Better Advice for the Atheist Father

Last week, Cary Tennis of Salon gave a horrible response to an atheist father seeking advice on how to deal with his fundamentalist daughter:

I am the father of a 13-year-old daughter whose mother has been taking her to an evangelical Christian church her whole life… As my daughter has gotten older, she has become fearful that because I’m not a Christian, I’m going to hell. When I try to explain my beliefs (that I don’t believe in God or a higher power), she cries… What should I do? And how can I talk to my daughter about this without making her cry?

The same letter was sent to the “Dear Prudence” column on Slate. Here’s how Prudie tackled it:

… Of course you should be able to freely express your beliefs to your daughter, but your larger goal right now has to be to maintain a healthy relationship with her… There are many things a father and teenage girl can discuss besides religion. Certainly you don’t have to hide your views about science and homosexuality, but you’re only alienating her if you use your time together to give her a crash course in the Enlightenment. When these issues come up naturally, you can talk about how your views are different from hers and her mother’s, but emphasize how important it is for people to be courteous to those they disagree with. Consider trying some rationalist jujitsu with her. You want to demonstrate what it means to be open-minded, so occasionally offer to take her to church. Explain that since you know it’s important to her, you respect her right to her beliefs, even if you don’t share them.

In other words, you don’t have to respect her beliefs. But you should respect her.

Good advice.

I’m still waiting to hear Dan Savage‘s response to this.

(Thanks to HappyNat for the link!)

[tags]atheist, atheism, parenting[/tags]

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  • athenebelle

    I think this was was a few people (including myself) were trying to say. I think she did a much better job of it though.