I am not (yet) a parent and I do not claim to have the answer to every parenting dilemma; here is however an amateur's attempt to describe how to deal with the topic of religion:
- Talk to the child about the world's religions ,encourage the child's school to educate the child in the major religions or the world and encourage the child to find out more information on their own (see Dan Dennett for a discussion of this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTepA-WV_oE ).
- Explain to the child what you believe and why - In my case I am (as I am sure the reader has guessed) an atheist.
- Describe to the child that it is up to them to make up their own mind but there is no pressure to decide once and for all whilst they are young.
- Be willing to support the child in whatever choice they make and if necesary escort them to a place of worship of their choice.
- [And an extra one in the case of adoption - Let the child know the religion that is associated with their background. Describe the basics of that belief with them and then if they wish tell them where they can get more information.]
I find it disconcerting that an adoption service could think that this approach is not enough or that the child not coming from the same religious background as the prospective adoptive parent would mean that this would be done inadequately. In case anyone thinks this is a hypothetical proposition I am going to quote from a webchat with Oona King. I respect Oona King as an adopter and as a writer about adoption (although I disagree with her stance on matching) so I would recommend the reading of the full chat at www.mumsnet.com/Talk/mumsnet_live_events/a1331759-Adoption-live-webchat-with-Oona-King-and-Jeffrey-Coleman-Mon-31-Oct-1-2pm . The relevant quote for this discussion is:
I'm a Jewish aetheist, married to an Italian Catholic. When we were matched with our first son from East London (who was miraculously black and Italian) we were asked if we would agree to bring him up Muslim. It took me a while to persuade my husband (you can see the comedy potential here, with the Jewish atheist and Italian Catholic wondering around the East London Mosque), but eventually it was agreed. Luckily I know a lot of people at my local Mosque, and I asked them for help, and they were all very forthcoming. But then, after the baby arrived, we were told the birth mother wasn't Muslim, and the birth father was convinced the birth mother was doing it as revenge. We're not sure what the upshot was, and may never know. But my personal view is that you find a baby a home, and you do not exclude a baby from that home - ever - on religious grounds.
I believe that forcing adoptive parent to force their child into a particular religion is not just misguided but offensive. Religion should be a matter of choice for all including children and there is no need for us to inherit our beliefs from our (birth or adoptive) parents. An interesting point of comparison would be if a child was born to atheist parents and then put up for adoption would the prospective parent then be forced to bring the child up an atheist? Clearly not.
I should re-iterate that despite these views of mine being held strong and passionately, this has not been a problem so far in my wife and my (brief) experience of the adoption process so far.