Worst. Advice. Ever.

Man asks Salon‘s Cary Tennis for advice.

His 13-year-old daughter is an evangelical Christian. He’s an atheist. She thinks he’s going to hell. He fears mentioning religion or evolution or the simple fact that there’s nothing wrong with being gay.

What should he do?

Cary’s advice: Go to church.

If you go to church with her, you will make it possible for her to believe that there is at least a chance that you will not burn in hell.

Umm… I’m pretty sure that for evangelicals, if you don’t believe in Jesus’ divinity, you’re going straight to hell.

Which is why I’m still going to hell even after visiting 3298432 churches.

The rest of the advice isn’t any better:

But don’t just go to church with her. Meet with one of the officials. That’s right, wander right down on to the field and speak with one of the guys in the striped shirts. Or whatever they wear. Arrange a private conference. In this private conference, you can say whatever you like. It doesn’t matter really. It might be a good conversation or it might be utterly ridiculous. But show your daughter that you are willing to engage with one of the people she respects. Show her that you have enough humility and independence of spirit to engage, that you are not fearful or dogmatic or close-minded.

No one accused him of being fearful or dogmatic or close-minded.

His only “crime” is thinking rationally.

And would someone like to explain the football analogy to the rest of us?

(via The Talent Show)


[tags]atheist, atheism, Christian, church[/tags]

  • Kate

    *headdesk*
    *headdesk*
    *headdesk*

  • Darryl

    This father deserves crappy advice since he’s clueless enough to ask for it.

    Believe it or not, there are some evangelicals that think you can get past the Pearly Gates without believing in Jesus (God made a loophole in the salvation plan).

    The football analogy is now the first choice among the poorly-lettered: it’s the common man’s rhetorical flourish.

  • Mriana

    Oh brother! :roll: I don’t think I’ve heard of anything more rediculous.

  • emerson999

    Wow. That football analogy is, in fact, the absolute worst argument for religion that I’ve ever heard. It fails on so many levels that it almost wins.

  • http://imparo.wordpress.com/ Darmok

    Not relevant to this post, but have you seen what McCain is saying about the U.S. being a Christian nation?

  • Darryl

    Concerning John McCain, isn’t it a shame what these politicians will do to win votes. His statements are offensive on so many levels, besides being stupid. This is a front-runner, a leader in our Nation?! Man, are we screwed up!

  • http://nomorehornets.blogspot.com The Exterminator

    Just another example of a parent being controlled by his/her kids. Poor guy ought to be trying to have conversations with his daughter instead of kowtowing to her. If she thinks he’s going to hell, he should tell her that they’d better do what they can to enjoy their brief time together. “Hey, how about going for an ice cream? I want to get all the coldness I can while I still have a chance.”

  • Darryl

    “Hey, how about going for an ice cream? I want to get all the coldness I can while I still have a chance.”

    LOL Naw, I know how these fundies think: that’ll just piss her off!

  • Andrew

    I grew up in that type of fundamentalist atmosphere. That means church two or three times a week plus Christian private schools. I can honestly say that the majority of kids grow out of the “Jesus-freak” stage. Though his daughter will not likely lose her religion, she will likely learn to deal with his atheism as she matures. So I recommend that he just be himself. Stand up for what he believes and don’t coddle her.

  • Jen

    The football analogy-
    A sport that absolutely nobody deputes is somehow the same as a being that absolutely no one can prove the existence of.

    In other news, the existence of knitting proves that elves are real.

  • Darryl

    I’m dating myself here, but when I was a kid of 13, the prevailing attitude among the elders was that I wasn’t old enough, and hadn’t lived long enough, to have an opinion–about anything! There’s wisdom in that. Look at all the folks at four and five times that age that are saying and doing some of the most stupid things imaginable. At 13, you don’t know shit about shit. This dad needs to relax. His obligations are few and quite clear: feed, clothe, house, educate, tolerate and love his daughter. Everything else will likely work itself out as she matures.

  • Aj

    This made the digg front page earlier. The football analogy can only have been created in a tortured mind. Why would anyone ask that guy for advice? I’d sooner ask a plant pot.

    It seems to me, the columnist is asking someone to convert to christianity, or attend church regulary, and to not debate over matters that might relate to irrational beliefs. Surely, the beliefs that should be debated about more than any others.

    I don’t think children should be indoctrinated, I think it’s child abuse, harmful to the child and society. That’s one for the future, there’s no easy answer now. He’s certainly going to find it hard to deprogramme the brainwashing.

    Maybe he can wait it out, she might grow out of it. There’s always bribery, when she can drive: Is it Jesus or a Prius?

    Show her that you have enough humility and independence of spirit to engage, that you are not fearful or dogmatic or close-minded.

    .

    The implications… how is going to a church going to prove any of that? Religious people are dogmatic and close-minded, that’s the qualities they like they most. Some religions promote fear and nearly all ask you to submit, sacrifice independence for a deity. Sure, they all say that you should be humble, by false claims to knowledge and special/chosen properties, arrogance.

    If the daughter was impressed by independence and open-mindedness, it should be really easy to change her mind on this hell thing, and the whole God question. She would already be half way there.

  • Andrew

    I agree with Darryl.

    And AJ, people are indocrtinated with all sorts of stuff from language and culture to religion. So you should be more specific when you say that you don’t support the indocrination of children, because what you said literally means you think kids should be raised in the wild… alone…

  • Siamang

    But show your daughter that you are willing to engage with one of the people she respects.

    Ha! I’d do even better. I’d tell him to set up a debate between him and her pastor. Subject: The burden of proof of extraordinary claims.

    Winner gets the daughter’s immortal soul. Or at least rights to program her Sunday activities until she’s 18.

  • Richard Wade

    This guy reveals what’s really going on in the second paragraph of his letter:

    Her mother and I split up right before she was born, but I have been an active parent. She lived with me for fifth and seventh grades and has been with me every summer and every other holiday. Right now, I have her every other weekend. Religion is not the only issue her mother and I have had, but until this point we have been able to compromise and get along with each other pretty well.

    The daughter is a pawn in an ongoing conflict between the parents. Counselors call it triangulation. As Darryl says the girl isn’t old enough to know what the hell she thinks. She’s just repeating crap her mother has told her as a way of tormenting her ex at a distance. It sounds like he’s been a sucker for this kind of manipulation for quite a while. He should patiently listen, say that he doesn’t think that way and keep loving her. As Exterminator says he shouldn’t kowtow. The worst thing to do is go on the defensive with a teenager or go out of your way to prove you’re not whatever awful thing they say you are.

    Cary Tennis’s advice is moronic.

  • Meg

    Speaking of moronic (and dangerous) advice, I know of a woman who got beat by her husband, to the point of being partially blind in one eye. Her pastor told her she must stay with her abusive husband because the bible does not condone divorce.

  • http://electricwell.blogspot.com Kapture

    Yeah, and I remember being 13 and thinking that every adult who dismissed me out of hand was a flaming asshole.

    I think atheists often forget that even though religious belief is irrational, it is not alway unthinking. And that feelings affect belief. Especially when you’re 13.

    It’s not like the guy is going to be tainted if he goes to church with his daughter once, or talks to a paster once. He won’t get cooties. It’s almost superstitious to believe that dad is somehow “giving in” to something, as opposed to engaging in dialog with his daughter and her beliefs.

    The psychology of it, with a 13 year old girl, is that he’s showing that he’s willing to talk. It cant hurt to give up the home field advantage for a couple of conversations.

    I don’t think it was bad advice at all. I’m not sure it was the whole ball of wax. But having worked with kids off and on for twenty years, and having a daughter of my own, I know for a fact that it’s not coddling to talk to your kid in her own terms, and that parents have an obligation to do more than feed, shelter, and “tolerate” their children.

  • http://misterjebsblog.blogspot.com Tina B.

    I would stick to my belief and start encouraging her to learn about other religions also and about atheism.

  • Karen

    Cary Tennis’s advice is moronic.

    Not the first time, believe me. I quit reading that column because he was so far off-base so often that it annoyed me.

  • http://spaninquis.wordpress.com/ Spanish Inquisitor

    …or maybe he should wait until she grows out of her cute little religious phase. It probably has more to do with her peers, or her relationship with her mother, than with any actual beliefs.

  • http://www.cogspace.com/ Katie Molnar

    I’m amused (and annoyed) that the advice begins by silently assuming that religion deserves more respect than rational thought. The daughter’s irrational belief is never questioned – rather, the rational father is expected to endorse ridiculous beliefs and pay lip-service to their institution.

    Turning the logic on its head, we get something like: Bring the daughter to atheist conventions and have her pretend to respect people whose thoughts she can’t understand any better than those of the church leaders. Is it harmless? Sure. So is going to church. Is it helpful? No. Neither is going to church.

    How about the father reminds his daughter that she is supposedly bound by a commandment, “respect thy mother and thy father”, and make clear that while he respects her right to believe nonsense, he recognizes it as such.

    But in the end, it’s all pointless. We’re talking about a 13-year-old girl here. I was one of those only seven years ago, and can speak from recent experience: TEENAGERS WILL BELIEVE ANYTHING. They’ll also grow out of it fast. My girlfriend was a total Jesus freak for a few years before I met her, then cast off all the nonsense and ended up an atheist.

    Roughly half of my classmates were supposedly wiccans, yet they represent a tiny fraction of a percent of the population.

    Odds are, she’ll simply grow out of it. In the meantime, some parental friction is to be expected – it’s practically her intent. Nothing could drive the preaching back farther than simply tossing her nonsense aside and going out for ice cream, as posited earlier. =)

    Mk, getting back to work now. Thanks for giving me something interesting to read (and write) this Friday! This blog has become one of my favorite reads.

    —k8e

  • PrimateInRepose

    “Hey, how about going for an ice cream? I want to get all the coldness I can while I still have a chance.”

    Exterminator, that is the funniest damn thing I’ve read all day.

  • athenebelle

    I think actually sitting down with her and having a conversation about it might be a starting point. Ask her to hear him out and then have her tell her viewpoint on things. I mean I suspect (assuming for a moment that he had been raised in Christianity) he recognizes that there are good things about it (e.x. Ten Commandments minus the “god thing”) but also explains why he doesn’t believe I think he would get a lot farther on this. Basically creating the dialogue with her rather than the pastor. That’s the starting point but also talking with the pastor might be another dialogue point.

    PrimateInRepose said,

    October 5, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    “Hey, how about going for an ice cream? I want to get all the coldness I can while I still have a chance.”

    Exterminator, that is the funniest damn thing I’ve read all day.

    As a Christian myself I felt taken aback at this joke and if he had said it to his daughter I suspect she would have felt it mocking and would not have helped things…only made a deeper wedge between his daughter and him. I know I would have had my husband (who is not religious) had said that to me and I’m not a “if he doesn’t convert he’s going to hell” type of religious individual (although I had a hard time understanding him when we had first started dating).

    As I said earlier, dialogue is the key. I think much of what Hemant’s doing is perfect. I wonder if I could suggest his to the guy.

  • athenebelle

    I know I would have had my husband (who is not religious) had said that to me and I’m not a “if he doesn’t convert he’s going to hell” type of religious individual (although I had a hard time understanding him when we had first started dating).

    Whoops, I meant to say “I know I would have been offended if my husband (who is note religious) had said that to me and I’m not an “if he doesnt convert he’s going to hell” type of religious individual.

  • Aj

    -Andrew

    And AJ, people are indocrtinated with all sorts of stuff from language and culture to religion. So you should be more specific when you say that you don’t support the indocrination of children, because what you said literally means you think kids should be raised in the wild… alone…

    We rely heavily on context using the English language.

    -athenebelle

    he recognizes that there are good things about it (e.x. Ten Commandments minus the “god thing”)

    Is that likely? It’s strange that many Christians would hold them as a notable good thing in Christianity. I doubt many people outside of Christianity are going to see them as great in content or particulary well written. I doubt many Christians can recount them from memory.

    Honor your father and your mother… It’s not a bad rule, but it seems quite specific and ambiguous, without acceptions.

    You shall not murder… what killing is legal and what isn’t?*

    You shall not commit adultery… includes lustful eyes! No “wife swap” parties!

    You shall not steal… needs some property law then.*

    You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour… I see nothing wrong with this one.

    You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour. Where to start! Slaves! Sexist! Suspicious preoccupation with farm animals!

    *anything refering to a legal definition like theft and murder requires that definition to mean anything.

  • athenebelle

    Is that likely? It’s strange that many Christians would hold them as a notable good thing in Christianity. I doubt many people outside of Christianity are going to see them as great in content or particulary well written. I doubt many Christians can recount them from memory.

    Actually my husband mentioned them (again he is definitely non-religious and according to him an atheist). The key in any conversation is to recognize the good as well as the bad in a belief system. From what you wrote Aj I get the feeling that you feel that there isn’t anything good about Christianity as a belief system (religious in nature or not). If so, please correct me.

  • Aj

    Actually my husband mentioned them (again he is definitely non-religious and according to him an atheist). The key in any conversation is to recognize the good as well as the bad in a belief system. From what you wrote Aj I get the feeling that you feel that there isn’t anything good about Christianity as a belief system (religious in nature or not). If so, please correct me.

    I think religion is worthless and harmful, although I don’t think it’s particularly helpful to think of things in terms of good and bad. The Golden Rule is the only thing I find to be universal to Christians, that is good, and it’s not unique to Christianity or religion in general. How would you comment on the good and bad of Secular Humanism, Islam, and Hinduism?

  • athenebelle

    It’s my personal opinion that all belief systems have good and bad (generally brought on by the individuals themselves rather than the belief system that they believe in).

    In the information that I’ve read about Secular Humanism (in particular a book called “A Case for Humanism: An Introduction” by Austin Dacey and Lewis Vaughn) I get the feeling that issues (such as justice) are based upon current laws and ethics systems(that’s my explanation of it and I recognize it’s not a great one). The biggest thing is, what happens when you come upon something that you can’t explain? In addition, what about the sense of community? I know this is become more prevalent to a degree but as far as I can tell secular humanists tend to be loners. Honestly I am having a hard time figuring out the positive in this belief system. I’m sure there is, but I cannot for the life of me figure it out.

    Negative in Islam (for wikipedia) Islamic tradition holds that Judaism and Christianity distorted the messages of these prophets over time either in interpretation, in text, or both.[5] It seems unlikely that they themselves haven’t done the very same thing considering how there are multiple different ways of interpreting passages in the Quran. The positive is that among the five pillars of islam there is a specific decree to give to people who are poor. True it also is a missionary aspect but some might translate it more as help for those who need it rather than a missionary “tithe.”

    I also see religion as a cultural issue. From what I remember from taking a number of anthropology courses there have never been a culture where a religion is not present. I know Dawkins mentioned something about this (I think it had to do with Memes but I’m not exactly clear on his view on this). But it’s certainly something interesting to point out (and a general argument that I’ve heard more moderate religious individuals make).

    If you want me to comment on the others as well I would be happy to except I think this post is long enough.

  • Mriana

    It is cultural, athenebelle. For a while I didn’t think Christianity was cultural, but then I thought about it. It has a lot of it’s own symbolism and ways of worship just as Islam and Judaism or any other religion. Those of us in the U.S. are generally born into a Christian family. Those in the Middle East are generally born into an Islamic family. Some people are born into Judaism etc etc etc

    Then after all of they people play the “My God is better than your god” game and have for centuries been killing each other over this and I don’t know why, esp in this day and age. Before Roman Christianity became dominate, Christians were killing each other just as Islamics do. There was once many sects of Christianity- Gnostic, Mystery, Saviour, Marcion, and many other Christian cults. Then Roman took over and dominated. Of course then we had the Reformation and we now have many sects again. Once again none of them agree with each other and sometimes even within the sects, like the Anglican Communion, they don’t agree with each other. The liberal Episcopalians want to be more humanistic, while the conservatives want to be… well more traditionally conservative and literal.

    The thing is, and I heard this also on an Episcopal podcast too, the religious texts were written for a different time, a different group of people, and a different culture. We can’t take religious texts seriously or literally, though some people would disagree. Those in the podcast may have been laughing when they said a Bible study with an Episcopal priest never works if you believe the Bible, but it’s true. Take a look at Bishop Spong, Anthony Freeman, Tom Harpur, Dan Cupitt, etc if you don’t believe me. I’ve been watching the out come of what is happening in the Episcopal Church and the House of Bishops have been getting praise for their response to the Archbishop’s communique from those in Ireland, Australia, Canada, etc., while those in Africa and alike along with the conservatives have been critical. I think the House of Bishops are right about treating everyone with human dignity, ministering to the GLBT groups, etc. They did not promise to never have public gay union celebrations or never again to ordain gay ministers, but they did say they are willing to chill out until there is a consensus to do so. They did what they had to do to stay in the Communion though, but the conservatives would love to see the Episcopal Church U.S.A. thrown out of the Communion because what was said was just not good enough for them. :roll:

    On Air America, when asked if the Episcopal Church was compromising their position, the reply from the guest speaker was, “This bishop thinks so.” I think they are too, but they don’t like to make waves.

    The point is, when it comes to religion, I don’t think anyone agrees, esp if they take the Bible literally and as the inerrant word of God. It’s all insane and IMO, it’s taken far too literally instead of being thought of as ancient literature.

  • Aj

    In the information that I’ve read about Secular Humanism (in particular a book called “A Case for Humanism: An Introduction” by Austin Dacey and Lewis Vaughn) I get the feeling that issues (such as justice) are based upon current laws and ethics systems(that’s my explanation of it and I recognize it’s not a great one).

    Not current laws and ethics systems, some current laws and ethics systems meet the criteria. Laws and ethics on a rational basis, using reason and evidence. Humanism rejects supernatural beliefs (superstition, ignorance) involvement in resolving human affairs.

    The biggest thing is, what happens when you come upon something that you can’t explain?

    Certainly not make something up, that’s what religion does. Try to explain it using the evidence available would be the humanist plea. If you can’t explain something, that’s not the end of the world, but it’s important to try. Faith is a licence to give up trying to explain, and just make something up.

    In addition, what about the sense of community? I know this is become more prevalent to a degree but as far as I can tell secular humanists tend to be loners.

    I accept your first statement, not your second. I think it’s a good thing. I bet there aren’t as many (proportional to population) “secular humanist” children as there are “christian, muslim and sikh children”. Nationalism also brings with it a sense of community but I don’t much like it either.

    Secular people aren’t usually brought up in communities of secular people, many come from religious families, they’re separated geographically. There are few buildings that are secular humanist for people to go. Where there are secular groups and buildings, secular people do go, they are not loners. A lot of the time your born and indoctrinated into religious communities, but secular people don’t have a unified doctrine.

    Honestly I am having a hard time figuring out the positive in this belief system. I’m sure there is, but I cannot for the life of me figure it out.

    Most religious moderates and religious humanists I’ve heard from agree with secular humanists that church should be separated from state, and that law and ethics shouldn’t be based on supernatural beliefs and authority.

    Negative in Islam (for wikipedia) Islamic tradition holds that Judaism and Christianity distorted the messages of these prophets over time either in interpretation, in text, or both.[5] It seems unlikely that they themselves haven’t done the very same thing considering how there are multiple different ways of interpreting passages in the Quran. The positive is that among the five pillars of islam there is a specific decree to give to people who are poor. True it also is a missionary aspect but some might translate it more as help for those who need it rather than a missionary “tithe.”

    They believe they’re right as Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, etc… believe they’re right. I don’t think any interpretation is necessarily true, because I don’t think the existance of God is likely, and their gods even less so. One interpretation of the text is going to be correct, given that each text had an author, or mulitple, with further editing and translation from more authors. Just because there are multiple interpretations doesn’t mean that they’re likely incorrect. Just that it’s possible, given that there are more than one interpretations.

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