‘Choosing not to give your kids a religion is seen as weird and selfish’

Some parenting confessions. I choose what my children eat and when they go to bed. I choose for them not to interact with people they don’t know on the internet. I choose to teach them right and wrong. I do not choose a political party for them. I do not choose who they will one day have a romantic relationship with. I do not choose their religious affiliation.

None of these should be controversial decisions – they’re simply pragmatic parenting choices, ones with which most people would agree. All except one. Choosing their diet and bedtimes: good. Choosing to set boundaries around their use of technology: good. Choosing to help them distinguish right and wrong: good. Choosing their political party: weird. Choosing their future partner: really weird. Choosing not to give them a religion: not just weird, but selfish and possibly negligent.

In Ireland, to admit that your child won’t be making their communion is like saying you’ve signed them up as a junior member of a political party, something that would – quite rightly – raise eyebrows. But I fail to understand why we’re so comfortable publicly nailing our colours to the mast, to our kids’ masts, when it comes to religion.

Maybe they think sending a message to children that doing something that runs contrary to your values, just because everyone else is doing it, is more damaging than a brief period of awkwardness at school

I’m a pragmatist. I appreciate the myriad reasons parents of all shades of faith, and none, are opting into communion. Perhaps they see it is a natural expression of their Catholic identity. Perhaps it is a meaningful spiritual celebration. Or a harmless tradition keeping…

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