It is the Christmas season. Not just because the stores are playing the music or because I got the xmas lights up last weekend. Christmas is now a daily topic of conversation around our house. At least ten times a day the phrase “I can’t wait for Christmas” is uttered around our house and sometimes it is said by the kids.
I love Christmas. I am always the first up on Christmas morning – I take after my dad and my late Poppa in this regard. I love thinking about what to get people and then watching them open their gifts. I also love the gathering of the clans that comes with Christmas. My Christmas is an entirely secular affair and has nothing to do with Jesus.
Over the past few years we have had conversations with the girls, primarily driven by their questions, about this Jesus fellow and why people celebrate Christmas to mark his birth. We are not church goers so education about religion happens around the dinner table. I always make sure to talk about different religions and the reasons for various celebrations and holy days throughout the year. I want my kids to understand the different perspectives people have and how different faiths can inform those perspectives.
Earlier this week we were having anther one of these conversations about Christmas and why people celebrate and my oldest daughter said something along the lines of “that’s because we are Christians…” I can’t remember the rest of the sentence. I remember that part because it set off bells in my head. I am not a Christian and have never identified as such. Whenever we are talking about anything related to religion I talk about what people from different faiths believe. I have never talked about my own faith or lack thereof. I want them to make their own choices about what they believe when it comes to religion and spirituality.
I am what some might refer to as a faithless heathen. I am an atheist. I don’t talk about it with others because I what I believe is personal to me, just like everyone else. I don’t judge what other people choose to believe or try to convince them that what I believe is the right thing to believe – unless of course someone tries to convert me to their way of thinking, in which case I will set about deconstructing their arguments. I used to live around the corner from a Kingdom Hall so I had several opportunities to practice with Jehovah’s Witnesses who came to my house to convert me.
Faith and spirituality is one of those very few things that my wife and I don’t discuss. We don’t subscribe to the same belief systems and we leave it at that. As I said, we are not church goers. That said I have no objection to the idea of my kids going to religious services or subscribing to a particular religion. I do however object to being labelled as a member of a faith community myself. It is a misrepresentation of who I am and what I believe. It is not that I take offence to being called Christian. It is just that it is not accurate. I also object to being referred to as a doctor because that is also not true.
There is no reason why my daughter would know that is a issue for me because I have never discussed my own stance on religion with her. I know many people would argue that it is a parental responsibility to teach children about our respective faiths and values. I teach the girls about my values all the time, mostly through what I do and say. I don’t talk with them about my faith because I don’t have one. I teach them that there is no one true answer when it comes to religion or life. I want them to find their own path and the one that works for them . If that path includes religion that is their choice. If they choose not to believe in any spiritual beings, that is also their choice.
It is however now time for me to have a conversation with them about what I believe. That means first a conversation with Laura about how we address our different perspectives. The whole thing actually causes more anxiety for me than any conversation about sexuality. I prefer the organic conversation we have been having with the girls at the dinner table about religions. Now though it is time for a more direct conversation because I don’t want them thinking I believe something that I don’t. I want to be transparent and I want them to understand my perspective so that they know where I am coming from when we talk about religion. I am probably over-thinking this and how they will respond…
How have you approached religion in your house?