This advice column in the Washington post reads like a case study into how and why some people get fed up with religion. And yet a good many religious people don’t understand why and pretend that they’re being persecuted.
Let’s take a look at this train-wreck of a letter, penned by a ‘concerned’ mother:
Dear Carolyn: I am a stay-at-home mother of four who has tried to raise my family under the same strong Christian values that I grew up with. Therefore I was shocked when my oldest daughter, “Emily,” suddenly announced she had “given up believing in God” and decided to “come out” as an atheist. She said she was “happy” in her decision and that it just “felt right.” She no longer wishes to attend church, speak to the pastor or even participate in family prayers.
I love my daughter dearly, but I am troubled by this turn of events. She has never seriously misbehaved or otherwise given me cause to worry before this. Emily insists she is old enough to make up her own mind, but I simply do not think a girl of 16 has the maturity to make such a life-changing decision. Our pastor cautions me that putting too much pressure on her now might cause her to become even more entrenched in her thinking.
How can I help my daughter see that she is making a serious mistake with her life if she chooses to reject her God and her faith? Can I just chalk this up to teenage rebellion, something she’s bound to outgrow, or do you suppose this is a precursor to some deeper psychological problem? — God-Fearing Mom
The bolding is on purpose because I think those are the key points.
However, it’s hard to know where to begin with this letter. On the flip side, the columnist does a great job of tearing a strip from the ‘God-Fearing Mom’, while making some great points along the way. You can read the full response here.
Let’s start with the first bolded part; the part about the mother having ‘strong Christian values’. I’d very much like to know what these strong Christian values are. Is it the part where she belittles her daughter’s right to choose and basically calls her mentally unbalanced because she doesn’t believe in the God that her mother does? Is it the part where she totally dismisses her daughters feelings and thought processes? Or is it the part where she says her daughter is ‘rejecting’ her God and her faith by thinking for herself and coming to her own decision – one she seems happy about?
Hell, the mother even says that her daughter has given her very little trouble. You’d think she’d clue in and realize that being religious doesn’t necessarily make someone a good person and being an atheist doesn’t mean you’re either a good or bad person either.
The point being that this is one of the things that amazes and stupefies me about religion. It can take healthy feelings and corrupt them.
For example, this mother is probably afraid that her daughter is going to suffer an eternity in hell. Her religious beliefs have taken a good feeling (her love) and perverted it (fear) into a bad one that is probably wholly unjustified. It’s gone far enough that the mother believes that her daughter’s atheism is a psychological disorder, for crying out loud.
And all this based on ancient pieces of literature, written by men at a time when schizophrenics were thought to be demon possessed and the wheelbarrow was considered emerging technology. To this point, there is (thankfully) no evidence to support the belief that unbelievers will go to a burning place of agony.
In an article seeded by King Dave yesterday, a poster said that Christianity does indeed have something to teach us. Among other things, the poster asserted that Christianity can teach faithfulness, goodness, caring and peace.
I suppose it could in the right context. However, I don’t see it in evidence here.
I also think faith (belief in things unsupported by evidence) is one of the most overrated virtues. If believers can’t respect a person’s decision to not believe in their unsupported claim, then they shouldn't be surprised when the call for evidence continues unabated. When believers stop trying to cram their unsupported claims down everyone else’s throats and start to view it as a personal decision, then maybe those calls for evidence will quiet down.