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Deconverting, With Children


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I have been following the posts on here for about a month and this is my first post...A little background: I was raised in a mainline protestant church in a minimally religious family. As a child I was fascinated with church...loved it all...Sunday school, confirmation, camps. As a teen and college student, I did the falling away thing...I ended up coming back to church after graduating from college and dealing with the death of a young cousin. I am now 41 and I would say that most of my adult life has been a search to understand the faith I held so tightly as a child. I could look back and say I was just trying to believe something so unbelievable....I joined the Catholic Church certain that they were the "one true church"....When I realized that wasn't true I left church for almost a year before trying a more fundamentalist version of the protestant church I grew up with. I came into contact with young earth creationism, which I had always made fun of before, but I was desparate to make sense of something and despite having a degree in science I did not have a proper understanding of evolution and the age of the earth....

 

My husband is a nominal Christian - he has very rarely attended church with me...he has always left me "in charge" of our children's religious upbringing. Our kids are now approaching the teen years and I am going thru the deconversion process (again...this can be an up and down road....). I am concerned about how to handle this with my kids....I have NEVER told them that anyone would go to hell for non-belief...and I have always tried to be honest with them about my questions and theirs. I have exposed them mythology and different beliefs. During my first deconversion phase I was very depressed and when I started back in my fundamentalist church I shared my joy with my kids and told them about my sadness....(i know this was a HUGE mistake)....so here I am again...we have not been to church in a month...my kids have seen me reading science books about evolution. I am not depressed this time....I am actually feeling really good and enjoying my freedom as a human being. But I know that my children (especially my son) are concerned that I will become depressed....truth be told I think he is a lot like me - in the sense that he has been struggling to make sense of this world and young earth creationism made "sense" to him - it gave him simple answers and a reason for why the world is the way it is....

 

This process is like an emotional roller coaster and I'm not sure of how much of it my children should have to travel....For those of you with children - how did/or do you handle it...Any suggestions are welcome. Thank you....

 

Lisa

 

 

 

 

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Hi, Lisa. Welcome to ex-C! I am married, with two boys ages 17 and 15. Emergencies were the only reason I ever missed church, but over the course of last year, I deconverted. I first told my wife back in October that my church attendance was going to stop, but hadn't set an end date at that point. She asked me if she was going to be allowing her and the boys to continue, which I told her, yes, you can do whatever you want, this is just what I have to do, for my own good. Eventually, December 26 was the last day. I said nothing to my boys until the evening of Jan. 1, and then it was only as vague as possible. Only a month into it, but so far, it's going quite well. The boys are actually pleased that dinner is ready for them when they arrive home!

 

Yes, it's an emotional roller coaster. Since you are not having problems with depression as of yet, hopefully that stays the same, and thus that problem with your son never occurs.

 

Best wishes!

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My sons did it on their own... sort of. I educated them while we attended the Episcopal Church until they were 14 and 13. My older son slowly left on his own and my younger son was informally excommunicated. He didn't care. I left with them eventually. So I really don't think it matters or phases them as much.

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Hi Lisa,

 

I have 3 sons, 18, 21 and 23 years old. My oldest son has connected with god since he was very young. I was an agnostic humanist with a moderately conservative family and my husband catholic which is what we raised our kids in. I think that having my oldest son being so enthralled on the idea of god, plus I never had any bad experiences with church (just hated going, saw no point to it), are the main things that kept me in church for a very long time.

 

I finally confronted my husband a little over a year ago about not going to church and then about my lack of belief in god. It took me another year to come out to my son. I tend to wait for the right moment and with our busy lives, there just never was.

 

I'm glad I waited. During that year as I de-converted from being a church-going person (I guess I was one of "those" christians-not a "real" christian) I regained confidence in myself, became very involved in many social justice issues with UU, went back to school and made lots of new friends. When I did talk to my son I asked him if he had noticed anything different about me. I thought he might say something snarky about me not fixing dinner as much as I used to (lol), but he said he noticed that I was more involved and happier. That gave me the perfect opportunity to tell him that I wasn't any different than I was a year ago, just more passionate about life because I had come to the realization that I didn't really believe in god.

 

My middle son goes to college in another town. He came home from school about 6 months ago asking me how to tell his Dad he didn't want to go to church anymore. This was a natural evolution for him once he got away from having to go to church every week. My youngest has always been agnostic. But I still felt I needed to "come out" to both of them. The words needed to be said.

 

I think we have all had to become comfortable with our newfound freedoms from religion and we don't talk about it in our household. My husband is still fairly religious and so is my oldest son. I don't know if my husband will ever leave religion. Just as I didn't see a need to go to church, he doesn't see a need not to.

 

I don't know that everything needs to be said about how you feel about religion. Kids are smart. When they see that you aren't depressed, they may ask questions. You may not even have to totally come out to them but just leave hints, only confirming your lack of belief at the right time.

 

I guess it really depends on where your kids are in their level of belief or disbelief and what way is normal for you to communicate with them. Don't feel like you have to just blurt it all out, though. If it doesn't feel comfortable for you to say it, maybe there's a better time or maybe you will think of a better way of saying at a later time.

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sorry to be so slow in my reply, but thank you for all of your replies...I have continued to think about this issue and think that it is wise that I play this one a little close...to continue to always to encourage my kids to think but not to share too much while i go thru the process....

 

Lisa

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  • 8 months later...

I can really relate to what is being said here. I have a 5-year-old son who hasn't heard much from me about God (we don't go to church, although we did when he was a little younger). There are many Christians in our extended family, so he has been to church and heard Bible stories. I don't have any problem with his being exposed to Christianity or even with his accepting Bible stories at face value for now. And I have no desire to tell him that his Christian relatives are wrong, or that God definitely doesn't exist. That isn't the point, and I think it's an arrogant posture to take. I just want him to understand that some people believe God is there and some people don't.

 

I don't have this anxiety about any of the adults in my life, including my adult children who grew up as Christians -- they've already been exposed to skepticism. I'm concerned about this little person who is in a much more fragile state in his emotional development. Whatever an adult tells him, he is likely to take to heart.

 

One thing I can't do in good conscience is tell my young son that God is watching out for him. It is such a meaningless thing to promise, since belief in God is no guarantee of any kind of protection from anything. I think it's much better to reassure my son that the grown-ups in his life love him and do everything they can do to take care of him.

 

I think whatever suffering a child experiences is compounded when he believes there is a god who is consciously allowing it to happen (or making it happen!).

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