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would I be unreasonable to raise my daughter in a loose CofE setting if I don't believe in God?

45 replies

suburbanslacker · 10/04/2013 17:51

Have name changed for his as I'm expecting to get flamed and fair enough, bring it on if you think I'm a big fat hypocrite, but I'm really wrestling with this. I'm a life-long agnostic bordering on atheist from the point of view of actually believing that there is a God and that Jesus was His son etc. Wasn't brought up in the Church, although I went to a CofE primary and I would struggle to believe in this stuff being literally true even if I had been.
There are also a number of things that I find troubling about modern Christianity, primarily relating to teachings about the role of women and sexuality. I know CofE tends to be more progressive on these points than Catholicism or evangelical Christianity but still a lot of this sticks in the craw.
And yet, there's a lot about Christian teachings which appeals to me from the perspective of life management and general philosophy: I like the doctrine of forgiveness, inclusiveness, looking out for the weaker and more vulnerable members of society etc. I feel that although I wasn't ever raised formally as a Christian I benefitted spiritually and emotionally from having these things filter into my education and the environment I lived in. Also, I am attracted to the idea of community and I think Church communities are probably quite good for children as long as the teaching isn't too strident. And I think children benefit from having a "spiritual" upbringing with lower case s.
So, would I be a big fat hypocrite and confuse my DD into the bargain? or is it excusable to do this if you don't technically "believe"?

OP posts:

LindyHemming · 10/04/2013 17:54

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Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Pancakeflipper · 10/04/2013 17:57

Is it for school or about your DD actually participating at a church?


suburbanslacker · 10/04/2013 17:58

its not a school thing... genuinely. Its more about my fear of her being sort of "marooned" spiritually. Sounds daft, I grant you. And I know it makes me a hypocrite. But I keep coming back in my head to the idea that the only way to really cement a basic sense of there being more to life than the onslaught of shite that kids are sold as soon as they are old enough to watch television (unless you want to go down the route of becoming a Buddhist, which I can't be arsed to do) is to make sure they have some religious upbringing.

OP posts:

MushroomSoup · 10/04/2013 17:59

Do you mean Primary school? I'm the head of a CE primary and I'm not a Christian. We don't indoctrinate kids - we talk to them about what it means to be a good, moral person and how this came to us through the bible. But we also teach about other religions and show children how to keep their mind open to the possibilities in the world.
You'd definitely not be seen as a hypocrite in my school!


yaimee · 10/04/2013 18:00

I'm thinking of doing this too! I'll be watching this thread with interest because I'm a bit torn too! Hope things work out for you and dd no matter what you decide. Sorry I'm no help!


juneau · 10/04/2013 18:00

Well, if you are a big, fat hypocrite, then so am I!

I was raised by a nominally CofE father and an agnostic mother, went to independent, but Christian schools with religious assembly every morning, chapel 2x per week, baptised at birth, confirmed aged 15, but have since developed a more agnostic/rational perspective. DH was baptised, confirmed and raised Catholic, but is now lapsed and agnostic/rational, like me.

DS1 goes to a Catholic school and we talk to him about the meaning behind religious festivals like Christmas, Easter, etc and have no argument with the Christian teachings of the school, but as a family we do pretty much zero in terms of religious stuff and certainly don't encourage any religious fervour! However, I think it's up to each person to make their own mind up when they're old enough and I like the community thing about church. I actually like going to church, but more because I find it peaceful and I like to sing!


expatinscotland · 10/04/2013 18:02

Why would you, though? I don't want my kids growing up believing in something that doesn't exist.


WhereYouLeftIt · 10/04/2013 18:05

Raise your daughter in a loose CofE setting - what do you actually mean by this? Attend church? Bible stories? I'm not really clear here. But TBH, I also don't see why a religious upbringing (which to me means church attendance, Sunday School, etc.) is necessary to having morals.


suburbanslacker · 10/04/2013 18:05

You see this is a real revelation to me: I have hung around for so long with atheists that I just assumed there was no middle way. My DH is a lapsed Catholic as well and like many lapsed Catholics he's highly cynical about organized religion.
But very interesting to hear from Mushroom in particular. I like the idea of her being raised with kind of moral structure alongside the faculty to question it and I can't really see how else you can get that readily outside the church.
But I do have the nagging sense that that makes me a hypocrite and that I'm somehow being a fraud. How do I deal with the inevitable questions about whether Jesus "really" rose from the dead after three days, etc etc?

OP posts:

BegoniaBampot · 10/04/2013 18:06

no yanbu, I feel very similar. I don't belive in god but see that a tolerant form of christianity can be beneficial. I also like churches and some of the traditions of coming together and celebrating as a community. I told my children about God (obviously half hearted as they don't belive themselves) as as i wanted them to hear about it and see what they thought, also wanted them to understand the story of jesus and that tying into christmas etc. They were baptised into the Catholic Church which was partly the tradition and also to enable them to apply for the local good catholic school. Now have no time for the Catholic Church but still happy to get involved now and then at the local Cof E church.

I don't think it's always black and white in this country due to the tradition and how many of our celebrations and religions and history is so connected to religion.


shrimponastick · 10/04/2013 18:07

Children can make up their own minds soon enough though.

I used to attend church as a young teen - and took myself to confirmation classes. Then when I had DC started going again, and had him baptised.

DS' first school was a CofE school. He then changed to a Catholic Primary school. Yes, there was a lot more religious teaching in that school. It was an excellent school academically and he was happy there. He is now 15 - and has learnt about all different religions. He isn't a Christian (in his own words) but he can understand why some people choose to have a faith.


Mumsyblouse · 10/04/2013 18:10

There's an academic theologian (can't remember his name) who argues exactly this, that he attends church, celebrates the rituals/festivals/celebrations and uses Christian morality (e.g. look after the poor) to live his life, even though he is not a believer in an external God. In other words, there is a benefit to being in a faith community, even if you don't believe. So you are not the first or the last to think these things.


LindyHemming · 10/04/2013 18:12

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ElaineVintage · 10/04/2013 18:12

Yes. Why would you? because of a really good ofsted report? Sorry but if that's the real reason then yes YABU


CharlotteBronteSaurus · 10/04/2013 18:13

i don't think you'll confuse her
dd1 (year 1) attends a church school. we didn't need to attend church, nor profess a faith to send her there, and there are a number of children of other faiths who attend.

the school does have regular visits from Reverend Julie and her assorted curates, and dd1 identifies herself as a Christian, for all that means to a six year old. however, she is very aware that other people have different faiths, and some people, like Mummy, have no faith at all.


MushroomSoup · 10/04/2013 18:13

Suburb the way to deal with the questions about rising from the dead is honestly. I often have fab conversations with pupils (as young as 4) who ask me what I think is true. The honest answer is always best. I tell them that I'm not sure about God but I love bible stories and the messages they bring. I love hymns. I like the thought of heaven. I'm not sure about Jesus curing the lame!
I teach them the traditions of our country and the reasons behind the main Christian celebrations of Xmas and Easter. I don't make them believe it unless they choose to.


lottiegarbanzo · 10/04/2013 18:17

No, they have good stories and music and services provide an opportunity for comtemplation, of whatever sort you like, that doesn't often present itself in day to day life.

I'm not so sure about the moral framework. Yes, many of the stories present a 'do as you would be done by' message and a sense of community and kindness, as does much preaching but others are really downright odd and morally distorted, unless you accept the central god bit (and some even then, especially in the old testament). So I'd say they get you thinking about morality and community but don't necessarily present a coherent or desirable framework.

The same can be said of the community of churchgoers, who exhibit many good words and intentions but often mixed with all sorts of other motivations and actions.

I do think that unless you have experienceda religion from the inside it's hard to understand what it could be all about, so really see the counter-view to atheism or understand why other people might be religious. That understanding, rather than just tolerance of others' obvious gullibility or conformity, that's easy if you grow up an unchallenged atheist, is quite valuable socially and educationally.


badguider · 10/04/2013 18:26

I'm not sure how you can base your life on a christian morality if you are uncomfortable with some of the christian moral stances (e.g. on the role of women and on homosexuality).
There's also the complexity that old-testament morality is decidedly dodgy.

I am a VERY strong believer that you do not have to believe in ANY higher power at all to believe that it is good to be good to people and that 'do unto others as you would have done to you' is a good way to live your life... you can talk about how this results in a co-operative society where everybody looks after each other and tries to do good to contribute to a good community rather than because of any sort of afterlife-based reward or punishment.

An easy to understand example is that I run a guide unit because I want to live in the sort of community where adults will volunteer to run children's activities and sports for children that aren't theirs. I encourage children to pick up litter in the park because we all want a park to use that has no litter etc. etc.

The idea of being 'good' without a 'god' can be related for children to how it's nice to not argue or fight at home because every day is a lot more fun if everybody is happy and friendly rather than because there are rewards and punishments.

So while yanbu if that's what you want to do, but don't believe that a christian upbringing is the only way to raise a child to be a good person and develop a personal moral framework.


MushroomSoup · 10/04/2013 18:30

Badguider I completely agree. But you are still more likely to learn those skills in a church school, IMO. I've taught in many different schools and it seems to be (mostly) the CE schools that actually spend time on teaching this.


specialsubject · 10/04/2013 18:35

religion is NOT the only way to bring up a decent human being.

you know what is right and what is wrong. Teach your child the same. Teach her that 'some people believe' and that it is important to ask and question.

then let her make up her own mind when she is an adult.


badguider · 10/04/2013 18:36

I'm not sure the OP is just talking about school though is she??

I went to catholic school and church as a child and learned some good moral stances, some stances I am now totally against (unmarried families living in sin for example, homosexuality being a sin) and some terribly patronising attitudes towards development and the developing world.... I don't believe that these attitudes are purely catholic and that CofE is immune to these ideas among some clergy, teachers and senior parish members.


Squitten · 10/04/2013 18:36

Well, I went to Catholic schools my whole life and still turned out an atheist so it's certainly not a deciding factor!

As far as morals go, you do NOT need religion to teach them to your child! Is it not enough to tell them that they should be a good person purely because being good people makes the world a nice place for everyone to live in?

As far as dealing with questions of religion, while they're little I'll just say that it's what some people believe but we don't and hopefully leave it at that. As they get older, I will be explaining the development from a time when everyone believed in God to today, when a large number of people do not, e.g. how science taught us a lot about the world that we didn't know before, etc.

I certainly wouldn't send my child to a faith school if there was a decent alternative


pointythings · 10/04/2013 18:40

I'm on the fence about this - as a long-time card-carrying atheist of the non-Dawkins kind, I've always felt that I had no right to 'raise my children in the faith', or lack thereof. IMO no-one has the right to impose either a faith or a lack of faith on their children, you have to guide them and let them find their own way.

So I sent mine to our local C of E school - not on religious or educational grounds, I just liked the 'feel' of it and was lucky enough to have a choice. I stated very openly on the form that I was an atheist and that DH was a non-church going American Presbyterian. When DD1 started coming home with strong religious convictions, we used that as a point of discussion - age-appropriately, of course.

They had access to children's Bibles, we talked about different faiths and fortunately their school's RE teaching was very much of the 'about' sort rather than the 'indoctrination' sort - it encompassed all faiths and none and they went into philosophy as well.

Our DDs are now 10 and 12 and are agnostic-leaning-towards-atheism, though after reading the Percy Jackson books they like the idea of the Greek gods Smile. Whatever they choose to believe, we will support them.


GruffaloAteMySocks · 10/04/2013 18:43

I think you can raise a child to have those values without raising them in a quasi-religious environment. I'm an atheist and my parents are agnostic, they managed to instill decent morals into me w/o religion.


Chocotrekkie · 10/04/2013 18:45

My girls are at c of e school and oh is very atheist. I'm not really interested in religion either way. The school is great and does teach about all faiths, so they do bits for Diwali etc.

Where we are the choice seems to mainly be catholic or c of e. For me walking to school and having classmates in the same street were important factors as well in the school choice.

The schools values are Christian in nature - but honesty, respect, friendship etc seem like good values to me..

Dd2 age 5 however repeated to the vicer that the true meaning of Christmas is selection boxes ! (she did see the funny side)

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