Some Musings On Religion and Play Group

Religion isn’t something I often talk about, but something happened this week and I have a few things to get off my chest.  I go to a play group every week with my two year old, and it’s happens to be based in a church.  It’s a lovely playgroup, with some amazing volunteers, a great structure, lots of different toys to keep the children amused and a secure outdoor play area.  As a parent, I have to say I love it.  It’s one of the best play groups we’ve been to.

It provides a really important community function, giving parents and their children a place to meet.  The children can play safely, and the parents get the chance to socialise with friends and share some of their parenting challenges.  If a parent is feeling isolated or has had a difficult week, it’s a great place to find a bit of support.

Occasionally some things come up around the church, and to be honest it makes me feel slightly uncomfortable.  I don’t like it when they use story time for religious purposes, as I just don’t think it’s appropriate.  I chose not to go to the nativity, as the playgroup moves into the church and the session is delivered by the vicar.  As we are not a religious family, it seemed more respectful to just not attend.

This week at playgroup something changed.  We were told there was going to be a course, where we could learn to be the best Mum’s with the help of god.  A kind of alpha course for parenting I guess.  I paraphrase of course, but that sentence was used in the pitch this to us.  There is all kinds of wrong in there and don’t get me started on how condescending it felt.  The kids were just miffed she was eating into their story time, and some just upped and left to go back to playing.  The children really value the routine at this particular playgroup.

At this point, I would like to say that I completely respect anyone’s right to believe in God or follow any kind of religion.  I think that people get a lot of comfort from going to church and from being apart of a congregation.  When I was a child I used to go to church, I regularly attended Sunday school and I attended a C of E school. I didn’t dislike any of those things, but none of those experiences developed a belief in God for me.

All I do ask is that people respect my right not to believe in God, and to let me deal with the subject of religion when it comes to my family.  I think it’s important to understand different faiths from around the world and not dismiss them.  It helps us to understand different cultures and respect their traditions.  That for me is incredibly important, but I will not be encouraging my children to follow one particular faith, but if they wish to I will support it.

The way I see it is that people get a huge sense belonging from being apart of a religion.  Religion can be helpful in providing a spiritual and moral code, and teach us valuable lessons from history. Where it ends for me is believing that the stories used in, for example the Bible are true.  I’ll be honest and say I don’t think the red sea was ever parted, and I very much doubt we all began with Adam and Eve, but with the absence of science I can understand where these stories came from.

I look at the world today, and I see how religions have been corrupted and it makes me incredibly sad.  If there was a God I think he would be ashamed, and would probably have turned his back on everyone.  We have so many people using God as an excuse to forward their own supremacy.  While a new America emerges, vowing to put themselves first, I’m sure that the name of God will be used as a justification.  We have many extremists recruiting impressionable people, convincing them that by engaging in the most oattrious act of terrorism will provide them with a gateway to God.  Sadly all it will achieve is getting themselves and probably a lot of innocent people killed.

Religion has been used for years to justify wars, corruption and cover up some of the most heinous crimes, and I personally don’t wish to have any part in it.  I have wondered for many years if religion has been used by leaders to control the mass population.  Are people just being manipulated because of their desire to want to believe there is more to life than what we know on earth?

It can be a very tough thing for people to get their head around, especially when a loved one dies, that it could just mean the end of their life.  Does thinking that they have gone to heaven or a better place, help those who have been left behind come to terms with their death and process their grief?  Does the comfort that a person may be going else where in spirit after their death help us to face our own mortality and process that our life maybe coming to an end at some point?

These are all questions that I ask myself regularly, and in the absence of any concrete evidence that God exists I wonder if he is someone we have created to help us deal with a life cycle that otherwise can seem a little pointless.  Obviously I cannot provide any evidence that God doesn’t exist, all I ask is that people respect the fact I choose not to believe or worship a higher being.  I am grateful to our local church for providing a wonderful playgroup, but as soon as I feel I am being recruited to join the congregation sadly we will no longer be able to attend.

Zena's Suitcase

Zena Goldman is a UK based travel, family & lifestyle blogger who left her 9-5 job behind in the not-for-profit sector to follow her creative dreams and enjoy a more flexible family life. She began writing Zena’s Suitcase in 2011 and shares the holidays and adventures she goes on with (and without) her 2 young daughters. She wishes her son would join them more often but he’s carving out his own dreams now and enjoying university life.

Since beginning Zena’s Suitcase she has worked with a number of brands and also has a regular monthly feature in the ASDA Good Living Magazine feature, ‘Ask The Expert’ where she shares helpful parenting tips. In 2018 she was also a finalist in the prestigious BIBs Awards for Social Media.

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17 Comments

  1. Fiona jk42
    January 21, 2017 / 11:50 am

    I agree with your sentiments completely. As a confirmed atheist, I find the view of certain followers of religion that they are more moral and are “better” people than those of us who are unbelievers, not just insulting but also risible given their track record of wars, persecution and cruelty. In my view you are right to stop attending this particular playgroup, as it has become clear that this was in fact a stalking horse for recruitment into their congregation.

  2. Mumtotwo
    January 21, 2017 / 12:15 pm

    I was raised as a Catholic and attended a playgroup with my son which was ran by one our local C of E churches they never tried to get us to attend the church or force religion on us although some of the books they had on their book shelf were religious it was up to us whether we read them or not other than that you would never know that it was ran by a church and that is how it should be.I think it is nice that they had the option of people attending a nativity but I think it should have been as an extra not by forcing those attending play group to attend.Religion shouldn’t be forced upon anyone it was forced upon us at school and a lot of the students there turned away from religion because of that.

  3. Dawn F
    January 21, 2017 / 2:13 pm

    It’s an interesting situation. I guess if the group is affiliated with the church, they are going to push their agenda, but you should, of course, have the right to remove yourself from the discussions.

  4. A S,Edinburgh
    January 21, 2017 / 2:19 pm

    I share your position for the most part, I think. I have personal reasons for having lost all respect for any all-powerful gods that may exist, but am not bothered by other people’s belief, and pleased for those decent people who are genuinely helped by it.

    What I’m less sure of is the role of religious organisations in the community. I understand that they are important and am glad of some of the work they do.

    As far as I understand it, those who use good works as active conversion tools, rather than simply providing further opportunities for worship to anyone who wants them, are not really fulfilling their brief, theologically. But it may depend on the religion and denomination. It’s a fine line. You just have to draw it where you’re comfortable with, I guess.

  5. Richard Eldred Hawes
    January 21, 2017 / 10:48 pm

    I do tend to agree with you, we all have a choice and I do not think we should ‘forced’ to accept one view or another. Iam not saying that you might not pick up some good ideas from the course but I believe that it should be given in a non religous context

  6. Helen Moulden
    January 21, 2017 / 11:10 pm

    I agree with you – I don’t think anyone should feel that they have to change their beliefs. Everyone should be respective and tolerant of everyone else and their views.

  7. Leah
    January 22, 2017 / 2:51 am

    I totally agreee with your thinking and have full respect for all faiths and religions. I would like to add further how uncomfortable it makes me that my children go to non-religious schools, yet are made to sing hymns and pray. Upon telling them that we do not follow a religion and it is fine to respectfully sit quietly, instead of bowing their heads and putting their hands together, I was told by one of my children that the teachers would tell them off if they didn’t pray! I am quite sure a child from another religion would not be forced and feel there can be a lack of respect and understanding for atheists or non-believers. I feel that religion should be explored in non-religious schools in RE and be made clear to impressionable 4 and 5 year olds that these are sets of beliefs, not facts. 2 out of 3 of my school age children have come home stating Christian teachings as facts and it has taken an awful lot of tactful conversation to help them realise their teachers are not saying that ‘God DID create the earth moon and stars’ (quote from my then 4 year old) but in fact it is just that Christians believe that…but we do not. When asked now, my children say that in our home we believe in science, because that it is easier for them at school to say they believe in something, rather than nothing at all. So hard ❤️

  8. William Gould
    January 22, 2017 / 10:59 am

    Yes I agree with every word you say. Perhaps if you and a few other Mum’s threatened to leave the playgroup over the issue, they might have a rethink…

  9. Margaret Gallagher
    January 22, 2017 / 5:33 pm

    GOD -Good Orderely Direction
    A way to live your life rather than dictation
    My dad has a very strong faith and has helped hime cope with many many situations including death of my mum and sister
    I have faith-to lead a good life -dont know if id call it religion ? but believe everyone has the right to choose and shouldnt be forced x
    Might need a new playgroup x

  10. Samantha O'D
    January 23, 2017 / 10:37 am

    I feel very uncomfortable when people knock on my door and start taking about religion, but if i went to a church run group i would fully expect there to be stories and songs related to religion.
    I am not particularly religious but when i lost my daughter i found great comfort in speaking to a church minister i have known since childhood.
    i Think perhaps you should be looking for another group to attend

  11. January 24, 2017 / 11:35 am

    I totally agree. Religion is a personal matter. One should never force enlightenment, information, spiritual beliefs, or a way of life on anyone else.
    Veronica Lee recently posted…The Last Kite MakerMy Profile

  12. Chloe Gi
    January 24, 2017 / 11:54 am

    I think you have to have “a calling” to religion. It’s not something that can be forced upon people if it’s to be true and meaningful. I’m with you, respect ALL peoples rights. It’s a shame as I know the churches around here do more than the Sure Starts and are fab but don’t force beliefs on people. Xx

  13. joanne casey
    January 25, 2017 / 10:08 am

    I couldn’t agree more! I was raised catholic and chose not to attempt to brainwash my children the same way so we sent them to non religious schools where they have learnt about different religions so that they can be informed without it being forced

  14. Margaret Gallagher
    January 25, 2017 / 1:03 pm

    Had to come back and see others musings on the subject – see most see this as an individual choice which shouldn’t be forced

  15. January 25, 2017 / 9:35 pm

    It’s a church playgroup so is it really so surprising that they would invite you to do alpha? And it does sound like an invitation, you didn’t say it was an expectation. If they said the opposite i.e. “you can play here but you can’t take it any further” THAT would be rude. You’ve got lots of questions about faith, why not take the opportunity to go along and ask them? I hope you can carry on enjoying the playgroup anyway.

  16. Theresa Alison
    January 30, 2017 / 4:58 pm

    When I used to go to Sunday School when I was only young we used to go into a side room where there were toys and games, they also used to have an outdoor play area for us to go in to. All the local children used to love going to it . It didn’t matter if we believed or not years back they welcomed anyone it was a way of the community getting together and having a chatter.

  17. Dominique Clarke
    January 30, 2017 / 11:31 pm

    I can totally relate to this, Thank you an amazing read

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