Future grandchildren and how I deal with theist in-laws
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18-08-2016, 04:44 AM
Future grandchildren and how I deal with theist in-laws
A bit of background.

I've been an atheist since my teenage years. My parents (both xtian) never had a problem with it. When my daughter was born I said that I didn't want her baptised and that she could choose to believe in whatever she wanted to when she was able to make a reasoned choice. My wife (a non-practicing xtian) could see my logic and went along with that.............and guess what? Our daughter has grown up to be a lovely well-adjusted young woman and I'm extremely proud of her.

She met her boyfriend at university some six years ago, and despite a falling out which resulted in them breaking up for 18 months, they appear to continue to love each other. He's a nice chap and there now appears to be the possibility that they may get married in the next few years (she's 26 and he's 25) and in the course of time I may be a grandparent.

Now comes the slightly awkward bit.

He comes from a catholic background. His mother (now retired) was the headmistress at a catholic school and apparently both parents are regular worshippers. The boyfriend's religious upbringing resulted in some jollity on our part when our daughter told us that (not long after she'd met him) she'd mentioned that she'd never been baptised and his reaction was puzzlement and horror that she'd never go to heaven. She was frankly amazed that anyone could be so naive, but put it down to his upbringing/parental indoctrination etc. and tried gently to point out some of the fallacies with that perspective.

The issue I have is some way off I'll admit, but I'm wondering how to deal with potential conflicts with my possible in-laws given their evident staunch catholicism and the question of possible grandchildren and their religion. While on the one-hand I could adopt the perspective of "it's none of my business and it's up to my daughter and her partner", I doubt that such an approach would be reciprocated on the part of my possible in-laws. I'm speaking with some experience here as my brother married a devout catholic and despite being an atheist he effectively surrendered to his wife when she insisted that their children be brought up as catholic. His thinking was that he felt he could not impose his atheism on his children - although he has since admitted to me that it was a mistake to think that - and after the first child was born and baptised and confirmed etc. he could not then turn around and say that his other two children should be treated differently.

My position is that I don't want to interfere but if my daughter's in-laws try to influence the "spiritual" upbringing of any grandchildren, I'm not going to stand idly by and watch such indoctrination.

The issue I have is this. How do I flag this at an early stage without coming across as a militant anti-theist interfering old bastard? Because I know that is how I'll be perceived/portrayed if I do it wrong. In other words how do I fire a warning shot across the bows so-to-speak while appearing to be the tolerant, open-minded, liberal individual that I know I am? Angel

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18-08-2016, 06:39 AM
RE: Future grandchildren and how I deal with theist in-laws
I have posted this in the past...one thing I learned when I had grandchildren is that it's not up to me how to raise them.

We raise our kids and then we have to let them raise theirs.

See here they are the bruises some were self-inflicted and some showed up along the way. - JF

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18-08-2016, 08:00 AM
RE: Future grandchildren and how I deal with theist in-laws
(18-08-2016 06:39 AM)Anjele Wrote:  I have posted this in the past...one thing I learned when I had grandchildren is that it's not up to me how to raise them.

We raise our kids and then we have to let them raise theirs.

I take your point Anjele and I do agree with you.........I don't want to interfere in the least. My worry is that the other grandparents may not take such a sensible and enlightened view and I wonder if signalling what's unacceptable at an early stage (if and when grandchildren come along) is appropriate. Maybe it's best to confront the issue of unwarranted interference head on when it arises.

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Excreta Tauri Sapientam Fulgeat (The excrement of the bull causes wisdom to flee)
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18-08-2016, 08:10 AM
RE: Future grandchildren and how I deal with theist in-laws
(18-08-2016 08:00 AM)Silly Deity Wrote:  
(18-08-2016 06:39 AM)Anjele Wrote:  I have posted this in the past...one thing I learned when I had grandchildren is that it's not up to me how to raise them.

We raise our kids and then we have to let them raise theirs.

I take your point Anjele and I do agree with you.........I don't want to interfere in the least. My worry is that the other grandparents may not take such a sensible and enlightened view and I wonder if signalling what's unacceptable at an early stage (if and when grandchildren come along) is appropriate. Maybe it's best to confront the issue of unwarranted interference head on when it arises.

Your grandchildren will learn things from their other grandparents as well as from you.

Don't buy trouble. Your influence on any grandkids can come in many ways. You can be the science grandpa who teaches real world stuff.

It will all work out...you just have to deal with things when they happen...and then again, what you are worried about may never really be an issue. Smile

See here they are the bruises some were self-inflicted and some showed up along the way. - JF

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18-08-2016, 08:22 AM
RE: Future grandchildren and how I deal with theist in-laws
If the other grandparents insist on the religious indoctrination, double-down on it, beat them at their own game. As an atheist the odds are good that you know more about The Bible and about Catholicism and its sordid history than they do. Teach the grandkids (when it's age appropriate) the parts of The Bible that their "good Catholic" grandparents will try to sweep under the rug; the slavery and genocide stuff, the misogyny, the killing of non-believers, etc. Teach them church history, the Crusades, the Inquisition, teach them how scientists were treated. Fight fire with fire.
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18-08-2016, 02:27 PM
RE: Future grandchildren and how I deal with theist in-laws
As Anje says, it's their kids. They get to raise them. Putting the kids into the center of a religious argument will only get the parents to disown both sets of grandparents.

That said, there's lots you can do that has nothing to do with religion. Directly.

Teach them the difference between fiction and reality. Every kid loves bedtime stories, the sillier the better. Once they know what fiction looks like it will be hard to put religion forward as anything other than bad fiction.

Teach them critical thinking and independance. It's the best innocculation a kid can get against woo of all forms.

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Flesh and blood of a dead star, slain in the apocalypse of supernova, resurrected by four billion years of continuous autocatalytic reaction and crowned with the emergent property of sentience in the dream that the universe might one day understand itself.
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19-08-2016, 05:03 AM
Future grandchildren and how I deal with theist in-laws
(18-08-2016 04:44 AM)Silly Deity Wrote:  A bit of background.

My position is that I don't want to interfere but if my daughter's in-laws try to influence the "spiritual" upbringing of any grandchildren, I'm not going to stand idly by and watch such indoctrination.


Assuming they're like every other grown married couple, they likely don't want either parents involvement in issues that should be between them. I don't think if the in-laws violate their wishes here, you should see it as an invitation to do the same. Unless they, or you daughter ask you to intervene as well I think it's best to stay out. Two wrongs don't make a right.


And issues with your daughters mother and father and law, are still their issues, and not yours.




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"Tell me, muse, of the storyteller who has been thrust to the edge of the world, both an infant and an ancient, and through him reveal everyman." ---Homer the aged poet.

"In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."
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22-08-2016, 02:34 PM
RE: Future grandchildren and how I deal with theist in-laws
I've been thinking about this since you first posted, SD. Here are the fruits of my thoughts, for whatever they are worth. Smile

When I think back to my childhood in rural Texas, I had friends my own age, and- as my mother used to say- I collected old men. I would wander into the shops and barns (workshops, not shop shops) and be quiet and listen, and soon they would enjoy my visits, and teach me things.

I'm 50 years old, and the ones that I remember, who had an influence, are not the loud and boisterous ones, who waived their beliefs around like flags.

Nope...the ones I remember are the calm, soft-spoken ones, who could make me believe another person was an idiot with nothing more than a raised eyebrow.

Those guys taught me things, quietly and with an old-school competence that spoke for itself. Not just spiritual or faith based things, welding, carving, metalwork, building airplanes...all sort of things. But regardless what the message was, if it was delivered in a soft spoken, competent way that somehow felt...above it all... then it stuck. To this day.

Not a single one of these old guys would engage in silly arguments with the crazy neighbors- they all made it clear to me that that was unacceptable behavior.

But on the other hand, I was really- SERIOUSLY taken by surprise a few times in my life when one of these calm, confident men would be wronged- or worse, their friends or relatives wronged- by someone. When it came to it, my surrogate grandfathers could all bring the pain, lol. Thus I learned that there is a point where the blowhard becomes the adversary , and then you just win.

You don't fight, you just win.

If I were you- and I am in the same situation, to some degree, although no grandkids yet- I would strive to be the calm, reasonable one who is accepting, not judgmental, and teach by example. When it comes to the other grandparents...raise an eyebrow. Cool
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22-08-2016, 03:00 PM
RE: Future grandchildren and how I deal with theist in-laws
(18-08-2016 08:00 AM)Silly Deity Wrote:  
(18-08-2016 06:39 AM)Anjele Wrote:  I have posted this in the past...one thing I learned when I had grandchildren is that it's not up to me how to raise them.

We raise our kids and then we have to let them raise theirs.

I take your point Anjele and I do agree with you.........I don't want to interfere in the least. My worry is that the other grandparents may not take such a sensible and enlightened view and I wonder if signalling what's unacceptable at an early stage (if and when grandchildren come along) is appropriate. Maybe it's best to confront the issue of unwarranted interference head on when it arises.

Now you sound like a little kid! "He hit me first!"
"Did not"
"Did too"
"Did not"
"Did too,"
but you aren't even waiting for someone to be close enuff to hit or have them hit you.
Your worry is as far away as worrying about whether or not you'll get to Heaven!
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22-08-2016, 04:21 PM
RE: Future grandchildren and how I deal with theist in-laws
(18-08-2016 04:44 AM)Silly Deity Wrote:  "it's none of my business and it's up to my daughter and her partner"
This!, absolutely.
(18-08-2016 04:44 AM)Silly Deity Wrote:  I doubt that such an approach would be reciprocated on the part of my possible in-laws.
Would be interesting to see how that works out for them.

(18-08-2016 04:44 AM)Silly Deity Wrote:  I'm speaking with some experience here as my brother married a devout catholic and despite being an atheist he effectively surrendered to his wife when she insisted that their children be brought up as catholic. His thinking was that he felt he could not impose his atheism on his children - although he has since admitted to me that it was a mistake to think that - and after the first child was born and baptised and confirmed etc. he could not then turn around and say that his other two children should be treated differently.
Have you told this to your daughter?

(18-08-2016 04:44 AM)Silly Deity Wrote:  My position is that I don't want to interfere but if my daughter's in-laws try to influence the "spiritual" upbringing of any grandchildren, I'm not going to stand idly by and watch such indoctrination.
I can understand how frustrating it might be to see yhat the kids aren't getting two sides of the story, they might just get hammered with religion.

(18-08-2016 04:44 AM)Silly Deity Wrote:  The issue I have is this. How do I flag this at an early stage without coming across as a militant anti-theist interfering old bastard? Because I know that is how I'll be perceived/portrayed if I do it wrong. In other words how do I fire a warning shot across the bows so-to-speak while appearing to be the tolerant, open-minded, liberal individual that I know I am? Angel
The way I see it, the kids will see that there is a contrast between one set of grand parents and the other set.
They will realise that one set is religious and the other is not.
They will get cool and fun gifts from you and Bibles and Jesus stories from the other.
Looks like to me that you are already on the path to being their favourite grand parents.

With regards to your relationship with your own daughter (and her husband), I'd say to pretty much stay out of the religious debate, stay out of the (I know best how to bring up your children). They are the parents, it is their decision. Have faith in your own daughter to stick up for herself and her children. Have faith, but be supportive (when asked for support) rather than nagging. Noone like's the nag. It is your job as grandparents to have fun with the kids, it is their job as parents to steer the kids.
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