Atheist father with a problem
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27-05-2012, 08:28 AM
Atheist father with a problem
Hi all,

My name is Cedric. I figured out I was an atheist quite a few years ago. There's no definite date really, belief (of lack thereof) does not have an on/off switch. But that's beside the point.

I live in Malta (Europe), which is predominantly roman catholic, to the extent that religion and politics are very tightly intertwined, and religion permeates society very heavily. To cut a long story short, I have a son who is eight months old. I realized right away that I had to baptize him and raise him in the roman catholic religion, not because it's a good thing to do, but because of the stigma and marginalization he will surely suffer if he is to be brought up as an atheist. These days, it's hard enough to be integrate even if you're a conformist, let alone if you swim against the current. And for children, integrating with society is an essential part of growing up in a healthy manner.

This however brings me a number of predicaments. First of all, by bringing him up in the roman catholic religion, I am filling his mind with the same load of nonsense that has plagued me for the larger part of my life. Essentially, I am being unjust towards him. So, in my mind, I know I want to raise my son as a free thinker with a strong sense of morality and a healthy dose of skepticism towards religion. But how do I achieve that?

Let's be fair here. Children are extremely malleable. They're very easy to influence. But because of the very nature of their malleability, they are very easily confused, and a lot of harm can come out of that. How can I tell my son to disregard what everyone around him is saying about god? How do I teach him to think for himself, when that is clearly a skill that is acquired over time and with maturity? How do I teach him to hold his tongue and not contradict my mother or his teacher when they go on about how much god loves him? Why should I burden him with this internal struggle, forcing him to live a deception. Children should be innocent, not deceptive.

And if I play along with the god game, how can I forgive myself and look him in the eye when he grows up and calls me a liar for having led him down a path I knew was untrue?

I need help with all these problems. And I'm reaching out to this community for help. And as I learn to deal with these difficulties, I intend to start a blog (under a pen name) treating precisely with the issue of atheist fathers facing this same difficulty, because I am sure there are many others out there who are facing this issue every day.

I hope someone here can help me. Kain is only 8 months old, but before I know it he's gonna get to the age where this problem is gonna crop up, and I honestly don't know what to do. Please help me.

Writer, Musician, Magician, Father.
http://DaddyTips.info
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27-05-2012, 10:02 AM
RE: Atheist father with a problem
What if your son stutters, is autistic, or is gay? Your kid may not fit in even if you raise him with faith.

Most parents I know teach their kids about Santa and the tooth fairy. Just about everyone chips in to keep the truth from the kids and when a child is old enough they're brought on to the adult side to tell younger kids the lies.

There's really no reason why you can't bring your child up in the church and make sure you teach him how to think critically. When his faith wavers, and it will if you've given him the tools he needs to think clearly, you can point him to the truth. There are plenty of young Atheists in the closet that haven't had anyone tell them to stay quiet about it, they can tell their position will be ill received by their peers.

But try not to stress about it too much at this stage. Take one problem at a time as it comes up. For all you know, by the time he is 10 there might be a large number of Atheists in your country.
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27-05-2012, 10:25 AM
RE: Atheist father with a problem
Thank you Lloyath for taking the time to reply. You definitely speak sense. Maybe I'm over-thinking the issue.

As for having a large number of atheists in Malta in 10 years time, well, let's just say I'm not too optimistic. Let me tell you how bad the situation is here. Our government, after having been pressured to introduce divorce into the country, finally decided to put the question to the people in the form of a referendum, thinking they could shirk the responsibility and that the people would vote against divorce. When it turned out that the people voted in favor of the introduction of divorce, our Prime Minister, being the godly man that he is, stated that DESPITE THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE, he could not go against his conscience, and that he would vote against the bill.

Good thing the majority in parliament was still in favor of divorce. But that whole situation made me shudder. To think that the church has such a vice-like grip on everything here is terrifying. True, the people are slowly starting to question the church, but the giant is a long way from being brought down...

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27-05-2012, 11:42 AM
RE: Atheist father with a problem
That does sound pretty bad. On the bright side, it seems most of the people and the majority of the parliament aren't as deeply religious as the Prime Minister.

Most kids today use the Internet, or I hope they do over there. They come across information, they see the rest of Europe isn't so oppressed by the Church, and they hear of all the bad that comes from the Catholic Church. Many of them will become less religious than their parents, if not outright atheistic. They will be the ones voting in 10 years, they will be the ones with jobs supporting the economy, and 10 years worth of old extremely religious people will have died.

There is hope, and maybe a large number of atheists may only be a small number, but a small number with a population who isn't so fundamentalist and who will tolerate them. Maybe it'll take 20, 30, 100 years or more before it's what you'd like it to be; I can't see the future.

I'm sure you'll do your best for your son, and he's not going to resent you if he's at all aware of how atheists are regarded over there at the moment, whatever you choose to teach him.
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27-05-2012, 06:29 PM
RE: Atheist father with a problem
(27-05-2012 08:28 AM)theWritingHand Wrote:  My name is Cedric.

Hello Cedric, I'm Bob. [Image: Tip-Hat.gif]

(27-05-2012 08:28 AM)theWritingHand Wrote:  This however brings me a number of predicaments. First of all, by bringing him up in the roman catholic religion, I am filling his mind with the same load of nonsense that has plagued me for the larger part of my life. Essentially, I am being unjust towards him. So, in my mind, I know I want to raise my son as a free thinker with a strong sense of morality and a healthy dose of skepticism towards religion. But how do I achieve that?

Let's be fair here. Children are extremely malleable. They're very easy to influence. But because of the very nature of their malleability, they are very easily confused, and a lot of harm can come out of that. How can I tell my son to disregard what everyone around him is saying about god? How do I teach him to think for himself, when that is clearly a skill that is acquired over time and with maturity? How do I teach him to hold his tongue and not contradict my mother or his teacher when they go on about how much god loves him? Why should I burden him with this internal struggle, forcing him to live a deception. Children should be innocent, not deceptive.

This longtime atheist was married to my Catholic wife in a Catholic Church by a Catholic priest over 26 years ago now. Everyone knew I was an atheist, nobody seemed particularly troubled by it. In order to get married in a Catholic Church by a priest I had to promise not to interfere with the Catholic upbringing of any children we had. I kept my promise. I never interfered with the Church's teachings. I kept my distance and stayed out of the way. (I did push some elementary logic on them but figured there's nothing wrong with that since many great logicians also happened to be Catholic or otherwise religious.) Even when they started asking specific questions, I never attacked the Catholic Church. Rather I questioned the basic premises on which the Church depends. "Will I see Grandma in heaven, Dad?" "Son, do you really think a postmortem preservation of identity is even imaginable, let alone plausible or tenable?" 4 fine young adult atheists later, I'm proud of them and have no regrets.

(27-05-2012 08:28 AM)theWritingHand Wrote:  And if I play along with the god game, how can I forgive myself and look him in the eye when he grows up and calls me a liar for having led him down a path I knew was untrue?

I made a promise. I kept my promise. And the Catholic Church gave me the opportunity to teach my children integrity, which is a far more valuable character trait than Catholicism.

Congratulations on being a new Dad, Cedric. It's all uphill from here. Big Grin

As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
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27-05-2012, 07:05 PM
RE: Atheist father with a problem
My parents were closet atheists.

They never even told me they were until decades later.

They didn't try to influence me in any way re. religion, and I was devoutly catholic until age 10, when the whole shebang looked like a bunch of nonsense to me.

I quit going to church and they didn't say anything then either. No one talked about religion at home. It just wasn't an issue.

What they did do is go through great pains to answer every "why" and "how" question I had, from little on, completely and rationally.

So I graduated from reading the bible at 10, got heavily into nature books, read all kinds of things from dad's library and so on. I never looked back at religion.

Today, you don't need to make libraries available, the internet will do to peak curiosity and the kid can figure out what books to read from there when s/he is old enough to read.

Just make sure you explain everything they want to know, and if you don't know the answer, look it up. When they are too young to absorb the facts, they will lose interest in that topic for a bit. But they will take away that there is a logical answer to everything and that it can be found easily. Equipped like that, they will find their way.

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27-05-2012, 09:32 PM (This post was last modified: 27-05-2012 09:36 PM by GirlyMan.)
RE: Atheist father with a problem
(27-05-2012 07:05 PM)Dom Wrote:  My parents were closet atheists.

They never even told me they were until decades later.

They didn't try to influence me in any way re. religion, and I was devoutly catholic until age 10, when the whole shebang looked like a bunch of nonsense to me.

I quit going to church and they didn't say anything then either. No one talked about religion at home. It just wasn't an issue.

What they did do is go through great pains to answer every "why" and "how" question I had, from little on, completely and rationally.

So I graduated from reading the bible at 10, got heavily into nature books, read all kinds of things from dad's library and so on. I never looked back at religion.

Today, you don't need to make libraries available, the internet will do to peak curiosity and the kid can figure out what books to read from there when s/he is old enough to read.

Just make sure you explain everything they want to know, and if you don't know the answer, look it up. When they are too young to absorb the facts, they will lose interest in that topic for a bit. But they will take away that there is a logical answer to everything and that it can be found easily. Equipped like that, they will find their way.

Equip them to find their own way. ... And then get the fuck outta the way. Big Grin

As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
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28-05-2012, 05:05 AM
RE: Atheist father with a problem
Jesus=Santa.

Tell him about both, but he will learn that one is not real, so at the same time he will come to the conclusion that the other one is not real, but a myth, as well.

As for religion classes and baptism, I know how you feel and it is better to start with that as all the "normal" people start. I live in Croatia, so I understand perfectly how you feel. Do not think that your son will grow to be Catholico-Extremo if he is baptised and you tell him about Jesus, my parents did it to me and look at me now. I went to all the religion classes and never care for any of them, I did all those confirmations you can do in the Church, but I did them all for the money and presents. Let you kid be the same.

Smile

You can do that by ignoring the faith at home. Since you will (obviously) not fill his head with BS, pray all the time and live as a "true Christian", he will not be as deluded as many Christians are. What you do at home is what defines him the most. It is the most important part of learning, so if the parents are normal people and don't push the religion, it is hardly likely that he will not turn out to be atheist around the age of 15 or so.

And if you plan to go with this, then you do not send him to Church, unless it is necessary for some of his confirmations or Holy Communion, or something like that. Let him play whatever instead.

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28-05-2012, 08:32 AM
RE: Atheist father with a problem
I don't have kids and this is one of the things that terrify me about having kids. But I think you can have it both ways. You can baptise your son, teach him the rituals of Catholicism and the traditions so that he doesn't feel left out, and still teach him that's all it really is: Tradition and Rituals.

You can tell him the stories as just stories (after you censor them a little), and leave out the "absolute truth". You can teach him to see the difference between magic and reality. Most kids learn it at a certain age, unless they've been indoctrinated.

All kids know the story of Cuchullain, Fionn mac Cumhaill, etc. They don't think they're real. The bible stories can be treated in the same way if you want to preserve them as a sort of similar 'heritage'. Like Filox said, Jesus and Santa... not much difference there.

I think your son is very lucky to have you as a father. There are so many parents who will just blindly brainwash their kids without a second thought.

"But the point is, find somebody to love. Everything else is overrated." - HouseofCantor
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28-05-2012, 09:41 AM
RE: Atheist father with a problem
(28-05-2012 08:32 AM)Smooshmonster Wrote:  I don't have kids and this is one of the things that terrify me about having kids. But I think you can have it both ways. You can baptise your son, teach him the rituals of Catholicism and the traditions so that he doesn't feel left out, and still teach him that's all it really is: Tradition and Rituals.

You can tell him the stories as just stories (after you censor them a little), and leave out the "absolute truth". You can teach him to see the difference between magic and reality. Most kids learn it at a certain age, unless they've been indoctrinated.

All kids know the story of Cuchullain, Fionn mac Cumhaill, etc. They don't think they're real. The bible stories can be treated in the same way if you want to preserve them as a sort of similar 'heritage'. Like Filox said, Jesus and Santa... not much difference there.

I think your son is very lucky to have you as a father. There are so many parents who will just blindly brainwash their kids without a second thought.
I'm with Smooshy and Filox - if your child is surrounded by religious influence, he'll soon enough see the restrictions of faith. He'll soon learn from you the difference between "tradition" and reality. The less significance you place on religious traditions and rituals, the more likely he will see them as just that; unimportant and unnecessary. Your child will be fine; he will likely be a little sponge and the more he absorbs from you, the more likely he'll find that he will never be restrained in any way.

Helping a child to flourish and maintain individuality while socializing can be a struggle. You know very well what he will be up against and you want your child to thrive. It will certainly keep you on your toes, but you sound like you have assessed his growth environment pretty well. Frankly, I would be more concerned if you didn't have fears about his upbringing. Thumbsup

He is lucky to have you as a father!! They grow so quickly... if any of us can advise you to do anything, it would probably be to just enjoy your lovely child every moment. Shy

Welcome to the forum. Smile

ps. Post some pictures of him!!! Yes

A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels. ~ Albert Einstein
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