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Real Talk With Real Moms: Religion + Spirituality

6/28/2019

Real Talk Real Moms: Religion & Spirituality

I’m really excited about today’s Real Talk with Real Moms topic: religion and spirituality! It’s something I talk about often with my real life friends, and I can’t wait to hear your take. I actually think religion is the ONE topic I’ve never talked about here and that’s because it really isn’t a part of my life currently and I still at age 30 don’t know where I stand on it. However, now that I’m a mom it’s a topic I’ve thought about a LOT and have a lot of conflicted feelings on. Thought I’d share them today and see if anyone feels similarly, and what you decided to do in the end!

Real Talk Real Moms: Religion & Spirituality

Some Background: Religion + My Childhood

Growing up, we attended church/Sunday School (Your pretty standard “traditional” Christian/Presbyterian church, from what I’ve gathered.) every Sunday. Outside of church, we said occasional prayers at dinner and celebrated the big Christian holidays. Some of my extended family had deeper religious relationships and education that I was exposed to regularly, but for my immediate family, that was the extent that I remember.

I never enjoyed Sunday School and would do just about anything to get out of it. In fact, the deal I struck with my parents as a teen was that I would go to church every week but instead of going to Sunday School or church service, I’d volunteer in the church nursery. And that’s exactly what I did all the way up through high school. I LOVED it because I loved kids, and I got some great babysitting gigs out of it, too! Ha!

The other thing I enjoyed about our church community were the events, like an Advent craft festival for kids every year that I obviously LIVED for and the projects we did for a shelter our church supported.

I feel lucky that my parents supported the fact that those were the things I connected with at church, and never pushed religion on me. They always just said that the biggest things they wanted to raise me with were the ability to be kind to others and to give back. In their minds, if I chose to focus on those aspects of our church experience, then that was A-ok.

Real Talk Real Moms: Religion & Spirituality

Church In My Adult Life + Missing “Community”

Once I was “on my own” as an adult, I never felt any desire to try to find a church nor explore a relationship with God outside of church. There’s been a few times where we’ve ended up at church for various family or friend obligations and each time I’ve openly thought, “Maybe this will be the time it resonates with me!” But it just never has, at least not yet. Big church, “mega” church, small church, “traditional” or “modern,”I’ve seen many varieties and left feeling the same each time. Not for me!

I’m not necessarily saying I don’t believe in everything Christianity is preaching, but I’m not saying I do either. I still check the “Christian” box when asked on a form. But I will say that I struggle with wrapping my brain around some of the toxic messages being spread by some (emphasis: some) people of faith, and have been disheartened by some (again, some) of the relationships I’ve seen between religion and adoption. The two are VERY intertwined.

Overall, I feel oddly ok with not knowing my stance or committing to a religion or single “meaning of life.”

What I’ve found I don’t feel ok with, now that I have a family of my own, is missing out on the community that comes with church. We’ve been in LA for 8 years now and still haven’t found a community of people or friends we see regularly.

Over Thanksgiving in New Jersey this year, we actually got to attend the Advent Festival at my childhood church (where my parents still go, every Sunday!) with Arlo and there was something so nice about walking to a room, 10+ years later, and recognizing a whole group of people who’d stayed connected this whole time. Generations of families all together crafting and celebrating the start of the holiday season. It made me sad that we don’t have that here.

Real Talk Real Moms: Religion & Spirituality

What Will Religion + Community Look Like For My Family?

So far, we have considered baptizing Arlo in my home church, but didn’t go through with it. My aunt gave him a blessing when he was a few months old, which felt very comforting, especially to Jeff. He’s attended church twice, by way of hanging in the nursery. And that’s it. It hadn’t been much of a topic otherwise. But since that experience at the Advent festival, I can’t seem to shake the questions swirling around in my head about religion and how I’ll raise my children. Here’s a few of them:

  1. Will we ever find a similar community if we don’t join a church? Sure, we can attend various events in LA or participate in our own charitable efforts, and I don’t worry at all about Arlo missing out on those aspects of life as we do both regularly. But it doesn’t hold the same community when you do things on your own. There’s something so nice about going to one place every week for years and connecting with the same people each time. But it feels wholeheartedly wrong to me to join a church for those reasons and not the religious ones.
  2. What are other ways to find such community, besides religion? I’ve heard a few people mention “churches” that aren’t actually based around religion and am intrigued, but haven’t done much research.
  3. How do you educate a child on religion when you are unsure of what it means to you? While I don’t feel connected to religion, I at least have the knowledge of one from my upbringing and believe in some sort of undefined higher power or larger meaning to life. As does Jeff, who grew up going to Armenian church every week. But what happens when a child doesn’t have the structure of church as a part of their upbringing? How do we guide our childrens’ religious education, or lack there of, leaving his options open but still letting him know it’s there if he wants or needs it?
  4. “Religious” Holidays. We celebrate Easter and Christmas but focus solely on the commercialized, non-religious aspects of these at the moment. (Don’t worry, I am very aware of how bad that sounds.) How will that play out as Arlo gets older and potentially inquires about the religious meanings behind them? Do any of you celebrate Christian holidays without considering yourselves Christian?
  5. How do you discuss death with a child from a non-religious but also non-atheist point of view? This feels like a big hurdle to jump, and one you don’t want to have to figure out when a death is upon you.
  6. What does “spirituality” without religion look like? A few people close to me have been on non-religious spiritual journeys recently and it’s been really fascinating to watch and learn from the sidelines.

Real Talk Real Moms: Religion & Spirituality

Clearly I don’t have the answers to these but I’m curious to know if any of those same questions have run through your minds, as parents or just as adults? If you don’t attend church, where have you found community in your lives? If you do attend church, did any of you start after you had kids because it just “felt like the right thing to do”? Or if you don’t attend church and are parents, do you still discuss religion with your children? Do you still celebrate any “religious” holidays? How do you explain them to your children?

Would love to hear your thoughts below on any of the above! It’s all so fascinating to me, perhaps because it’s often left undiscussed. I also know that religion is a very sensitive and personal subject and I want to reiterate that I welcome and respect all opinions here and ask that you do the same in your comments.

You can also read the thoughts on religion + spirituality from another mama, Cyd, who wrote on the topic today right here!

72 comments

  • Heather

    Hi! This is so interesting to me (all of it!) but I wanted to comment on two things specifically. I’m not religious (would consider myself atheist; didn’t grow up going to church). But two things you said resonated:

    1. Lack of community. I feel EXACTLY the same about wishing I had a community to see every week. I live in DC so of course there are a lot of opportunities to attend talks and volunteer and things like that, but I feel like it’d be really nice to have a place to go every week where you know folks and can do things — crafts and potlucks and service — all together. I should do more research on whether there are any sorts of “secular” churches around here (because I feel the same about not wanting to take advantage of a religious church when I have no interest in the religious components).

    2. Holidays. Like I said, my family didn’t go to church, and I don’t go now, but we / I still celebrate(d) Christian holidays like Easter and Christmas the commercial, secular way. I know people sometimes get upset about folks not celebrating the “reason for the season” but I do think there’s value to traditions — even if they aren’t super “deep” or religious. The smell of white vinegar to this day (I’m 32) reminds me of dyeing Easter eggs, and I know that I’d make that a tradition if I have kids someday. The emphasis doesn’t HAVE to be on gifts and spending money; I think it’s possible to do holidays in a way that prioritizes spending time together (doing Easter eggs, decorating a Christmas tree, going to see light displays, making cookies for Santa, etc.) in a way that’s light and fun — And kids need light and fun! There’s so much heaviness in everyday life these days. It’s nice to have something cheery to look forward to a few times a year.

    Thanks for talking openly about these things! You seem like an incredible, thoughtful mother.

    • Kelly

      Yes to everything you said about community! It’s nice to know I’m not alone. And love what you said about holidays, the family time is what I love most about them and absolutely can be the focus! Great point.

  • elsie larson

    This is such a great post and I am curious to read the comments! I also feel nostalgia for certain parts of my upbringing and wish I could cherry pick just the “fall festival” and “vbs crafts” but leave out most of the rest for our own kids. It’s tough! I’m glad you wrote this. Proud of you for opening up on something so personal.

  • becca

    first of all, thank you for writing about this – it’s not the easiest topic, but it’s very important, and i bet there are a ton of people who feel the same way and ask the same questions but don’t know how to have this conversation/who to have it with. so thank you! i agree with Heather above – even though my family went to church when i was little, holidays were still never really around the religious aspect, but more around tradition and spending time with family, which is why i still LOVE those holidays now, even though i’m not religious at all. i also personally believe that it’s ok (good, even!) to question things and be unsure, even if that means you’re unsure your whole life. there are so few absolutes in this world, so go ahead and question things! views can change. i bet Arlo will be so, so grateful to have an open-minded mama like you, who understands that no one knows everything…we’re all just trying to figure it out as we go along 🙂

  • Victoria

    Hi Kelly! This post really resonates with me. I also grew up going to church as a kid, but we changed churches due to my parents’ conflicting beliefs when I was about 13, then after about four years at our new church and more conflicting beliefs, we stopped going altogether my last year in high school. My university in the south had a lot of religious clubs and churches, but none of them really felt right for me. Just not my thing.

    I moved to LA five years ago. There was actually a time when I considered going to church just to make friends…. but that didn’t feel right. I was lucky to find community through my professional association – the LA architecture community, as well as through fitness.

    I’m sure once Arlo is older and going to school that you will find community with the school district. Really, all of my mom’s friends when I was a kid (and still today) were other parents that she met volunteering at school (the teacher workroom was a happening place!). Also through Arlo’s extracurricular activities – can’t wait until you meet all of your Dance Mom Friends!!!

    • Kelly

      It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who considered joining a church here just to make friends! And comforting to know that you’ve been able to find community elsewhere! There’s hope!

      • Brittany

        LA is SO huge and let’s face it, hard to get around… so even maintaining existing friendships is hard unless you live literally around the corner from each other!

        I don’t want to undercut the role of CHURCH has in creating a community, but I do wonder if part of it is just creating a place where people go regularly is enough to create community. There’s something about church, though (maybe the guilt of not going makes people go regularly?)

        Anyway I don’t have the answers or a unique point to make here but I just agree with both that LA is especially tough!

  • Ahzahdeh

    I grew up in a small Southern town and attended a Catholic school, but neither of my parents were religious. I never felt that “connection” with God that everyone was talking about, and to this day I am not a religious person. We teach our kids about all the different religions out there and tell them they can choose for themselves what feels right for *them*. We definitely praise concepts of each religion that we do love— kindness, charity, karma, etc. but there are also many aspects of some religions that exclude SO many, including parts of our family. I loved the crafts at VBS, I loved seeing how everyone else connected, but I also know that some people hold on to religion way too much in that it blinds them from what is really going on sometimes. My sister joined a church just to go with her friends, but as she was young and impressionable, she started coming home believing things like being gay is a sin, and it was hard to break her away from that because all of her friends were at that church.

    As far as community, we live in LA and it’s hard to find our “group”. Some we find from work, some we find from other parents that attend the same classes that our daughter does. We’ve found friends in our neighbors and visit nearby parks or activities together. We don’t look for a whole group in one place, but rather create our own group that most closely aligns with our beliefs and principles.

  • Jillian

    I was raised Jewish (conservative) and went to Hebrew School 1x a week on Saturdays when I was really little, but then 3x once I was in 5th grade and up until my Bat Mitzvah. I really hated it, mostly because I knew my dad was only making me go because of my grandparents. My mom is Jewish, but other than some holidays she wasn’t religious and didn’t know the extent of Hebrew school when my dad said he wanted us to go. Once my Bat Mitzvah was over I had to go to Hebrew High School once a week but eventually stood up to my dad and said I didn’t want to go anymore.

    I wish I remembered more/had gone to a better Hebrew school because I really don’t know a lot about Judaism besides the big stuff, so I’m trying to learn now because I want to be able to answer Ben’s (age 2.5 almost) questions once he’s old enough to understand the holidays and why we do what we do. But, I won’t make him attend Hebrew school unless he expresses an interest to me.

    And, unlike you and some other comments I saw, I didn’t have the community. Most of the other kids were mean and I didn’t have friends which made the experience also unpleasant. So, that’s my really long winded response, haha

    • Kelly

      I relate to this a lot! I too wish I remembered more, solely so I could speak better to the religious questions when they come up!

      • Jillian

        My dad actually shared a website with me where a local JCC here in Houston will send you books for kids, so I’m hoping they’ll help me in teaching Ben.

        • Jenn

          We meet at a Houston JCC and we love it! The community is so welcoming!

          • Jillian

            Jenn, we’re in Houston too! We live in the NW area.

          • Jillian

            And I just realized I already said I was in Houston 🤦🏻‍♀️😂

  • Kristina B

    A “practicing” Christian but non-parent view:
    That’s in quotes because I fully believe in a creator God and the writings of Jesus and His life but I don’t go to church right now for a few reasons: chief among them, the crowd aspect is very overwhelming for me.
    I just wanted to say how very eloquently and respectfully you wrote your views and and thoughts and I think as long as Arlo understands, just explain it to him the way you explain to us! At holidays, explain what they mean to some people and the origin of the traditions and always reinforce your support for him to make his own decisions as he grows.
    You should not be forced to feel you need to speed along your own walk because someone small is watching. Your own journey is a model for your littles no matter what it is.
    It’s about openness, respect, and conversation. The fundamentals of the Bible are to love one another and come as you are. <3

  • Steph M.

    This is so tough! My daughter is currently 8 months old and attends full time daycare in a church setting, but we are trying to figure out if that’s where we want her to be long term. We are both pretty agnostic now (he was not raised religiously i was raised VERY VERY Catholic), and are not sure if we should keep her in a setting that is so pro-religion once she becomes more aware.

    I’ve discussed this with my sisters (they don’t have kids but both work in grief therapy). They say for kids, it is sometimes nice because it teaches them about trust and beliefs. Inevitably they will make their own decisions as the time comes and I think that is when it is most important to discuss religion with a child.

    I too miss the community from church sometimes, but am working hard on finding a good network of friends who will provide that community for our child.

  • Tymber

    I want to start off saying that I love how open of a place this can be! I am someone who attends church and have been most of my life although not the same church. I believe no matter what church you go to no one there 100% believes exactly what another person does. I mean really a group of people can’t even agree on dinner much less spiritual things. The major point I’m trying to make is that if your not completely against God or some higher power and your questioning and searching for community then in my opinion that’s exactly what church is for. It’s supposed to be a place to welcome people who are having questions who are looking for a place to belong and feel included. I wish you and your family all the best of luck!

    • Jodi

      This!
      I’m a christian too, and kelly… this is exactly what church should be. A place to come as you are, all your questions, all your searching. A place to sit, feel safe and build community. That’s as simple as it is. You have written so openly and honestly and you are an amazing Mum for following your heart on this and seeking answers for your family ♥️

    • Amy

      I love what you said, Tymber. My parents never baptized me as a child and when I was in college (at a jesuit university) I chose to go through the process of becoming Roman Catholic. (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults – baptism, communion, confirmation all in one Sunday after months of “studying”). The biggest take away I still have from that whole process today is that you SHOULD have doubts and questions because if you’re blindly following, then you’re not growing spiritually.

  • KB

    I am 1000% on the same page as you. Thank you for writing this post. You touched on so many different points that I’ve thought about but have never openly talked about with anyone for fear of being judged as not religious. Growing up, my family never went to church or prayed other than saying grace at Thanksgiving – however I went to a private Christian school and took religion class and worshipped while on school hours. Fast forward to meeting my husband who was 100% brought up in his family’s church, going several times a week, to the point he got burnt out on it and when he moved out, he stopped going. Together he and I have tried attending church here and there, but we never feel relaxed or fit in. It’s always a chore.

    We now have a 10 yr old daughter that we too want the same thing you want for Arlo.
    To fill the need for community, we were able to move to a small town with a small school. Everyone knows everybody. I know all of her friends parents and have their numbers on speed dial. We coach her sports teams and volunteer in our small town community as much as possible. It gives us piece of mind to personally know everyone she’s with and for us to be recognized by her friends and their families as people that they know well and trust. Our small town is not a church in the traditional sense, but is a place we can love, be loved by others.

    Someday maybe we’ll try going to church again but I feel like it’s out of guilt that we go and not because we want to be there.

  • Caitlin

    Thank you for talking about this! I struggle with the same things as a mom. I grew up with parents who are not at all religious and grandparents that are very religious. I definitely felt, I don’t know what the right word is, left out? Like I was missing something growing up.

    When my son was 6 months old I joined a mom’s club and it had some very heavy religious language associated with it despite not being religiously affiliated. Almost everyone seemed to go to the same church and again I kind of felt left out/missing a community.

    My husband on the other hand was raised Catholic and want to Catholic school for most of his life. He had that community and we still go to church at his old grammar school when we’re visiting his parents.

    I kind of want that for my son, but we extensively researched and no Catholic churches in our area would perform a baptism for him because we don’t have “qualified” godparents (i.e. straight, not in an interfaith marriage, been through all the sacraments). That exclusiveness is exactly everything I don’t like about religion. It is so infuriating to mean when churches aren’t inclusive!! And we just haven’t found a good fit. Sigh!

  • Sydney

    HI! Long time follower, first time commenter on the blog. I normally do not engage bloggers this way, but this post resonated with me so much. A little about me: female, 24 (almost 25!), raised in DC, currently reside in NYC, and Jewish, although I come from a mixed faith family, my mom being non-practicing Christian (similar to your upbringing) and my Dad Jewish (raised in the faith and Bar Mitzvah’d, but non-practicing in his adult life).

    As a child I never attended Synagogue outside of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, but I was enrolled in Hebrew school for several years. After complaining enough about it my parents let me and my sister stop attending and we were never Bat Mitzvah’d. I was glad to stop going because I never felt connected to the schooling (probably because my parents didn’t incorporate Judaism into our lives outside of standard holidays and Hebrew School). I didn’t feel a connection and I didn’t understand its importance.

    Fast forward 10+ I am fresh off my Birthright trip (a religious trip to Israel, 100% free for all Jewish young adults) and feel like I really missed out on a huge part of my culture. I wish my parents had talked to me more about Judaism. I wish they had taken me to Synagogue and kept me in school and Bat Mitzvah’d me. On top of Masada in January of this year, I was Bat Mizvah’d among friends I had only known a week, but already felt deeply connected to through our faith. All of us had different relationships to Judaism, some deeply religious and others like me (Jew-ish).

    Spirituality and Faith are so important and I feel slightly robbed of it. My parents are not religious people, or spiritual really, but I think they had a responsibility to expose me to it. Now I am struggling to learn and find resources to discover my Judaism as a result. Even if you don’t feel connected, do everything you can to offer it to Arlo. We all deserve a foundation of faith that we can decide what to do with. Both my parents did and decided it wasn’t for them. You did and made it work for you.

  • patricia galvan

    I grew up with a very religious and strict mom that stopped celebrating holidays when I was in 4th grade. So when I got married and moved out with my husband I attended common holiday celebrations with my husband’s family not because I actually believe in the holiday but because I like the family togetherness. I had a baby nine months ago and I do want her to believe in God but I honestly feel like I can’t commit to my mothers religion nor my husband’s so I feel like we are in limbo.

    • Breanna

      I didn’t attend church or religious events with my family as a child although my parents were brought up Christian and Catholic and still held on to those beliefs. My religious education came up in school when social studies classes did units on the different religions or when my parents would explain the larger stories. I think I was pretty curious myself and would do my own research as well as I got older and sometimes I knew more of the basic theology than my friends who were brought up Christian. 🤷 I don’t miss the Christian experiences I missed out on, but I did grow up in an extremely Christian area and some friends were sometimes rude or pitying about my non belief. That was uncomfortable but it didn’t make me want to go to church or believe anymore. As soon as I had a friend who was openly atheist I felt more comfortable with my beliefs and relationship with religion and I think it really solidified my current beliefs today.

      I completely understand your statements of community as an atheist adult now, but I do think community can definitely be found outside of church. I’ve found it through music organizations (I’m a musician), volunteer orgs, school and alumni orgs,and my neighborhood. I think the biggest way to create a community is to be involved with the people around you and foster one. It can be more challenging to find it when you’re not religious but it’s possible.

      As for non religious churches, there are non religious churches and non denominational churches. I haven’t been to either, but I had a friend who went to an Ethical Society church that met weekly and also did volunteer work. Pretty much the same as a church only practicing humanism instead of Christianity. I think my husband and I might be interested in the Ethical Society when we have children as a way of setting guiding principles for growing up. But with or without a ‘religious’ education, your kids will turn out fine as long as you teach them kindness, empathy, and respect 🙂

  • Virginia

    Hi!
    I have avoided speaking about Christianity specifically and continue to send the message that there are many religions and they are all equal. They all get equal talk time and everyone of every religion should be treated with respect. I feel like narrowing it to one religion can unknowingly give the perception that that religion is more important. Everyone is different.
    Holidays are seen as family time to celebrate traditions. We celebrate the tradition of opening gifts on Christmas. Different families have different traditions for different reasons. As long as their traditions make their family happy that’s what they should do. Also including questions like “what are some traditions you would like to start?”. We do grilled cheese and homemade tomato soup on the first snow of every season. We lump those things at holidays all into the category of “family traditions”
    As far as death goes. We have discussed it in a very light way. When you pass away your body goes to the earth. You become the grass, the trees, the flowers. You become part of something that makes other people happy. Every person is important and should contribute to helping people when alive and when they pass their body continues to contribute to the earth.

  • Molly

    I’ve been asking myself some of these questions too. My husband and I recently left our childhood religion (We had many reasons, most of all finding out lots of lies and secrets and generally feeling like we didn’t feel good about what it taught about LGBTQIA+ and women’s rights.) We want our boy to grow up and be kind because of his own decision, not fear or just following what somebody says is true. We haven’t found community outside of our ex-congregation but I’m guessing once he gets in school there will be more of that?

    We are struggling to figure out how to do holidays because we don’t want anything to do with the religious part, and I also am not thrilled with commercialism. But I also remember having soooo much fun at holidays as a kid! I want his childhood to be magical. The nice thing is, we can now sort of set our own holidays we want to be important like Juneteenth (the end of slavery) or Frida Kahlo’s birthday. Kind of quirky, but still fun and educational.

    I think there are many millennials who deal with these same questions, who have grown up religious and don’t identify with it anymore. I personally don’t believe in anything bigger, (I’m open to it, I just don’t necessarily believe it) because of my experience and historical information. So that makes talking about death and purpose of life hard for me, I’m still trying to figure it out myself and now I have to try and help a little child too. I think it’s okay to say that I don’t know and, technically, nobody really knows. There are all sorts of different beliefs and ideas and it’s okay for them to find one that resonates with them.

    Thanks for being real and vulnerable, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who grapples with these things! You’re doing great, mama.

  • Yajaira

    I truly appreciate you opening up and respectively speaking about religion. I grew up in a very religious and spiritual family. There have been times where I’ve strayed but have never felt so grounded unless I’m connected with a bible believing, bible teaching community/church. Finding the “right” church home can be very hard but it’s worth the hunt!

    My family told us that they showed us Jesus and made Him a huge part of our life so that if we ever got lost we’d know where to turn.

    Our children won’t always have friends and family around as they get older. I think it’s important to show them what a great church community is so that they’ll be able to always find their compass in life. Hope that helps ❤️

  • Annie

    I attended church every week growing up and continue to do so now as an adult (with no kids)! When I moved to LA, I went to lots of churches trying to find one that could compare to mine back home (a nondenominational Christian church). About 5 years ago, I started going to Journey of Faith in Manhattan Beach. As with many things in life, everyone has different preferences and what may resonate with you, may not resonate with me, so it doesn’t surprise me that you didn’t connect with the random church services you happened upon. However, if it’s something that interests you in the slightest, I encourage you to keep exploring your options. Each week, check out a different church. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to go back! But you won’t know until you try.

    I was fortunate to be raised by supportive parents who encouraged us to be independent, treat others with kindness always, and stand up for what’s right. Between that and growing up in the church, I was given a foundation that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. It taught me the importance of love, kindness, forgiveness, respect, charity, community, and so much more. Of course, I’ve also come across people in the church who have taught me what I DON’T want to be like. Just know, in every community/group/organization, there may be a few bad apples, but they do NOT represent the community as a whole and there are so many more people who share your values and want to have an open conversation with you. If you ever want to talk about this more, you know where to find me. 🙂

  • Leigh

    I just want to say thank you for writing this, and thank you for all those who have commented in such a kind way. So much of what you said has resonated with me. I have had my own conflicting relationship with organized religion, and now that I have a son, this topic weighs on me daily. My husband’s side of our family – their faith runs deep – and we struggle to explain our stance to them. My parents have been luckily more understanding. I want my son to learn about a variety of faiths, the commonalities and the underlying messages that are so important – love, kindness, acceptance. And I want him to be able to choose the right path for himself eventually. My personal spiritual path is different from others, and when he is older, his may be different than mine. So I constantly think about and struggle with how I go about teaching and speaking to him about this topic and faith at this age and in the coming years. I think about the community aspect we are missing as well. All that said, I still dont have answers for our family and think about it often, but it is very helpful and heartwarming to read about your experiences and the experiences of others who have been willing to share.

  • Marie

    My husband and I both were raised in churches. He was a “pew baby” going 2-3x a week, and I went to Catholic school through 4th grade, then stopped going completely. We both lean towards atheist beliefs now, but have decided if our son ever wants to attend a church (ANY church) we will take him. And we will teach him that “WE believe certain things, and other people believe different things, and it is up to you to decide what you believe”. That was my biggest problem with churches and Catholic school: that X is the right answer, and everyone else is wrong. But anyways..
    we do celebrate “religious” holidays, but not in a religious way (usually about spending time with family and doing things for others etc). I personally never had that sense of community in church, and felt even more disconnected as an adult that doesnt share those beliefs, when everyone assumes you are part of a church.
    I dont think its wrong to be a member of a church purely for the community, as long as you share some of the same beliefs the way you do. Someone like me should not go though

  • Sarah

    My husband and I don’t currently have children, but hope to one day. We were both raised in the church, with my upbringing being much more strict than his. We have talked a lot about how we will expalin my families religion with them. I think about holidays a lot and how can we create our own experinece for our kids, while respecting my families beliefs. Most recently we both loved the idea of celebrating all different kinds of religious holidays and using it as an expierience to teach our kids about what other people beleive. We will see what happens after we actually have kids!

  • Tiffany

    Some churches have mom groups where you do not have to attend the church to be a part of the group. They usually meet bi-weekly and childcare is provided while the moms chat. I would think something like that might meet the need of community without making it feel like you are using the church solely for community and not for spirituality.
    Although, any church I have attended would be happy to have a family attend even if it wasn’t for spiritual reasons 🙂

  • Niki

    I’m so glad to know I’m not alone in this! I live in the Bible Belt where it is way more taboo of a thing to not be religious! I believe in God but have issue with a lot of exclusivity of churches here. I want our children to be open to all walks of life so church often seems not the right fit! Thanks for this post!

  • Ellie Maletto

    Really interesting post Kelly, thank you! I’m not religious anymore and I’m not a mother, but I was raised Christian and still think the key principles of loving kindness, empathy and forgiveness are the most essential lessons. I don’t know for sure but I bet many churches would be happy for extra ‘volunteers’ at community events even if you don’t necessarily subscribe to their views or attend mass every Sunday etc. I think the holidays can still be celebrated too but maybe as they were originally intended? Without the ‘pagan’ symbolism, my husband and I still love to celebrate the holidays but by recognising the change of seasons and the different cycles of life, it can still involve the traditional symbols e.g. christmas trees, Easter eggs etc. but doesn’t need to have the religious elements to be meaningful. I don’t know yet if my husband and I will have children but I don’t think I would want to raise them in any particular church as I’d like to avoid them feeling any kind of pressure to identify in a certain way, no matter how open minded the church 🙂

  • Rebecca

    Great post! I 100% agree about the community aspect. My husband and I attend synagogue every week and take our 2-year-old to “Tot Shabbat.” She sings songs and plays games, and it’s something that all of us look forward to every week! She’s also going to be attending nursery school in the fall with a bunch of the kids from the program, which is really great because it means she gets to further her friendships with the kids while we get to do the same with their parents. For us personally, our weekly synagogue attendance as a family is an important re-centering that takes us out of the hectic non-stop, day to day. We love it. (Though we’ll see how this progresses through the teenage years when I’m guessing she’ll be slightly less enthusiastic about going… but who knows)

  • Jaclyn

    Love that you are opening up on a topic like this! As we’re imminently due with our first kid, I have definitely had the idea of community here in LA on my mind – we have a bunch of GREAT friends, but we’re also pretty much the “first” to be starting a family and I’ve realized we don’t really have much of a built in community in the sense of consistent events and get togethers like you describe, and that that will be more important going forward now. Everything can’t be a dinner get-together and a couple of drinks anymore 😉 We are also non-religious so finding a church for that isn’t really in our plans. Hoping some other LA mamas end up weighing in here with ideas!

    To some of your other points – my parents grew up going to churches, but didn’t in their adult life so we weren’t raised going. We went a few times with other relatives (I remember a couple of weekends staying with grandparents where we would end up going) and I ended up going on a weekend retreat in middle school with a friend’s church because the friend wanted me to go with them to hang out – so if we were curious, there were ways in which we explored it but there was no pressure to either be involved or not. Granted we ended up not being super interested in attending anything outside of the smattering of events, and I’m not sure how my parents would have juggled their lack of attendance with a desire in us to attend? But the general idea of not closing off one avenue or another, and just answering things as it came up via others felt right for us.

    Holiday-wise we celebrated the major events secularly – Christmas has always been the biggest time of year in our house (and I personally always loved Easter as well – spring and pastel and dyeing eggs!) Again, we ended up learning the more religious reasoning behind these holidays just through questions/other family members & honestly just general US pop culture (?) but never felt guilt per-se about focusing on the non-religious aspects. Especially with Christmas at least, there are still very important lessons about giving vs receiving and generosity that can stay the focus instead of the super commercialized stuff! My husband’s family was a little less into holidays overall (lots of general logistics stuff with his family lended itself to holidays just not being the way they prioritized family time), but we generally plan on continuing to celebrate these holidays as a family in a similar secular fashion.

  • Sophie

    I’ve had ALLLLL the same questions about community. My husband and I were raised in the same faith but have been felt really disconnected to is as we grow up and the doctrines just don’t align with our moral and political beliefs.

    Every part of my childhood feels like it was somehow connected to church and the church community, so stepping away feels like a step away from basically everyone in my current community.

    It’s been so sad to see that most of our church friendships have ghosted or faded away as we’ve stepped away from the religious aspects of church, and we both kind of feel lost without that sense of community. I don’t really know how to get that sense of community back without church, but it feels disingenuous to attend for purely social reasons.

  • Annie

    This hits home on a lot of levels – thank you for the post! I don’t have answers or recommendations. However, our 4-yr old just started preschool and I could see school providing some of that sense of community? At least for a set number of years, anyway.

  • Emily

    I just wanted to comment quickly about the idea of celebrating traditionally religious holidays while not being very religious.

    Holidays like Easter and Christmas are of cultural importance in the Western world and America. Yes, they are religious holidays, but they aren’t originally Christian holidays anyway. Most adults know that Christ was not born on December 25– instead, the winter solstice and winter festivities were an important part of many pagan relgions, and it was easier to celebrate and convert people to Christianity if they already celebrated that time of year. Ditto for Easter/Spring.

    I would argue that most Americans (myself included) celebrate a secular holiday like Thanksgiving the same way. Yes, we may think about the pilgrims/Indians stories, but do we celebrate those really? No, we celebrate food, family, time off from work, travel, etc and most people I know don’t feel guilty or weird about that.

    Holidays are such a cultural part of our lives– we typically get off work, bake good food, hang with family– and they don’t need to be intertwined with religion to be, or feel, valid.

  • Erin

    Beautiful post! I grew up in the church and now I’m married with two kids and still go to church. Obviously there are religious reasons behind this, but community is also a massive reason why we keep going. In fact, a lack of community was one of the reasons my family moved churches about 18 months ago. We’d been at our previous church for more than 10 years (my husband and I met there as teenagers) and had an awesome group of friends – who we’d call family. But a few years ago we realised that lots of our friends had moved away and it often felt that even though we’d been there for yeeeeeeaaaaars, we were increasingly becoming strangers because we had no friends there anymore. We made the final decision to move not long after Donald Trump became president. We don’t live in the US – we live in New Zealand – but Trump and Clinton’s presidential races made us realise that the people at our church were actually very different to us and didn’t hold the same values anymore (can I be clear here, though – the issue we had was with the people who went to our church, not the actual church. Politics was not preached from the pulpit). We decided to leave so we could find a church that had people who were more like us. Thankfully we’ve found our people again – and despite our family being Christian and regularly attending church, community was a huge reason why we moved. Finding your people is so important. I see my new girlfriends at least twice a week and obviously on a Sunday we all see each other, often doing lunch or something after church. It’s so awesome that all of our kids get to grow up with each other too. Community is magic when you find it and I don’t think it’s a bad reason for going to church at all. For all its bad points, our last church always said “belong before you believe” which always resonated with me. Good luck finding your people xx

  • Brittany

    I relate to this a lot! I’m not Christian, more vaguely spiritual? We have two kids, 4 and 1.5, and while we do celebrate the traditional Christian holidays in a non secular way, we focus more on both our own family traditions, and the values that comes with these holidays. For example, Christmas for us is about quality time with family, but also celebrating our love and bonds with each other, the value of giving and the importance of helping others, etc.
    If my older child asks questions about church or religion, we give a brief explanation that touches upon what some of the things each religion believes or values. We’ll teach him more as is age appropriate and he can explore any religion that calls to him.
    As for community, we live in a neighborhood with a ton of other kids around our kids’ ages and having them is invaluable. Busytoddler on IG has a wonderful post/story highlight about neighborhood block parties. Each neighbor brings out random food and leftovers to feed the whole block and coparent and socialize together. Also, just move to Santa Margarita (we’re 10 min north of San Luis Obispo) and we’ll adopt your family into our tribe 😘

  • Nicky

    Hi!
    Writing from the UK here so I feel like our backgrounds are very different but I feel so strongly about this I wanted to pop up and let you know.
    I’m an atheist and a humanist,
    I didn’t go to church as a kid. The one time I did I was shocked at so many aspects and felt deeply uncomfortable. I struggle with church weddings (though or course I’m delighted to be there to celebrate a happy union)
    We do however celebrate Easter and Christmas. Both of these were festivals LONG before Christianity. The celebration is spring and midwinter is so deeply ingrained in all societies and cultures. We do use a lot of the traditional ways to celebrate (advent, tree etc)
    For death we talk about how things end but how we remember our loved ones in our memory and they live on there. We talk about them and what we loved about them. But no heaven chat. They’re dead (not sleeping., not gone)
    With kids honesty is the best thing- saying ‘I don’t know’ is ok! And using plain language is best. Kids will know when you’re lying, even if it’s a little white lie!
    You guys are awesome. I’m so inspired by the life you’ve created and the generosity and love you give out.
    All the best
    Nicky xx

  • Carly Totten

    Hi Kelly!

    I grew up Presbyterian, and by “grew up”, I mean I attended church on Christmas (usually) and Easter (sometimes). I do believe in a higher power, and I do find comfort in the idea of heaven, especially because I have lost all four of my grandparents, a few friends, and my aunt in more recent years. Like you, I have never felt comfortable at church, though I do love it at Christmas, and I definitely don’t identify with many of the conservative beliefs or modern services.

    I wanted to speak (or write!) to your point about community. As someone who essentially didn’t grow up attending church, I never had that community and I have never missed it. I don’t think you can miss what you don’t or choose not to have. Instead, my mom met her best friends and also mine by joining our community pool. We’ve all now been friends for nearly 30 years. They are my people even if we all don’t live close by to each other now. Further, my family was part of my group at school, and I’ve always been involved in sports. To this day, I play tennis every week with a group, and I also run with another group. I think once Arlo starts participating in activities, sports especially, and attends elementary school, you will find your people. The other thing that always helped in terms of feeling as though my family and I belonged is living in a neighborhood. There were a bunch of kids on our street, and we all put our ages aside and gathered together for 20 years.

    The result is I don’t think you need to attend church to make community happen. I do think it takes more effort though because you have to put yourself out there and find opportunities and explore interests more versus being automatically accepted into a church community.

  • Fabie

    I’m not a mom yet but I’m a daughter that grew up with a Catholic dad and a Christian mom, they respected each other beliefs and agreed that they would teach me both and let me decide but with time they became more spiritual and less religious, and I feel full with what they’ve taught me about spirituality. In my case whenever I attend mass or a church service I feel okay and take what inspires me to be a better person. I don’t feel like I’ve missed something by not being part of one or another.

  • Jenn

    I had a really hard time with the dogma and judgement associated with growing up evangelical, but I attended the same church until I graduated high school. The people there are my family and remember my parents struggling with fertility and were there through all that and have had great joy meeting our son. This is a big part of why we became Unitarian Universalists. We love that they adhere to 7 principles and have 6 sources where they seek wisdom from. We support each other in our spiritual searches and my particular church has atheists (humanists) and people from all sorts of backgrounds (jewish, catholic, mormon, budhist, pagan, hindu, and I’m sure more). We are also extremely active in social justice in our community. We meet every Sunday and it’s great to provide Judah with religious and ethical education without any of the shame or guilt I grew up with. We still sing and hang out and have reading groups, but right now we’re reading Becoming by Michelle Obama rather than the Bible. We also don’t feel its a necessity to attend Sunday service. If you feel more fulfilled by participating in Disc Golf, game night, or our textiles group than coming to church that’s fine too.

    Sorry I tend to get carried away, but I love our church and its been so refreshing to find a place that wasn’t rife with the spiritual abuse my husband and I both grew up with.

  • Abby

    Beautiful share! There is absolutely no wrong reason to go to church! I hope If your feeling a pull towards the community you listen to your gut and go. I think you will find acceptance at church no matter what your reason for being there is! ☺️

  • Kelley

    I really appreciate your openness about this! It’s always nice (for me, someone who is not religious) to come across a DIY/craft blog that isn’t at least partially centered on religion… but that’s about me, not you.

    I used to work at a UU church, which might be one of the non-centered-around-religion churches you mentioned above, and I was the director of religious education. Unitarian Universalism is a non creedal faith that draws from lots of backgrounds – it was originally two different denominations of Christianity who have since merged. Part of their religious education/Sunday school classes included learning about other religions and visiting their place of worship (mosques, temples, etc) to make their own conclusions and thoughts about the world. They celebrate traditional Christian holidays but also some pagan ones (we celebrated May Day at the one I worked at with a may pole!! It was so friggin cute to watch the kids braid it).

    Since our bb is almost 2 (in August) we’ve started going (I stopped after I moved out of state from the one I worked at) because it gives him something to do, gets us out of the house, and makes us socialize. They have a lot of events that aren’t the service, too, so you could be involved and just kind of skip that. They also offer an in depth comprehensive age appropriate sex education for Kindergarteners through adulthood, which I really, really appreciate.

    UU churches definitely vary region to region – I can’t guarantee that CA ones will suit you. The one I went to in SC was nice though. 🤷🏻‍♀️

  • Mia

    Hi! Such a great post, thanks for sharing!!

    Not a mom, but I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have gone to church every Sunday for my entire life. As a lifelong member, I can attest to the amazing community that it has brought into my life. I moved around a lot as a kid, so it really created a stability that shaped my childhood and teenage years. I know that wherever I go in the world I can find a congregation of my faith and feel an instant community (I now live in London and go to church here). It’s truly an amazing experience! Of course, no one is perfect within the church, but everyone is trying to create Christ-centered lives together and that’s what I love. I assume that it can be very hard to be a mother and find a community for a family and children. I have followed you and Jeff for quite a while now and admire the kindness and fun that you foster within your family, and look up to the love and loyalty that you have for them! Thanks for being a great example of a wonderful family!

  • Lily

    Great post! I am Muslim however I also have some of the same concerns as you do in regards to having a sense of community while not being too active with going to mosque and we also do Easter and Christmas with our kids but from a secular stance and more as a fun tradition. Being a parent can be so confusing because sometimes you just don’t have all the right answers but we just try our best and I think the most important aspect regardless of religion is just to instill good values in our children and show them how to be strong and kind.

  • Molly Brooks

    Hey Kelly! I am someone who believes very strongly in a relationship with Jesus and that a church “home” is an important aspect of that, so I found your perspective on it very interesting! I appreciate your honestly in that you are unsure of your own beliefs yourself. I’d like to start by saying that I believe church is much more then “religion” and what makes a church worthwhile is how they view the relationship with God over the rules/traditions/stipulations that are often under the religion cloak. In that way, I think that is what sets the community of a church apart from any other kind of community, as you said so yourself. It’s different and more meaningful because it’s based on something more meaningful, it’s a group of people striving for the most important goal- being the hands and feet of Jesus. And when people work towards that together, the community of a “church” is the result. Not that it’s perfect by any means, but I just believe it works well because that’s the way God intended it to be. As far as going to church for that community inclusion without sharing the beliefs, what if you just checked out some churches anyways so that, in looking for the community, you may also find within yourself, what you do or do not believe- kill two birds with one stone! I live in a completely different state then you, but I’ve never known a church to be upset that someone was coming even if they weren’t sure what they believed in. A great church would welcome you into their community regardless of your beliefs. One thing my church participates in is a group called “MOPS” (mother’s of preschoolers). It is a nationwide group that has chapters within different churches. I don’t know exactly how each church does it, but mine meets once a month for a meeting, nursery is provided for kids to play together, the moms have breakfast together, listen to a speaker, do a craft, learn a skill, just hang out basically and then they also get together for things outside of that meeting for play dates, BBQs, etc. It is Christian based, but it definitely is more of a community/support group for moms. You may check and see if a church near you has one of these groups! Anyways, good luck in your search! I hope you find what are looking for!

  • Dylan B

    This is such an interesting yet rarely talked about topic! I am not a parent but a teen. I have been raised in no particular religion but my family does celebrate commercial christmas, halloween, and easter. I think it has been really freeing not to have a belief system put on to me as I can decide what I want to believe through my own research. Yes, I don’t have that piece of my identity figured out like some of my friends do, but I am glad to be making my own decisions about a higher power. I educate myself as much as possible and am currently agnostic. We almost never talk about religion in my home so I only recently learned my Mom is Buddhist. We don’t talk about death very often and possible afterlives don’t really come up. I love having the chance to chart my own path and build a belief system off of my core values. But those are just my thoughts! Obviously everyone has their own opinion. Thank you for this post!

  • Rachel

    This is so relevant to me! My husband and I live in Tennessee. Our daughter is 9 months old. We both grew up going to church, but had very different experiences. My mom and I stopped going to our General Baptist church when I was about 8. When I was in high school, I went frequently with a friend and her family to a Methodist church. I liked it, but mainly because I liked the preacher. He put emphasis on being a good, kind human. THAT resonated with me. My husband grew up in a Missionary Baptist church. The things he was taught make my skin crawl. It was only when he got older and moved away from the teeny-tiny town he few up in that he started to question it all. We haven’t been to church in years and I don’t ever see it being a part of our lives. (Imagine experiencing all this in the south. People don’t exactly understand our hesitation with church/religion/etc.) I don’t know what I believe. It’s hard to resign my logical mind to blind faith. We have talked about how we’ll address religion to our daughter. We know enough about Christianity to teach her the basics of what Christians believe, but I also want to let her know that there are lots of different groups that believe lots of different things. (I would love some books for children on different religions if anyone has recs!) I’m sure she’ll have the societal pressure to visit churches with friends and experience those things. Overall, it’s just important to me that she has all the information possible and chooses what SHE wants to believe. My husband and I are lucky in that our closest family members accept our views on this, but some extended family will always view us as the black sheep… something we are totally fine with! I’m just so glad that you spoke on this and started a dialogue on something so many of us, obviously, are dealing with.

  • Krysta

    Wonderful post! You should think about getting Arlo into the arts! I grew up in church my whole life, even a bit as an adult (I’m 34) and never found lifelong friends, or a community that stayed with me through life’s challenges. Especially if you aren’t a “believer”. Not necessarily because there’s judgement but just simply because you aren’t actually like-minded people. It’s hard to connect and stay bonded if you don’t have similar priorities. But I started dance classes and community/youth theater when I was young and those people are my lifelong community. Most people don’t even end up staying in the arts long term (I’m the only crazy one who did!) but the exposure to all walks of life, creativity, and confidence you get is forever. As it kid it also connected me to a group of adults that are my friends too so it’s a great whole family activity. He’d be adorable in tap class and he already loves Julie Andrews so that’s a start 😂. Good luck in your search and thanks for the interesting read!

  • Emily

    Thank you for opening up a discussion about this! I feel like no one is brave enough to open up about this online. I grew up going to church every Sunday (for three hours!), youth activities every Wednesday night and even a scripture study class every morning before school in high school (sounds insane, haha, but that’s The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). All that time obviously created a HUGE sense of community that I am so grateful for. I am still religious today and finding that community in each city has been huge for us as we’ve been away from family and friends (especially after having a baby!) But I have been thinking about two things recently: 1. How to raise my children to understand what I believe and why it makes me so happy, while still giving them the room and freedom to decide what they believe. It sounds like your parents did a good job there! 2. I often wish that our close friend group involved more people that weren’t from our religion. It can definitely feel like a bubble some times and almost feel like we are excluding people. It’s not intentional of course, we just spend so much time together already and it gets comfortable. And I often don’t want to just invite one person who doesn’t go to our church as they might feel awkward or left out, especially at first. Anyway, just my thoughts as someone kind of on the other side of this whole thing!

  • Lindsay

    This topic really resonates with me, as my feelings I think are similar to yours. I grew up not ever really attending church and now consider myself not a Christian (I don’t want to be attached to any group of people who support abhorrent views and hide behind archaic ideologies to express them), but I am also not an atheist. I LONG for a sense of belonging in a larger group – but not in a religious group. I wish I could find a group to celebrate LIFE together without it having to be a part of a religion. I know that I could get along and assimilate into a religious experience, but I too, think that wouldn’t be the right way to find my people if in the end we don’t share similar beliefs – I don’t want them to think I’m a fraud while also enjoying the splendors of the group experience. As for now, I celebrate the Christian holidays with the focus on the commercial aspects as well, along with focusing on family traditions and togetherness.

  • Romina

    I love your topic because it’s very honest and it is not easy to talk about religion…But whether we are religious or not we all feel that spiritual needs that is inside of us, I think. We all ask our self What is the sense in life? Where do we came from? Why would a God of love allow suffering? What happens to us when we die? I find some valid answer in this web site JW.org
    I hope you will find the same. 😊

  • Breanna

    This is such a fabulous post and something I’ve been researching heavily lately…. I am a Christian. We are avid church goers- very involved & pretty religious. But I believe anyone can be involved in the church as a believer or not. All lessons of Christianity can boil down to, as you mentioned, just being a good, kind-hearted person… I wholeheartedly welcome anyone and would not think twice about someone who just wants community and to be morally upheld. Try some churches out! Be honest and open about what you want, and I bet many won’t have a problem at all! I have so many thoughts on all of this, and of course can’t put a single one together right now (where da coffee at!?) but seriously, give it a try. There are good, progressive, open churches out there that would love to have you and your family as a part of their community.

    I would also like to say that even though we are religious and heavily involved in our church, which includes bringing our children… we feel the same way as you described your parents, we just want them to be good people. They don’t have to believe what we believe. So even though we have this awesome, intense Christian-based community, we do and will always let them explore any religion, or lack of, that they want. So even when it comes to kiddos, you can attend a church, be part of the community and still not push anything on them. It’s just another resource in life!

    This was all over the place, I’m sorry. Just some thoughts 😂❤️

  • Cherry

    Growing up, I attended CCD classes in the Catholic Church and was very involved with the church throughout my college years. I do miss the community of church and also reflecting on the sermons after service on Sundays while having brunch with my family and friends. I don’t necessarily feel like you need to focus solely on the religious aspect of sermons but there are great teachings about acceptance, kindness, charity, etc. that are often emphasized in them.

    Even though I was raised Catholic, my parents never limited me to only attend a Catholic Church. I often went to my friends churches to figure out what religion spoke to me; I encourage you to explore and see what’s right for you and your family (there are so many practicing faiths out there to choose from). I feel like having such open minded parents allowed me to find what religion offered the teachings and environment that I wanted to be apart of.

    Having said that, I should share that I am not currently attending regular services since moving to the Las Vegas area. My husband’s family was less flexible in their religious views and he suffered some humiliation when going to his family’s church. This has created a gap in his desire to pursue going to church regularly. As a unit, we try to respect and encourage each others religious journey, and I think that’s all we can really ask of one another.

    Overall, I think the long and the short of it is to be open and honest with Alro about his options and support his spiritual journey as he grows, whether that is with a church or in another way. Thank you for sharing and provoking meaningful thinking about real life issues. 🙂

  • Michelle

    Hey Kelly!
    I never comment online, but this struck a chord with me. While I am not a parent, I have been thinking about religion more since my long term boyfriend’s family are very anti-religion, yet none of them has any religious education/background. As a kid, my family went to church fairly regularly up through middle school. My sister and I didn’t make friends there and also did not enjoy going. We attended private religious schools (Christian elementary and middle schools, Catholic/Jesuit high school) up until college, which included a weekly sermon or mass. As a kid, I didn’t understand why we went to those schools, but as an adult, I know that the public school system in our area wasn’t great.

    That said, I think there is a lot of value in having some amount of religious education. I think as a whole it can help you to be more empathetic and understanding of other people. Certainly, there are people on extremes who are not good examples, but I feel like it helps to provide more empathy, insight, and understanding for others. My high school offered a world religions course as an elective, and I think that was the most valuable class I ever took. After a lifetime of only learning one point of view, it was eye-opening to see that most religions pretty much boil down into not being a jerk to others.

    As an adult, I do not go to church, but I generally say a prayer every night thanking God for the health and happiness of my family and loved ones and for whatever went well in my day. I use it more as a quiet time to look back on everything good in my life regardless of how my day went. I also think the presence of religion helps me to be less self-absorbed and know that everything is not about me. I’m fine with the idea that there’s a higher power out there (whatever it is), but I think the most important is the understanding that I’m not the center of the universe and to be respectful of all people.

  • Summer

    Thanks for sharing Kelly! I went to church growing up and didn’t love it, but there was a peace I felt at times, and as an adult I searched that out at a lot of churches and found myself back at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons).

    It’s not always easy to go, but we’ve made a commitment, and just like marriage, when you put the time in you see the benefits. Our kids have teachers who love them and are important examples to them, I volunteer with the youth and get to be a consistent support to them.

    Another thing I love about our church, is they keep each congregation under 500 people-ish, and we’re assigned to check on each other and be a support to each other. When you show up every Sunday, you not only get something out of the experience, but you’re making other people’s lives better too.

    Organized religion can get a bad rap, and some of it is deserved, but I’ve also enjoyed asking questions internally and trying to make change where it seems like it’s needed. Our churches, especially in Los Angeles, are welcoming of all people, and at any level/participation.

    Come with us anytime!

  • Lauren

    Wowowow, love this topic. It’s something not many people openly discuss but that I’ve been secretly trying to pry opinions out of people on ever since I met my (atheist) husband. Our biggest religious/spiritual debate is centered around currently non-existent kids and how we plan to raise them in a multi-belief environment and what that environment will look like. We still have frequent debates about whether or not potential kids will be baptized.

    My atheist husband completely supports me choosing whatever I want for myself (he even joined me on a pilgrimage through Israel to all the Biblical locations and let me have a loot of teary eyed moments) but he feels uncomfortable about choosing that path for someone else who isn’t capable of having a say in it… which is totally valid and I get.

    For me, while I always remember the sense of community that church gave to our family, I also remember it being very surface level and sort of run-of-the-mill “how ya doin’s“, I never saw true life long friendships blossom from our church going and therefore it always felt superficial to me so the community aspect of church hasn’t called out to me too much as I’ve gotten older. I’ve found that my husband actually has better non-religious affiliated community ties than I do (he was a Scout and I never realized how DEEP scouts run. People in his town literally buy homes closer to the scouting meeting place so their kids can attend that specific scouting group that they did). Since I moved to his town I’ve actually gotten heavily involved in scouts and being a scout leader and I LOVE the community it affords without the burden of having to declare my spiritual/religious stance.

    But still, the spirituality aspect of a religious institute calls to me. The full on indoctrination I received as a kid means that I can occasionally give myself panic attacks about whether my husband/future children would really be blocked from heaven if they are non-believers/not baptized. Of course, that’s not MY version of what the higher power would be like and stand for, but it’s the version that I grew up learning about and it scares the pants off me sometimes. I even had a family member reassure me just before my wedding that I could always “secretly baptize”. *side eye emoji* While I love so, so, sooo many of the values and lessons that religion offers, it’s those scare tactics/indoctrination that I so desperately want to save my kids from. It’s only led to a lot of heartache and anxiety for me.

    I consider myself far more spiritual than religious now and have done a lot of digging about what I believe. I’ve got a patchwork belief system now that doesn’t fit into any one traditional mold. My personal outlook is “same mountain, different sides” plus a good sprinkling of reincarnation and what that sort of ideology has given me is the feeling that there is no wrong way to worship. It’s now just a matter of discovering how to nurture a child to feel comfortable in exploring whatever form of belief (or non-belief) that they are interested in.

    So, still no idea of how this will all play out in the future but so happy to see religion being openly addressed. So curious to read through all the comments and see what solutions people present!

  • Pamela Balcom

    What if a relationship with Jesus is the very best and most valuable lesson you can learn yourself or teach to your children? What if you miss out on the reason people stuck together over a lifetime, as your parents did in the church? Where will you get your moral authority or tell you children the “whys” of good actions and “why nots” of not so good? If life is all about friendship and social, then how about considering a relationship with the One who made you? He loves adoption too! He becomes Father to all who call on Him! Not religion…relationship.

  • Samantha Hulbert

    Thank you for writing this. I really thought I was the only one that felt this way. I was raised Roman Catholic and had the same experience as you ( hated Sunday school, so volunteered instead). I left the church when I became an adult due to their intolerance of certain issues. I now have two children who have been to a Non-Denominational mega church where we live in SoCal but, I still can’t get behind the concept of organized religion. The boys loved the kids church but it seemed like all they were doing in the adult version was guilting you into giving them money. I believe is some I defined higher power also, so this makes finding my spirituality harder.

    On the concept of holidays we celebrate the religious holidays but don’t focus on the religious parts. It’s not about the gifts at Christmas but the spirit of the season and the traditions that we pass down. They know the story of Christmas and we have a nativity but it is not the focus. For Easter we focus on togetherness and not on the religious aspect at all. The boys do not know the religious story of Easter. I don’t need my zombie obsessed boys telling people that Jesus was a zombie. 🙂
    We have decided to simplify these holidays to focus on what really matters to our family and I believe that has helped with empty celebration feelings after commercial holidays.

    I look forward to reading all these comments since this resonates with so much that I am feeling right now. Thanks for being brave enough to ask the hard questions and open yourself up.

  • Kristen

    I definitely relate to a lot of what you are saying. I grew up Methodist and I attend church regularly as an adult, but I don’t know that I have ever felt a full and deep spiritual connection. The church I attend now is welcoming and more representative of what I feel Jesus’s teachings actually are (love, kindness, helping your community). The public face of Christianity has been something that has definitely made me less enthused to be a part of a church and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find a space that felt true to me…but we did. I am in a mom group (MOPS) at my church for mothers of preschoolers. We were new to the area before my son was born and this is how I made basically all of my friends here. So it has been great for the communnity aspect. I don’t know that my faith will ever line up exactly with any church. I want to believe in a higher power. I also believe in being kind and empathetic and helping, and that is what I want to pass on to my kids. I think a good church SHOULD teach those things. If I felt like the church we attend was teaching my kids things I didn’t feel comfortable with (not down with any kind of judgements) I would reconsider our attendance. Overall it has been good for me. It has challenged me to think about what I do and don’t believe, what I think it is important to teach my kids, it has offered me community and friendship. I don’t know if I will ever be ALL IN but I also think it is ok to think independently about it. Is it meaningful at all if you just accept it without questioning? I don’t know! It is complicated! I think you captured the feeling really well.

  • Sara Mincy

    What a great post. I love your blog (ADORE your style and art) and haven’t commented much…but this post has compelled me to post! My kids are now 17, 16, and 13….and I thank God on a weekly basis for my church particularly how it’s impacted them. They feel so connected and loved and part of a larger church family. They love going to church and when we came home late from vacation the red eye flight had us exhausted but my older boys got up and went to church because they needed to see their friends (old and young alike) and be in youth group.

    I would love to move to the pacific north west but just our church community keeps us here it’s such a great thing to have; the traditions and events really do anchor our lives. We moved here (NC) when my kids were 5, 3, and 1….so to go from those ages and not knowing anyone to now being here where we just had my eldest sons graduation party where so many people gathered around to celebrate him- it’s amazing how we’ve grown and flourished here.

    All that said, I grew up in a baptist church – my dad was the pastor!!! I would say that I had a good experience and I did come to believe in God and what Jesus did for me …but it has really been as an adult and finding a church where the Bible is taught in a clear and loving way and where our pastor is humble…he studies the scripture and he admits his own faults and failures. It’s such a great place to be because we are all in it together and there’s not this “holier than thou” attitude.
    My advice is to you to pray about it..which I know you’ll probably not be sure about, but it feels like you are trying to figure out your belief in God and it seems like God is trying to show you your need of Him and your need of a community of people to come around you and support you and your sweet family.
    Even if you don’t know what to say I would advise you to pray and ask God to show you a church or several churches to visit and I would definitely visit a lot of churches and I think you’ll know when you find it….it is worth the search and worth the work to have a community in your life who loves you, looks out for you, knows you, and supports you, and likewise, you will become a support to others.
    I just think the world of you guys and how you are such wonderful creative parents to Arlo, I’m going to pray that God does show you and lead you to a place that teaches the Bible, and a place where you can grow and thrive together as a family! 🙂

  • Kerri

    My thoughts are whirling on so many levels and I’m fascinated from the perspectives as I read all the comments. As a Christian in spirit and a United Methodist in religion, I’d like to respectfully add my two cents:

    To me, religion and spirituality are two very different things. Religion is the practice of faith. It stems from our desire to, first and foremost, connect with God through Christ (as I believe). As a result, I desire to connect with others in fellowship, people I am close to and love dearly within my church family. We certainly have different opinions and ideas, but we love in those differences, which fosters a respect between us and a recognition that we truly don’t have all the answers.

    We are human in our humanness = imperfect. The Bible is our guide to live life and live life abundantly. Becoming a Christian does not provide immunity from bad things happening. It provides HOPE when the bad things do happen. That’s where spirituality comes in – a connectedness to Him. Connectedness in community is nice (i.e. religion). It serves a personal need to an extent, but will never completely fill us in the way we connect to Christ through habitual prayer, meditation and faith.

    I also feel a parental responsibility to raise my child to understand those differences between religion and spirituality – and opinions from interpretation of Scripture. Relationship with the Holy Trinity takes time in order to grow and mature an individual. Therefore, my husband and I are connected with our church family and to also connect our son. Church teaches him, too, matters of religion, what we believe, and why we believe what we do. He will choose for himself as he ages (he’s 14 now), but my husband and I feel accountable to God to raise our son in this way. We don’t let him sit out just because he’s “bored” or not into it. He is allowed the freedom to choose his work within the church. He doesn’t like to sing in youth choir but he’s good at handling the sound system for our Youth Director instead. When he’s 18, he can choose, and I hold firm to Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is OLD (emphasis mine), he will not depart from it.” My child isn’t old yet, so now it’s the job of my husband and me.

    Kelly, you are seeking, I think, as are many others as I read through these comments. My prayer for you and the other readers is just SEEK HIM.

    “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. YOU WILL SEEK ME AND FIND ME WHEN YOU SEEK ME WITH ALL YOUR HEART (emphasis mine).” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

    He will meet you where ever you are. Where. Ever. YOU. Are. Because He loves you.

    Thank you for allowing us a chance to share. For me, it was on my heart.

    Respectfully.

  • Kerri

    Sorry, me again! That was Jeremiah 29:11-13 – I wanted to correct my error.

    Thanks!

  • Anna

    Wow, thank you for writing this in such a kind, respectful way! I’m loving reading the comments to see what others have experienced.
    I grew up going to church (Presbyterian) on Sundays but my family wasn’t super religious. We never talked about spirituality at home but I’m pretty sure my parents took us because it was “the right thing to do”. I did love the community surrounding it and the activities though! In high school I had a lot of pretty religious friends and started going to a youth group at a modern kind of church. I love singing and music and every church service was basically a concert so I loved that. By the time I got to college I stopped physically going to church and have grown to become pretty non-religious.
    My fiancé (raised very catholic but now non religious) and I were discussing what we might want to do for our future children. It stresses me out because I want them to know about religion and have a community but I don’t necessarily agree with Christianity 100%. He put it in a great way – we’ll lead by example by showing kindness and acceptance to others and surround ourselves with friends and a community we want our kids to look up to.
    Kids are in the semi close future (maybe 5 years), and I still worry about finding the right community for our kids but I’m glad we’re already having the discussion and thinking about how we’ll raise our kids!

  • Holly

    Wow oh wow does this resonate.

    I have three kids and both my husband and I were raised Catholic. My immediate family gradually pulled away from the church and religion in general really after I finished confirmation. Ever since, I just really have never felt like it fit my life. My husband is an atheist so between the two of us it was a pretty simple decision to not raise our kids with religion.

    Flash forward to today, my oldest is coming up on nine, and we honestly don’t feel like it’s lacking or depleting their life of any values or significance. The only time we have struggled is the simple confusion they had of why their friends had a special class after school. We’ve give simple education in more of a historical/ sociological point of view when it comes to holidays ( citing everything from pagans to Hindu religions) We still revel in the various commercial aspects of religious holidays. When it comes to teaching our kids ethics and values it’s comforting that we are teaching them straight to the point with out anyone else’s potentially toxic ideas interfering.

  • april foster

    I saved this to come back to when I had a chance..sorry I’m late to the party 🙂
    I love that you were open enough to share with us your thoughts on religion. It’s so taboo and I wish it weren’t that way, so THANK YOU!

    1. COMMUNITY | I’ve never not worshipped with a local congregation of people and can’t imagine my life without it. The church families I’ve been a part of growing up have been exactly that, like family to me. We have a common goal and there’s so much comfort in that. These people are there without motive to serve one another. I love it! So, I’m not sure if that can be found elsewhere…I haven’t found it yet!

    2. OTHER WAYS TO FIND COMMUNITY | I guess my last sentence above answered that. I do participate in other groups in our community but none have the stability or common bond like our church family…

    3. EDUCATING CHILDREN | We just seek to find answers in the bible and be honest about what it says even if we don’t entirely understand or want to agree with it. It can be hard reading passages and realizing “oops! I shouldn’t have done that or said that” but being honest with them about it being a walk and that we never will be perfect. I think you can both learn at the same time and Arlo and future baby will appreciate that so much. I connect most with Claire especially when we discover things together or open the Bible and read together. She’s even seeking out more on her own now that she’s reading. It’s pretty exciting!

    4. HOLIDAYS | You know I’m religious, but we don’t celebrate any holiday as religious days. Easter & Christmas are both man-made holidays and traditions established hundreds of years after Jesus walked on earth. We try to instill overall messages such as giving, thankfulness, and time together with family & friends. We want there to be clear lines between what God has said in His word and what traditions men and women have established, even though there may be good intentions behind the holidays.

    5. DEATH 🙁 | This to me is the biggest and hardest question to answer without believing in God. I believe we were created to contemplate eternity, unlike any other creature on earth. I don’t have all the answers or think we need more than what’s already been revealed to us about the subject. The very fact that we can contemplate eternity is reason enough to believe it is likely to exist. At the very base level, I think it’s easy to reason that if you’re making a bet on whether there’s an afterlife, the safest bet will be that there is. If I live my life as a Christian and there’s not an afterlife, then oh well, I’ve still lived a good life, one in service to others. If I live my life not believing and there is an afterlife, I run the risk of missing out on heaven and being in everlasting punishment. I guess that’s the only non-religious way I can think of describing my thought process.
    I definitely admire you thinking about this now and not as you say, when you’re in the moment. Regardless, saying you’re not sure or you want to learn more and figure out what you believe is better than saying “they’re in a better place” or making up something you don’t believe is better and more honest. We strive to study and learn what the Bible has to say, and I believe we’re given everything we need, but even then, that doesn’t mean we have all the answers or that it’s wrong to have questions. I try to be as honest with the kids as possible when I don’t know or don’t understand or haven’t studied that particular subject.

    You know I think so highly of you and Jeff for the job you’re doing. If there’s anything you need or if you want to chat, I’m happy to. Love you guys!

  • AW

    Hi! First, you did such a beautiful job explaining your feelings and being kind and respectful in your post. SO, SO well done! My husband and I were both raised in stereotypical Christian families and attended private Christian schools. It took me a long time as an adult to undue a lot of the damaging parts of Christianity that you alluded to in your post and also figure out how to live in a world that is NOT all Christians since my life growing up was very isolated to just religious people. Now as a (foster-to-adopt) parent, I do my best to explain to my child my beliefs and tell her that they are real to me, but that other people believe different things, and as she grows up she gets to decide for herself what is meaningful to her. We emphasize the parts of Christianity that are important to us such as working towards peace with others, compassion, generosity, care for all living things (for example, we’re vegetarian and place a high value on kindness to animals), and non-violence. We also chose public schools (admittedly we live in an excellent school district so that made it easy) and I cannot imagine sending my child to a religious school as I found that to be the most damaging part of my upbringing, but that’s just my experience. I want her to grow up with an ease around people very different from her and us, and a kindness towards everyone. Ultimately we all decide for ourselves what we believe at some point so I think the BEST any parent can do is live by example and be open to questions and conversations from your child(ren). But as my dad says, “as a parent, once you figure something out and think you’re on the right path, they change and you have to start from scratch” Ha! So here’s to staying flexible! And again, such a beautiful post.

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