I have an idea and I need advice. I am 26 and living on my own, not far from my parents and grandparents. I have been an atheist for a little over a year now and told my family about nine months ago. They took it very well – my parents are fundamentalists who spent many years in full time ministry, but they were respectful of my hard work and research and have sometimes asked questions about what made me go from devout Christian to atheist. The thing is, everyone in my family is seriously damaged by the destructive beliefs that have been passed down for so many years.
My dad especially was harmed by religion in many, many ways, and it is amazing to me what a strong and brave and good person he is to be able to deal as well as he has with the enormous crazy-making pressure all these years. He has always struggled with thinking of himself as a terrible, weak, unlikable person and now he is worried that he did things wrong causing me to abandon faith and go to Hell. I know he can see a lot of difference in how much happier I am now, but I know he and my mom are both really sad about it. I was trying to think of some way to encourage him/cheer him up a little every day and for Christmas this year I was thinking about making him a poster with a picture of me and some favorite scenes of his, like Hubble telescope pictures and nature scenes, etc.
The thing is, I want to put one or more inspirational quotes on the poster. There are SO many fantastic quotes I’ve found since I’ve become an atheist (Symphony of Science!) but I don’t want to do something that seems like I am trying to subtly influence him away from faith. I want something that gives him hope/warm fuzzy feeling/makes him feel like a good person, etc. Basically, fun quotes and concepts… He loves astronomy and math and hiking/bicycling/outdoor sports and non-Evolution related science things (yes, I know – we talk about that at other times, but I want to give him a fun gift not one that makes him uncomfortable every time he sees it) and philosophy and stuff related to languages. I am sure a lot of you guys on this blog have quotes that you love and want to share with others and if you could help me out by posting them, even if you aren’t sure it’s what I’m looking for, I would SO appreciate it. I am stuck at this point, kind of overwhelmed trying to choose among the bazillions of options out there.
What a tender, caring gift. I admire your loving kindness toward your father. Your heart is very sweet.
Your dad sounds like an interesting and complicated guy. Parents who have self-defeating traits, and yet who are also bighearted, loving, and patient with others, parents who have pain that might pull them in toward themselves, and yet are still outgoing and curious about the world around them make the best parents, because they help us to be more kind and accepting of our own complicated, conflicted, and painful traits, and to be more kind and accepting of others as well.
I’m assuming that you would like some quotations that are positive, uplifting, or inspirational in human and humanistic terms, but which neither attack nor support your father’s religious views. It sounds like the desired effect is to help him to feel better about you and his relationship with you when he looks at your picture, but you want to do so without contradicting your own convictions by agreeing with his religious beliefs.
This blog is visited by many very smart, knowledgeable, well-read, and well-educated people. I’m sure that several will have quotations and ideas along the lines you described to suggest to you.
I think that in addition to one or more quotations from wise and articulate people in literature, science and the arts, you should also include something directly from your heart to your dad’s heart. In your own words, or taking whatever fits from my words here, perhaps you could say something like this:
Dad, thank you for being the strong, brave, and good man you are. I admire your good example, and I want to be like you in those ways. Thank you for accepting me for who and what I am, and for the way that I see things, even though we see some things differently. Despite those differences, despite your doubts and fears, you have continued to give me love and respect without restraint. For that, I will be grateful my whole life, and I will try my best to always give others love and respect without restraint, despite whatever differences they and I may have. There is no lesson more precious that you could ever have taught me. Thank you!
If that’s too heavy or serious for your poster, there’s no obligation to use my or anyone else’s suggestions. If you’re comfortable with showing us, we would definitely enjoy seeing your creation when it’s done.
Okay, my dear readers, please dig into those deep intellectual pockets of yours, and please donate some pearls of positivism for Rapunzelly and her dad. I thank you in advance.
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