First, a little background.
My parents are Catholic. I was raised as such and went to Catholic school from 5th grade to 8th grade (which I partially credit for my current atheism, ironically enough).
My wife and I are both atheists now, but were obviously not always so.
At one point early on my parents asked my wife, "Do you believe in God?"
To which she succinctly answered, "Not the Judeo-Christian anthropomorphic God, no."
Parents, "But you believe in god?"
"Sure, I don't think humans are the top of the spiritual food chain." (a phrase we both bandied about for a while as we explored our spirituality, prior to this conversation) That was good enough.

Over the years my parents invited us to church less and less. We refused to go one Sunday when on vacation visiting my grandmother (even though the priest was a friend of the family) and opted instead to go out to breakfast.
I've never officially "come out" to my parents or family about my atheism as I don't really see much of a point. The subject doesn't come up, and much like politics it's not really worth discussing because no good would come of it that I can see. (I'm "out" to pretty much everyone BUT immediate family and a select few folks whom I know might "out" me to them.) I let them assume the answer is still the same that my wife gave them years ago.

For the last few years, they haven't bothered inviting us to church, even on Christmas. And this year, as happened last year, the family is getting together after church on Christmas eve, and we will be picking up pizza while everyone else is going to church. Well enough.
I even made the comment that it was so nice that my mom finally "gets it" and didn't even try to invite us this year. She just asked, "Will you guys pick up dinner while we're at church?"

Last night, the other shoe dropped. I was on the phone with her talking about what kind of pizza to order, what time exactly, etc. When she said, "Would it be okay if we took _______ with us to church?" (my three and a half year old son.)
To which I immediately replied, "I'd really rather you didn't."

Silence... A very sad, pitiful, dejected, "okay........ okay..."

I changed the subject, but I have a feeling my children are going to constantly be "in her prayers," more so than they were before. That doesn't bother me at all. She can think happy thoughts to her invisible sky-pixie all she wants. Doesn't effect my life at all one way or the other.

What I worry about is if this is going to become an issue later on. Is she going to try secretly indoctrinating my children whenever she gets the chance now? She has a nativity scene at her house, which my son is mildly interested in (he likes the figurines and doesn't understand why he's not allowed to play with them). She explained that the girl in the scene is Mary, "From the song, 'Mary Did You Know'." Innocent enough because he doesn't know the song, just read the title off of some sheet music on her piano the other day. She didn't explain any further, but I can't help but wonder if that wasn't because I was standing right there and she didn't want to obviously overstep her bounds with him.

Anyway, I worry a bit that strife is coming in the form of having to protect my children from early indoctrination. I worry, too, that soon I will be forced to "come out" to my parents and family which will really not cause anyone any good at all. I'm not militant in my atheism, but I am a fairly strong atheist at this point, and I've seen how easily believers get offended when confronted with simple logic and reason in the face of their superstition. I don't want something as small and stupid as religion to come between my family, but I fear that it will because (obviously) they don't think of religion as stupid or small.

Hopefully I'm worried over nothing. Hopefully my parents will continue with their "don't ask, don't tell" policy when it comes to us and religion. And hopefully her asking to take my son was a one time only "it never hurts to ask" kind of deal. In any case, I plan to stand my ground whatever may come, and I will defend my children against brainwashing despite what turmoil it may cause if it comes down to it.

Thanks for reading. I just had to get this out somewhere, and I figured here I might find sympathetic readers at least.

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Comment by It's just Matt on December 30, 2008 at 12:21pm
Your concerns shouldn't be concerns at all,but as you mentioned,your views on religion aren't simple and small in the eyes of your mother.
You must look after your own family first,of course you know this already.

My mother isn't religious but wants to believe live there is something after death:My wife also likes to think something comes after death.
It's irrelevant to me because death exists outside of my life regardless of what supernatural beliefs I may or may not have.

I've already told my mother that anything or person that doesn't benefit me or my family will get ignored. She didn't want to her it of course, but I have use this life as best as I can while I still have it. I still love and care for others, but if I can't foresee I relatively good outcome of the relationship then it's time lost to me.

You're only being rationally skeptic to think your mother might try getting your child involved with the church.
I wouldn't worry too much however,if she is loving grandmother, she will respect your decisions on what is best for your own child.

My daughter is 5 and I want the bible stories to be told to her as nothing more than stories, just like all other fictional books in her room.
Comment by Dan Gilbert on December 24, 2008 at 12:22pm
I unequivocally told my (very religious) mother that I was an atheist about 3 years ago when she asked me if she could take my 4 year old daughter to Sunday school (I said no).

What I've found works for me (so far) is that I've started to have conversations every so often with my daughter about what other people believe. She had started saying "Oh my God" sometimes and I had her change to "Oh my gosh" because, I told her, it might upset some people if she said "God" that way. Then I explained what some people believed and that not everyone believes that. She asked if I believed in God and I told her I didn't. She was fine with that and has actually asked me about religious topics a few times since then and we've had some great discussions.

Anyway... the point that I meant to make at the beginning (!!!) was that maybe you could "head off" any indoctrination by your mother by simply telling your daughter that different people believe different things. I'm not sure how you'd do it effectively with a 3 1/2 year old, but maybe you can file it away for future use. ;-)

Good luck either way!
Comment by Kevin on December 24, 2008 at 12:01pm
I really don't see why this has to be a big fight. All you (should) have to say is:
"Mom (or whoever), ________ is my child, and I want to raise them in this manner. Would you have wanted anyone to interfere when you were raising us? If _____ wants to go to church when he's a grown up, that's his choice. Right now, it's ours."

And who knows? Maybe she thought it'd be easier for you to handle food sans kid. Although I really think people who bring kids to gatherings like that on purpose (churches, lectures, college orientations, serious adult type movies, etc) should be shot, but I really shouldn't judge.

Kev :)
Comment by Fr33think3r on December 24, 2008 at 7:21am
Thanks for sharing.

I have come out to my mom. She was suprise and had questions. We were never a church going family. A few weeks later my niece, her grand-daughter, had a week of unexplained health problems. Mom told me that she kept praying but started to feel like it was worthless.
Comment by Clarence Dember on December 24, 2008 at 6:34am
When relatives have religion as the cornerstone of their orientation, it's something they value strongly. It looks like they will respect your boundaries on this matter.
Comment by MaleficVTwin on December 23, 2008 at 8:30pm
I have yet to tell my parents or grandparents about being atheist, although I'm pretty sure my parents suspect it. Both of my siblings are also atheist for that matter, despite all three of us being brought up in a religious household. Funnily enough, all three of us are atheist because of church, not in spite of it. :)

As I have no children, I can't really comment on your situation with your mother other than to say good luck and stand your ground.



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