Thursday, May 14, 2009

Who chooses your child's religion?

At Child Caring, we're discussing The Religion Decision -- namely, how do parents decide in what faith (if at all) to raise their children?
My friend and his wife are expecting their first child this fall, and they’ve stumbled into a sticky situation. Neither of them are particularly religious, and each was brought up in a different faith (one Christian, one non-Christian). They avoided the question of religion when they got married, opting for a non-denominational ceremony in a non-church setting but, with a baby on the way, both sets of grandparents are asking: In which religion are you going to raise the child?

For some families, the question of religion is easily answered: The child will follow the family’s faith. Sometimes, the answers are clearly spelled out --
in traditional Judaism, for example, the child is considered Jewish if the mother is Jewish, regardless of the father’s heritage.

But what happens when the parents each practice a different religion? Or one is devout while the other is not? Divorce, conversion, remarriage, and single parenthood can also make the religion decision more difficult.

Kristin at Single Mom at Work looks at the issue through the lens of divorce. Her son’s father would like him to attend Catholic school, she writes, but "I am somewhat ambivalent: I don’t think it will do our son any harm, and ultimately I want him to choose the religion (or lack thereof) that feels best for him. In truth, I think that if one parent is religious -- and the other is not -- perhaps the religious parent’s viewpoints should reign."

Blended families have another complicated layer to navigate. Our oldest children go back and forth between their mother's church-going household and our non-practicing one; two of them are in Catholic school, though they're not Catholic. My husband was raised Baptist, but isn't particularly religious; our youngest children are being raised with the morals and values of my
Zoroastrian faith, but without the religious ceremonies. So far, no one seems confused.

At, Paula Hellman writes about her blended family's complicated belief system, and how she tries to find common ground among her family members' different faiths. "Maintaining good relationships in an intergenerational, interfaith family means that I ignore the nightlight that has Jesus on it and ooh and aah about the bedspread covered with planets and stars floating on a blue background," she writes. "It means that I ask before reading 'Once Upon A Shabbos' or 'Something From Nothing' to my grandson. I am able to answer any question that is asked of me . . . and I don't present Jewish information unasked."

Who makes the religion decisions for your kids?

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