One thing many people would not guess upon meeting me is that
I’m part of a growing “Nones” demographic in the United States. You
wouldn’t guess it by seeing my children either; but we don't identify
with any one religion and question everything. If pressed to categorize myself,
I typically answer as agnostic.
Growing up I sometimes felt like the odd one out from my
friends. While they had church services and Sunday School to attend on the
weekends, I had normal, run-of-the-mill activities. My parents chose not to
baptize me when I was a baby. This knowledge was often met with strange looks
and jokes about my “original sin.”
Occasionally I attended church services with other family
members (mostly out of curiosity), but religion was not an integral part of my
childhood. I even recall attending Vacation Bible School one summer. Church
and religion were just kind of … there. I could go if I wanted, but it was
completely optional. There have been times I’ve “gone through the motions” so
as not to offend others, but I do not regret growing up without being part of
an organized religion. (I did find it interesting enough to minor in Religious
Studies in college though!)
I really feel that spirituality is something my children need to discover in their own way.
The decision to raise our children in a secular family was not
made lightly, but it follows our beliefs and values. The majority of my
husband’s family are practicing Catholics, so our way of doing things is quite
a deviation from his family’s norm. Our wedding set the stage for change by
having an outside ceremony officiated by a non-denominational pastor.
When my husband and I had got pregnant with our first baby, we
consciously made the decision not to have her baptized. We were not sure how
this would go over with his family and discussed it at length. Despite being
confident in my decision, I was nervous what they might say. To me it was not
worth baptizing my children just to appease others. We didn’t belong to a church
and it wasn’t something I believed in.
My own belief system is a tad more complicated and hard enough
to explain to myself. I really feel that spirituality is something my children
need to discover in their own way and not something that comes across as forced
upon them. When I question the existence of God, it feels false to lead them to
believe in the existence of something I cannot prove or disprove.
Accepting yourself and others for who they are and not feeling
the pressure to conform is an important message we are imparting on our
children. Looking to my kids’ futures, it’s encouraging to know that according to Phil
Zuckerman, a professor
of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College, some studies have found that secular
teenagers are far less likely to care what the “cool kids” think or express a
need to fit in with them. They are likely to grow up more accepting and
tolerant as well.
We do not say prayers during our bedtime routines or read Bible
stories to our children. We don’t take our children to mass or attend church
services except on rare occasions to support family or friends. When the
questions come from our children about God and our existence, we’ll answer them
to the best of our ability. And I know—the biggest questions are yet to come.