Ask Mommy: I’m An Atheist Mom Married To A Christian Dad! Help!

Raising kids in the church?I got an email from a reader this morning who asked me what she should do. She’s an atheist raising a child with a Christian husband who wants a full Christian upbringing, including a Christian education, church and Sunday school… the whole Jeeboner kit and kaboodle.

I do not envy the situation this mommy is in. I would be going crazy. And to be honest, I really don’t know that anything can for sure be done to fix the situation. All we can do is try, really. So, with that in mind, here’s what I would do if I were in this situation:

I would ask my husband the following: “If you found out, with evidence, that there is a better way to give a better upbringing to our child, would you do it? Would you be open to it?” His answer is going to be very revealing. If he says no, that he would not consider changing his views even in the face of verifiable evidence, I know I have a much bigger problem on my hands. He’s closed himself off to any arguments I will ever make and there is no changing his mind, no matter what. If, however, he says that yes he will consider a new way to look at things if I can provide evidence, then I would offer the following:

Non-religious Children Are More Generous

and ask him, if he really thinks that someone can be described as “moral” if the only reason they do good is to please a deity and avoid eternal punishment. I would have to ask, obviously, in a calm and respectful way. Perhaps preface it with, “Just for consideration, I’m not trying to disrespect what you believe.” Maybe a kiss on the head to prove I’m not trying to be confrontational.

If he is truly open minded, the man will see reason and perhaps give a little. But, compromise is not just his job. It’s also mine. I would suggest to him that we meet in the middle – I choose a secular school but he can have the child go to church and Sunday school on the weekends. Something like that.

See, a child going to church is not the determining factor in whether or not he or she will believe any of what religion hawkes – sure, at church, they will try very hard to indoctrinate him, but a child who’s been inoculated against such nonsense isn’t going to take to it as easily as the religious leaders like. In fact, a child who’s been “vaccinated” against religious indoctrination might even ask Mommy, who he will end up trusting more because she tells the truth, if he can just start staying home.

So, how do you vaccinate a child against indoctrination? Without being obvious and upsetting Daddy? There are loads of ways – here’s a list I wrote up a while back: 11 Ways To Make Sure You’re Raising Critical Thinkers

Kids are naturally curious – it takes a great deal of pressure to stifle that curiosity. Cultivate that curiosity; encourage it at every turn. If the child’s primary caregiver is promoting critical thought, religious ideas don’t have half a chance.

That’s not to say your kid won’t go through phases of believing or won’t believe bits and pieces of it. It’s also no guarantee your child won’t end up religious in the long run, but the odds are very slim that by the time he’s an adult he’ll still be clinging to this nonsense even though mommy has presented the real world to him at every opportunity. If you give a kid religion in one hand and the power to think critically in the other, religion doesn’t stand much of a chance.

The way you can phrase it, even when daddy is around, is “mommy doesn’t believe that, but Daddy does and neither way is wrong. Whether you believe or not is your choice.”

That way, you’re not pitting your beliefs against your husband’s and you’re not telling your child one way is better than the other, thereby causing issues between your husband and yourself. You’re just expressing that what daddy is talking about is not something mommy believes.

Now, if your husband says no to “If you found out, with evidence, that there is a better way to give a better upbringing to our child, would you do it? Would you be open to it?”, and it’s clear his mind is closed and you can’t change it and there’s no room for compromise, you have two options: go along with the Christian upbringing, or fight, which could end up in the destruction of your marriage.

If you choose to go along with the Christian upbringing, while not ideal, promoting critical thinking as mommy will ensure you’re still likely to end up with a kid who doesn’t buy the sin and eternal hellfire nonsense. You can also continue to work on your husband and try to get him to see that compromise is best. This is a good lesson to your child, proving that in the face of such disagreement, you can be patient while continuing to achieve compromise.

If you fight, you face losing your marriage and if you’re in the USA, custody of your child. Sadly, I’ve heard a great many stories from atheist parents who lost custody of their kids because the judge thought taking them to church was part of their parental duties. This is a real consequence that you face, so consider this long and hard before you think about walking away. If he ends up with custody because you’re a godless heathen, you’ve not effectively put a stop to the christian upbringing. The only difference will be that mommy won’t be there to teach critical thinking and to offer a differing point of view that is backed up by reality.

In my experience, most people are reasonable. Even if your significant other stands his ground stubbornly now, he may still come around in the future and in the meantime, if you promote critical thought, the odds any religious BS is going to stick with your kids are pretty slim.

I always remind atheists who tell me they will never go to church or let their kids go to church that church is not some magical structure. Church has no power to make your child believe if the ideas are being challenged by one parent in a non-argumentative way. It’s just a building, and the people in it are not warlocks, they are just people. Other people’s silly ideas can easily be defeated with the wonder of reality, so my suggestion is to meet halfway with your husband if you can, and in a non-confrontational way, promote critical thought.

With the internet at your child’s fingertips, and his closest ally telling him the truth, Jesus has no chance. He just doesn’t stand up to the logic test.

How would you deal with this situation? Let me know in the comments! If you have a question you’d like me to try to answer, send it to – I love getting your emails.


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  • Janeen White

    I’m in this situation. My husband became involved with his church again after we married. His beliefs are outside of mainstream Christianity so it’s a little restrictive even for your average Christian (he would be Jewish if he didn’t believe in Jesus because he follows old testament holy days and laws). My oldest is 11 1/2 and has massively rebelled against his beliefs. She refuses to go to church. She had been slowly starting to rebel against it for awhile but puberty set it all full force. And she used to go to church with him every weekend, would attend holy days, would attend bible camp over the summer, the whole bit. She has nothing to do with it. It could swing back the other way but she asks questions and I, being the atheist heathen I am, answer them. We actually did separate over the summer because his beliefs and control got to be too much (would still be if I could have found a job right after graduation as I had hoped to). He works overnight so I got custody. He actually almost lost all visitation because he was late to the hearing. Because he believes in not vaccinating and not using a microwave, and not using fluoride, I got final say on education and medical (since he was threatening to pull my daughter out of school). Unfortunately, not having a job put me at risk of losing my place so right now, I’m hoping he goes with his original plan to do another year or two teaching English in Korea which he had planned to do once the divorce was finalized. My seven year old does still go to church with her dad though but she will probably start to question things too.

    It’s hard though. When you deal with someone who is THAT closed-minded, you can’t really talk about ANYTHING. I mean, he doesn’t believe dinosaurs really existed. How do you even try to talk to someone like that? I was a bit younger when we married and wasn’t totally set in my beliefs and values but that has changed a lot in 14 years (18 since we first met). I am involved in a freethinker’s group and that helps A LOT to help me keep my sanity living with someone like him. I suspect that our marriage will eventually dissolve because there’s not much holding it together and more and more I find myself just not liking the values HE has. I don’t really relate to him at all. It’s just sad because in the meantime, my oldest daughter doesn’t have much of a relationship either because of how he is.

  • Puoskar1

    I’m in the same situation. Except now we are getting a divorce and luckily she want’s our daughter to have a father in her life. So we have shared custody and she’s every other day with me. And even in the worst case we live in an atheist country and I would probably get the custody in court, because her obsession with religion would be seen as a negative thing for the development of a child.
    My wife would have answered no to your question but was always willing to make compromises and we ended up deciding that we meet in the middle. I just couldn’t stand living somewhere where I couldn’t for example listen to music or watch tv shows I liked, because it was “Making fun of god” or just because it wasn’t religious. So I ended up filing for a divorce and I think it’s the best thing that could have happened. Now I’m not depressed, scared to express myself and have much more time together with our daughter and she also sees a normal life without all that god nonsense. I don’t tell her that her mother is wrong or insult her. I just try to raise a critical thinker and I’m sure that will be enough to make sure she doesn’t turn up to be a christian.

  • Donald Smith

    People of religion should not be allowed to get pregnant to begin with. Let god magically send them their disgusting bundles of filth. Only thing needs done here is someone should be slapped about the head repeatedly for marrying a disgusting piece of believing filth. I’ll make it simple on my views. I won’t even allow my own daughter to contact me in any way because of religion. Not to mention the whacked out christian lunatic thought my lady and I now should have a kid and give it to her to raise. Everyone of religion is nuts, and should be forced to follow what they say without any compassion. All they need is good they say. Alright then. No more jobs, clothing, housing, medical care, or anything else. Only god. Anyone in this position got themselves into it. I got out of it immediately when the ex started talking that craziness. Gave her a simple choice, me or religion. She wanted to think about it, and i left that hour. Don’t be a moron like I almost was. Get out, stay out, and keep all religious filth out of your life forever. I have no friends, and no family that I would ever allow in my life in any manner if they believe in any form of religion. Start acting right, and remove the filth from every aspect of your life, and force the ignorance of their superstitious nonsense back underground and into the caves of their flat earth.

  • Rick Holtsclaw

    If you’re an Atheist married to a Christian Dad, SHAME ON THE DAD. Our
    Lord has specifically warned to not be unequally yoked…Light and
    darkness cannot mutually coexist…and the children will suffer