I was listening to NPR today and there was an interview with Julia Sweeney about her new one woman show, “Letting Go of God.” She was discussing her change from Catholicism to atheism. One of the questions she was asked was basically, “Are there any traditions that you had as a child growing up in a Catholic home that you wish your child had growing up in an atheist home?”

I’ve thought about this one. I’ll be raising the potential child in a totally different way than I was raised. In a way I think she’ll be missing out on some good stuff. I think she’ll be gaining a lot of good also but at times I’ve thought about the things that I take for granted that she won’t know.


1. Every time I walk into Hobby Lobby (and that’s disturbingly often) they are playing instrumental hymns. I immediately know all the words to every one. It is like Christian Name that Tune. It is actually annoying and I wish they played something different but it is a whole body of knowledge that my child won’t have.

2. Cultural touchstones – Biblical references are everywhere. I’m used to just looking at people who have no idea of the origin of stories or sayings with a mixture of disbelief and pity. Want to know all about the Biblical allusions in Moby Dick? I can give you the background. Need to realize that “God helps those who help themselves” is not actually in the Bible? I’m your girl. Don’t understand why people on the news keep referring to Sodom and Gomorrah? I’ll fill you in. Again it is a body of knowledge that she won’t have.

None of these are of life or death importance on their own but it just seems odd to me. Should I have a book of kids’ Bible stories so she understands the cultural significance? I’ve thought about this for a while and haven’t come up with a satisfactory answer. I’m a big fan of knowledge for the sake of knowledge so the idea of purposely not teaching something bothers me a bit.

5 Replies to “Raising non-Christians in a Christian worl.d”

  1. I’m also of the opinion that it’s not a BAD thing to read the bible (or, bible stories, as the case may be), but keep it in context. I mean, you’ll be reading greek, roman, egyptian, celtic, african, etc mythology to your child, won’t you?? Then why not the bible?? My daughter, 9, has decided that she likes going to my MIL’s church. That’s fine, I just explain to her why I don’t agree with everything the church says (not all of what I don’t agree with is necessary info for her at this point, though, the church’s take on “pre-marital sex” being one of them). I do tell her that a lot of preachers & church-goers think that all women are evil from because supposedly Eve was the first sinner and that I don’t think this is fair because that blames everything on women, and means men don’t have to take responsibility for their own actions. I tie it back to taking responsibility for oneself. She gets that. Besides, she likes apples & can’t see WHY apples (or any fruit) should be a sin to eat. 😉

    And as for the hymn, thing, I’ve recently started missing that myself. Not the hymns themself, necessarily, but the sound of something soft & worshipful playing in the background. Check out the CD “Goddess Chant” by Shawna Carol and “Bread for the Journey” by Shaina Knoll. Also cds by Libana, and many others that you can find on Amazon. This way you can give your home that background music that you miss, with a pagan twist. 😉 I love it that I can have these playing softly in the background, and have some of that hymn feeling going on, without compromising my beliefs in the process.

    These cultural references & missing pieces from our childhood (I was raised baptist) CAN be worked around, and worked out (or in). Just takes a little creative thought.

  2. I’m yet another of the “kids who were taken to an assortment of services” variety. It helped me have a better perspective for things–even though “religious diversity” in my area was pretty much baptist, protestant, catholic, methodist, or Jewish (reform). I also grew up reading books by people who believed in fairies and “rainbow bridges” and that when you went to sleep you had this gold cord that would keep you tethered to the living world while you wandered around outside of your body. It was a very enlightening experience for me as a kid. 🙂

  3. You could always do what my folks did with me, and I am now doing with my kids. Take them to observe services of as many different religions as you have represented in your area, or allow them to go with friends. Also read fairy tales and myths from all cultures, not just European. Everyone is always talking about how important it is to read to your children, why not take the opportunity to expand their horizons? This exposes the little ones to the “feel” of the different cultures and their religions. Then, when the kid is 18, they are free to make their own choice in religion. I like this, because in my home I can keep the traditions I believe in yet my kids are learning that my way is not the only way. It leads to a lot of difficult to answer questions, but I think it is worth it.

  4. Christian kids are usually only taught Christian stories and are taught that they are real. What I plan to do when I have children is expose them to many different religions’ stories taught as stories from around the world. I think that gives a much more accurate view of religion than what Christian children are often taught. Plus, there are a lot of Christians who enjoy Greek mythology even though they don’t believe the myths as real. I don’t enjoy Christian mythology, but my kids might like it even if they don’t believe it as real. Another way to look at it – if you don’t teach your kids Christian stories, someone else will. That someone else will likely be a Christian trying to convert them.

  5. I am a non-practicing Muslim living in a Christian world. I wanted my daughter to have this kind of knowledge, and had no problems with the babysitter taking her to vacation bible school, etc. Knowledge is good. P.S. If you do this, make sure you tell the babysitter that she should not ask the child to accept Jesus as her lord and savior.
    It made me more aware that I should be sharing with her more about the Muslim world.

What Do You Think?