So, your child is heathen… what a conundrum. There are so many different avenues you could take to deal with this. You could kick them out of the house until they recognize that the evidence for god is all around them. You could berate them for falling into Satan’s grasp. You could disown your child because that doesn’t make religion look worse… at all. You might force them to go to church, send them to religious school or start a daily family prayer that’s mandatory. With a million ways to handle this, how is a faithful parent to know the correct way?
While you’re praying about it, I thought I’d give you some tangible answers that you can use without having to interpret signs from god.
What Not To Do
1. Do not get angry.
If anything, your anger will only serve to prove to your godless kiddo, that your religion is a load of bull. You see if your religion has any weight to it, whatsoever, and your god is worth worshipping at all, neither needs you to defend it. The more irate you become, the weaker your god looks. The distance between you and your hellbound offspring will expand like a chasm in the melting arctic ice, and you will lose, guaranteed, any chance you had at all of drawing your child back in for fresh brainwashing. Sorry, I meant rebirth.
2. Do not shun, excommunicate, disown or kick your child out of the home.
If what you want is for your child to find god again, and to save his or her soul from the clawing grasp of the fallen one, giving them more reason to resent your belief system is not really the best avenue to that end.
3. Do not damn them to hell, as that’s probably a big part of the reason why they have trouble believing anymore.
You see, atheists can’t seem to reconcile the idea of a benevolent god with eternal torture – benevolence and torture aren’t often on the same platter together. Reminding the freshly freed mind of your damned little one of why they stopped believing in the first place will only serve to cement their atheism.
4. Do not force religion on your little heretic, in any way.
Again you run the risk of deepening the disdain your itty bitty apostate has for your faith.
What You Can Do
1. Talk to your child
Ask them why they don’t believe in god anymore. It’s important that you remain respectful, recognizing that your son or daughter is his or her own person, entitled to their own thoughts, beliefs and opinions. Any hint of sarcasm, resentment or anger is going to be sensed right away and could cause your son or daughter to avoid talking to you in the future. Having open, honest and judgment-free conversations about your beliefs and theirs is going to promote a trusting relationship between the two of you.
2. Recognize that there is nothing wrong with your child.
There are no demons grasping for his soul, he’s not stupid and no one has gotten to him. He’s not sick or possessed or angry at god. He doesn’t just want to sin, and he isn’t just rebelling against god’s rules. He just cannot find a reason to believe in a god. It’s different from how you feel, but until a god is proven you can’t really assert that your way is the right way.
3. Let them explore the ideas they want to explore, freely.
This is their path. It’s not yours.
4. Love them just the same.
If god is truly about unconditional love, and he oozes benevolence, and you are supposed to be bringing glory to such a being, it doesn’t make much sense to hang the love of your child on the caveat that they share the exact same religious beliefs as you. If your god is as benevolent you say he is, then there’s no need to do anything but just love your heathen child as much as you ever have.
No one can prove if there is a god or not. No one can really prove there is an afterlife. By shunning your child, or withholding your love simply because they don’t believe the same wild tale about creation you do, then you run a very serious risk. You run the risk that this is all we’ve got, as atheists suspect. You are risking the one life we are sure we have, and all the people who matter in it, in favour of your hope for bliss. The thing is if your blissful afterlife turns out not to be true, and what really mattered all along were the people you loved in this life, and you went and threw it all away for a fictitious god, you don’t get any do-overs. You don’t get your child back; you don’t get that bond back; you don’t get to redo all those lost years. You’re just gone, lost in the void, having lived out a pathetic, angry life for a pathetic, angry god who turned out not to be real.
Don’t take that risk. Love your kids no matter who they turn out to be. This is what any god worth worshipping would want you to do, anyway.
What advice do you have for religious parents of heathen kids? Let me know in the comments!