Baptising DCs: DH religious but I'm atheist

(61 Posts)
whatwasIthinkingof Fri 08-Nov-13 22:22:58

Right, I have thought about this too long and need some perspective. DH is religious, I am atheist. DH wants new baby DC2 to be baptised into Catholic church. DC1 was baptised and I went along with it despite being uncomfortable about it. I spoke to the priest beforehand about what should I do as I am a non-believer and he just said I didn’t have to say anything and as DH is practising the religion it was fine. But I felt so uncomfortable at DC1’s baptism staying silent whilst the priest asked us if we renounce the devil and all that stuff. I felt horribly fraudulent standing there even though I’d been honest, - because basically I am meant to be happy about it.

The issue is that I hate the idea that the kids will be told what to believe and have no choice about whether to go to church. I don’t hate religion, think there are some good aspects to it i.e. morality, community, I just don’t believe in the magic type stuff. DH is very serious about it and will make the kids attend, get confirmed and all the rest of it (this sounds awful but DH is actually an amazing father in a lot of ways).

I feel very torn as I want to be there at DC2 baptism and be part of it as I want us to be united in family occasions like this, BUT, I don’t believe it myself so feel unbelievably uncomfortable standing there at the front feeling so conflicted. I don’t know what to do about it. If I refuse for DC2 to be baptised, DH will probably go and do it anyway without me as it’s so important to him. Also I feel I should because I went along with it for DC1 so why not this time.

The godparents we have chosen both times are really nice people but
are more DH’s friends. I went along with it as it was so important to DH and it felt like such a non-negotiable. Kind of feel like I have no part in this baptism. Find it hard to talk to DH about religion as he is quite rigid about it, he will just say that I have rejected religion so it’s me that’s turned my back.

Before we got married we talked about how we would bring up children and I was honest about my own lack of religious faith and DH said he would not compromise on his beliefs and would want any kids to be brought up in his faith. We reached a bit of a stalemate on the whole issue and as I was unsure whether we would be able to have any children I didn’t think much more about it, - wrong of me I know. But, 2 lovely children later, this problem has reared its ugly head and I feel really sad and hopeless about it. I feel I am making a lot of sacrifices for something actually quite big and I feel I won’t be able to protect my children from being told to believe this stuff. I feel that DH has compromised on a lot for our life but on this issue he is not willing to compromise.

Do I just have to suck it up and accept that this is what happens if you marry someone who has such strong religious beliefs? Have I inadvertently agreed to it as I have gone along with it before? Is there anything I can do that might make me feel better about it? I have no one to talk to about this as family and friends are either deeply on one side or the other and I don’t know anyone else in a similar situation to talk things through with. Realise I’m asking a lot of MN but my brain hurts!

Annunziata Fri 08-Nov-13 22:40:20

Your opinion should count but it must be so hard to find a middle ground. As a Catholic, I couldn't not have my children baptised. There's no question about it for me.

You will need to sit down and talk properly with your DH, about this, as well as schools and the other sacraments.

Bunbaker Fri 08-Nov-13 22:44:40

You could do what my atheist BIL did and just not go to the baptism.

You don't believe in God and your husband does. At the baptism this becomes very obvious as this is a sacrament where the child enters into the family of the faithful. So this is a reality check. If you feel this strongly don't go or sit at the back.

I typed more but I've deleted it as I'm actually shocked that you feel the need to protect your children from people like me - I'm clergy by the way.

glorious Sat 09-Nov-13 07:17:31

I am Catholic but I haven't always been. I can understand your reservations about standing at the front and personally I think the fact you're thinking about this so hard demonstrates a great deal of integrity.

I just wanted to say that your DH bringing them up Catholic will be one influence in their lives; your own beliefs will be another. Depending on your DH's parish I suspect 'being told what to think' might not be quite as powerful as you fear, and very few priests emphasise the kind of teaching many people have a problem with (e.g. views on gay marriage).

I don't think incidentally that your DH can have your child baptised without your consent.

DevonFolk Sat 09-Nov-13 07:20:42

I'm not catholic but was raised CofE and continue to believe, attend church and have a faith of my own. I feel like your conviction that your boys will be forced to believe 'this stuff' is what's stopping you from really understanding your DH's viewpoint.

I'm very grateful that I was given the opportunity to learn about Christianity and ultimately make my own decision as an adult as to whether I continued to explore my faith. If I hadn't been involved in a church as a child there's no way I would be where I am now.

DevonFolk Sat 09-Nov-13 07:23:42

Sorry phone playing up.

What I'm trying to say is, your DH is giving them a chance to explore and know about something that is vitally important to him. They will grow up knowing that you don't share his beliefs and in time you will be able to explain why.

Meow75 Sat 09-Nov-13 07:33:03

I agree with previous posters. If you think your DH and his family will have such a great influence on them, what makes you think that your views won't? Speaking traditionally, you'll most likely spend more time with the children, giving you the opportunity to put your views across. This will only be a problem if your DH objects to that when your children are old enough to ask the questions.

Incidentally, I disagree that the only way a person can become educated about religion and make these choices is by being immersed in it. I mean, isn't it odd how many people "choose" to be the same religion as their parents and other older relatives. I know many don't or renounce religion altogether (my dad, for e.g.) but the vast majority do.

AgathaF Sat 09-Nov-13 07:35:26

Your children will see both sides as they will have a religious influence from their Dad and an athiest one from you. As long as both sides act with love, and encourage the children to explore their own beliefs and find out what suits them, they will be fine. It will be up to them what they believe ultimately.

That said, I would find it very hard to live with, or bring up children with, a person with a strong faith. However, I guess that in the main, you must both manage to step around issues and live compatibly so that it works for you.

TiredDog Sat 09-Nov-13 07:39:20

Since there is nothing magic about a Catholic baptism what do you fear?

His influence?

The baptism is neither here nor there. It's what happens in the future. I agree that your children will grown up with two views and holding either view will ultimately be their choice. It won't reflect one of you has won.

If he was obsessed with stamp collecting and determined to make his DC the same you'd have more perspective over it

TiredDog Sat 09-Nov-13 07:45:25

My DH was atheist and we held a service which I took part in and he didn't. We both continued to be the same parents we were before.

One DD is a Christian, one is not and one is on the fence. I love all of them and respect their choices. I think they respect my choice to not push them into faith but to give them a chance to see what I believe in

TheFallenMadonna Sat 09-Nov-13 07:46:04

As you are not a believer, the sacramental aspect of baptism is presumably not the issue, rather the bringing your children up in the faith. And that is something that is going to be ongoing. Presumably your husband already takes your older child to church? Tour conversation with your husband needs to be about that I think. The baptism is just the thing bringing it into sharp focus right now.

ILoveAFullFridge Sat 09-Nov-13 07:57:19

I'm in a similar position to you, but on the other side if it IYSWIM. I'm the believer, dh the atheist. This was something we discussed in detail before we had children. I have made a lot of compromises, but certain things I will not compromise upon and dh accepted that he would compromise on them instead. TBH, though, it turns out to be an ongoing discussion, as so many things that were obvious to me as a person of faith are a complete surprise to dh. It's not the easiest path to walk!

Dh won't come with us to services. However, he does attend things directly involving our dc, but remains silent and does not participate..

I do not expect my dh to convert or to participate more than he is comfortable with. I am proud and happy that he presents himself as the father at those events he attends, because that shows him as an involved parent, who cherishes his dc and values their life experiences.

Our eldest has already made up his mind that he is atheist like his father, but his father's behaviour means that dc1 does not feel he has to choose between participating against his will or being excluded. There is space for all the hues in our family rainbow.

Gingerdodger Sat 09-Nov-13 15:29:09

What a difficult one. I think it's something you and your husband are going to to need to discuss as to be honest baptism is just the start of a Catholic upbringing and probably the easiest in some ways. I say this as baptism is about parents any godparents making promises to bring children up in the faith. This is something you can stay silent on during the service but then there is the question of both your perspectives on what that means for how you raise your child.

I note you have an older child so maybe you have considered some of this already but there are the questions of attendance at mass, schools and other sacraments - first communion and confirmation which will all become relevant at some point.

My personal view is that it is perfectly possible to combine a faith and atheist upbringing as it gives the opportunity to openly discuss both perspectives and give a child exposure to both. Ultimately we all come to our own perspectives on faith and religion as your children will as they become older.

I know lots of families with parents with differing views. Most seem to work it out and the children find their own way through however I guess both parents need to accept that their views won't necessarily be reflected by their kids but then that's life anyway.

I hope you and your husband are able to have a good talk through all this and work out a whole family approach.

As an atheist (brought up Catholic) there is no way in imaginary hell I would let my child be christened.

I could barely make it through my niece's christening and all the references to renouncing the devil etc.

I simply could not stand back and allow my child to be subjected to such nonsensical brainwashing.

Sorry OP, not very helpful.

sweetkitty Sat 09-Nov-13 15:43:43

OP were the same as you, DH believes I'm an athiest. All DC are baptised and oldest 3 attend RC school. DH takes the DC to church I don't go unless it involves the DC.

I do their holy homework with them and have prepared one for first communion and two for first confession. They know I don't believe and we've had evolution chats before. It's up to them to believe what they want.

It is hard though when your in church thinking "do you actually all believe this?" Like seriously?!! But I've made a commitment to bring them up RC and I be got to stick to it

msmiggins Sat 09-Nov-13 17:41:35

Surely this must have been a predicted scenario.
If you are an athiest married to a religious person then these fundamental issues must have been on the table especially if you plan children.
Depends on how strongly you hold views of course and able to overlook each other's perspective.
I am an athiest and couldn't possible have my children baptised, but others may feel differently. I would echo other's suggestions at simply not attending, but maybe this is really an issue to sort out with your OH .

Bunbaker Sat 09-Nov-13 19:21:30

"I am an athiest and couldn't possible have my children baptised"

Why do you feel so strongly about this? If you don't believe in God then you have nothing to fear.

enderwoman Sat 09-Nov-13 19:34:15

I am an atheist.

In your shoes I would have my children christened because my children would be brought up in the Christian faith via my Husband. I wouldn't organise or actively participate as I wouldn't want to be a hypocrite and promise to bring the child up in the faith.

Youcanthaveitall Sat 09-Nov-13 19:41:35

I am catholic. . I totally understand your predicament but I think if you don't christen them it will be very hard long term between you and your partner. You sound like a very genuine person which is honourable.

The child will make its own decision done the road. A christening won't make their mind up. So you don't have to think that far ahead. I think faith is either with you or not. But the child is yours, not ours so you have to go with your gut. Hope all is ok for you.

Bunbaker Sat 09-Nov-13 19:47:57

I know loads of people who are christened but aren't practising christians

eurochick Sat 09-Nov-13 19:49:46

Bunbaker that wasn't my post but I feel similarly. I disagree with all child baptism. Children should be able to learn about and explore religion as they grow and then choose whether or not to practise one.

It's not a case of having "anything to fear". It's about personal liberty and the fact that it is all complete mumbo jumbo .

MinesAPintOfTea Sat 09-Nov-13 19:59:19

I ask an atheist, dh is catholic. I feel that a sprinkling of water on a baby's head won't harm them in future life and I intend to discuss my own lack of faith as ds grows up. Some things are necessary due to whom I choose to marry and that we married in a church (as dh wanted God as a witness/the sacrament and I didn't care where I made vows which I felt were for him)

peggyundercrackers Sat 09-Nov-13 20:35:33

I agree with tireddog, the baptism is neither here nor there. I think it is a good thing your DH is doing by opening up a new experience to DC2 - it lets your dc experience religion and what it is about and they will get both your perspective of it and your DHs and will choose to do what they want.

I was christened but don't practice, I couldn't tell you the last time we went to church, I think I must have been in primary school. my parents were both christened but didn't practice either but got us christened - I guess it was the done thing back in the 60s? I do have a lot of respect for people who go to church and believe strongly in it, it seems to give them a strong support network and a sense of being. I also think it gives people a community to be part of which can only be good.

eurochick you say its all mumbo jumbo but have you sat and spoke to anyone from the church about it or are you against even dong that? if you don't believe in all the mumbo jumbo do you celebrate things like Christmas?

Bunbaker Sat 09-Nov-13 20:54:59

"I simply could not stand back and allow my child to be subjected to such nonsensical brainwashing"

Assuming the child is a baby you can hardly say it is brainwashing.

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