Why Ted is Not a Christian

Since I’ve been back at work I’ve been spending my lunchtimes catching up with all of the people I haven’t seen for a year. Inevitably we discuss our families and I gush about Ted, then we lament the state of the education system and go back to our sandwiches.

A couple of weeks ago a colleague – we’ll call her Gill (because that’s her name) – was talking to me about how proud she was to be a godparent when she asked me whether I would be having Ted christened. I explained that Nick and I are atheists and that we had been keen to have a naming ceremony so that we could still celebrate this little life we had created, but that the cost had put us off. Gill looked confused.

“Don’t you think you should put your views aside for Ted’s sake?” she asked without a hint of irony. I told her that although Ted is being raised by atheists that doesn’t mean to say that he won’t choose Christianity for himself one day, and that if he does decide he wants to be christened that is the time when it should happen.

“Don’t you think you should keep his options open?” Gill asked, increasingly shrill. “I am!” I exclaimed. “Surely you can see that having him christened is limiting his options? What right do I have to choose one religion from the hundreds – thousands – out there and tell him that’s what he believes?”

But she couldn’t see.

Gill doesn’t see that she’s a Christian because she happened to be born into a Christian family in a Christian country. She’s from a generation of people who rarely questioned their parents’ belief that Magpies could predict the future, let alone their faith in a god.

As far as Gill is concerned I’m forcing my heathen views on my son and damning him to a life of misery and an afterlife of hell. Believing that Ted has the right to make his own decisions about the god he chooses to devote himself to – or not – is, for Gill, somehow a sign of neglect. I’m half surprised the authorities haven’t been in touch yet.

Gill thinks I’m a hypocrite because I won’t tell Ted he’s a Christian but I’m happy to tell him he’s an atheist. What she fails to understand is that Ted isn’t a Christian – he can’t be a Christian because he has absolutely no concept of what a god is, let alone how to believe in one – but he is also not an atheist. For exactly the same reason that Ted can’t be with a god, he also can’t be without one. In Ted’s world there is no god. He hasn’t even discovered Father Christmas yet, never mind an omnipotent deity.

“But I bet you’re going to bring him up with Christmas, aren’t you?” Gill smirked, as though I was stealing her religion, not realising it was going to sneak up on me. Perhaps she hoped the tree and the tinsel would send subliminal messages to Ted when my back was turned. Or maybe she thought I was secretly Christian underneath this facade of immorality and had just not realised yet.

I asked Gill why I should decide Ted was a Christian and not a Jew, a Hindu, a Sikh or a Mormon. She told me I was being silly. I didn’t even bother to mention the thousands of gods who have gone before; the gods we laugh at now – “they worshiped a god of what?!”

What struck me was that Gill thought she had a right to comment on the way I was bringing Ted up, and – worse than that – that she thought she had a right to be offended by it. If I had answered her initial question of whether we were having Ted christened with “no, BabyDaddy and I are Jehovah’s Witnesses” I doubt very much that she would have continued to press me on the morality of my beliefs. Would she have asked me why I wasn’t “keeping his options open” or felt that I was judging her beliefs by expressing different ones? I don’t think she would. 

It seems to me that we live in a society where we are expected to “respect” other people’s beliefs, and that to question them is to show a distinct lack of respect. If, however, you don’t have any beliefs (or rather, you have a rational belief in a lack of god rather than an irrational faith in something) you don’t qualify for that same respect. It’s perfectly okay to question the right of the atheist to bring up her children as she sees fit, but to express equal concern of religious parents is somehow wrong.

If in the future, I explained to Gill, Ted decides he’s found a religion that suits him then that’s fine. By bringing him up without a religion I’m giving him the opportunity to learn about them all objectively – or as objectively as you can in England – and, as far as I can see, that’s the only fair option. I think that people like Gill feel threatened by that because they know, whether consciously or not, that their religions don’t stand up to inspection; that if people aren’t indoctrinated from a young age their numbers will continue to fall.

Will I be disappointed if Ted chooses to be a Christian? Yes, I will. Just as I’ll be disappointed if he chooses to be a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Sikh, a Mormon, a Jehovah’s Witness, a Methodist, a Scientologist… When there’s a world of evolution, science and maths out there to discover I would be more than a little disappointed if he stopped asking questions and looking for answers, and just accepted what he was told to believe.

Should Gill be offended by that? No. I’m not disappointed in her for her faith. I have no right to be. Similarly, she has no right to be offended by my insistence that my son is not a Christian.

To quote Richard Dawkins, “there are no Christian children. Only the children of Christian parents.”

Photo by Jade Dowling

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About Stitches and Stretchmarks

Honest and frank Mum of one.
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47 Responses to Why Ted is Not a Christian

  1. Carcassian says:

    Why not tell Gill to fuck the fuck off, and while you’re at it, remind her that her lot stole “Christmas” from the pre-Christian pagan religions of northern Europe, who also believed in superstitious bollocks, but at least their gods had interesting stories.

  2. “It’s perfectly okay to question the right of the atheist to bring up her children as she sees fit, but to express equal concern of religious parents is somehow wrong.” Yes, well put. That attitude is so common. I think part of it is based on the unquestioned assumption that religion is the sole source of moral values, and that to raise a child without god is to raise a child without a conscience.

  3. theraggedwagon says:

    It’s ‘children as property’ and the property of the parent(s) at that. So whatever the parent possesses as a belief system is automatically assumed to be part of the child’s belief system as well.

    • Stitches and Stretchmarks says:

      Yes, it is that. It upsets me. I’d have far more respect for religious parents if they brought their children up to have a choice. It seems unfair of them to decide such a big part of their child’s life.

      Once the child is old enough to understand politics they can debate with their parents, but they’re not generally afforded the same opportunities with religion. Even if they choose not to follow the same religion they don’t seem (from things I’ve read, although I know I’m generalising) to be able to discuss it freely at home.

      • themilkmade says:

        The question is how much do you expose your children to something in order to make an informed choice either way? Give them no religion in their life and chances are, apart from a bit of RE in school, they may not really know of the love and support belonging to a religion can provide. Give your children the chance to see what a religion offers you, others, and potentially them, by taking them to church or involving them in church activities for example, and they can still make their decision of whether religion is something they wish to have in their lives or not. Just learning about religion in school as a token gesture because it’s in the curriculum is not the same as seeing it in action.

        And ultimately parents expose their children to other aspects of their life – playing your child a particular genre of music that you like, taking your child to support the football or rugby team you support, etc. All of these things help to influence and shape your children too. How far do you go? Do you never take them to a match till they can decide which team they want to cheer on? Do you deny them all of these enjoyable aspects until they are at an age when you deem they are mature enough to decide for themselves?

        It’s just a thought. I definitely see where you’re coming from, but I can also appreciate the flip-side of the argument.

      • So, as far as I can see it the only option open to me is to take Ted to every religious group possible to allow him the full scope of experience?

        Of course we influence every aspect of our children’s lives, but the music they listen to and the team they support are completely arbitrary. As I’ve already said, I won’t make Ted’s political decisions for him and I won’t make his religious choice either. If you think taking him to see a football team is even in the same league as taking him to a church, mosque or synagogue then we’re clearly not having the same discussion.

      • themilkmade says:

        I just used those examples to illustrate my point that you influence and shape your child’s life in many ways. Just because I take my child to a church and she participates in church life does not mean that she will share my faith when she’s older or that I will expect her to. She will still have a choice, and it will be an informed one because of the experiences she has had. You seem to think all children of religious families have no choice in the matter, which isn’t the case. My daughter is 16months old, we have no family nearby, so naturally she attends church with us. When she’s old enough to stay home rather than come to church she can do so. You can build choice into your child’s life without having to shield them from something.

        I’m also not suggesting you go to all the different places of worship. You missed my point which was, whilst school may teach the basic beliefs that are central to a certain religion, they don’t really teach how it feels to be part of a loving church-family (by family I don’t mean blood-family, I refer to the friends within the church that share our faith), how much religions help in their communities, and the other benefits belonging to a religion may offer. This can only really be experienced first-hand. And of course this is a feature of any religious community and can be experienced at any place of worship. I may say Church, but equally it applies to Mosque, Temple, Hall, etc.

      • I suppose the aspects of the community you describe are of less consequence to me than the foundations of the religions themselves. I don’t feel as though I’m depriving Ted of anything by not participating in a church of some kind because we’re involved in other communities and we have a huge extended family. The “nice side” of religion – the charity work, the community support, the family – doesn’t detract from what I, as an atheist, see as the falsities, so it’s not an aspect of it I’d given much thought to before. But you’re right that those are nice things to be involved with so you’ve achieved something in making me stop and think about that! Now I just need to make sure he sees those things in the communities we are involved in, and to make time for us to participate in local projects as a family.

      • I think the point I failed to make in that comment was that I can’t help but draw a distinction between church and Christianity; community and religion. I can see the benefits of belonging to a community “family” but I don’t think it’s enough of a reason to encourage Ted to participate in church, when he can experience those positives without having to be part of a religion.

      • themilkmade says:

        I’m glad you got my point regarding community work and involvement. I certainly know that churches aren’t the only way in which you can get involved, but I guess I’m used to an upbringing in which church was and is fairly central to my community. And also many people today seem to be becoming more insular, with neighbours rarely talking, people shopping in supermarkets rather than local shops etc… For me, church is a great way to develop community spirit as well as your own faith. And your point above regarding family – as we moved away from the cities we grew up in we don’t have family nearby and many of our good friends aren’t near either, so our involvement in church life has helped us settle in and make friends. I don’t want to appear like I’m imposing my religious beliefs on anyone or condoning Gills attitude; far from it! I just feel religions are often given a bad press and people forget there are positives, albeit not exclusive ones, to religion. I hope you understand a bit of where I’m coming at this from!

  4. Helen Martin says:

    A work colleague said to me “religion is good as a moral code to follow”. Like you can’t have a moral code if you’re not religious!! My children will be brought up without the influence of religion but will still have morals (I hope!!)

    • Only if you pick and choose which morals to follow. I mean, the “thou shalt not kill” type ones are all well and good but let’s not forget the racism, xenophobia, sexism and homophobia inherent in all of the major religions. That’s not the kind of moral code I want Ted following, thanks.

      • themilkmade says:

        As a Christian I’d disagree that it’s a case of “picking and choosing”. I find this attitude prevalent amongst atheists and I find it demonstrates a lack of understanding of the true basis of religion.

        I’d prefer to say I’m differentiating between Jesus’s true teachings of tolerance and love, and man’s interpretation of it, which was to suit his own means and agenda. Yes, it is MAN who has used religion to convey some evil ideas, just as some men have used science, politics etc, similarly. It’s separating what you believe to be the greater and deeper meaning of God’s Word from Man’s manipulation of it that I believe is key.

        Sadly there are sections of the church who are homophobic, xenophobic, sexist etc, but the same applies to the whole of society. Hate and intolerance is not a religious problem but society’s. Practicing a religion should not mean you adhere to a questionable moral code as you suggest above, but quite the opposite in fact!

        Unfortunately you can’t bring up Ted without examples of it in his life as it’s there to see on the news every night. All you can do is teach him right from wrong. Whether you choose a religion to help you do that or not is entirely up to you, and I respect that 🙂

      • I’m not sure how you follow Jesus’ true teachings without editing the moral code outlined in the bible, or how you differentiate between his teachings and man’s interpretation when all we know about his teachings are via man’s interpretation. I would also argue that there is no “true basis of religion” beyond the scriptures of that religion, since that’s where everything we know about that religion stems from. My words about xenophobia and sexism etc aren’t directed at any one domination, but at the bible, and that’s what I’m referring to when I say there is vast picking and choosing in the moral code people choose to follow.

        I have no idea why you think I’ve suggested that following a religion means following a questionable moral code, nor why you think I’m suggesting that Ted is somehow safe from hate and intolerance because I’m bringing him up without religion, but neither of those is accurate. My argument was that being without religion is not the same as being without morals, as some religious people claim.

      • themilkmade says:

        You stated “…inherent in all major religions. That’s not the kind of moral code I want Ted following” which is what prompted my remark that you seem to believe following a religion also entails following an undesirable moral code. My point was it does not. These evils are inherent in religions because they are inherent in man! Man has manipulated religion for his own agenda; often for the greater good but sadly also for terrible purposes.

        I don’t deny the fact that the Bible is written by, and subsequently translated, by man; I don’t speak or read Aramaic, Greek or Hebrew for a start! There are numerous translations, and translations of translations, therefore it’s a danger to take everything in the Bible literally and on face value, without also looking at the context of when and by who it was translated too (I did Translation Studies – social and political landscapes will influence how something is translated). But my belief is take out what certain sections of the Church have taught us about women, sexuality, race etc and try to separate Man’s manipulation of the Word from Jesus’s teachings, as written down in the Bible’s New Testament by Jesus’s Disciples and various first-hand accounts (you’re correct that Jesus didn’t write his own accounts, but that shouldn’t be a problem if you read biographies and newspaper stories, all of which are written by bystanders, and have no trouble believing those accounts!) and hopefully you are left with something close to how God intended for us to live – with peace, love, and tolerance.

        And my final point wasn’t meant to sound as if I thought you believed you were shielding your son from bad things. It was meant to convey the message that ultimately it doesn’t matter what method we use to teach our children right from wrong (whether we use examples from Biblical teachings, or our own non-religious examples), as long as we teach them!

      • The difference being that the secondhand accounts we read in biographies or newspapers don’t relate to people whose existence is questionable, and are generally not cited as doctrines upon which to base life choices.

  5. mymillsbaby says:

    Such a common debate. Hubby and I are athiests. Hubby’s parents however are mormans. I think it’s their choice of religion that has put him off religion for life. He harbours such resentment as he was forced into attending church / sunday schools etc. He didn’t believe in it (even from an early age) and was practically dragged kicking and screaming. Whenever someone even mentions christening Dexter – he gets really defensive. We’re not against people bringing up their children according to their religious principles but we’ve just seen the other side of the coin. Each to their own I say – but no religion for Dexter until he’s old enough to decide for himself.

    • Some people have used my own Christian upbringing as a sign that I could have Ted christened and he could still decide it wasn’t for him. That just doesn’t make sense to me. I’d rather give him the option when he’s old enough to decide for himself. I wouldn’t decide that he’s a Tory or a Liberal Democrat while he’s a year old, and somewhere down the line he’ll be able to make that decision himself – through asking questions, researching and working out what it is that’s important to him.

      The only issue I can see is that he’s still going to be influenced by my view and that I’ll have to be careful to make sure I don’t make him feel uncomfortable if he ever wants to explore religion.

  6. Patricia Allott says:

    I am Teds Grandma. I am a born again Christian. I am saved by the grace of God. I choose to attend church, not because I have to but because I choose to. I did not have my children christened( Teds dad included). They will choose to follow Jesus Christ as will Ted if it is what they want. It is only then that baptism will have any meaning or value. I agree with my daughter in law (Teds mum). Why should she go through what is a meaningless ceremony for her and Ted who is too young to understand any of this just for the sake of superstition and deprive Ted of an informed and personal decision if he so chooses when he is old enough to understand.

  7. I think it’s incredibly naive to counsel others on their actions as a result of your own beliefs. That said, I can see why it’s difficult for someone who fully believes to comprehend your methodology. I have friends who are atheist, and I don’t question their rights to that at all, but I often feel that they question what I believe, and want to try and understand. Religion is a toughie…

    • I definitely think atheists question religious people – maybe not as much but probably not far off – about their choice to bring their children up in their faith. Every parent thinks they’re doing what’s best for their child.

      Did you mean your friends try to understand your religious choices? Sorry, I wasn’t quite clear about the last part of your comment – the teething baby may explain the fog in my head!

      I think for the atheist the issue of religious parenting is of freedom of choice, and for the religious the issue of atheist patenting is about an imagined lack of morality.

      It’s very individual and it all comes back to judgey parents again!

  8. Louise says:

    We are having same problem with our 5 month old son. Neither my fiancé or I practice and religion and daddy in particular feels this should be babas choice as he grows but I have had heated debates with many people who don’t understand this.

  9. themilkmade says:

    Just picked up on something I feel as a Christian that I have to defend – the idea that if your son decides to be a Christian that he would be turning his back on Science, Evolution, Maths etc… I’m fairly sure there are many scientists, doctors and so on who are also Christian and would disagree with you on that point. I studied Biology and Chemistry; I believe in the Big Bang, evolution AND God! Why? Because I believe God created the blueprint for life as we know it. The designer if you will. Not all Christians deny the theory of evolution. Sadly that’s a very misinformed view your demonstrating.

    If you son chooses to believe in a God – whichever God – rather than be disappointed in him you should celebrate that he able to embrace the idea that there is a force greater than us (a less egotistical view of the world to have perhaps!) and that he doesn’t necessarily need all the answers to be happy and can accept that “great is the mystery of faith”!

    Finally, you say you don’t want to impose a view on him and let him make his own mind up regarding religion, yet by not telling him about the other options out there you are as good as imposing your Athiest views on him. How is that any fairer for him than a family bringing up their child in the Christian faith?! Perhaps this is what Gill was trying, and failing, to get across to you: you feel by not giving him any religious guidance you ARE giving him an choice. Gill feels that you AREN’T. Far from giving him a choice, as you insist you are doing, it reads as if being Atheist is actually what you desire for him to be, given the other option would leave you in your own words “disappointed”. Yes, you say he can discover these things for himself, but how, in a world where it is easier to avoid religion, is it realistic for him to get a real sense of what belonging to a faith would actually feel like, if you do not give him any opportunity to discover it with your help? As parents, I believe it is our duty to give our children the full picture and to expose them to many different experiences as possible. If they do it with our guidance, then that empowers them and gives them the confidence to go on and make discoveries themselves. Children look to us for pointers, for affirmation that what they are doing is ok. There are things we, as parents, may dislike but for the sake of our children, so we don’t pass on our own insecurities or opinions, we put our feelings and / or fears aside. Ted may never have the confidence to go to a place of worship alone and thereby “discover” a religion for himself; not through choice, rather because you, his parents, didn’t give him the opportunity. Even if he does in later life find a religion that makes sense to him, he may always feel he was denied this faith sooner because you wanted to make the “choice” his. By all means don’t Baptize him, if that’s not your belief or will it would be hypocritical and it is something he can choose in later life. But please don’t dress up NOT teaching your son that their are alternate views on religion out there as giving him a choice. He only has an informed choice if he has both sides of the argument.

    • Whether you think God created the blueprint for life is a religious matter and not a scientific one. It’s a question of faith, and that’s not something science has anything to comment on. Calling it the theory of evolution is testament to the kind of faith-science relationship you have that I don’t, but it doesn’t mean to say that I’m misinformed. I’ve no doubt that Christians have their own take on various scientific “theories” and that’s fine, but it’s still faith.

      If my son chooses a religion my disappointment will be my own. Just as I’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t go to university, works in the local supermarket or dyes his beautiful blonde hair green. I don’t recall saying that if he chose a religion I would tell him he’d let me down, kick him out or fight angrily until he changed his mind. We’re programmed to expect the very highest achievements from our offspring so a little disappointment is part of the job.

      I’m also a little – actually, very – offended by the suggestion that I’m lying about my intentions in bringing my son up without having a religion imposed upon him. To tell me I’m dressing up my parenting and hiding my true intentions is very bloody rude. It’s possible you’ve missed the part where I talk about allowing him the opportunity to learn about all religions objectively and not raising him as an atheist, but I’d like to point it out to you so you can rethink your statement that I’m imposing atheism on him. Being an atheist and refusing to raise Ted as a christian isn’t the same as not teaching him about religion – I’m just not, as you put it, providing “religious guidance”. Frankly, I’m not expert enough in the – literally – thousands of available religions to do a good enough job of guiding him through any of them.

      I’m not sure what kind of religious families you know, but the ones I know certainly don’t endeavour to make sure their children know “both sides of the argument”, let alone that other religions are of equal value. Teaching your children to “respect” people with views other than their own isn’t the same as providing them with a balanced view of their options if you’re forcing one particular religion upon them, so I’m not sure how you think it’s level with teaching him that there are countless religions out there but that his parents don’t believe in any of them.

      I’ve acknowledged in one of my comments on here that I need to be careful to let Ted know that he’s got the freedom to go and explore, and in doing so I’ve mentioned that I need to make sure he has the confidence to check out any “places of worship” he finds interesting (and let’s face it, we live in a christian society, he’s not going to be able to avoid churches). Saying that I’m denying him the opportunity is somewhat redundant when you consider how many places I’d have to take him to give him the full scope of experience required to choose just ONE religion.

      • themilkmade says:

        Sorry if I’ve offended you, it wasn’t actually my intention, but I was pointing out how your stance may be perceived to others. I have a friend who is Agnostic and her husband is Athiest, they are currently talking about schools and despite the fact she doesn’t practice a religion she quite likes the idea of their child going to a C of E school so that he gets a sound basis upon which to form an opinion. I’m not saying a faith school is necessarily the appropriate way to introduce religion or that it’s right for everyone, but that is a working example I have for someone having a similar debate. Perhaps another compromise for my friend would be to attend a monthly family church service, or to a baby-group run in church. But at least she is considering ways she can actively help her child find information and support the decision-making process. I just don’t see how taking a child to an empty church you’re passing because he asks to go in will actually give him the impression a church will ever be a place that can offer him anything. A church without a congregation or people in it is just a building, no matter how many images of Jesus are displayed. It was the part you wrote about being disappointed if he chose to follow a religion that leapt out at me. We’re not talking about hair colour or choice of career here. We’re talking about what is to many a fundamental part of life. You may think you’re giving your son freedom to choose himself, but if that freedom comes with the feeling that his mum will be disappointed, do you think he’ll be as confident to exercise his right to choose?

        You did pick an emotive subject and if i’m honest I was also somewhat offended by some of your generalisations regarding faith and religion. The accusation that my belief won’t stand up to scrutiny for one (I’d argue what makes you so confident for example that there isn’t a greater force at work?) as I’m very confident in my beliefs and will happily discuss it till the cows cone home! Secondly the assumption that I’ll stop asking questions and just believe what I’m told to. I ask many questions as a Christian, trying to reconcile certain aspects of the Bible and Christianity with what I see going on in the world. Perhaps as a Christian I ask more questions than I would otherwise do, as I don’t feel any of us will ever know everything. I feel it would be egotistical to say that I’ve found all I need to know thanks to religion, and I’d stop growing as a person if I didn’t continue wanting to learn more. Often science, even if it answers one question, throws up more conundrums, so you may argue that religion doesn’t answer anything and is a lot of mumbo jumbo, but science doesn’t offer all the answers either. It may tell us HOW but not always WHY.

        As for my wording – the theory of evolution – there was no particular meaning there, I don’t make a habit of routinely going over everything I’ve written with a fine toothed comb in case someone reads more into what happens to be a turn of phrase I used. Fortunately I’m not a public figure hence i’m not going to be hung out to dry for using a particular phrase, however innocently (a certain MP and the word “pleb” springs to mind) otherwise I’d employ a proof-reader!

      • I know this is an emotive subject, and believe me I’ve avoided the topic for as long as I’ve been writing the blog – both here and in the related Twitter account – because I haven’t wanted to cause any bad feeling, but essentially this blog is my account of my parenting experience and it seemed as though I was leaving a big hole in not exploring it.

        I did try to make sure I wasn’t too inflammatory or offensive in the post, but don’t forget that as strong as your beliefs are, my lacks-of-beliefs (for want of a better way of putting it!) are just as fiery. Perhaps saying that religion doesn’t stand up to examination was provocative but it was intentionally so.

        I don’t recall saying anything about taking Ted into an empty building to look at pictures of Jesus. The point I made was that we live in a Christian society and so he’s not going to be able to avoid church. Which is not the same as saying I’d like him to avoid it, so we’re clear.

        The “why?” question isn’t really of any consequence to the non-believer. The “hows” and the “whats” provide enough mystery and excitement for us. And we not only don’t have all of the answers but don’t expect to ever come anywhere close. The fun is in the hunting, not the box-ticking. It’s far more exciting to know that not only are the answers limitless but so are the questions! The thought that anyone could ever be told “because god made it so” and be satisfied makes me really very sad, and it’s that thought that means I would be disappointed if Ted chose religion.

        I have said, though, that it’s not my intention to let Ted grow up knowing that I would be disappointed if that’s what he chose (and the fact that I refer to it as his choice is proof of that), and I’m afraid you’re just going to have to take it on faith that it’s the case. However, I didn’t only liken it to hair colour and although you’ve chosen to ignore the other analogies (surely you can see that politics is the closest topic?) I think education is far FAR more important than religion in any child’s upbringing, and I’d be equally disappointed if Ted didn’t go to uni but I won’t be called a bad parent for wanting that for him.

      • themilkmade says:

        I didn’t deliberately ignore some of your analogies. I’m using my phone, and I’m trying to keep my comments as thorough as possible yet coping with the limitations of a small screen. I do see how you believe politics is similar, however unless your affiliated to a particular party or a staunch supporter then most people are likely to change their support of a party between elections depending on that particular party’s current manifesto. I wouldn’t expect religious beliefs to change every few years in the same way as political views, so thinking about that will most parent’s influence over what political party to vote ever be that strong, that life-changing?! Plus the voting age is 18, at which most children can think independently and can explore their options fully on their own. However there is no set age when a sense of faith develops, and that’s why, as a fundamental part of life, the exploration of faith and it’s subsequent development (if a child wishes) may require a parent’s input or active support, not disappointment or despair.

        Religion doesn’t have to limit your thinking or learning and if you can grasp that point of view then the idea of Ted finding a religion doesn’t have to be a disappointment. There aren’t any Christians I know who answer a question with “because God made it so” but then again I don’t know any Creationists so that may be why! The way I see it, if someone ever conclusively proves in my lifetime that there is no God, I won’t have wasted my life on empty faith because it’s given me joy and helped me make good choices. Yes other things can give joy and you can live a moral life without faith, but what I mean is I won’t feel anger that I was ever misled, it hasn’t harmed me, it’s been a help.

        I guess as long as anyone’s child doesn’t sense their parent’s disappointment in their choices then that is all we can hope for. It doesn’t sound like you will allow that, but I just worry for the child who’s parents may be more vocal in expressing their disappointment, who leave that child feeling like they have failed or let their parents down, or worse still are scared of opposing their parents and choosing their own path. That makes me sad. I’m a believer in giving children a voice, but especially when they’re young and they’re still finding their way, it’s up to us to help them find their voice. We can facilitate it, or hinder it, depending on our actions.

        Regarding my part about going into an empty church, I realise you didn’t describe this image. It just sprung to my mind when you spoke about not being able to avoid church. Yes you’d find it difficult in this country to avoid churches, as in actual buildings, but I think it is easy to avoid The Church, meaning the spiritual part. And that was what I was referring to when I painted that image of entering a church you just happened to be passing, that a church alone doesn’t convey any real sense of belonging to a faith.

        Our children can see churches, can learn about Christian beliefs in school, but will they ever experience what it feels like to be a Christian (or a member of any faith) and to know God? Isn’t the desire to experience that feeling one of the reasons people find a faith? I think so. As an Atheist you will be able to answer Ted’s questions about why you don’t believe in a God, but will you be able to fully answer any of his questions if he asks WHY some people still BELIEVE in a God given the overwhelming evidence that Atheists say contradicts that idea? How will you present to him the alternative view? I’m sure if you believe that religion doesn’t stand up to scrutiny then you’ll agree I’ll have no problem explaining the concept of NO God to my daughter; it’s explaining faith that will prove tricky, but I’ll have better chance of explaining it because I share it and know why someone, who is a rational, educated person who believes in science, can also believe in a greater force / being. I’m not saying you won’t be able to tackle Ted’s potential questions and or questioning your ability to do a good job (I’m sure where you can’t provide answers that you’ll seek them out for him) just that I imagine it won’t be easy.

        I understand your point about tackling sensitive issues and the difficulty and apprehension with which you approach them. I have some Blogs on my harddrive that I haven’t yet had the courage to publish because they cover a difficult subject. Likewise, when I replied to this Blog I did so apprehensively. I wanted to put an alternative view across as a Christian because I felt it may spark a debate and also because it was coming from a different perspective. Plus I thought Gill hadn’t really been a great example of Christian tolerance. As I’ve said I respect everyone’s decision regarding spiritual matters, the decision not to Baptize (many Christians believe, unlike Gill, in adult baptisms for the reasons you describe) etc. My concerns, which you have since answered and put to rest, were whether Ted would actually get all the support and information needed to make an informed choice, or where I felt there was unfairness in some of your remarks about religion and I wanted to defend them.

        I knew my comments had the potential to offend due to the topic we’re discussing, but I hoped, where any offense was caused, that you’d give me the opportunity to clarify what I meant in case of misunderstandings or where I didn’t convey my thoughts very well first time round, and you did so thank you!

        I’m sorry if you feel I barged into this and turned your blog into a debate. But it seems hard to discuss a topic this emotive without an element of barging! I have enjoyed reading your comments, I don’t doubt for one minute that Ted has a fantastic, supportive family. There’s certainly no accusation of bad parenting from me!

      • Wow – this has got sooo interesting. I must say, I feel the argument that ‘Stitches & Stretchmarks’ is somehow limiting Ted’s appreciation of the world by not attending church is ludicrous. Like she so often points out, in order to present the full experience of religion she would have to take him to every religious group available. For him to go to church, and not any other place of worship, is surely limiting him more than not taking him to any?!

      • That’s definitely how I see it. Any arguments that I’m not allowing him the opportunity to experience faith and family by not giving him regular access to a church are *still* failing to grasp that I’d have to provide the same access to countless religious groups.

      • themilkmade says:

        I’d argue that faith is faith; whether it’s Judaism, Sikhism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism etc. Yes there are differences between who or how they worship, and what they believe. But ultimately that feeling you get when you belong to any religious group I’d say is universal, therefore you don’t have to go to worship with all religions in order to experience that sentiment. It maybe that you’re just thinking about religion objectively and about explaining their beliefs and rituals and practical elements. I’m talking about the subjective element of religion; the feelings you get as a believer, as a member of a wider religious family, the feeling you get knowing you’re growing in that faith and coming closer to a God (or Gods). I think those feelings are the same and span the different religions.

        You can learn about the practicalities of a religion in school, but how do you convey the spiritual element? Will that come across effectively just through discussion? I’m not saying you have to go to church – you may find a way in which you can explain those feelings – but that attending a religious event or place of worship could help where someone isn’t able to explain it effectively, or where a simple explanation didn’t satisfy the child. It all depends too on what sort of questions Ted asks as he grows I guess!

      • themilkmade says:

        It could be viewed that way! I just feel there’s a difference between explaining the facts about a religion (their beliefs, how they worship, etc), which is the easy part, and conveying the feeling a person of faith experiences through their belief, which I think is a more difficult concept to get across, but one which is an important part of belonging to any religion. Therefore I think to get a complete picture of religious belief it needs somehow explaining, and I wonder, if you never take your child to witness a religious festival or worship, if it can effectively be conveyed. Maybe it can; perhaps discussion with a friend who belongs to a particular religion is enough and will satisfy that particular child (I guess it depends on the child too)! Like I say, I don’t know, but I think that’s the challenge if you really want to explain religion fully and it’s definitely something to consider for anyone having this discussion regarding their child’s upbringing.

        Personally I don’t think there’s anything wrong in taking your child to a religious festival, especially if it helps them to understand; it’s not hypocritical because you can tell people if you wish that you’re there to show your child a religion in practice (places of worship generally welcome visitors, whether they share a faith or not) and it certainly doesn’t mean you’re labelling your child with, or choosing them, a particular religion. Anyway I’d argue the feeling of belief in a God is the same, or very similar, regardless of which religion we’re talking about and so whether you chose to visit a Mosque, Temple or Church is fairly irrelevant (remember I’m talking about conveying an emotion, rather than demonstrating a way of worship). I hope that makes a sort of sense.

  10. So, uh… Milkmaid, I assume you regularly take your kids to atheist meetings so that they really get a sense of what it feels like to belong to a secularist community? And you advise your Christian friends to do likewise?

    • themilkmade says:

      Err, no… But then she’s 16 months old so I think the content of such meetings would go above her head! Plus I probably have many more non-practicing or Atheist close friends than Christian, who she spends time with! There are ways to mix with people who have alternative viewpoints to your own, and where you can develop your own thinking, wouldn’t you agree?

      My daughter doesn’t even really partake in church services yet, she goes to the playgroup run by the church. And if you are assuming as a Christian I necessarily go to church every Sunday, participate in regular Bible study groups etc, then you’d be wrong. Faith can also be a relatively private thing, as can Atheism.

      • “There are ways to mix with people who have alternative viewpoints to your own, and where you can develop your own thinking, wouldn’t you agree?”

        Sure, but, wait a minute–you mean that if S&S had replied to your first comment, “Oh, it’s OK. I have Christian friends,” then this whole long argument would’ve been avoided? Because in your earlier comments you said it’s important to experience what it’s like to belong to a “church-family,” but as soon as I turned the argument back on you, suddenly it’s good enough to “mix with people who have alternative viewpoints to your own,” something I don’t think anyone here is objecting to.

      • themilkmade says:

        One of my main concerns with the Blog and the comments that followed, were some of the sweeping generalisations made about religious families and Religion. One in particular was the idea that, by bringing up a child without a religion, that child will have MORE choice than a child brought up in a religious family, “I’d have far more respect if religious families brought up their children to have a choice”. Who’s to say those children don’t have a choice?

        Not all Christian’s baptise their children, and when they do it is not a profession of the child’s faith (that would be getting Confirmed and is something that most people do later on, through choice and after much thought) but it is a profession of the parent’s faith and will that they at least bring up their child to learn of God. The choice in many religious families is left ultimately to the child. Baptism is not something that leaves an indelible mark; from my perspective it doesn’t label that child as a Christian, but it says that the parents and Godparents will help nature that child’s potential and guide them, should they chose to explore that faith later on. That’s also not to say I wouldn’t similarly support my daughter should she decide that another religion, or no religion at all, is for her!

        Put simply, I don’t see how the child of Atheist parents will necessarily be any less influenced by their parent’s Atheism, than a child brought up on a Christian family. Especially if the parents in question would be disappointed if their child chose a different path and if the child sensed that.

      • themilkmade says:

        And regarding mixing with people of other faiths or beliefs, I didn’t query the fact that Ted’s parents would have religious, as well as Atheist, friends, but the subject of belief doesn’t always come up in social occasions. When I meet up with Christian friends socially we rarely discuss religion or church even. On the other hand, the trappings (for want of a better word) of a secular society such as greed, envy, hate, consumerism, exploitation etc, are on display and our children exposed to them everyday. (That’s not to say that religions have not, and do not, at times also demonstrate – wrongly – these vices, but that’s a separate, lengthy debate!) Religious beliefs are often fairly private outside of worship and don’t necessarily come up in conversation, unless prompted by someone’s question or a particular situation.

        As i’ve already said visiting a place of worship or learning about a belief system is not the same as conveying the feeling having a particular belief gives someone, or seeing that faith in action. My understanding is that in order to portray a full picture of a faith you require more than facts, and my query therefore was how do you convey that?

      • themilkmade says:

        Gosh! And lest you think by that I meant that those trappings represented Atheists. I didn’t! I don’t think Atheists are immoral or don’t have a moral code that is at least equivalent to those of a Religious Movement. I just meant that sin and examples of a bad way of life seem prevalent in society and the media.

        What I should’ve also put is that science, and in it the belief that man can and will in time explain everything and therefore disprove the notion of a greater God (which I see as the viewpoint of an Atheist), is taught more thoroughly than religion (which is an elective at exam-level) or theology.

        Even within a religious upbringing, my child will have lots of exposure to non-religious attitudes and teaching and ways of life (both good and bad), that will influence that child’s choices. Can you say the opposite will be true of a child brought up in an Atheist household?

  11. Helen Martin says:

    To quote Ricky Gervaise……. Historians have recorded 2870 supernatural beings regarded as Gods. I don’t believe in 2870 of them. You don’t believe in 2869 of them. So you are nearly as atheist as me.

  12. (Reply to themilkmade) In reply to your question, “Can you say the opposite will be true of a child brought up in an Atheist household?” I can’t say how true that is in your country. In mine (the US; specifically, one of the conservative “red states”) there’s no avoiding contact with Christian assumptions and Christian pressure. As a result, atheists tend to know more about religion than do typical believers, since atheists are often considered immoral and untrustworthy and find themselves confronted with religious claims. But is that true to some (presumably lesser) degree in the UK? All I can say is that Gill’s assumptions (described in the initial blog post) sound familiar.

    My point in questioning you is that I suspected that, regarding exposure of children to other beliefs, you were holding atheist parents to a higher standard than Christian parents. You wanted atheist parents to take their kids to church, then said that your having atheist friends was good enough for your kids. When I pointed this out and suggested this as a standard for atheist parents, then suddenly that’s not good enough because “the subject of belief doesn’t always come up in social occasions.” And then finally there’s your claim that the children of Christians are adequately exposed to other beliefs because they live in a secular society. As I said, I’ll leave that claim to others, but it looks to me like you’re defending one standard for Christian parents and another for unbelievers.

    • Yes. This.
      There’s also the assumption that being a Christian and having atheist friends means that your child experiences more than the child of an atheist who has Christian friends (although I suspect this may be because there’s also an assumption that I wouldn’t have Christian friends).
      As my parents are Christian and, as a comment here has clearly shown, BabyDaddy’s parents are born-again, I don’t see how church could show Ted anything about spirituality and kinship that his own family can’t show him. But it’s still avoiding the issue of those other few hundred religions.

    • themilkmade says:

      I’d argue with the suggestion I’m expecting an Atheist live up to a higher standard than a religious family, or that I’m even saying they need go to church. I’m just pointing out some of the things I think to they need to consider when bringing up a child to have a full insight into having a faith, and in order that they can actually say they have given their child a balanced view. I was posing the question of HOW they can convey some of the more spiritual aspects, that don’t necessarily have a simple, factual explanation. And asking will discussion necessarily be enough to satisfy a young mind? It will most probably be a case of crossing that bridge when you come to it, and it will depend on that child too, but I think that it requires some consideration beforehand so that you are prepared.

      Just like I will have to make sure my daughter constantly questions the Bible and my faith, never takes it on face value, and views it together with all the scientific knowledge we have at our disposal. She can then decide if science can offer her all the answers in time, or whether there is something deeper at work. Again I’ll need to brush up on my knowledge and ensure I can explain things in a child friendly way – not easy when we’re talking Big Bangs and Dark Matter – but that’s my personal challenge.

      I also wanted to demonstrate how the opposite could be said about the notion that children of religious families have less choice. Although that isn’t necessarily my belief; I was perhaps playing Devil’s Advocate!

      I personally don’t think it’s a question of a family being Atheist or Religious. I think it’s whether a family can accept a different viewpoint and explain it fairly, and without bias, to their child. It’s about our ability to consider all the things we will need to explore with our children, and, where we can’t answer something personally, our readiness to go out and find an answer. An Atheist is not necessarily any better equipped to do that than a Christian, or vice versa!

  13. Christian nanna says:

    Do not judge lest you be judged. Respect each other. Leave the subject closed now. Peace.

  14. Pingback: I’m a Beautiful Mama | My Mills Baby

  15. Pingback: Religion in education | Stitches And Stretchmarks

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