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Would you bring up a friend's children in a religion different from your own?

post #1 of 39
Thread Starter 
We have multiple religions in our family, and many children. As some of our family members are making up their wills, this question came up.

If a friend or family member asked you to raise their children if something happened to them, would you raise them in their parent's religion, or your own?

Would it matter what religion they/you were?
post #2 of 39
I guess it depends on what the parents wanted.

We also have many different religions in our family (Jewish, Evangelisch, Catholic, Gaia followers ....) and we never had a problem with it. As a child I grew up with a mix of different religions and I learned a lot from different sources. I thought it was great. It was like being able to pick the best for you from different sources.

My husband and I are also not the same religion and we never had a problem with that. I can accept and appreciate every religion. I only have problems when people think that their religion is the only way to go and that everybody else is wrong. Or if they get pushy. I hate that! It is really bad to push a religion on a child.

When it comes to making a will, you should all be open and discuss religion and how much it matters to each and everyone of you.

I am planning on raising my son the way I have been raised - in terms of religion. I want him to be able to choose when he is old enough. I think this is the only way to go anyway. Every child should be allowed to choose, and not be pushed in a certain direction. After all, what is a belief worth if it does not really come from your heart? If you just follow a church, because your parents wanted that, aren't you being untrue to yourself?
But to be able to choose a child needs to know about different religions.

Hope that helps!
post #3 of 39
We face this issue in our family as well. My general feeling is that I would try and honor the parents' wishes as best I could. It may mean that the child is exposed to our faith as well, but I would do my best to raise them in their parent's faith too. I would view that as a sacred trust, honestly.
post #4 of 39
I would. I feel that it's something important from the childs family that should be nurtured.
post #5 of 39
My dh and I are named to care for my SIL's children in the event of their parents' deaths. My SIL is Catholic. At the time she asked us, both DH and I were agnostics with no religion. Now I am agnostic Unitarian Universalist. We discussed this issue and I felt then and still feel that even if I tried I could not possibly raise a child Catholic. Even if I dutifully dropped the child at Mass every Sunday I would not be able to hide the fact that I did not believe any of what she was taught there and, in any case, I think it would be highly unethical of me to try to hide my beliefs from a child I was raising. I honestly do not think it is possible to raise a very young child in a religion not your own unless the other religion has beliefs very similar to your own. We were very up-front with my SIL about this and she decided she still wanted to name us as guardians in her Will.
post #6 of 39
I would honor the parents' wishes, if they expressed them in the will or talked about it beforehand, absolutely.

ETA: this goes for most denominations. There are some, however, that I could not in good conscience raise a child in. (Example: Episcopalian: ok. Any Fundamentalist Christian denomination: couldn't do it) However, any parent belonging to one of those denominations would be unlikely to choose me and dh as guardians
post #7 of 39
wow that is tough. My first response was no I would not. They would just have to assimilate to our family.

but at the same time I wouldn't want my kids cut off from their faith if something happened to me (a huge fear of mine actually). fortunately they are old enough to call up their God mothers and say "bring me to church".

Depending on the church/religon (some I feel are just plain harmful to people - but I think anyone close enough to ask me to be their childs gaurdian would know which ones I was opposed to), how close it was to what our family did, the age of the child, and what arrangements could be made. I am not going to pretend I believe something is true when it is not. However I might be inclined to let the child attend services if another family member wanted to take them. and I would be happy if whoever ended up with my kids was at least that kind, allowing them to still grow up in our church.
post #8 of 39
No, I wouldn't. I'm an atheist. The couple of people who have asked me to be guardians are members of a church that I do not and cannot support in any way because it goes against many of the principals I believe in. They know that and are OK with it.

There is no way I could lie to children about things I don't believe have a basis in reality.
post #9 of 39
No one says you have to lie, or practice the religion yourself. But I do agree if you are so opposed that you are incapable of even allowing others the choice to practice their families religion you shouldn't raise their kids. Of course I'd never ask a person that was rabidly atheist to raise my kids anyway.
post #10 of 39
Well, the people who have asked are OK with it. I think they, deep down, are more culturally this religion than anything else. I can't see any way to raise a child in this religion without being untruthful.
post #11 of 39

My family would continue to practice as we do now, but I would likely be willing to make arrangements for the child to attend elsewhere. When I agreed to this I would prefer that the parents also arrange for some person to be in charge of the religious education for the child. A god-parent or some such person would be ideal. Also, I would let it be known that I would not stop the child from worshiping with s as well if that is what he wanted to do.

I don't see any need to pretend that I agree with whatever the religion is.

Even if there was no stipulation, if I child of any age wanted to continue to practice the faith she had been raised in, I would try to honour that.

If I felt the situation was really harmful though, I would not allow it. That would include psychological manipulation. I might see if there was another group that would serve the parents wishes in a healthier way, but there are a few groups I can think of that would just not be acceptable to me.
post #12 of 39
I'd have to say it depends on the religion. Anything that is fundamentalist, I probably couldn't, not that a fundamentalist would ask me.
post #13 of 39
Yes, I would, although inevitably my "all religions are pretty much equally valid and ways to Deity" viewpoint would come across. So if the religion dictated "this is the one and only path to truth" I'm not sure I could really channel that - but I would celebrate the holidays, respect taboos/prohibitions, take them to their house of worship, etc. If they rebelled against it or chose a different religion (for example, ours) I would try to dissuade them gently by explaining it was important to their parents, but I wouldn't guilt them into it, and if they wanted to choose a different (or no) religion I wouldn't put pressure on them to go to church or whatever. Just the same as if my kids wanted to practice a different religion, that's the same response they'd get.
post #14 of 39
there are three factors in this that i think are important:

1. what the parents would want;

2. what the child needs;

3. what the child wants.

In a situation of great loss--such as loosing one's parents as a child--it is important that as many other factors as possible are consistent.

some examples of this are--if possible to manage--keeping the child in the same school; and if there is a strong connection to the religious community, keeping the child in the same religious community; another might be keeping the child in the same social programs that s/he may be in; and of course, maintaining a connection to friends and extended family.

of course, this needs to be balanced with my family's needs and what is possible as well.

in our case, we live in NZ, while our family lives in the US. if my sister were to leave her children to me in her will, how long would it be viable for me to stay in her home town, keeping her kids at that church, and in those social groups, and at those schools? it may not be viable beyond 8-12 weeks. and i am pretty sure that is a stretch.

so, this brings us back again to the question of the religion itself. would i raise that child in the religion of the parents ex situ (out of the child's original context and community)?

i very likely would. i do not see it as a hardship per se to send that child to catholic school, for example, and to take that child to sunday school. i would likely not attend church myself, and perhaps send that child with a family who does attend church. I would definitely encourage the child to live that religion. S/he would also be exposed to what we do in the home, and how we do things, and so it wouldn't be the same as if raised by his/her own parents, but at least i would honor that aspect of the parent's wishes.

once the child asserted a desire to not continue, i would respect that--so long as i felt it was a reasoned decision.
post #15 of 39
I think it really depends on a lot of things. Not only the parent's religion and whether I was comfortable with it, but what that religion demanded/asked/required (of me, to help teach the kids) and very much, the children's age.

If the children were old enough that it is very much their religion, and they can do a lot pretty much themselves (things like prayers, scripture study, enforcing dietary/behavior restrictions in themselves for the most part), then I would say certainly I would if they wanted to continue. I'd find a family of that religion to take them to church, I'd drop them for sunday school or youth groups or whatever else like that. I'd learn about their religion, and find similarities between our religions so we could incorporate some things that didn't clash with my beleifs and the beleifs I'll raise my children with into the family, so they don't feel apart.

If the children were quite young, I suspect I could not raise the children in that religion unless it was quite similar to my own beleifs. A baby or a two or 4 year old etc, who I would be teaching/helping learn about the religion, and there is a lot of home based teaching, it's not going to happen. I can't kneel down and pray to the father the son and the holy ghost, or fast for lent, or teach them about the koran, etc. First of all, I don't know enough, and secondly, I wouldn't be comfortable with it. I'm a strong beleiver that you can't effectively raise children in a religion you don't practice and beleive. If their parents were the same religion as me, then of course it wouldn't be a huge issue. I would however, raise them talking about their parents religion (just like I would about their parents and other things about them). If when they were older, they wanted to explore their parent's religion, I'd take them to youth groups/church/whatever, and buy them books, and help them learn about it themselves.

Of course I would want my children raised in my religion by someone else, g-d forbid, however, one has to be reasonable. You can't expect someone not of your religion to raise your children in your religion, imo. If it's really important, then maybe asking someone to be "godparents", who would be very involved in the child's life, so they could help the child grow up in that religion.
post #16 of 39
I would try. We are humanist/Quakers. If we suddenly found ourselves raising Catholic nieces and nephews(we have several) I would do my best to take them to mass and support them on that path. But obviously, they would not have an exclusively Catholic upbringing.
post #17 of 39
My answer is similar to a lot of the PPs' answers.

It's something I've had to consider, because my sister and BIL have asked that we be the ones who take their future kids (one on the way) if anything happens to them. They are Christian, and I am agnostic (DH is somewhere in between).

A lot would depend on the age of the kid. If the kid was old enough to have formed opinions of his/her own then I would honor the child's wishes. I would probably not go to church with them, but I would do my best to do whatever to get them there. My ILs are both ministers, and my mom is very Christian, so there would be no shortage of people to help the child with spiritual questions.

If it was a baby who was too young to have formed opinions, I would probably not go out of my way to take him/her to church. But, I would make sure that they knew that what their parents believed, and make sure they know that although it is not what I personally believe, that they can make their own choices, and that I will help them get to church if that is what they want to do. Again, I have family that would help in any way they could.

Actually, this is basically how I'll raise my own kids, anyhow. They'll know what I believe, but they're free to have their own beliefs.

I'm sure my sister and BIL took this all in to account before they asked us to do this for them. They may be generally conservative Christians (though my sister is really not all that conservative as far as I can tell- she's really more middle of the road), we still see eye-to-eye about most big things. I'm sure having their kids cared for in a home where they'll be well loved and brought up to be caring human beings won out over having them raised exactly how they would have raised them.

And how you raise a kid doesn't necessarily mean anything anyhow... my sister and I were raised in the same house by the same parents.
post #18 of 39
Personally, this is a question we have thought of a lot in our family. First of all we do seperate faith from religion, as well as respect the commonalities and differences in the options. In a simple response, I would respect the parent's wishes and provide the child with opportunities to continue in both the belief structure and religious practice they have been raised in. This would, of course, take some reflection and adjustment, particularly in the case with my sister, as they have chosen many paths that we are not quite on (yet - who knows - she may convert me yet! )

I would also hope that I raise my own children to respect and learn about, even participate in many of the various religions this great world community has to offer. Children should be encouraged to question everything they learn, and come to a path that is right for them. I know that my family would respect the learning process, and the religious practice(s) I choose for my children until they come of an age that they can make decisions of their own practices.

More important to me is the love that I know that caregiver would give, and from that love, the choices to make healthy decisions for the future of the child or children.
post #19 of 39
It would depend on the age of the child. I believe faith can only be chosen and that being born into a religion is meaningless. So if a child had been going to services consistently with their parents then I would not want to take away a familiar support system even if it is not my own. If the child did not want to continue in a particular religious tradition them they would get no pressure from me to do so. If they said they wanted to explore something other than their parents tradition or my tradition then I would do my best to do so.

Our chosen guardians have different religions then we do. I just have to trust that they love my daughter and hope for the best. We have no family that shares our religion and would prefer she remain with family. We did rule out a few people because of their particularly strong religious beliefs.
post #20 of 39
If the child was old enough (maybe mid-to late-teens), I would be willing to let them "do their own thing" when it came to religion.

But raising children from birth or young childhood up? I'm just not able to separate my faith from my life like that, nor would I want to--our faith is woven into the fabric of our lives, in what we read, what we do, what we talk about, how we think. If they didn't want their child raised the way mine are raised, it would be better for their peace of mind to find someone who is of like mind with them.
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