My atheist child and the use of "God Bless You" and "I'll pray for you"

Just a quick backstory. I am a Buddhist and my daughter is 14 years old and an atheist. Her dad was an atheist as well and was K.I.A. last year in Afghanistan. We divorced late 2009 and he remarried 3 months later. My daughter lived with her dad and step mom for half of their marriage. She was back home with me for a few months when her dad died. After the funeral, which my daughter missed, her step mom blocked and deleted her on FB. The step mom was also named beneficiary to the life insurance and decided not to share any with my kid.

This is what has really fired me up. The very first letter we got regarding her dad's death was from a Congressman and it had Bible verses in it and ended with "May God Bless you and continue to Bless this great country The United States of America." After my kid read that she looked so distraught. Ever since it has been one after the other.

I have been reaching out to organizations to help get some funding for my daughter to study abroad. Her dad was going to help with it and I'm now searching other outlets. I am a disabled veteran and my kid is an atheist and that doesn't seem to go over well with most of these groups.  I ask for help and constantly get the stock responses that I put in the title. I am starting to view this as dismissive and it is reeking of insincerity. Today I reached out to a group on Facebook and what I got was this....

"Natasha, I'm so sorry. We will never forget his sacrifice for our freedom, our Hero. My prayers for you & your daughter. God Bless"

I could go in a million different directions on that short statement but won't. What does a anti-war veteran mom with an atheist child do in response to this? 



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call a lawyer tomorrow.

Thats right ....

"I'll pray for you" is a tough one for me to deal with, personally. On the one hand, it's nice to have evidence that you care about me and your heart is in the right place. On the other hand, you're dismissing my entire belief system by offering me a gift you know doesn't make any difference to me one way or the other. It's like a manifestation of "it's the thought that counts" that doesn't even attempt to go any further, but most people who offer it seem to think that's enough.

Most of the time, I just let it go. It bothers me that just by existing as myself, I cause some people such concern that they feel the need to pray for me, but I can't really help that other than assuring them that atheism is okay and hoping they'll get used to it. You have a slightly better motivation to stop such comments than I do because they seem to be emotionally distressing your daughter. This may not be possible in some cases, but politely informing some repeat offenders of the problem might help. On the other hand, it might encourage some to evangelize... you know your audience better than I.

Particularly in times of distress, I think most people's religious comments come from a general place of intended consolation rather than anything genuinely related to belief in a deity. Troubling that the language remains Christianized, but the underlying message is "you're in my thoughts" or "it gets better", and I've learned to take it that way. Perhaps you could explain to your daughter that some people have difficulty expressing sympathy without referring to their personal comfort object? Kind of like when people offer well-meaning but unasked-for advice when you're upset, or when a child brings you one of their stuffed animals. Even though the way they comfort themselves won't necessarily work for you, they are genuinely trying to help.

As for studying abroad... I'm afraid most of my scholarships came from Christian sources, so I can't help you there. Is it necessary to reveal your daughter's atheism to these organizations? Do they require a statement of faith before doling out funds? She needn't masquerade as a Christian, but it might be possible to just let religion be a subject that doesn't happen to come up with potential sponsors.

Any person serving in a war zone owes it to his or her family to explicitly spell out and provide for his family in case the worst happens.  This is as much the fault of the deceased as the step mother.


I cant believe that she missed her Dads funeral. Thats terrible.

I'm curious why her father didn't include her in the will and that she didnt have a relationship with her dads new partner either. Poor kid. Maybe a lawyer could help getting some of that money for her.

"I could go in a million different directions on that short statement but won't. What does a anti-war veteran mom with an atheist child do in response to this?"

Just say thank you and move on with helping your daughter grow through this. Dont get angry. Thats not good for her. Your daughter has lost a lot and has a lot to deal with emotionally.

I would say not to get all political with labels like 'anti-war veteran mom' and 'atheist child.' I dont think those things are very helpful.

For now,  how about just being plain old nurturing mom. Make her chocolate cake and do comfort things and let your daughter heal.



Yes indeed! I would second this.

Your daughter needs you more than she needs money right now. I know you're prob'ly feeling angry and resentful, but you can't allow that to distract your attention away from your daughter. Also, poisoning your daughter's mind against her step-mom, would be counter productive.

I know it's easier said than done, but you have to look to the future, and not dwell on the past. You can't change the past, but you can control your future.

Playing the 'blame game' is not going to help anyone.

Yes, maybe your daughter is entitled to a share of the inheritance left by her Dad, but it seems you're not going to get it without a court battle.  I don't know how that works in the US, but over here, you need to be rich to take that on. In the end, you'll all be poor, and only the lawyers will benefit.


Sort of beyond the point, and purely for my own edification:

Isn't there some sort of agency, somewhere in that alphabet soup of US Government agencies, that could help with funding for your daughter's education? I would think that your country owes you and your daughter at least that much.

Refusing her funding because she's an Athiest, sounds like religious prejudice to me, (or as you call it in the US, 'discrimination'?). As I understand this, it's a big no-no in the US, and that there are (allegedly) laws to protect your religious freedom. (or is that only to protect you if you're a Christian?)

Also, as your daughter is a minor, would her religious status even be considered? After all, you would be the one doing all the paper-work so you would be the only one required to disclose your religious affiliation. They weren't concerned about your religion when you and your husband fought for your country, why should it count against you and your daughter after you've made such sacrifices?

Which begs another question: Why would they even ask? I understand that in the US it's illegal to ask about your religious affiliation on job applications, why would it be okay to ask on applications for financial aid? (Which IMO your country owes you).


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