How do you resolve conflicting religious parenting

(333 Posts)
Contemplates Sun 23-Mar-14 14:32:52

My husband doesn't want our children to be allowed access to both of our (differing) religious views, only his.

He is atheistic and I wanted to introduce our preschooler to Sunday school if he wanted to try it.

He loves preschool and wanted to see what this was all about too, and I had always been open about the fact I intended to encourage exploring God as an alternative to atheism, without forcing anything.

Obviously his Dad's alternative viewpoint is also and equally well known in our household. However I don't silence my husband the way I feel he is trying to silence me and I'm trying to remain balanced and fair.

This morning he was saying how he didn't want our son to attend Sunday school as he doesn't like it; which led to our son saying he didn't want to go anymore. So this morning we went to the park instead hmm

Has anyone experienced this parental conflict before and how did you deal with it? There must be some balanced compromise that we can reach, while still enabling our children freedom to make their own choices.

Contemplates Sun 23-Mar-14 14:43:11

Just to clarify - when I speak of Sunday school and say my husband doesn't want our son to attend "because he doesn't like it", I'm not speaking of our son disliking it, but my husband!

easterbaby Sun 23-Mar-14 15:03:46

I'm a practising Anglican. DH is a lapsed RC. One DC is christened CoE, the other RC. We chose godparents with a range of beliefs, from atheist to quasi-monastic. l think choice comes from exposure to competing viewpoints. While l wouldn't want my DC to feel estranged from their cultural birthright, it's up to them whether they want to believe in my God. And of course, their beliefs could shift over time. DH respects my views on this and l take each of them to my church when I can, as well as encouraging my RC MIL to do likewise.

JaneinReading Sun 23-Mar-14 15:07:00

There are very few normal children who like Sunday school when they could be playing or in a park.I am sure if there is a God she would prefer children to be outside in the sun.

Contemplates Sun 23-Mar-14 15:13:13

He didn't chose park or Sunday school, I kept them as unrelated as I could. This is a child who sometimes asks to go to preschool on the weekend though!

I think it is very difficult. in particular if one has no faith. I'll try to write more when Ive put the baby down

Realitybitesyourbum Sun 23-Mar-14 16:56:37

Janeinreading, that's a bit rich! My kids love to go to Sunday school, as do the other kids who go . They have plenty of fun and play games.

Contemplates Sun 23-Mar-14 18:07:18

Thanks for all replies!

madhairday Sun 23-Mar-14 18:46:31

The best of course, Jane, is Sunday School in the park grin

Contemplates Sun 23-Mar-14 19:43:40

Haha. All I can tell ya is that I asked my son if he fancied going to sunday school again (went for the first time earlier this month), and he said "yes" and leapt out of bed.

By the time his daddy had been overtly negative about the idea, the previously enthusiastic 3 year old suddenly announced that he changed his mind and didn't want to go anymore.

Hence the revised plan for a walk in the park.

WhosLookingAfterCourtney Sun 23-Mar-14 20:37:50

Is it perhaps because there is no atheist Sunday school, iyswim?

I assume at Sunday school the bible is taught as fact, but there's no opportunity for your dh to say 'It's all fantasy, let's learn about evolution'

Perhaps you could take in turns - Sunday school one week, science etc the next?

Contemplates Sun 23-Mar-14 20:49:38

I don't think atheism is science as I am pro-science, but there you go.

And believe me, there is plenty of opportunity to inform his children of his beliefs.

WhosLookingAfterCourtney Sun 23-Mar-14 21:00:04

I meant, there isn't an atheist club he could go to like there's Sunday school.

From your dh's point of view it would seem like extra influence on the religious side of things, an unfair advantage if you will.

WhosLookingAfterCourtney Sun 23-Mar-14 21:03:41

From my (atheist) point of view, it seems like, in a child's life, there are many people saying 'God is real' - schools, customs, society in general, etc.

But there aren't that many atheist voices to be heard, not because they are silenced, but because to an atheist it doesn't need saying, what is real is what's in front of you, what science tells us, what is knowable.

Tuo Sun 23-Mar-14 21:11:35

WhosLookingAfterCourtney - in my experience (not vast but fairly varied) it would be very unusual for a Sunday School to teach the Bible as a whole as fact. The life of Christ, yes; but not, say, creation in 7 days, which seems to be what you have in mind, since your post opposes 'the Bible' to 'evolution'. (For the record, I'm a Christian who has absolutely no problem with evolution; I'm also feminist, pro-choice, etc. etc.)

Contemplates - the deal in our house is that we (me = Christian; DH = atheist) both talk openly about our views and beliefs and our DC can choose freely where they want to position themselves (one comes to church, the other doesn't). The deal is that no-one gets to criticise or mock the choices of the other. So to say: 'I believe/don't believe in God' is one thing, but to say 'Anyone who believes in God must be an idiot' or 'Anyone who doesn't believe in God is destined for hellfire and damnation' [which isn't what I think, btw; I'm exaggerating for effect] is not OK. So, in your case, DH might have said 'I'm not going to church; I'm going to take the dog for a walk in the park instead', and your DS might then have chosen the walk in the park, but the choice could have been presented 'neutrally' not as 'I don't like it when you go to Sunday School'. Does that make sense?

Admittedly, in my own case, I didn't start going to church (again - after a long gap) till my DC were older (late primary school ages) so they were, I suppose, a bit clearer than your DS will be about what it was that they were making a choice between. But even so, I think that this is a workable way forward. Either that, or agree with your DH that you will do alternate Sundays, as Courtney suggests...

Tuo Sun 23-Mar-14 21:13:48

There are lots of clubs that your DS could join when he's a bit older that would have no religious input: an orchestra or band, karate club, football, ballet...

WhosLookingAfterCourtney Sun 23-Mar-14 21:46:27

Apologies for any offense caused, I am blissfully ignorant of the bible and Sunday school smile

What I mean is: Sunday school is about religion, right? There isn't a club that could counter that, that I'm aware of. There isn't an anti-Sunday school, as it were, that would support your dh's pov.

Could that be where your dh is coming from?

Tuo Sun 23-Mar-14 22:05:29

Absolutely no offence taken, Courtney. I see what you mean. No, there isn't a 'Religion is Bollox Club' (that I know of!), but I guess my sense of the opposition between faith and atheism isn't quite as strong as yours is, because there's no way I'd send my children to a Sunday School that was going to teach them that God created the world in seven days exactly as per the book of Genesis, so therefore I wouldn't feel the need to send them to 'science club' to give them the other side of the coin. In my view, my children are intelligent young people, and I'm happy therefore for them to go to Sunday School and to learn about the stuff that I happen to believe, in the full knowledge that others do not believe it. They can then make up their minds whether to run with it or not... If nothing else, what they learn will stand them in good stead if they ever want to understand much of the Western art, literature and philosophy of the last 2000 years.

Just to be provocative grin

How would posters feel if their DH wanted to send DC to a "Women are rubbish, men are best" club?

WhosLookingAfterCourtney Mon 24-Mar-14 06:16:41

Richard grin

technodad Mon 24-Mar-14 06:39:40

Your husband will understandably want fair balance of influence between religion and non-religion.

So, if you want your DC to go the Sunday School, you should reasonable expect to send your DC to a "religion is all made up club".

I suggest, if that club doesn't exist, the fairest thing to do, is to send DC to neither club!

atthestrokeoftwelve Mon 24-Mar-14 07:20:26

Your husband sounds very sensible. Religious indoctrination of children is at best unfair. What if your son wants to become Jewish, Islamic, Sikh, or athiest? Why cloud his views at such an early age? You don't have ownership of your child. I have a niece who was heavily indoctrinated as a child and she now views it as abuse.

What the OP has is an interfaith marriage although I suspect the husband doesn't see it that way. Both parties can agree to respect the other's beliefs which will include going to church for the Christian part of the marriage just as going to the mosque to learn about the Koran would be part of an Islamic part of a marriage if that was the other religion.

With the proviso that fundamentalist beliefs whether they are Christian, atheist, Islamic are a different issue and the reality check that the vast majority of people of faith are not fundamentalist, then a bit of give and take will help the children mature into well rounded people who understand that people can hold differing views and still talk which is a real achievement.

atthestrokeoftwelve Mon 24-Mar-14 08:36:30

It's not an "interfaith marriage" Ops husband is an athiest. Athiesm is not a faith.

niminypiminy Mon 24-Mar-14 10:23:08

Well if atheism is not a faith there is nothing to learn about it and no need to go to "religion is all made up club". You can't have it both ways.

If you bring your child up in a vegetarian household where there is never any meat, and they are told that 'some people eat meat, but we think it is wrong to do so (or silly, or whatever)', and prevented from eating meat at school, what real knowledge do they have of meat in order to make their own decision about whether to remain a vegetarian?

To make an informed decision about something you have to have experience of the things you are choosing between. If atheism is simply the absence of faith there is nothing to learn about it, is there. If atheism is the default option, then everyone already has experience of it. Christianity, however, involves practices (worship and prayer) and beliefs. Before you can reject them (as many do) you have to experience them. So in fairness to any child, they should have experience of Christianity in order for them to know what they are rejecting, if they make that choice.

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