So recently there was an email sent out (by my father, to the rest of the family) and it was basically saying that all Democrats hate god and blah blah blah, nation dying blah blah blah, here are some bible verses.  After some intense discussion where most of my family shat on my beliefs and called me stupid, I started a discussion with my father asking him to not include me on these types of emails in the future.  He then said that I need to change my ways and I emailed him back instances where religion has failed and should not be involved in government.  This was his response:

>Hi Hon.  Well, my question would be when did I ever “force” my beliefs on you?  You may have been required to go to church when you were under our roof, but you were never forced to pray for Christ to be your Savior.  You were told what the Scriptures said and then given the opportunity on your own free-will to either accept or reject that.  Salvation is a choice, not a forced belief.  No one has come into your home and dragged you off to church against your will.  I don’t call you up and yell at you for not going to church.  I may not agree with your choice, but I won’t force you into going.  I can recall you kids asking me “Am I saved?”.  I can’t answer that because it is up to you to come to Christ on your own.  I must chide you though on your statement that if you were to see God you would tell Him just how much you disagree with Him concerning His stand on homosexuality.  Once again, please create for me anything from absolutely nothing with just using your voice.  The day that you can call into existence a world, then I may think you might have some ability to govern the universe.  Until then, my idea will be that you are far less than God and since He knows what is good and evil I will obey what He says is right.  I am not a Calvinist who believes that God controls the lives of all individuals.  He did give you a free-will.  Along with that free-will is a guide for living your life in a way that will be blessed.  You will make the choice on how to live it.  You will be responsible in answering to Him how well you listened.
You seem to think that a nation based on religion must be bad. You cite the Middle Eastern countries.  Let’s take a look at countries based on non-religion such as China or Communist Russia.  While they may trumpet a woman’s equality, in practicality it just isn’t true.  Countries such as that restrict you even more so and keep a closer eye on you than you would have found in your life.  I admit that our government is not the same as what I grew up in, but that is because they are becoming more socialistic and communistic with each passing election.  The nation is turning away from its freedoms and demanding that the government run their lives.  What is wanted is a government that will oversee everything and punish those who have worked and become successful.  So, what trend will you be voting into office?  Amanda, I have only been alive for 57 years, but I can tell you that the moral slide and subsequent degeneration that I see in America is shocking.  We will not survive as an influential nation for many more decades.  Probably by the time you are my age this country, if still in existence, will be a non-factor in the world.  It is what the people are going to vote into office.  You say that if the people demand a new social norm then shouldn’t that country comply.  It is, and it will not turn out well.  You grew up in a country based on religion.  You were given an education.  You were encouraged to be the best you could be.  You were not denied anything that would make you a better person.  So, what is your argument?  It doesn’t have a leg to stand on.  You can point to other countries as to just what is wrong with them, but you cannot point to the privileges that were given to you and demand a religious free government.  It is because this nation was founded on the beliefs in the Bible and the God of that Bible that you have what you have.
Concerning the Pledge of Allegiance.  The words "under God" were added in 1954 by then President Eisenhower, who stated at the time, "In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America's heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country's most powerful resource in peace and war."  This change came from a president who went to war to fight for our freedoms.  The world threat at that time was communism, and as they state in their manifesto they do not believe in God and want nothing religious in their form of government.  Interesting to see how far America has moved from its heritage and is running towards a communistic and socialist form of government.  What form of government will you be voting into office?
You say that if I can accept your beliefs and if I don’t push my beliefs on you then we will get along just fine.  I wish you could hear your statement as I hear it.  I couldn’t think of a more disrespectful thing to say to my Dad.  While my Father was not a Christian, and his ways were so completely different from God’s, I knew that my goal in life was to honor him.  I did that because God said “Honor your father and mother that your days may be long upon the earth”.  I did to his dying day.  If you want to know how much I love my Dad and respect him just ask me and I will gladly tell you.  I pray your children will never speak to you in that way.  You don’t understand that right now and you may never understand it.  I don’t agree with your beliefs, but I have not and will not push my beliefs on you.  However, I will not be silent when I see you headed towards what I know will not end well.  My daughter, I love you.
I'm....without words about this and since I've been wanting to share this situation for a while I decided to share the end of the discussion.  So thoughts?  I'm sad that I hurt his feelings but honestly I feel like if he can't see how he is pushing his religion on me every time he sends me an email with a bible verse in it or calls my actions/beliefs amoral, then he deserves it.  Am I a horrible person? (Please answer honestly...also would it help if I posted what I wrote to him?)
Obviously, they don't know I'm an atheist. 

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I DID find it especially interesting that his OWN dad was an atheist. I'll bet there's an interesting story there, and I can't help wondering what part that may have played in your dad's adopting religion --

Well, ok - you're not a horrible person. You may need to remind your father that although you remain his daughter, you are also now an adult with your own thoughts and feelings and logic. How else would have he wanted to raise his child?

Hi Amanda,

Focusing in on just that last paragraph, it sounds like your dad is saying - you get to choose, but so do I.  Your dad seems to truly believe that you are headed for disaster.  While we here know that choosing reason does not lead to doom and gloom, many of us have to accept that it is not so easy for our families to understand this.  I really can't fault a father for wanting to save his daughter the pain of what he believes will come.

Now, this doesn't mean that you should just sit back and yield or silently agree, but you may want to try changing tactics.  I always remind myself to first seek to understand.  Do you know why your dad is sending you these emails?  Does he think that you don't understand something, or that more information will change your mind?  Ask him, listen (if you feel yourself getting agitated, politely take a break to grab some water, and return when calm), and ask questions to make sure you understand his side of things.  He spoke to you about his dad - what did he do that he felt showed his father honor and respect (it obviously wasn't copying his beliefs without question)?  Once you understand him better, you'll be able to figure out how to communicate with him more effectively.

Some of us walk a fine line in our families, and it's takes a while to figure out how to walk it without falling.  I'm still working on that one with my father, but it gets better every time.

Side note: Things in your family seem more contentious than in mine, so I completely understand why they don't know.  I just know that my family didn't really stop trying to appeal to me by bringing up god and judgment until after I "came out" and let them know that I'm an atheist (I had to clearly draw the line in the sand).  I'm not saying to come out if you don't feel it's safe, but just keep in mind that you'll probably hear this sort of pleading for some time.

Funny to think that I am the same age as your father, but with a rather different spin on 'reality'.

You might remember a little church history. The Inquisition, Luther's racism, Biblical support/unsupport of racism and slavery, Church validation of the Nazis, Church support of feudal kings, supression of sciences, yadayada. Your father's version of Christianity is rather new and most likely did not exist at the beginning of the republic!

What I find funny is that the 'decay' of civilization and culture has been be-moaned atleast since about 2200bc. If memory serves, atleast a few greek philosophers showed concern about the next generation! Sadly, as with most predictions, they do not always show much success with the call!

Looking at my own experiences with religion, I think your father and many others of his persuation, see through a lense of their ignorace. I find myself concerned with 'end of times/days' perceptions, but also know that change does not always favor the generation that experiences it.

If your father had it his way, I expect that he would love you to knell and pray at his idol, marginalize groups of people that he finds objectional, suppress ideas that do not jive with his simplistic world view, and maybe place Oral Roberts into the pantheon of US presidents.

We do seem to be grasping at straws as a culture at times. The desire to return to some romantic simple time, demands that we ignore the importand details that would not support even our rather modern ideas of religion. I do wonder how well your father would fair, if dumped into the era of Christ. Would he be among the happy few to break bread with the 'man', or tied to a tree and wiped for disrespect, or considered influenced by a demon for his ideas?

It is unclear how well the cultural outlyers were treated then. There is some indication from history, that there were many traveling teachers at the time of Christ and before. Since your father has been socialized into one metaphysical commitment, such a trip to the past might have been educational. Sadly such an experiment will not been done any time soon.

I suggest that you keep to your guns, but this does not demand that you make premature commitments to atheism or theism. I think the greatest threat to honesty is premature metaphysical commitments. I might have docked my little boat to the port of atheism, but maybe I am just waiting for the next great wind to blow or when the local catch gets thin. I think the human mind is bigger than an 'ism' can contain, but many of our fellow travelers confuse comfort and simple certainty, with the 'truth'.   

@James - it's Halloween, I thought you might enjoy this:

"What does the ghost of a mathematician say?"

"Boo - lean!"

Khalil Gibran said that your children are living arrows that you, the bow, send down the path of Life - you aim as best you can, but once you've released the arrow, your control of its flight ends.

Your Dad needs to understand that if he aimed well, you'll be just fine.

I could write a book taking your father's response apart, but it's been done and it's all out there. So just a note:

Regarding how horrible a person you are. At the very worst you're a critical thinker. That's a good thing, we reward that, we even set up this whole system in college where that is basically all we do. If being inquisitive to the point of critique was immoral then prisons would be filled with cultural critics and philosophers.

And, as a side note because I couldn't ignore this: "You cite the Middle Eastern countries.  Let’s take a look at countries based on non-religion such as China or Communist Russia." I have been to the Middle East, and I have been to China, and believe me when I say China wins, every time.

Also maybe bring up how most of the continent of Europe consistently votes into office politicians that would be demonized as "socialists" in the US (even the conservative ones), yet somehow continues to prosper, grow, expand social equality, and produce some of the happiest and safest societies in the world...

Not that everything is great in Europe; the point simply being that liberal politics don't corrode a society. It's pathetic how many people think they do, nowadays. Would you like to return to the "freedom" of the days when there were no child labor laws or civil rights for minorities?

HONESTLY, you ask?  Of course you aren't "horrible."  What you are, unlike your father, is intelligent.  The very fact that he justifies everything he purports to believe by referring to an ancient black book of dubious authorship is proof that he is not a thinker, but a follower, no matter how eloquently he expresses his beliefs.  Please, Amanda, keep thinking! To surrender that right and privilege is to deny your humanity.  

My only problem with you is the apparent lack of courage implied by your not proudly proclaiming that you are an atheist - a person who guides her life, not by supplication to supernatural deities, but by science and reason.  In my 77 years of existence, I have encountered uncounted entreaties and objections from parents, relatives, friends, and others who tried to shame me into believing the nonsense they believed.  NOT ONCE did it occur to me to replace reason with superstition.  THAT really would have made me ashamed.  I am unambiguously proud to be an atheist, and IF that's what you are, so should YOU be proud to embrace it. 

Dear Amanda:

'To thy own self be true'.

Your willingness to pursue a path contrary to family and much of culture, while unsettling, is seen by many intellectuals as, the way to enlightenment. Sadly, I am not yet convinced that atheism is on that path, but it has been my experience, that if there is a reality, thet deep experience should offer a glimpse of it.

Your father, while commited to a position you find divergent from your own, still holds some things as sacred. These might only be perceived darkly, or measured with blunt tools, but could offer you both a ground on which to stand. Sadly, I have not always been able to find these with a shared clarity..;p(.

I wish you well. Mind /soul building is very hard work....      

It's obvious, Amanda, that your father loves you very much, but it is equally obvious that like many Americans,, he's bought into the whole Judeo-Christian religion, written by men thousands of years ago, who weren't even aware that the earth was round.

As it says in the comical Christmas Carol I'll be posting in a couple of months, "It's better to be loved than to make a point."

I'd keep my letters friendly and loving and stay completely away from the subject, with one exception - if he includes a biblical quotation in his letter, without any further comment, in your return letter to him, include a quotation from someone like Jefferson, Adams, Einstein, or other famous pesron, denouncing religion. If you need some, I have lots.

When I was growing up, my dad was pretty religious, too. There was a lot of pressure from him to go to church and to be active in it. Even though he said I had a choice in going, I really never really felt like I did. If I had said no, then his disappointment would have been obvious. My father, being a man I respected, was not a man I wanted to disappoint. So yes, I felt like I was forced to go as well. Eventually, I wanted to go. I got pretty wrapped up in it, but it was more along the lines of "if you can't beat them, join them."

Venturing out on a limb, I'd say you might feel a similar way and that every time he attempts to convince you that he is right it comes back to feeling like you don't have a choice if you want his respect. It might help if you explain to him what your ethics are and where they come from. It's hard for many religious people to contemplate how to live life without it. My dad told me that without religion he wouldn't know what to do in life. They think that the same goes for everyone else that without the guidance of the divine, a person liable to go all crazy and the world will fall apart, which we can see is silly, but to him, that's how the world works.

It sounds like his religion is a very important part of who he is. I'd imagine he thinks it was one of the greatest things that happened to him. Telling him that you don't want to hear about a part of his life that he thinks is the greatest thing since sliced bread is probably pretty disheartening to him. He may feel that your rejection of religion is a rejection of him.

Assuage his fears. Let him know that you are still an ethical person and you certainly going to lead a life like that of his father. Help him understand you and where you are at and how you view life. He's concerned about you. He thinks that he's found the best way to live life and that (probably because of his experience is life) he thinks that any other way will lead to ruin. And he wants that best way for you because he cares. So when you say that you disagree with him about matters of faith, I imagine he might also take it as a rejection of a gift that he's trying to give you out of love.

I know it's seriously tempting to combat these fallacious ideas about a Christian country and the Biblical basis of America and how the world will end if Jesus isn't important and all that other nonsense, but leave it for another day. That's not the battle you need to fight. Don't get distracted. The battle you need to fight is acceptance. You won't do that by standing apart, but by reminding them that about values you still share. If your family wasn't important to you, I don't think you'd be arguing with them or worrying over this enough to ask a bunch of people on the internet their opinion.

Here's an example right here that I couldn't help but notice: "He then said that I need to change my ways and I emailed him back instances where religion has failed and should not be involved in government." Your dad is saying that he is concerned for your future and you respond with politics? I can see your point in there (religion can be detrimental to people's lives), but that's the wrong way to go about explaining it especially to someone who is likely to never experienced how it can hurt others. That's a point you can start from: by explaining how their actions are hurting you. That you want to be a part of the family, but that you feel that being religious is part of that requirement.

It's a fine line some of us have to walk. I hope it works out for you.


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