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Is it okay to raise your kids without religion?

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One of my fondest memories of childhood is attending Christmas midnight mass at my family’s Catholic church. My cousins and I would bask in the glittering pageantry, well aware that as soon as we got home, all the presents beneath the tree would be vanquished under our attacking hands.

I’m about to become a father. Naturally, I should look forward to taking my own son to midnight mass.

Well, I’m not. Because he will not be raised Catholic. In fact, he will not be raised with any religion at all.

Statistically, this shouldn’t be a surprise. Religion is in steep decline in the United States, and more people around the world are calling themselves atheists. In addition, “Latinos have become increasingly less religious with newer generations.”

I can vouch for this. There is a clear line from my abuela’s undying faith in the Catholic Church to my mother’s suspicion of the institution to my total rejection of it.

In America, two separate demographics are now overlapping: religion’s rate of decay and the rapid growth of the Latino population.

Of course, Latino culture is still strongly linked with religion — especially Catholicism. Dismissing religion is scandalous, even self-loathing, in some Latino families.

For example, some of my extended relatives consider my marriage to my wife invalid because we didn’t get hitched in a Catholic church. (Sorry, but the Methodist one was convenient). So I can just imagine how well the decision to not baptize our son will go over.

I suppose I should be more conflicted about this. After all, I am arguably rejecting part of his — and my — heritage.

And isn’t it wrong to force my apathy for religion on an unsuspecting infant? Well, I notice that people who raise their kids in their familial religion — be it Catholicism or Judaism or Islam — have no qualms at all about exposing their children to their opinions.

I feel a similar certitude about our decision. My wife and I see few benefits to indoctrinating him in the faith. We don’t believe there is an intrinsic value to the sacraments and ceremonies. And as for the practical aspects — the idea that kids raised with religion grow into moral and ethical adults — well, that is a nice idea.

However, some studies imply that religious people are actually less compassionate and more racist than nonbelievers. Of course prisons are full of thugs who claim a personal relationship with God. And in the Middle East… well, do any of us honestly believe it would be worse if everyone in that area just renounced religion altogether?

The point is that the link between religion and morality is shaky at best. So there is no objective reason to tell our son that a certain ritual or specific prayer will make him a better person.

Naturally, if he comes to that decision later in his life, I will respect it.

Until then, I guess he will be the cutest little secular humanist in town.

About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


  1. Great article. Yes ,many Latinos are waking up and deconverting. I’m not saying that religion is all bad, but many times it is, and uses divinity to justify horrible acts and brainwashing kids to have terrible unrealistic fears of fake monsters and fake realms so they become adults that are easily controlled. Ratzinger can keep his club of perverts and Yolanda (commenter in this thread) is free to follow them because thinking for herself seems to be too scary a thought for her. I am building a site , , it is just in a construction phase but anyone interested may contact me at jojo@losfreethinkers

  2. roxana stachura says:

    Everyone should do what feels right to them.

  3. Yolanda says:

    Jojo padilla: its always funny to me how those who do not believe belittle those of us who do! It matters not one iota to me that you think i cannot think for myself. The beauty of my life is that I am free to choose. I love my faith regardless of what you or anyone else thinks. Ultimately we are free to choose how we raise our children. I chose to raise mine in the way that I was raised because I truly believe but they are free to follow or not.

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