Religion's Role

By Rebeldad Brian Reid

The holiday season is upon us. Not the mass-consumption holiday season, but the time of year when members of many of the world's faiths celebrate their most holy days. As usual, I'll be sitting out the religious observances and wondering if I'm missing something.

I was raised largely without religion and probably entered a church less than a dozen times -- counting weddings -- in my first 18 years of life. I missed the theology, but didn't feel like there was much else lacking. I grew up in a small, close community, and I have no complaints about the moral foundation that my parents gave me. I've never known anyone to live his life by the "golden rule" as absolutely as my father.

But when my first child was born, we thought that it would be good to raise our children in some sort of religious tradition, to get that sense of community and that grounding in faith. We joined a neighborhood church, had a number of fascinating conversations with the energetic pastor and become part of the regular Sunday-morning crowd.

But after a few months, church began feeling like more of an obligation, one more to-do made more difficult with a toddler in tow. Our attendance became more and more spotty and eventually ceased altogether. I rejoined the ranks of what the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life politely refers to as "unaffiliated."

My experience stands in stark contrast to a lot of my friends and neighbors who have found that their faith -- be it Catholicism, Judaism, Buddhism, Protestantism -- is a crucial element in their quest for balance. It's a chance, they say, to re-center, to connect with what is really important. It's a chance to be among a supportive community. What about you all: How has religion (or being "unaffiliated") affected the way you fit everything into 24 hours a day?

Brian Reid writes about parenting and work-family balance. You can read his blog at

By Brian Reid |  March 20, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts
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Posted by: rlalumiere | March 20, 2008 7:33 AM

My parents were very religious and I do think that my upbringing has a lot to do with the values I hold. But I don't attend church or participate in any religion because I just don't get any spiritual uplift from sitting in church judging others, which is what "being religious" seems to be for a lot of people.

I miss some of the rites, but I don't miss the contempt and self-satisfaction. I know people who are very decent and openly religious and I respect them for sticking with their core beliefs, but I don't know how they put up with all the extraneous stuff.

Posted by: newcanoes | March 20, 2008 7:44 AM

"How has religion (or being "unaffiliated") affected the way you fit everything into 24 hours a day?"

My religion AKA "moral compass" affects ALL aspects of my life.

Posted by: chittybangbang | March 20, 2008 7:49 AM

My faith continually gets me through every thing day to day. It was through my faith that I found over 10 years ago that I was on the wrong path in my career and what my true calling as an educator was to be. It is through the continual practice of my faith with a loving community that I experience the presence of God in my life and that is a comfort. Both my mom and mother in law were diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the last calendar year and my faith daily gets me through that. I was raised in a "mixed" religious household as my mother is Roman Catholic and my father Russian Orthodox. I grew up with a lot of ritual and beauty to the liturgy (from the Greek - work of the people), and have always felt that my presence plays a role. I married a Methodist and we have worked out our schedule so that we attend both liturgies each weekend. His liturgies as well have beauty to them. I love the sacredness that these next several days involve, but it is also about a community. The rituals are important to me since I am a ritualistic person. Church should never feel like an obligation, it should bring you joy!! So to be honest with you, I would continue to "church shop" and find a place where you do find that joy in the community!!

Posted by: annwhite1 | March 20, 2008 8:07 AM

To call Easter a "holiday" is an offense. I know what you're thinking Christmas too is not a "holiday" to the people who observe it properly - it's the celebratiion of the birth of Jesus yaknow?
But too bad the writer fails to understand that our culture is biblically based. The floaters- like the writer - who blow around like little dust devils of wind are a burden to the society which gave them the values of life they in their desultory way profane.

Posted by: usarownow | March 20, 2008 8:13 AM

To call Easter a "holiday" is an offense. I know what you're thinking Christmas too is not a "holiday" to the people who observe it properly - it's the celebratiion of the birth of Jesus yaknow?
But too bad the writer fails to understand that our culture is biblically based. The floaters- like the writer - who blow around like little dust devils of wind are a burden to the society which gave them the values of life they in their desultory way profane.

Posted by: usarownow | March 20, 2008 8:13 AM

It plays no part.

Posted by: Krazijoe | March 20, 2008 8:27 AM

Religion doesn't factor in at all in my life. My husband is Catholic, but I wouldn't say he's a practicing Catholic. Neither of us have been to church in nearly 10 years, and at no point have I/we ever felt we were missing something.

With the birth of our son coming up, we've hit a dilemma -- do we get him baptized? If so, where? We don't belong to any church, and I'm not altogether sure I'm willing (in heart or spirit) to attend some church just to get the baptizm.

We really are struggling with this one. Maybe we'll just wait until he's older and he can decide if it means enough to him to get baptized.

Posted by: Corvette1975 | March 20, 2008 8:34 AM

I'm Episcopalian, and Easter IS a holiday. A holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. People shouldn't be so eager to take offense.

This is an interesting post. Since having two kids, I haven't been going to church. (My husband goes almost every Sunday, and volunteers with the church on Saturday.) But now that our eldest is 4 1/2 and the younger is 18 months, I'm thinking we can start going as a family. And our first try with all four of us will be this Easter Sunday. I'm looking forward to it.

Posted by: J2-D2 | March 20, 2008 8:40 AM

Ummm, usarownow, wtf? The word "holiday" comes from the phrase "holy day." So how it's profane and offensive to call a holy day a holy day, I'm just not getting.

The whole dust devil thing I'm not gonna touch, because I can't even figure out what you're saying. But thanks for providing such an excellent example of the (quite literally) holier-than-thou attitude that pushes a lot of people -- including me -- away from organized religion.

Posted by: laura33 | March 20, 2008 8:46 AM

oh jezus maria lets all get a life and stay away from all religions they are a total fraud a total scam!! religion poisons everything and everyone it touches!! the latest victim perhaps could be mr obama, lets hope not he deserves better.

Posted by: WILLEM1 | March 20, 2008 8:50 AM

"who blow around like little dust devils of wind are a burden to the society which gave them the values of life they in their desultory way profane."
I don't comment much, but wow. Just wow. This sums up completely why I have rejected my Southern Baptist upbringing.

I was going to say more, but that would just feed the troll.

Posted by: rubytuesday | March 20, 2008 9:02 AM

My religion is about hope. Hope for a better world in the hereafter makes the weekly struggle to get kids to church worth while. It also makes the sometimes daily struggles to become more Christlike worth the effort. I believe it was C.S. Lewis who said something like- religion is not about mortals having brief (weekly) experiences with immortality- we are,all of us, immortal beings having an extended (70+ year) mortal experience.

Posted by: tknudson | March 20, 2008 9:09 AM

Religion tends to be a balkanizing topic.

Posted by: chittybangbang | March 20, 2008 9:11 AM

I was raised Methodist for what it's worth. I went to Sunday School (the same church my mom and her sisters grew up in) and had perfect attendence for most of the years and was in the Junior Choir, too.

The church changed ministers before I was confirmed and that new minister (a divorced single woman who outright dispised men -- she didn't practice what she preached so to speak) turned me off. I still went through the motions of confirmation to please my mom (and when my savings bonds from the big event turned 18, I cashed them in and went to Key West). I never did communion after that.

I continued the Sunday school thing as a 'helper', but once I found an out, I ran with it (I joined the fire dept in High School and the drills were Sundays).

Thankfully I moved away in 2004, so I only have to go Christmas Eve when I'm home with my parents, and the occasional wedding.

Needless to say, my mom doesn't get that I don't "get" it (perhaps I should just say I don't and get it over with??). She actually said she thought I'd surprise her and go on Easter! The last place I want to be on Easter is a church.

The ironic part, I have no problem celebrating the commercialism of the holidays (Christmas/Easter)...And I'll probably do the same for my kid(s) some day.

Sorry for the downer of a post! Happy Spring!

Posted by: DLC1220 | March 20, 2008 9:12 AM

"But too bad the writer fails to understand that our culture is biblically based."

Let's keep in mind that our founding father's were secularists. Many of them were borderline atheists, which is saying a lot for that time period. They did not intend for "our culture" (whatever that means) to be in the least based on the Bible. Religion is a personal choice and different for everyone, but it is not in any way the basis for "our" culture, if by our you mean "American". Clearly that's why the founding fathers were so intent on separating church and state; they wanted to avoid the religious massacres in England and allow everyone to practice their religion freely so long as it did not infringe upon anyone else. You seem intent on using religion to attack people, which seems to be the opposite of the basis of American culture.

Posted by: danielle.todd | March 20, 2008 9:13 AM

My attendance with my husband has been sporadic. I have to admit that is much more hassle than it is worth to go with him and I would prefer not to go alone (this is something I would prefer to share - not go it alone)

The ex and I now go together every 2-3 weeks. I feel like it is a bit of a burden because I have to go pick her up and take her home so the church going experience blows a fair number of hours on my only day off. But I do it because I think it is important for the kids to go to church and I do get to see friends that I wouldn't otherwise get to see. As a friend once said to me, "He (her husband) decides whether or not to do something based on whether it is the right thing to do and not on whether or not he has the time" It sounds like a good rule to go by.

I know... its a bit weird that the ex and I get along but I do rather like her - she is a likable person. And I get to share the church going experience with 'family' albeit with a different adult partner.

Posted by: Billie_R | March 20, 2008 9:14 AM

My faith, not religion, is what gets me through every day. I attend church to be part of a community of Christian believers which helps to keep me accountable, grow spiritually, and have a support network.

What I do not understand is why, once you have children, you all the sudden feel a need to attend church or have a child baptised. What is the point if you do not believe?

Posted by: morgan4 | March 20, 2008 9:21 AM

Religion plays no role in our family's life, but it is something to which we've given a lot of thought.

Both DH and I were raised Catholic, and both of us ultimately realized that we didn't actually believe in the tenets of our faith. We have never been churchgoers.

When I was pregnant with DD, we talked a lot about whether and how we wanted to expose her to religion. One thing I was sure of was that I didn't want to affiliate my little girl with the Catholic church. And frankly, I'm comfortable living a totally secular life. DH, however, feels like we're denying DD a community and a place to belong. So we occasionally research other faiths and communities too see if that's where we belong, but haven't found one that we feel is a good fit.

Posted by: newsahm | March 20, 2008 9:30 AM

I don't know about others... but I didn't say I didn't believe. I simply make more effort to attend because I am now thinking about more than just me when I make that decision about whether or not I am going to attend.

In a perfect world, I would have time to do the things that are necessary to make my world go around - like cooking - so that when I make decision to go to church I am not choosing between feeding my body or feeding my soul on any given Sunday. Or given how much gas costs, I am not choosing between spending gas to pick up the ex and kids and buying food or paying the mortgage. But it is not a perfect world, so I attend the best I can but that attendance has little to do with whether or not I believe.

Posted by: Billie_R | March 20, 2008 9:33 AM

"What I do not understand is why, once you have children, you all the sudden feel a need to attend church..."

When you experience first hand the miracle of procreation , you realize that there truly exists a God. Make no mistake about it!

Posted by: DandyLion | March 20, 2008 9:35 AM

Everything I read about religion in America indicates that active particpation in organized religion is steadily going downhill. However, we find in our Catholic Church in Arlington, VA, we have to get to church earlier and earlier if we want to get a seat. Both the 9 & 11 o'clock masses are standing room only every week (no matter the season). Also, 3 to 4 times a year 12 or more new Catholics are brought into the church -- these are young adults approx 20-30 years old. I don't get it. Overall, Arlington is a relatively young, urban, and liberal town. It doesn't seem to jive with the recent study about religion in America.

Posted by: S1234P | March 20, 2008 9:39 AM

Religion is fundamental to my life. It's the basis for my moral code. It's why I act the way I do.

I chose my particular religion (Catholic) - I have ancestors on both sides who were Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Anglican, and various other things. My parents exposed me to various churches, but they never attended regularly - it was a choice I made in my late teens.

We've made sure our kids were educated in our faith, but made it clear that it was something they had to accept themselves; we couldn't force them to believe anything. Three of the four kids were altar servers; the other chose not to and we didn't force her.

We've also made it clear to all of our kids that are to be accepting of all people regardless of their own religion (or lack thereof). They are to tolerate no disrespect of themselves for their religious beliefs, and in return they are to disrespect no one else.

To danielle.todd - let's be careful of the revisionist history. While some of the "founding fathers" were deists (John Adams, although he was clearly no atheist; Ben Franklin), many others were close to "religious fanatics". Samuel Adams, for example, was a devout Puritan. Charles Carroll of Carrollton was a devout Catholic. What brought them together were two things: a knowledge of what the establishment of one church could do to a nation (hundreds of years of fighting between the Church of England and the Catholic Church, and quashing other, minority churches); and a knowledge that they had to be tolerant of each other to ultimately succeed in their enterprise of forming a new nation.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | March 20, 2008 9:39 AM

«my friends and neighbors who have found that their faith -- be it Catholicism, Judaism, Buddhism, Protestantism -- is a crucial element in their quest for balance.»
«How has religion (or being "unaffiliated") affected the way you fit everything into 24 hours a day?»
«By Brian Reid | March 20, 2008; 7:00 AM ET »

Faith, you left out one faith from your list. 24 hours a day, yes. Not just three times a year for Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha and Ramadan, but every day, five times a day. Not alone, men and djinn are not alone in the world, Someone is watching us, He sees us choose to be Pak or Najis, clean or not-clean, He hears us pray.

Five times a day,
Five times a day,
Allah hears us pray,
Allah hears us pray:
Fajr before the sun comes up,
Zhuhr at the height of the noonday sun,
`Asr prayer in the afternoon,
Maghrib after the sun goes down,
`Isha' when it's all dark outside --
Five times a day!

Happy Easter to all our Christian friends!

Posted by: abu_ibrahim | March 20, 2008 9:47 AM

To S1234P: I don't know which church you attend in Arlington but I know (through a running partner) of at least one parish with an active community of single, young parishoners. It's just a guess but I find opportunities for community and cross-over social opportunities in DC that are not professional/networking/work related can be limited. People may be seeking a church community as a way to connect.

Posted by: tntkate | March 20, 2008 9:49 AM

It never fails to amaze me how some of the most religious people are the most judgmental of others. How can one claim to be religious and call other PEOPLE dust devils?

My take is that spirituality comes in many forms and you find it in a lot of places, including in friendships with other people, your commitment to your children, your work, yoga, self-help groups, and sometimes in churches and temples. It's personal, individual and often private.

Love those COEXIST bumper stickers. To me that's what our country is about in terms of religion.

Posted by: leslie4 | March 20, 2008 9:50 AM

To whoever was talking about whether to get their baby baptised:

I believe that in the case of infant baptism (as opposed to adult), baptism is actually more about the parents than the child. The parents are the ones making vows to raise the child Christian. So if you intend to do that, baptising the child is good. However, if you have no desire/belief/intention of doing that whether within a particular church or even within your own home, you probably should not have your child baptised. Just my opinion.

Posted by: rockvillemom | March 20, 2008 9:50 AM

corvette1975 wrote: "With the birth of our son coming up, we've hit a dilemma -- do we get him baptized? If so, where?"

DH and I had the same problem. We were both raised Catholic and both of us are seriously lapsed. We have any number of problems with the Church, but when DS#1 was born, we proved the Jesuits who say "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man" right. Neither of us was comfortable leaving our children unbaptized, mostly because we couldn't dismiss the one in a billion chance that the Church might, maybe, at some point over the last millennium have gotten it right about something.

Of course, we're still lapsed. Now, though, it's becoming an even bigger issue. DS#1, who is 6, came home just the other day and told me that he was "praying to god for a monster truck." Apparently one of his classmates explained that you "pray" for what you want and then you get it. hmmmmmm..... Still not sure how we're going to handle this, but there's nothing quite like the questions of a child for forcing one to consider and define one's own beliefs. We're not likely to jump back on the Catholic bandwagon, but we will need to derive a theology that we can both commit to and explain to our children. Yeah, I know...good luck with that ;-)

Posted by: twoterrificboys | March 20, 2008 9:53 AM

While I'm not comfortable supporting "usarownow"s full post, I don't think that he called people "dust devils." He made an analogy, which as my mother the English teacher would note is a valid literary technique. He said that certain float through things (in particular, religion), in much the same way that dust devils float through the wind. An analogy, not calling them that.

And how is that analogy more disrespectful than this, from WILLEM:

"?oh jezus maria lets all get a life and stay away from all religions they are a total fraud a total scam!! religion poisons everything and everyone it touches!! the latest victim perhaps could be mr obama, lets hope not he deserves better."

Frankly, I find that post pretty insulting and more than a bit naive. But you know what? WILLEM's got a right to post it. (BTW, I really like how Sen. Obama defended his imperfect church and imperfect pastor - in much the same way I'll defend my imperfect church and imperfect pastor.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | March 20, 2008 10:04 AM

You might want to check out the Gene Pool - they are having a similar discussion about religion. As for me, I'm a practicing Catholic hoping to someday get it right. My faith is imperfect, as is my church and its clergy and laity. But we all keep trying. And that includes being kind to those still searching, or still rejecting the love of God. We all have our paths to grace, even if we don't realize we are on one.

Posted by: babsy1 | March 20, 2008 10:19 AM

You might want to check out the Gene Pool - they are having a similar discussion about religion. As for me, I'm a practicing Catholic hoping to someday get it right. My faith is imperfect, as is my church and its clergy and laity. But we all keep trying. And that includes being kind to those still searching, or still rejecting the love of God. We all have our paths to grace, even if we don't realize we are on one.

Posted by: babsy1 | March 20, 2008 10:20 AM

I was raised in a church and it was always a big part of my families social life. When I moved here I dropped out although I would still attend worship with my family on special days.

When we had our son my FIL asked if we'd have him baptized. I thought about it and eventually tried out a church in our neighborhood.

They had nursery care for worship and I decided that I didn't mind parking baby in the nursery and having an hour to sit in worship. So it wasn't such a burden.

I eventually joined that church and participated in the Christian education program. It was a pain to show up at 9:30 on Sunday mornings, but we got there.

I've discovered that the most successful families often mix church attendance with breakfasts at McDonald's or Dunkin Donuts. Sometimes that special treat (some would call it artery clogging!) is what it takes to get everybody up and going. Hey - isn't that family time?

Now that my children are grown and I have retired from teaching Sunday school I don't go quite as regularly. But my kids turn up a couple of times a month and we all go together.

I think it's just part of who we are.

Posted by: RedBird27 | March 20, 2008 10:21 AM

"religion poisons everything and everyone it touches!!"

Posted by: WILLEM1 | March 20, 2008 08:50 AM

This is the thesis of Sam Harris's book, "The End of Faith," and it is wrong. Mr. Harris excrapolates (sic) from fools who think their religion wants them to crash airplanes into buildings, to the influence of all religions on all people. That's like putting different nuts into the same bag and saying they are all the same kind of nuts. Rotten people will do rotten things, whether they are religious people or atheists. How many good works, starting right here with Catholic Charities in Baltimore, are inspired by religion? A family is is miniature civilization. How many families build their little civilization around a religion that sustains them through hard times? How many families raise their children to live and believe so that they will be saved?

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | March 20, 2008 10:30 AM

This is an interesting question. I have a very strong faith, and I consider myself a Christian and an Episcopalian, but I don't attend church regularly despite loving the ritual of it because in the past I have been burned by being too involved in a church--politics, bureaucacy, the hypocritically self-righteous few that always seem to pop up etc. This came back to bite me when I wanted to get married in the Episcopal church and had a tough time finding a priest to do our pre-marital counseling and perform the wedding, because I don't belong to a church (hubby is lapsed Catholic and is happy to go along with whatever I want, bless him). But now that we are thinking of children it is becoming more important to me to be part of a church because I want the kids to go to Sunday School and learn the Bible stories and have that foundation--then, when they are older, they will be better able to make an informed decision for themselves. Having that foundation was important for me. We are starting off slow, going to Christmas and Easter services and will keep looking for a church where we both feel comfortable and where there are a lot of kids. Oddly in my town that is the Catholic church but my husband isn't too keen on going there, whether despite or because of his 15 years of Catholic education, while I would be fine with it.

Posted by: teaspoon2007 | March 20, 2008 10:37 AM

Well there's religion and then there's Religion. The first type involves the memorization of a rule book, life is a big football game and we're all just trying to avoid penalities and win the game. There are examples of great sacrifices and hail mary passes, talk of the legends of old in hushed and respectful voices. But listening to people talk about their interpretation of the rule book, how it is the one and only correct interpretation of the rule book, and how we should all feel guilty for not reading and following their interpretation of the rule book gets old, really, fast. It's all about duty, discipline, and drudgery, and its no surprise that this kind of religion doesn't really make anyone a better person.

Then there's Religion, which is a fellowship, not a game. We are all here to look out for one another, and have a wonderful time caring for and inspiring each another. We tread careful around each others feeling and avoid judging too harshly becuase we're all human and make mistakes. The spirit of Christ (or whoever you follow) is really that of a fellowship and a festival, and to love and to be loved is the natural state of man. It's all about optimism, compassion, and understanding and it's no surprise that the people who see their faith this way make you want to click your heels and go out and save the world.

Posted by: pinkoleander | March 20, 2008 10:41 AM

ArmyBrat asked how "usarownow"'s comment is more offensive than that of "WILLEM"; personally, I find the prior more offensive because it belittles individuals as opposed to the latter, which is belittling an ideology.

Even as a Christian, "usarownow"'s diatribe on "unaffiliated" people as "floaters" struck me as offensive. Yes, he or she has the right to his or her opinion. And no--I am by no means trying to infringe upon his or her right to voice it. But the fact of the matter is that, likewise, the people to whom he or she refers have the right to some basic form of respect. I am a believer. That doesn't mean I have to look down upon those who don't believe or, as the case may be, are still searching for something in which to believe.

When someone like "WILLEM" calls religion a scam he or she is calling into question a way of thinking--but not necessarily those who follow it. I have no problem with that because it wasn't long ago that I called into question my own faith. I believe it is necessary to continually question your own beliefs--your stereotypes and what have you--in order to prevent mental and spiritual stagnation. The fact that WILLEM and I have come to differing conclusions isn't offensive to me in the least.

Posted by: jocylynn.steph | March 20, 2008 10:41 AM

I was raised with a different brand of religion every couple of years as one chaplain I talked to put it, I was pretty much raised as a "seeker."

My parents never did get around to any kind of baptism for me.

What I took out of that experience is that really most religions have quite a lot in common. And that includes secular humanism.
Religion "done right" to me is a beautiful expression of the best in people and their connection to things greater than themselves - welcoming, compassionate, and inspirational.

I pretty much break with any religion that seeks to impose its rules outside of its own membership, though.

My husband is Catholic and was very involved in a religious order up until he left it to marry me (he had not yet taken the permanent vows).

When we started talking about our beliefs even though our backgrounds are so different, we came to believe that we have the same concept of - maybe not God exactly, but of the divine and its presence in things like service and kindness.

We have never really disagreed on anything substantial to do with morals, ethics, or treatment of other people. When we had to make decisions around the treatment of our terminally damaged infant daughter, we were totally in agreement.

I think whatever one's tradition, that basic worldview really does permeate everything, especially the "big moments."

In terms of childrearing, when we married in the RC Church I was comfortable with promising to raise our children Catholic, if my husband wanted to. So far he hasn't, for a variety of reasons.

I had pursued the RCIA (adult baptism) up to a point but then designed not to officially sign up for a few personal reasons. However I think through that process I came to appreciate and understand the faith pretty well on a basic level and would have no problem taking my son to church if my husband wanted to.

But I don't feel strongly enough to go myself and then have to explain why I don't take communion, etc. And however we raise our son in the specifics, we believe in Jesus's (and other religious figures') message of compassion & hope.

And frankly I think a holiday for that is fine; let the chocolate-giving commence!

Posted by: shandra_lemarath | March 20, 2008 10:46 AM

I love Easter. It takes scapegoatism to new levels by introducing ritiual human sacrifice and cannibalism.

When HL Mencken was wished Merry Christmas he would explain that Eatser was his favourite holiday. He said he liked to get drunk and throw a dead cat into the nearist church.
Bless him.

Posted by: Boko999 | March 20, 2008 10:51 AM

I've always appreciated my parents exposing me to as many religions as they could. DH and I attended church regularly when DD was a baby. Now it's more of a challenge because we like the 8:00 service, but there's no nursery care or Sunday school for DD (and it's very tough for her to sit quietly through the service). We want to baptize DS, but haven't been to church in almost a year.
On the other hand, we lead a spiritual life and celebrate our beliefs in ways that work for us. And we happily expose our kids to the wonderful differences and similarities in all the faiths around us.

Posted by: StrollerMomma | March 20, 2008 10:57 AM

babsy1: "I'm a practicing Catholic hoping to someday get it right. My faith is imperfect, as is my church and its clergy and laity. "

Great line! Pretty much sums it up perfectly for me.

As for the Gene Pool discussion on religion, I got tired of seeing all the same old incorrect statements that religion has caused more wars, deaths and suffering than all other causes. Umm, hello? There was this thing called World War I, and then this thing called World War II, and Stalin's purges, and Mao's purges, and the Napoleonic Wars, and the American Civil War, and... Not saying that religion hasn't caused wars and destruction; it has. But it gets boring reading the same old false aphorisms.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | March 20, 2008 11:11 AM

jocylynn.steph , you're certainly entitled to your opinions and you make some very valid points. However, you and I will have to agree to disagree on which is more offensive, because I believe that there are some inescapable unstated follow-ups about how WILLEM feels about those who follow religion.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | March 20, 2008 11:23 AM

Armybrat: thanks, and especially for your discussion of the founding fathers. While I think that my faith is best for me (and its all about me), I can't discount the strong faiths of my friends in Officers' Christian Fellowships, or secular humanism. Some of those humanists are the best Christians I know. Maybe there is something to all those crystals - kind of reminds me of a rosary...

Posted by: babsy1 | March 20, 2008 11:37 AM

Understood, ArmyBrat. Understood.

Posted by: jocylynn.steph | March 20, 2008 11:39 AM

We're talking about Easter, but its also the first day of spring. For those celebrating Nowruz, also a feast of rebirth and joy and eating, Happy Holiday!

Posted by: babsy1 | March 20, 2008 11:41 AM

Only because I know you expect me to write this...

my march religion begins in 30 minutes. let the madness begin....

Posted by: dotted_1 | March 20, 2008 11:44 AM

I hear ya, Dotted! Gonna go fire up the popcorn popper right now, and brew a pot of hot chocolate -- that covers two of the basic food groups, right? Three, if you count chocolate, not to mention fiber from the corn. Nutrition is where you find it :-)))

Posted by: mehitabel | March 20, 2008 11:59 AM

Happy Atheist here! It's good to know about the traditions of religions around us, but most of their traditions aren't based in theology or even the holy books. Having Easter Egg hunts is a fun tradition for kids - nothing Biblical about it. Celebrate the first day of Spring and explain to your kids that in agricultural "pagan" religions marking the seasons made a lot of sense. Do a Spring Cleaning and discuss with your kids the Jewish tradition of having an annual housecleaning but leaving a few crumbs for the rabbi to find because to be absolutely perfect is impossible so accept that others will find what you've overlooked. Why settle for one religious tradition when all of them have something to offer.

When they get older you can explain the cannibalistic feast of communion in terms of ancient religions' belief that when you eat a person their spirit enters you. Then ask them if they'd rather have a chocolate egg or participate in a cannibalistic ceremony and let them decide how religious they want to be on Easter.

Posted by: amy_e | March 20, 2008 12:00 PM

I was raised completely secular even though my parents had grown up in their respective churches. They felt it was a matter of individual choice and should be left to us to decide whether we wanted to be religious and if so, which religion we wanted to belong to. Though I don't have children yet, I will subscribe to the same philosophy. I find myself spiritual, but not belonging to any organized religion. I am also happy to have found someone with the same ideas on religion, even though they grew up in a completely different culture on a different continent. (Side note: I have always found it humorous how some people "know" the right religion or God and never stop to think the only reason they are in that religion is because of the accident of birth. Just my two cents.)

Posted by: lafilleverte | March 20, 2008 12:09 PM

Thanks, twohappyboys! Yeah, your situation sounds a lot like ours, and it's not as 'easy' as I thought it would be.

For myself, I'm an atheist and am not too particular about getting our son baptized. In the same sense, I was baptized when I was a baby (I'm sure the Catholic church is just THRILLED about that), so it has kind of become a "that's what you do" type of situation in our families -- you baptize babies (same for my husband's family).

On the other side is my husband. He's more religious than I (although that's not saying a lot), but it's important to him our son's baptized within the first 6 months. However, he's in the same boat -- he's not a devout Catholic, he has some fundamental problems with the church, etc.

I'd love to say we've come up with some type of clean solution, but we really haven't.

Posted by: Corvette1975 | March 20, 2008 12:14 PM

mehitable - sounds like a good plan to me...always have to cover all the food groups...

and now it begins....

Posted by: dotted_1 | March 20, 2008 12:19 PM

It's been interesting to read all the comments today.

Being Jewish, I guess I have a different take (but not so different!). Both the boys had a bris - but we were already members of a synagogue at that point (most people I know only join a few years after they have kids - as in - they WANT the synagogue to be there, but want OTHER people to pay for it til they 'need' it...).
Anyway, we are very active with our synagogue (tonight's purim - can't wait and the kids are excited!). We have shabbat every friday night (say prayers, light candles, eat challah) and it's a great way to end the week. Neither my husband nor I did that growing up.
We get a lot out of our religion - not the least of all that the kids are learning about mitzvahs (good deeds) from school - so they are very excited when they do one (cleaning up without being asked, helping each other out without being asked...). They're learning about helping others, giving to charity, about a tradition that is thousands of years old, about learning, about all sorts of values that I think are important.
And we're active in our synagogue (as mentioned) so we have met all sorts of great people that way - our own little community.
My husband and I are more religious than our upbringing would show, and we are very happy to have our religion be a part of much of what we do.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | March 20, 2008 12:33 PM

As Wiccans, our faith is pretty much an integral part of our lives. Anything we do-driving less, recycling everything that can be recycled, growing our own veggies using only compost for fertilizer instead of man-made chemicals-it's all a way to honor the Goddess. There's no ten commandments, but we do have the Wiccan Rede (And it harm none, do what you will). That, I've found, is far more all-encompassing than the Ten Commandments found in Christianity, since it makes you realize that ALL your actions have consequences, not just to people, but to the world around you! Combine that with the Threefold Law (whatever you do comes back to you threefold), and you've definitely got a strong incentive to toe the line! We're raising our kids in our faith, but we're also starting to teach them about other religions, how they differ, and how they are the same. When the kids get older, they can choose for themselves which path is right for them. I was baptized as a baby and raised Episcopalian until I "quituated" Sunday school at age 14, and I never got a solid reason why I should go...just that famous Momism, "Because I said so!" (Dad stayed home, while Mom drove me and my sister to Sunday school, then stayed in the car and knitted while my sister and I drove our teachers crazy questioning everything they taught us...even as kids, we knew that Christianity wasn't the right path for us!). I firmly believe that infant and child baptism isn't binding since kids and babies can't consent for themselves which religion they want to follow, so neither of our kids got "dunked." We had Wiccan naming ceremonies for them instead, and those were incredible. We also celebrate different holidays, or Sabbats, that center around the seasons of the year. In fact, today is Ostara, the Vernal Equinox. Both kids got Ostara baskets with flower seeds in them for their own gardens, there's an egg hunt planned for today, and we're having a special dinner tonight with appropriate spring dishes that honor the season. We also celebrate the secular aspects of the mainstream holidays (for instance, we take them trick-or-treating on Halloween, but we also celebrate that Sabbat as a day to celebrate the final harvest of the year, honor our ancestors, and say goodbye to the spirits of family, friends, or pets who have crossed over during the past year), but we're also teaching the kids how the mainstream holidays were adapted from pre-Christian religions, holidays, and cultures. The only thing that drives me nuts sometimes is the difficulty in finding fellow Wiccans in the area to celebrate with and to let our kids know that there are others in this rural area who follow the same path that we do. As they get older, I also worry about the possibility of hostility, aggressive proselytizing, and even outright bullying from Christian classmates at school (the elementary school here has one of those "Good News" clubs that meets once a week, and I've heard how in-your-face some of the members can be towards non-Christians), and I hope I can teach my kids to stand up for themselves and tell the fundamentalists that freedom of religion means ANY religion! Happy Ostara to those who celebrate it, and a good first day of spring to those who see today as simply the first day of a new season! Blessed Be!

Posted by: dragondancer1814 | March 20, 2008 12:56 PM

My spirituality is a very important aspect of maintaining balance in my life. Although I do not attend church every Sunday, I pray, meditate and "talk" to God often. My relationship with God helps me find peace when life's stressors are really getting me down. Without this relationship, I would be lost - I hate to imagine what I would likely turn to seeking some sort of stress relief. I plan to teach my children - as my parents raised me - to put God first. When you do that, all else seems to fall into place.

Posted by: mrsbookaddict | March 20, 2008 12:57 PM

Religion is very important to me--not because of the "rules and regulations" but because of the faith in something larger than myself, the weekly gathering to worship in a community with others of like mind, the fellowship and sense of family within the church, and the stability and focus it gives to me. Yes, there are the nosy busy-bodies and the hyper-critical folks who judge. They are annoying. So are rude people on the Metro. I ignore both as much as I can. They do not have the right to ruin my faith or my commute. :)

My faith in God has sustained me through many difficult and painful times in my life, and I am grateful that I have that rock to lean on each day.

I loved Sunday School as a child because I learned so much from the stories from the Old and New Testaments, and I have a feeling of being part of a long line of believers that goes back to Abraham--the patriarch of three of the world's major religions. In a sense, I feel that we are all "sisters and brothers in faith," regardless of which faith we espouse.

For me, I would feel empty if I did not have my faith. Others feel that they do not need faith and that their lives are just fine without it. Each to his/her own.

Posted by: lsturt | March 20, 2008 1:04 PM

Um, the 10 commandments come from the 'old' testament, which was given to the JEWS, not the christians. Just sayin'.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | March 20, 2008 1:12 PM

dotted, mehitabel: I'm REALLY, REALLY bummed that I was so busy with work this week that I didn't even realize until this morning that Purdue's playing at 2:50 today in the Verizon Center. I coulda been there! (Whacks self in head for foolishness - repeatedly!)

Maybe if the Boilermakers beat Baylor I can get a ticket from one of the unhappy Xavier fans for the Saturday game. (Written when Georgia was up by nine at halftime - if the Musketeers rally I'll have to find a 'dog fan.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | March 20, 2008 1:20 PM

Go Georgia Bulldogs! Biggest cinderella season this year! Pretty amazing weekend, ya know...

Also, go UNC. I actually went *there*.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | March 20, 2008 1:25 PM

What, did everyone leave to go watch BBall?

Go Purduck!

Posted by: laura33 | March 20, 2008 2:51 PM

Yep, Laura. It looks as though a lot of people left to attend the services brought to you by the Church of Basketball. :-)

Posted by: DandyLion | March 20, 2008 3:07 PM

Um - what dragondancer said. We Wiccans have a pretty good time in our religion, and Ostara is one of the most fun Sabbats with the kids.

My most-deeply religious experiences and feelings revolve around my relationship with my kids. Giving birth, nursing a baby, giving and sustaining a new being's life - when I've done those things, I've had the greatest privilege of sharing in a small way in the Creatrix's continually on-going act of creation.

Posted by: sue | March 20, 2008 3:42 PM

""But too bad the writer fails to understand that our culture is biblically based.""

Perhaps you should take a look at the "Jefferson Bible." You know, the version that T.J. created when he took a razor blade to his Bible and cut out all the parts he didn't like.

Remember, many of the founding fathers were Unitarians. They weren't exactly a bunch of "Bible-thumpers."

Posted by: floof | March 20, 2008 3:45 PM

Yeah, H.L. Mencken and the Jefferson Bible, well aquainted with both but I can tell you they won't bring casseroles over or volunteer to watch your kids when you are in the hopital. People who do church understand something that the secular world does not always get, people need other people. So go ahead and keep throwing your dead cats, and I can guarantee you some nice little church lady will just pick him up and and give him a proper burial, maybe with some Easter lily's and a little cross to commemorate his loss.
I guess my only problem with some so-called spiritual people is the issue of honesty. There's what you know, what you don't know, and what you want to believe, and making this distinction is nothing to feel guilty about or to evade. Faith is not fact, and should never be presented that way (particularly to children). Faith is when you choose to believe something because it inspires you, and because you want it to be true. That's it, it's fragile and it's ridiculous at times, but it works, and it has worked for people for generations, particularly in hard times. So I say why not be a little curious and playful and try to figure it out, how does this thing work exactly, why does this stuff move people? And if there's something in the theological mix you don't like, well don't subscribe to it. You don't have to throw out the meal just because you don't like the brussels sprouts.

Posted by: pinkoleander | March 20, 2008 6:01 PM

You completely misunderstand the nature of faith. Faith is not "believing in something because you want it to be true" - that is hope, or perhaps delusion. Faith is belief, period. As for "not subscribing to things in the theological mix," that is what we call cafeteria christianity, which means you embrace only the nice parts, like redemption, but leave out the hard parts, like loving the person who makes your life a misery at work. One should always question and explore, but faith means more than being "curious and playful." You don't understand faith at all.

Posted by: babsy1 | March 21, 2008 8:24 AM

No babsy1 I'm just stating what should be obvious, believing in God is not the same as believing in Santa Claus of the tooth fairy (simple ignorance), and it's not putting on a set of blinders to science, history, fact, and information (willfull ignorance which is the "belief" that you seem to be advocating). Faith really is just believing something because you desire it to be true, and there's nothing false, or insecure, or untrue about it. I find that the type of faith that you describe is very fragile, and the people who have it are extremely insecure and threatened by ideas of faith that are different from their own, or factual information that contradicts their so-called "beliefs". Faith really is just hope, and if more people would understand this there would be alot more churchgoers out there and alot less fighting over religion.
And yes, if you want to call if cafeteria christianity, go ahead. I suppose you realize that if you truly follow the Bible by the letter of the law you will stop cutting your hair and refuse and job which would have you teaching or supervising men, among other ridiculous precepts. The hard part of religion is loving your neighbor and everything I've have stated here advocates that point. You seem to be the one with the ax to grind.

Posted by: pinkoleander | March 21, 2008 12:18 PM

Hey Pink, it's really not so nice to have someone assert that you don't understand faith is it? Kind of like having someone assert that because you don't go to church, you don't do nice things for other people or understand that people need each other. Perhaps it would be good to refrain from judging other people's faith, however it is expressed, and focus on practicing our own.

Posted by: LizaBean | March 21, 2008 4:15 PM

Boy, hit some nerves here. I think it might be interesting for you to spend a little time thinking about why your are so bent out of shape by somebody claiming that faith is hope. When you get down to it that's all I've said here, oh and that people should be nice to each other, wow, that's bad. Truly horrible stuff, very judgemental, insecure and all that. You guys are doing a really great job of illustrating my point, an intellectually dishonest idea of faith equates with nasty behavior towards others.
And if you have such a huge problem with people using blogs to express opinions which are different from your own then you might think about applying your time and energies elsewhere.

Posted by: pinkoleander | March 21, 2008 4:58 PM

Oh, and I might add one more thing, not as controversial as the idea that faith is hope and that we should be nice to each other, and that would be, have a happy easter. And I'll say that to you regardless of whether you are at church, enjoying some pagan spring ritual, struggling to get out of bed and struggling with your faith, searching for a dead cat to throw, or feeling pretty content with whatever it is that you have decided is worth trying to believe in. Shalom

Posted by: pinkoleander | March 21, 2008 6:16 PM

Honestly Pink, you seem to be more bent out of shape than anyone else. All I was saying is that your initial comment about what us non-church goers do or don't understand is as harsh to us as is baby's attack on your understanding of faith, which you didn't seem to particularly appreciate. I find all these assertions of whose understanding of faith is more sincere, more honest, more whatever to be tiresome and unnecessary.

Posted by: LizaBean | March 21, 2008 6:56 PM

ok lets hear it for the republican party, it stands for the 3 'g"s!!


more proof that religion poisons everything and everyone it touches! its a scam a total fraud all they want is your hardearned$$$

Posted by: WILLEM1 | March 21, 2008 9:58 PM

A little late to the party (we were away) and I was beginning to wonder where my fellow Jews were until almost the last post.

DH is a rabbi, so obviously Judaism plays a big part in our lives - for better and for worse. The worst part is the politics, petty disputes, finances, etc. The better part is that I feel our congregation is like an extended family in many ways.

DD - age 14 - had her first bitter taste of religious intolerance this week. The boy she was dating (not for very long; it's freshman year after all) decided to dump her because she doesn't believe in Jesus. I don't know if this came from him or from his parents, or was just a convenient excuse, but she was MAD. (It didn't help that he broke up with her via text message - what chickensh*t!)

Posted by: lorenw507 | March 27, 2008 1:37 PM bleper

Posted by: duchos | April 15, 2008 9:21 PM

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