If you come from a religious family but are no longer religious yourself: what sort of spiritual upbringing did you have? Did any factors in your home religious life contribute to your decision to leave?
posted by anonymous to religion & philosophy (70 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
My husband and I are both practicing Catholics. I'm wondering what best practices are for raising children in this (or any) faith. I'll give a little background, but if you're in a hurry feel free to skip to the bold at the end.
So: obviously, my kids will ultimately reach their own spiritual conclusions, which is as it should be. But we would like to give them the best possible beginning by starting them out with a good, solid, well-informed, unprejudiced view of the faith. I'm not overly worried about intellectual challenges to religion, anyway; we're Ivy-educated ourselves, and know too many brilliant, hyper-rational religious people to put much stock in the silly conventional narrative where benighted religion inevitably crumbles when it encounters LOGIC! and SCIENCE! (That's different, of course, from the person of mature and well-informed faith who struggles with doubts-- we've all been there, and much respect and sympathy for anyone who finds themselves in that very uncomfortable position). We're also a family of inveterate debaters, so the kids will (I hope) grow up with questioning, argumentative, analytical dispositions to help withstand some of the facile anti-religiosity out there.
But, based, at least, on the discussions I've witnessed here and elsewhere, what seems to have a still greater influence in people's leaving their faiths are the inchoate states of feeling associated with religion-- that, for that particular individual, religion "feels" dumb while atheism seems smart and cosmopolitan;or that religion "feels" stuffy while unbelief seems exciting, or "feels" outdated while unbelief is modern and edgy, "feels" angry and mean while unbelief seems unthreatening and schmoopy, or whatever. Obviously, these sorts of associations and feelings must have a ton to do with one's early impressions of religion, and particularly of one's religious parents.
I am especially anxious to get this right because neither my husband nor I had what you'd call super-Catholic upbringings-- his family was pagan for most of his teens, and mine, while active Catholics, were pretty easygoing and quiet about matters of faith. By contrast, of very devout and involved Catholic couples we know, a surprising number of them have grown-up children who've left the Church. Naturally, one wonders: is there something about strongly religious upbringings that drives kids away from religion, possibly by denying them the individual space they need to get to know their faith on their own terms? My husband "rebelled" into Catholicism; is there a way to frame it for our kids so they don't feel the emotional need to "rebel" back out at some point?
For instance: if we talk to our kids about their faith (in simplified terms) as children, will that help provide a good foundation to build on, or will it make them assume later that religion is really childish and something one needs to "grow up" from?
If we make religious traditions an active part of family life, will that help make religion alive and important to them, or will it associate religion with fuddy-duddy Mom and Dad, making it something they need to push back against in order to define their own identity?
Sorry for all the detail-- but I hoped that a little background would help this NOT devolve into a thread for debating whether religion sucks or God exists. tl;dr: what I'd really love is if some of MeFi's many ex-religious folk might give some insight into the emotional and relational basis of your leaving your faith. In general, if you've turned away from your childhood religion, can you identify some emotional elements of your upbringing that might have encouraged that decision? What should we be doing or not doing now if we want our kids to give Catholicism a fair shake as adults? Assume, obviously, that there'll be a baseline of good, loving, fun, supportive parenting in non-religious matters. Also, if you had a healthy religious upbringing that you feel helped you stick to your faith, feel free to chime in with positive tips, as well. Followups, if necessary, at telescopictheology at gmail dot com.
Lastly, anonymous because I work in a fairly anti-religious profession, and several colleagues are on Metafilter. Thanks, everybody!