My Friends’ Children and My Atheism

atheistsThere was an interesting question in Dr. Abby this morning and it made me think about my own situation in regards to Atheism and my friends’ children. In the column an atheist couple had been asked by their parents to refrain from telling nieces and nephews about their lack of religious belief.

I’ve been asked by children of my friends on a number of occasions about my religious beliefs and I don’t hesitate to tell them I’m an atheist. I like to think I’m not a jerk about it. I tell them that I think everyone should believe what they want to believe and that I don’t think any differently of them for believing in god or not. That I like them just the way they are.

The thing that I wonder about is that by doing so am I alienating my friends. Do they cringe when I tell their children that I’m an atheist. When I explain that I don’t find the evidence for the existence of god to be convincing. Do they perhaps not invite me over because they are afraid I will expound on my atheism to their children. Are they concerned that my arguments will turn their own children into atheists.

One of my friends has a son who has become an atheist himself and I wonder if there is some resentment that I perhaps my own lack of faith was instrumental in his turning away from their religion.

These are not lighthearted concerns. If a person is of a deeply religious nature and their child becomes an atheist it is their belief system that this child will be forever torn from them in the, admittedly non-existent, eternal afterlife. While I’m absolutely certain that no such afterlife exists, my friends feel differently and the idea that their children will not be with them in this fantasy realm is emotionally and likely physically disturbing.

None of my friends has asked me to refrain from talking about atheism and the only time I do so is when I’m directly asked about my religious beliefs. However during everyday conversation I often speak about scientific topics that contradict biblical inerrancy; including things like continental drift, evolution, and space-time. For example I occasionally talk to children about how North and South America fit together like puzzle pieces with Europe and Africa and how this relates to plate-tectonics. These are topics that I worry about.

I do think the grand-parents in the case of the Dr. Abby column are making a mistake by hiding the fact that atheism is even a possibility and this is clearly demonstrated by the fact that their children have become atheists. I don’t think lying to children, or anyone for that matter, is a good or effective policy. The truth almost always makes itself known in the end. I think the grand-parents would be better off explaining that some people don’t believe the same thing as they do. That being said, I’m not a parent.

Any other atheists out there have any thoughts? Any religious parents with atheist friends?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

6 thoughts on “My Friends’ Children and My Atheism

  1. I am struck by the process of “coming out of the closet” as an atheist and it’s similarity to coming out as a lesbian, which also induces cringes in friends and family over something one has no power to change. If you don’t believe in God, any attempt to plunge into a religion will be a sham. If one gender makes your tail wag faster, the other one never will. Friends who cringe can be made to go away, but one is more or less stuck with family. Being shunned by some members of my family may have hurt deeply in my younger days, but as I proceed well into middle age, and especially as our culture changes toward more acceptance, I find the shunning was always a threat made with an unloaded gun.

    • Hello Linuxgal,

      Thank you for the deeply personal comment. I do see the analogy between sexuality and religion in this case. As for me, I worry about causing my friends distress unintentionally. I don’t think there’s anything to be done about it. But I still feel some distress that my beliefs might cause them to not want me around their children.

      It’s a shame you were shunned as both you and your family suffered I’m sure. I’m glad you’ve arrived at a point where you are comfortable with yourself and events.

      Come back any time!

      Tom

  2. Tom, I believe in God, and I attend church semi-regularly with my two sons (10 and 13). In the past 10 years my husband has moved from being agnostic to being an atheist. I tell my sons that beliefs are personal and it is okay to change one’s beliefs. My 10 year old has a friend who is an atheist. Other students at school have said mean and unkind things to him (I’m not sure what he said about the religious classmates though). I basically tell my kids that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs as long as they are not hurting others.

    • Hi Carol,

      Thank you for the reply. It’s good to hear from a religious person’s perspective.

      I agree with your strategy but I can see how someone deeply religious would disagree.

      Thanks for the comment and come back any time!

      Tom

  3. Atheism to myself has always been a conclusion; while faith is an active search. I grew up in the Catholic Church and at times in my youth I was devout. I said prayers everyday, prayed the rosary, and I did gain strength out of that faith. However, I’ve fallen away from that aspect, not that I don’t believe in God but after majoring in Classics I approached it a much different way than a child. Through my Classical education I become a firm believer of natural law and natural rights, to myself through logical reasoning I have found that for natural law and thus morality to exist in my viewpoint it is created through nature. This is much how the conversion of C.S. Lewis from Atheism to Christianity took place; however, in my experience it merely reaffirmed my faith.

    I had to understand faith through the ideas of Paul in Roman and the Stoics of Ancient Greece. Where nature, or transcendent being, gave us each a conscience to recognize what is good to make us happy, and what is evil that makes us sad. This is of course a facile explanation, but that point of all of this is that it is my belief that many parents or adults feel that they can’t compete with the reasoning and logical aspect of Atheism. This is because they are mostly certainly void of the tools to articulate a convincing debate. Even most pastors or religious leaders do not speak on this level because they are practiced on the concept of, “believe as a child.” The only issue with this is that with this argument you lose the most intellectual minds.

    I have no issue with hiding atheism, everyone should should know all angles. The idea of Atheism it’s relationship to Theism and that of natural law in my mind actually makes a more convincing argument against Atheism.

    I believe that every Atheist who is true to the rules of logic and applies them to natural law and rights, can’t help but feel the need to take the journey in search for more answers instead of being content with the conclusion of their journey.

    P.S.

    This of course is my thoughts, I’m really not attempting to convince you or anyone otherwise. I’m just explaining how I’ve reached faith in my life, and I conclude that atheism because of this I don’t see as a threat.

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