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Atheist mum needs advice

(12 Posts)
chiara71 Mon 16-Sep-02 08:24:58

I'd like to hear from mumsnetter who are/have been in asimilar situation:

dh and I do not beleive in God, even though we have been baptised, confirmed etc etc, we drifted away from religion while growing up. For this reason we decided not to baptise dd, as we found it hypocritical.

she's only 15 months but a friend of mine has been nagging me about going to church or she won't get a place at the local COE school which apparently is the best around, while the only good non-faith schools are some distance away and we might not get a place for other reasons.

NOw I don't mind if dd gets a religious education, actually I'm sure I'm a better person because of the christian principles that have been taught to me (like tolerance, love, etc), and she can decide for herself once she's older.

The problem though is that I'd find it very difficult to go and pretend that I'm a believer, you don't just have to go to church, you need to make friends with the vicar or no one will remember your daughter's name when it comes to it.

So I thought I'll try with the other schools when the time comes, then my friend told me 'you know it's not just about churhc it's the community spirit, after mass they ahve tea together, you get to know people from the local community, it's nice'. And this made think, since it's difficul today even to know your neighbours, this idea of a community really appeals to me, especially since I'm quite new to the area and all my family live abroad.

one other point is that all my friends children go, or will go to this school and dd already knows most of them, and we tend to spend a lot of time together, so itw ould be nicer for her to go to the same school.

Oh this is all so difficult, my firnd says I don't really need to go that often, maybe I can volounteer for the creche (I'd like this), still, I'm unsure, and all this made me think of yet another problem: when it comes to it, what do I tell dd about God? I can't tell her things I don't feel, but I don't think I should tell I don't beleive in him either (not when everyone else says the opposite, I think she'd be too young to understand the different opinions).
This is a long message, I hope if anyone had the patience to read it to the end will be able to give me some advice, most of my friends seems to be believers or at least very flexible about the issue, so I don't know anyone who shares my views.

thanks to all you

Rhiannon Mon 16-Sep-02 08:32:38

We too don't go to church and our children are not christened. My MIL's reply when we told her we weren't having christenings was "well they won't get any presents".

Our most local school is a C of E primary, the entry criteria, your school may or may not be the same are as follows: Belonging to the local church then belonging to any church, then siblings, then location of your home. There was no mention on the entry requirement for your child to be christened so I really wouldn't worry.

angharad Mon 16-Sep-02 09:01:20

I'm RC but DH is a committed atheist, like you though he feels that "Christian" principles are a good thing. Our kids are all baptised and the eldest goes to an RC primary. DH accepts this and comes along to the "big" occasions such as baptisms but he doesn't enter into debates with them as we feel they are too young (eldest=7y). He will just say that it's good to help others, give to charity etc and not attach any religious significance to this. Later on, if questioned he intends to explain that daddy doesn't believe in God because of X, Y, Z and that it's up to each child to decide for themself what they think.

TBH I think most priests are used to people using church sponsored activities for social reasons, esp if you're in a village and only the really Evangelical will push someone who has explained they have doubts. Can you just go along to a playgroup if you're uncomfortable with mass? Also remeber that no school in the UK can be entirely secular so your dd will get some religion somewhere...As for school places I think that the CofE schools are much more relaxed than RC ones, and it's only in places like london and liverpool where they ask for the kids baptism certificates. Also some CofE schools have very mixed catchment areas, I know there's one in Bradford where 95% of pupils are Muslim.

Sorry this is really long, hope there's something helpful in there though!

janh Mon 16-Sep-02 10:39:18

Angharad, there is a St Michael & St John (RC?) in Blackburn which is 100% Muslim, I believe!

chiara, I do sympathise. We are atheist too but used to take part in parish activities, our older children used to go to Sunday School with a neighbour who taught there, but we are lucky in that there is a good county primary nearby so it didn't matter that they have not been baptised and that we were not regular attenders.

The question of belief didn't arise with our children until they were much older than 4, so I wouldn't worry about that yet. Even in a state school there is a lot of learning about God, although they probably get more information about the other religions than a church school would, and our children just kind of took it for granted that we all felt the same, I think.

Could you talk to the vicar about it? Is he/she a welcoming kind of person? Explain how much you believe in christian principles, and that you would like to belong to the church community, and that you don't want to impose your beliefs on your child and you think going to the church school would help lead her the right way too?

It probably comes down to numbers in the end - if the school isn't over-subscribed then your DD should get in anyway. If it is then helping with church activities and sending her to Sunday School might make a difference. Good luck!

angharad Mon 16-Sep-02 11:13:04

There you go then! Here in cardiff there's an agreement that the Rc schools can only take 10% non-rcs. Working within the system there's a suspicion that in some areas this is to stop an exodus to church schools from some dodgy LEA schools.

Rhubarb Mon 16-Sep-02 14:22:49

I think Janh's advice of talking to your vicar is a good one. Go and introduce yourselves and outline your thoughts and feelings to him/her. It sounds as if you are struggling yourself to understand what you believe in, so you need to do a little soul-searching of your own. Read the Bible and have a talk to people of other faiths. I think you'll feel a lot happier once you've made up your mind one way or another. But even if you do decide to stay an atheist, I'm sure you'll be welcomed at this Church anyway, Church is not just for believers!

lou33 Mon 16-Sep-02 16:17:44

I had the exact same problem this summer. We have recently (beginning of september) moved to a village in surrey, both infant and junior schools being c of e. Dh and I are not religious at all, and haven't had any of our 4 children christened (thought it better for them to decide for themselves when they were older).

In the end we got places in both schools, because the admissions policy was 1) a member of the local church 2) living in the parish of the church
3)living in the village and surrounding areas
and then stuff about siblings etc. So actual church going was avoided because we lived in the parish area and therefore qualified.

We did go and see the local vicar though as a courtesy really, but it wasn't really necessary to get a place. Hth.

ionesmum Mon 16-Sep-02 16:38:38

Agree about going to see the vicar. Most c of e schools have a policy of admitting other beliefs. I'm thinking of sending dd to a Quaker school even though we are Anglicans because I like their ethos. If you explain your reasons for choosing the school to your vicar I am sure he/she will appreciate them.

robinw Mon 16-Sep-02 20:13:26

message withdrawn

Janeway Mon 16-Sep-02 20:27:57

My beliefs have not conformed to any particular church for quite some time (I can remember before I was 11 deliberately not saying the part of the prayers at school and church that I didn't agree with, but saying those that I did)so I can understand your discomfort about pretending.

Regarding church - do you feel uncomfortable about your dd attending church or is it solely discomfort with you going and having to pretend? if it's the latter, and you'd like your dd to have the option then have you friend locally that she could go with? People who really believe, but whom you trust to treat this responsibility sensibly (not forcing their beliefs, just explaining them).

We're lucky enough to have friends with many varied beleifs and we're planning to let ds experience their religions with and through them until he feels he is ready to choose a path for himself.

On Christenings, and other rights of passege (hatches, matches and dispatches ) Our ds is having a party on Saturday to meet his relatives (they all live at the opposite end of the country) and this is the nearest he'll have to a Christening unless he askes to be baptised and understands what he's asking for. Grandparents seem to have accepted it - after the non religeous wedding we've perhaps already crossed that particular hurdle (here's hoping anyway).

Tortington Mon 16-Sep-02 23:47:52

it was onyl because i had gone to church on a regular basis and been part of my chrch community that my children got into the local catholic schools when i moved, they were at first rejected, and i appealled and my priest wrote a letter telling them how active my children were in the church. otherwise my kids would have gone to the local primary and secondary and their results ( which you can look up online) were appaulling, and for children like mine, who struggle with education it would have been a disaster, i fought for them to get into the best school. this HAPPENED to be the local catholic schools,and i already happend to be active in church anyway... however if it had been another school i would have lied and cheated to get them in. which ihave done in the past. before we moved ( which was rather sudden all came about over 6 months) i wanted my son to start senior school at the best school ( without paying for an education you understand) so i lied and said that my child lived at my mothers address to get him into that school. again it went to appeal, and i won -he got in!
i am trying to do what i can to ensure my kids have the best possible education from the state. and i feel very justified in doing so.

chiara71 Tue 17-Sep-02 13:44:06

thank you for the good advice, I think I will volounteer for the creche which will also give me an opportunity to meet the vicar and talk to him. And I will contact the school as well, which I think is quite oversubscribed as it's got a very good name.

It is reassuring to see that there other people in the same situation.

Rhubarb, thank you for the advice but I'm not confused myself, that's why I don't feel confortable about going to church, I was brought catholic and attended church until about 14-15 when I decided it wasn't for me. It just happens that I believe in the same principles as christians do, only I do not believe they come from god. I know I don't have any faith whatsoever, and there's little point for me to go and read the bible now.

But I want my daughter to have a choice and be brought up with good principles.

(robinw that's my catholic upbringing, it's service in the COE isn't it?)

janeway, the idea of sending her with friends is a good one, but this friend of mine is already doing a lot for me and I can't bear to ask her one more favour!!

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