Ordinarily a father can speak freely with his children about his own faith (or lack thereof) in a fairly unguarded way. But my situation is more complex than that. At the beginning of my fatherhood adventure, I was essentially an evangelical Christian. Now that my girls are entering adolescence, however, I more readily identify with secular humanism and as such I find myself in an awkward situation. The culture in which they live is almost entirely Evangelical, and I myself am not. To further complicate matters, for reasons that are personal I have not been able to talk with my girls about my own views for quite a while now.
Enough time has passed now, however, that I’m ready to start discussing things with them which I’ve previously left alone for fear that it would upset them. I originally created this page last year to write out for their benefit some of the things that I knew they would need to hear from me when the time was right. I know in time they will have many questions, and I can anticipate many of them because I have already heard them from so many other Christian friends and family who have struggled to understand how a man can go from devout faith to fairly comfortable non-belief. They will likely also have some fears which come from exposure to only one side of this ideological divide, and I would like to address those fears and give my perspective on them as well.
I am publishing my very personal thoughts here not only because it has helped me think through what I would like to say to them, but also because I know there are many others who wrestle with how to speak to their loved ones about their skepticism toward what they were taught to believe. Just as I have, they too will likely encounter strong and emotional disapproval from people close to them, and they will struggle with how to respond in ways that are constructive. Maybe in these letters some will find a helpful suggestion or two which can help move discussion in a positive direction. I welcome feedback, since this is no small or easy thing for me to work through myself, although I will monitor comments on these letters more closely than I do on other posts for reasons that should be obvious.
In short, this page collects together a handful of letters to my four beautiful daughters for them to read when they are ready to read them. I will likely add to them in the future, but so far there are eight.
Nothing in this world matters more to me than you, my precious girls. Anyone who knows me well knows that I’d do anything for you girls. You are a delight to me, and I am happiest when I am with you. I’m so proud of the beautiful young women you are becoming, and I look forward to seeing what direction each of your lives takes as you grow up. I also hope you will always feel comfortable and open towards me and know that you can tell me anything, ask me anything, and I’ll listen and do my best to tell you what you need to know….(read more)
I think what concerns me most about you girls learning I no longer believe in God is that I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable around me in any way. I love the closeness of our relationship and I would be heartbroken if anything took that away from us. I am convinced this issue does not have to do that because, while this discovery may be new for you, it is not new for me at all. I haven’t been a “believer” for four years now, and yet it has never gotten in the way before now. Why must it from this point forward?…(read more)
I can imagine that one of the first things you girls may feel upon learning I am no longer a Christian will be some mixture of worry, fear, and anxiety for my soul. I imagine it could disturb some of you a great deal because over the years you have heard people say some pretty dramatic and condemning things about people who do not believe in God. Most of all, you may fear that one day I will be severely punished for my lack of faith. Beyond simply enduring a miserable life, the church tradition in which you are growing up teaches…(read more)
Not too long ago, I started a conversation with you girls that we didn’t really get to finish. I stopped because it seemed to be making one or two of you very uncomfortable. I brought up the subject of evolution because one of you indicated you didn’t approve of the idea, and I felt like we should discuss it for a minute. I suppose the subject was a little intimidating, and I think I understand why. The idea that humans developed from other species over such long periods of time (millions of years) goes against what many people believe, and wrestling with those differences of opinion can be a bit scary and overwhelming. It’s hard to know what to think when the people you trust don’t agree with each other about really important things…(read more)
One of the hardest parts about growing up is learning which voices to trust. When you are very small, you frankly don’t understand enough to make important decisions, so those are made for you. You don’t have any responsibilities either, so you don’t haveto know that much. But as you get older and your responsibilities multiply, it becomes important that you learn to make decisions for yourself, and that means learning to recognize which voices you can trust and about which topics each voice is best suited to speak…(read more)
I’m sure you have lots of questions about how I came to disbelieve the very faith in which I helped raise you girls during the first few years of your lives. There’s plenty I could say, but I’m in no rush to have that conversation with you because it would be an awful lot to process all at once. You are in the awkward position of having two parents on opposite sides of a pretty controversial divide…(read more)
Your world so far has been pretty small. The people you see on a regular basis represent only a tiny sample of the world, but as you get older hopefully you will get to know a much wider range of people. There’s so much to learn from getting to know new people because you grow a little with each new friend you make. New friends add to who you are, so I hope you encounter a wide variety of them as you grow into the women you will become…(read more)
Posted on April 28, 2103 by Neil Carter
As you girls wrestle with the realization that I no longer agree with or accept so many things which I was taught to believe, and which you yourselves are being taught to believe, at some point you may feel a bit like you’ve been cheated out of a more harmonious family situation. It would be so much simpler if, like many of your friends you’re growing up with, your parents both saw eye-to-eye on most things. I agree, it would be simpler. But I’m not convinced that means it’s necessarily better…(read more)
(More to come in the future)