I'm Raising My Kids Without Religion, And This Is Why

by Andrew Sarno
Originally Published: 
A church on slightly elevated terrain during a cloudy day

When I was a kid, I wasn’t given a choice whether or not I wanted to practice Christianity. Religious indoctrination started early on in my life, around 7 or 8 years old. I have even earlier recollections of my grandparents thanking God and praying.

I attended the local public elementary school in our neighborhood, which obviously did not provide any type of religious instructions. This meant that I had to attend religious instructions (CCD) on weekends. Starting in 2nd grade, I had to go to CCD every other Saturday.

At first, I did not mind going to CDD, especially for my First Holy Communion. I got to wear a suit, have a party, get presents, and eat tons of pizza. For the most part, I was completely unaware of what I was learning or even why I was learning it. I just remember learning things like the story Jesus’ life, his death, sin, original sin, and the irrefutable fact that God is a man and never a woman.

I think because I was so young, I had no basis for thinking critically about what I was learning, so it was merely memorization. I also wanted to be good. CCD taught us to be obedient. We were taught how to listen to our parents and adults like nuns and priests, because the Bible said so (see Seventh Commandment).

By 5th grade, I had simply had enough. I complained incessantly about having to go to CCD. All I wanted to do was play sports and hang out with my friends, not hear the same stories I had heard a hundred times before. My mother insisted, and I continued to attend classes. As much as I disliked it, I wanted to be good and get into heaven, so I begrudgingly “Honored Thy Mother.”

By my Confirmation, which was about 8th Grade, I would have rather swam naked in the English Chanel in January than to have continued to go to CCD. I also ended up going to a Catholic Jesuit High School the following year, which meant the religious instructions would continue for four more years.

Looking back on it now, religious indoctrination consumed a large part of my childhood, and at no point was I given a choice. It started from when I was 8, and ended when I was around 18 years old. At no point during my decade long journey through the Catholic Church was I was asked if I wanted to learn any of it. Even when I made my opinion known that I no longer wanted to pursue religious instructions, my requests were denied. I had no choice whatsoever no matter how much I expressed my dissatisfaction with it. My mother’s only response to my constant complaining was that I would be able to get married in a Catholic Church upon completing my confirmation.

First of all, what 11-year-old is thinking about marriage?

Second, it was a huge assumption on my mother’s part that I would marry someone who was also Catholic, and want to get married in a Catholic church.

Third, I knew a guy who was marrying someone who was Catholic, but he wasn’t “confirmed.” After making a “donation” to the church, he went to a “class” for one night, and like magic they were married in a Catholic Church.

And lastly, I was married by a black female judge in a hotel in Washington, D.C., not a Catholic Church.

My point here is that I was never given a choice as a child, and I do not believe that was fair. There are plenty of religions one can choose to study and practice, but for me Catholicism was my religion. That decision was made for me and pressed upon me. Even when I voiced my opinion about not wanting to attend classes anymore, I was still forced to. I refuse to do this to my children.

Religious indoctrination is intentionally done at an early age. For the rest of my life, no matter how many other forms of spirituality or religions I practice, I will always see things through a Catholic lens. I had no filter as a child, and I was absorbing everything that was fed to me without bias or the ability to critique it. This process isn’t done by accident.

I refuse to do this to my children. I refuse to make a decision for them and not allow them the ability to absorb and digest life’s unknowns as they see fit. I do not currently practice any form of organized religion, although I have formulated my own set of beliefs. I want my children to formulate their own beliefs, or choose a religion that best suits them. I will support them in the decisions that they make, but I will never force them into believing a set of ideas, not facts, that I have chosen for them.

This is the reason why I am raising my kids in a non-religious household, not because I am raising my kids to be atheists.

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