Latest Letter (January 3, 2013)
I am a bisexual left-wing atheist who was raised by conservative Christians. My father says that I'm old enough (I'm 17) to make my own choices when it comes to these things. However, I still feel a great deal of pressure to conform to their agenda. I kind of suffer from an inferiority complex, so I still feel like I'm under pressure even though I am old enough to believe what I want. My question is, how do I establish my beliefs with them with confidence? Also, how do I do it without hurting them?
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That’s a tough question, and I respect the fact that you are taking your parents’ feelings into consideration on this matter. That shows great maturity.
When you respect others, like your parents, the core of that respect is honesty. Your parents sound like good people who have raised a son who is considerate and caring. You need to be honest with them about your feelings, and the best way to do that is to be straightforward about it.
Sit down and talk to them about faith and religion. When you do so, do so in a respectful way by not criticizing or demeaning their conservative, Christian beliefs. Tell them that you have been reflecting on your beliefs long and hard, and while you respect what they believe in, you simply don’t feel the same way. You have a right to your beliefs, and that is something that you must accept, too. Your beliefs are what work for you, and are in no way inferior to theirs.
Now, you are going to have to anticipate that your parents will be upset. Naturally, they want their son to believe as they do. Hopefully, they won’t think you’re going to Hell because you don’t think like the same way.
Papabear believes there is more than one path to God (or Nirvana or Gaia or the Great Spirit etc. etc.); I believe that God reveals Himself in many ways to us and that he does so so that we can better comprehend what He is trying to say by talking to us in our own language, so to speak.
BUT, you say you are an atheist. That is actually a broad term. Atheists vary in a lot of their beliefs. They do not believe in God (or gods) by definition, but that doesn’t mean some don’t believe in some kind of spiritual world. It depends. Some atheists are all about pure science, proving the hypothesis, showing the physical evidence; others are a bit more spiritual than that and feel that not everything can be proven by the experimental method.
Children often rebel against their parents’ beliefs. I kind of go halfway on that one, my father was a Southern Baptist and my mother an agnostic. I ended up pursuing pagan spiritualism. It is very natural for young people to go off and explore their own path. Some continue on that journey throughout their lives, while others end up returning to the fold, deciding that their families were right after all.
There is not telling at this stage in your life where you will end up. Tell your parents that you are taking their advice and trying to make your own choices. Tell them you don’t know what you will end up believing in the end, but that you need to explore what is out there for yourself at this time in your life, again, reiterating that you have great respect for their faith and that this is in no way meaning any disrespect toward them.
Papabear is proud of you for thinking independently and not just being a clone of your parents while still being considerate of them and respecting them. While what you are about to tell them won’t be easy, I believe that love will trump religious prejudice and win in your case.
Happy New Year!
2012 was an eventful year for yours truly. As I settled into living in the Coachella Valley in California, I juggled owning a home back in Michigan while renting an apartment. It was an expensive and emotionally grueling experience, but I finally have my new home in Cathedral City and have closed the sale of both houses.
In addition to making that major move, I started this column in mid May and have answered over 200 letters and have had over 55,000 visitors! Thank you for visiting my site and thank you for not only your questions but also your compliments.
I will continue writing the column as long as I keep getting visitors. Oh! And I will also be giving a forum at FurtherConfusion (January 17-21, 2013), so stop in and say "Hi!"
Also coming in 2013: the beginning of the American Furry Association! This nonprofit group will be all about supporting furry arts, businesses, and education. We've had some delays because, well, mostly because of me because I was so busy with the house situation, but I know we will be making strides in the future. A Web page is coming soon.
I hope you all had a great holiday season and New Year's Day. Keep those letters coming!
A note on comments: Comments on letters to Papabear are welcome, especially those that offer extra helpful advice and add something to the conversation that is of use to the letter writer and those reading this column. Also welcome are constructive criticisms and opposing views. What is NOT welcome are hateful, hurtful comments, flaming, and trolling. Such comments will be deleted from this site. Thank you.