11

Background: I was raised in an intellectual Catholic household where religion quietly infused everything we did. At the time it seemed totally normal but as I have grown up, I realized that my siblings and I had a a very good childhood. I'm thinking about getting married now and I'm starting to worry and appreciate how difficult maintaining that quiet cohesion must have been. My fiance was raised baptist but is now an atheist. I suspect he doesn't care more than he doesn't believe.

As I'm thinking more about getting married and having children, I'm realizing how formative religion was for me. My mom was an atheist but converted after meeting my dad, which certainly made things easier, but I can't count on that with my fiance.

I wanted to know if there are others here who raised religious children with a non religious spouse. If so, how did the parents negotiate it? Did the kids turn out religious or agnostic?

If my fiance and I didn't want children, this would not be a problem. I wish it wasn't a problem.

closed as unclear what you're asking by anongoodnurse Mar 18 '17 at 4:09

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Further comments not consistent with the purpose established by SE will be deleted. – anongoodnurse Mar 17 '17 at 23:59
  • 2
    I'm not exactly sure this is on topic: it's almost a list-type question. Regardless, it is very likely to attract opinion/advice and not actual answers. It would be helpful if you could edit the question to sharpen the focus and make clear exactly what you want to know. If I bolded improperly, please feel free to roll back the edit. That was just my attempt to clarify, but I think it needs more. The answers it's attracting are of the "this may not be the man you want to marry" variety, which is far more suitable to a forum than a Q&A site. – anongoodnurse Mar 18 '17 at 1:16
  • I don't think you can raise a religious child, you can raise children in a church but ultimately they will become their own people with their own views. I mentioned this in another answer but Madalyn Murray O'Hair's one son William grew up to be a baptist minister and the other son served with his mother in the American Atheists INC. – Neil Meyer Mar 19 '17 at 14:07
19

If you are a person of faith (especially if you still practice your faith), but your fiance is not, then this is just a portion of a larger conversation that you and your fiance need to have before your wedding day:

What is the place of faith in your life together and in how you raise your family?

If you don't have an understanding about this ahead of time, it will likely rear its ugly head as a point of contention in the future, probably around the time you're ready to have children. For example (assuming these items are important to you), will he:

  • Support your choice to have children baptized?

  • Support your choice to take the children to church every Sunday?

  • Attend church with you and the children if it's important to you that you attend as a family? (And yes, I've known people who did.)

This is a serious conversation. If your fiance refuses to have this conversation, belittles your faith, or is unwilling to accommodate your faith, then you should seriously consider whether this is the person you should marry. This is also an ongoing conversation; for a successful marriage, you will need to revisit this conversation multiple times over the years and refine your agreement.

This doesn't just apply to a religious/non-religious couple. It also applies to:

  • Couples of completely different faiths (i.e., Christian/Jewish).

  • Couples of different denominations (i.e., Catholic/Evangelical).

  • Couples of the same faith (one may be lukewarm about their faith, the other may be passionate).

You mentioned that you were raised Catholic. If you are planning on being married in the Catholic Church (at least in the U.S.), your Diocese will likely require you to attend some pre-marriage sessions (i.e., FOCCUS), which will help facilitate some of these conversations.

  • The question is: "I wanted to know if there are others here who raised religious children with a non religious spouse. If so, how did the parents negotiate it? Did the kids turn out religious or agnostic?" This is not an answer, but premarital counselling. Please feel free to edit and answer the question. – anongoodnurse Mar 18 '17 at 0:05
3

Regardless of whether your partner is religious or not, or shares your same religious views, the ability to "raise religious children" is not a given. It may have been possible in a different time, but in a modern context of exposure to information and to people with different views and beliefs, there is no way, short of doing things that many people would see as abusive, to force children to believe or practice your religion. You would still have to deal with this reality even if your partner were as religious as you are.

What you can do is show your children why your religion is meaningful to you and invite them to participate in it with you. Depending on how you frame it and to what extent you respect their choices, this can give them a much richer experience and framework to develop their own ideas about religion than growing up in a situation where whatever religion both their parents shared and imposed on them was just "the default".

What is important, though, is that both you and your partner be on the same page about not undermining the legitimacy of each other's beliefs. It's one thing to be delivering the message "mommy believes this and daddy believes that"; it's another to be saying "mommy had a bunch of dumb ideas about X and that's why you have to do Y". From the content in your question I don't know what to expect from your partner in this area (and I suspect part of the problem is that you don't know what to expect either, because you haven't talked about it), but I do get the impression that you have a lot of preconceptions about how your future family should be, ones which aren't realistic for any marriage but especially not when your spouse will have different beliefs than you.

While I haven't included any personal anecdotes or such in this answer, I am coming from a relevant perspective, like yours but the other side, as the non-religious partner.

  • The question is: "I wanted to know if there are others here who raised religious children with a non religious spouse. If so, how did the parents negotiate it? Did the kids turn out religious or agnostic?" This is not an answer, but more like marital counselling. Please feel free to edit and answer the question. – anongoodnurse Mar 18 '17 at 0:07
-1

Marriage is hard. You are not going to agree some of the time. You are going to misunderstand each other -- perhaps a lot. You will grow and you will change. If you cannot honestly put your partner first, then it is because you can't trust your partner to put you first. Trust me -- love is only ONE reason for marriage. Like is the most important and respect comes second. Love is icing -- the rest -- like and respect, is the cake. You can keep the icing on your marriage IF your make sure the cake base is still there.

If religion is important to you and not to your fiancé then maybe he isn't the 'one' for you. You compromise on pizza or bagels -- not on the important (to each of you) stuff. I am not pretending this is easy. Saying no to the person you love, is anything but easy. However, not starting off in agreement on what is vitally important to either of you, makes marriage much more difficult.

If you think you have the right to 'train' or change another person you are simply wrong. You can influence them to change themselves -- but the only person you have the right to change is you. So unless you are willing to change your stance, please respect and love your fiancé enough to let them make their own decisions.

My dad was agnostic and my mum, Anglican. I went to Sunday school and church until I was thirteen. I asked Mum the question if God was so great, why had Hope, my 4 year old cousin died from leukemia? Her answer was so unsatisfactory that I made up my own mind. Until then, I thought I was fairly religious. My dad stayed out of it. I can't say he influenced me one way or another from a religious pov.

  • This does not answer the question. The question is: "I wanted to know if there are others here who raised religious children with a non religious spouse. If so, how did the parents negotiate it? Did the kids turn out religious or agnostic?" This is not an answer, but more like premarital counselling. Please feel free to edit and answer the question.. – anongoodnurse Mar 18 '17 at 0:03
  • @anongoodnurse thank you for reconsidering deleting the entire group of answers. As to my own answer -- okay. I thought the OP might like the perspective from the child's (me) pov. You don't. Got it. – WRX Mar 18 '17 at 14:18
  • 2
    I think there was a lot of good advice given, but not a single answer. If you had stated, my mom was this, my dad was that, this is how they negotiated the problem, this is how I turned out, that would have been a fine answer. But there's advice and anecdote instead. I'm following guidelines already established by Parenting.SE. – anongoodnurse Mar 18 '17 at 15:02
  • 1
    @anongoodnurse: There's what the OP says the question is, and there's what the question is. Her question is: Should I marry this man? – gnasher729 Mar 20 '17 at 23:05
  • 2
    @gnasher729 - It might be what you think she needs to ask, but you can't read her mind. You are not a mind reader, and until you are, my belief is that we respect the OP to ask the question she came here to ask. – anongoodnurse Mar 21 '17 at 1:30
-2

Interfaith marriages are becoming increasingly common in Western societies. Your mom should consider herself fortunate she was able to evangelize your dad. It doesn't usually work out that way. Usually, it's a begrudging, "Well my wife is into it." It's not just the spouse, it's the family of the spouse. A pair of agnostic doctors meet in the hospital and fall in love. No problem? One is Jewish the other is Muslim--tense! Of course it can be overcome, but how does that reasonably play out?

There are a number of factors:

1. How do you see your ideal household? Church weekly or twice a year? Prayer in the home? Some atheists specifically avoid "Bless you" after a sneeze. Religious education, which might include Hebrew or Latin?

2. How involved with the church do you expect to be? Daily Mass? Rosary? Service projects? Family engagement events? The more involved you are, the more likely your child will grow up with faith. This has been my personal experience. My son, of an atheist mother, just said today, "Being Catholic is cool." Nice. We're church regulars.

3. How recalcitrant is your fiance towards involvement? Many spouses will go through the Rite of Christian Initiation in Adults to convert. This is about a fifty-hour process over a period of 6-18 months--definitely doable.

4. Will your spouse be happy if religion is thrust into his world and kids come home with crosses, rosary beads, and children's Bibles? An unhappy spouse is an unhappy family. Open communication is key. A Catholic priest will generally marry an interfaith couple as long as the understanding the children will be raised Catholic. But what if your fiance gets frustrated and bails? Your choices are to leave the Church, live in a state of perpetual adultery, or choose indefinite chastity.

5. Will your fiance feel comfortable attending events even if he remains atheist/agnostic? Churches are open to all. Just don't say the Creed if you don't believe it. Without involvement from your fiance, there will be an inherent inequity in your relationship, and the kids will get a mixed message.

In conclusion, I don't believe there is one simple answer. Kids absorb what you teach them. The more you teach it, the more they absorb it.

  • The question is: "I wanted to know if there are others here who raised religious children with a non religious spouse. If so, how did the parents negotiate it? Did the kids turn out religious or agnostic?" This is not an answer, but more like premarital counseling. Please feel free to edit and answer the question. – anongoodnurse Mar 18 '17 at 1:47
  • Your second sentence is the wrong way round - mom was atheist and "converted". – gnasher729 Mar 20 '17 at 23:09
  • "Religious education, which might include Hebrew or Latin" or Arabic, for example. And most likely not Latin. – gnasher729 Mar 20 '17 at 23:12
  • 1
    Some Catholic countries routinely teach Latin. However, I should have included Greek for all the Greek Orthodox families. – Stu W Mar 21 '17 at 2:02

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.