Advice Avenue via Atheist Street no. 7

The Sault Star is looking for a new advice columnist and here’s the sample question provided by the Sault Ste-Marie paper:

I’m 15 and live with my parents. They attend church every week but I actually don’t even believe in God. I think there was a Jesus, and some of the stories in the Bible are probably true, but not the God part. I don’t want to keep going to mass with my family. How do I tell my parents? –ATHEIST-IN-THEMAKING

I’d say sit them down tell them you love them, you love your family and friends, that you care about being a responsible adult and a good person and a valuable member of your community and whatever other goals and ambitions you have that will keep you moving toward a good and solid future. Then tell them you’ve come to a difficult decision regarding church and explain how you really feel, without insulting any beliefs you know they cherish. Break it to them gently, as the old song says. Don’t expect it to be easy, but don’t let their attempts to persuade you to rethink your position get the best of you, either. You know in your heart what you want and you’re not wrong to want it.

The article is titled, “Teen urged to keep faith” but the rest of the advice listed is actually the opposite. Most of their suggestions are quite good, save for one:

I truly hope this isn’t about you being too lazy to attend church, looking for a way out. — Brenda Dalt on

I don’t agree with this one, either:

There’s no harm in going to mass with your family, even if you don’t believe in God. — Jeni

There are a lot of activities he or she can do with family that don’t involve church. Mass is jam-packed with a lot of nonsense and if this person is on the path to atheism, it’ll be a frustrating experience sitting through it, especially when Communion rolls around. It’s going to be an empty ritual to take the wafer when it has no spiritual meaning and if he or she tries to keep seated while the rest go, it may lead to uncomfortable questions and hurt feelings. Also, forcing a person to attend church won’t really improve family dynamics; resentment adds up, and it’s emotionally draining to go along with something just because parents expect it.

This person isn’t five or ten and without power to make responsible, adult choices. This person is 15. Stay home and get some homework done, do some chores, go for a walk with a camera. Have lunch ready when they get home. Whatever. I wouldn’t want this kid to feel like abrupt rebellion is the only option here. A serious heartfelt talk with the parents about church attendance really is the better route. Maybe offer to go once a month, or offer to assist in other ways (charity outreach stuff?) instead. Both sides will have to figure out how to compromise and still respect each other afterward.

For more information on how to deal with this, check out Ask Richard’s advice because he’s very understanding and sensible. Also, consider reading through the list of what to expect when leaving a faith, as provided by The help is out there for anyone who needs it.

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Canadian Atheist Basically ordinary Library employee Avid book lover Ditto for movies Wanna-be writer Procrastinator
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