Children in a mixed religious family

8 replies, Page 1

Meera 2008-11-05 15:01:37



My husband and I belong to two different religions. I am a Hindu and he is Christian. We respect each other's relgion, celebrate both religious festivals  and have exposed our daugther to both religions. She is very well adjusted to the fact that she comes from a mixed religious background ( or so we thought). But the problem seems to have come in now that she is 10. She finds it difficult to deal with kids who want to know her religion. She hates to slot herself as a Hindu or a Christian and gets wild if her peers attempt to do so. Most people think she is Christian becuase she carries her father's surname but she does not like to be labelled as belonging to a particular religion. She tries to explain it the way that we have explained it to her but I guess all her peers may not be finding it as easy understand as she has . Besides, kids have varying levels of maturity and ours seems to be mature beyond her years in understanding and acceptace of  diversity. So, my question is, how do I help her explain it to others? Her school is wonderful- very progressive and supportive but I guess her frustration comes from her inability to communicate her thoughts to her peers. Any thoughts on this?



Meera 2008-12-01 15:14:43



This is not a reply but a continuation of my earlier discussion.. I am giving below a link which will take you to an article in the Hindu Sunday supplement of 30th November. ( This article by Latika Gupta speaks about how children even when they are very young develop exclusionary attitudes with regard to other relgions. It is based on a study done in Delhi at the Daryagunj area. I dont know if such topics are of any interest to any parents in this group....




sathya 2008-12-01 16:39:48



Thanks for bringing this article up. I did read the article carefully. I have split my response into multiple posts as each addresses a different point.

Children obviously learn from us parents. When it comes to religion, it is no different.  Our beliefs and prejudices are passed on to them.  And these vary from family to family. We (my wife and I) do teach our children religious beliefs, our custom, traditions and practices. We find nothing wrong in that. But we also teach our children moderation and respect for other religions. We speak openly about different religions of the world and how different people follow different practices, even inside India. We don't talk about these differences as being bad, we talk about them as merely differences.   Our children will learn from us what we convey to them. If we teach them prejudice they will learn prejudice, if we teach them respect, they will learn respect. Simple but effective.



sathya 2008-12-01 16:45:58


I am responding a second time. This is about the study that the author of the article in The Hindu conducted and quotes as evidence in her claims.   The study is fundamentally flawed and should not be taken seriously at all. Here is why.

1. The study was conducted on a sample of 16 children - 8 Muslim and 8 Hindu. Those of us who have learnt basic statistics will know that this is NOT a "statistically significant" sample. In layman's terms, enough children were not researched to provide a reliable conclusion. This is like publishing an election exit poll by asking the four colleagues sitting around you who they voted for.

2. The study suffers from a plague that affects many such studies. It fails to distinguish between "causality" and "correlation".  Causality is the reason why something happens (for example, bacteria cause diseases), while correlation is when two things happen together (For example, there was a recent study that said that rain and increased autistic behaviour occurred together. The rain is not the cause of autistic behaviour. There are many other causes).  So what is the "correlating" factor the study ignored. It ignored the fact that this country is 80%+ Hindu (or something like that) and it probably has 10 times more temples than mosques, and that there is more advertising, and imagery and messaging around the majority religion. So of course, the Muslim children knew more about Hinduism than the Hindus knew about Islam.

Let me state correlation, in another way. A Hindu child growing up in the US or UK will know much more about Christianity than a Christian child growing up in the US or UK.  This does not mean that the Hindu families in the US and UK are more tolerant and thus teach their children about Christianity. It is merely an effect of the larger information environment that exists. 

Unfortunately, the study conveniently ignores this major factor, and goes on to draw conclusions based on flawed data.

As soon, as I read this article, I spotted flaw #2.  So I decided to google for more and I found the following link. It was a slightly longer article by the same author. This is where I found flaw #1.

I was quite disappointed by the lack of rigour in this piece of academic research which claims to tackle an important topic.  While the study should not be taken seriously, the fundamental concept of religious tolerance should be.


annu 2008-12-02 13:29:31


Hi Meera,

There is this book Autobiography of a aYogi in which a beautiful simly has been drawn between Christ consciousness and Krishna consciousness....maybe worth a reading for you.

Different religions are really different ways of reaching the same One essentially they are just different paths...maybe if you could explain this to the child in simplistic terms like some people take a different school bus and some another to reach the same school, they still belong to the same school....

So maybe the next time the peers ask your daughter what her religion is she can say it s Humanity because the purpose of both Christianity and Hinduism is to make better human beings out of all of us.

Let your daughter know that instead of feeling frustrated she should feel proud of having the privilige of being a spokesperson for Universal Oneness....of knowing 1st hand that both the religious preach the same thing...

Help her cultivate a sense of pride for belonging to two religions instead of one...let her not have to be apologetic or defensive about it :)


Meera 2008-12-02 15:21:41



Hello Everyone

This is getting interesting!! Satya thanks for pointing out the methodological aspects of the study by Latika Gupta. I agree with you on the fact that  by virtue being a majority religion in India, even people of other religions  probably know more about Hinduism than  Hindus knowing about other religions. But then, nothing prevents us from knowing about other religions. As a child of the 1970s and the 1980s - the height of secular period in India ( there were no mosques broken and hindu-muslim bhai bhai was a common slogan) and as a parent in today's India, I can see the difference. My mother was a very traditional hindu lady but living as we did in a multi religious central government colony environment in Calcutta, we had a lot of exposure to other relgions and no one prevented us from learning more about other relgions. I went to a convent school and so I probably learnt most about Christianity ( after Hinduism ofcourse) and had a lot of muslim friends which made me learn about Islam. The attitude of today's parents is not exactly the same despite the fact that many of them have travelled far and wide and often outside the country. I guess the macro environment may have had its effect on our beleif. I had never encountered a Hindutva sort of thing any where until well into my college days in the late 80s and early 90s. Terror was also unknown.

What I am trying to say is that we as parents should encourage our children to learn about other faiths. It is often a spark from us that might kindle the interest. There used to be books called Amar Chitra Kathas which were very popular when we were young. I dont see them today- they are lost among the Mary kate and Ashleys.

Annu thanks for the tip about the book. You know it was my father who once mentioned that divinity is often fostered among humble surroundings - Jesus was born in a manger and Krishna in a prison! You know when my daughter asked me what was god - Jesus, Mary, Krishna or Vishnu, my husband had a beautiful answer- God is within you. It is the voice that alerts you when you are doing something wrong and makes you feel bad about it later and sometimes makes you own up and apologise. This has worked well with Shrishti. She says that she feels stronger. But she still refuses to accept religion- even when we try to illustrate it as different roads to the same destination. Meanwhile we are trying to get her to read about other religions. She has recently read about Islam- it was revelation to her that both Islamic and Biblical legends are similar ( "They are both the same. Only the names are a little different"!). So slowly we hope that as she grows up she will learn more and understand better. Ofcourse, she enjoys going to places of worship but it is more a social event- the dressing up and the excitement of going out!

thanks anyway- good discussion! Made me think!








PD 2008-12-02 15:57:06


Hi. This was a really interesting discussion! I agree with all the other comments, but would just like to share one more point.....

As with all other concepts and things that we learn about - from the time we are born, till the day we die, our concept of something changes with more and more life experiences and development of thought. I think the same thing would happen with this concept of God/ religion. And I think it is okay for the concept to change, simply because there is no one answer and there is no right or wrong concept. I think what we have to give to our children is the ability to think, question, understand, and reason things out in a way that satisfies them. Ofcourse we share what we have learnt and imbibed about religion etc, with them, but they should form their own concept of it over time. we should be mere facilitators in the process.

So, it is important that we first ask ourselves if we want our kids to think or understand about religion the way we do. Do we need to question our beliefs first? Should we ask them to do what we want of them?

Do you guys agree with me?



annu 2008-12-03 19:20:15


You know Meera, your husband is right...God is within us..

Maybe more people need to deny religion like your daughter, instead of fighting over it!

Probably your daughter is a more advanced soul than us and knows instinctively what a waste belonging to or fighting over a religion can be.....

my love and blessings to her


mango_mama 2008-12-04 08:36:46


This has been an inspiring discussion especially in the aftermath of Mumbai attacks...

Got some good insights to how to broach spirituality or "religion" with kids...Some of my personal take aways:

* Liked that analogy about 2 religions are two school buses going to same school. They can easily understand.

* Many of you echoed teaching kids about all faiths. I think that is a great idea. Of course, they will unconciously imbibe our beliefs, sentiments (even biases) but if we teach them about other religions. They will realize (and us too) that our faith is not the center of the universe...and the goodness of all religions. And how enriching for have the best of the world.

* Of course, make them understand what we know and feel best--our faith. But encourage them to question everything. Explain them the idea behind rituals in instead of blindly following. This really challenges me because even i do not know so many things and have to constantly ask questions and learn.

* Focus on the "end" and the "essence". Make them understand that religion and rituals are but a means to an end..crutches. The idea is to make us good human beings and make us feel one with the world. They are "bad" and outdated if they divide and make us petty. We are so divided not just with different religions but also within the same religion there are so many divisions...

Please share your ideas, learnings, thoughts...maybe i missed out on some other cool ideas...




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