Atheist husband discourages son going to mass

I am in the process of converting to Catholicism. It is still early days and I have not yet begun RCIA (if this exists in the UK) but have had a meeting with our priest and will be meeting again soon.

At the moment so far as I am aware I don’t have an obligation to go to mass as I am not yet a Catholic but I am making the effort to go as much as possible (until now I had duties at my previous church which meant I couldn’t go weekly). Now I am free to go to mass every Sunday but have a slight issue with my 5 year old son who does not like mass. He has pretty severe anxiety which we are working on separately but basically the main thing apart from the fact that he finds all change anxiety inducing is that our old church had a crèche where there were loads of toys to play with (a couple of us had introduced some bible stories and songs to this too but the toys were still available). Our Catholic Church has a children’s liturgy which is great but it is only for part of the service, which I prefer but my son would obviously rather be playing with toys like at our previous church.

The other issue is that my husband is an atheist and will not come to church. Not only that but he actively discourages Church going by offering my son other more exciting activities such as bike rides on Sunday mornings.

As a result it is becoming increasingly difficult to get my son to attend mass with me. I have 2 sons, the other being 2 and a half and he always comes with me. My husband doesn’t offer to take him as I think he probably doesn’t want to look after both of them at once if he can avoid it.

Over Christmas I ended up going to Christmas Day mass by myself because my 5 year old son basically refused to go (and I decided to leave my 2 year old at home partly, I confess so my husband could see what it was like looking after both of them while I was at Church, I regretted this later as mass is not the same without the kids). I was very tempted to just say “No, you are coming, end of discussion.” But of course my husband was on my son’s side and said I shouldn’t force him to go because it would put him off going if he was forced to go. I’m not sure I believe this as we “force” children to do lots of things they don’t want to do because it’s for their own good, e.g. go to the dentist, get vaccinations etc. Obviously my husband differs in that he doesn’t think going to mass is good for you.

Basically I am looking for some advice about what to do. Should I just say no, the kids are coming to mass with me, even though this will cause problems between me and my husband in the short term or should I not force my 5 year old to come along? Thanks for reading.

Yes, you should say no. I assume these children are Baptized? You made a promise to educate them in the faith. Full stop.
Tell your husband that it’s important, it’s a matter of integrity for you to keep your promise on behalf of your children.
Secondly, the children do not run the parents. Go down this road, and there will heck to pay for years to come.
I’ll pray for you, this is a very sad.
Do you children resent school? Sports? Any other activity? No. LIkely not. This is a lame argument.
Has he always been an atheist? How did you plan to raise children before you married? Did he agree to raise them in your faith and now does not want to? What changed? Or did you assume it would be ok?
Lots going on here, but you have to deal with it NOW. It’s only going to escalate and you two have to present a united front. Save “why doesn’t daddy have to go with us?” for another time.


Thanks for your reply. My eldest is baptised, my youngest not yet. When my eldest was baptised I really don’t think my husband thought through the implications of allowing him to be baptised and although I would obviously like my younger son to b baptised I haven’t brought it up yet, partly because the church I belonged to most recently did not believe in infant baptism (I initially belong to a church which did and then changed because of the teaching in that denomination).

When we married although I believed in God and called myself a Christian I was not baptised and had really not given much thought at all to the implications of marrying an atheist. In all honesty although we have an ok marriage apart from this I really wish I hadn’t married him as it is so hard living out my faith with someone who is so against it. Obviously I don’t regret having our lovely kids though and like I said our marriage is OK apart from this.

I agree that it will cause problems later if I don’t make him go. I think part of the problem though is that he sees that this is something me and my husband disagree on and is playing up because of this. I have mentioned that I don’t like how he deliberately entices him not to go to mass but I think he just doesn’t get it at all and sees religion as basically a weird hobby which he has no interest in. He is very contemptuous of God and sometimes mocks and interupts when we are praying which makes me want to limit our prayer time to when he isn’t there.

Sorry, I meant to say. My eldest is not baptised in the Catholic Church and although I understand the baptism is valid the church he was baptised in taught that you should raise your children in the faith but did not have the obligation of going to mass. So while my husband sort of understands that we made a promise to raise him Christian he actually did not make a promise to make him attend mass every Sunday so although I am unhappy about his lack of support in this matter he did not promise to do that. Although that is kind of irrelevant anyway as he did promise to support their Christian upbringing and still works against me on that.

Of course he’s manipulating the situation. Kids are smart, and he views church not as a necessary thing but as a boring thing, He sees that you will back down and that dad and he “win”.
Not a basis for raising children in the faith.
Have a long talk with DH and come to agreement raising the children in the faith.
Then, present a united front. He can always do fun things with dad. It’s not one or the other.
The bottom line is: Will your husband respect your wishes on faith? Or not.


Thanks, I will try talking to him again. My previous experience suggests that he will not respect my views in raising them in the faith but here’s hoping.

DId you come to faith AFTER the marriage, or did you enter into it believing that he would just go along with your preferences?
That will make your approach different I would think.
The main thing is getting your children into faith formation and worship, and presenting a united front. For the sake of the children.

Actually, children aren’t obliged to go to Mass until they reach the age of reason - ‘seven years or thereabouts’…

It’s obviously better if they do go from when they are old enough to behave, but there is no obligation.

Well that will go over like a ton of bricks. Do the bare minimum, and start taking them to something they are clueless about and also put them in Faith Formation with a bunch of strangers… Sure.

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There’s no reason at all that they have to be ‘clueless’ about Mass and the Catholic faith - they can be shown books at home, taught the prayers, shown pictures, taken to visit the church - I imagine there might even be a youtube video suitable for children. Why assume that only the bare minimum will happen?

My concern was the OP being made to feel anxious, and there being tension in the home, all over something that the church doesn’t require of her.

The worry about being put in Faith Formation ‘with a bunch of strangers’ is very odd - do children know everyone in the congregation. even if they do go to Mass? Once there are more than abut 40 people I would certainly struggle, and most churches have way more than that at Mass, surely?

She wants to raise them in the faith. That is her concern. Waiting will only postpone the conversation, and it seems pretty crucial to their parenting plan.

Thanks again for your replies. I do actually teach them a lot about Christianity at home. We pray and talk about God regularly throughout the day (we also homeschool so we have the whole day together) and read a children’s bible together every night. Strangely (or not) my son has become much more interested in reading the bible and praying since we started going to the catholic church and I started praying the rosary. So in terms of having a faith I am not overly worried. I am concerned that when he does become obliged to go he won’t want to and I don’t want him to think that church is just an optional thing you do on a Sunday.

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Before marriage I called myself a Christian but looking back I had no idea what that even meant I didn’t know about repentance and hadn’t read much of the bible and didn’t attend church more than perhaps a carol service at Christmas. I did realise I wanted to go to church but I wasn’t clear why and although the minister who married us did mention about my husband being an atheist I really didn’t get why this would be an issue I remember just saying well he alcan go out on his bike on Sunday morning while I go to church. I don’t think either of us considered or discussed how faith would affect our children until after our first was born and I wanted him to be baptised (we were baptised at the same time). My husband agreed but again I don’t think he even considered the vows he was making and they really weren’t discussed in depth by the minister. Perhaps we should have thought about things more carefully ourselves but hindsight is a wonderful thing.

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Well, just speak frankly with the hubs.
Tell him you have determined that faith IS important to you, and you would like your family to share in this faith. Do you pray for him daily? Our best witness to the faith is our daily behaviors, conversations, and mannerisms. Be more Catholic in your relationship and see if his heart would soften to the idea. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it’s important to you, and I’m sure he will want to respect you, right? ANd having a religion doesn’t harm children, in fact, it makes them much easier to manage, as things such as kindness, obedience, and love are part of the package.
Pray hard, seek advice from your priest. There’s a lot of daylight on Sundays. I think both of you could have time for both activities,.

Ask Elizabeth Leseur to pray for you. Read her diary


This is a hard road your on. Before my conversion I was an atheist dating a girl that although not Catholic was a Christian. It put enough strain on our relationship that she did eventually leave me. And rightfully so, thankfully we weren’t married so that made it easier. I wish you the best.

As others have mentioned, you technically aren’t obligated to bring your kids to Mass until they’re 7, but you really should have this conversation sooner rather than later. And you need to get your youngest baptized.

You need to speak with your husband and make it clear that this is a non-negotiable. I hate to advise this, but if it comes to it, the Church does allow dissolution of marriage when a convert’s spouse refuses to live at peace with them (assuming your husband is unbaptized).

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Ironically my husband is baptised. His mum was catholic and apparently had problems getting married to his dad because he hadn’t been baptised so they had their kids baptised so they could marry in s church. I’m really hoping it won’t come to that anyway as apart from this our marriage is generally good and obviously there are also negative repurcussions for our sons we were to separate.

This sheds a bit more light on the situation. Please, discuss with your pastor because he is a non-practicing Catholic there will be some things that need to be done to regularize your marriage before you can come into full communion.

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@thelittlelady thank you I will speak to my priest. Would this be the case even if he has only been baptised but not confirmed?

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