Raising Children Without Religion

Raising Children Without ReligionWe are raising our children without religion. I suppose if you’d like to put a label on what we are, you could call us atheists, free thinkers, or humanists, but it has always seemed a bit odd to label something that simply does not exist. I have been without belief since I was a child, though back then, I tried in every way I could to deny that reality.

I dutifully attended CCD (catechism education) classes in preparation for the Catholic sacraments. As I sat in these classes and learned the history of the church, the thing that struck me was the place of women. I was only 12 years old, but I was certain that I wanted to exist in a world that values equal treatment for men and women. The Catholic Church and many other religious institutions do not hold women in equal regard. I felt deeply that women could do anything men could do.

Despite my conflict with the Church, I continued to try to find a place in religion. I attended a Catholic high school, where I had to take mandatory religion classes every semester. Each class only continued to fracture my already broken thoughts about God.

I met my husband in college and though we never directly spoke about it, he seemed to be in the same place. He was also raised in Catholic family, but we didn’t feel compelled to go to mass during this time. Religion didn’t factor into our everyday lives. The only time we found ourselves in a church was for a wedding or funeral. We still weren’t ready to truly face the fact that we were living without religion, so we were married in a church. To do this, we had to participate in marriage-preparation classes. We had fun laughing at the class leaders’ antiquated views of married life, but didn’t get anything valuable out of the experience.

When we returned to Rochester after living overseas, we wanted to become more involved in the community. Finding a church was something we thought we should do. We attended a few and settled on one that seemed to have a young, vibrant community. Things were okay for a few years of our regular attendance. Minnesota was debating a constitutional amendment to deny gay people the right to marry, and we wholeheartedly disagreed with it. The Church did not, and the Priest often talked about it. We baptized our two children, but eventually we knew our hearts couldn’t accept their discrimination, and we stopped going.

For us, religion isn’t necessary to raise kind, smart, successful children. We are raising our kids to live in an evidence-based world where facts are important. We’ve taught them morals, not based on rules from a book, but rather based on empathy – the Golden Rule. Hurting others hurts you, and it hurts our world. Our children  think critically and desire the truth, but they also have been taught to be respectful toward others’ beliefs. When my mother-in-law tries to read to them from her Bible, my son listens politely, despite his lack of belief. Our daughter enjoys going to church with family because she likes to do things with the people she loves.

So what does this mean for their future? I don’t really have an opinion on that. If my children choose to find religion valuable in their adult lives, that is their choice. That’s the best thing about raising our kids this way; we don’t have to disparage religion because we just don’t focus on it. If they ask, they’ll know our history, and I’ll tell them why I made the choices I made. Otherwise, we don’t spend time thinking or talking about religion.

A forced belief system (or lack of belief system) likely will result in a rebellion. Besides, children are going to learn more about how to be a good person from watching your actions. You can talk about the Bible all you want, but if you are intolerant toward others, THIS is what they will pick up. My husband and I work hard to give back to our community. We are involved in diverse groups of people where we are open-minded toward others’ differences. We donate to important causes that we believe in. I hope they model how to respond to life the way they see us responding: with respect, kindness, empathy, passion, hard work, and care for others. My belief is that this will bring them success.




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10 Responses to Raising Children Without Religion

  1. Barbara Beck January 13, 2017 at 8:50 am #

    Well done, Jessica!

  2. Lisa Swenson January 13, 2017 at 12:51 pm #

    This sums up my thoughts on religion WORD for WORD! Both of my parents regularly attend church but my sister and I dropped out along time ago because were tired of the church’s antiquated thinking! I dare someone to tell my daughters that boys are better than them or that they can’t marry whoever they choose!!

  3. Chelsee Ferk January 13, 2017 at 3:43 pm #

    Thank you for this article. Beautifully stated.

  4. Melissa January 16, 2017 at 4:12 pm #

    I totally agree with this statement: “You can talk about the Bible all you want, but if you are intolerant toward others, THIS is what they will pick up.” I do bring my children to church with me. I don’t think my children are being raised “right” because of the church … that’s our jobs as parents. (Which is sounds like you are doing an exemplary job of might I add 🙂

    I’ve been watching what others comment and post and I’m just curious … what if your children decided to go back to the church? Would you support it?

  5. Rachelle February 6, 2017 at 7:39 am #

    I think it is important to spend time thinking and talking about all religions and beliefs with your kid, as it becomes age appropriate, even if you aren’t rearing them with religious guidance.

  6. Jenn February 6, 2017 at 9:25 pm #

    I am going to be brave in my beliefs here and let you know that I just prayed for you and your family. As a Christian, I do not have a religion, but rather I seek a relationship with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I can agree with you, that a religion does not teach children morals, empathy or compassion. That is our jobs as parents to instill these character traits in them. Just know that you love because God loved you first. My hope is that one day you turn to His Word (the Bible) and seek Him. I am sure you are a wonderful person and an amazing mother. I do not judge your beliefs, I was once filled with doubt also. My prayer is that He changes your heart. 😊 Much love, from TN!

  7. EM February 9, 2017 at 8:03 pm #

    This is a great read. My husband and I were both raised Catholic, attended Catholic school, got married in the Church etc etc and yet I find myself mainly apathetic towards most of the religion. However we do go to Mass every week with the family and my boys go to Catholic school. Religion never enters into any explanations for questions or as a way to promote behavior, but it is there in the background. My theory being that my kids will have learned something about it and they are on a path that I took that led me to be an open minded thinker so it must not have done me much harm. 🙂

  8. Carrie February 10, 2017 at 7:36 am #

    Great job addressing a topic many of us simply don’t talk about in an effort to avoid debating religion.

    • Megann February 12, 2017 at 10:43 am #

      Appreciate seeing this point of view for once. It’s one I’ve rarely come across. And to the comment above, exactly, I have no problem with those who practice a specific religion, but avoid the conversation like the plague to avoid the lecture or the back handed ‘prayers for my family’. I have given much consideration and discussed at length organized religion with believers who i respect and can civilly discuss the matter with. I don’t need an unsolicited lecture.

  9. Lori February 12, 2017 at 8:44 am #

    Your article clearly was well thought out with some great arguments. The church shouldn’t be raising our kids, that’s our job and we absolutely must model the behavior we want to see from them. I have to agree with Jenn on this one though. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life! I too pray that your heart will soften and that you will let the Lord in! And something to think about…the Golden Rule actually came from Jesus and the book you don’t want to teach your kids from. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Luke 10:27