Would you rather have been raised with or without religion?

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(lifted from another thread)


-- Anonymous, July 19, 2001


With. My parents weren't terribly religious -- my whole Assembly of God experience was on my own, without parental involvement. But damn, how do you understand English literature without a religious background?

I wouldn't raise my kids in a religion since I don't have one, but I'm not sorry I experienced all that stuff. Well, okay, the nightmares about the Rapture I could have done without. But the AoG didn't really mess me up or anything. I was able to transition into a godless-heathen, liberal-humanist lifestyle without any difficulty.

-- Anonymous, July 19, 2001

I'm glad I was raised with religion. I was raised Catholic. It gave me a basic template of beliefs from which I've felt free to add, subtract, and change as I've gotten older. My parents were always open to their kids, once they became teenagers, exploring different avenues of faith. One brother is now still Catholic, one is an agnostic, and I'm a quasi-Catholic now thinking about joining the Quaker Church.

-- Anonymous, July 19, 2001

Gah, good question. I was raised Catholic, which I tend to think of as more of a cultural than a religious background--my parents aren't really observant, and I like to refer to our family as Slacker Catholics. But I've got this whole cultural background that includes the saints, the Virgin, the no-meat Fridays, the confessionals, what- have-you. I've realized that a lot of our family traditions are somehow rooted in Catholicism, even if we didn't talk about God much.

To try and think of myself having been raised entirely without religion, though, involves thinking of being raised by entirely different people. It's too big a leap. For me the big question is what to do when/if I have kids--do I want to raise them with a religious background? It would be hard, since I don't feel affiliations to any organize religious groups. If I were to do it I'd definitely raise them Quaker, though. I could feel pretty good about that.

-- Anonymous, July 19, 2001

With. (wait, I was born in June... am I with or without?)

I have lots of issues with religion, now, mostly due to the parental "do as I say (or what the preacher says) not as I do" philosophies utilized by my parents. But, some of the smaller lessons that I learned, such as moral responsibility, considering others before self, acknowledgement of higher power/understanding... have served me well. Unfortunately, religion, in my mind, has the possibility to -really- mess some people up as far as racism, sexism, and some other areas of social context.

My brother is currently finishing off his Ph.D. at a seminary in Ft. Worth.... but it's more of an odd thing to me. We (our family) was never particularly involved, other than Sunday mornings, and that was sporadic. I'm not sure what his major influence was.... but that brings me to an observation that I've felt rings true in some of my memories of him: I feel that religion can exacerbate, or can be an arena in which, mental disease can flourish, or even be nurtured. I feel that a sense of mental health accountability is more easily lost in the social circles of spiritual fellowship, than in other areas.

I'm not clear on what this means to me, but in -my- past experiences with friends & family, I've tended to notice a few people with questionable mental health who had either religious influences/manifestations (God spoke to me and told me to do X), or allowed their religious beliefs to change their behavior in a way that would in general be an outward sign of mental duress (stopping strangers to "witness" in a socially unacceptable and awkward manner, or letting other aspects of their life (such as family relations or personal health) degrade while solely and intently focusing on Church activities. But that's just -my- experience...

-- Anonymous, July 19, 2001

I was raised without, and am very glad of it.

My parents had a Catholic wedding (to please Dad's parents), and my mother had to undergo training during which she was required to sign a document promising to raise her children Catholic.

Mom brought my brother, my sister and I to church every Sunday until I was four. At that point, she said she was worried that we "might start understanding it."

Mom rocks.

-- Anonymous, July 19, 2001

I'm really torn on this one. In a lot of ways I'm glad I had the exposure to the church that I did. As Beth said, it gives you a basis to understand so many things in literature, film, tv, the visual arts.

In fact I'm often stunned by my husband's lack of religious knowledge. His family is Catholic but apparently just stopped going sometime before he was born. Stories I thought every kid learned - Moses, Jonah and the whale, Lazarus, etc. - he just has no idea. Explaining the meaning of several songs on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack was interesting. Not to mention his shock to find out that "damn" is considered a very serious curse word in my parents house and could lead to my sister not letting him be around her kids.

And yet. . . the church I grew up in was very intolerant. Homosexuality was one of the worst sins imaginable and those people were beyond saving, witnessing to them was pointless. We weren't allowed to go bowling because they served liquor in the building and we'd be exposed to sin. That one is like my issues with the Evil Rock meetings. They actually thought that if the Youth Group went bowling we'd all be overcome with temptation and end up drunk and probably pregnant. But we didn't want to drink, we agreed with the teachings. We just wanted to bowl. Cards were a sin because they were associated with gambling. But we just wanted to play Hands & Feet, no gambling. (It's like canasta with two hands per person.)

I do wish I hadn't gone to Evangel. Although I did meet some people who were open minded and wouldn't condemn you to Hell for making a mistake, most of them were quite content to believe everything handed to them without question. I think you can't have a true faith unless you have a personal faith. YOu've examined what you are taught, you've put thought into it, and you embraced it because you believe it to be true, not because it's what you are told is true. Plus all my religious rebellion and questioning interfered with my school work and I never did go to another school and finish my degree. Also, it's a damn expensive place.

I too have been considering the Quaker church. My parents both worked at a Quaker-owned college in Indiana and everything I've learned about the church I've liked. It's important to me that my children have a religious foundation to grow from and find their way. I don't to be like my parents, putting my kids on a bus to church on Sunday while I stay at home watching Planet of the Apes reruns.

-- Anonymous, July 19, 2001

True, Beth. And you won't understand a damn thing that's going on in Rennaissance art, either, if you don't have some sort of Judeo- Christian grounding. But that said, I would have rather come across my Christian background the intellectual, boning-up-on-the-background sort of way, rather than having been steeped in it.

I consciously rejected Christianity, like all good briefly-Philosophy- majors do, but my religious background pops up at me when I least expect it. It sometimes uncomfortably informs my values and deep-down personal prejudices -- out of nowhere I'll be surprised at being surprised (and slightly shocked) when someone takes for granted, say, Jesus not having existed at all, or only as an historical figure. How can that be!, my heart will cry, before I can slap it around and shut it up. Or I'll just automatically assume that everyone understands transubstantiation and the Trinity and all the other trappings, and be slightly scandalized when someone blinks at me and wonders what the hell I'm talking about.

I don't know. It fucks with me when I least expects it, and left me with some naive bits and pieces that I'll never be able to hunt down entirely and totally eradicate.

-- Anonymous, July 19, 2001

You don't need a religious background per se to read the bible or to be familiar with religious traditions. I grew up with agnostic parents and never went to church or anything, but I was still presented with elements of the Judeo-Christian tradition both at home and in school (my public high school offered "The Bible" as a literature class)--I just wasn't expected to believe in them for myself. So yeah, I'm happy to have grown up the way I did.

-- Anonymous, July 19, 2001

Interesting question ...

For the sake of background, I was raised as a Methodist by parents who were devout but in a subtle, gentle sort of way -- not the in- your-face brimstone type, but the quietly-help-out-the-poor-family type.

In my teens, I began to question the theology, and then in my early twenties, for emotional reasons connected to my father's death and some other factors, I went back into it for a few years. I walked again in my early thirties and now I'd consider myself a secular humanist and agnostic.

So ... would I rather have been raised without? I don't think so, because the sort of religion I was raised with was the best kind, I think ... not judgmental, but principled, and focused more on helping people in need than in condemning "sinners." I grew up with a respect for faith and people who have it, and also with a good example of it at its best.

However, I could have done without that U-turn in my twenties. Although I respect belief, I don't share it, not in any sort of significant or definable way. I didn't even then, but for some reason it seemed important at the time that I should, so I tried and in some ways, I faked it. It wasn't healthy.

-- Anonymous, July 19, 2001

Religion is fine, if it were strictly a faith issue. But what I have found is that too often the very -devout- AoGs (I have no real in- depth knowledge of other denominations) are what I have come to consider mindless, psychotic drones. Two issues: The mentally ill (oh my, the depressed, anxiety-ridden, grief-stricken, etc. - sicko's that they are), and the hunt for Satan in PBS cartoons.

I believe that God is Good, but while exploring and developing that belief, I found that the AoGs may not be. While in this exploration, I found myself surrounded by people who spewed ignorance and intolerance while calling it faith. These -devote- Christians I surrounded myself with denounced the depressed, abused, or victimized for seeking professional help, stating it a faith failure when the so- called -afflicted- turned to a secular solution devoid of God. I have to question not only their mercy, but their very Christianity. I find it incredibly UnChristian that the so-called -faithful- deride the so-called -weak/downtrodden- for wanting relief from whatever issue they have, thereby making them not only a victim of said ailment, but a bad Christian, too. How is that productive OR Christian?

I eventually had to end my affiliation with AoG when at a social gathering I was told Barney was Satan. Get a brain cell, people! Barney is nothing more than a man in a purple costume whose entire platform teaches kindness, self-respect and selfless giving to others. Stop looking for evil in the innocent and listen to the words coming out of your mouth. God can be found the everyday life. Maybe you might even see Him if you stopped your obsessive search for Satan. Heaven forbid that, though. Then we would be forced to ban Veggie Tales, too. Bob the Tomato wanted hair (is that a reference to the vulva????) and Larry Boy is a very blatant phallic symbol, being a cucumber and all. SEX and EVIL, they're EVERYWHERE!

-- Anonymous, July 19, 2001

I am very satisfied with the sort of religious upbringing I had - mom is a quiet 'none of your business' agnostic and dad is a vocal atheist who enjoyed recreational friendly arguments with the local chaplains - for a few years, he hosted weekly poker games/religious dabate with a variety of folks including a Catholic priest and a rabbi, and I got to hang out within earshot of those.

I think I got a good solid background in some of the finer points of various religions without being expected or even encouraged to believe (as an observer rather than participant). I learned that you can be interested in the ideas of a particular religious faith without having to believe, and that you could strongly disagree about a religious view without necessarily disliking or disrespecting the person holding it.

There are only a couple things I wish had been different - at one point, I joined our local chapel's choir (no grand conversion experience - I just wanted to sing) and my dad declined to attend the first service where I had a solo. He didn't do church. That stung a lot - mom convinced him to lighten up before I had my next solo, but it still really bothered me.

The other was a much bigger deal - there was a big giant hole in my knowledge of fundamentalist and charismatic evangelical style Christianity (and it just now dawns that may have been partially because those chaplains wouldn't have joined in a poker game!), and that ignorance on my part bit me in the butt when I got out on my own. While I appreciate my parents stance that we could and should make our own decisions about religion, I do strongly wish that they'd had been a bit more willing to warning me that not every Christian was going to be as willing as the ones I'd met to allow for exploration without shouting "you're going to hell!" everytime I disagreed with them, or even questioned.

-- Anonymous, July 19, 2001

But Lynda, you are going to hell. So, I'll pack some extra water for you. :)

-- Anonymous, July 19, 2001

Hey, Lynda, see you there! I'll bring the tequila if you bring the limes!

-- Anonymous, July 20, 2001

My mother rebelled against her parents' atheism and wound up Catholic. When I was about 10, my parents became very devout and my life from then on was a round of religion-based activities. During the peak of their involvement, we went to Mass every morning, read a passage from the Bible and discussed it before leaving the dinner table, said the rosary before bedtime, and also had Tuesday-night prayer meetings in town, Saturday all-day meetings in Topsham, Maine. I had to do about three hours a week of reading and discussion on Catholic doctrine and devotional reading. The family went on weekend-long retreats about three times a year. I was about as indoctrinated as you can get.

When something is that ingrained in you -- even if you reject a large part of it later, as I have -- I don't think you're free to regret it anymore. It's sort of suicidal to regret it, like regretting being born.

But I do feel that my religious upbringing isolates me. My interior world gives me such a different perspective from most of my peers that I find it difficult to communicate what I think about many political and moral issues. I imagine it's similar to coming from another continent, fluent in that other place's vocabulary and customs, and trying to communicate with the locals. I have always felt a bit of an immigrant and outsider as a result.

-- Anonymous, July 20, 2001

I think I'm okay having been raised without much religion. My mom was Jewish, but it was more cultural -her parents were socialist and anti- religion, although I think she went to Hebrew school for 'cultural survival'-type reasons. She had a bad relationship with her folks and ended up rebelling against even cultural judaism, going to Catholic church for a while, then ende up sorta agnostic, or at least unaffiliated. My dad was raised Methodist with some baptist experiences, but hated it. As I grew up, he was the one who hated all organised religion. He meditates, which I tried when I was young but couldn't sit still for. However, I went to Quaker school my whole life before high school, so I had some experience of a religion that was pretty laid-back, and whose practices I didn't mind and even valued (especially witnessing, silence, and concerns for social justice). My mom took me to quaker meeting for a while, in junior high, partly because we both knew i needed to find a better peer group. I had little patience for the religion aspect of it, the bible aspect. I now wish I'd studied the bible more in school or somewhere, because of its influence in art and literature, and because of the stories. I wish I knew the old testament, too. I know much less about judaism than i do christianity.

but as far as values and whatnot, I think my parents loving, and reasoning with me my whole life. My dad's total distrust of hierarchy and coercion and my mom's compassion, and both their concerns about justice and equality (esp. in relation to class, as well as race and gender), have given me a pretty good compass. Then again, i don't see it as theirs, it feels pretty natural to me too. plus they left me with good self-esteem and no fear of speaking my mind. So I can't complain.

-- Anonymous, July 20, 2001

Jen--I know what you mean about your religious background popping up at weird moments. My weirdest come from trying to integrate my family's Catholicism with my lack of it. My mother takes me to church sometimes, and it's always this big question of whether I should take Communion or not. It would make my mother happy, and if I don't believe in it then it shouldn't matter, but. But I've got enough religious left in me to feel that it would be disrespectful to participate in a Sacrament I didn't believe in.

I also had a hugely out-of-proportion flare of righteous indignation at my cousin's confirmation. Almost all of the girls getting confirmed were wearing these teeny tiny strappy dresses. With little short skirts! They don't even let you set -foot- in the Vatican if your skirt is less than knee-length--they actually make women in skirts kneel down to prove that the skirt is knee-length. I was extremely annoyed that the Bishop was just up an anointing all of these girls with their sexy skimpy dresses. I couldn't explain later why it bothered me--I don't myself believe there's anything wrong with cute short dresses, in general, but this wasn't "in general", it was in a religious ceremony inducting them into adult membership in the Church.

But why does that bother me? I still don't have a really good answer.

-- Anonymous, July 20, 2001

Growing up in my area EVERYONE was Catholic. The ethnic makeup of RI/SE Mass is Irish, Portuguese, Italian, and French Canadian. I didn't even know that "Protestant" wasn't like just one religion until I was in my late teens.

I was raised Catholic and was the first member of my family to leave the Church. I didn't like the hierarchy and I didn't like the history. I didn't want to get confirmed. I was pretty adamant about it then, but since I have worked with a lot of Catholic social- justice organizations and found many Catholics more open and tolerant than my priest at St. John's.

-- Anonymous, July 20, 2001

WITH. How can one make any decisions without the tools to do so? Acquiring knowledge is but the first step. Assembling facts and/or experiences as children gives us a basis or starting point for evaluations made as mature individuals.

-- Anonymous, July 20, 2001

With. Frankly, because I'm still a believer (though not in the tradition in which I was raised.) I feel very glad to have a sense that there is something outside us, that there is a higher power. It's comforting and encouraging during crisis times, and I can't imagine what people do who don't have that.

Of course, I'm lucky in that I was raised by liberal Presbyterians. I chose what I believed in, and ultimately went in another direction.

Once I was in a store and overheard some people talking about this issue. One of them said very earnestly, "You have to give your children religious training! They need something to rebel against!"

-- Anonymous, July 20, 2001

Alleline, I whole heartedly agree with your comment on isolation. It's a real catch-22 in life that some of the best things that give us perspective, can also put up a barrier...

-- Anonymous, July 20, 2001

As stated in the other thread, I was raised without religion. I knew about God and Jesus and all that fun stuff, but it wasn't indoctrinated my mind, and I never set foot in a church until I was 16. I was an atheist for most of the time between ages 10-20, then agnostic who only believed in Jesus as a historical figure, then I finally gave over, so to speak.

I don't regret my upbringing at all, I'm a good person with upstanding morals. I do the right thing most of the time. And I feel that my relationship with God is that much more special to me because I found Him on my own, instead of just taking my faith for granted. I think I appreciate it a lot more.

-- Anonymous, July 20, 2001

I was baptised when I was four (no memory of it, but I do have a little card testifying to it), but my family never went to church. Mom was raised a Methodist, but fell away, and Dad is Jewish, but a bagelly Jew rather than observant. We went to weddings and bar-mitzvahs.

Anyway, it worked out well for me - no resentments to overcome when I started to look into it as an adult. I joined a church a few years ago, probably more for the fellowship than out of faith, but my attendance has fallen off since then. (Incidentally, my Mom went back to church in a big way after about 15 years - joined the Catholic Church, then went to the Episcopalians, and is now a Presbyterian. Less incense, I can dig it.)

My ex-boyfriend was raised Catholic and I can assure you, he is *scarred* for life. Not only that, but evidently, he did not ever have occasion to open the Bible - he has no knowledge of the most basic stuff. I had some explaining to do when I claimed that Jesus and Mary were Jewish. It was quite a shock to him.

I'm glad I wasn't raised with a religion, and I could explore and decide for myself what makes sense. Incidentally, my devout Methodist Grandma is against infant baptism, because she thinks you should be old enough to make the decision yourself.

I can't say that I'm much of a Christian, and I really have doubts about some of the most basic tenets of Christianity, but at least I don't have to struggle against a bunch of dogma ingrained in me by others. (My liberal bleeding heart Democrat upbringing causes me enough problems. We worshipped the ACLU in my house. Yep, pinkos, that's us.)

-- Anonymous, July 20, 2001

My mother is a devout agnostic and my father was a nonobservant Jew who became more observant since his divorce (no, this wasn't, as far as I can tell, a reason for the divorce). After rattling around several forms of unaffiliated Judaism, I ended up Orthodox.

Like Susan, I have trouble imagining what it would have been like to have been raised differently. I suppose it would have been nice to have spent more time in a religious school when I was younger -- then maybe my Aramaic would be a few steps above the "torture the page enough and it will usually confess" level.

-- Anonymous, July 20, 2001

Without, as I was. (I notice just about everyone here prefers what they got, which I guess is good.) I have a decent literary knowledge of a lot of early religious writings, which is all I want, and when I need more, I look it up.

I try not to get too snarky about it, why, why do people feel obligated to say "I'm glad I was raised with religion so I could have some morals"? I'm happy for you if you were raised that way and feel that it benefited you, I truly am; if you want to attribute your morality to religion, go you and your faith. Good job. But honestly, I was raised 100% agnostic and I basically don't lie, cheat, steal, murder, rape, burn cities. I don't even drink or smoke.

Oh, but I do take the lord's name in vain a lot.

-- Anonymous, July 20, 2001

But honestly, I was raised 100% agnostic and I basically don't lie, cheat, steal, murder, rape, burn cities. I don't even drink or smoke.

Yeah but, you're still going to hell.

-- Anonymous, July 20, 2001

Yes, but not via lung cancer or the electric chair. And really, isn't that what counts?

-- Anonymous, July 20, 2001

Being raised in a liberal protestant church was worth it. I liked it. Looking around, I am extremely grateful that I wasn't raised in a fundamentalist or extremist church. I didn't have a bunch of hangups to deal with, for example.

Though it seems to me that most of the really cool artists are always rebelling against their Roman Catholic upbringing. That might have been worth something.

And I thought all this even before I started going back to a liberal protestant church again fairly recently.

-- Anonymous, July 20, 2001

Oh, I guess I may as well say. I was raised Methodist and have recently started becoming an Episcopalian.

As a rule of thumb, I would always be more comfortable in a group more liberal than I am, than in a group more conservative than I am.

The UMC and the EC both are pretty "elastic" in what they accept. You'll find very conservative and very liberal, something for everybody. Like I said, I was raised on the moderate-to-liberal side.

-- Anonymous, July 20, 2001

Without… Catholicism really screwed me up… the nuns kept telling us that the Jews were the chosen people, but when I asked why we weren’t Jewish I would get punished… what's with that ?

-- Anonymous, July 20, 2001

Really? Is that all you had to do to get a beat down by some cronie with a bad attitude in a habit? Damb. I wish I would've been brought up Catholic. I had to satisfy my old woman fanatsies down at Wal-Mart on free cholesterol screening day. Getting them to cane me was no problem, but ask 'em to put on a silk thong and recite the Lord's Prayer while doing it and you might as well have shot the Pope.

-- Anonymous, July 23, 2001

See, that's your problem - overkill! Go too far, and people just feel sorry for the poor crazy person. You gotta be subtle about it. Like stand next to them, indignantly talking about how much it costs to put your mom in the Home, and how awful it is they charge you for three meals a day when "everyone knows old ladies don't eat much".

-- Anonymous, July 23, 2001

Thanks for all the positive comments about the Quakers. :)

i was raised without, and i think it's really a grass-is-greener thing, you want whatever you didn't get. But perhaps i wouldn't have been as motivated to find a religious community if i had been born into one.

It would also have been nice to have learned more about other, especially non-Western religions, though. i've lived in places with large minority populations of Sikhs, Muslims and Buddhists, for example, where most of the people who weren't of those religions knew almost nothing about them. And my college classmates--well, some were tolerant, but so many had real trouble with objectivity toward other faiths. Even as a goal.

-- Anonymous, July 24, 2001


I think being raised with a religious background gives you a starting place. As an adult, you can either take it or leave it, but it starts you somewhere.

Also, I think it creates intellectual and moral challenges that you would not otherwise face. I can remember being in third grade and trying to apply some sunday-school lesson I had learned to a fight on the playground. I ended up with a nice black-eye for my efforts. It forced me to consider what relgion meant to me and how I was going to go act in the world -- all at the tender age of 8. I don't think 8- year old athiests face the same kinds of tests.

For the record, my 8-year old self decided that religion was good in a general sense, but that the specifics of any religion were most likely bunkum. My 30-year old self still agrees with that position.

-- Anonymous, July 24, 2001

As an eight year old atheist, I had to consider how I was going to act in the world as well. I don't really think religion is required to give you a "starting place". My parents (and teachers) taught me to behave in a civilized, moral fashion.

That presents plenty of internal conflict and opportunity to weigh what you know is right against what you need to do to adapt socially. No god required. Batteries included if you order before midnight tonight.

-- Anonymous, July 24, 2001

"I don't think 8- year old athiests face the same kinds of tests."

I'm not sure what this means. All children learn about what behavior is expected of them, what is regarded as ethical behaviour, and have to face numerous challenges as they grow up about how to apply those lessons in real-life situations. That's what growing up is all about. What does religion have to do with that?

-- Anonymous, July 24, 2001

Indeed. I doubt there's much of a moral difference between an eight year old who fears burning in hell and another who fears dad beating his little ass.

-- Anonymous, July 24, 2001

The more I hear about others' messed-up religious families and/or total ignorance of beliefs other than their own, the more I appreciate the way my parents raised me.

My parents were both raised Catholic. My dad had become a total atheist by the time he reached college (a Catholic men's school), but has always had the utmost respect for other people's faiths. My mom still attends church, but recognizes the difference between objective fact and personal belief and doesn't necessarily agree with all the church's teachings.

When they got married, they decided that any children of theirs would go to church (with Mom) until age 16 and then be allowed to choose whether to continue. I had made my choice by about age 6, when all my questions of "Why do we do this?" were answered with "Because it's what we do." I figured the adults didn't really know any more than I did and were all just following blindly. My 16th birthday was on a Sunday, and I said "'Bye Mom; have fun at church!".

My parents instilled a strong set of moral values in us children, but I never once heard them condemn anyone or anything as "sinful". I grew up questioning their reasons for proclaiming things right or wrong, and I've ended up agreeing with most of those judgments - because their values were sound and rationally based, not arbitrary or superstitious.

They've never hassled me for not sticking with the Catholic faith - though I was often reprimanded for openly bashing it when I was young. The important lesson was always to respect people's religions even if you don't share them. They did occasionally express bewilderment at some of the alternative beliefs that I tried out, but the bottom line is that as thinking, reasonable, tolerant people, they raised me right.

-- Anonymous, July 24, 2001

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