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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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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The Wrong Advice to Give to a Mother Whose Children Are Subject to Proselytizing in School

In a recent Slate column, Emily Yoffe offers far-too-cautious advice for a mother whose child is dealing with religious proselytization in the classroom.

Here’s the setup:

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New Video Series for Secular Student Group Leaders

Admittedly, this is total shameless self-promotion. However, it’s done with the intention of trying to help. 

Gordon Maples and I (Kelley Freeman) have started a video advice series for the leaders of Secular Student Alliance affiliate groups. We are both alumni of really strong SSA groups with at least six or seven years of group running experience between us. While this is not an official project of the Secular Student Alliance, we want this to be as helpful as possible and we take questions on Twitter (or in the comment sections of the YouTube videos).

We plan on doing a video every Monday night at 7:30p (ET) — and they are Google Hangouts on Air so they are live! So far, Gordon and I have covered starting your own secular group on campus and tabling effectively. This coming week, we will be talking about how to run meetings and choose meeting topics.

These videos shouldn’t last much longer than half an hour each week. Occasionally, we’ll have other experts on to talk about topics (Hemant has promised to show up at some point)!

Here is our latest video, about tabling:

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