When Atheists Fail as Parents

The Guardian today has an essay by a bemused father whose eight year old daughter is converting to Catholicism.  He and his wife, both atheists, are both quite taken aback by this decision.   He writes:

I was, however, inclined to agree when my wife, who’s a pretty vehement atheist, said that she could cope with just about any life decision our children may make – apart from them wanting to join the military or the clergy. So what happened when our oldest daughter decided that, not only does she believe in God (capital G), but that she also wants to be baptised into the Catholic faith?

For the most part, he is quite accepting.  The comments, as can be expected, really bring out the worst in the secular commentariat.  Nevertheless, an interesting story.  God bless her and her parents as she ventures into her new life of faith!

Update 1/14:  I need to learn to spell “atheist.”  The title is corrected.

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  • http://atomicwasteland.wordpress.com Atomic Mutant

    How exactly did they fail as parents? By accepting their daughter’s choice? Yes, I know, it’s not following the example set by Christians how tend to be not as accepting when their children become atheists, but hey… Nobody is perfect.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      A.M. You hit it right on the head: this was an ironic reference to the reaction of (some) Christian parents when their children become atheists.

  • K


    I am intrigued by your title. Quite surprised by it, actually.

    How did these parents “fail as parents”?

    It seems to me that creating a home in which their young daughter could chart her own path and do so without fear of losing their love in the process is rather a success story.

    I find this reinforced by the willingness of the father to join his daughter in something she finds to be of value (like attending Mass, for example).

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      See my response to Atomic Mutant above. An attempt at humor that clearly did not work so well.

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

        Well, feel free to beat me up about something else! :-)

  • freescot

    Relieved to read the comments and yours, David.

  • Wj

    Please allow me for a moment to defend a nonironic reading of David’s title. Parents attempt to inculcate in their children beliefs which the parents think are true. If a child of eight years has already rejected these beliefs, then it seems fairly obvious to me that the parents have failed successfully to transmit these beliefs. If my eight year old daughter were suddenly to convert to Mormonism, I would think that I had failed to communicate to her the truth, and I would be right in so thinking. Likewise, if my daughter of the same age suddenly believed that evolution was false, despite my trying to have communicated to her its truth, I would have failed in my attempt. Suppose, moreover, that I care deeply about either catholicism or evolution such that the truth of these beliefs is, I believe, especially important for a flourishing human life. Then I would have failed in a still deeper sense, it seems to me. I don’t see that you can deny as much without committing yourself to the view that the freedom to choose beliefs is more important than believing what is true. It’s not. The freedom to choose beliefs is important only so that you can believe true ones. Liberalism is politically necessary perhaps but it’s incoherent when transformed into an account of belief per se. And God forbid that families must be run as proceduralist democracies.