When Atheist Children Are As Good As Dead To Their Parents

As a parent and an atheist, I got blindsided this morning.

One of the most popular pieces at the Washington Post website right now is Michael Gerson‘s brutally honest take on letting go of your children when they leave home. Gerson just saw his son off to college and writes movingly about how the experience hit him a lot harder than he was prepared for:

I know something he doesn’t — not quite a secret, but incomprehensible to the young. He is experiencing the adjustments that come with beginnings. His life is starting for real. I have begun the long letting go. Put another way: He has a wonderful future in which my part naturally diminishes. I have no possible future that is better without him close. …

The end of childhood, of course, can be the start of adult relationships between parents and children that are rewarding in their own way. I’m anxious to befriend my grown sons. But that hasn’t stopped the random, useless tears. I was cautioned by a high-powered Washington foreign policy expert that he had been emotionally debilitated for weeks after dropping off his daughter at college for the first time.

But it wasn’t Gerson’s tale of loss that gobsmacked me. It was a comment. This one, by a Washington Post reader called ariel823:

I am the mother of a 54 yr old who has valiantly fought cancer for 12 yrs and is now losing the fight, and the mother of a 56 yr old who has lymphoma and last year survived a stem cell transplant barely, and is weak and damaged but trying to hold his job. Also he exceeded his health insurance cap of $750,000 by a large sum. And our 3rd child has become an atheist in spite of his upbringing. Pain is pain, from wherever it originates.

So losing adult children to a terrible illness is the equivalent, sort of, of an adult child deciding to live free of self-delusion and superstition. Huh.

(As an aside, I wonder why God, that celestial punisher, hasn’t afflicted the atheist child with a life-threatening condition…)

I asked my (nominally Christian) wife over brunch whether she thought that it could work the other way around; if we would ever see atheists dolefully (not jokingly) equating an adult child who became religious to a child with a terminal illness. She thought it was feasible if the religion was sufficiently cultish — Scientology, say, or Pentecostalism.

I confess I’d be half-disappointed, half-baffled if our kids permanently turned to religion — especially some hardcore variety. But in no way would I think of them as damaged or as a source of existential pain on a par with having a loved one stricken with a fatal cancer.

Religious people of this stripe tie themselves in knots over nothing. Tell me again how a belief in God makes them happy and well-adjusted?

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

  • Anat

    Quoting: (As an aside, I wonder why God, that celestial punisher, hasn’t afflicted the atheist child with a life-threatening condition…)

    The usual reason: bad aim. It sounds like the parent would have preferred it if the atheist child died and the believer survived in good health.

    • Ohtobide

      It does not sound that way to me at all. I see no suggestion that the commenter loves the believing children more than the atheist. ‘Pain is pain’ as the comment says.

      I see no suggestion that atheism is the equivalent of cancer either. There is a suggestion, though, that atheism in a child, like cancer, is harder to bear than seeing the child go off to college. Well, for a believing parent it may be. Perhaps they think their atheist child is bound for something much worse than cancer, endless torture in Hell. Perhaps they just think that all the comforts that religion offers will not be available to their child.

      I’m an agnostic but, to be honest, there are many beliefs my children might take up that would hurt a lot more than seeing them go off to college.

      • KMR

        The hell thing is huge. Now that I have my own children and understand that love and how it transforms your life, I can imagine the pain you would feel is you’ve done everything you could possibly think of to ensure that your wonderful, beloved child would be with your for eternity and then find you’ve failed. Nope, they’ve chosen wrong and you will never see them again once you die. The guilt must be astronomical since the Bible states that if you “train up your child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not depart from it.” So if your kid becomes an atheist the Bible is very clear that it’s your fault.
        That’s why I struggle with coming out as agnostic to my mother. Although I have no doubt she would love me unconditionally, she would blame herself.

        • jeannieinpa

          That is so kind! It affirms my belief that most atheists are good, kind and loving.

  • El Bastardo

    Parents are supposed to love their child unconditionally, unfortunately this isn’t always the case.

    Being 100% honest, I’d still love my kids no matter what, but I’d be disappointed if they devoted themselves to a religious life. This disappointment would be directly proportional to the level of batshittery they chose.

    The desire to survive death and go to the happy place is kinda understandable, but trying to cleanse yourself of theatons or thinking you’ll become a sex god of your own planet, well, I would have hoped I raised them better than that.

    • Darric

      “Parents are supposed to love their child unconditionally, unfortunately this isn’t always the case.”
      Wait why?
      If I ever had children and they grew up to be a rapist I would like to think I would have the sense not to love them. A blood connection with a person does not mean that you are required to have a certain emotional connection with them.
      I really dont understand the whole “family connections are special” mentality. It just seems that if love is automatic and can’t be lost then it holds little value.

      • Cyanmoon1

        Loving someone does not mean you have to approve of everything they do! I know there’s nothing my daughters could do that would cause me to stop loving them; as a parent I want them to feel secure in that knowledge. What kind of parent sets limits on love? That’s not to say that I wouldn’t express disapproval or anger if they did something awful, but I can’t imagine ever withdrawing my love.

        • Belaam

          “What kind of parent sets limits on love?”

          Well, I guess I do. If one of my daughters were to grow up to abduct, molest, murder and then eat neighborhood children, I really don’t see how I could still love them.

          I think I’d be a terrible father for raising someone without picking up on the fact that they were capable of such things than that I’d be a terrible father for not still loving them.

          I’d quit loving my mother or wife if they did such a thing, why not my daughter?

          • Cyanmoon1

            If either of my children grew up to cannibalise the neighbours I would have to infer some degree of mental illness. Hopefully they would have displayed signs of illness early on and I would get them professional help, but I suppose it’s possible for, say, a psychotic break to come out of the blue. In either case I would not withdraw my love just because they were sick. Please do not think that this means I would just smooth over the wrongdoing in my mind or enable bad behaviour! All I’m saying is that no matter what my child did, I would keep working to get them whatever services they needed to get better or at least to keep them safe/keep society safe from them. They know I’m on their team no matter what.

          • The Other Weirdo

            Unless their bus breaks down and they are forced to cannibalize the driver to survive. Which would be a pretty shitty thing to do since they were only 30 minutes from town.

      • wvsasha

        I have a friend whose son murdered her husband (his father). I bumped up against this “parental unconditional love” hard when I realized that she had written her son out of her life (so did his sisters). It took me several months to really “get it”…..if I had gone through what they had….I would probably do exactly the same thing.

        • Anat

          Well, writing a parricide out of one’s life is a matter of self-preservation. What assurance to the surviving family members have he will not turn on them one day? (Well I suppose that depends on the reasons for the initial murder, but at first approximation this might be their reasoning.)

      • http://www.devitaylor.com/ Devi Taylor

        I really dont understand the whole “family connections are special” mentality.

        Most likely there is a tribal aspect that applies here. A certain amount of loyalty and dedication is given to other members of the “tribe” solely based on that.

        I would like to say, though, that Love is not the same as Like. You can love someone, but you don’t have to necessarily like them or approve of what they do. If I had children and they did something horrific to another person, I think I would still love them and want to help them because they are my child but that wouldn’t stop me from condemning what they do or making sure they faced the consequences of their actions. That also doesn’t stop me from hating aspects of their personality, especially if those aspects (e.g. manipulative) are harmful to them or other people.

        • Tobias2772

          My parents were excellent at showing us kids that they loved us completely but that there were times when they did not like us very much. I am not sure how they did it but I think it is a key to raising compassionate and confident kids.

      • J.R. Robbins

        Who hurt you?

        • Tobias2772

          What a simplistic response to a valid question of our assumptions.

      • Gitte

        You may hate that child and what he did and be very disappointed in them but deep in your heart you will always love them because they are your child and you can never forget that. One bad crime when they are adults cannot wipe away all the years of their childhood.

    • Keyra

      “Being 100% honest, I’d still love my kids no matter what, but I’d be disappointed if they devoted themselves to a religious life. This disappointment would be directly proportional to the level of batshittery they chose”, so you would look down on them just because they (hypothetically) find Christ? If I was still an atheist, I wouldn’t care what they believed or feel “disappointed” because of it. Are you gonna raise your kids under your opinion that it’s all “batshittery”?

      • Bender

        so you would look down on them just because they (hypothetically) find Christ?

        What do you mean “just”?

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        Keyra, why are you a hypocritical liar who claims xe could never be disappointed in a bad decision xer child made that could hurt their life? Why are you so desperate for talking points that you’re willing to make up untrue things in order to judge people before Christ?

      • cary_w

        My daughter, a junior in college, has “found Christ”, and yes, I feel disappointed in her. I’m also strggling with feeling like i must have somehow let her down or not educated her well enough when she was young. Luckily the church she’s going to is low on the level of “batshittery” and I feel that college is the time to explore new ideas try out new things, so, for now, I’m just hoping it doesn’t stick. And my husband has convinced me to mostly keep my mouth shut because he thinks the support she’s found there is helping her get through college, and I have to admit, I feel her education is top priority right now, so if church helps, I’m willing to accept it. But that doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed in her choices.

        When you say, “I wouldn’t care what they believe…”, I have to admit, I feel the exact opposite. I care very deeply what she believes, that’s why I’m upset with her believing fairy tales. I want her to believe the truth, I want her to believe in logic, reason and science. I can accept some differences of opinion (such as her voting against legalizing pot in Colorado!), but one of my greatest fears is that her church will start making her believe the hateful beliefs some churches spread, like the belief that homosexuals are inferior and shouldn’t be allowed to marry, or that little children are sinful and going to Hell if they are not baptized.

        If you love someone, how can you not care what they believe? I may have to continue to accept her going to church, but I will always care about what she believes.

        • Randay

          I have experience from the other side. Unlike Gerson in the article, I had a terrible relationship with my father and just left for college on my own. We didn’t see each other for years and when it finally happened, relations were still strained. They never became amical. My younger sister did the same when she turned 18. We never told our Xian parents we were atheists, so that wasn’t the problem. I don’t know how my father felt about us leaving, though my mother must have suffered.

          As their child, I cared about my what my parents believed and wish they didn’t have that delusion. Now my mother is elderly and neither my sister nor I want to disturb her or disappoint her so we carefully avoid the topic.

      • Drakk

        You don’t “find christ”. There’s nothing to find. It’s more accurately described as “suspending critical reasoning for long enough that emotional manipulation and appeal to base desires and fears take hold”. And yes, it should be disappointing for it to happen to someone you’ve tried to train as a rationalist.

  • Jasper

    That’s messed up. It’s like saying “My oldest son is dying of cancer, my older daughter has AIDS, and my younger daughter doesn’t like the Boston Bruins. Soon, I won’t have a family anymore”

    Nice priorities you’ve got there.

    • islandbrewer

      And really, what kind of person likes the Bruins in the first place?

      • Jasper

        Apparently one person

      • Tainda

        HEY NOW!

    • Emily Fleming

      I’m okay with the Bruins – at least they are worthy enemies, highly-skilled.

      The LEAFS, now…

  • C Peterson

    Nothing like being waterboarded by a priest as a baby to make you grow up an atheist…

    • larelle

      This is about what happened to my father being baptized at a deep-water ceremony in icy cold waters in Maine at the age of 12. He at that moment thought, “what the hell is this shit?” and renounced it all at once.

  • the moother

    My parents always said that parenting is a continuous process of letting go. But they also said that they would “sit shiva” if any of us married out of the faith. That was decades ago. My father has become infinitely more wise while my mother has wallowed in her own stupidity.

    • cipher

      Did you grow up Orthodox?

      • the moother

        Nah, secular-stupid… we’re better now…, well, most of us…

  • dawn

    In references to that ladies’ comment. My mother would always bring up the following quote: Unconditional Love Doesn’t Always Include Unconditional Acceptance/sigh

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      *facepalms* Sometimes I think that everyone should be required by law to own a dictionary and refer to it at least three times a day.

      • dawn

        oh good, I’m not the only who sees that as twisted up

  • BusLoadingOnly

    the irony that you’re mad at your son for not believing in the God who either A: Gave you and your other son cancer or B: Has chosen not to cure you C: Both

    • Tobias2772

      Nice Mustache !

  • more compost

    I have no children, nor will I ever. But I would definitely feel like I had failed as a parent, failed as a human being, if a child of mine chose to renounce facts and logic and reason and evidence in favor of living life as if a fairy tale were true.

    • Keyra

      So calling what you don’t believe in, fairy tales, is your idea of “reason”?

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        If you can’t understand the parallel and have stupidly forgotten all the explanations you’ve been patiently handed, that’s your own fault.

      • Bender

        Yes, since I have the habit of believing only reasonable things.

      • more compost

        If you can prove it isn’t a fairy tale, I might believe it. BUT YOU CAN’T PROVE THAT.

        What else should I call a story about talking animals and magic and the dead coming back to life?

      • cary_w

        Yeah, I think that pretty well sums it up. Any belief that is not backed up by evidence, logic and reason can be considered fairy tales until the discovery of some kind of evidence or logic based theory shows it to be possible. Religious tales, astrology, Santa Clause, homeopathic medicine, numerology, prayers actually curing diseases, the existence of bigfoot, all that stuff falls into the category of fairy tales. Occasionally I have had to change my beliefs based on new evidence or simply better educating myself. For example, my feelings about alcoholics, I remember as a teenager I though alcoholics were just stupid people who lacked self control, as I educated myself and met more and more people with different relationships with alcohol, I came to agree with current medical professionals that it is a disease and people who have it need to manage it like a chronic disease. Once someone shows me some evidence (other than, “the bible says so”) that any bible stories are true, then I will consider changing my views on religion, until then, it’s all a bunch of fairy tales.

      • averydashwood

        Once upon a time, there was one man, one woman and a talking snake who lived in a garden where no one ever suffered. But in this garden was the Tree of Knowledge… need I go on?

      • Obazervazi

        What did those commas ever do to deserve this?

      • Matt D

        You know perfectly well we don’t believe in that which has no basis in reality, Keyra. It’s simply a matter of seeing all your posting history and realizing you aren’t listening because you prefer ignorance to truth.

    • Monika Jankun-Kelly

      There is only so much parents can do. Don’t we secular people want to raise our children to think for themselves? That means we must accept the risk that they may make mistakes and bad decisions. Parents are NOT responsible for the choices of adult children. We can teach but it is up to them to learn and apply. Sure, parents can be sad and disappointed, but they shouldn’t kick themselves for what they have no control over. It’s the authoritarian Christians who think they should be able to guarantee a certain outcome through certain teachings. We should know better than that.

      In response to the topic of the Terry’s post, shunning children due to religion or lack thereof, I expect secular parents to love their children, whether they make some big mistakes or not. Unless the kid has joined Westboro, the AFA, the Sea Org, or similar, religious differences need not separate family.

      • more compost

        I would not shun them. I would keep my disappointment to myself.

  • antfaber

    If it’s a religion that mandates no contact with non-believers, that would be really sad, but not as bad as a fatal illness. On the other hand, to her, this means that she will never see him in the afterlife, since she’s going to Heaven and he’s going to Hell. She’ll have all of eternity to catch up with her believing children who are dying (or may dye young if there’s a relapse) right now.

    • The Other Weirdo

      Which is a presumption all in itself, I think that she is going to heaven.

  • http://www.devitaylor.com/ Devi Taylor

    If I had children and they because religious, I would still love and support them. However, they would probably never visit me again because I would constantly be challenging their beliefs. Haha.

  • Keyra

    Well I was raised by a Jewish mom & an atheist father, with siblings on either side (I chose the atheist part because none of it made sense to me at the time). My family still loves me and it’s that way with any family, regardless of faiths & beliefs.
    “Tell me again how a belief in God makes them happy and well-adjusted?”, in so many ways

    • TheG

      Such as…
      Nevermind. I forgot that you lack the depth to follow up on your already shallow statements.

  • SeekerLancer

    “In spite of his upbringing… I could not beat rational inquiry out of my son.”

  • Paul (not the apostle)

    The brand of theology matters here. For those that believe in Calvinism god has decided who makes the cut and who get cooked, period end of story. Of course this is much easier to swallow if its not your kids getting cooked for all eternity. If this person believes in the sovereignty of god they should just chill out. All of the disease and the unbelief is decided by god . Praise him for ever. It of course is a great mystery that requires belief. Her pain is a indication of her lack of trust. She has starting thinking and how painful that can be if one is not accustomed to it. However if she goes with freewill theology she heads down the road of believing that human decisions and actions matter more that the magic man. That is the slippery slope heading to Deism the a hop-skip and jump to Atheism. Careful, no matter which way you turn if you start reasoning instead of believing you are slip sliding away.

  • newavocation

    “Tell me again how a belief in God makes them happy and well-adjusted?” I never thought that was the goal of religion. The goal is to make sure your ticket to the afterlife remains validated.

  • Guest

    This
    says it all, “(As an aside, I wonder why God, that celestial punisher,
    hasn’t afflicted the atheist child with a life-threatening condition…)”

    My
    christian husband had lymphoma and appendicitis. I’m healthy as an
    ox…! I regularly point out all of the underprivileged christians vs
    the well of atheists.

    • AlienGiraffe

      As an atheist with some pretty serious health problems, who is married to another atheist with some pretty serious health problems, I am offended by this comment. Believing in god doesn’t protect you from health problems, just as *not* believing in god doesn’t protect you from health problems.

      For both myself and my husband (and millions of others), health problems come from our mutated genes. It’s an accident of biology. To suggest that there is any connection to belief or non-belief–or any other life choice–is highly offensive.

  • wolfcat

    This says it all, “As an aside, I wonder why God, that celestial punisher,
    hasn’t afflicted the atheist child with a life-threatening condition…”

    My christian husband had lymphoma and appendicitis. I’m healthy as an
    ox…! I regularly point out all of the underprivileged christians vs
    the well of atheists.

    • NickDB

      Personally think the reason why the average atheist is better off than the average theist is the less well off need the hope of something better waiting for them. Hence the best weapons against theism are the same weapons used to fight poverty.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    When our daughter was 2 and 3 we went through a terrifying period of several months when strange symptoms and medical imagery had some of her doctors convinced that she had a serious life-threatening condition. We were on a sea of black anguish under a black and starless sky.

    After some second opinions with doctors who were more experienced with that particular issue, it turned out to be harmless. Now she’s in graduate school at an excellent university, with a bright future ahead.

    She’s also an atheist not through any concerted effort on my part, but solely by her own free thinking. But having faced what we thought was her imminent death, I can say with certainty that I would never equate my grief for her death with the puzzlement or even the minor annoyance that I would have if she ever were to adopt religious beliefs. The comparison would be ridiculous.

  • Loic

    My children are 34, 30 and 23 and all are non-theist (I hesitate to even say “atheist” because they pay the whole issue so little thought). If any of them had become supernatural believers, it would have been heartbreaking for me, because in all honesty, it would seem like some kind of disorder. For a person who did not have supernatural belief pounded into their head from infancy to suddenly start believing it would indicate that something had disturbed their hold on reality. Yes, I would still love them, of course! I have many religious relatives whom I love. But those folks were not raised with reason as the primary underlying platform for their worldview. If it were one of my children, I would try to get them some help.

    • joey_in_NC

      If any of them had become supernatural believers, it would have been heartbreaking for me, because in all honesty, it would seem like some kind of disorder.

      Thank you for your honesty. I’m sure this mother feels similarly about her child’s atheism.

      Yes, I would still love them, of course!

      As you should. Just want to point out it is not evident from the comment that this mother ceased loving her atheist child.

      • http://lady-die.deviantart.com/ LizzyJessie

        Sudden deep personality changes are generally a sign that there has been a dramatic change in a person. This is usually brought about by high levels of stress, severe depression, mental disorders, tragedy, severe bodily harm, or from external and/or internal chemical imbalances like drug and alcohol abuse or hormonal imbalances. Even suffering a crisis of faith has similar physiological symptoms to a person suffering grief or severe burnout.

        People will seek out answers to their personal crisis in times of great need. Many people in this state are preyed upon by others such as con artists who are after personal gain and many religious organizations who wish to gain followers. So an entity with “Easy Answers” to personal issues would seem like a quick fix in the beginning.

        Not everyone turns to or from religion for their answers, but when an individual seems to suddenly change their position from one extreme to the other, it could be a sign of something else that may be wrong.

  • http://www.deathbeforedishes.blogspot.com/ Leilani Pearce

    Never underestimate the power of religion. Religion is one of the main reasons why my family and I no longer talk. I don’t know if my family views it as being as horribly tragic as terminal cancer or death, but it led to us no longer being in one another’s lives.

    As a non believer, and if I had a choice, I would much rather my child turn to religion than have cancer. But that’s just me.

  • g75401

    So, sad…this woman is reacting to the grief of two children dying by voluntarily pushing the last one away. I imagine that the “religious upbringing” she provided for her kids was a roller coaster ride of acceptance v. rejection and the last one came to his realization as a self-preservation move

  • Oklahoma Atheist

    When I came out about 7 years ago as an atheist, my father basically disowned me. He actually told me that my recent divorce and financial problems were because I “turned my back on God”. I was really hurt. He hasn’t spoken to me since. Won’t answer my phone calls. So be it.

    My mother was much more rational about the ordeal. She said something like, “Well, I’ve always known that you’re skeptical, and that you’d probably go this way. Ok, well we disagree, but you’re my son. Next subject.”

    My brother was the best… he said, “Big deal, so am I.” shock!
    My other brother was indifferent and said we needed to go out and get a beer.

    Many of my friends are no longer my friends. Yet many others didn’t care.

    I think the point I’m trying to make… it is what it is. One can always make new friends, who become just as close as family.

    I’m certainly not going to lose sleep anymore over someone who conditionally loves me.

  • atheisticallyyours

    Parents who “disown” their children for being atheist deserve to be “counter-disowned” as well! If that is the way the pathetic bigots want to play it, then let these so-called “parents” never know any further contact with the child again!

    • baal

      Are you some sort of wandering cloud of negativism that exudes all caps or something? Most of your points are not exactly the best advise or good ways forward.

  • jen

    I was raised in a secular home. I do not have the impulse to ‘fill in the blanks’ with belief in a higher power. My X-ian friends have no desire to see me converted. More than one has told me that they would be worried that something was wrong with me if I suddenly told them I believed. I am raising my children without religious indoctrination. If they developed some religious belief I would be genuinely puzzled and honestly worried about their mental health. I would love them, but I would be pretty distressed. However, I don’t think me rejecting them would be the problem. Religious folks are pretty good at ostracizing people. It would more likely be them rejecting me in that scenario.

  • Judas the carry cot

    OYG!…my new term on fb! lol . it stands for an exclamation of Oh Your Gawd!

  • Robyman4

    Could it be that the third child has made a break from religion because two other people in the family have been afflicted with terrible illnesses? And because there’s no rhyme or reason to why or how a great, mighty and loving God would allow so much trouble (impending death, feebleness, job under threat, the weight of medical bills, beyond the health insurance cap) to befall this family?

  • Stacy

    A childhood friend stopped talking to me because I defriended her on Facebook after she posted a homophobic picture-with-words on Chick-Fil-A day. She wrote to me and said, “I’m sad to see you’re no longer the sweet Stacy you were as a child.”

    I grew up evangelical in a small town, realized I was an atheist at 17, and got out of there as soon as I could. She’s still there, and still all about the Jesus. I know it’s not the same thing as being disowned by a parent, but it still hurt. But I’d rather stand for science and human rights than be “sweet.”

    • michelene

      I love your last sentence! Exactly what I hope to have taught my own daughter to believe. Just wonderful.

  • cipher

    But in no way would I think of them as damaged or as a source of
    existential pain on a par with having a loved one stricken with a fatal
    cancer.

    I can’t agree. If I had a child become a fundamentalist, I’d think of him/her as damaged and it would be a tremendous source of pain to me.

    • Tainda

      First question should be, do you have children?

      • cipher

        I have young cousins whom I helped to raise. I think of them as my children. I’m not saying I’d disown them, but it would be very hard for me.

        I have another young cousin whom I didn’t raise, but with whom I had a relationship. He became an ultra-Orthodox Jew. His beliefs and practices aren’t merely irrational; they often border on the psychotic. After years of arguing with him, I couldn’t deal with it any more and had to walk away.

        Some of the earlier commenters are discussing whether or not they’d cease to love their children if they became criminals. I don’t think I’d do that, but fundamentalism is different for me. For someone to adopt a belief system in which billions of humans are made to suffer unimaginably for all eternity, but not to care as long as he/she gets the existential security blanket for a few brief decades while alive – I don’t see this as being merely mistaken. I see it as evil. In my view, Christian fundamentalists are psychopaths.

        • Thackerie

          I agree. I’d be devastated if I had a child who became a fundamentalist. The child certainly would NOT be dead to me, but it would be like he or she had come down with cancer and it would take a lot of help for the child to recover.

          • joey_in_NC

            So…in other words, both of you could understand how the theist mother could be similarly disappointed in her atheist child, correct?

  • Gus

    I basically agree with your wife. If my kids became religious I would be perplexed. A bit sad even. But as long as they weren’t full on cultists, it would ultimately not be that big a deal to me. Now if they joined a dangerous and manipulative cult that asked them to cut me out of their lives because of my non-religion, that would be close to as bad for me as a terrible disease, I think. But as long as they’re alive, there’s always a chance to get them back to reality. The battle against the cult could be a lot like the battle against disease…

  • Anna

    I guess my reaction would depend on the type of religion. If I had children who decided to adopt fundamentalism, I’d be sad and disapppinted because I think those belief systems are incredibly harmful and immoral. I’d be upset to see my children follow a religion that promotes sexism, homophobia, eternal torture, etc. I’d feel like I failed to teach them morality. I would also wonder if I had failed to meet their emotional needs to such an extent that they felt compelled to seek out a supernatural parent.

    If the religion was mild and relatively benign, I suppose it would be disappointing only because I would feel like I hadn’t taught them good critical thinking skills or perhaps failed to teach them how to cope with death. But liberal religions in general wouldn’t be that big a deal. Most of my friends and family members are liberal theists of one sort or another. As long as they kept their supernatural beliefs in perspective and didn’t become obsessive over them, I can’t imagine it would be a problem.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Which is a problem why, exactly? That shit is biblical, to love Jesus more than one’s own family. We atheists are always complaining that Christians cherry-pick their religion while claiming that the bible is the source of that is good and fluffy in the world. So here we have an example of a Christian following the dictates of her religion exactly as it says on the tin, and we are still complaining?

  • Without Malice

    If there is a God, he should be ashamed that so many of his “children” are so damn hard hearted.

  • WallofSleep

    My poor grandmother constantly laments over the fact that her two daughters, despite being christian, never attend church. More specifically, they never attend her church. “Where did I go wrong?”, “I thought I raised them right.”, “I thought I was being a good mother.”, and so on. For her, not attending church is nearly on the same level as being an atheist.

  • Helen

    I come from a fundamentalist evangelical family. If I admitted to them the depth of my disbelief, they would feel exactly like the mother in this article. We pretty much tiptoe around the subject right now. I feel like I’m only a fringe member of the family at this point. It isn’t always easy, but I’m dealing with it.

  • Chelsea

    That’s like this book I saw years ago in my grandmother’s house. The back said the author had lost “one son to war and one to the homosexual lifestyle.”

    To Grandma’s credit she said it was a stupid book.

  • Dan

    As an aside, I wonder why God, that celestial punisher, hasn’t afflicted the atheist child with a life-threatening condition

    I guess the fact that he hasn’t afflicted the atheist child with an illness disproves your illogical assumptions about God being a celestial punisher. I mean if he was a punisher of all “bad people” then it would logically follow that all bad people would be punished equally, even bad Christians.

    God is not a celestial punisher but a celestial lover. I suspect your view of God has been tainted with misrepresentation by an unknowledgeable teacher, or immature Christian, or your own misinterpretation of Gods character.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X