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I'm a Christian. My husband's an atheist. What should our kid be?

August 9, 2013, at 7:40 AM
 

Dear Starshine,

I have been married for two years, and we just got pregnant. Neither of us was planning it and we were using birth control, but I guess we were the lucky 1 percent. I really love my husband... but he is a devout atheist and I am a devout Christian. I want to have the baby, and so does he, but we are having a hard time deciding how we will bring up our child. What do people do in this situation?

What people do in this situation is fret. And question their own beliefs. And field disconcerting questions from parents, and irritating remarks from in-laws. And wonder just for a terrifying minute what in Christ's name they were thinking marrying someone who believes this nonsense/has no faith at all. And come to think that "hell" may in fact be a home in which Mommy and Daddy regularly seethe and squabble and stab one another with breakfast forks over the scientific probability of a virgin birth.

Just as you are now doing.

But don't worry. As soon as you have a child, you'll realize two things:

1. Children don't listen to what you say; they watch what you do. If you and your mister behave as the most gracious Christians and atheists (and Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Wiccans, and Scientologists) do — by socking it unto others as you would have them sock it you— your kid will follow suit, no matter what spirituality you profess, holidays you celebrate, or hallelujahs you mumble before mealtime.

2. We can't control what our kids think anyway. From the first in-utero elbow punch to the email from college announcing that your child has switched to a theater major, parenting is a humbling, decades-long exercise in acknowledging that you are not in charge of this person. You don't get to decide when they sleep, what they eat, whom they admire — or what and whether they worship.

What if, instead of worrying, you looked forward to showing your child what you love about your religion, and letting the man you love express why he doesn't need it? If you're respectful of each other's perspectives, your child will learn to think for herself and be considerate of others' beliefs.

The world needs more folks like that — and this kid's already proven adept at beating odds.

Send me your dilemmas via email: ToughLove@TheWeek.com. And follow me on Twitter:@ToughLoveAdvice.

 

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