Atheist & Theist parenting debate
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17-12-2014, 05:24 PM
Atheist & Theist parenting debate
Hi everyone, just want to say thanks in advance for any advise, it is much appreciated.

I am trying to help my brother in an awkward situation with his wife and her family. He is a nonbeliever while my sis-in-law and her family are hardcore believers. When it comes to raising their children, they are getting a lot of pressure from her family to pray before every meal and go to church every week. This pressure is causing my SIL to argue with my brother about raising their kids "right".
(side note: the oldest is only my brothers child and they have a new baby together).
Recently while at dinner with the in-laws, my nephew refused to bow his head and pray- my brother thought this was awesome and told him that was his choice- the family was, needless to say, pissed and immediately pointed the finger at how bad and disappointing this was. Though this is not their biological grandson, they do treat him as such however my brother feels they are crossing the line. My SIL on the other hand, seeks for her parents approval and wants my brother to force the kids to pray (raise them "right").

My husband and I are both non-believers, so I can't imagine this situation from a personal stand point. I want to help... and always tell them that I believe it should be the child's choice, however I am looking for advise from someone that has experience in a "mix" marriage.... anyone out there ever dealt with this??
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17-12-2014, 11:20 PM
RE: Atheist & Theist parenting debate
My wife is a believer and her entire family is. We have a bit of an understanding. She does not pray at the table when I am there (which is most nights) and I don't forbid the kids from going to church. They see that I am not a church goer and this has led them to ask me about why which I gladly say why in a manner that does not belittle my wife or christian beliefs. So I never say that they are stupid, deluded, or anything even remotely implying it. I will however sprinkle in bible contradictions or the real story if appropriate. I just tell them my stance and leave it at that. It actually is rather nice because they already know at a young age that there are non christians in the world and if they hear anything negative about non-believers, they have to reconcile that with their relationship with their father. The way that I look at it is that if we are over at an in-law's house, it's their house rules. At my house, it is a little awkward. I know that they want to pray and I have never vocally made an issue about it. This year at thanksgiving, everyone just dug in when the food was put on the table which was a first. My wife's family just bowed their heads and did their own thing which I was very appreciative of while the kids chowed down and I took a swig of my beer.

I think it worked out this way because my wife and I have this understanding and that has come through a ton of talking and a 14+ year relationship. She really wanted me to do all the churchy stuff in the beginning but I can't stand it (I did try it for her though). I basically said that I will not lie to our children for her which is basically what she was asking me to do. I would not partake in a facade just so she could indoctrinate our kids with stuff that I don't agree with. I also said that I would never ask of her what she was asking of me and I followed that with a "what if.." about me forbidding them to attend church and how that would make her feel (which is of course the reverse of what she was asking).

Another point I made to her was respect. If she wanted me to respect her beliefs, she would have to respect mine as well but I was careful to acknowledge her feelings on the matter as well. I would ALWAYS start with that: acknowledging her feelings as pretty much any of this is probably going to make her defensive.

In terms of the in-laws, once he and his wife are in a better place, lay the law down and set boundaries. They are his kids too and he certainly has more right in raising them than anyone else except their mother. I had to do that for some things. I would suggest after he and his wife are more on the same page because if she and him are on the same wavelength, then that will go very far with her family. I know that it was that way with my wife's family because she may be more likely to get the "talks" and not him.

I don't know how much of this will be helpful but I wish him good luck with it. I think that my marriage is 10x better since the subject is not as taboo now as it used to be and my wife and I can talk about it together much better than we used to.

"If we are honest—and scientists have to be—we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality.
The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination."
- Paul Dirac
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