So, something that’s never happened here; Someone clicked on the Contact button on the homepage and sent me some questions. I thought I would go ahead and attempt to respond here. Of course, I’m not going to mention the name of the person, but I found his questions as something I hear personally from others that struggle with their faith and are at a point in their lives when they’re considering leaving that faith. Read on if you’re interested. Note that I’mnot an adive columnist and that anything I say here is based on my own experience.
Hi, I just came across your blog, and really enjoy it. I just have a question regarding parenting I was hoping you might have some guidance on. Even though I’m wavering in my faith I would still feel guilty telling my daughters (ages 9 and 7) that i dont believe? Is a comforting lie just a terrible thing? Second, Im okay with death being the end of me. But my kids? Not so much. It makes me sick. Any helpful thoughts would be appreciated. I was raised catholic but have struggled with my faith for most of my adult life.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with unbelief. It doesn’t change who you are, or hasn’t for myself anyone I’ve ever met. It is just that informing family and friends may be difficult. But to your questions. Telling young children about belief is something I myself found difficult when my daughter was 7. Daddy, why don’t we go to church? I don’t believe anything they say is true. Is there a God? I don’t know for sure but then no one else does either. God created the universe, didn’t he? No one actually knows the origin of the universe. The problem with saying “God did it” is that statement provides nothing to convince anyone whether it’s true or false. It really depends to me, on how much a person is involved in their local church to talking with children. It may be a bit of a shock it a person is a regular, weekly, attendee and sudden;ly, stop attending. It may be easier, to wean yourself from services over a period of time. I can’t say for sure, because I wasn’t a father when I concluded that I didn’t believe and I find this question fascinating and thought provoking as to how I might approach the situation today.
So that’s kind of a non-answer, answer isn’t it? But there’s something else I think that needs to be considered: even though your children are 9 and 7, and I think kids today are a bit more sophisticated at those ages than I was, are they ready emotionally for any kind of shock to their daily lives? I think most are able to absorb changes like this. Believe it or not, moving to a strange new town may be more stressful for them, than telling them that you have doubts about your faith.
And the questions go on and on. No one, that I know of, is able to answer any questions to any child’s inquiry where they are completely satisfied. The best thing I can do, is live my life, without any belief in any god(s) and show my child that there’s nothing wrong being an unbeliever. Of course, that’s easier said than done, especially for adults that have to navigate a different world.
As to discussing the concept of death with your children, that may actually be somewhat easier. The most truthful answer is, no one knows what occurs after death. Atheists, like me, tend to lean towards the idea of death being the end. Period. But none of us can say for sure, the same as no one, religious or not, can say for certain whether there are any god(s) or not. I don’t see any evidence for any god and that also makes me think that there is no afterlife because all of the mythology in human history concerning gods, has a basis in some sort of heaven or some other place where we go after we die. No gods to me means that it’s unlikely we transition to another world. I would personally not go there, attempting to explain if we have a soul or not. Although there’s no proof for that as well, it really comes down to the fact that we just don’t know.
Most people want to believe that there’s something after this life, and I have no problem, generally with that belief. The problem I’ve had is the concept of if you’re not good (as defined by someone else), then you’ll end up in eternal torture. I think that teaching kids that actual child abuse.
I think what I’m getting at overall here is that unless your children ask you, there’s no reason to sit them down and have a serious conversation about either. If you stop going to church, that may begin that conversation because they’ll certainly want to know why you don’t attend anymore. That’s good because it’s them that have initiated the conversation which, I believe, means they are interested, and even more, ready for that discussion (and yes, it should be a discussion, not a lecture).