Is Raising Kids Agnostic Going to Bite Us in the Ass?

Teen rebellion is important. What will our godless little heathens rebel against?
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Publish date:
November 16, 2011
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parenting, kids, religion, faith

A lot of people my age reject organized religion, and will talk about it freely. They have a variety of reasons for their beliefs, or lack thereof: "I'm atheist," "I put my faith in science," "Organized religion only screwed me up," "I'm spiritual, not religious," etc cetera.

For some, religion clings, and they're wrestling with where prayers and ritual fit into their day-to-day schedule, love lives, work, and whatever TV shows are on their DVRs. What starts as a comfort in childhood becomes an antiquated hindrance for a lot of adults, and though it seems like a crisis that is fairly common for people in their late 20s and early 30s, it's definitely a modern crisis. My parents didn't question their religion as they were starting a family in the 70s. They stayed Methodist, and they raised my sister and I Methodist as well.

There's no ignoring that organized religion exists in the world of the small people that you will create and raise, so here's my question- how are these parents of the 21st century going to raise their children to think about religion?

Even if you don't think a child (or an adult) needs the moral lessons and comfort of an organized religion, how much of your personality was formed as a result of questioning and rejecting your religion? This isn't a debate about whether or not religion is necessary in a child's life, but rather, what if the best thing to come from being raised in a religious home is the scrappy critical thinking skills that come from deciding that you're not religious?

I wonder how interesting I'd be if I never had to take in a prescribed worldview, evaluate it, and then decide what parts of it were for me. How do I know what parts of that a moral map my children don't need, just because I shed some of them off?

Please understand, I'm not offering a solution, or making a judgment. This is just something I think about quite a bit, because my husband was raised Muslim, and though we are childless so far, I can feel the specter of religious expectation looming over my womb, from both sides.

We've half-heartedly discussed raising our kids to know about both religions, a conversation which always ends with "….and I guess we'll let them decide?", which seems nebulous, and like a lot of pressure to put on a kid. (Remember "Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret"?)

I secretly wonder if this will lead to children who are indifferent to religion, or foster a generation kids who, deprived of a default faith, turn out uber-religious or uber-secular. My coworker and her husband, raised Catholic and Muslim, worked to educate their child on multiple faithss, hoping that they were raising an educated agnostic, and were shocked to find their daughter reaching for the hijab as a preteen. It's possible that no matter how much religion you give them, what your kids will really want to do is rebel.