Sally Quinn

Sally Quinn, a reporter for the Washington Post and author of several books, wrote this article about what her son taught her about faith.

Essentially, her 24-year-old son (also named Quinn… which would make him Quinn Quinn?) believes in God and Sally really doesn’t.

When her son was growing up, though, Sally didn’t know what to tell him.

Over the years I struggled with what to tell Quinn about God. I couldn’t teach him but I wanted him to be exposed to religion so he could eventually choose for himself. I sent him to my parents once or twice a week to spend the night and they read him Bible stories and talked to him about God.

I didn’t want to lie to him. When he was old enough I told him I didn’t believe in God, I couldn’t, but that believing gave many people a lot of comfort. I didn’t know how much he understood or was taking in.

Her son shows maturity in his response, when he tells his mom,

“I didn’t really understand that you didn’t believe in God until a few years ago. I didn’t know what ‘atheist’ meant. It’s a very harsh word, very ugly word. It’s like calling a black person the “N” word. And yet you can’t help being an atheist. We all have choices in life. Something traumatic can happen in your life to make you believe in God, like your son is dying and then he lives. It can change your mind. But most of the time you believe what you believe. You can’t really change that.”

He does raise an interesting point. People often turn to God because of something traumatic that happened in their lives (as opposed to logically thinking your way to God), as if God was a solution to the overwhelming problems in life. He adds, though, that religious people “can’t know for sure because nobody’s ever seen God.”

That’s exactly why I believe atheism is the most truthful option. Unless you have proof otherwise, atheism is the only rational solution we have. I have yet to see proof of God’s existence that could stand up to scientific and logical scrutiny.

Was the son angry at the mom for not raising him with religion?

“Not at all… I’m happy the way I was brought up religiously. If you had taught me there was only one thing I was supposed to believe then I wouldn’t have options. You taught me I could believe in anything I wanted to believe. I could choose what I wanted to believe in.”

The son adds that he thinks his mom is on her way to believing in God. Hopefully, the emotional “it feels good to believe in God so He must exist” argument won’t sway her.

More of Sally Quinn’s writings can be found here.


[tags]Sally Quinn, Washington Post, religion, atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • Dustin

    “If you had taught me there was only one thing I was supposed to believe then I wouldn’t have options. You taught me I could believe in anything I wanted to believe. I could choose what I wanted to believe in.”

    You know, as tempting as this notion of ideological freedom is it’s wrought with problems. One of science great strengths, and great weaknesses, is that it teaches that there are no absolute truths, no true right and wrong answers. What most laymen (and I use this term because it fits, not because I don’t think I am one) don’t understand is that the probability of a given thing being true or false is just as important as having the ability to choose it.
    The ID movement plays off of this linguistic mistranslation nearly every argument and religious multi-culturalists (as Quinn Quinn seems to be) use it whenever they try and argue that people have the right to choose whichever religion makes them have the best “warm feeling in their tummy”, so to speak. Atheism and science may not have all the answers, but they’re a heck of a lot more probable than any of the alternatives.

  • Karen

    His name is probably Quinn Bradlee. Sally Quinn’s husband is Ben Bradlee, the former editor of the Washington Post who gained fame supervising Woodward and Bernstein during the Watergate era.

    Coming from a 20-something who was not raised in a religious home, I found this surprising and sad:

    I didn’t know what ‘atheist’ meant. It’s a very harsh word, very ugly word. It’s like calling a black person the “N” word.

    Man, do we have some work to do improving the atheist image, or what?!

  • Susan

    Hi there. I’ve been following this blog for a couple of weeks now, but hadn’t yet commented.

    To respond to your comment about improving the atheist image, Karen, I wonder if you (or Hemant) have heard of the Brights’ Movement? It’s an attempt to create a new, positive umbrella term for all those who have a naturalistic worldview, including most (but not all) atheists, agnostics, and a even a few theists. I don’t know how well it will work in the long run, but it definitely seems like a good idea to me!

    I am very gratified and impressed with both Sally Quinn’s and her son’s comments in this article, however. I really feel that it’s important for people of all religions and lack thereof to be raised with tolerance and respect for other ways of thought, so long as they aren’t harming anyone. That both Sally and her son are so respectful of each other’s points of view is exactly the way it should be, in spite of the fact that I’m sure Sally wishes her son could be an atheist and he wishes the opposite. Now if only everyone else in the world could learn this kind of tolerance, we’d be in good shape!

  • cautiousmaniac

    …i think that Hemant mighta heard of the Brights, he is listed as an enthusiastic Bright.

  • Shana

    i think it’s interesting how people change their beliefs so drastically after a traumatic event. a book i read that pitted freud & c.s. lewis against each other in debate discussed how the death of a family member caused each man to make a decision about his beliefs, or lack thereof. i personally feel that it takes a truly grounded and confident person to believe that there is NO god, no heaven, no afterlife, even when someone close to you has passed away. that means that you need to be comfortable in knowing that life has a cycle and it’s natural to live and die. i’ve never had someone as close to me as a parent, good friend, sibling, etc. die, so i’m sure it will challenge me a great deal. i think it’s important to remember that no matter how disturbing and sad death may be, it’s completely natural. relying on myth and stories for comfort is definitely human nature, but we’re educated and civilized enough now that we should know better.

  • txatheist

    Shana,
    I’ve heard that before and can only speak for myself. When I had an NDE(near death experience) I didn’t begin to believe nor when my dearest grandmother died a few months ago did I believe. I do agree some people do turn to a higher power or refocus that energy as much of America did after 9/11.

  • miller

    A lot of atheists/agnostics, myself included, don’t particularly like the Brights movement. The idea is to replace the word “atheist” with all its negative connotations with a new positive word. Maybe that’s ok… but “Brights” sounds more elitist than positive. Maybe it’s only because I never grew up thinking of “atheist” as a bad word, but I think we’re better off sticking with it.

  • Logos

    That article was ok, but some of those comments that followed it were beyond the plae!

  • Karen

    miller:

    Maybe it’s only because I never grew up thinking of “atheist” as a bad word, but I think we’re better off sticking with it.

    My feeling is the same. It’s very tough to impose a new word into the language by fiat. Also, a lot of believers are offended by the word “Bright” because they think it implies that they are dumb. (I know it’s not meant that way, but that’s what they take away from it.)

    I think we’re better off claiming the term “Atheist” proudly and showing people that it’s not a “bad word” and we’re not bad people – just normal people of all stripes who don’t happen to believe in god.

    Logos:

    That article was ok, but some of those comments that followed it were beyond the plae!

    I had to laugh at how many evangelists of all different traditions – Christians, Mormons, etc. – jumped in there to proselytize. That alone should be a reason for her to stick with atheism. ;-)


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