Raising Kids Between Religions: Latching onto God Despite a Bad Case of Steeple Confusion

What religion or religions will you raise your children with?

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Now I’ve really done it. But what can I do? I’ve committed to staying with one woman, but I draw the line at drinking one kind beer, sticking with the same pizza toppings, and attending one church. I’m a spiritual guy who likes variety. And like many people my age, I have come to see religion as a valuable aid in one’s personal search for meaning, not an end in itself. It’s a tool. And there are many different tools worth using, or, as the saying goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. And yes, in this analogy, the cat is God and the skinning is how we get to Her (yeah, I said it).

I want my kids to have a religious foundation to their lives and a deep seeded sense of the divine. I don’t, however, want them to hit fifteen and realize that their dad, mom, and most the world, frankly, don’t believe all the unshakeable truths that religions push on us. I think most people are willing to grant God a little larger living space than one book and building. The Buddha said never believe anything until you’ve tested it yourself. If only I could just stay a Buddhist all the time. Problem is, Buddhists don’t have a God, and I like having a God handy. So I’m Catholic too, part-time, especially the time when I want my kids to have some good old ass-kicking religion. You know, old-time religion with straight-backed pews and uncomfortable kneelers and a nice hour of cleansing boredom and jarring organ music. My kids need quiet too—so I’m a part-time Quaker. They also need to be involved in an open, welcoming community: enter the Unitarians. Finally, on the Sunday’s after daddy and mommy were up a little late with their “church community” of friends who drink good wine and chat, well, then there’s this cool church nearby that doesn’t start until five in the evening. It has a rock band and a pastor who wears Chuck Taylor’s.

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My mother disputes: what will your kids do when they grow up? Won’t they just end up doing nothing, therefore becoming uncaring, despairing heathens?

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