A Question of Religion

8 Oct

Letterbalm No ReligionDear LetterBalm: My husband and I are in a conundrum. I’m six months pregnant, and the question of religion has come up. He and I are atheists, having broken away from our traditional upbringing. We don’t make a big deal out of it, but we don’t ascribe to any religion, and we regard religious holidays like Christmas and Easter as family affairs for warmth and sharing. But the parents on both sides are religious Christians, and they’ve been pressuring us about the baby’s baptism, prayer decisions, religion in childrearing, etc. How can we negotiate a middle path without betraying our beliefs yet letting our child make his own faith decisions?

–Faith-Free Zone

Bringing up a child certainly puts religion on the front burner, along with anxiety about one’s own place in the universe. And, the place of one’s extended family. You and your husband need to be prepared to present a united front when peppered with intrusive questions from both sets of in-laws and assorted siblings. Ms. L.B. advises that you and he need to have a deep discussion about how you will handle remarks and questions about your child’s religious upbringing. You want a child who is confident and curious and respectful of all beliefs. You’ll be answering his questions on all topics honestly, instilling consideration and humility. You and your husband need to work up a simple explanation that you tell your folks and he tells his. It may not entirely blunt the religious question, so stay cheerful and calm, rinse and repeat. Something like this:

Family, we know you are concerned about how we will raise our son in religion. John and I/Mary and I think that it is important to instill in him a respect for all beliefs, including non-religious ones. John and I/Mary and I think it is more important to have a family that is considerate of all beliefs. It is our intention to raise our son without formal religion so he can think for himself and decide on his own whether or not he wants to practice a particular faith. We think this freedom of thought is more important than instilling formal religious practices in him. We hope that you’ll respect our decision, just as we’ve always respected the importance of religion in your lives and haven’t tried to interfere in this. The most important thing is for you to be loving, strong grandparents/uncles/aunts to our son.

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