My daughter is an atheist: call the FBI
When Ann Landers died (real name Esther Pauline Friedman), her daughter took over the family ‘advice column’ racket. She didn’t, however, take on the famous moniker. Her column is a fairly innocuous and predictable affair, except perhaps for a recent letter she received:
Our daughter started college a year ago, and we’ve noticed during her visits home that she’s not the sweet, innocent girl we sent away for higher learning. We raised her with strong Christian beliefs, but lately she’s saying that she’s joined an atheist club on campus and is questioning everything we taught her. Now my husband refuses to let her in the house and is threatening to turn her in to the FBI. I’ve tried to cure our daughter and reconcile with her, but nothing seems to work. I’ve prayed over her at night while she sleeps, enlisted friends in a phone prayer tree and even spoken to my priest about the possibility of an exorcism. I’m at my wits’ end. How can I recover my daughter and keep her from hell? – God-fearing
Now I’m not an advice columnist, but I thought it might be fun if I answered this little question myself. Here is what I would have said:
Dear God fearing,
What a great nomenclature. You seem indeed to have a righteous fear of God, something you no doubt tried to pass onto your daughter. You probably feel pretty stupid about sending your child off to college by now, since her exposure to the world without your ‘god’ filter has allowed her mind to flourish. I hope you don’t feel her joining an atheist club is in any way indicative of how she feels about you. Trust me; letting go of one’s childish notions of God is not an easy task. The comfort of religion is often a crutch we are reluctant to abandon even when we outgrow it. If our entire lives are lived in blissful ignorance, the real world can often seem cruel and cold by comparison. Luckily, with a little time and education, she will learn the earth and universe are a wonderful place even without a sky God telling everyone what to do.
Your husband seems to be a bit of an idiot; calling the FBI for this kind of thing is only going to make you seem foolish and out of touch with reality, a fact that will probably lead to your child abandoning your primitive beliefs. Don’t feel too bad. Statistically, your daughter is less likely to commit a crime, divorce, or become suicidal than if she was still a Christian. Both emotionally and intellectually she is growing, and that was your intent when you sent her to college. Mission accomplished.
If I can make a suggestion it would be this: chill the fuck out. It’s likely that if you push her out of your life you may lose her forever. If you feel worried for her eternal soul, take some comfort in the fact Hell is entirely the product of the sick imagination of theologians, and not a real place. While I don’t pretend to know with 100% certainty what happens when we die, I can guarantee Hell isn’t where anyone goes. More likely death will be similar to what you experienced before you were alive. Consider the fact 14 billion years passed by without you getting too bored.
I’ll echo Margo here and tell you the job of any parent is to ensure their children are thoughtful, intelligent human beings who can make their minds up for themselves. This is the true tragedy of religion, as it forces human beings to trust stories and myths that literally make no sense and are impossible. Humans do not resurrect from the dead, nor are they born of virgins. Hey, if you wanted your daughter to remain religious, your best bet would have been to keep her as uneducated as possible. No joke; there is a direct correlation between ignorance and religiosity (it does not mean a causal relationship, but the correlation is too strong to ignore). You must feel pretty silly now, am I right?