Crisis of Faith at 100! Looking for Help.

I am currently employed at an assisted living center. One of our residents, who is 100 has recently been asking me a lot of questions regarding the bible and God in general.


Let me first point out that none of the residents know that I am an atheist (they don't need to know). We usually have quite a few religious activities within a week (bible studies, sermons from local preachers, etc). I never denounce any of their messages or deride their faith (I could, but what good could be gained from arguing with elderly people?)


When certain topics are raised or asked, I usually give a scientific answer (if it involves science) and try my best to separate God from all other controversial questions by saying humans have free will (that is a different debate, altogether) hence, that is why there is evil in the world. Sometimes, I will say times have changed since they were younger and each generation will have a different set of values than the previous one.


Now, this resident knows the bible like the back of her hand. She knows the stories and the "accepted" interpretations of it. Lately, she has been asking a lot of questions and making some interesting statements. Statements and questions that include, "He allowed people to kill all sorts of men, women, and children. Just to make a point.", "How did Cain get a wife if there were only 4 people on the Earth?" "Why did God harden Pharoah's heart?", the list goes on.


I am asking for a little help on this. She still believes in God and I do not want to change that. She is a very nice lady who is very compassionate and loving to all she meets. Never once have I heard a judging remark or a word of anger. She usually asks these questions openly in a public setting, so I try to separate God of the Bible from the God she wants him to be. In other words, I say that the Bible was written by man, has been translated multiple times, revised, and books removed, so that the God in the Bible may not actually be the God she believes in. I say the message is important -- Be kind to one another and live in peace. This seems to suffice for most of the time, but lately she has become more incessant with the questions.


Now, I know not to decide what is best for a person and it seems she really wants to know, but I can not talk to her privately about it at the moment.


I am calling on you all to offer some advice to point me in the right direction. Any thoughts?

Views: 241

Comment by Rick on August 31, 2011 at 9:46pm

What exactly are you asking for help with? you say that you dont want to change her belief, so what outcome are you hoping for when you attempt to answer her questions?

Comment by Artor on August 31, 2011 at 10:15pm

Next time she asks you something, start by telling her straight out that you're an atheist, then ask if she still wants your opinion. If she says yes, then go for it. I don't see anything wrong with having an open conversation with someone who is interested in a discussion.

Comment by Doug Reardon on August 31, 2011 at 10:33pm

Wouldn't it be ironic: a deathbed conversion from christian to atheist?

Comment by Unseen on August 31, 2011 at 10:58pm

I think the kind thing to do is indulge her. I'd just say I have my doubts and let her try to convert me. These are her last days on earth. What point would there be in confusing her even if you could. Be kind.

Comment by matt.clerke on August 31, 2011 at 10:59pm

If she is looking for answers to re-affirm her belief, point her in the direction of the local pastor and tell her the answers she is looking will not be found with you. If she wants the truth before she finally goes into her long rest, tell her you are an atheist(keep it quiet if you don't to be "out") and if she still wants to discuss this with you, go from there. Just what I would do in your situation... although I don't know what an old-folks home would be doing employing a software engineer...

Comment by Gaytor on September 1, 2011 at 12:23am

Looking like you are trying to convert her, even the perponderence of it could look bad. I would tread lightly for my job. I might say that many of the stories don't make sense to me and let her go on with it. I would hate for her to tell her kids or grandkids and have them complain. At 100, if she's still doing well, you could convert and find peace with that within a few years. But facing death without having it settled in your head would be unsettling at best. I'm expecting the lights to go out like they have any number of times. It's a pretty peaceful scenario. But if I had spend my life expecing God and Angels and suddenly that is no longer the picture, that could be terrifying. But if she's going on her own... what can you do to stop it? She may need some support. I would just get her to talk and avoid leading her at all costs. 

Comment by Becca on September 1, 2011 at 1:20am

Why does this woman need to be treated with kid gloves? If her mind is free from Alzheimer's, dementia and the like then you should be able to converse with her like any other adult human being. Maybe that is what she is looking for a real conversation not a bunch of made up fluff to make her feel better. Maybe you could start by asking her why she is asking those sorts of questions anyways? There is no need to tell her you are an atheist, let her guide the conversation.


Comment by Brian Pansky on September 1, 2011 at 3:48am

Indeed it seems a clear signal that she might want to *say* something, in fact when you were describing her I thought maybe she was totally agnostic and wanted to do a political upheaval of the place she resides.  I'm not sure asking someone why they are asking something always leads somewhere, but generally people want their story to be explored, not shut down.

Comment by Matthew Wood on September 1, 2011 at 11:17am

Thanks for the replies and I will tread carefully.


To reply I am not currently a software engineer, I am in school for it (get my associate's in two weeks, continuing on for bachelor's).


But thanks to all the replies and I think I need to know which way to head now.


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