Ask Richard: My Non-Religious Relatives Want to Attend Church for Their Future Children

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

Dear Richard,

Recently my sister called to tell me that despite neither she nor my brother-in-law being religious people, and despite the fact that they both reject the idea of Jesus as a supernatural figure, she and my brother-in-law have decided to attend church regularly. Obviously, if that’s what they want to do with their Sunday mornings, that’s their business. My concern has to do with one reason my sister gave for wanting to attend church: they are planning to have children soon, and she wants to raise her children with a religion.

She said she wouldn’t care if they chose to leave the church when they got older, but seems to think that some sort of religious foundation is necessary. The other, somewhat more baffling reason is that she wants to make it easier for any of her children who would want to have a religious wedding in the future, since a friend of hers had to attend a lot of classes before getting married to a Catholic man, as this friend had not grown up Christian and was never baptized.

I realize the ultimate decision is theirs, but as a concerned sister and aunt-to-be, what can I do in this situation to help mitigate the harm I my sister will be doing to her children by allowing them to be indoctrinated this way? This seems as irresponsible to me as if she’d told me that she was anti-vax.

Nicole

Dear Nicole,
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Sponsor Richard Wade and Atheists United at the AIDS Walk Los Angeles!

This is your chance to save lives and help the atheist cause! On Sunday, October 13 many tens of thousands of people will see atheists being not just good, but EXCELLENT!

AIDS Walk LA crowd

Since its inception in 1985, the annual AIDS Walk Los Angeles has grown into the largest AIDS fundraising event in California and has raised a total of $75 million to support the services provided by AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) and more than 20 other AIDS service organizations in Los Angeles County. It attracts 30,000 participants each year.

I will be walking the 10 km route through West Hollywood with the Atheists United team in our bright red t-shirts with the Atheists United name, phone number, and web address. So far, 13 god-free good guys and gals are ready to joyfully join the massive crowds.

My personal goal is to raise $1,000, and with the help of three dear friends, it’s already at $200. You can help me reach that goal, help conquer AIDS, and help atheists demolish that annoying stereotype of our being selfish nihilists who don’t care about anything.

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Southern California Atheist Group Helps to Clean Up a Riverbed

SCAF group shot at river rally

The Santa Clara River is the largest river system in southern California that is still mostly in its natural condition, not cemented in like an enormous gutter. In southern California the rivers are dry most of the year, but the natural ones are home to abundant wildlife including rabbits, opossums, raccoons, hawks, eagles, egrets, coyotes, deer, mountain lions, and bears. Riverbeds that run near or though cities end up with a lot of litter and junk that contaminate the water and harm the native plants and animals.

Every year the City of Santa Clarita holds a River Rally where local individuals, families, and service groups gather to clean up a section of the river that runs through its city limits. A different section or tributary is selected each year, and in a single day the people haul out several tons of trash and junk.

Last Saturday, the Santa Clarita Atheists and Freethinkers joined over 1,700 people at the River Rally. I’m a member of this group, and this was our first effort to participate publicly in the community as an identified group.

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Ask Richard: Speaking Truth to Grief: An Atheist Responds to His Bereaved Girlfriend

Dear Richard
 
My background: My name is Elliot and I am a 28 year-old guy living in London, UK. I am a teacher and have considered myself an atheist for the last 8 or so years. I am open but not preachy about my beliefs and encourage my pupils to make up their own minds. However I recently ran into a crisis of “faith”.
 
Last weekend my girlfriend’s 21 year-old brother committed suicide. It was not without warning as he had had over 10 years of mental health issues including chronic depression and had made 4 failed attempts in the past. Despite this it was sudden, and she was understandably devastated. They are not a religious family, however in her grief she asked me: “where do you think he is now?” I was at a loss for words as I have never really had to combine comforting someone with an expression of my views. To tell her that he is nowhere anymore, that he simply has stopped being, seemed callous and uncaring. I went with “he is in a better place” (kind of an an opt out) as I figured that not existing anymore must be better than 10 years of depression.
 
My question is this: How do you convey to someone, about whom you care deeply, that the person they have lost is simply dead? Nothing more? How do you make this sound okay? Religion, despite its delusions, does give people who choose it much peace-of-mind (assuming they are not considering the  hell option) and I was wondering how I could convey this through atheism.
 
Any advice would be very welcome.

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Ask Richard: A Follow-Up Letter from a Teenage Atheist Four Years Later

Dear Richard,

I wrote to you back in 2009 when I was in the 8th grade and you really helped me and I wanted to thank you for that. I just recently rediscovered your blog and I figured I would write to you again. I’m now a senior in high school and in the time since the 8th grade I’ve completely reassessed my faith. For a little while I kept trying to be Christian, and for about a year I was. I feel like that was good for me though. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think it’s a very unwise thing to completely disown one’s faith in middle school. I have, however, come to the conclusion that I am an atheist, and I honestly do not see that changing. I’m just worried about any fallout caused by this, and I don’t quite know how to approach certain situations that I face on a near daily basis. I’m trying to get some answers to questions preemptively in hopes that when I’m faced with these situations (either once again or someday in the future) I will know the best way to handle them.

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