Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Our religious education schism

OK, my husband and I are not in a schism. But there are high emotions behind our discussion and negotiation of this subject. One of us wants to begin formal religious education for Catherine at a local church, while the other is not in favor of it.

The funny thing is, we are both atheists.

I think Cat could use some knowledge and grounding in major religions, and that the local Unitarian fellowship (OK maybe it's not, strictly speaking, a church) seems like a great place for it. From my research it seems they don't indoctrinate, except in thoughtful, liberal, caring approaches to life that I agree with. They don't have Big Truths they hammer into the kids' heads like Catholicism. Instead they encourage inquiry and reflection in a personal search for meaning.

From my husband's point of view, there is still danger. Six year olds are consummate conformists, and he suggests that whoever is teaching the classes will have a personal religious belief that they can't help inject in some way. Also, there will be the peer pressure of the other students, most of whom probably believe in some god or other.

Our compromise is this: I care more than he does, so I will take her and we will observe what happens. If, as I suspect, she merely comes home saying we need to cut our carbon footprint, or talking about an ethical dilemma they discussed openly, it won't be a problem. If she starts to spout off about how Jesus is the one true savior, I'll be the first one to yank her from class.

Here's the thing though - if we had to sit down and have a serious discussion about this, negotiate our position, and deal with deep-seated feelings from childhood regarding religious education, what the hell do people in mixed marriages do? How can you overcome an atheist/believer or Jewish/Christian divide?

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