Richard Dawkins’ Best Piece of Advice? Break Out of the “Anesthetic of Familiarity”

British “self-help guru” Paul McKenna has an interview show on the Television Four channel (think Charlie Rose). During a recent conversation, he asked Richard Dawkins for the best advice he could offer:



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Slate Advice Columnist: Young Atheist Should Write Unnecessary Essay to Get Out of Going to Sunday School

Yesterday, a letter was published in Slate’s advice column “Dear Prudence” from a mother whose 12-year-old son had no desire to attend church:



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Ask Richard: Parents Pressure Atheist to Persuade Her Sister to Have a Catholic Wedding

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

Hi Richard,

I’ve never actually come out and told my family that I’m an atheist, but it’s something of a poorly kept secret. They certainly know that I’m no longer a Catholic as I was raised, as I’ve refused to have my daughter baptized. But now my parents have decided that it is my lack of faith that has pulled my sister away from the Church, and now that my sister and her fiancé have set a wedding date, this has become an issue that must be immediately remedied.

Both my parents have separately taken me aside and “requested” in the strongest possible terms that I try to persuade my sister to have a Catholic wedding. She doesn’t want to have a Catholic wedding, her fiancé doesn’t want a Catholic wedding, and I think that should be the end of the matter. But my parents want them to have a Catholic wedding, and his parents want a Catholic wedding, so somehow that’s my problem? I would try to talk to the parents about it, but frankly, I’ve never been able to have a rational and reasonable conversation with my parents.

I’m tempted to just stay away from my parents for a while until they cool down, but there are two things that make me hesitant to cut them off. First is my daughter, she spends a day with them every week, and they are wonderful to her, and everyone would be truly crushed if they didn’t get to spend the day together. The second is that I don’t want my little sister to feel that I have abandoned her. She and her fiancé are capable of standing up for each other, and have been more honest with their parents than I have, even though they are much younger, and I don’t want them to feel that they have to make this stand alone.

So I guess my question is, do I just walk away from the situation and hope things calm down? Or do I allow myself to get dragged into this drama and actively try to keep everyone calm in what appears to be a hopeless situation?

Sandra

Dear Sandra,

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Advice Columnist Nails Response to Mother Upset Over Her Son’s Desire to Have a Non-Religious Wedding Ceremony

Since the suggestions traditional advice columnists dole out about atheists are often cringe-worthy, it’s always nice to highlight someone who nailed it.

Robin DesCamp received a letter from a woman whose son and future daughter-in-law were planning a wedding. Just one problem:



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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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