How does an atheist son deal with religious father?

My father is a hard core catholic, and is constantly badgering me. I have tried everything I can think of to let him know that his religious choices are not for me. Reason doesn’t seem to work. I don’t know what to tell him so that he doesn’t disown me. Thoughts?

Posted: December 26th 2011

Dave Hitt www

Being disowned is not the end of the world. In fact, for some people, it is the beginning of a whole new world. A much better world.

It’s difficult to accept, but sometimes you have to give up on relatives to live your own life. If that results in them disowning you, so be it.

Typically, the manipulative religious relative will disown you, wait six or eight or twelve months, initiate contact just long enough to rip open the scar tissue, and then vanish again. They will repeat this as long as you allow it. If you have kids they’ll use them to get to you. That’s why the best thing is often to disown them back, refuse to have anything to do with them, period, unless they take the unlikely step of growing a brain.

Forget the fact that he’s your father for a moment. If he were just the guy living next door, would you want to spend time with him? Would you want to have anything to do with him? There’s your answer.

Posted: February 11th 2012

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flagellant www

I have every sympathy with you over your disputes with your father. I cannot suggest a magic answer. I had much less trouble with my (non-Catholic) father. His badgering was rather half-hearted. One day, he made a particularly inane, judgemental remark – I cannot remember what it was – and I commented ‘If that’s Christianity for you, then thank goodness I’m an atheist.’ He never bothered me again and our relationship remained amicable. I don’t recommend that you use this line, but it certainly made my father think and behave more reasonably.

You say that you have tried reason. I wonder if you’ve tried asking him to accept that people are different, have different views, and that it is unreasonable to expect one’s children’s views to be identical to one’s own. After all, kids are different people, not clones of the parent(s). There must be many things you agree on; try stressing those. If you have to talk about religion, point out that there are very many religions and each maintains that it is the only true faith. Well, they can’t all be right. Whether you add ‘But they can all be wrong…’ is up to you. You might also try badgering him on something – perhaps trying to convert him to a belief in Pastafarianism or to support a football team he doesn’t like – and see how he likes it. You might be able to come to an agreement that neither will, in future, badger the other about strongly held beliefs.

When I had a child of my own, his teenage opinions were sometimes different from mine – not too much, but enough – and we talked about things in a low-key way and simply agreed to differ. This is how reasonable people behave. I assume that you and your father have enough in common to allow you to get on with each other when the subject of religion is off the agenda and that talk of disowning is rhetorical.

Posted: January 5th 2012

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Galen Rose www

Yours is indeed a difficult situation. If it were me, I’m thinking I would try to get him to understand that you can’t just will yourself to believe something that doesn’t make sense to you. You might, as illustration, ask him if he could will himself to believe in Santa Claus at this point in his life. If you see no evidence of a god in the world, then how are you to go about believing in it?

Why should you take the word of those primitive men who wrote the Bible in a superstitious age, thousands of years ago, when they provided no tangible evidence? They made many claims, but none of those claims can be supported. Under those circumstances, believing requires a leap of faith, but a leap of faith is just a guess by another name; it is merely assuming as fact something which can’t be proven.

And the Bible is no help. Did Absalom’s jackass really talk to him? Did the serpent really talk to Eve? Why should one believe this? These stories aren’t history, they’re myth and legend. If anything in the Bible is true, it is still the case that no one can prove which parts are true and which are just made up stories.

Explain to him that it wouldn’t do anyone any good for you to pretend to believe something that you don’t believe. That would just make you dishonest, and no real god would be fooled.

Posted: January 5th 2012

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If you have tried everything within reason, then, there it is. Hard-core Catholics are only doing what they think what they must do. They would feel terribly wrong if they accepted their child’s atheism. Yet not all devout Catholics disown their atheist children, so your father probably has a very stubborn streak.

If your father does disown you, make it clear to him and to other relatives—especially the ones with whom both of you are still in contact—that you are always willing to resume contact and that you understand that he is only doing what he thinks is right.

Posted: January 5th 2012

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