Editor's Note: It’s not unusual for people who have fallen away from religion to return to their childhood faith when they become parents. But what about nonbelievers, spiritual seekers, or interfaith couples? How are they raising their kids? A recent article reports that some parents join houses of worship whose beliefs they don’t share just to give children the benefits that religion can bring. On several discussion boards, Beliefnet members shared their experiences and opinions on whether kids really need organized religion and the best ways to expose kids to faith.



Let Children Decide

I feel that faith is a personal issue. My husband and I did not attend church, having been forced to as children. We both hated the Christian fundamentalism that had been forced down our throats, and decided that our kids could choose if they wished to attend church or not. They opted to go, one is now an Anglican Priest.

You Can't Teach What You Don't Believe
I don't like the idea of lying to children about something as important as religion. Religion isn't just a fairy tale to the majority of the world, it's a serious attempt at understanding the nature of the universe. It's as much a search for truth as a means of obtaining comfort. Telling someone that there is only one way to God when you don't believe it yourself is rather irresponsible. I also don't see how anyone can be qualified to truthfully answer questions about faith and religion if they don't believe themselves.
I think it would be preferable to be truthful with children. The most important thing is encouraging children to be tolerant of all religions, and I believe this can best be achieved by exposing them to a variety of different beliefs and encouraging them to make their own choices.


Mixed Faiths, Good Kids

We did not take our children to any church services, but allowed my mother to send them to church camp in her denomination. My husband is Christian and I was raised Christian but became Pagan/Wiccan as an adult.  They seem to have learned well and now that they are adults, I am very impressed with their characters.

Support Their Search

One of the most difficult tasks a non-believing parent has is encouraging a child to ask questions and explore and ultimately decide for himself. Keeping my agenda to myself was essential.

Just because I have come to a certain conclusion (humanism) after being raised Episcopalian does not mean that is the only path and I have no more right to indoctrinate my child in that belief than a fundamentalist Christian has in promoting that faith exclusively.

I do, however, believe that faith exploration (especially with children through mid-teens) needs to be experienced with a parent--to question, seek clarifications, explore differences, etc. Keeping an open mind and open heart is critical --it is ultimately a very personal decision we all must reach and a child needs to know that the parent supports and encourages the journey to find a faith that works for the child.
Their path may veer off and change or reach a dead end. Support and encouragement along the way are part of the parent's job.