Real Talk with Real Moms: How We’re Raising Kids without Religion

Jun 28

In nearly 11 years of blogging, I’ve never talked about matters of spirituality or religion. Today I am excited to dive into it a bit as part of the next installment of our Real Talk with Real Mom series. Today we’re chatting about religion, spirituality and how it relates to parenting. Are you raising your kids with religion? I am not and I thought I would share a bit about why.

Before I jump into it, be sure to check in with Kelly for her insightful takes on religion and parenting, too!

Allow me to preface this conversation with a quick disclaimer. While I have made conscious decisions in my adult life to live without religion, I am very loving and accepting toward the beliefs of those around me. Many, many of my friends identify with one religion or another. Even my own husband and I differ in our personal beliefs. (More about that in a minute!)

I believe there are occasions when people hear that you aren’t religious and you’re instantly pegged as a threat of some kind if they themselves are religious. That could not be farther from my truth. I’m just here to have real, kind, honest conversations. I don’t believe any one human has it all figured out so I’m very comfortable co-existing in a largely religious world.

I think it’s important to note that I was raised in a pretty strict Roman Catholic family. We attended Mass weekly after which my siblings and I would dutifully attend church school. I was baptized as an infant, I made my First Communion, and I was just a few days shy from being confirmed when I asked my dad to talk. I explained that I didn’t want to be confirmed, despite having completed all the requirements to do so, because I felt moving forward with Confirmation would make me a hypocrite.

Simply put, the official position of the Church on a lot of issues did not align with mine, and I felt educated enough at that point to know and understand that on an adult level. I assumed my father would fight me on the matter, but I must have made a pretty good case because he agreed to let me follow my gut. While it would take many more years before I stopped self identifying as Catholic, I have not attended any kind of regular church service since then. 

Much like my political evolution, it has taken some time for me to sift through what I was raised to believe and what I actually believe myself. For a while I identified as agnostic, and in some ways that may still be accurate. I largely identify now as non-religious spiritual, as a secular humanist, as a human living on earth who happens to not be Christian nor necessarily believe in God as most religions teach about God.

When I learned I was pregnant, I started to think a lot about religion and how we would raise our little human. I knew there would be pressure from family (mostly mine) to have her baptized, and I had to sort through how that sat with me and what decisions I would make. It was deeply important to me to not be a hypocrite (because that’s very much a core tenet of who I am as a person), while also recognizing that my husband does identify as Christian.

Bob has a sweet, simple faith that is unaffected by organized religion. He does not attend services and he honestly does not believe in organized religion as a whole. That said he does keep a bible and maintains his own, private Christian relationship with God. 

In the end after many hours of discussion we made the decision to have Em baptized Catholic. We felt it would be an appropriate gesture toward the family members of ours who we knew would really want to see her baptized. Her older siblings were already baptized Catholic and, frankly, I knew there was no harm that could possibly come from all joining together to pray for the well being of this little babe, and it felt ok to me. I still feel ok with that decision, although I can say I also feel really secure in our ultimate decision to raise her without religion.

Why We Are Raising Kids without Religion

Throughout my life I have been someone with deeply rooted moral convictions. They are not founded in religion, but rather some intrinsic part of who I am. I believe in love. An abundance of unconditional, radical love. I believe kindness can change the world. I believe compassion is the path to peace. It is not my place or that of anyone else to judge another human.

At all times I try very hard to do the right thing, the kind thing. I am honest, forthright, and always striving to do right by my own conscience. I feel strongly connected to nature, the seasons, and walking around barefoot. I believe it is our job as humans to love fiercely, to do unto others as we would like done to us, and to be better to the people who aren’t in a position to be better to us for whatever reason.

It’s worth mentioning all of that, because that is my spirituality. It is the foundation upon which we are raising our daughter. I don’t believe she, or anyone else, needs Jesus nor any specific deity to be a good human. For me that concept is inherently and entirely flawed.

Most days it seems we are in the minority of people who are raising kids without religion. Most days I think they’ll better for not having religion in their lives. We are teaching them abundant love and acceptance for all, not just those who think like them, which is an objection both Bob and I have with many religions. (Please don’t misunderstand this as a condemnation of religion, it’s simply our shared personal experience.)

All of this said, I am passionate about raising kind kids with open minds and open hearts. I will guide them to be as loving and compassionate as possible. Should the time come when any one of them wishes to pursue a different spiritual or religious path, I will advocate for them and open whatever doors necessary for them to explore their own spirituality.

I am grateful every day that my father allowed me the space to live in my own truth, despite it being counter to his personal beliefs. Should that time come with my own kids, I will do the same for them. After all, there should be more that brings us all together than tears us apart. At least according to what I believe.

[Photo by Cyd Converse.]

10 thoughts on “Real Talk with Real Moms: How We’re Raising Kids without Religion”

  1. thank you so much for sharing. i couldn’t agree more, and i’m sure this wasn’t an easy post to write. i just read your post about voting, as well, and it was very moving (as someone who has also been called a liberal as an insult). i appreciate your honesty and openness, and think you’re absolutely doing the right thing! any parent who encourages their children to think freely and follow their own brain and heart are doing it right, in my view.

    1. Thank you so much, Becca! Gosh. It’s nice to not be alone! Sincerely. Sometimes in the online world where I’ve built my career for the last decade (especially on IG it seems) there are a lot of people “living for Him” right out loud in their bios. I am deeply supportive of that, but I just can’t relate so usually I just say nothing at all. It feels good to talk about it, honestly! I appreciate you chiming in more than you know. xoxo

  2. LOVE THIS! LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVEEEEEEEEEEEE THIS! As a former Catholic myself, I have had a hard time articulating my feelings. I have literally bookmarked this blog post (…and may actually print it out…) because you have echoed my thoughts exactly.

    “At all times I try very hard to do the right thing, the kind thing. I am honest, forthright, and always striving to do right by my own conscience.” YES.

    1. Brianna – THANK YOU!!! So very much. This honestly makes my day. I often tell people that my religion is humanity. I just don’t think I need any version of God in my life to be a good human doing good for the world. Look up humanism if you’re not familiar! A lot of it really resonates with what I’ve always believed. It’s probably the closest label I could give myself these days.

  3. I love your topic because it’s very honest and it is not easy to talk about religion…what you are teaching your kids is awesome! But whether we are religious or not we all feel that spiritual needs that is inside of us, I think. We all ask our self What is the sense in life? Where do we came from? Why would a God of love allow suffering? What happens to us when we die? I find some valid answer in this web site JW.org
    I hope you will find the same. 😊

    1. Thanks for sharing, Romy! I have a very dear friend who is a former Witness. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  4. I love this, Cyd! In my experience, many people assume California is a mecca for free thinking; however, in Southern California, once you leave LA proper, that is not the case. It’s hard to make connections with other families if you’re not a member of a congregation.

    We’re raising our children as secular humanists, which has caused some conflict with other parents at their school. It got back to us through the rumor mill that my third-grade daughter upset some of her peers by claiming that she believes in evolution. She then proceeded to cite scientific evidence for the age of the earth. (My husband is a biology teacher.) So we had to have a talk with her about keeping our beliefs to ourselves at school because some could view her ideas as a threat. She still doesn’t understand why it’s okay for her friends to openly celebrate their religious beliefs while she stays quiet. I actually overheard other moms during a school event utter that it was shame my daughter isn’t Christian because she seems like such nice kid. (This hurts, but also reaffirms our choice to raise our children outside of Church.)

    So thanks again for having the confidence to write this. It’s nice to know that outside of our circle of friends, there are like-minded families out there.

    1. Julie, thank you so so much for sharing your experience! We live in upstate New York and it’s pretty religiously tolerant here, but I definitely feel like we’re in a small minority of people who aren’t claiming some kind of religious faith, whether actively engaged or not. Our area is very Catholic in particular because we have large Italian and Irish populations. Seems like everyone’s kids are making their First Communions or Confirmations over here and we’re just over here like, “Ehhhhhh.” I loathe that your kiddos are feeling any measure of fallout because they aren’t being raised Christian. I will personally take a kid citing evidence of evolution any day, she sounds pretty amazing!

  5. Thank you for sharing this, Cyd. I’m reading this with tears in my eyes because our stories are so similar (except I have no kids and was raised Lutheran, not Catholic). I did go through with my confirmation though, mostly because my parents had planned a big party to celebrate it. If I could do it over, I wouldn’t be confirmed.

    Your line, “At all times I try very hard to do the right thing, the kind thing. I am honest, forthright, and always striving to do right by my own conscience,” took my breath away because it is EXACTLY how I approach the world. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in that approach.

    Thank you again for your beautiful honesty and sharing your story.

    1. Thank you so much, Michelle! It’s amazing how many of us feel this way, but sometimes it feels like we’re totally outnumbered. I wish there weren’t such pressure on people to fit some sort of religious mold. I am so grateful to be able to have these open and honest conversations, so I thank you!

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