How do you raise a religious child when you no longer believe in God?


Dude Turned Dad Episode Twenty One: "Raising a Religious Child as an Atheist"

by Evan Kaufman
Originally Published: 

My son cries in his dress. Water hits his forehead. Frat boy hazing? No. He’s being saved. Rory Kaufman is now a Catholic. I’m holding a camera on the alter. His Jewish-slash-Atheist-slash-Dude-Turned-Dad father. I don’t believe in any of this. So why do I feel this nagging worry that something is wrong?

My take on Religion is a pretty standard College-Freshman-Back-From-His-First-Semester-Thanksgiving-Table take: Human beings are tribal and need structure. Religion provides human beings with a moral framework. It helps us ascribe meaning and face down the darkness that comes after we die. Religion also leads to war, hate, violence, judgment, fundamentalism, and is slowly poisoning the United States from the inside out.

When I fell in love with my wife, I knew she was Catholic. I also knew what kind of person she was. She didn’t hate gay people or believe that the Church was infallible. Faith was a private thing, her religion a reminder of love, sacrifice, and her family.

I matured and my views softened. I still believe that religion is the opiate of the masses, but I recognize there’s more nuance to it. I love and admire that my wife has faith. I envy her on Sunday nights as she sleeps peacefully and I stare into an existential void located in the center of my ceiling. We make it work.

I knew going in that my children were going to be raised Catholic. I also knew that members of my family would be upset. Being Jewish is both religious and cultural. Judaism has special meaning and a complicated history. When you’re a member of one of the most oppressed minority groups, losing even one person is losing a lot.

And so here we are. My son has been introduced to a faith, brought into a fold. The water splashed… the die cast. How will I make peace with a God I have no interest in? How do I make sure to respect the religious views of my wife, my family, and above all else, my son?

It starts with opennesses, seeking, and positivity. The church has a lifelong commitment to service – a trait I would admire in my son. There’s a foundation of peace, love, morality – worthy tools to arm a young man for his passage in this world. It helped my wife become the woman and mother she is today, the person I love. There must be something there, even if I don’t see it.

I still have my reservations. Every parent does. My son is seven months old. He doesn’t know Jesus from Yeezus. I kind of wish it would stay that way. I have always believed that humans create a religion to envision a world they wish existed. A heaven where everything is right. An answer to life’s unanswered questions.

My son will have those questions. Why not start here and see what answers he finds satisfying?

I don’t believe in God. But I do believe in my son.

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