We are living in a very diverse world. Almost every continent has had its share of immigrant waves. Western Europe has received immigrants from Northern Africa and the Middle East for decades. The United States has had recent waves of Hispanic, Asian, Indian and African immigrants. One of the consequences of this multiculturalism is that there are more and more mixed marriages, not only in terms of ethnicity but also in terms of religion.
Jewish-Christian marriages have been common in the United States since the early 1900’s, when the first Jewish immigrants arrived. The number of Judeo-Christian marriages intensified after 1939 with Hitler’s hostility to Jews in Germany. Many Jewish-Christian couples in America now celebrate both traditions, with very little conflict.
More rare are marriages between Muslims and non-Muslims, but I believe they are also growing in numbers. Children tend to follow the mother’s religion, since men have been traditionally less involved with the raising of children. But what happens after there is a divorce? What happens when the father is a non-believer, and agrees to raise his children in the mother’s religion as a way to keep domestic peace but no longer is married?
Like in many divorces, differences sometimes become a point of contention. As an atheist myself who raised two great children without any religion, I know very well how religion can be a complicated issue. Take the story of this divorced father of two: a Hispanic immigrant who has abandoned Catholicism to become an Agnostic, or “almost atheist” in his words. His ex-wife is very Catholic and takes their son and daughter to Church every Sunday, as well as following in all the Catholic Church rites. Their teenage daughter recently was “confirmed” with a church ceremony. The father objected to what he called “indoctrination” of his daughter, with no success. He felt helpless and obligated to attend the service, where he was appalled at the “discrimination between middle class whites and poor Hispanic immigrants who ignored each other during the whole ceremony”. Furthermore, it pained him to see his daughter going through rituals that he understands as “based in lies and myths”.
The most famous case of divorced couples with opposed religious views is the Michael Newdow case. Michael Newdow is an atheist who opposed his daughter reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in school. In 2002, he filed a suit in behalf of his daughter against the words “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. Even though the case was taken all the way to the Supreme Court, it was overruled because Newdow did not have custody of his daughter. For secular parents, the difficulty is that there is an added stigma to being non-believer in a country where religion is associated to “being good and moral”. Atheist parents are usually powerless against a religious parent who has a stamp of approval from society, school and other family members.
So what can a parent who is opposed to the religion their ex belongs to do? I think the best solution is to talk to your child as she or he grows up. Offer an alternative point of view. Teach your child about your religion or lack thereof. Tell them that you will let them decide what’s best for them when they grow up, and hope for the best. Engaging in battles with your ex over what religion or non-belief you will raise your children just adds to the tension of divorce and may alienate the child. Letting your child know what your position is and that they have a choice seems to be the most civil way to deal with a sensitive issue such as religious belief.
Churches of all denominations across America like to advertise on street signs using catchy phrases. “You are God’s stimilus plan”, “You are the star in God’s movie”, “God receives knee mail” and so on. It makes me wonder: are these temples of god or just businesses advertising their products?
If god is great and the churches are “sacred” ground, why would these churches need to attract followers, like a car dealership tries to attract customers? Is the answer that more members means more revenue? Aren’t we mixing money with religion here? Aren’t the members going to go anyway if they have religious beliefs? Or because they like this pastor more than that pastor?
Nowhere in the world have churches become businesses as in the USA. It is a social club for the poor, the lonely and the lost. People feel comforted, even if they are praying to no one and getting nothing in return. The ads promise what is impossible and talk superstition. Soon we will see: “20% off sale: come to our church and get a good deal from God.” God can do everything, and he likes some people more than others, right?
Not only Brazil is very Catholic (although people say they are Catholic but most do not even go to mass!! They barely ever go to church!!), Brazilians love MYSTICAL and esoteric things. Many people believe in psychics and healers. The power of crystals, pyramids and all kinds of things. Brazilians were for a long time deceived by Uri Geller (who was always on TV in the 70’s). People believed in him! I remember being completely skeptical about his “powers”. Remember a big part of the Brazilian population has little education. I have Brazilian friends who are ardent “Spirits”, a religion that believes people die and are reborn as babies into some other family and place…for some reason not very popular in the US (actually seances are object of jokes in teen and horror movies). I have never had patience with any of this stuff, being an atheist and humanist.
Brazilians have a mass for everything. Middle School graduation? A mass and a big party. C’mon folks, middle graduation is an obligation! High School graduation? Mass and party. Book signing? Mass and then a reception. Masses for everything. Brazilian priests keep busy!
When I was still brainwashed religious, I had the false belief that Catholicism was superior to these other religions. Many Brazilians think that. A person I talked to expressed that a while ago in Brazil. He said the Roman Apostolic Church, with the Pope and the Vatican and all those big churches around the world is the quintessential and official religion, while all the others are poor imitations. He sees all others as cults. As if Catholicism was not also a cult! Many Catholics have that moral superiority.
In reality, the Catholic religion is the most widespread because Christianity quickly took over Europe in the middle ages. When new colonies were found (including Brazil), jesuits were sent to cathecize the locals. Catholicism then spread all over South and Central Americas. Opulent churches were built, thus creating the illusion of power.
Unfortunately, the even worse Evangelical churches are taking over lower income Brazilians, much to the distress of the traditional Catholics. Evangelicals deceive and brainwash very uneducated, semi- illiterate Brazilians, who give up 10% of their hard earned income to belong to a church and be “saved”. It’s very sad and almost criminal what is done. These people use the church as their “social club”, since life only offers them hardship otherwise. Most come from the lower classes in Brazil. As you know, Brazil is still a very class oriented society.
Anyhow, Science and Education are the tools to make Brazilians less credulous. Along with the dissemination of information, to which this wonderful tool, the internet, may offer hope.
- Being a mother
- Being a woman
- Dating world
- Difference between cultures
- Social Media
- World Events/News