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  1. #1

    Default What happens when you *don't* raise your kids to be religious- Lit and culture

    Sorry for the weird title, my oldest is now in 8th grade, and a lot of references in literature have to do with religion, faith, meaning of life- yada, yada, yada. We are doing OM 8th grade, and the first book was The Giver- we had a lot of interesting conversation about what it meant to be human, feelings and emotions, right and wrong, who is the GIver, and why was the culture set up the way it was. Next it was Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I'm not going to pretend I enjoyed this book, but when I read it I noted a lot of irony, subtle digs at religious notions, faith, ect. (it's written by an atheist, so I assumed it was done on purpose). When it was time for our book discussion, I was sort of taken aback by my 8th graders lack of picking up on these ironies, absurd humor, ect. What is the meaning of life? 42? WHy is it absurd? Why do they try to then find the right question to the answer 42, ect. How this realates to the eternal question of the meaning of life. What is a Babel Fish, why would it prove or disprove GOd? What is faith? I don't think my kids get it, and after our discussion yesterday, I'm wondering if anyone who is not raise with religion really gets the power of faith. At one point I was telling her that yes, when people pray they really do believe God has the power to heal them. She says "Haven't we about moved past that with our knowledge of medicine?" Oh, child, how I wish! I'm like "EVERYONE you know believes this- seriously believes it! No, we have not moved past it. DId you not hear the 4H lady say there was no way it would rain b/c she prayed so hard?" "Yeah, mom, but she's crazy." "DD, people pray to GOd for parking spaces, and then post on FB that he's answered their prayers- and yes, they really do believe it!" :::looks at me like I'm a little crazy:::

    I have taught my kids religion in a cultural, historical way, but this has always left me wondering if I am doing something wrong. My kids know the basics, we've read Children's Bibles, but honestly they know way more about Egyptian, Greek and Roman Gods- probably also NOrse GOds, than they do about Christianity and Islam. THey get Polytheism vs Monotheism. THey just don't get that for most people, it's real! People are willing to kill themselves in the name of religion TODAY! It's not gone or a thing of the past, it's now.

    Are my kids going to be lacking when they are in college and are asked some of these 'deep thought' questions that relate to faith and religion (namely Christianity). When we talked about the meaning of life, and how absurd the answer 42 is, my DD said there really isn't any meaning to life- we just exist, she doesn't see some all-encompassing plan being made by an invisible being, and the idea that absolutely everything that happens is part of his plan- which most people we know believe, it's how they cope with sadness and loss, she just thinks the entire idea is crazy. We even got into the whole "If God is all Knowing and all good and all powerful, how can he exist- if he's capable of stopping evil and does not, then he isn't all good. If he isn't capable of stopping it, then he's not all powerful. If he knows about evil ahead of time, and chooses to do nothing to stop it, how can he be considered good? Lots of good discussion- and not things we've really talked about before. I guess b/c we don't go to Sunday school, and DH and I have made it a point to allow our kids to come to their own conclusions about things, we haven't done a lot of morality teaching like you would in Sunday School. Lots of these topics just haven't came up. I admit to not having some discussions b/c I wanted my kids to be able to reason things out for themselves before bringing them up, allowing them to make their own choices and decisions.

    So, for those w/ older kids, do you think your kids really 'get' faith and religion? Have they suffered any in college by not really understanding literature and cultural significance of religious points of view? If you grew up outside of a major religion, do you feel you fully understand it? What would have helped you in dealing with religious people and in understanding the depths of faith? I was raised a 6-day creationist, 3x a week Church, along w/ Bible study at home. My parents are and were very faithful to their church. I am the only one who left- sibblings are still in it. I know I was discussing right and wrong, morality, pointing out flaws in 'science' (ha ha ha), and memorizing scripture at a young age. I still have those scripture memorized, and I am amazed at how well I can still recall them, still open the Bible and flip to a passage if I need to. I don't think my kids really understand it. ANd there are so many different denominations, it's hard to differentiate between them all. I have tried a little bit, to the oldest, but it's just confusing and she doesn't see why the point of Baptism and salvation, the amount of times you take communion, the type of music you sing/play, and the roles of women in churches - how these little issues that were real things for me, matter. She knows basic Baptist, Catholic, ect. but not what they really follow or teach as it pertains to scripture. Is there a way to teach this to kids, or will it always be irrelevant?
    Mom to 5 great kids~

  2. T4L In Forum Jan20
  3. #2


    Wow, i have so much to reply to in your post. I will soon, but discovered this morning that the internet bill was neglected. Not about to write a long response on my phone, lol!! But i have had these same questions, having been raised very religious myself but raising girls without it, oldest now in 7th grade (and she just finished reading Hitchhikers Guide and loved it!! But i need to read it...i know...unbelievable i haven't yet).

    So look for a longer response soon, lol!

  4. #3


    Errr yes, its sort of obvious *I* enjoyed Hitchhikers.

    I was also raised in absence of religion, and I probably read Hitchhikers when I was in middle or high schoool. (I also read and consider Good Omens to be a crucial book in my religious education. I would say I got a lot of my apocalyptic education coming from Good Omens. (The 4 motorcyclists of the Apocalypse, yanno, along with some Genesis characters. Including a demon named AJ Crowley, who I didnt know was named after some occultist. When I found out later, it was a joke I enjoyed after the read. )
    I also learned a bunch about catholicism from watching Dogma.

    Maybe just point out the major references, and let the rest go? How could you get better results without indoctrinating them or forcing them to wade through all that mess?
    Like explaining before watching Indiana Jones about what the Ark of the Covenant was, and why the Nazis were interested in it?
    Homeschooling DS13, DS6.


    My spelling was fine, then my brain left me.

  5. #4


    Kids raised in religious households would not get it either. I took a secular course on religion and the bible as literature in college. You would not believe how people would not get the references because the were so narrowly focused on their interpretation and their religion they would not get it and when it was explained then they were upset.

    No I don't think you are doing a disservice to you child. Knowing that there are people out there with different beliefs and that there is not this good-bad binary, but that there are all different kinds of people who are religious and secular.

    I think the one downside of not studying religious texts as literature is if someone is a humanities major in college they will not understand all of the art and literature references. But that is all. And that can be got over easily. I don't think our kids need to have anything more than a survey of cultures that includes religions and its influence on history and culture.
    Last edited by Mariam; 09-08-2016 at 08:18 PM.
    A mama who teaches college writing, as well as help her 12-year-old in
    choosing his own life adventure. Using Global Village School to support our desire to develop a sense of social justice and global awareness.

  6. #5


    Interested in others' opinions on this, mostly curious about the morality aspect. The only thing I could see is that if someone were to believe that there is no meaning of life, and if that leads to believe that life has no value, then I could see that being a potential problem. Obviously not saying that it makes someone a bad person, I hope that didn't come across that way. The majority of people (I'm assuming) with that mindset live very moral lives just because they feel that it's the right thing to do.

    As a recent college grad (though it's come up more at work than at college), I'd say that this is certainly not an issue. I was raised in public school and not really in church. We'd go casually from time to time, and didn't attend bible study or anything like that. From the sound of it, since you said she has read the bible (I've never read the entire thing), she likely knows just as much about Christianity as I do, which is sort of understanding that there are minor differences between the denominations, but not really knowing what the differences are. I have heard of the more common bible stories, David and Goliath, Noah's Ark, etc. But that's about it. It has never really affected me in life, and I never felt I needed to know more.

    Actually, from time to time at work, religion comes up, but it's generally just two people discussing their interpretations of something. Nothing I really know much about, I can't participate, nor do I really care. That seems to be pretty common, as out of the 6-10 people in the room when the conversations happen, only 2 or 3 participate, and the rest either don't know enough to participate, or just don't care enough.

  7. #6


    This is really interesting. I'm wondering what is the "correct" answer that you (or your curriculum) are expecting her to come up with? What is OM? Does it have a xtain slant/worldview?

    Just keep discussing these they come up.....if she needs explanation for a reference. That shouldn't be upsetting. I'm guessing that there a lot of things she doesn't know YET. Are you just more sensitive to the things that are bible related, because you DO know them?

    To me, she sounds just fine. Her perspective is different than yours, because her life experience is vastly different than yours....and she's had a lot less time on this earth I also think that praying for a parking space is just crazy, and even crazier still to believe that it didn't rain because someone prayed hard enough. It IS crazy. She's right! I don't think that she is saying you are crazy for thinking that others believe that. Only that those other people are crazy. If she's seen current events on the news, she knows darn well there are a lot of crazies out there.

    She came into this without the baggage that you've got. It isn't moving mountains to convince her that the supernatural belief others have is silly. It's just not that big of a deal to least that is what I've found with my kids....because they were never preconditioned to believe otherwise.

    I kind of liken it to racism. You have to be carefully the song goes. If a child is not exposed to racist thought and action, they will likely be confused when exposed to a racist that doesn't like those that are unlike themselves. "Why would someone think that about someone that they don't know?"

    I was raised in a religious vacuum at home. I was public schooled, so I was around a wide variety of religious and secular kids. (As a homeschooler, I don't know if your kids have that same perspective.) And I was free to tag along to any friends church that invited parents didn't mind. This did, however, leave me open to question that I should have a religion. We were essentially raised atheist, but being an out in the open atheist at the time was not some ways, it still isn't....but that is how I raise mine.

    The only way that I felt "ignorant", once I was in my early 20's, was simply by not understanding the "structure" of the Book this or that, Character names, Plot overview. LOL!! That might have been helpful, I suppose, but it didn't scar me!

    I don't think you need to have biblical teachings in your background to discuss the meaning of life. Do you? I'm not convinced that any teachings of any faith have the market cornered in that respect. You merely have to be alive, have a life experience and an opinion about it. The answer could, in fact, be 42! Can you prove it isn't?

    And look, you've decided to homeschool........if you wanted them to have the same thought processes, answers, and cookie cutter experience as every other kid, they'd be sitting in a classroom right now.

    The kids are fine
    Homeschooling two sons (14 and 16) from day one. Atheist.
    Eclectic, Slackschooler covering 8th and 10th grades this year.

  8. #7
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    I think reproduction is the biological meaning of life, but that doesn't make me want to have 20 kids.

    I born atheist with an atheist mom who thought we probably "should" go to church from time to time because... well, that's what you should do. In college we studied all the major movements from ancient to modern art - lots of biblical references. I don't think they were over my head, but how do I know? It didn't hinder my academic performance. I think all of the late adolescents probably related to existentialism at that age, lol. I'm not sure if any of this has anything to do with how I deal with religious people. I try to deal with all people the same way - politely and respectfully unless they do me wrong or cut me off in traffic. Then all hell breaks loose.

    Also, I don't think the whole world is judgy fundies even though it seems like homeschool is filled with them. Most people might believe in something, but most people don't build their whole lives around it.
    I'm a work-at-home mom to three, homeschool enthusiast, and avid planner fueled by lattes and Florida sunshine. My oldest is 6 and is a fircond grader (that's somewhere between first and second, naturally), my preschooler just told me she wants to learn how to read, and my toddler is a force of nature.

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  9. #8


    I think being open minded and studying everything (at face value of learning for learning sake and curiosity...with the knowledge of being prejudice free) is better then shutting out all knowledge or only studding one way of thinking (to the point of judgeing any other way of thinking)!!!

  10. #9


    Quote Originally Posted by Relevant View Post
    Interested in others' opinions on this, mostly curious about the morality aspect. The only thing I could see is that if someone were to believe that there is no meaning of life, and if that leads to believe that life has no value, then I could see that being a potential problem. Obviously not saying that it makes someone a bad person, I hope that didn't come across that way. The majority of people (I'm assuming) with that mindset live very moral lives just because they feel that it's the right thing to do.
    That's not religion though, that's morality. Completely separate from religion. Because, believe it or not, most religions don't value life. They value death. They are very focused on what happens AFTER life. Life is lived entirely for what happens after you are no longer alive. It's very very bizarre. (as a background I was raised extremely religious, accruing something like 20,000 hours of religious education by the time I was 18). And even when religion focuses on the value of life, it isn't the value of the person themselves, but rather their value is based on what they do for "god" or the "church". Don't follow the church? Don't believe in god? You aren't valuable to them.

    My husband was raised basically with only a passing acquaintance of religion. He gets a lot of the religious in-jokes, but mostly because I have explained them over the years. The rest, he picks up like I do. Reading everything.

    The thing is, even if one believes there is no meaning to life, no ultimate goal, that doesn't mean life itself doesn't have meaning. Religion believes animals have no soul, so there is no meaning to their life, BUT, their life has meaning. Ask anyone with a beloved pet. Humanity is just weird in what we accept as norm.

  11. #10


    I think your daughter's perspective is right on and quite healthy. Most of that stuff she thinks is irrelevant, crazy and weird is irrelevant, crazy and weird.

    Her experience and perspective is radically different than yours, and perhaps that is why it seems unusual, but I will presume that was intentional - that you did not raise her with the religion you were raised with. So instead of worrying, pat yourself on the back. You've obviously done a good job.

    As others have said the question of the meaning of life is a valid question whether you believe in a religion or not. And the position that there is no meaning is a valid one, that she should be able to justify. And it sounds like you are doing a wonderful job having discussions with her, challenging her ideas, and helping her learn how to craft a well reasoned argument - which is what college classes value. I went to an ostensibly "Christian" college and except in my World Religion class, religion was not a factor in my college education.

    Perhaps the only challenge I see ahead for her is that, lacking an understanding of just how prevalent and fundamental these beliefs are for many (most?) of the people around her, may lead to her unintentionally offending or upsetting people. Living in the heart of the Bible Belt I've learned how to avoid discussions or just nod and smile about religion, church, etc in business, and social settings, because an evangelical Christian finding out that you don't believe in God definitely changes the dynamic. Since you say EVERYONE around her has strong religious beliefs, I imagine you live in a similar community. As she comes into adulthood she needs to understand this dynamic, so as not to hurt her career, or become the PTA pariah, etc.

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What happens when you *don't* raise your kids to be religious- Lit and culture