Ask Richard: Young Atheist’s Minister Father Threatens to Withhold College Tuition

I get so many letters just like this, more than I can keep up with, where precious love is jeopardized because despite great effort, one family member is simply not capable of believing any more, and other family members are stuck in their fear, or anger, or pride, or ignorance, or prejudice, or a combination of those. For those people whose letters I have not answered directly, I hope you can find in the ones I have answered some lesson or idea that you can tweak to apply to your own situation.

The single most important thing I consistently advise is to keep alive the possibility of love. Without betraying your principles or your own needs, without becoming a victim or a puppet, somehow keep the relationship open to future interaction, negotiation and reconciliation, even if it’s tense or distant for the time being. Don’t just write if off. People can soften their hard and fast positions over time, especially if love is always offered as an ongoing invitation. The other details of the outcome that you want may or may not happen, but as long as you keep your heart open to those who are upset with you, then there is hope for the rest.

Note: Letter writers’ names are changed to protect their privacy.

Dear Richard,

I’ve tried so hard to keep my parents in the dark about my atheism. It isn’t that people don’t know, as I make it public to my friends, but my father is a minister and my mom is a fundamentalist.

I’m finishing my senior year of high school, and was planning on going to college. However, my dad went out of his way to find out I was an atheist. He gave me the “disappointed speech” and told me he failed me a couple months back, but now he’s suggesting that he won’t help me pay for college next year. Without their help I won’t be able to go, at least any time soon.

I’m just so lost. I never gave him trouble about going to church every week or anything of the sort, yet he just can’t let it go. I love him too much to argue about it, but this money situation made it even worse.

What can I do to keep my parents from completely abandoning me?

Your friend,
Gregory

Dear Gregory,

Despite how you may feel, you’re not lost, and you’re not alone. Many people reading this know exactly the place where you are standing. They have endured, survived, and eventually triumphed.

You have a challenge in front of you, and I think you are up to it. You might have to make your way through college more slowly than you wanted, but you can still do it. Hopefully, you won’t have to, but to have a chance to either make the best of this or to avoid this entirely, you must keep a calm and level head.

You can’t keep your parents from completely abandoning you, if that is what they choose, but you can choose to not completely abandon them. You can keep your side of the door unlocked. You can keep yourself from descending into despondency, bitterness or vindictiveness. Rather than being the obedient son, you can be the man with integrity. Regardless of what your parents do, you can stick to ethical principles of honesty, fairness, compassion, respect, and honoring the freedom of others.

When they learn their child is an atheist, many fundamentalist parents experience upset, disappointment, fear, guilt, anger, and anxiety about their social reputation. Your father being a minister most likely increases the intensity of all that. He’s more likely to take it personally, as if you are rejecting him rather than rejecting his beliefs. The “I have failed you” routine is a guilt trip that he may not fully consciously realize. As I’ve said in another post, it’s code for “You have failed me.” Both statements are nonsense. Brush them aside.

You say that you love your father too much to argue about the money situation, but I think it is time for you to begin a grown-up dialogue with him.

I suggest that you take some or all of the ideas below, and put them into your own words. Talk to them calmly, or if there is likely to be too much upset and rancor, write them a letter. They can’t interrupt a letter. Add, change, or delete whatever it takes to make this completely true for you:

Dad and Mom, I hope that we can talk like adults to each other, being respectful even when we disagree. I began losing my belief quite some time ago, and I tried to keep it from you because I love you, and I knew you would be upset. It has been very hard for me to keep this secret from you, but what has happened since shows why I didn’t feel safe to share it.

It is not your failing that has caused me to stop believing. The only thing that I wish you were doing better is your reaction now. I stopped believing because that is the way my mind works. I’m not rejecting you, I’m thinking the way I have to think. I’ve tried, but I can’t force myself to believe. It’s either there or it isn’t there.

No one else can force or bribe me into heartfelt belief either, and I will not fake my faith to please you, or for the sake of appearances, or for my personal gain. That would not be doing honor to you, to the other people at church, or to myself. You raised me to be upstanding and honest, and I’m trying hard to do exactly that. I have to be true to myself, or I’ll be false to everyone.

Now you’re talking about not helping me pay for college. That will not bring me back to sincere faith if that is what you’re hoping, because genuine belief can’t be coerced. There is no connection between these two things.

So I’m left to wonder if you simply want to punish me out of spite, because you’re angry and hurt. If that is so, I can only be sad, because I will not do the same back to you. It hurts to think that you may even completely abandon me, but I will not abandon you. Although we can’t share the same beliefs, I want us to share love. I will keep my heart open for you.

I’m very grateful for your help as I grew up. If you help me with college I will be very grateful for that as well. If I have to do it on my own, one way or another I will still get my education, and I’ll become someone of whom you can feel proud, if you are still willing to feel that about me.

Either way, I still love you.

Gregory, this is just something to help you clarify your thoughts, and to put into the way you speak. Take from it whatever is true for you, and leave unsaid whatever is not. Since the big secret is out, you no longer have to hide, or lie, or pretend. Just be completely yourself, because you seem excellent to me. You sound like a very thoughtful, caring and forgiving young man. If your parents cannot immediately match those traits, just keep patiently demonstrating them. We teach others how to treat us. Hopefully they will learn some good things from you just as you have learned some good things from them.

Richard

You may send your questions for Richard to AskRichard. Please keep your letters concise. They may be edited. There is a very large number of letters. I am sorry if I am unable to respond in a timely manner.

About Richard Wade

Richard Wade is a retired Marriage and Family Therapist living in California.

  • http://www.tos100.com TOS100

    What a great response!

  • http://www.mycultlife.com Lisa

    Great response. I might have to borrow that soon to give to my own parents.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    I don’t see anything really wrong with telling him that you are still a seeker and your journey is currently taking you through the atheist perspective. And even though this is where you are at the moment, who knows what the future will bring. You could promise him that you will keep an open mind and continue the seeking process. That may give him something to hold on to. For your part, it will technically be the truth. No one does know what the future will bring. You might very well remain an atheist your entire life. On the other hand, he can at least hope that you will go back to the faith. Perhaps with this hope, he could see fit to be the good father and help pay for your college. If he becomes impatient and wants your seeking process over by a certain date, you will need to somehow communicate that these things take time and for some are a life-long journey.

  • The Other Tom

    So Richard, you’re basically telling a young man that he should be prepared to love his parents despite that they’re preparing to do immense, lasting damage to his life by refusing to help him with college over a mere religious disagreement. I don’t see that as being especially reasonable.

    I had a (to put it midly) rocky relationship with my parents as a teen. Years of therapy taught me an important lesson: you’re not obligated to like your parents, or love them, or care, and sometimes it’s more harmful to you to persist in trying to have a loving relationship with them than it is to get angry at them and try to get away from them.

    I would encourage Gregory to sit down calmly with his parents, discuss with them as Richard suggests why he chose not to tell them that he’s an atheist and that their reaction now shows all his fears about their unreasonableness to be true. I recommend he should ask them bluntly if they intend to withhold college assistance, and if so, tell them bluntly how much harm that will do to his life (potentially not being able to go to college, life-long financial harm to him, etc) and how much harm that will do to his relationship with his parents (destroying the remaining trust he has of them, seeing them as vindictive and abusive, clear that they love him only for his adherence to their religious dictates and do not love him for the person he is, etc). Gregory, make sure they understand the harm they are doing by trying to blackmail you into religion. Make sure they understand that it’s blackmail. Make sure they’ve heard that they should be considering the well being of their son above everything else, and that refusing college help will be extremely harmful and that that, rather than your atheism, would show them to be bad parents.

    And then if they choose to go down that route, start making alternative plans for your life. Find out how to get financially emancipated so you can get financial aid without their help. If it looks like you won’t be able to make it to college, look for work, and housing, so you can move out and start putting together money to go to college in a couple years. Call friends and family and ask them for help finding work and housing – and tell them why.

    Then make up your own mind what you want your relationship with your parents to be. Perhaps you’re willing to remain on speaking terms with them and hope they come around and realize that their child should be more important to them than their magical invisible friend in the sky. Perhaps you’re too hurt and need to turn your back on them for a while. Do what you need to do to help you cope with it.

  • Robert L.

    I say, pretend to “go back to the light”. I have no idea how the American legal system works, but I suggest temporarily pretending to be a Christian and finding a way to get your parents to put money in a trust fund or other form of payment for your college education. The conditions of the trust fund or other form of payment must prevent them from halting college payments. Alternatively, get them to deposit money into your bank account to pay college fees, then secretly (if possible) deny them access to your account, if they had it to begin with. Either way, once you’ve gotten their money where they can’t touch it, pack up and go.

    You don’t need parents like that. They aren’t deserving of the term “parents”, because that implies unconditional love. They are no longer your parents, and you must forget that they ever were. After college, life may be tough for a while, but I’m sure a degree will allow you to get a job of some sort. Either way, it’s better than risking outright denial of college fees if you try and confront them about it, or having to put up with parents who may one day turn their zealous backs on you in the future.

    Legally take their money and leave them; they don’t deserve your love.

  • http://therearethornstoo.blogspot.com Prosey

    I so admire your compassion. My heart goes out to the young man (and everyone in a situation like his), for the fear of parental disapproval is powerful – even as an adult. I rarely discuss my atheism with my parents – even now, in my late 30s. I respect their rights to believe what they will – and that respect is not reciprocal. Nonetheless, your statement about keeping one’s heart open to love is spot on. I love my parents, regardless, and I know they love me – irrespective of our disagreements about religion.

  • http://shadowgm.diaryland.com Bob

    The parents can only hope that their son’s rational approach provides equally valid and sustainable meaning to his life.

    I wonder if the father would be so quick to dump on his son had he joined a cult or espoused some other irrational belief – particularly one that called for significant lifestyle changes and/or posed a risk to the health and well-being of the believer (either physical or mental) and rational consideration of facts was the only way out.

    For the father to kick his son in the teeth, so to speak, certainly isn’t going to recommend faith as a valid solution.

  • Ryan

    Sounds like he found an excuse to not pay for college. Why can’t you get a job and put yourself through college, like the rest of us?

  • http://namelesscynic.blogspot.com Nameless Cynic

    You think “I’m sorry you’d rather see me fail in life than accept me as a human being capable of thinking for himself” would be over the top?

  • Joel Wheeler

    My older sister ‘outed’ me as gay to my evangelical parents during my first year of college. Shortly thereafter, my mother pulled the “we’re-withholding-your-tuition-until-we-discuss-your-chosen-lifestyle” routine. At the time, I was attending on merit scholarships, and mom and dad were covering the balance. I was also working part-time to cover books and expenses.

    My response, aside from pushing back on the lifestyle-as-choice notion, was simply that I had no problem dropping out and working full-time if that’s what they had in mind. It would certainly have been a lot ‘easier.’

    Her threat turned out to be empty. It hinged on the idea that I ‘needed’ their assistance, which I didn’t.

    I’m kind of with The Other Tom on this one. Call their bluff and be ready to strike out on your own, painful as it may be.

  • Drew M.

    @The Other Tom:

    I don’t condone the actions of Gregory’s parents, but you’re really overstating the impact of their support on college.

    Unless things have drastically changed since the 90′s. there are an incredible amount of scholarships – some even funded by lotteries in some states – that can be had just for the asking. If that fails, there are federally subsidized Guaranteed Student Loans that will cover all of your expenses and they can be deferred for years.

    @Gregory:

    First of all, I’m sorry your parents are being jerks. I encourage you to be a bigger man than your father and take Richard’s excellent advice.

    Furthermore, work on securing funds for college. Talk to your high school counselor and see what scholarships he or she knows of. Check with the universities you are applying with – there are usually lots of little scholarships provided by Alumni to current students. Talk to a lender about securing a GSL. Once you’re actually at school, check for work study programs and internships.

    I started my freshman year with one university funded scholarship and four little ones funded by personal benefactors. GSLs and Co-Op work programs supplemented my 4th and 5th years. In retrospect, I was actually living high on the hog.

    Good luck!

  • Claudia

    I’m curious Richard about the odd difference between “They don’t know I’m an atheist” and “They just found out I’m an atheist” in terms of what is considered ethically acceptable behavior.

    I seem to recall that you’ve advised “discretion” and even some inevitable lying to prevent college funds from being cut off in the case of adolescents whose parents don’t yet know their child is an atheist.

    The posibility exists that “Gregory’s” father would happily pay for college if he thought his son was making an effort to return to the flock. This would also involve deceit but you don’t mention it, I’m assuming because you don’t find it ethically acceptable.

    So why is lying before discovery more morally acceptable than lying after discovery, given that the devastating loss of a college education is the price to pay in either case? I have a vague sensation that it’s worse to jump back into the closet once you’re out than to simply stay the whole time, but frankly I’m not sure why that would be the case. Could you share your thoughts on this?

    (If I’m remembering incorrectly and you’ve never reccomended pretending theism to parents in such a situation then disregard the question, sorry).

  • Heidi

    @The Other Tom: Gregory already said he loves his father. Richard was just saying he doesn’t have to stop in order to stand up for himself.

  • http://www.cartoonstock.com/lowres/mba0885l.jpg sc0tt

    I think about this from the other side – what if my (completely non-religious) 11-year old daughter becomes a theist?

    Do I disown her? Of course not.

    Do I still pay for her university (currently wants to be a vet)? Absolutely.

    What if she wants to go to seminary school instead? OK, starting to recoil a bit here.

    What if she wants to go to Africa for a year and proselytize to the heathens? Dear daughter – I’m putting your college fund into a trust and you can have it later but I’m not paying your way to thump Bibles in Botswana.

  • Richard Wade

    The Other Tom,

    So Richard, you’re basically telling a young man that he should be prepared to love his parents despite that they’re preparing to do immense, lasting damage to his life by refusing to help him with college over a mere religious disagreement. I don’t see that as being especially reasonable.

    I’m saying that throwing out the love he already has for his parents is neither necessary nor desirable. He should be prepared to take care of himself and his education if he must, but descending into resentment and even hatred, even if they might briefly energize his efforts to be self sufficient, will come at a great long-term cost. That negativity will generalize and grow into bitterness and cynicism that will hamper him in everything he does.

    The reality is that his parents do not owe him money for a college education. That is a gift that they can freely give or withhold for whatever reason, even reasons that would seem unfair and spiteful to others.

    If he tries to guilt trip them by telling them how much he will resent or even hate them if they don’t help pay for college is for him to do exactly the same kind of blackmail to which he would be objecting. Thinking that he has an entitlement to the money would make him a spoiled brat, and using the tactic of emotional extortion would make him a hypocrite.

    If he responds with vindictiveness, that will simply confirm for them that they made the right decision that he is not worthy of their help. Keeping his love for them, even if it is “on hold” for a while will encourage them to reconsider, and will make restoring the relationship easier.

    How he reacts to what they do is his responsibility. He can choose to respond like a positive, resolute adult, or he can respond like an overindulged child. I’m encouraging him to take the high road and to keep his developing character free of resentment, vindictiveness, cynicism and hypocrisy. Those are the “life long damage” that he should carefully avoid. If he is determined, and not burdened by a habit of blaming others for his difficulties, he will succeed in life.

  • Silent Service

    If he tries to guilt trip them by telling them how much he will resent or even hate them if they don’t help pay for college is for him to do exactly the same kind of blackmail to which he would be objecting.

    A most excellent point Richard; as is the fact that his parents do not owe him an education. It’s their reason for threatening to withhold support that stinks. I doubt my parents would have ever been so cruel had they known I was an atheist and a bisexual. I still wouldn’t have enjoyed having to listen to my mom preaching at me about it but I do know that they wouldn’t have cut me off. Here’s hoping that Gregory has been working hard in high school and opened some doors for himself. Top grades go a long way toward getting scholarship money.

    Gregory,

    You have several options open to you to seek your own education. Job Corps is always good for a self motivated youth. They’ll train you in a career and help you get started. There’s also military service and ROTC, though they are problematic since the branch of military service you choose and the career you take can get you shot at on top of the time commitment to the military; though I have to say that the 9-11 G.I. Bill is second to none. Full state tuition (you can go to a private school, but they only pay up to max state tuition in your state of residency), a book allowance, and E-5 housing allowance for the area you are taking college classes in is a really incredible deal. Peace Corps has options as well that you can look into and I have heard many great things from former Peace Corps members about their time overseas. Then there are scholarship programs and student loans. Don’t let yourself be fooled into thinking you can only go to school if your parents pay. There are several options open to everybody.

    Your parents threatening to pull the rug out from under you should be countered only by letting them know that you will be taking a different path to success than you expected if you have too, but that’s okay. I’m sure that you will definitely remember the most important lesson that religion has taught you. Do not trust anybody that offers paradise in one hand while holding a stick in the other. Good luck to you Gregory.

  • Silent Service

    Damn typo.

    In the last paragraph, difiantly should be definitely. But the system won’t let me edit my own comment. Grrrrr.

    [Richard says] I fixed it for you. Also “own” to “owe.” :)

  • Jeanette

    Great response, Richard. I was kind of tearing up reading it, actually. I can see the other side’s perspective too, that maybe this is so unfair the LW should just strike out on their own with loans/scholarships, but I like the idea of giving the parents one more chance to repair the relationship now.

    To the letter writer, regardless of what you do and whether you’re able to convince your parents to help you with college, I’m rooting for you and I think I speak for most of the readers here when I say I wish you the best of luck. Keep seeking truth, and don’t let anyone tell you not to. Even if your parents don’t help you, there are plenty of great ways to afford an education without sacrificing your integrity.

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  • Ms. Crazy Pants

    My parents refused to help any of the women in the family with college (paying for the boys was apparently ok), but all of us (the girls) put ourselves through college and came out fine. It was tough. Two of us had a lot of student loans. The third one joined the army reserves to make use of whatever college assistance they offered, and she graduated with none borrowed I think. It took me 15 years to pay off my loans, but it didn’t really kill me to do it. I just learned to be very frugal for a long time. I worked a lot of minimum wage jobs to put myself through school and it wasn’t odd for me to be working 2-3 jobs in the summer. You just do what you need to do and don’t let anyone stop you.

    Also, starting out at a 2 year school to get the base requirements out of the way is a smart thing, or even starting out at a cheaper university for the same thing. Check into situations where you could trade housing for work. For example, I was a live-in maid for a while to help cut my housing costs. I basically just did the cooking and cleaning.

    Now, might I be farther along in life if my parents had paid for college? Maybe, maybe not. I’m a lot farther along than my brother who did get his college paid for.

  • Non-Litigious Atheist

    ‘The Richard Dawkins Foundation – promoting the Out Campaign to get atheists to lose their college tuition since The God Delusion‘.

    Way to go, RDF!

    (I know, I know – he didn’t out himself to his father but publicly on the internet and his dad found it. That’s why you need to out yourself anonymously on the Internet. Only PokemanPlayer4 needs to be out, not John Doe.)

  • http://alliedatheistalliance.blogspot.com/ pinkocommie

    Unless things have drastically changed since the 90?s. there are an incredible amount of scholarships – some even funded by lotteries in some states – that can be had just for the asking

    Dude, point them out. I’m an impoverished single mom and I had little luck finding these mythical scholarships that people often talk about being easily available. I am able to go to school thanks to financial aid, but only because I’m not a kid right out of high school and my eligibility is no longer contingent on what my parents make. It sounds like Gregory isn’t so lucky.

    Going to school on scholarships and grants and the like is definitely possible, but it’s not as easy as a lot of people make it out to be.

  • http://bmejake.blogspot.com BMEJake

    Stories of the likes of Gregory’s are far too common in our age of unreasonable dogmatism. I, too, struggled greatly with telling my fundamentalist parents of my atheism. Fortunately, they have yet to abandon me. I recount my deconversion in my blog (bmejake.blogspot.com) and feel it would be encouraging for any person struggling with telling the people around them about their new-found unbelief. My best wishes to Gregory. It does get better. The turbulence you’re experiencing now will make you stronger. Take Richards advice and talk to your parents about it. Letting them know that you sincerely feel this way and are not simply rebelling will be very helpful, though not easy.

  • Min

    If all else fails, Stafford Loans are easy to get an will cover your expenses that aren’t covered by grants and scholarships. I know nobody likes to take out a loan, but it’s definitely worth it if your other option is not going to college; I paid for most of my expenses with a loan, came out with about $30k in debt, and by getting a good job and managing my money carefully, I paid it off after about 4 years.

  • http://onestdv.blogspot.com OneSTDV

    I really hope this guy doesn’t listen to anyone here, including Richard.

    My advice: suck it up, tell them you’re on some BS journey (or even completely feign belief). You don’t want to risk your future (not having your parents pay for college) just for some largely inconsequential belief.

    FWIW: I’m an atheist, but there are more important things in life than telling everyone what you believe to be true.

    Use the internet as an outlet, but don’t put your real life at risk.

  • Apollo

    pinkocommie – I can say having a guidance counselor in HS really helped, but you obviously need other options (unless you know a kindly HS guidance counselor).

    Try talking to an advisor at your college (or desired college) if you haven’t already. I also strongly suggest contacting professors or even department heads for whatever your major is. Many of them sit on scholarship committees, and I’ve heard from multiple professors that there are plenty of scholarships that go unclaimed due to lack of entrants.

    You could even contact local clubs or organizations in your community to see if they give scholarships. I know a few clubs in my hometown offer small scholarships (enough for a few books) and they have had years with zero applicants.

    Good luck, and gods speed.

  • Drew M.

    @pinkocommie:

    I did a preliminary search online but I cannot tell offhand which scholarship services are reputable. As such, I’m not going to recommend anything online.

    What I did was go to my financial aid office and talk to to an advisor. They had a checklist of scholarships and their requirements. I applied for every single one I qualified for, which was usually 20 or more a year. Unfortunately, I only remember the name of the big scholarship I got, which was university specific.

    I just checked my alma mater’s website and it looks like they really streamlined the application process and made it available online. This would make it a good deal easier.

    If you are pursuing your first baccalaureate, you should be a shoe in for a Pell Grant, which can be a significant amount.

    I can try and search in earnest for you if you’d like, but it might take a bit of time. I’m registered as “drew” on the Friendly Atheist message boards; feel free to shoot me a PM.

    @OneSTDV

    Not coming out in real life can be sound advice, but lying to his parents for money? That’s just what the christians want to see from an atheist.

  • Apollo

    Richard Wade: The reality is that his parents do not owe him money for a college education. That is a gift that they can freely give or withhold for whatever reason, even reasons that would seem unfair and spiteful to others.

    I think that is a really important part of what people are missing here. In my opinion, good parents should try to help their children with college, but they are in no way obligated to. Many parents have good reasons for not helping their children with college, but it doesn’t sound like Gregory’s parents fit into that category.

    It is great advice to talk to your parents as a mature adult, and to let them know that you still love them no matter what. Frankness can be hard, but sometimes parents just need to hear the truth to realize what they are really doing to their children.

  • UltimateDelivery

    Have you considered hunting for an older woman of means who needs some companionship in exchange for financial support. That’s what I’m doing at the moment. It not too bad.

  • Robert L.

    @Richard:

    If he tries to guilt trip them by telling them how much he will resent or even hate them if they don’t help pay for college is for him to do exactly the same kind of blackmail to which he would be objecting. Thinking that he has an entitlement to the money would make him a spoiled brat, and using the tactic of emotional extortion would make him a hypocrite.

    So what if he’s using emotional blackmail? Hell, if my parents weren’t accepting of my atheism I’d do the same damn thing. The difference between emotional blackmail by theists and emotional blackmail by atheists is that atheists know the truth and any action to preserve their beliefs is preserving the truth. On the other hand, most theist parents who use emotional blackmail on their children are simply trying to avoid the social stigma and guilt that attaches itself to being a theist who has “failed” in his duty as a parent by having atheist kids. This is a self-centred action that doesn’t give a damn about the child, and it has nothing to do with preserving the truth. Hence, it’s not really hypocrisy to use emotional blackmail on parents.

    Also, “spoilt brat” is generally used on people who rely too much on their parents. He may not have an entitlement, but he sure as hell is entitled to convince his parents that he has one.

    You could say I’m a firm believer in one thing, and that’s doing whatever it takes to achieve self-actualisation and satisfaction, as long as it remains within the law. In other words, I believe that as long as it doesn’t hurt you and it’s legal it’s fine. The law and the willingness to accept consequences are, in my opinion, the only things that should guide a person. So if Gregory here can find a legal way to trick his parents into paying for tuition, I’m all for it. About the only thing I’m unwilling to do is hurt little kids and innocent people, and these people who call themselves parents are far from innocent in this case so they’re fair game.

    @UltimateDelivery:

    Interesting idea, especially if the older woman is good-looking. It’s both an alternative to conning the parents and the equivalent of flipping them off on a public billboard.

  • lurker111

    If he’s under 21, then depending on the state he’s in, he may need to become an “emancipated minor” to be able to sign contracts, open up bank accounts, etc., independently of his parents. A legal aid organization may be of help.

  • http://neosnowqueen.wordpress.com/ neosnowqueen

    It’s true that his parents do not have an obligation to pay for college. But from this letter, it suggests that there was an understanding that they would. It would have been nice for Gregory to know how conditional that financial support was before his senior year in high school, when he hadn’t prepared to pay for college himself.

    It’s hard to turn on a dime like that, and the job market isn’t easy to get into right now. If people with undergraduate degrees are being left high and dry, how easy is it to get a full-time or even part-time job with only a high school diploma?

    Suffice it to say, I think his parents are in the wrong.

  • Non-Litigious Atheist

    @OneSTDV, UltimateDelivery, Robert L. – I love you guys! Rock on!

    I’m an atheist, but there are more important things in life than telling everyone what you believe to be true.

    According to legend when the Catholic Church sentenced Galileo to house arrest for supporting the ‘theory’ that the earth revolves around the sun, he is said to have murmured under his breath ‘It still moves’ when recanting heliocentrism. He wasn’t foolhardy enough to continue to defend the truth, probably knowing that people would come to see it as the truth eventually anyway. Truth is important, but not worth dying on the Rack like Braveheart for… (or being burned at the stake like Giordano Bruno was)

    Not coming out in real life can be sound advice, but lying to his parents for money? That’s just what the christians want to see from an atheist.

    @Drew M.: Who gives a shit what the Christians want to see? This is his life he’s gambling with. The Christians are going to see what they want to see anyway – don’t throw your life away trying to show them something they’ll just ignore anyway. Do you think rabidly anti-gay Christians will ever say anything nice about gay people?

    He who does not give a shit whether I’m dying of pneumonia while living in a cardboard box is he who is in no position to tell me what I can or can’t do.

    Do what you have to do to survive, army of one!

    PS How’s this for a solution to your immediate problem – why don’t you ask the Richard Dawkins Foundation if they’ll help you out with your tuition seeing as how they’re so keen on getting people to hurt their own interests. Maybe in a case like this they would be willing to pay for one of the externalities of their encouragement for atheists to out themselves. Then again maybe not. I’ll bet your tuition you’d never hear a word back from them about your request for funds.

  • DA

    Eh, I paid my own way in college. It took work, and some planning, and I’m in debt now, but I didn’t have to infantalize or demean myself to do it, so I consider it a good bargain.

  • Paul

    @ Non-Litigous:

    “This is his life he’s gambling with. The Christians are going to see what they want to see anyway – don’t throw your life away trying to show them something they’ll just ignore anyway”

    It’s not his life he’s throwing away at all, not in the slightest. There are lots of ways to go to college and, more broadly, to succeed. Do you imagine that everyone who does not have their parents pay for college are doomed? Granted, a resource like parents can make things easier, but it’s not the end of the world, and it’s definitely not his life. I understand hyperbole, but let’s keep some perspective, too.

  • Drew M.

    @Non-Litigious Atheist

    I guess I should’ve been more clear. Let’s try that again.

    Gregory stated he loves his parents. He also appears to have some conviction. Standing up for what you truly believe is far, far, FAR more fucking admirable than lying to take the easy way out. Furthermore, in the process of advocating lying, OneSTDV is giving our opponents even more ammunition as well as looking like a walking stereotype that rivals a caricature artist’s best efforts.

    That better?

    As far as your comments go, stating this will “ruin his life”, bringing up Galileo’s imprisonment, and creating that cardboard box “analogy” is stupid beyond belief. It is not hyperbole; it is disingenious, over-the-top, melodramatic claptrap.

    You know what really hurts those of us with conviction? Lying to someone we love.

    Oh, and tell the full story about Galileo. He was cleared of heresy the first time but failed to keep his beliefs to himself as per the Inquisition’s instructions. It was only after this that he was sentenced to house arrest. The whole truth dampens the spirit of your legend, doesn’t it? That foolish pup had to be thwapped on the nose twice for messing on the rug.

  • Drew M.

    I really need to proofread before submitting. I left a couple things unsaid and put my sanctimonious sentence in the wrong spot.

    Oh well.

  • Richard Wade

    Claudia,
    That is a very good question, and it has been on my mind many a time. My answer is complicated enough to need a post of its own and to get people’s opinions. I promise I will write one as soon as I can. Thank you.

  • Non-Litigious Atheist

    As far as your comments go, stating this will “ruin his life”, bringing up Galileo’s imprisonment, and creating that cardboard box “analogy” is stupid beyond belief. It is not hyperbole; it is disingenious, over-the-top, melodramatic claptrap.

    Huh? I don’t know what you mean.

    The cardboard box thing was aimed at all the Dear Abbys here telling him to sacrifice his own interests in the name of letting himself get fucked over. Hurray for making life harder than it has to be!

    I guess it could apply to dear old dad if he let him roam the streets, too, but I was mainly thinking of all the people here saying ‘If you lose everything, that’s OK, it’s only your life that’s turning to shit. No biggie.’ That’s easy to say when you don’t give a shit about the life that’s being ruined.

    The people giving the advice probably would not do a damn thing for this guy if he was living in a cardboard box – they would let him rot like they do every other homeless guy – so this guy needs to look out for himself big time.

    Hardly anyone out there really wants to help you, and I can accept that – that’s life, be aware of it and plan accordingly.

    But when people start telling you to do this or that to ruin yourself, you can only agree on the condition that the Dear Abbys help out with the rent for the rest of your life. Cuz if you can’t make the rent, the Dear Abbys aren’t gonna put up any real help to show for it.

    It’s the same thing when holier than thou types give prostitutes attitude for their ‘choice’ of living. I don’t see these judgmental pricks giving these prostitutes any money or housing or anything else so that they don’t have to prostitute to make ends meet. If you’re not gonna help them out anyway, don’t tell them what they can or cannot do to survive. It’s none of your damn business.

    Same with everyone else who is struggling through life.

  • Fresno Mikey

    I have to go with Robert L. and take that extra step of “pretending to be a Christian” with a conditional that may make the pretending easier and safe from “tests.” Do NOT go to church and make it clear that praying in public is part of what has been borrowing you about the Churchianity of Christianity. In your situation that would give me more authentic feelings of communicating whatever I had to to get the college dollars.
    In case Dad’s reading this, I would just say I did not submit this letter in the first place. Yeah, lie a little. Get used to it. Everybody does it. You’re trying to get to a place where your love for your parents comes from a strong place, not a beggar’s position.
    Also, practice discussing this aspect with safe friends who will play the Dad/Devil’s Advocate side of face-to-face confrontation in as many rehearsals as it takes to reach a point where you are totally relaxed with whatever comes up. To do this sit in two chairs, videotape everything, review the tapes, AND you play the Dad part too. Good luck.

  • thebigJ_A

    @Non-Litigious

    Are you seriously against the Out Campaign?

    I suppose you think it would be much better if all those gay people had stayed in the closet, too. You know, looking after themselves, screw everyone else, including all the gay people in the future who are also going to have to lie because noone took a stand.

    I really hope this kid doesn’t take your advice, it’s borderline sociopathic.

  • DA

    Okay, let’s try and remember; this isn’t a 14 year old who’ll be out on the streets if he refuses to play along, it’s a guy who wll be entering adulthood and whose parents just won’t pay his tuition for him. He can do whatever he wants, sure. But he put this out there, and as such, we’re free to opine on it. And I’m free to opine that if you spend 4 years living a scam to trick your parents into paying your school bills, especially when there are many ways to do this yourself, that’s pretty pathetic.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    The father is a minister. His profession is to keep the God delusion going. If he can’t even manage that with his own son then it must feel to him as if he is a complete failure. More fool him for choosing such a daft career. Ministers will hopefully go the way of soothsayers as a career choice one day but until then he’s invested in this job.

    Gregory, get a job. Get two if you have to. Get as much cash set aside for paying your own way as you can because the problem is with your father’s attitude. That may not change unless you start lying about your religious opinions. I don’t advocate lying mainly because I’m a terrible liar and I can never keep track of them. The truth is just so much simpler and less stressful.

    When you go to college make it known that your parents can contribute but I wouldn’t expect anything. Be prepared for loans and years of hard work. That is the price of independence. It may not be comforting but it is true.

  • A Portlander

    Richard, I strongly disagree that his parents aren’t obligated to pay for his college. No human being ever asked to be born. We were all created by two people who knew perfectly well that physically expressing their desire for each other could result in the existence of a human for whom they would be responsible for the better part of twenty years.

    Parents are obligated to do EVERYTHING within their means to better the life of the person they created. If Gregory’s parents couldn’t afford his tuition, or if his academic career made college unrealistic, that would change the situation. As it stands, they are reneging on their duty to launch their child into the adult world in the best possible competitive stance. That’s shameful.

    Yes, it’s perfectly possible for Gregory to work his way through college, burden himself with loans, etc. Those of us who have done that have also lived with the associated opportunity costs. Until recently, Gregory wasn’t going to have to live that kind of life, and shame on his parents (where is his mom in all this?) for making 10+ years of belt-tightening conditional on their son’s collusion in their self-deception.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 Donna Hamel (muggle)

    Wow, Richard, I must disagree vehemently with you on this one. If your parents are assholes, what’s wrong with closing the door on them? If you ask me, it’s far more damaging to continue to let them abuse and belittle you.

    Man, up, dude, and stand on your own two feet because fact is not only that you’re not entitled to their money but that seems to be the only reason you care about losing them — because you want to use them for their money. Work your way through school and if you can’t be man enough to stand on your own two feet, well, then, it’s your own fault you have to scrape and claw and beg for scraps from mommy and daddy.

    Seriously, this disgusts me. This attitude of doing what it takes to wring money out of the ‘rents even after they’re legally obligated to. If you’re underaged, it’s understandable. If you’re not, it’s not.

    And 18′s legal age for all but drinking in any state in the union, lurker. What are you living in, the ’60′s? Seriously, name me the state it isn’t if there is one and I’m wrong but, hell, even then just cross the border into another state. Under 18, he’d have to be an emancipated minor, not under 21.

    That said, I’d love to put my daughter through college but I just don’t have it. I help her by babysitting and we live together to share living expenses and help each other out. I will kind of just buy extra food and share with her and the grandson but I just don’t have her tuition, etc. She works and gets grants and loans. She’ll owe, yes, but she’ll make a wage that will still increase her lifestyle (what she’s studying for makes 3 times as much as I’ve made at my top pay) incredibly even with the loan debt to pay off. She’s already, very wisely, planning to go on paying herself the loan payment once it’s paid off.

    So suck it up and get yourself through. Tell your parents, I don’t believe and you can either accept me as I am or not but that’s entirely up to you and I can’t control that. I’m willing to overlook you’re not paying for college (if he is and if he isn’t, then he doesn’t love them, just their money) but if you want me in your life, you have to accept me for who I am and I believe differently from you. Take it or leave it.

    Then walk away. Give them your address and phone number if you do want to give them a second chance but don’t feel you have to keep updating it if they don’t use it in a reasonable time. If you are still in high school and/or underaged, bide your time for now but lay your plans and put aside any cash you can get your hands on (even if it means flipping burgers or scrubbing toilets to get some) to strike out on your own as soon as you graduate or reach your 18th birthday.

    And, Richard, I’ve got to say I kind of resent your stereotyping of those of us who have walked away from our parents. As Judge Judy would say, I merely put a period at the end of that sentence and moved on. And I had this planned since junior high. I’ve done quite well if I do say so myself. My life is pretty damned good. I have not descended into despondency, bitterness and vindictiveness.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 Donna Hamel (muggle)

    For some reason, some glitch isn’t letting me comment. Hemant, I e-mailed you about it. I just kept getting duplicate comment on my first long comment. I tried editing to my previous comment and it was marked as spam. This is annoying. You know I had a lot to say about this bullshit!

    If this goes through, I’ll cut it down to this. Richard, I resent your stereotyping about those of us who have walked away from asshole parents. My life is damned good, much better than it would have been with them in my life and I resent the negative stereotyping. I have not descended into despondency, bitterness and vindictiveness.

    Oh, and does he love them or their money? Because his love seems conditional on getting their money.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 Donna Hamel (muggle)

    I wish I could put my daughter through college. I can’t. We live together to share expenses and help each other out but she’s depending on loans and grants and working part-time to see her through. I babysit and frankly pay for the utilities and the bulk of the food. However, if her love was dependent on my giving her money, then she really wouldn’t love me and wouldn’t deserve my help. What’s with the shitty attitude towards parents? I’m just glad it isn’t all the young generation that equates love with money.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 Donna Hamel (muggle)

    Sigh. Of course, now that I restated my positions briefly, the original post is there. Internet gremlins can be annoying. Sorry for the multiples, everyone.

  • ATL-Apostate

    I agree with some others here when I say, worst case scenario, you wouldn’t be the first kid to have to pay his own way through school. There are tons of reasons why parents won’t or can’t pay for their kids college. Not all of them are bad. Although most parents would like to be able to send their kids to college, it is certainly not a requirement for being a good parent.

    This kid’s dad is just being a dick, however.

    So Gregory,
    Start applying for grants, financial aid, and looking at work-study programs. Keep your grades up and you might get a merit scholarship. Take a lighter load in college so you can work a part-time job. Live in on-campus housing. Eat ramen noodles. Know that you can actually wear jeans and shirts for many days before they’re so smelly they HAVE to be washed. Go to a state school. Find a plasma donation center for quick beer money (they used to pay $20 a pop when I was in school). You CAN succeed.

    Success is your best revenge… and I’m all about getting revenge (non-violent, of course) on dipshits like your dad.

  • Randy

    Go into the Air Force for four years, get your classes 75% paid for while your in and have the GI Bill for grad school when you get out. The additional technical schools you go to are just a bonus. Lots of people go this route.

  • Thegoodman

    There are many financial options for students that Gregory doesn’t seem to be aware of. I know a lot of people have mentioned this but I’ll toss my own story into the pile.

    I had a parental situation that meant I was responsible for 100% of my tuition/room&board/books etc.. I also went to a private engineering school that is…more difficult than most. So working a job to pay for any of these things is nearly an impossibility (in my 4 years of school, I can think of just 1 person who ever had a job off campus..and he was a senior).

    My only option was a private student loan. Citibank Student loans needed a cosigner (thanks Dad!), but if there is any adult in Gregory’s life that loves him enough or trusts him enough to cosign, this isn’t a terrible option.

  • Robert L.

    @Donna Hamel (muggle)

    Meh. What’s wrong with wringing several thousand bucks out of people who hate you? You’re already willing to walk away, just make it hurt them more than it hurts you. I believe revenge is a key method to satisfaction, as long as it’s within the law. Hurt them bad and don’t feel guilty, that’s what I’d say to Gregory.

    By the way, your definition of masculinity belongs in the ’60s with lurker’s idea of majority. Real men do what it takes to make success as easy as possible. If it means lying and deceiving, it doesn’t make anyone less of a man. Oh, and you’re female, so you have no right to say anything about masculinity anyway.

  • romo2austin

    Pay your own way through college. Go to a public university and take out student loans. People do it all the time. You can even work in college if you want to limit your debt. There is no reason not to go to college if your parents are too ignorant/cruel to pay for it.

  • http://www.theshoealwaysfits.com Antigone

    Meh. What’s wrong with wringing several thousand bucks out of people who hate you? You’re already willing to walk away, just make it hurt them more than it hurts you. I believe revenge is a key method to satisfaction, as long as it’s within the law. Hurt them bad and don’t feel guilty, that’s what I’d say to Gregory.

    By whatever means, eh? Do whatever you want to get your way regardless of whether or not you have to lie, cheat or steal to get it? Isn’t that what the theists do? Conversion by torture, humiliation, bribery or whatever other means available?

    I don’t find being dishonest ‘okay’ no matter what the results are. Eventually, he’s going to come out again as an atheist. Eventually, his nosy father is going to figure it out again. Especially when he doesn’t follow either his mother into fundamentalism or his father into the ministry. At that point, rather than it being his parents who are hurting and betraying him by not accepting him as he is, he will have betrayed them and the relationship will be, again, destroyed. This time, though, he won’t have a leg to stand on. He’ll have to admit that he did a very mercenary thing to his parents just to get money out of them. Not a very admirable trait in a young man.

    Is it so hard to believe that someone can love their parents and be angry with them at the same time? While Gregory just discussed his college tuition experience, it’s clear that this issue has him torn because of his love for his parents. There’s nothing wrong with trying to make things work and find some common ground.

    Someone once offered me college tuition to set my principles aside. I told them where they could stuff their money. I’m 36, only working on my degree now, but I’m completely self-educated and already in a professional position that gives me a good enough salary that I can live the good life. I don’t regret it a bit. Had I taken the money and forgotten my principles, I’m pretty confident I’d hate that part about myself right now.

    The honest life is a harder life, but to many people, integrity is important. Gregory’s life isn’t going to be ruined because he sticks to his guns… it’s just going to be a bit harder.

  • Parse

    @Robert L:

    Meh. What’s wrong with wringing several thousand bucks out of people who hate you? You’re already willing to walk away, just make it hurt them more than it hurts you. I believe revenge is a key method to satisfaction, as long as it’s within the law. Hurt them bad and don’t feel guilty, that’s what I’d say to Gregory.

    I really, really hope you’re trolling here. What makes somebody fair game for getting hurt badly, and can they ever lose this status? If Gregory’s parents recognize a week after he walks away that they were being assholes, is he still in the right to hurt them without feeling bad? If you’re a jerk to somebody – accidentally or intentionally – should that give them the right to try to make things hurt you more than it hurts them?

    You don’t need to let people walk all over you, but I’d recommend at least trying to feign some empathy for your fellow human beings.

  • Deepak Shetty

    He gave me the “disappointed speech” and told me he failed me

    That might be a good time to tell him that he should just transfer all his money to you to make up for the failure.
    Seriously though I’d say you should try and see if you can make it yourself – You don’t have to abandon your parents but you might need to go it alone – or you can always lie and say you found Jesus!. In other words do what you need to do – however you want to do it.

  • ATL-Apostate

    In other words do what you need to do – however you want to do it.

    Very Machiavellian… I like it, so long as it doesn’t involve hurting someone else more than they’ve hurt you. Equal amounts of hurt as payback are OK in my book.

    Of course, I wouldn’t follow everything Machiavelli said in the Prince. “Men should be either treated generously or destroyed, because they take revenge for slight injuries,” would not be a course of action I would recommend here.

  • Robert L.

    @Deepak Shetty:

    Agree with that last part about doing what you need to do, however you want to do it. Nevertheless, going it on his own should be the last resort.

    @ATL-Apostate:

    I should read Machiavelli, I guess, but I just haven’t found the time. Nevertheless, hurt’em more works better, especially if it’s combined with cutting contacts. It should serve as an example for theists, showing them what happens if they try to mess with atheists’ lives and futures.

    @Antigone:

    Forgive me for laughing at your idea of “common ground”. Where such issues are involved, there is often no common ground. This is likely the case here. They won’t accept Gregory’s atheism (in particular because the father’s a goddamn minister), and he certainly won’t actually convert to Christianity.

    Furthermore, what’s the link between conversion by coercion and trickery to get the parents to pay for college? I don’t get your logic. Get off your high horse and explain, don’t just throw strawmen at me. Anyway, I never said that he’d have to pretend for a second longer than needed. As soon as the parents have put their money where they can’t touch it ever again, it’s time to move out (stealthily, so that they don’t get curious) and cut contacts. Even better if said college is out of state; here would be where UltimateDelivery’s “prostitution solution” comes in: find a hot, rich older woman and shack up in return for financial support. Don’t give the parents the phone number, change emails and basically ignore those undeserving people. Please don’t liken a perfectly legitimate strategy to forced conversion.

    @Parse:

    I’m no troll (although I do have a healthy love of memes). I’m snarky and sarcastic at times, but that’s about it. I’m being totally serious here, no need for sarcasm font.

    If Gregory’s parents recognize a week after he walks away that they were being assholes, is he still in the right to hurt them without feeling bad?

    Well, some behaviours are unforgivable. When a person kills another person, no matter how repentant they are, they’re still getting 25 to life or outright execution. No clemency, no reprieve. Similarly, this is a classic case of “jerkass syndrome” where the parents try emotional blackmail on their child. Unforgivable, especially since the child was innocent to begin with.

    I don’t believe in hurting innocent people or little children, but I do believe that the only things guiding a person’s actions should be the law and the person’s willingness to deal with the consequences of their actions. Hence, somebody’s fair game to me if they hurt innocent people who have done nothing illegal or wrong (including me) or little children, if the action I’m planning to take against them’s not against the law and if I’m willing to live with the consequences. To me, the “denial of college tuition” ploy fulfills all three conditions.

    TL;DR for Parse: a) I’m not a troll, the length and effort put into this reply should say otherwise and b) If abandoning one’s parents is acceptable in the eyes of the child, and the parents have wronged against the child, then I say go right ahead.

  • http://www.theshoealwaysfits.com Antigone

    Forgive me for laughing at your idea of “common ground”. Where such issues are involved, there is often no common ground. This is likely the case here. They won’t accept Gregory’s atheism (in particular because the father’s a goddamn minister), and he certainly won’t actually convert to Christianity.

    I’ll ignore the rampant pettiness and get down to what you’re really saying … that between parents and child there is no common ground. That’s wrong on it’s face. They have a common history, likely many common traditions, a common shared extended family, common DNA, and from the sounds of it, a common passion in their beliefs, even if the content of those beliefs is different.

    I’ve cut ties to my parents after numerous attempts to find that common ground. I did a lot of the things and said a lot of the things that Richard suggest Gregory do. With my parents it didn’t work and they’re by no means fundamentalist or in the clergy. Gregory may have no chance with his parents, but there’s nothing wrong with giving it a try. I have a very warm relationship with my fiance’s very catholic father. He’s kind and respectful of my beliefs and I’m kind and respectful of his. This is because my fiance had a similar talk that Gregory did with his parents many years back. So, there’s two situations … one that worked and one that didn’t.

    Furthermore, what’s the link between conversion by coercion and trickery to get the parents to pay for college? I don’t get your logic. Get off your high horse and explain, don’t just throw strawmen at me. Anyway, I never said that he’d have to pretend for a second longer than needed. As soon as the parents have put their money where they can’t touch it ever again, it’s time to move out (stealthily, so that they don’t get curious) and cut contacts. Even better if said college is out of state; here would be where UltimateDelivery’s “prostitution solution” comes in: find a hot, rich older woman and shack up in return for financial support. Don’t give the parents the phone number, change emails and basically ignore those undeserving people. Please don’t liken a perfectly legitimate strategy to forced conversion.

    A legitimate strategy? Lie to your parents to get their money for college, then hook up with a sugar mama to pay for everything else? So basically, your whole “legitimate strategy” is to use people and then throw them away when you don’t need them anymore?

    That’s a very interesting and mercenary way to approach the problem and if you have no sense of integrity at all (not to mention no conscience, you’d have to be a near sociopath to continue this behavior without remorse), I can imagine that would be a suitable method… but, really, it’s repugnant. How is it the same as forced conversion? I’m not comparing the act of conversion to the act of paying for college. I’m comparing the act of lying to the act of lying, the act of betrayal to the act of betrayal and so on. Rationalizing it may make you feel better about basically being a douchebag, but it doesn’t make you any less of a douchebag for doing it.

    Again, if you want to be a douchebag, that’s your prerogative. There are certainly plenty of people in the world who use people up, then throw them away when things get a little difficult. But don’t rationalize being petty and mercenary by claiming that he’s an innocent. At 18 he’s an adult and with no entitlement to his parent’s money whatsoever. If one of my children came to me at 18 and told me they wanted to go to a Christian college with my money, I’d say no. I go out of my way to make sure that I don’t give money to religious organizations and that would be giving money to a religious organization. Is it exactly the same thing? Of course not, but the point remains the same. He’s not an innocent. He’s not going to die if he has to apply for scholarships, work his way through college or take out a few student loans.

  • http://www.theshoealwaysfits.com Antigone

    Also, in case Gregory is reading this, here’s another piece of advice that my fiance gives to all of his students (he teaches high school).

    Apply for every scholarship that you qualify for and there are a TON of scholarships out there. The application process is frequently very similar. You can write one application, then just change the specifics per type of scholarship. One of his students did this for every scholarship he could possibly find and he ended up with enough money to put him through school, live off campus, pay for his books and his food, and he even had a bit leftover. He also holds a part time job, so he’s doing very well for a college student.

  • Trixie

    Y’know, maybe Gregory really does love his parents. Despite this hiccup (OK, major hiccup), maybe they are really good, loving parents and he’s had a good relationship with his dad. He’s young, you can’t blame him for not wanting to walk away from the people who love him. I can only imagine what my reaction would be if my kid said she wanted to join a church group – and I try to be fairly aware of these types of reactions. Greg’s dad is a minister, he’s already reacting to his parish’s perception of the situation, be it real or imagined. Perhaps he’s suffered a “crisis of faith” himself.
    Richard gave sound advice yo young Gregory – take the truthful, compassionate route first. Leave the dramatics for when all else fails.

  • http://www.cartoonstock.com/lowres/mba0885l.jpg sc0tt

    OK, how about this.

    “Dad, I won’t lie to you, I simply don’t believe the most important claims of Christianity any more. But if you’ll help me with college expenses, I’ll go to church regularly with you (or someplace near campus) and keep an open mind and give religion an honest chance to win me over and not be a dick about it for the whole time I’m enrolled. I wouldn’t consider this to be some kind of financial contract, I’d consider it a way we can learn to respect and relate to each other on a new level while I gradually become independent.”

    My parents didn’t cut me out, but I still went the military route to get my independence (not related to atheism) and pay for university. It was a tough time and I absolutely hated a lot of it; going to church regularly and keeping your mouth shut is much less of an inconvenience.

  • Deepak Shetty

    @Robert L

    Nevertheless, going it on his own should be the last resort.

    To clarify I mean , try college without financial support from parents – not cut off ties with them. If you work hard enough and you are lucky(factors beyond your control), its possible.

    @Antigone

    A legitimate strategy? Lie to your parents to get their money for college

    You are being too harsh. Suppose the letter by Gregory was as it is , but Gregory had already lied to his folks and was now feeling guilt and asked Richard for advice – would you call him a person who uses people and then throws them away once he’s done? Not being financially independent forces people to compromise. Some choose to do so, some don’t – why judge them? Gregory is still borderline – He may be able to support himself or he might mess up his future career without support from his parents. There isnt a magical 18 years just because the laws states that’s when you are an adult.

  • http://www.theshoealwaysfits.com Antigone

    You are being too harsh. Suppose the letter by Gregory was as it is , but Gregory had already lied to his folks and was now feeling guilt and asked Richard for advice – would you call him a person who uses people and then throws them away once he’s done? Not being financially independent forces people to compromise. Some choose to do so, some don’t – why judge them? Gregory is still borderline – He may be able to support himself or he might mess up his future career without support from his parents. There isnt a magical 18 years just because the laws states that’s when you are an adult.

    Not being so harsh? Robert L. advocated, pretty clearly, not using hyperbole or metaphor, that Gregory lie to his parents, tell them he’s “come back to the light” just long enough to get money from them, then leave them and shack up with an older woman just so that she can pay his bills? How, exactly, is that being harsh? We’re not talking about just keeping something secret until he graduates. We’re talking about outright lying about something that’s already known, using the parents for the college money, using an unknown third party for living expenses, then getting rid of both of them when they’re no longer needed. I wouldn’t advocate ANYONE doing something so callous, and frankly I’m not sure why there are people here who thinks that’s acceptable behavior.

    Had he never told his parents, had his father not found out and had he had guilt and come and asked Richard about that, that would be a totally different situation based on different circumstances with a different end result requested. Why is it so hard to find the difference between the two?

  • Parse

    @Robert L:
    I’ve read your reply, and I’m sorry for accusing you of trolling. I appreciate your answers, and I don’t doubt your seriousness, though I am leery of your tactics. I guess I’ve been on the wrong side of the equation a few too many times – say the wrong thing, act without thinking, that sort of thing – to go all ‘scorched earth’ as quickly as you. I also don’t consider the situation – as it is described in the letter – as beyond hope. I see you advocating a fairly permanent solution to what could be a temporary problem.
    I agree that there is a point where it’s worth cutting off contact, but I think that’s a lot of large steps further than where Gregory’s at now.

  • Richard Wade

    Donna,

    Richard, I resent your stereotyping about those of us who have walked away from asshole parents. My life is damned good, much better than it would have been with them in my life and I resent the negative stereotyping. I have not descended into despondency, bitterness and vindictiveness.

    Oh, and does he love them or their money? Because his love seems conditional on getting their money.

    I have not stereotyped you or anyone else. I have not said that all people who turn away from their parents should not do so. Some have to do that, but it should be a last resort. Gregory is not at that point yet. It has not yet become obvious after a fair amount of time and a fair number of attempts to find a better way, that his only option is to completely shut down the relationship. I’m telling him to not jump to that conclusion prematurely.

    I’m also not saying that all people who must turn away from their parents become despondent, bitter and vindictive. Again, I’m advising him to not jump to that position prematurely. His brief letter is filled with sadness, insecurity, and fear. He’s very young, and so I’m concerned that he is more prone to over reacting than someone who has struggled with parents for several years.

    Your case was different, as every case is. They’re extremely complex. You did what you had to do. I’m glad that you have not descended into despondency, bitterness and vindictiveness.

    However, I think that you should take a second look at this statement, because it sounds very cynical:

    Oh, and does he love them or their money? Because his love seems conditional on getting their money.

    I see nothing in his letter that even comes close to even implying that his love for his parents is conditional on getting their money. He has loved them, and he loves them now. In fact, his love for them is making this all the more painful for him. He’s overwhelmed by their negative reaction, and now the threat of losing their help with college has added more anxiety to the mix than he can handle on his own. He’s kind of panicking, and fearing that they might completely abandon him. That is a terrible fear for a young person to bear whether it’s likely or not, and it can cause him to forget to keep his thinking rational.

    There is no reason to make the leap from his letter to characterizing his love as mercenary.

  • DA

    Not to derail, but there’s a pretty persuasive school of thought that Machiavelli wrote The Prince as a satire on people like the Medicis, which is born out by the rest of what he wrote. Machiavelli himself was extremely liberal for his time and a supporter of free republics; everything else he wrote was diametrically opposite to The Prince, and was tortured by the Medicis and blamed them for keeping Italy broken up, so I doubt he’d try to score a job with them later.

    Anyway, I don’t think anyone’s arguing that the kid’s dad ISN’T a dick, or that it wouldn’t be better for him to pay his kid’s way here. My point is simply that if your parents are assholes who insist on you livin a lifestyle you find abbhorrent in exhange for tuition, and you do it, especially in America where virtually anyone can go to college, then I think that’s a really sorry thing to do. Some people here are trying to make him sound like Oliver Twist to justify their own pre-existing beef with the Out campaign, though, which is silly. I guess I just knew too many spoiled brats in college who loathed their parents but refused to cut the purse strings, so my sympathy is limited. People can manage; my mom left home younger than this guy and made it on her own with no help from her parents whatsoever. As I already mentioned, I paid my own way. There’s a middle ground between defrauding your family and living on the streets, you know.

  • Non-Litigious Atheist

    Are you seriously against the Out Campaign?

    @thebigJ_A: Yes, I think it’s stupid to risk ruining yourself just to make a statement for some ideology, any ideology.

    If your neighbor came out as a Wiccan and got fired from a well paying job as a legally unprovable result of it, looking at it from the outside, can you honestly say that was a wise move?

    Why would it be any different for an atheist?

    Success is your only mothefuckn option – failure’s not. So here you go it’s your shot. Feet fail you not this may be the only opportunity that you got. You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow. This opportunity comes once in a lifetime.

    We only get one shot in this life and many people get screwed over. Don’t let opportunities slip away. Consider yourself lucky. Some people never get them. Be grateful that you’ve got it better than an abandoned orphan.

    I suppose you think it would be much better if all those gay people had stayed in the closet, too. You know, looking after themselves, screw everyone else, including all the gay people in the future who are also going to have to lie because noone took a stand.

    @thebigJ_A: The way I see it I only have obligations to help immediately family (grandparents, parents, spouse, offspring) and anyone who offers reciprocal altruism. I have further obligations not to cause others undue harm, but that’s as far as it goes.

    I don’t have any obligation to help anyone who does not help me, though I do have obligations not to harm those who don’t help me.

    Implicitly this is how many of us live whether we admit it or not. That’s we siphon away money that could go to disaster relief and spend it on Christmas gifts instead.

    I really hope this kid doesn’t take your advice, it’s borderline sociopathic.

    @thebigJ_A: That’s a bit hyperbolic. A sociopath doesn’t mind harming others to help himself. I do. I just don’t owe you anything other than to leave you alone. If I’m letting everyone else be, I’m doing my part.

    Richard, I strongly disagree that his parents aren’t obligated to pay for his college. No human being ever asked to be born. We were all created by two people who knew perfectly well that physically expressing their desire for each other could result in the existence of a human for whom they would be responsible for the better part of twenty years.

    @A Portlander: I’m with you AP. If you bring a child into this world then you have a responsibility to offer that child whatever you can to give him/her a decent chance of success, including paying tuition. It’s one thing if just don’t have the money. It’s another if you have it and were going to give it to your child but withhold it out of spite like this guy’s prick of a dad.

    Someone once offered me college tuition to set my principles aside. I told them where they could stuff their money… Had I taken the money and forgotten my principles, I’m pretty confident I’d hate that part about myself right now.

    @Antigone: I’m pretty confident I’d not hate myself, so can you email me this person’s name and number? I could use an indecent proposal.

    You don’t need to let people walk all over you, but I’d recommend at least trying to feign some empathy for your fellow human beings.

    @Parse: Feign away. But this is the internet, and that allows us to say what we really think. Ain’t anonymity great?

    If one of my children came to me at 18 and told me they wanted to go to a Christian college with my money, I’d say no. I go out of my way to make sure that I don’t give money to religious organizations and that would be giving money to a religious organization.

    @Antigone: Wow, speaking of douchebags, what a douchebag of a parent you would be to throw your kid under the bus because of religious differences. You’re just the mirror image of this guy’s dad. (Only one difference: a degree on which build a career is not an atheist degree, it’s a step toward making ends meet.)

    We’re talking about outright lying about something that’s already known, using the parents for the college money, using an unknown third party for living expenses, then getting rid of both of them when they’re no longer needed.

    Antigone: Employers use employees for their time. Employees use employers for their money. Not sure how shacking up with an older woman is really any different from that, so long as both parties know what it is they’re getting into. Nothing callous about a mutually consented ‘arrangement’.

    Dad’s case is a little different. Since he’s being a prick and withholding out of a spite, a little prickishness in return is not out of the question. And the kid would not really be securing the money out of spite anyway. He would be securing it to secure his future. Big difference.

    …especially in America where virtually anyone can go to college…

    @DA: What a joke compared to Canada or any country in Europe. Most of them don’t force you to into debt slavery with a bank (the same banks that fucked everyone over on their mortgages) – it’s paid if you do well in college instead of dickin’ around at frat parties.

  • Deepak Shetty

    @DA
    Your stance reminds me of Rush Limbaugh(sounds more offensive than meant). He didn’t like social security for the unemployed because he made it big without a handout from anyone and all you need is hardwork and the good old American system(minus all the socialist bits of course).
    But in the end its Gregory’s choice – either a harder way or living with a lie for some time(assuming no common ground).

  • Deepak Shetty

    Not being so harsh? Robert L. advocated, pretty clearly, not using hyperbole or metaphor, that Gregory lie to his parents, tell them he’s “come back to the light” just long enough to get money from them, then leave them and shack up with an older woman just so that she can pay his bills?

    Im assuming that your outrage is for the lying and leaving his parents part (Im not sure the shack up with woman is meant seriously). And teenagers lie to their parents all the time – as you probably have done as well. He doesn’t necessarily have to leave his parents – it looks like his parents are choosing to do so if he expresses his true views.

  • DA

    Hey, Deepak, if you’re going to start by comparing me to a lying hatemonger, that’s pretty ridiculous. What I said was NOTHING like that. I’m saying that I think it’s silly to spend years conning (and make no mistake, it would be a con) your parents instead of doing the college thing yourself. That’s IT. I did it, my mom did it (and with NO help from her shitty parents, and left home when she was younger than this guy), my dad did it til the care of my uncle got dropped in his lap, one of my best friends while recovering from a serious injury, and many, many other people do it. I believe in a social safety net and I believe that it should be easier to go to college. However, I also believe that people are exagerrating the plight of those whose parents can’t or won’t pay for it. Mostly NLA and OneSTvD, who are supposed to be like, the hard voice of realism or something but acting like the dad will inject the kid with AIDS if the kid doesn’t buckle (and that it would totally be Richard Dawkins’ fault if he did so). It’s very common in America for people to get pushed around by their parents in some way well into adulthood because they are financially dependent on them; in my view, with some obvious exceptions, self-respecting people go out on their own rather than spend their lives being pushed around by their folks. I did it for less reason than that; I did it because I wanted it to be my own thing, done my own way. It took some work, and I owe some money now (not that it’s “slavery” as NLA put it; I have some debt, BFD). But it’s doable.

  • AxeGrrl

    Silent Service wrote:

    Your parents threatening to pull the rug out from under you should be countered only by letting them know that you will be taking a different path to success than you expected if you have too, but that’s okay. I’m sure that you will definitely remember the most important lesson that religion has taught you. Do not trust anybody that offers paradise in one hand while holding a stick in the other.

    Perfect.

  • AxeGrrl

    thebigJ_A wrote:

    @Non-Litigious

    Are you seriously against the Out Campaign?

    I suppose you think it would be much better if all those gay people had stayed in the closet, too. You know, looking after themselves, screw everyone else, including all the gay people in the future who are also going to have to lie because noone took a stand.

    I really hope this kid doesn’t take your advice, it’s borderline sociopathic.

    I wholeheartedly agree. Being who you are and letting the chips fall as they may should be the ‘ideal’ we all aspire to….unless one’s personal safety/security is at issue (which isn’t the case here).

  • Megs

    Just a comment… using the word “fundamentalist” to describe devout followers is incorrect… I believe… A fundamentalist is, by logical definition, someone who follows a religion (whatever it is) in its simplest, most fundamental form. That means not interpreting the bible to say that homosexuality is wrong, or that all other religions are wrong or whatever, but following the fundamental laws upon which the religion is based. That’s why the term fundamentalist that the media uses in reference to Islamic followers who revert to violence is wrong. Islam states that violence is not the way, it never told people that women should be covered or anything of the sort. That’s why people should stop using the word fundamentalist and start using the word ‘extremist’ because it creates negative perceptions for actual fundamentalists who don’t justify homophobic or sexist or racist actions with interpretations of their holy book like extremists do… just a passing thought :)

  • AxeGrrl

    Robert L. wrote:

    going it on his own should be the last resort

    because…..?

    if you consider taking responsibility for yourself and making your own way in the world as a ‘last resort’, then you’re speaking from a place of incredible privilege.

    Paying for your own education and being able to ‘own’ that is far more rewarding/edifying than lying about some aspect of yourself and getting money that isn’t necessarily ‘owed’ to you.

  • Thegoodman

    @NLA

    My motivation for being involved with atheism and being ‘out’ is for the betterment of mankind. While you are correct in that being out can get me proper fucked, it is but a baby step to showing our corrupt religious country that we are not their sheep.

    I have read a lot about feminism in case I have a daughter. I have learned a lot about the gay community in case I have a child that is homosexual. I have read a lot about the religious community to guard my person and that of my loved ones from the onslaught of religious corruption. I have read a lot about atheism because I am passionate about truth.

    While your attitude of “I got mine so fuck everyone else” sounds good to you, ultimately is not good for your children or your grand children and so on. A society that pits its individuals is no society at all so saying ‘fuck you’ to everyone is no way to live unless of course you truly only live for yourself; in which case you are a sociopath.

    Your inaction is like saying that withholding the truth is not lying. Your inaction is detrimental to others. Withholding the truth is lying. If I go out and sleep with someone other than my wife and fail to mention it to her, I am still a liar. If you say aloud the lords prayer you are not ‘not’ hurting anyone. You are lying to everyone. If you care about a person you should want them to know who you are.

  • Nik

    I had a similar situation, but for completely different reasons – my mother refused to pay for me to go to college unless I went to a specific school, despite the fact that she would be paying less money if she let me go to the school I wanted to attend. I refused to attend the school of her choice because it was too close to home and my overbearing mother.

    What she did not pay attention to was, I had a nearly-full scholarship to a Seven Sister college (the all-women’s equivalent of the Ivy League), and only needed to get together $4,000 a year to cover the rest. Between working and student loans, I did it.

    I have absolutely NO regrets that I turned down a “free ride” that would have cost me my sanity and self-esteem.

    Look at the schools you are interested in applying to, find a sympathetic guidance counselor to help you get waivers for the application fees, or pay the fees out of your pocket money, and apply for every scholarship you can find. Even if you end up working 20 hours a week and getting $20,000 in student loans, it is worth your sanity.

  • Jules

    My folks were religious fundamentalists. They were greatly displeased that I turned from the fold. But, and here’s where it gets weird, I still loved them. Even weirder: they still loved me. Yes, they said and did some hotheaded things. Because they’re humans, not gods.

    Hang in there, Gregory. I not only managed to get myself all the way through college on my own*, but I managed to have a beautiful and fulfilling relationship with my father. Who was an evangelical minister. Mom’s another story, but that’s because she’s batty, regardless of her religious proclivities. But we do all right. I have actually lived with her from the time my dad got diagnosed with cancer 18 months ago until now, even though he died in March. And for the most part, she leaves me alone about religion. I basically took the Dan Savage approach. It didn’t take long for them to see that they’d rather have their daughter than not. My sister, who is gay, did something similar (yes, an atheist and a lesbian in the same fundie family).

    Maybe you won’t be that lucky in your relationship with your family, but I just wanted you to hear from someone who’d been there that it can be done. Sure, it hurt to not be able to share certain aspects of my life with them, but it honestly wasn’t as limiting as you might expect.

    *You may not be like this, but I actually wanted to do it myself. I like not being beholden to anyone. Makes me feel like a badass.

  • Non-Litigious Atheist

    If you care about a person you should want them to know who you are.

    @Thegoodman: Interesting stuff overall, but I find the above naively quaint.

    To each his own, though. You have your priorities and I have mine.

    I prefer to be invisible in general, so I guess I’m just not the type to be out (and never will be).

    I’m the kind of person who closes his blinds so as not to create the temptation for random passerbys to see something they like and rob me when I leave the house. I don’t flash money around for similar reasons.

    Avoid the temptation as the Catholics used to say.

    Think of me as the invisible man. If you don’t know I exist you can’t jump me. So I’m sort of like John Connor in Terminator – I’d rather stay off the grid. Being visible is being vulnerable to attack.

    That others don’t mind that vulnerability is their privilege; I do, so I’ll continue to stay off the grid. The rest of you can do whatever you like since it doesn’t affect me anyway.

    I’m just here to warn others not to be naive about what outing yourself really amounts to. In many cases it amounts to the potential of great loss in return for the potential of very little benefit.

    People need to be made aware of that before they start foolishly outing themselves just because some blowhard thinks they have some binding obligation to future generations to do so.

  • Thegoodman

    @NLA

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t wear a “Fuck Christians!” T-Shirt to job interviews. I only wield my secular sword when the situation is appropriate (family settings, private conversations, etc…).

    There is a fine line between supporting a cause and hurting it. Too many activists hurt their own causes because of their overbearing attitudes on the topic. In some situations I am certainly overbearing, in others I am just as invisible as you are. We have to pick and choose are battle. However, never choosing ANY battles only makes you a coward.

  • Deepak Shetty

    if you’re going to start by comparing me to a lying hatemonger, that’s pretty ridiculous.

    no I just compared a viewpoint that he expressed (which is the same as yours , I did it , why can’t you?).

    and many, many other people do it.

    Well , yes. And some people fail. Why not list those too? You may call it a con if you wish – but note that every time you have lied – as I’m sure you must have , you conned someone too.
    Its not always easy for someone to let go of his safety net. Empathise with that. If I were in his situation Id probably try to say Ill sincerely listen to the sermons with an open mind in return for the funds – Would that be a con as well?

  • http://www.theshoealwaysfits.com Antigone

    no I just compared a viewpoint that he expressed (which is the same as yours , I did it , why can’t you?).

    Rush Limbaugh is a personality with more than one opinion and idea attached to him. When you invoke his name, you invoke ALL of those ideas, not just one. It’s a stupid comparison. Just because someone finds value in making your own way doesn’t mean that they’re the same as Rush Limbaugh.

    Rugged, individualist, ‘make your own way’, ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ attitudes are distinctly AMERICAN. They don’t belong to Rush Limbaugh. This is one of the things that differentiates American politics from politics anywhere else in the world. Rush just uses that to rationalize destroying the social safety net.

    Well , yes. And some people fail. Why not list those too? You may call it a con if you wish – but note that every time you have lied – as I’m sure you must have , you conned someone too.
    Its not always easy for someone to let go of his safety net. Empathise with that. If I were in his situation Id probably try to say Ill sincerely listen to the sermons with an open mind in return for the funds – Would that be a con as well?

    Lots of things in life are hard. One of the hardest challenges that you can face in this life is becoming someone with a deep sense of integrity. Lying is easy. Cheating is easy. Conning parents out of money – again easy. It’s much harder to embrace who you are regardless of what other people think and to embrace a life of integrity. It’s also more noble a goal to strive for.

    Yes, we all lie from time to time. The difference is in thinking about the consequences of those lies. This lie could destroy this boy’s relationship with his parents for the length of his short life. Not to mention, he’s going to have to live with the guilt about making such a dishonest decision and defrauding his parents. Are you really sure you want to advise him to do that?

    The situation that you put forward would be a con, indeed, if he had no intention of actually listening with an open mind. It has nothing to do with the gentleness of the lie or the minor truth that may be hidden within the lie. As long as the intention of the lie is to defraud the parents of their money, it’s still just as damaging to Gregory because HE will always know that he lied. A ‘man of integrity’ as Richard put it, wouldn’t do something like that.

  • Tony

    I’m left wondering if there is any charity to which one could donate that addresses problems such as this.

  • DA

    Deepak
    If you’d said “well, Hitler liked this too”, you wouldn’t just be randomly mentioning one individual named Hitler happened to have the same idea, you’re equating me with Hitler. Same here, you’re trying to smear me by comparison, so don’t pretend that you’re not.

    And I do have empathy for this kid. It sucks entirely. It doesn’t mean I have to agree with your ideas on the matter. Would him agreeing to sit in on services for the cash be a con? No. Demeaning maybe, not a con. But that’s not what the majority of naysayers here were suggesting. So I didn’t mention it.

    And the context is different. Rush Limbaugh is a liar with a rich daddy who gave him a start in radio, and who was on welfare himself at one point. I really did go to University on my own.

    “Islam states that violence is not the way, it never told people that women should be covered or anything of the sort.”

    This ex-Muslim is calling bullshit on that. There are many calls to violence in the Qu’ran, many more in the hadith, and plenty of examples of violence in the prophet’s sunnah. The Qu’ran and hadith bothh likewise tell women they should cover their hair and even their faces. The Taliban may be an extremist group, but they are also simply Sunni Islam per excellence.

  • Deepak Shetty

    DA

    Same here, you’re trying to smear me by comparison, so don’t pretend that you’re not.

    Since in the very first comment I stated it sounds more offensive than meant , Im not pretending anything.
    Its your view that Im disagreeing with – that some people have overcome hardships doesn’t mean everyone does – and he may choose not to risk it. By calling him a con or whatever you might be adding to his shame. why do that?

    Demeaning maybe, not a con.

    If its done with sincerity , whats demeaning about it?

    . Rush Limbaugh…

    Again I did really remember his quote so I mentioned it , no offense intended.


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