own conclusions, but kids rarely do. That's what makes it so hard to decide what to tell them. They're likely to cling to it for a while.

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    1. I've been many religions growing up. Jehovah's Witness, Mormon, Baptist, Non-Denominational but none of them fit. My mom explained to me that there are a lot of religions out there and one day I would find the one that was right for me. I still haven't found it but my exploration of religion did give me a belief in God and that has been worth the journey.

      My daughter asks me questions all the time and I just answer her as honestly as I can about what I believe. I think the only wrong way to handle it would be to browbeat your child into only believing your way instead of supporting them in finding their God or meaning of life themselves. I was ostracized as a child for being Jehovah's Witness and grew to hate it so eventually I found a new religion. And then another. And another.

      What's most important is for you to be comfortable in whatever it is that you believe in in my opinion and to not bash others for their beliefs.

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  2. This made me laugh so hard I cried. back to work...

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  3. Your best post yet!! My hubby and I are currently engaging in option #2. Don't forget to include the pastaferians too, all hail the flying spaghetti monster :)

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  4. Fabulous. All of it. My mother is a "born again Christian" with her husband...which is fine, until she thinks I need to be converted. And my in-laws think that some day we will "come around", that we are just young and dumb and one day it'll change.

    We are tried and true agnostics. I believe what I believe and feel what I feel. With full understanding that there are a bazillion other people out there with different ideals than me and that's okay.

    I don't need religion to help me become a better person. I need compassion and understanding. If our son (now 3) decides he wants to go to church, then we will send him along with his grandparents or friends or whoever he wants to go with. I will not attend but I won't stop him from doing so. Because it's his choice, ultimately.

    I greatly enjoyed this post. Keep on being awesome. :)
    PS -- Drug dealer, Prostitute, Zombie, Republican?? My list exactly.

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  5. I have similar conversations with my husband. He's Lutheran, but fundamentally agnostic, and I'm Jewish, and fundamentally atheistic. (No I see no contradictions in Jewish atheism.)

    I know what it's like to be otherized for my religion, even kindly. It still happens to me constantly as somebody excluded from the religion of privilege in this country. My husband didn't understand that until well into our relationship.

    And then there's the kids... His parents and extended family are Christian. REALLY Christian. Like, I'm going to Hell so it's the least they can do to save the children Christian. (Some of them, anyway.) And my family are Jewish. Like, really Jewish. Like my grandmother keeps the doll from her cousin who died in Treblinka Jewish, and seeing pictures of her great granddaughters sitting on Santa's lap is kind of a knife through the heart.

    And I don't believe in God. And my husband does, but doesn't believe in religion. So where do we stand?

    It's an ongoing conversation, really. But it's always more complicated that a simple label.

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  6. Thank you for this post. I grew up Catholic and went to both Catholic elementary & high school. My mom even works at a Catholic church. I have felt a ton of pressure to baptize my daughter because I do not want to disappoint my family or embarrass my mom. My husband is firmly against it because we do not practice at all and it seems like a lie to stand up on an altar and swear to teach our daughter the Catholic faith. This post makes me feel less alone because most of my friends who have kids are planning to baptize even though they don't practice. I just want her to be a good person, however that comes to be. I believe we can do that without a specific "God" figure in her life and it is amazing to hear it put so eloquently. If she chooses a religion, great. If not, that is great too.

    THANK YOU!

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  7. Well written. I was raised non-religious, to question. My wife was raised Lutheran, but became an atheist as the years went by.

    Our discussions about religion have had some of the same thoughts as yours. If the kids decide they want to belong to a particular religion, we'll help them do their research and determine that it's right for them. If they decide it is, great! If not, that's great too. The decision will be theirs.

    We live in New England, where Unitarian Universalists seem to thrive. We got interested in it while we lived in the south, as their Darwin Day celebration (for Charles Darwin's birthday) was coming due. The week before, they had a Big Lebowski party. It was a great place, but then we moved. We haven't gotten super involved since the kids were born, but we plan to.

    It's all about letting our kids decide, and giving them something. UU gives them community, and education, and welcoming. No pushing, just love.

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  8. I feel like I'm going through the same emotions as Ace Venture when he found out Finkle is Einhorn and Einhorn is Finkle. Thanks Dad for the Jesus - Superman correlation. Oh and thanks for this post. No judgement here! I believe that truly good people create truly good kids that turn into truly good adults.

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  9. Just so you know, I am agnostic, my husband is Jewish/atheist and we are happy at our Unitarian Universalist church and raising our daughter with this as her faith community. We have shared values, but not shared beliefs about god and the afterlife. Just that we need to take care of people as best we can in this life that we have. www.uua.org if you want to check it out.

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  10. Take them fishing...not sitting in a boat fishing, but walking down the river fishing. Teach them to notice the nuances of the river, the bugs, the plants, the trees, the fish (if you catch any, really its irrelevant). Teach them to have wonder in the world at all levels. Teach them that religion exists, it is a large part of many people's lives, but it by no means defines "good". It is simply a path. Between the sense of wonder and connection to the greater taught by fishing (or some other deeply natural adventure), and the foundation that people are inherently good with our without religion, they will find their way. All of this is much easier said than done though, particularly while they are little. So, talk about it in small pieces. Start with very large concepts and as they age, get in to more detailed ideas (both religious and agnostic/atheistic)...at least that's my plan.

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    1. As Jason writes: This. Wonder and curiosity are the best gifts you can give a child.

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    2. Methinks Jason has seen (or would be mightily happy to see) A River Runs Through It. Lots of good stuff about uncertain religious principles but very certain ideas about Good and Right and Beautiful. And also, lotsa good fly fishing moments.

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    3. Jason, fant-freaking-tastic comment. You win the internet. It reminded me of one of my very most favorite poems of all time. Here it is for your reading enjoyment:

      Ask Me

      Some time when the river is ice ask me
      mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
      what I have done is my life. Others
      have come in their slow way into
      my thought, and some have tried to help
      or to hurt: ask me what difference
      their strongest love or hate has made.

      I will listen to what you say.
      You and I can turn and look
      at the silent river and wait. We know
      the current is there, hidden; and there
      are comings and goings from miles away
      that hold the stillness exactly before us.
      What the river says, that is what I say.

      William Stafford

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    4. While I agree with everything you have said Jason, this doesn't help the kids in the short term when they are/feel ostracised because they don't have the same religion as everyone else in the class.

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    5. Funny story, the first movie I ever saw in a theater was A River Runs Through It. My parents wanted to take my youngest brother to a Disney movie and my middle brother (2 years younger) and I wanted to go to something else so my parents let us go to that. Who would have known that it was a movie about 2 brothers and their relationships to nature, religion, debauchery, and love. I turned out a lot like the older brother and he turned out like the younger brother (Brad Pitt's character). It was such an ironic way to see our first movie and has always held a very dear place in my heart..besides all the amazing fishing.

      John, that poem is amazing. I've never read it before but absolutely feel a connection to it. I have a feeling that you and I would be great friends if we weren't 2000 miles apart!

      Stephen, you point is well taken and I don't live in a community where there is a predominant religion. However, for me, being agnostic/atheist/whatever all other religions make up the majority to me so I absolutely can understand the feeling from that POV. Kids will be ostracized for many reasons as they get older. I think the key is to love them at home unconditionally, teach them about the wonder I mentioned above, talk to them about how kids can be mean, and hope that every little bit that you have taught them will add up enough to allow them to confidently express their strength of character and know that they don't have to be like everyone else to be normal. It isn't about giving them the direct tools or words to "defend" themselves, but it is about giving them the subtle tools (intelligence, wisdom, confidence) to walk through those tough times and come out stronger on the backside.

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    6. Quality time is impt I am catholic 7t is my onky religion born and raised I think god is good for kids

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  11. This is such a great article, it is not only insightful, but comical. This is something I think about for my future children. I grew up in a strict Catholic family and I fear living in a small town as an atheist may not be so much fun for my children...

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  12. My wife's family is Jehovah's Witness and they have taken the boys to a few things. It used to make me uncomfortable as I am a Christmas-celebrating agnostic and didn't want the influence of the in-laws keep us from enjoying the holidays, but the kids have zero interest in religion at this point. They are, however, very interested in science, and that helps me sleep at night.

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  13. I am a practicing Presbyterian with a deeply personal and intentional faith. My husband was raised Unitarian and believes that there is a god, but he hasn't defined that spiritual power in a specific or traditional way. He is happy to attend church with me (my church is fairly liberal/progressive). He picked our son's godfather and I picked his godmother. We consciously choose people who would help shape our son's spirituality, rather than his religiousness. We pray at bedtime, but in a way that our agnostic friends and Unitarian parents and Christian parents can all participate in (ie not the Lord's Prayer or a specific "Christ, be with the missionary folks" type structure).

    I want my child to question and explore and develop a spiritual relationship with something greater than himself.

    My list of "please no" is short: Please, don't be a vegetarian. (I grew up in a ranching town. The only true craving during my pregnancy was beef.)

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  14. As an atheist ex-Catholic living in the Bible Belt(sigh)raising atheist kids am feeling your struggle. Only I would completely trade the Baptists for Mormons. They sound like rock stars! Almost as good as Jewish atheists!

    But yeah, it'd be easier to lie; I just couldn't do it.

    P.S. I enjoyed all these comments so much. Feeling less alone today. :-)

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  15. "They deal in absolutes, and we live in a world of maybes."

    Letting for room to grow seems to be my favorite option. And deciding what I will believe and defend seems to be the toughest part of the puzzle.

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  16. These comments are fantastic. You all make me immensely happy. Thank you!

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  17. My Mother was raised Catholic and my father came from Mormon lineage but they weren't practicing. I was baptized Presbyterian as child ( I think out of the fear of the unknown...or maybe to have a sweet party...apparently my Baptism turned into a rager). We never went to church, never really spoke of God in an actual context of faith. When I was 6, my mom told me that she said a prayer every night and my response was "to who?" she said God and left it up to me to define what God meant. Still trying to figure it out. I am entering Divinity School next year, hopefully, they will have more answers. But I am grateful that my parents let me find my own way when it came to religion. Check out Congregational Churches, they are very open and accepting of whatever you believe and whoever you are as a person...or be Jewish...learning to speak Hebrew would be rad.

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  18. I absolutely believe that everyone gets a choice about what they believe and how they raise their children. I'll even agree that some "religious" people suck. However, I want to point out the other side of religion: it's comforting to know that I am not in control, that there IS a plan, and that the end of my life is just the beginning.

    "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." John 3:16-17

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    1. Thanks Amanda! I'm very happy that you find comfort in your religion.

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  19. I grew up in an area of Vegas with a large population of Mormons. In elementary school I came home and asked the same "what religion are we" question because I was being asked by my Morman friends at school. My mom told me that we didn't have a religion. Rather we took good lessions/morals from various religions. I promptly returned to school and told people that I belonged to the Church of . When I came home and proudly told my mom, she laughed hysterically and informed my dad that they now had a their own church.

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    1. Oops - Church of (my maiden name)...

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  20. Nice piece, John. As soon as I saw the bit about life on the sides of mountains, I imagined SLC and the mountains that rise up on the east. Ah, mountain metaphors. People from Kansas just don't get 'em. There's probably some good metaphor (for yourself or your kids) to be had in your very specific locale about being able to use mountains as a guide, always to the east, where the sun rises. Unless you're in Park City or Heber or something, which makes it confusing...

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    1. Ha ha. True. Although, there are mountains to the west too. I just takes a long drive to get out there and they're not as pretty.

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  21. I am pregnant with our first child and have already started thinking about this. My husband is Agnostic and I am Lutheran.

    I think, at this point in time, what I am going to do is tell our son/daughter that I am Lutheran and believe in "X", but tell them that they are free to believe whatever they want. Maybe that's naive and too much to put on a child, but I'm caught between wanting to tell them about my religion and at the same time have them know that they can believe whatever they want and the label is not important to either of us. However, I feel like they'll just decide they believe whatever I tell them and that's not what I want. I'm uncertain about telling them about my husband's Agnosticism for the same reasons you brought up - neither one of us want them to take it as his saying God is not real. It's a tough situation.

    So, as much as I can while my child is not here yet, I feel your pain.

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  22. Thank you for the wonderful article. My husband and I have the same conversation. We both grew up in Christian churches, but we are not believers anymore.

    Also, it is wonderful to read through the comments without having to cringe. Thanks everyone for your contributions to the conversation.

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  23. I like Jason's comment too, and reading your post, it kind of sounds to me like you've worked out your own answer: be yourselves and be truthful. Show your kids what goodness means, show them honor, show them integrity, and show them how to think for themselves. You can't go too far wrong with that. And don't worry overmuch about them feeling different or other than. It may be a difficult period, but it's something we all go through at one point or another on the path to finding ourselves. Personally, I wouldn't want my own kids to NOT experience that, if the alternative is that they're always just like everyone else, right?

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  24. By way of background, I was raised Eastern Orthodox and am now Southern Baptist (figure that one out). My wife and I have always been involved in church life in some way or another, and are raising our kids in the Baptist faith.

    When we we first got married, we church-shopped for a while, and landed in a church where the people were friendly and we could agree on what I call the "big rock" items. I try not to get hung up on denominational differences (Baptists don't drink or dance [well, the good ones, anyway], Catholics don't eat meat on Fridays during lent). That's all stuff that people came up with. Sure, they draw their inspiration for those tenets from scripture (and in the case of the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, church history), but I haven't found a single verse in the bible that says "Don't drink or dance or eat meat on Fridays."

    I'd challenge you to figure out what you believe, about life, death, heaven, hell, morality, virtue, salvation, etc., then find a church that aligns with most of what you believe. A great resource is Leo Rosten's book "Religions of America." (http://www.amazon.com/Religions-America-Leo-Rosten/dp/B0046LUKIG/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1376576182&sr=8-4&keywords=leo+rosten) Rosten presents an unbiased view of what each major faith group believes, though most listed are Christian denominations.

    God bless.

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  25. A great post that I can all too-easily recognise.

    I don't believe in any god at all, but if others want to then that is up to them. I am from the UK but I live in Brazil where Chrisianty is huge. There have been many examples of people in the publis sphere accusing atheists of bringing about all kinds of destruction and depravity. I am, therefore, slightly worried about what to say to my son when the inevitable question comes (he is 2 at the moment).

    I have also had 'the religion post' sitting in my drafts folder for quite a while. Every time I start it I get to place where I know I am offending somebody (usually lots of some bodies) and so I try to start again and be a bit less vehement. I think you have done a very good job here so I'll have another go tonight.

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  26. In my view (and I don't have children, so I know most will immediately dismiss me as irrelevant to this conversation) parents have a high obligation to lead their children to the proper belief systems and not leave them floating in the breeze to make up their own minds. The foundation of strong moral character is formed during the earliest years. The same foundation of a religious faith are formed during those same years. If parents are wishy-washy about the matter, kid will be very unlikely to gravitate in that direction - so while you say you're leaving it up to your kids, your inaction actually chooses for them. Believing what is right and wrong, believing what is the proper role of religion in one's life is something a parent should proactively teach his children. This is just as you would teach a child not to steal and not to hurt others and to respect their elders, etc. Leaving a child confused about religious faith is a terribly destructive thing to do to a child. When they are adults, they will certainly make up their own minds - but the framework and foundation you laid for them will completely govern their approach to answering such fundamental questions. If you have the strength of your convictions, teach your children those lessons. They need the guidance of parents to have a strong foundation. If they decide when they are older that you were full of sh*t - which they undoubtedly will do on many points - you won't stop them. But in the meantime, you gave them the value systems you wanted them to have, without them being on shaky ground.

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    1. But you are implying that you you have to give them a value system via church, aren't you? One doesn't have to go to church to believe that stealing is wrong. Teaching a child about the proper role of religion in one's life is a concept that will only ring true to them once they can ask questions about the meaning of life themselves. Sending them to church early only sets "church" as their default. Once they are older, getting over the guilt of disconnecting with the church can be difficult if they have decided that church doesn't provide the answers they are looking for. Personally I believe values are taught through the family and the interactions of mom and dad, parent and child, and parent and society. Mom and Dad may or may not have come to their belief systems through church or not...really that's irrelevant as long as they are good people and contribute to society. That's the most important part, not whether they go to church or not.

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  27. ugh I had a whole thing typed and it didn't go through! Anyway I was raised Presbyterian and am now a "born again christian". I tend to agree with Micheal Ellis. I did a ton of research when I decided on what I was going to believe it, the Bible vs the Book of Mormon vs Agnostic vs Catholic vs Jewish etc. I have found that it is extremely important to know what you believe and why you believe it. I think you really have to look into your beliefs and not purely go on your feelings, Why don't you think there is a God, why do you think there is, what God do you think exists, is there a basis for the Bible, who wrote whatever your book you are reading and is there historical evidence for that book that it is true and reliable and not just based on feelings that it is true. If you are just going off your feelings how are you supposed to explain right and wrong to your kids. Raising my kids with these answers has not only helped them not hit their friends but know why it is not ok to hit them. I will love my kids no matter what path they choose (even if it is an evil leprechaun) but I want them to be able to think through their decisions and the best way to ensure that is being an example myself.

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment Jonelle. I really look up to you and Chris and what wonderful parents you are. I'm so glad that your faith is such a positive part of your life.

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  28. I really like this post. As a new dad, and a practicing Mormon, I've spent a lot of time recently thinking about how to introduce faith and religion to my son. While I have a strong believe in the Mormon religion and would be thrilled if my son chose that path, I don't ever want him to feel like it's his only option, or that I would love him any less if he chose something different. I would love him no matter what. I want him to learn about the world and find his own way to happiness, whether that involves God and religion, or not. This post, and many of the comments, have given me some good ideas on how to help guide him.

    Also, reading your post made me realize something I hadn't ever considered before. You talk about growing up in Utah and how you felt marginalized, outcast, and angry. You say it wasn't because you were bullied or excluded, but instead you attribute it more towards "feeling that [you were] viewed as 'less than' and 'unfinished' in [your] friends' eyes."

    I also grew up in Utah, and always tried to be kind and respectful towards those around me who were non-Mormon. And while I certainly never did it on purpose or ever intended it to come across that way, I hadn't considered that my actions and attitudes might make those around me feel like I thought of them as 'less than' or 'unfinished.'

    Whenever I share my faith it's because I have found something that has made me incredibly happy and I want to share that with others. And while I recognize that it's not the only way to happiness, and plenty of people have found other paths of positivity, I had never considered that my invitations might leave people thinking that I thought they were sad, incomplete people that need my help. Because I don't. So, thank you for giving me another perspective. It will certainly change the way I try to share my faith in the future.

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  29. I really enjoyed reading this. My wife and I haven't really discussed this question. Neither of us is religious, so I guess that we'll probably leave our son and any other kids that follow to make up their own mind about what they want to believe in. My parents did something similar by not having me baptized (...which apparently didn't go down entirely well with their folks!). I think that teaching awareness of faiths and cultures in general is the most important thing here really.

    Jonathan

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  30. Having just found your blog, I am enjoying reading the past posts. This one struck a cord in me. My husband was raised Anglican, and the church formed an integral part of his family life growing up. When it came time to be confirmed, he politely refused. Both of his sisters were confirmed and his mother and sisters attend church. I was baptized in the Anglican church but religion formed no part of my life growing up. When we had children, we decided to baptize them in his family's church because we knew how important it was for his parents. As they grew up (they are in their late teens now), they made many friends who attended religious services regularly (Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim). They questioned us on 'our religion' and we explained the basic tenets of the Anglican church to them. We took them to several Christmas services as they enjoyed them. But as they grew older, they began to ask about our beliefs. We were honest with them. We are both athiest, and we explained that while we did not believe in God, many, many people do, and they needed to find their own beliefs. For a period of time, my daughter became very interested in Christianity and expressed her belief in God and Jesus and we accepted that. Over time however, and many discussions about Christianity and our beliefs, they are both now atheist. I don't agree that one must foster a particular belief system in order to raise a moral child. Both of our kids are very moral and responsible and any parent would be proud to call them their own. I agree with the comment above that teaching awareness of different faiths and cultures, and more importantly, tolerance, understanding and acceptance of beliefs different from their own is the most important part of the whole process. Best of luck to you! You will find a road that works for you and your family. Diane

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  31. Having just found your blog, I am enjoying reading the past posts. This one struck a cord in me. My husband was raised Anglican, and the church formed an integral part of his family life growing up. When it came time to be confirmed, he politely refused. Both of his sisters were confirmed and his mother and sisters attend church. I was baptized in the Anglican church but religion formed no part of my life growing up. When we had children, we decided to baptize them in his family's church because we knew how important it was for his parents. As they grew up (they are in their late teens now), they made many friends who attended religious services regularly (Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim). They questioned us on 'our religion' and we explained the basic tenets of the Anglican church to them. We took them to several Christmas services as they enjoyed them. But as they grew older, they began to ask about our beliefs. We were honest with them. We are both athiest, and we explained that while we did not believe in God, many, many people do, and they needed to find their own beliefs. For a period of time, my daughter became very interested in Christianity and expressed her belief in God and Jesus and we accepted that. Over time however, and many discussions about Christianity and our beliefs, they are both now atheist. I don't agree that one must foster a particular belief system in order to raise a moral child. Both of our kids are very moral and responsible and any parent would be proud to call them their own. I agree with the comment above that teaching awareness of different faiths and cultures, and more importantly, tolerance, understanding and acceptance of beliefs different from their own is the most important part of the whole process. Best of luck to you! You will find a road that works for you and your family. Diane

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  32. Not being religious people, my parents sent me to a Lutheran Sunday school when I was growing up. I stayed with it for a few years, but ultimately I left. A lot of the parishioners were quite hypocritical, and I decided I could believe in God without the help of a church.
    When my kids were born, my ex and I fought tooth and nail about religion. He is a lapsed Catholic. Somehow, in some alternate world, that translated into our two boys having to be christened (baptized?) Catholic. Oh, and I was going to be the one in charge of getting them to church. Needless to say, that did not happen.
    I talked with my kids about God and religion as they grew. We looked at different beliefs each religion have. Mostly, I worked on instilling "not be asshole" values and morals, ya' know? Don't lie, don't steal, don't cheat, don't go on murderous rampages, yadda yadda yadda. I always told them that the little voice in their head (their conscience) was like the voice of God. If that voice said that you probably shouldn't do something, then you should listen. If the voice says you should do something, listen (later on, it hit me that schizophrenia also involves little voices at times, then I stressed myself out lol). I did my best to give them the tools to think for themselves and to be decent human beings.
    As of now, they are 18 & 20. One is a believer, one is an atheist. One battles depression, one is as happy as can be. One struggles with courses at the local community college, one is looking at a full scholarship. They are as different as night and day in a lot of aspects. That being said, both will hold open doors for people, both will help anyone they can,both are polite, both are helpful and friendly, both are comfortable in their skin. They will each give their honest opinions if asked. Actually, both are honest almost to a fault. Over the years I fielded calls from the school about their honesty. One climbed on a sink in junior high trying to reach something, broke the sink, then went in and told on himself. The other put a centerfold picture in his buddy's locker, when the door opened, the picture fell out. My kid promptly took responsibility. Each instance, I was proud of how they handled themselves and I told them so. But in my head? "Dude, you so could've gotten away with that. What the hell? You TOLD on yourself???" Yeah, they never heard the dialogue in my head....
    I think that it's important for your kids to know what you believe and why. I also think it is important for them to learn what others believe and why. I sent them to church with their friends as they were growing up, I sent them to a Christian day care for one year, a Catholic one another year. I gave them every opportunity I could think of to learn about religion and to form their own opinions and beliefs.
    Oh, and junior high? Your kids are going to feel ostracized and out of place about something. Trust me on that one. :)

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  33. This contemplating driving which was in which only The almighty can "create, " put simply, help make something via unitarian almost nothing.

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