Hello all, Im new to the site and very happy to find this community free of fairytales. Im married with 2 children and another on the way. I have been with my christian wife for 12 years. I have just anounced my non belief recently. My problem is the children of course. She accepted my quiting church (5 years ago) and is close to being okay with me being atheist. But she gets very upset if anything is mentioned around my kids. My oldest is 6 and full of questions. I would fill like a bad parent if I didnt tell my son the truth when he asks me if somthing is real or why I dont go to church. I love my family and do not want a divorce but I do not want to watch her feed them theism at this age and she would leave me if I told them there was no god when he asked. I told him if he wanted to go to church fine but he didnt have to and that was bad in her eyes. Any ideas on how to handle this? Am I wrong? should I just keep my mouth shut? thanks for reading and any suggestions offered.
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I definitely don't think you're wrong for wanting to tell your kids the truth. It sounds like something you should be discussing with your wife though. She really is going to leave you for answering your children with what you believe to be the truth, the same right she reserves for herself with no consequence from you? Anyway, if something like the existence of a god is itself this much of an issue, I expect there are probably many other beliefs that would influence parenting that would also be issues.
I find it sad that issues of religion threaten to tear apart relationships. It's an unfortunate situation you are in, and I don't know how I would personally handle it. For sure, it is also an unfortunate situation for your kids. I grew up with two friends whose parents were divorced, creating a free, open environment at one house and a strict, religious prison at the other. At the religious house, my friends (brothers) spent all of their time shelled up in their rooms on their computers, hating their lives. They don't talk about it much, but they refer to it as a very dark time for them. Of course, there was more going on than just religion (their dad and step mom argued a lot), but they were also punished for speaking out against religion. As far as I know, there was nothing they could do. They had to switch between living with each parent every couple weeks or month or something. I'm not saying the alternative (their parents not divorcing) would have been better. Maybe I thought it would just help you consider what the future might look like in your specific situation.
When you come to a decision, if you feel like talking about it, I'd be interested to know what came of this, how it's working out, and how you feel about it. This is a modern issue that is the reality for surely many parents, and it's one that I don't hear much about. Feel free to close the discussion after giving a final reply, in case you're worried about people disapproving of your decision. Or feel free not to follow up at all.
And finally, I don't think you should have to need medication to get through this. That doesn't mean you don't though. If you do, you do, and if that's the reality for atheist parents, I would definitely like to know. Again, feel free to keep private whatever you wish. Good luck to you.
Based on experience with a similar situation in my family, I'd say that this should strictly be a conversation between you and your wife. Don't treat the kids as adults here; they aren't really prepared for religious decisions yet and they'll start making up their own minds when they're old enough. The main issues here are whether you will support your wife by involving the kids in her church community and at what point you both think the kids will be old enough to decide whether they want to continue.
I would recommend arranging with your wife for the kids to continue going to church and all related activities, but agree to let them make their own choices once they enter Highschool. When the kids are younger, simply describe yourself as a non-participant, but avoid the high-level issues of belief in God, etc. Don't give them excuses to skip on homework/participation requirements. When they get old enough to ask specific religious questions, give ambiguous answers about what other people think (be honest if they ask you directly), just don't tell them what they should think. As long as both of you generally stay out of the way, your kids will figure out their own beliefs without much trouble.
That's roughly how all my relatives have done it and we haven't had any trouble with a mixed Catholic / Lutheran / Presbyterian / Agnostic / Athiest family. As long as you don't make the kids feel guilty about the beliefs they finally decide, then nobody gets hurt and religion won't be a big issue in their lives.
If a kid really gets involved in the church community while growing up and finds it to be a beneficial and integral part of their life, then it's just fine if they choose to keep the belief. Most teenagers tend towards agnosticism if they grew up in moderate or unpressured religious environments, so it's a good time for letting them drift away from their beliefs and opening the door to your atheism.
The absolute worst thing to do is take an aggressive anti-religious position as Jason suggested. I know many of the atheists here had a negative experience when breaking away from theistic families, but forcing that on the kids is a damn fine way to sink a marriage. It's really an issue between he and his wife; the kids'll do just fine either way as long as they're in a supporting environment.