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My Child is an Atheist Now – What Should I Do?

What do you do when your son or daughter tells you they’ve stopped believing in God?

As a father of five, I can empathize if you’ve recently learned your child has left the Christian faith. In 2009, my oldest son told us that he was now an atheist. It was gut wrenching. It eventually sent me on a long journey with my own faith as I attempted to win my son’s faith back.

With hindsight and experience, I’d like to share some advice.

First, realize that intense emotion can feel all-consuming. Initially, you don’t even want to believe your son or daughter has left the faith. Similar to any major grief experience, the reaction of denial is normal. I remember wanting to deny it all for a while.

“It’s just a phase. He’ll grow out of it. God will get a hold of his heart and change his mind.”

You will probably feel like you’ve failed as a parent. In addition, I remember just wanting to shake him so that his senses would return (the anger phase). I’m glad that I didn’t yell, scream or get physical. If you yelled, it’s understandable. Many do. Only a parent knows what sacrificial love for your child feels like. You want to protect them. You want the very best for them.

It can be helpful to realize that you will likely go through the other stages that are common with grief, which includes bargaining, depression and lastly, acceptance.


So what should you do? Are there any easy answers? I wish there were.

The following might be hard to read but please hear me out. Let’s start with what you shouldn’t do and then we’ll look at things you can do.

  • Don’t yell, scream or insult them. Yelling “How could you be so stupid!?!” isn’t going to be effective. It’s a real hindrance to having an open conversation. If you got angry, please do whatever is necessary to restore an open connection with your son or daughter.
  • Ask, but don’t assume that they just need to read their Bible more. I’ve found that most atheists know the Bible far better than most Christians. There are many atheists who actually arrived at non-belief from doing just that — reading the whole Bible. The Old Testament is especially a problem. If you’ve ever read it, you know there are a lot of troubling things in there: slavery endorsed by God; genocide commanded by God; plural marriage; allowance for raping a girl and then marrying her; weird commandments about not mixing fabrics, etc. The Bible contains many amazing stories and parables of love and mercy, but from a logical perspective, it’s not hard to see why someone might reject the Bible after close scrutiny.
  • Be careful about demanding that they attend church every time that the doors are open.
    That’s it! We’re going to church every Sunday and Wednesday from now on!!!
    I’m assuming that your son or daughter is an adolescent or young adult, and if so, realize that the end result of this coercion will be resentment and bitterness from your son or daughter. If your son or daughter wants to attend, great. But forcing attendance will generate significant resentment, creating a brick wall to hearing any message. Suicidal thought is a potential outcome.
  • Don’t assume that they failed to pray hard enough. Perhaps like me, you’ve spent countless hours on your knees over the years. We have to admit that prayer is unfortunately, a one-sided conversation. Prayer is comforting! But be empathetic to those who have spent significant energy seeking God’s still small voice but who never heard a reply.
  • Be careful of threatening them with hell fire and damnation. It ends up sounding like the sort of thing that an abusive lover would say: “Love me or I’ll kill you!” Atheists don’t believe in hell. It’s a doctrine that evolved over time. You may want to be prepared to hear a few of the common arguments or questions against the doctrine of hell. This includes: Why would a loving God use a threat (hell) to inspire a relationship with him? If God is the author of love, how could a compassionate, nurturing Father send his offspring into eternal torment? Why would a loving God who is omniscient — why would He create human beings that He knows will reject Him, and then let them suffer in a lake of fire, forever and ever? So again, be careful of using the threat of hell as a tool to coerce.

What can you do?

  • Keep the door open for conversation. Don’t beat them over the head with doctrine or Bible verses. Be understanding. Let them know that you are very concerned but that you still love them. Acknowledge that it took courage for them to tell you what has happened. Remember that they are still your son or daughter, and nothing will separate your love for them.
  • After the initial shock has passed, consider asking them to share why they came to the conclusion that they did. They might prefer to do so in writing, and that’s not a bad idea. Putting thoughts down on paper can be quite clarifying and less heated or confrontational. Allow them to do so.
  • Acknowledge to your son or daughter that “Yes, there are some disturbing and/or strange things in the Bible”. Doing so will validate your child and keep the conversation going. You don’t have to agree with their conclusion. But acknowledging their journey means you have some understanding. Religion can be a very divisive thing. Don’t let it tear your family apart like it did mine.
  • You might have a book that you ask them to read. Your pastor might recommend one. That’s fine. But be willing to reciprocate. Your son or daughter will probably have a book that they’ll ask you to read. Your willingness to read something that they recommend will go a long way toward mutual understanding.

As a parent, it can be a traumatic thing to have your son or daughter abandon their faith. It put me on a 7 year journey which became the reason I started this blog. I am happy to say that I am closer to my son today than when this crisis started.

I want to conclude with a letter. My oldest son shared the following with me in 2013. It was written by a sympathetic friend to a mother who was heart-broken over her son’s loss of faith. It’s a thoughtful piece that’s truly worth the read.

A letter to an Unsure Mother

Hi Unsure-mother. First off, though I am an atheist myself, I want to empathize a little: this must be difficult for you and your family. Your faith commitment is an important part of your life and it is bewildering to have your own child turn away from this. I don’t know exactly what you believe, but you might be worried about his soul in the next life, or his behavior in this one. If you don’t believe in God, how do you know right from wrong? If you reject God, how will you be reunited with Him in the next Kingdom?

The most important thing to understand is that these kinds of concerns, while very vivid and real to you, only make sense within a belief system your son no longer accepts. There is no sense in making threats of Hell or damnation anymore: atheists do not believe such a place exists. We don’t believe such a place could exist. The thing that is important to remember is that while we no longer believe that there are places beyond the world, the world he lives in has now become all the more important. That’s all we have. That’s all we ever have. His world is family, and school, and friends: all these things structure his life and he will need them more than ever. He needs you. He’s still a kid, and he’s a kid dealing with Really Big Questions in the only way he can: honestly and critically.

Most of us have come to this point honestly. This must be emphasized. We’re not angry at God, we’re not trying to get attention or going through some cultural phase. We looked at the arguments on both sides and came to the best conclusion we could. We only have 70 odd years on this planet. We make mistakes, too; we are fallible creatures prone to error and haste. We do our best. And sometimes our best is ‘well, I don’t think any of this is right.’ I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I don’t rightly know where the universe came from, or how life began at first. But I don’t need all the answers to know that some answers are the wrong ones. I don’t know, and I don’t think Christians, or Muslims, or Taoists know either. They claim to know; I claim to not know.

Suppose I’m wrong. Suppose your son is wrong. I’m standing outside the pearly gates and St. Peter, or God Himself, gives me one chance to explain myself. What would I say except “I’m sorry — I got it wrong. I really tried. But I got it wrong. I saw all the different religions, each saying different things, all changing over time. It seemed just a part of human culture, not ultimate truth. I saw unnecessary suffering and couldn’t make heads or tails of it, if you were good and all-powerful. It didn’t make sense to me to posit something existing to explain existence: that gets it backwards. I’m sorry, God, that I didn’t believe in you, but it wasn’t malicious — I just — I just screwed up.”

What would Jesus say to that? Would he send me to suffer forever? Do I deserve to be tortured eternally because I read Lucretius as a young man — the 2,000 year old Roman poet who professed his atheism before Christ ever walked desert sand? Because I looked at the ontological argument and found it wanting?

Or would he press me to Him and forgive me? And wouldn’t I desire that forgiveness?

If there is a God that would send me to Hell for making this mistake, I don’t want it in my life. Nothing justifies torture. Nothing at all. And He would not be worthy of worship–or even respect. If He is merciful, then I will apologize. If I am right–and he doesn’t exist–then I live my life as a free man.

And that is how atheists live: under actual freedom. The German philosopher Nietzsche wrote that ‘freedom is responsibility’ — genuine freedom. I am responsible for the consequences of my actions. So: how do I live? What do I do? Do I want to live in a society where everyone does what they can get away with? What standards do I hold myself up to? This is the essence of the atheist’s morality: his freedom, his rationality.

Before even Lucretius wrote his atheistic treatise De Rerum Natura, there was another man, Socrates, who asked a simple and startling question: Does God say something is Good because it is good, or is something good because God says it is? We must be careful here. If what is good is whatever God says is good, then we have no morality at all, but caprice. If God says: kill your son! it is good to kill your son. If God says: from henceforth, children shall be murdered — then it is good, by definition, that children be murdered. But that’s not morality. That’s authoritarianism. And if you say: “But God would never do that,” I ask: why? Because if there is a reason, then goodness is independent from God after all. It is grounded elsewhere. In what? Well: maybe in reason itself? Or maybe morality is just part of the universe — a different kind of part, not like your sofa or TV or the moon is part of the universe, but the way numbers, or relations (like ‘equal to’) — an abstract object, none less the real.

There is a very, very long tradition of ethical thinking that is, in fact, older than Christianity itself. In philosophy classes we teach wisdom that was recorded a millennium before Christ. If it is impossible to be good without God, there wouldn’t be one virtuous atheist. Yet there are millions of us non-religious men and women on the planet, and we live our lives, as best we can. Atheists don’t fill the newspapers with tales of carnage or debauchery — clearly we can figure it out on our own.

Well. Not quite on our own. We have each other. No one else — just each other. And that’s enough. So be there for your son.


  1. Nan

    Such power in this line: The most important thing to understand is that these kinds of concerns, while very vivid and real to you, only make sense within a belief system your son no longer accepts.

    Great post!

    • companyoffoolsblog

      I have an adult son who is an atheist and I am not surprised. He was raised as a Catholic in our family but I saw the signs very early while living in the same house! Now his life has progressed with a family and he refuses to baptize my grand daughter and he raising her as an atheist. To be honest I must say I do not give a good shit. He was always a rebel so let him live it out till he winds up in Hell!

      • Clay Gibney

        Hi CompanysOfFoolsblog,
        I understand the feelings of anger. When you think of your son, his atheism feels like a betrayal to how you raised him.

        But I would encourage you to reconsider. I don’t think you mean it when you say that you “do not give a good shit”, or that you are okay with the thought of his eternal punishment. Nor with your grand daughter’s.

        But the doctrine of hell isn’t even in the Old Testament. It was developed later. Heaven and hell were created later on by the church to control us. Fear is a powerful motivator, and the church realized that they could control the masses by threatening folks with the scariest thing the human imagination could conceive: fiery torment that never ends. A loving God would not create beings and then torment them in pain for eternity.

        Consider these additional hard questions about God.

        • companyoffoolsblog

          There is a big movement to discredit my Catholic Church and that too is bullshit!. My church was created by Jesus Christ and I pattern my life after his promise. Even my divorced wife left the Catholic Church! She left me to marry someone richer that I could provide working double shifts at the state prison. I got my marriage annulled by a college of priests. I never remarried. I live the life of a hermit, never ever trusting a woman again! My son and his daughter and wife can all go to Hell.

      • LogicalFallacy

        @ companyoffoolsblog Reading your replies is rather disheartening and reminds me of one of the primary reasons I left Christianity – namely the ‘hellfire and damn you to hell’ attitude from many Christians. You say you are a Catholic, whose church was created by Jesus, yet come across as very angry and bitter. I think it is this sort of attitude that people, especially younger people, see that in part turns them away. The fact that you say “My son and his daughter can go to hell” shows just how terrible religion can make a person. I only hope one day you find a way to be less angry and reconcile with your son and granddaughter.

      • Lori

        I understand your anger and wanting to let go. This article leans toward atheism so I wouldn’t put that much stock in it. Just pray, that’s all you can do. I have many praying for mine. My granddaughter too is being raised in a similar manner.
        My husbands mother prayed 30 years as he continued his walk with witchcraft and satanist.
        As long as you have breath pray. I’m still trying to figure things out as my son mocks God. I love my son and granddaughter and when they come over there is pictures of Jesus on the wall etc.. I’m not compromising my beliefs.
        If she asks what is church, God etc… I’ll tell her. If they walk out of my life I will still pray.
        I’m still going through the grieving process and don’t have the answers.
        Me, you.. we have to get through this because the devils dancing in hell at the pain, chaos and anger we as Gods children have with our atheists child.

        • October

          Why are you “grieving”? The only reason to “grieve” is if you believe your son and granddaughter are going to hell for not believing in your god. And if your god would toss your child and your child’s child into a torturous eternity for not worshiping him, why do you believe he is a god worth following?

    • Okay

      To a parent who is going through this for the first time, the article at first seems to be an encouragement from a like-minded parent. It leads a vulnerable and hurting Christian parent down a primrose path of thinking “here’s someone who has been there and will help me know how to deal with my love for Christ and my son’s turning away” – but the author just isn’t clear up front that he followed his son into atheism. So the “hidden messages” you are seeing are because the author isn’t being up front.

      Here is the problem. When you have strong confidence in your faith – you are joyfully following God, and you have no reason to want to probe the kinds of questions presented in the seven part blog this father has thoughtfully spelled out on his journey to help his son which led to his own atheism– when this happens – you feel a discomfort at every step along the way. He describes this discomfort first as being overwhelmed, and then as a cognitive dissonance.

      I know exactly the feeling because I’ve been on that journey for a year.

      At each step, as these arguments are presented, because I had never dealt with the argument before, I would have this sense of disorienting vertigo- like, why had I never thought of that before and why can’t I quickly refute what the atheist is saying?”

      But here’s the trap the enemy sets for us– this is not cognitive dissonance and the atheist will tell you it is. The father who authored this got led down his son’s path because he took the disorienting vertigo as a sign that he believes two opposing views at the same time – that would be cognitive dissonance.

      Remember this… Not knowing how to refute the opposing position is not the same thing as believing the opposing view. It’s disorienting. It’s discomforting. To a point of pain because your son has bought into the opposing view and you don’t agree with it. But it’s not believing both views.

      My continual prayer during the process of unpacking each issue that gave me that disorienting vertigo helped me to keep my eyes open and not fall into that trap. I knew my foundation of faith to be real, so the “why had I never thought of that before and why can’t I quickly refute what the atheist is saying?” didn’t lead me to question my beliefs but rather ask God for resources to help me understand how to answer these questions.

      Mike Winger has been a fabulous resource. Look for him on youtube. He’s extraordinarily compassionate and respectful of atheists, but grounded in his faith and confident in the evidence to refute atheist arguments.
      Inspiring Philosophy is another great resource on youtube.

      Use these and other good resources constantly in your journey as a Christian struggling to relate to and help an atheist i their life.

      If you are confident enough, it can be helpful to hear the atheists refute these channels and listen to the back and forth until they repeat themselves and the whole exercise becomes redundant. Then by taking a step back, it’s easy to see where one side is ignoring evidence that will help you embrace you faith even more strongly.

      Each time I take a topic and lean on the Christians who have dealt with them effectively, I have filled in those blanks and no longer had the “why had I never thought of that before and why can’t I quickly refute what atheist is saying?”

      I still can’t seem to refute an atheist who is entrenched – but the reason I can’t isn’t because of lack of understanding on my part, but attitudes and unwillingness to hear. The discomfort is no longer anything on me- it’s more with how to actively love on and respect the opposing position, and how to help other Christians stay grounded and not confuse disorienting vertigo with cognitive dissonance.

      I hope that helps.

      • Logan

        Hi “Okay”,
        I appreciate the visit to the site and your willingness to comment. I have now chosen to add an up-front note at the top of this post so that readers know I have left the faith before they read the entire post.

        Although we disagree on whether I experienced the cognitive dissonance I described in my 7-part journey (I most definitely did), I will choose to not question your experiences. I will instead wish you well and I hope your life journey is a happy and joyous one, and I hope you maintain a loving and open relationship with your son or daughter. Too many parents completely cut themselves off from their child when this happens, and it sounds like you did not, and for that I’m happy.

  2. Chris Highland

    I am a non-theist freethinker (and former Minister with believers in the family) and I appreciate much of what you say and relate here. There has to be more honest conversation between believers and non-believers. That may best begin in families. Peace and. . . Good be with you.

    • Logan

      I was still holding on to a belief in God, albeit a shaky one, when my oldest son shared that letter with me. It sincerely had an effect on me.

      • a mere skeptic

        As young adult atheist with devout Christian parents, it really hit home for me. I plan on sharing this post with them.

      • a mere skeptic

        Also, thank you for sharing this. I think this is something that could clear up a lot of the misunderstanding between us.

  3. Annie

    This was a brilliant post, and brilliant letter! I plan on sharing it with a sister who has a daughter who told her she was an atheist over a year ago now. My niece ended up moving out of the house because she couldn’t take the constant arguing over it. This past Sept. I “came out” to this sister hoping it may soften the blow a bit, but I was so wrong. She lost her mind! I understand completely why my niece had to get out of that house!

    • S

      C, I agree. The inspiration in that letter can only come from the opposite of God. Sadly the author is writing what they truly feel…inspired to just be themselves with no creator. By the way, it is after thoughtful consideration that I have found that a watermelon can NOT seem to fit through the ac vent in my car….this is my analogy as to why sin simply can’t enter heaven. It isn’t that God won’t forgive after you died, it is that sin…… like the watermelon and my ac vent, it can’t get through.

      • Clay

        Sherri, thanks for joining the conversation. Regarding your analogy, you mentioned sin not entering heaven. The Bible defines sin as actions (and heart attitudes for those actions), which displeases Yahweh. The Bible also includes many lists and declarations of sinful actions. I’m curious, if you follow the 10 commandments? Is that list a good representation of sin you’re referring to?

        Our free will — the ability to choose right or wrong — would be central to it all. Do you look forward to entering this heaven described in the Bible, minus your free will? I’m also curious — who do you believe created man’s free will?

  4. Damon Rose

    Where’s the, “My Parents Told Me They Believe in The Big Magic Man in the sky”? ‘Don’t be hard on them kid, they are still learning. Reality will hit them soon enough.’ lol No theory is fullproof. Ours just requires less WTF’s and more observation.

  5. LogicalFallacy

    Clay, a great article. As a recent de-convert from Christianity this article greatly helped me understand what my parents are going through, and why they are saying and doing the things they are. I initially was upset that they couldn’t “just accept” I was atheist, but I understand it a bit better now. Thanks.

  6. Peace

    It is gut wretching to hear your child is an atheist. If you are a true believer you understand the lack of blessings and hope that will no longer exist. Children will never understand unless they raise a child who completely denies the parents heart felt mentoring. A Christian believes what the bible says about denying God. Some parents wish to take the child place in death so that they will not have to suffer eternally. One might feel they wish to no longer be amongst the living due to the pain resulting from “knowing” your child will not live a blessed life. The letter you share is the beginning of truth of what reality the parent is living through. Rejection, denial, shock, grief, overwhelming sadness and depression, the left behind, left out and denied fellowship with the non believer. The believer didn’t leave the non believer; twas the other way around. Atheist DO NOT accept Christians period! They may even assume we are ignorant peasants of some other alternate universe that only the Kings and Queens of enlightenment can possible comprehend. Only true genius exist in the atheist world. Christianity birthed science and education. Even those children are rejecting their parents. Seriously the atheist in the family talk down to us and appear to have an arrogance they know to well due to its wearing on them selves; however it is the Christian they accuse of such contempt of truth. We love you; its that simple. We are all in this world together…living and dying and facing the possibility of eternity together. No one is better than the other. All from the original DNA and look pretty much alike….two arms, hands, feet, legs, eyes, ears ect….so big deal our hair and skin is a little different. God gave us all free will and therefore you have the liberty to choose your beliefs and so do we!!!!!!! Just be kind and look out for one another. We are all we have on this earth during this period in time of history. Stop arguing and LIVE!

  7. Haneefh Nasser

    I was raised a Muslim and I am personally an Atheist, not believing in the Allah my family believes in nor the other Gods made by man. The problem is, I’m scared to tell them. I’m scared to tell my parents because I don’t trust their intentions for my future- let alone ones for my future as an atheist. I am currently 14, pretending to flow with their believes in Islam and waiting for some sort of breakthrough in my life to allow for me to leave this religion. I don’t know how to break this down to them or leave their believes behind me, do you have any advice?

    • Logan

      Hi Haneefh, thanks for visiting and sharing your story. I’ve read a large number of stories of teenagers who wanted to tell their parents that they no longer believed in God, and most of the time, it does not go well. Young people almost always regret telling their parents and wish they could take it back. I don’t think it matters whether we’re talking about the Muslim faith or the Christian faith. When parents are strong believers, they always react very badly when a child tells them that they no longer believe in God or in the Bible (or Quran). There have been some teenagers who have been told to leave home after telling their parents they are an atheist. The parents think that “tough love” and making the child survive on their own will help change the child’s mind. So my advice would be to continue keeping it quiet, for your own safety and well being. I know that sucks because it means you’re not being true to yourself or to your beliefs, but at your age, it’s important to stay safe. You might want to visit for some suggestions or thoughts too. Best wishes to you.

    • October

      I know it’s a bit late, but you should keep your atheism to yourself until you are completely self-reliant. Wait until you get a steady job, move out of your parents’ house, and feel comfortable in your self sufficiency. Then invite them to a “neutral ground,” like a quiet restaurant or park to let them know how you really feel. Or, hell, even do it through writing.
      It can be tough feeling like you’re lying, or bottling up your true beliefs, but I’ve seen too many friends get kicked out of their house and end up homeless, or even get beaten up for telling their parents about their atheism before moving out. It’s devastating. It’s best to be on equal footing when you tell them.

  8. Barbara

    My heart hurts for Haneefh, and I think your advice to him is good, that his safety needs to come first.

    Do you, or any of your readers/commenters have suggestions for me in talking to MY parents about my atheism? They are 90 and 92 years old, and raised me in a wonderful, loving, semi-intellectual Christian home. They were friends with people like Billy Graham, Ken Taylor, and Francis Schaefer, who all showed up in our home on occasion. So, evangelical to the max. Like many ex-Christians, I truly knew God! Jesus was my center, my ground, my life, my future, my EVERYthing, and it took me until I was about 40 to realize that my faith was not founded in truth.

    That was over 15 years ago, and while I know they know I’m not a believer, we have never spoken of it. I know they must be devastated on some level, though, because in their mind I’m going to hell for eternity. The only mini-conversations we’ve had have been along the lines of Pascal’s wager (which seems silly to me, because it’s not like I CHOSE to not believe, rather I realized that I don’t anymore), or intelligent design of the universe or the human body.

    So. Mom and Dad are getting old, and recently I’ve been thinking of trying to explain my non-faith to them. They deserve that. They raised me lovingly, they taught me to stand on my own feet and think for myself (remember Bill Gothard youth conferences? My dad told me, “Bring your salt shaker!”), they are for the most part proud of the way I have turned out and delighted with their grandchildren (even though all four of my children are also atheists, they are wonderfully considerate of their grandparents, and more involved than their super-Christian cousins)… I don’t know, I just feel like I owe them at least an attempt at an explanation.

    Any ideas where to start? Or does anyone have experience with something like this? A letter or a face-to-face conversation?


    • Logan

      Hi Barbara,
      Thanks for writing and sorry for the delayed posting/reply.

      I have some friends that were in your situation. They decided to not go into detail with their aging parents about their disbelief or atheism. They did so primarily because they knew it would upset them and that no real good would come of it. After their parent(s) passed away, they became more open about their disbelief with others and/or on social media. They didn’t have any regrets with the approach they took. I suppose everyone’s situation can vary, but I respected their decision. I had never intended to tell my mother (who will soon be 70) about my disbelief but she brought it up in conversation so I shared a short version of my journey with her. I tried to do so without making it come across like it was potentially attacking her beliefs. Which is hard. Maybe impossible. I’m not sure. But it went okay.

      But I hope some other readers/visitors will comment too.

    • October

      At that age, you shouldn’t try to explain your atheism to your parents. Let them not think about it. Or, hey, you could even go the opposite direction: offer to join them at a church service sometime. You don’t have to tell them you converted or anything, just be present with them in their belief and culture. That, I think, would make them very happy.
      I’m a pretty hard-line atheist, not just in disbelief, but in that I think organized religion is often harmful. However, my mom is very spiritual and attends an evangelical church. She knows I don’t believe, she even knows I can have pretty harsh opinions on religion, but I still occasionally go to her church with her, I politely listen to the sermon, and I hold my tongue and smile with any would-be “converters.” It’s not my first choice to spend a Sunday morning, but I love my mom, and she loves that I put in the effort despite our difference of beliefs. Since she’s elderly, I choose to do that with her rather than share my atheism.

      (If she were about 20 years younger and a bit thicker skinned, though, I’d probably be healthily debating her on the daily, no doubt.)

    • J

      Religion brings groups together with good intentions. I might not be religious myself but it doesn’t mean I can’t see the good side to it.

      • Logan

        I can agree that there are some positive aspects to Christianity. I enjoyed the community atmosphere and family support it provided. I got to meet many wonderful people in various churches too. There were also lots of assholes, bigots and hypocrites unfortunately. I think we can find assholes in any collective of people, but you’ll find a much higher percentage of hypocrites inside of Christian churches than you would outside of them.

        Regarding religious fundamentalists, Christopher Hitchens put it so well when he said that a significant reason he spoke and wrote like he did, was to “resist those who sincerely want to accomplish the destruction of civilization, and who sincerely believe they have god on their side”.

  9. LH

    I am a mom of a son who says he no longer believes in God. Although I was heartbroken and went through many of the normal reactions a mom would go through, it never occurred to me to alienate my son or to do anything that would make him feel less accepted. It’s been hard in many ways because I love him so much. He is thoughtful and real. And he didn’t feel anything. That part I could relate to.

    I was also raised in the church and didn’t feel anything. I just believed, not because it was comforting to me, but because I couldn’t imagine my life without God. By the time I really started questioning, I had two young boys. I didn’t want them to be influenced by my unbelief so we kept going to church and I kept believing though barely.

    I would be in my mid-forties before I experienced God in a real way. Why did it happen this way? I don’t know for sure, but I do know it’s all a part of my testimony and my journey. God is so real to me now. And prayer is real. It’s a two-way conversation with the God of the universe. He is loving and just. I love Him more than I can say.

    I will pray for my son always. My hope is in God. He will complete the good work He began so long ago when my son received Jesus as his Savior. My son also is writing his testimony and it’s all a part of his journey. Do I have all the answers? Absolutely not, but I serve a God who does

  10. Clay

    Hi LH,
    Thanks for sharing and being part of the conversation.

    I am happy for you. It sounds like you have found comfort in your faith, and that’s terrific. You sound like a wonderful mother too, who accepted your son as he was, regardless of his journey away from faith.

    I’m not sure I understand the description of prayer as a two-way conversation when God is silent? While I’m very familiar with the thought that “God speaks to us through his word” or that “he speaks to us through his creation”, I believe those are something akin to nice excuses we tell ourselves because there’s no real voice on the other end. It’s truly not the same as a real two-way conversation with a friend or family member. If we called up a dear friend on the phone and heard the silence that everyone does when praying, we’d hang up.

    But in any event, thanks for sharing and for making your son feel accepted and loved!

    • Lynn Holzinger


      It’s been awhile since I read your response, but today I came back to it. You said you weren’t sure you understood my description of prayer as a two-way conversation when God is silent. I know many Christians who think God doesn’t speak to them. I was one of them for many years. I can only say I was wrong. God is always speaking. Not like a physical person speaks, but more like what comes to your mind right after you talk to God about something. For me it’s usually Bible verses or parts of verses that lead me on a hunt for the rest of the verse. Sometimes when I’m reading the Bible, a verse stands out more than the others and I believe that is God speaking. Here is a recent example. I struggle some with anxiety. I noticed I was starting to feel anxious about how people would respond to the Birthday party for Jesus I had planned. Was I planning too many activities? Would they like the games or crafts? Would they listen to me or would the party get off track? I reminded myself that I could be flexible and that I was doing this for Jesus. I asked God what He wanted to do? This is what came to my mind:” I will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is stayed on Me; the joy of the Lord is your strength; Happy is the man who finds wisdom” The first two I knew were Bible verses, but the third I wasn’t sure. I didn’t know where any of them were found so I did a search and found the references: Is 26:3; Neh 8:10; Prov 3:13. I then claimed His peace, and asked for His joy and wisdom. By then the anxiety was gone. I forgot all about it. The party was this morning. I didn’t think about any of the worries I had the day before. The party went well and everyone seemed to have fun and participate.

      I know this doesn’t prove God was speaking because I can’t prove it to anyone. It takes faith. Lots of things take faith. I would say I have reasonable faith because there is reasonable evidence for Christianity. From what you wrote, it sounds like your faith was not based on reasonable evidence and therefore you were more susceptible to losing it. Would you agree with that? You wrote in a response to Rachael in the next post, “But after a lot of deep soul searching and being open to evidence based thought and critical thinking, I started to wonder if maybe my son had reached the truth.” Your evidence led you away from faith, but I would say my faith is based on evidence based thought and critical thinking.

      I disagree with you when you say that hell isn’t a real place or that it’s not taught in the Bible. What is your basis for saying this?

      I realize I wrote nothing in this post about my son being an atheist. I hope that is okay. This is more of a response to you.

    • Lynn

      Hi Clay, it’s me again. I may have stuck my foot in my mouth when I suggested your faith wasn’t based on reasonable evidence. I have just read your “long journey” posts and am feeling a bit foolish that I thought your journey wasn’t thorough and all-inclusive. You have obviously done way more research than I have. I sincerely apologize. I have been on various journeys of questioning my faith, but in the end always choose to keep believing. If I am wrong, I will have lost nothing.

      • Logan

        Hi Lynn, that’s very gracious of you to share your thoughts here. Thank you. I empathize with you and had similar feelings during my journey (“choose to keep believing” even in the face of difficult questions). I wish you peace and happiness, and best wishes as your life journey continues!

  11. Raechel

    I’m pretty sure the author is the Atheist here… very little information in this article comforts me and it seems like the article is more geared to condone the atheist. I’m just not feeling this and I hurt worse for my kids now then I did before I read this.

    • Clay

      Hi Raechel, thank you for responding and I’m truly sorry for what you’re going through. At the time that my oldest son declared that he no longer believed, I was crushed. I hurt all over. I spent the next 7 years trying to win my son’s faith back. But after a lot of deep soul searching and being open to evidence based thought and critical thinking, I started to wonder if maybe my son had reached the truth. The details of my story are too long for a short reply. We’re all on a journey, and I sincerely hope your journey ends with happiness and truth. I can honestly say that I’m happier now than I’ve ever been in my life.

    • October

      I am an atheist whose parent and sister have consistently tried to convert her. I’ve been screamed at, I’ve been threatened with hell, I’ve had every Bible verse imaginable quoted at me, I’ve been given three different versions of the Bible and multiple books meant to “convert kids,” and I’ve heard just about every argument for Christ there is, several times over in many different ways. I’ve seen my sister sob, in tears, that I was damning myself, I’ve seen my mom hang her head in shame when her church friends ask what denomination I am and I respond that I’m an atheist. I’ve been told that I’m loved “even though” I’m a “sinner,” and I’ve even lost friends who say they do not want to be “dragged down” into an “atheist lifestyle” with me.
      Being an atheist is by no means an “easy way out.” It can be very painful, actually. But it is who I am, and being in pain cannot scare me into converting. I know who I am. I’m okay with who I am, even if my family and friends and the entire country I live in are not. I’m okay with who I am even if YOU’RE not okay with who I am. And so are your kids.
      You are not going to change them. You are not going to convert them. You are not going to change their mind. Maybe it doesn’t comfort you, but that’s not the point. The point is to accept who they are, even if it’s uncomfortable. Because if you don’t accept who they are, if you reject them, if you show animosity or treat them like they’re “bad” for not believing in what you do, I can guarantee that they will leave you, or at the very least avoid you. They will lose their trust in you as a parent. They will be reluctant to be with you for fear that you are judging them.

      Being a parent is rarely “comfortable” in the first place. But if you at the very least come to accept who they are, you may find some respite. Maybe they will come back to your religion eventually, but they certainly won’t if you push them.

      Being an atheist is not “bad.” They simply don’t believe what you believe. And if you would hate or admonish them for that, perhaps you should find them more suitable guardians.

  12. Tbe

    You think nothing deserves torture? Where do people like Hitler, Joseph Stalin, etc.. go to when they die then? It wouldn’t be that far fetched to think that God would have a special place for people like that. PS There is also a place you can be sent like a purgatory if you haven’t done much evil and you also haven’t accepted Christ. That’s where you, the writer, would go after dying. Then you’d be able to decide on your own.

    • Logan

      Thanks for the visit and comments. I would like to address those.

      Are there people who deserve torture? Yes, I’m sure we could all make a case against heinous people that have committed horrible acts. But just because we feel there are people who deserve brutal torture, that doesn’t mean that such a place (i.e., hell) exists. The idea of hell was created by the early church as a way to control people. The same is true for heaven. While it’s a lovely thought to live for ever, there’s zero evidence for a heaven or hell — just the fictitious writings from early church leaders who wanted to control the masses through fear and through the empty promise of an eternal abode. These are the ultimate “carrot” and “stick” approaches to control people.

      Purgatory is also fictional. It doesn’t exist.

      Where do people go when they die? In the ground. Where the body decays.

    • Logan

      Thank you for the visit and comment. Like most of my fellow agnostics/atheists, I read and researched the evidence pretty exhaustively. I bought and read two of Lee Strobel’s “The Case for…” books. They are helpful for those who already believe, but it was very disappointing to see what a poor investigative journalist that Lee was in writing his books. While he often mentioned the writings of skeptics or atheists, his personal interviews were all one-sided. He spent a lot of time talking to Christian theologians and apologists but he never interviewed any well regarded skeptics or atheists. That is the opposite of being a sound investigative journalist.

    • Joe Bigliogo

      For a real eye opening examination of Strobel’s book, read “The Case Against The Case for Christ” by Robert Price where he goes into quite some detail exposing the fallacies in Strobel’s arguments and investigative methods. The book also raises questions about Strobel’s honesty throughout. Robert Price is a PHD scholar who’s read and studied almost everything on the subject and probably forgotten more than most of us will ever know about the history of the bible and religious theology.

  13. Paula

    Hi. Thank you so much for posting this. Two of our three sons are atheists.
    Hell is separation from God. I believe scripture is clear that those who do not accept Jesus, will be destroyed. No such thing as never ending torture and pain.
    And ONLY God will judge. Not me or anyone else.


    • Paula

      Wanted to add that even if I didn’t believe in the bible, I would never believe in a God that would allow the torture of his/her children.
      Sounds more like satan.

  14. Joe Bigliogo

    I’m an atheist and if my daughter told me she was a Christian I would be devastated, truly mortified and broken hearted.
    Now doesn’t that make me sound like a first class douche bag? Now you know what Christians sound like to atheists when you wine and moan when your kids don’t buy into your particular religious beliefs.

  15. Troy D.

    Expecting someone else to believe what you believe is a dangerous type of expectation and one based on an authoritarianism that cannot recognize how distinct and separate each person is. This inability to accept other people’s boundaries and expect them to think and believe what you do is a huge turn off to most people.

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