Tuesday, January 31, 2012

that's me in the corner

So here is the blog post where I get all churchy on your ass.
I’m seriously conflicted right now. You have no idea. Here’s what’s up.

I was raised a Roman Catholic. My mother took us to church every Sunday, we went to religious education classes every week, I made my first communion, got confirmed, even went to private Catholic school for seventh and eighth grade. Got married in a Catholic church. The whole thing. And I believed it all up until, I don’t know, my late teens.

Then I started to doubt things, as you do. But because I have all of this Catholic guilt instilled in me, my fear of burning in hell remains strong. So I doubt, but yet I still fear. It’s all very fun, as you can imagine.

I guess at the end of the day, I believe in God. I do. Everything else, I don’t know. I really don’t. I hate the Catholic Church’s stance on so many, many social issues. I haven’t gone to church regularly since my mid-20s. I went in spurts after that – before we got married for a while, and before Jane was baptized for a bit – really, just to show my face, so they would remember me. That’s pretty jerky and hypocritical, right? I know, I know.

But I do feel like something is missing, spiritually, in my life. I do miss taking a moment and just thinking and breathing and remembering and focusing. I try to do that every day but life is so busy and hectic and I feel like I’m doing myself a disservice by not addressing this part of me that feels neglected.

Oh man, I know I’m not making any sense here. Bear with me.

Something else that has been weighing heavily on me is how we plan to raise Jane in terms of religion. I got her baptized four years ago and she has not been back to that same church since. She has only been to church two other times, actually – once for my niece’s confirmation and then this past Christmas, when she kept asking if “the show was over yet.”

And then, the other day, she wanted me to check for dinosaurs in her room. (We routinely have to check her room for dinosaurs, robots, monkeys, etc., before bedtime. Hey, you never know.) I told her there were no more dinosaurs. She asked where they were. I said they were dead. She asked where did they go. And then, because it was late and, basically, because I wanted to watch “The Daily Show,” I said that they were in dinosaur heaven. And then she said:

“What’s heaven?”

I feel like I owe this kid something. I would never in a million years force her to believe anything – you can’t make anyone believe anything, anyway – but I want her to know the fundamentals of religion, and what our family has been brought up with, both Greg’s and my own. And then she can decide. I will make it clear to her what I agree with and what I don’t, and that it’s OK to doubt, but I know there is also something very comforting about religion, especially when you are young, especially if you lose people in your life. To believe there is something else out there is a very powerful thing. And when I’ve lost that, I feel very sad.

So next Sunday, I will start to take her to church. And next fall, I will sign her up for religious classes. And we’ll see where this thing takes us.


Brandeewine said...

Interesting. We've been having many conversations regarding religion in our household, lately.

I was brought up without religion...or, as I like to think of it, allowed to make my own choices.

My husband was brought up initially Roman Catholic, and then his mother subjected him to several more radical and strange churches. He is now a Christian, and does his own Bible studies.

Our kids are split. Our daughter is essentially atheist, like me, and our son has decided to study like his dad.

We try, first and foremost, to stress that different people have different beliefs, and that respect is of the utmost importance. To have such varying beliefs in one household is a challenge, and one that we work on every day.

I don't feel that I am missing anything, by not having faith. I have never felt that I was missing out. My husband, however, seeks the comfort of faith and it provides a support system for him when times are hard.

For me, I am wary of many organized religions. I see many as exclusive and hypocritical. I know that not all are that way; but, my suspicious nature keeps me away.

It will be interesting to see how this goes for you and your family. I hope that you will continue to share about this and provide a welcome alternative viewpoint!

Dwayne "The Train" said...

so, you basically lost me at the whole Roman Catholic...blah, blah...baptized...blah, blah…church... blah, blah…

but then i saw, "I said that they were in dinosaur heaven," and i was intrigued, so i went back to try to read again and now i have an actual no-snark comment...

it may shock you to learn this, but i am a very, very non-religious person...i am not anti-religion, i don't care what anyone else believes...i just don't believe it's for me. in my mind and my world view, there is no god...and i don't see this as a pessimistic or nihilistic fact; it's just a fact.

BUT, i have come to this belief after years of going to a baptist church, reading numerous parts of the bible, going to (and enjoying) catholic services, studying a bit about all world religions, practicing buddhism for a few years...i do believe in having an open mind about religion and in arming oneself with the knowledge about religion. all religions.

MY POINT IS, i think what you are doing is great. jane should get the opportunity to experience religion so that when she is old enough, she, just like you, has the right and knowledge to decide what makes sense to her and her world view.

i know you didn't post this looking for positive reinforcement or anything, but just in case you care, you have my vote.

lgaumond said...

I think that whatever choice feels right in your heart (or your heartspace) is the right one for you and Jane, but know that you don't need to go to church to be spiritual.

Church or no church, as long as you raise Jane with an open mind toward religion (and the world), she will feel comfortable making her mind up about what she believes (or doesn't) when she is old enough.

My situation is exactly like Brandeewine's (minus the kids, of course). I was raised without structured religion, Luke had Catholicism hammered into his life until confirmation.

Go to church if you feel like you should, but if it pains you to go and you truly don't buy what they're selling, then... well, your heart will tell you what to do.

another a-religious, heathen, philosopher (you seem to attract that type, don't you?)

Stereo said...

I get this on so many levels. My parents are Christians and my siblings and I were raised very Christian too. So I would identify as a Christian but at the same time, I still find myself struggling greatly with issues of organised religion.

I don't think I will ever not have faith. Too many things have happened in my life for me to think it's all down to just me. But I would say that it's important for you and for Jane to feel like you have choices. And I think that is what you're giving her.

Anonymous said...

A weighty topic for your blog. You're asking a lot of the same questions and struggling with many of the same issues as we do in our house. It's easy to forget about religion until the kids come into the picture. What to pass on? Kids look to us to learn about the world - about EVERYTHING - so what we pass on is important.

I can understand your need for that quiet moment of introspection/meditation, and having read what you've written, I could probably use that myself too. But although I was brought up by very religious parents, I started to seriously question things in my early 20s and have gradually come to identify as an atheist.

So what to teach the kids? Really tough question, and it comes up in our house over and over again. I do agree with the apparent consensus in these comments that letting your kid decide as he/she grows up is the best option. But in the meantime, how to best educate? Again, I'm not sure there is a right answer. I've put a lot of thought into it myself - how can I differentiate education from indoctrination?

I guess what I want for my own children is for them to be good critical thinkers so that they can decide for themselves what to believe. In today's world, "atheist" is a dirty word, hence my reluctance to identify myself in a commentary thread that's public to all of the Internet.

Good topic though.

Shane said...

I have nothing worthwhile to contribute to this because I am a filthy heathen, but I just wanted to make it known that I read your post and appreciate the difficulty of making a decision like this. As far as I'm concerned, as long as you don't (attempt to) force any beliefs upon her, then you're doing the right thing.

Unknown said...

We are in the same boat. I was raised Christian but I do not like church. My husband is agnostic. I've been drawn to Buddhism for a long time. I still believe in God but I don't want to force on my daughter - the things that were forced on me by own father. I talk to her about Christ and when she is old enough to grasp what it all means, we will explain to her about faith, religion, God, etc... I want her to have a choice and I also want her to have a basic knowledge about salvation. I can't NOT believe. I WANT to see my loved ones after I die. To not believe means I never see my loved ones again. I cannot face that. I think you are doing what is best for YOU and there's nothing wrong with that. (I hope what I wrote makes sense)

HeatherMeH said...

I don't regret my religious upbringing...not anymore. I've learned a lot from it.

As a kid I was forced to follow my parent's religion. After 17 years of living under their roof I tried to get as far away from religion as possible. It took me another four years to realize that faith and belief don't have to = religion.

I've decided that it's important to find something that helps you make it through the day, some path that propels you forward in life.
For some people that is religion, for others it's...something else.

What you are doing for Jane is what you feel is best and it comes from love. If she grows up to be anything like her mom, she will find her own path when the time comes.

Jason said...

I have started and stopped, deleted and restarted so many times on this one.

I am an Atheist.

I do not believe in God, the Bible, the Koran, or any of the other religious teachings out there. I am certain that I am not risking my eternal soul by saying this.

I understand why people believe and have no problem with those that do, for the most part. I believe in everyone's right to think for themselves and choose their path based on what is right for them.

All that said, I think it is actually better to not teach your daughter the bible AT SUCH AN EARLY AGE, I think too many children are lead to their beliefs by the hand and are too indoctrinated by the time they are old enough, and smart enough, to make their choices based on what they really think and feel, and not what they feel like they have to in order to fit in or please their parents.

I don't know if there is a right answer to this one, or even a wrong one for that matter. You have to do what feels right to you, and do the best you can for her based on that. I know that you will, and that is what makes you a good parent.

If I offended anyone, I assure you it was unintentional.

Bryan Austermann said...

Alright. So, I wasn't raised with any sort of consistent religious views. Not that they were inconsistent, just, to me, basically not there.

I remember being younger (I say that because I know how much you harp on the fact that you could be my teen mom and if I had just said young or little, you'd say I still am now... but in any case) I believe it was around Christmas time and somehow my brain started wondering what religion my family was exactly. It probably was because I came across someone who didn't celebrate Christmas and I wondered why this would be, found out it's because of religion, then started gettin' curious.

I remember my mother telling me what we were, but then shortly after forgetting it because it seemed like too much to worry about. And I clearly had more important things to do. (Probably watch The Wizard of Oz for the 108th time.)

I've never been to a Sunday church gathering, sermon, what are they called? See... this is how out of touch on this subject I am. Anyhow, I've never been to one with my family. Except one time when the lovely church of Hope Community Church (formerly Valley Community Church) who owns the space that I grew up in called The Red Door Theatre, gave me a scholarship for college. Ok, off topic? I don't know.

Well I can only remember going to a formal Church thang one other time and it was Easter and my aunt made me go. I remember being bored. I've been to first communions and baptisms for my family members, and weddings, and funerals, too.

But on the whole I didn't grow up with religion. And I don't feel guilty or strange or as if there is something I'm missing out on. That may just be because it's never been a part of my life.

Though, I do feel strange to a certain degree sometimes when I am attending something at a Church. Mostly funerals. At this point, the majority of Church funerals that I've been to, I've sung at. I've done the same song twice. "Borrowed Angels" which I learned from Kristin Chenoweth's album As I Am (and now Some Lessons Learned) It's a great song. Look it up. BUT anyhow... both times (once my great uncle, and just this past December a very close friend of my parents for over 30 years, who I, in a small way, considered to be one of my friends, too) and each time, even though I had a very tight connection to the person who had passed away, I felt out of place and as if I was butting into someone else's territory. How I got past that is just because I knew what I was doing was for them, not for the Church.

Bryan Austermann said...

PART 2 You know you can't wait for more right?!

I guess what I really am saying is, I've been without religion my whole life. I don't consider myself to have a religion now - not even athiest, etc. I just don't do religion. But, there is no telling what my life would have been like and how I would have felt about it all had I been raised with a steady religion. But I don't hate on anyone for their religious views. I do hate on them if they shove it down my throat and tell me I'm wrong for not believing in what they believe. Or tell ANYONE they are wrong.

Also... I know, I know. This is the longest comment in the history of the world. I had friends in middle school and high school who were going to CCD or whatever and hating it. Clearly it was not beneficial to them or their life.

So my thoughts on Jane are that it's great that you are introducing her to what you believe, but as she get's older, listen if she says she's done. I believe you will do that, because it seems you did it yourself. I certainly would trust your parenting skills over mine, too! Hahaha I am not really one to give advice in that department. But I am not upset or disapproving of the way my parents raised me.

Actually, I remember my parents talking about how we should go to Church regularly (I was probably tweens-early teens) and I said I did not care to do it, and they listened and respected that. It seems Jane is saying just the opposite now, so I think it's great that you are listening and respecting what she wants at this moment.

Lora said...

this is tough stuff. My son (who will be 6 next month) doesn't know about heaven or hell either, despite a few deaths in the family.

He has been to church once with my dad, he isn't baptized.

He believes in God as love and energy that's good enough for me. He believes that Jesus was a teacher who taught people how to take care of each other. That's good enough for me too. For now at least.

If you figure all this stuff out, please let us know the secret!