Columnist Offers Great Advice to Mother Concerned About Daughter’s Atheism

Normally, when a syndicated newspaper advice columnist tackles a question about atheism, I cringe. It’s never good information and you’re left wondering how the person earned a column in the first place.

That’s not the case with Carolyn Hax, writer and columnist for the Washington Post.

A mother wrote to Hax concerning her daughter… who just became an atheist:

I love my daughter dearly, but I am troubled by this turn of events. She has never seriously misbehaved or otherwise given me cause to worry before this. Emily insists she is old enough to make up her own mind, but I simply do not think a girl of 16 has the maturity to make such a life-changing decision. Our pastor cautions me that putting too much pressure on her now might cause her to become even more entrenched in her thinking.

How can I help my daughter see that she is making a serious mistake with her life if she chooses to reject her God and her faith? Can I just chalk this up to teenage rebellion, something she’s bound to outgrow, or do you suppose this is a precursor to some deeper psychological problem?God-Fearing Mom

To her credit, Hax delivers a series of knockout punches in her reply:

Please tell me it’s not either-or.

And please also tell me what you would have Emily do — pretend she believes? Pseudo-pray?

So I’ll ask again, what would you have nonbelievers do? Lie? Even people who want and try to believe just … can’t. Or don’t. I’m living proof. (No nagging psychological problems to pin it on, either.)

… Certainly indicating you’re not afraid of Emily’s doubts will make a better case for your “Christian values” than will treating her as if she’s delinquent or mentally ill…

Skepticism is no less personal than faith. Accordingly, I speak only for myself, but I didn’t throw out what my childhood, including my church, taught me; I still apply what I believe in. I just apply it to a secular life.

What a terrific response. She offers good advice while still politely scolding the mother for thinking there was something wrong with her daughter in the first place.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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