It took a while after The Thinking Atheist premiered on the internet before its host, Seth Andrews, was willing to talk about the impact that his atheism had on his family and his relationship with them. His parents, being theologians and deeply rooted in their belief, were never going to take the news well, but what made it worse for Seth was their apparently unceasing attempts to woo him back to the fold. What I suspect they have no understanding of is that, once the blinkers have been taken off, it’s rather unlikely that anyone would willing put them back on again. So it has been with Seth. Much as he loves his parents, their persistent intransigence has necessitated extreme measures, which have included blocking them on his phone, at minimum, to stop the tattoo of bible-verse-ridden text messages sent by his mother and father. If he has taken other steps, he hasn’t related them publicly. The bottom line on this is that, for Seth to live his life authentically and not be harassed as a matter of course, he has had to cut himself off from at least a part of his family.

If that isn’t sufficiently tragic, consider that Seth is by no means alone. The other evening, I watched the video which is attached to this blog entry and which I recommend to your attention. In it, Matt Dillahunty of The Atheist Experience tells a story which is remarkably similar to Seth’s, complete with parents constantly pushing for Matt’s return to Christianity, their obvious failure to either listen or comprehend Matt’s side of the argument, and the brand of passive-aggressive behavior which has doubtless driven atheists worldwide to distraction. What was particularly notable about Matt’s diatribe is his willingness to be blatantly and bluntly disgusted with his parents’ actions and letting them know that the one-sided communication which characterized their proselytism at him would no longer be tolerated. Notes, cards, or letters from them will be discarded unopened and unread. Communications which cannot be rebutted in real-time will not be accepted. He hasn’t cut them off entirely, but instead insists that any conversation they have on this topic going forward must be two-way.

Now consider: these are just two atheists who are well-known within the atheist community, whose experiences so resemble each other that the parallels are both striking and disturbing. How many hundreds or thousands of other atheist sons and daughters of believing fathers and mothers have gone through precisely the same gauntlet and faced the exact same choices of engagement or disconnection? How many times has this been repeated across the United States or anywhere else in the world, with the same or similar fallout?

Worst of all: how many parents have demonstrated that an unseen, intangible, historically questionable and morally challenged deity is more important to them than their own children are?

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Comment by Michael Penn on June 1, 2019 at 11:39am

I can agree, Loren. It was my parents who got me into religion and had me studying to be a preacher. My step dad recently said that if I am right then he doesn't have any future. Why would you think you had a future after you were dead? Would it get old sometime if you were setting around praising god for over 10,000 years? The bible says very little about a place called heaven and lots of people have no critical thinking skills.

Comment by Loren Miller on June 1, 2019 at 9:50am

I'm an odd case, Michael, in that the concept of "family" has never been all that positive to me, for reasons I won't go into here.  Were I faced with the kind of persistent familial harangue that Seth or Matt have experienced, I wouldn't hesitate to cut them off at the knees and not look back.  My self-integrity and determination are way too important to me to allow anyone, family included, to try to subvert or compromise them.  Twenty years ago, that would not have been the case.  In the here and now, it can't NOT be the case.

Comment by Michael Penn on June 1, 2019 at 9:40am

Your postscript also says a lot. My children know my position and they tell me all the time that they still believe, but in their own way. Isn't that how all this nonsense got started? My own dead mother would have taken the stance of your postscript. I also remember a Merle Haggard song with words of "while momma prayed that my crops would fail."

Hitch was right. Religion poisons everything. 

Comment by Loren Miller on April 15, 2019 at 8:05am

Postscript (and bump, because I think this is important):

"We are praying for god to stop you, whatever the cost."

What kind of parent says that to their own child?



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