Parents with Different Religions: What Should You Do?

In today’s world, it’s becoming increasingly common to find parents who are of a different religion (or at least, were raised with different religious beliefs). It’s not surprising, as this melting pot of a society grows larger and larger.

It’s something both of us have dealt with – not only do we have different ethnic backgrounds (one of us is Caucasian, one is Filipino), but we have different religions as well.

Fortunately for us, neither one of us is overly religious, so it was easy to come together with those differences. For others, especially those who may be more devout, different religious can certainly be a challenge in a relationship.

But what about when you add kids to the equation?

It goes without saying: kids make everything more complicated.

Religion is no different, but in some ways, it’s more complex because there is no “right answer.” If each parent has a completely separate religion, you can’t easily create your own hybrid religion. I mean, you can, but that’s probably the most complicated solution.

So, what are your options?

Options for Parents Who Have Different Religions

There’s really no easy option, and you can’t predict the outcome of whatever you choose to do, but here are some reasonable things you can try:

1) One parent converts to the other’s religion.

This may be the most complex if go you about it the “right” way.  Every religion is different, but to actually convert to another religion can often involve some extra work.

Often times, this is a great solution if one of you is very religious and the other is not.  If you both have strong ties to your respective religions, it’s going to make this option a bit more challenging.

From my perspective, the biggest hurdle with religious conversion is education.

It’s one thing to just say you’re now part of another religion, but you usually need to back that up with some knowledge about the religion, especially if you plan to actively raise your child with a particular set of religious beliefs.

If you’re interested in learning about other religions, here’s a decent resource that can teach you the basics of the most common religions.

2) You teach both, and let the kid decide when he or she is older.

This is another route I see some parents take.  You kind of raise the child with two religions and eventually they can decide which one to practice.

I’m not sure that this is a very high impact option – it’s quite likely if you go down this road, your child won’t consider him or herself a part of any religion.  It’s difficult to have strong ties to a religion when you’re effectively learning about and practicing two different religions.

For some parents, this is kind of a perfect option if you don’t place a lot of emphasis on religion.  You allow your child to become educated about two different religions, but it doesn’t become a burden on you or them.

It ultimately becomes up to them to what degree they practice religion, as they enter adulthood and beyond.

3) You educate the child on the different religions, but don’t place much of an emphasis on religion.

This sounds a lot like #2, but it’s a bit of a lighter option.

In this scenario, religion is more of a casual topic – you’re not necessarily raising your child with specific religious beliefs, and therefore, not placing an emphasis on religion as an important part of life.

This is probably only an option if you and your spouse are already not very religious people.  And chances are, that’s what your child will become as well.

4) Neither parent converts, but you only teach one religion (and later explain the other when the kid is old enough to grasp the situation).

I have no data to back this up, but I suspect that, among parents with different religions where they do practice their religions to a certain degree, this is a very popular option.

The outcome of this is essentially the same as #1 – you raise your child with one religion.  The big difference is, one parent doesn’t need to undergo the conversion process, whatever that may be.

I like this option if you and your spouse can agree on whose religion that would be.  And there are pros and cons with each.

If one parent feels more strongly about their religion, that’s likely going to be the best route to go.

The benefit (for that parent) is that they get to continue practicing their religion with the family.

The downside is that this parent will probably be doing most of the heavy lifting when it comes to educating the child about that religion.

When your child is old enough to understand, you can have a conversation to explain why mommy is one religion and daddy is another.

I’m willing to bet that, as time goes on, we will see more and more interfaith marriages, much like we now see a lot more interracial marriages (and the two often go hand-in-hand).  Kids are quick to pick up on that sort of thing, and the earlier you explain it to them, the more “normal” it will feel to them.

What did we end up doing?

I’m not sure you necessarily care about what we did, but I’ll share it with you anyway.

Our plan is to kind of do a blend of #3 and #4 – we’re raising our daughter with a single religion, but at the same time, probably won’t place much emphasis on religion.

We’ll still celebrate the holidays of both religions, and overall expose her to both even though she will likely identify with just the one.

For my family, this is actually a second generation of interfaith marriage – my parents were different religions too.  And I can tell you, as a kid, there’s one really big added bonus:

You celebrate both sets of holidays and get more presents! 😀

Have you had any experience raising a child with a spouse of another religion? What did you guys do, and how’s it going? Please share in the comments below!

About Eric and Tiffany Matthews

We're Eric and Tiffany, the parents behind Cynical Parent. We're just normal parents who are navigating parenthood with both eyes wide open (probably because there's a kid yelling nearby). And of course, we're pretty cynical. Don't believe everything you read or hear, whether it's on the internet, or from a close family or friend (or even from us!). Every child is different, and what works for one may not work for another. Sometimes you just need to try and see for yourself. :)

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