Ask Richard: British Teen Atheist Enduring Muslim Exorcisms

Note: I have altered a few details of this letter to better conceal the writer’s identity, because safety is of concern. The gist of the situation remains the same.

Dear Richard,

I come from an incredibly strict Muslim household, I am a teenager and living in the UK, and I am an atheist. My mum believes that our entire family is ‘possessed’ by ‘jinns’ (devils). She has previously sent us all to a Muslim version of a priest who basically performed an exorcism, only with the Quran instead of the Bible, and he pressed “pressure points” which left my sister and mum with large bruises.

It was very disturbing. My mum and siblings believe it all, and so the “devils” supposedly “speak through them,” even though I know that it is probably their minds creating these alternate personas after being put through a physically and emotionally terrible situation.

The sessions were a frequent thing last year. I thought she forgot about it all, but now she’s saying that she will send me to this ‘retreat’ lasting a few days, where they will do what I described above as well as forcing me to do other Islamic rituals. I think that it’s supposed to start very soon, not sure because she only revealed she was going to send me when she was angry and shouting at me. I really don’t want to go. What can I do to make her not send me?

Thanks for your time and help,
More Than Just A Little Scared

My dear young friend,

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Ask Richard: Atheist with Terminal Cancer Faces Several Decisions

Dear Richard,

Two days ago, I was diagnosed with brain cancer for the 3rd time in 14 years. To make a long story short, my cancer has evolved from a grade II Astrocytoma, to the most aggressive form, grade IV Glioblastoma Multiforme. Glioblastoma is incurable and I probably won’t survive past 15 months.

My family is Lutheran and very conservative. Both of my parents disapprove of gay people, atheists, and non-Christians, so telling them I’m atheist on top of my recent diagnosis, and eldest sister’s recent death will absolutely crush them. Now that the rest of my family has been told of my fate, the ‘I will pray for you’ s and the constant church visits are non-stop. My parents are trying to push herbal treatments on me now and they are trying to get me into the Burzynski Clinic, which is a gigantic scam towards cancer patients. They are also trying to plan a trip to someplace like Hawaii, but I don’t exactly want that. My also atheist brother is trying to help me with everything, but he is scared that he will probably tip off my parents about us.

I need help with a lot of things:

. Should I or should I not tell them about my atheism?
. Should I start college this fall?
. How should I ask for a non-church, non-Lutheran funeral?
. Should I tell the rest of my family?
. Should I accept treatment (survival without treatment is 3-4 months)
. How am I supposed to die with grace?

The last one is most important to me. I don’t want to die with medicines constantly being shoved into my mouth and trips all around the world. I just want to spend time with my family like I normally would: Sitting together around a dinner table, making each other laugh and making google eyes at my brother while we’re supposed to be at church.

Thank you for everything,
The Cancer Chick

Dear Cancer Chick,

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Friendly Atheist Podcast Episode 5: Amy Dickinson

Our latest podcast guest is Amy Dickinson, best known as the syndicated columnist behind “Ask Amy” and as a panelist on NPR’s “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!”:

We spoke with Amy about her most viral column ever, whether Carl Kasell does the message on her voicemail, if her own child comes to her for advice, and so much more!

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Ask Richard: Grandmother Proselytizing Young Boy Behind His Atheist Parents’ Backs

Dear Richard,

My mother is a practicing Pentecostal Christian and has recently begun heavily witnessing to my five-year-old son. I was raised in this cult-like religion, but have been an atheist for nearly 10 years now. Although my mother and I have never had an in-depth conversation regarding my deconversion, she knows where I stand on the issue of religion.

The past few times my son has spent time with her (she lives several houses away so he doesn’t see her regularly) she has taught him religious songs and has talked to him about inviting Jesus into his heart, praying, Heaven, etc. She has placed prayer cloths (strips of cloth church members pray over) in his room and once when she kept my son and infant daughter overnight at her house she took them to choir practice and had the choir members pray over them.

To make matters worse she has asked my son to keep these things a secret from me, and his father who is also an atheist. Being five, my son of course cannot keep a secret, and told us what happened after each event. I’m not sure how to approach my mother regarding her behavior.

My mother and I have always been extremely close and I love her very much, but I am deeply saddened and hurt by her actions. I know that I cannot have a rational conversation with her because I have tried this in the past. When my son was one, she said she wanted to take him to Sunday School and I explained in as nice a way as possible that this was not going to happen. She became enraged and cried uncontrollably. The subject was never broached again by either one of us. My husband is angry with my mother and wants me to talk to her ASAP. I know that I have to speak with her about this, but I don’t want to permanently damage our relationship. Do you have any advice on how I can talk to my mother?

Sincerely,
A Concerned Mother


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A Pastor Responds to a Question About Prayer in Schools with an Unusually Excellent Answer

Usually, when I link to an advice column, it’s because the advice-giver said something so completely wrong, it’s deserves mocking. When the advice column is written by a religious figure, the odds of that happening are even greater. (Think Rev. Billy Graham‘s column.)

But Rev. Jason Peterson, writing for the Algona Upper Des Moines newspaper, had such a fantastic response to the question “How should Christians approach the question of school prayer?” that it’s worth our attention. Instead of arguing about those damned liberal hippie Communist atheists who took prayer out of our schools, Peterson gives us proper background on the issue and offers a very reasonable approach for Christians to follow:

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