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What if I’m a non-believer?

My parents are religious. I’m not.

Our elder counsels that even when your beliefs differ, respect is the common ground.

Dear EWC:

My family is very religious. Believes in god and everything. Yet I have small panic attacks just thinking about telling my parents that I believe in science and philosophy. My parents, for one thing, are strict and don’t approve of any non-believers. The other day I was explaining to my dad how good-looking this one girl looked in my class. His first question, “Is she Mormon?”

I have four siblings, two of which are active in the church and two who aren’t. My parents speak very highly and proudly of my two siblings who are religious. They say nothing positive about the ones who aren’t religious. My parents are intimidating, and I don’t know what to do.

Ketchman replies:

I don’t see why you need to make a point of bringing up, to your parents, how your spiritual perspectives differ from theirs. If they ask, you should tell them the truth—but there’s no need to bring the subject up yourself. I suggest that you give them the same respect for their religious beliefs that you would like them to give to your secular ones, even if they don’t reciprocate. If it means a great deal to them for you to attend the occasional church service, it wouldn’t be such a terrible thing for you to go along with it.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that you force yourself to give up your own beliefs and follow a theology that you don’t believe in. Your parents will figure out soon enough. When that time comes, I hope that, as difficult as it might be, you’ll continue to be respectful of them and their beliefs and avoid the temptation of trying to convince them of the “error” of their ways.

As people of strong faith, your parents will likely be disappointed in you for your lack of that faith but it doesn’t mean they love you less. It’s a sign of their love that they want you to follow a path that they believe will give you salvation and you should respect them for that
What I suggest you do is to live a life of kindness, getting the education and training you’ll need to have a fulfilling working career that will make the world a little better for your presence. Draw your spiritual life from whatever source(s) suit you best. Build a life like that and your parents will respect you and be proud of you whatever your beliefs.

I hope this helps. You may have a bit of a rough road ahead of you until you and your family reach a point of mutual respect and forbearance, but if you hang in there, I think you’ll get through it just fine. You’ve always got EWC as a resource. Thank you for giving me a chance to help.

Letter #: 410558
Category: Family

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