I received an interesting email from Kevin. I wasn’t sure if he wanted me to answer this in private or if he wanted me to post it here because it seemed so private. However after I asked him, he said that he wanted both. So here’s his email, and my response afterwards.
I was hoping that if you had the time, you would be willing to review this letter I have written for my parents. They already know about my atheism but have not accepted it. Therefore, I wrote this letter for them in the hope that they will understand. FYI, I am 16 and live with them. I read your blog everyday and enjoy it immensely. Keep up the good work. Thank you in advance.
With regards, Kevin
Dear Mom and Dad,
I would like you to know that I love you very much and I hope you love me. Recently, we have come into disputes of a religious nature. You may not like my disbelief; I really do not mind. When I told you, I was hoping to be relieved of a great burden. Unfortunately, the burden remains because my loving parents have not accepted me. The only thing I want for Christmas this year is your complete acceptance, not being forced to participate in something I do not believe in. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. If you cannot accept my beliefs or myself as a person, how sad that you cannot accept your own child for whom he is. Does your god not teach acceptance and tolerance of others, regardless of their faith (or lack thereof)? It is my hope that through this letter, you will reexamine the validity of your actions and realize they are not helping anyone and may even be detrimental to your goal and my well being.
Well Kevin, first I think your letter is straight and to the point. You’re asking to be treated as an individual with a right to your personal autonomy, and that’s to be commended. You didn’t insult or bash their faith, and it seems you are trying to illicit a bit of respect that you think you deserve. I commend you on your efforts.
Now with that said, allow me to give you some insight to what your parents may be thinking. Obviously I don’t know for sure this is their thought process. I can only give you my insight as being the father of a teenager.
Adolescence is about discovering who you are. It’s about playing around with different perspectives and pushing your own boundaries in order to figure out the type of person you want to be in the future. Your parents know this. They expect it. So because of this they may not take your change as serious as you do. They expect you to one day feel one way and then the next day feel another. Their jobs as parents is to help you navigate this time in your life. So my advice to you would be this, give them the letter if that’s what you feel you need to do but don’t count on it changing anything. Their perspective isn’t something that you can change with just words. You have to show them that you are serious about this. That means studying not only the works of other atheists, but read the bible as well. Show them that this isn’t just a phase that you are going through. Keep in mind that you will find them being adversarial about this as well. They are probably afraid you are going down the wrong path and will want to set you straight. Don’t get upset with this. It’s a sign that your parents care about you. Respect that even if you don’t agree with their methods. If they want you to go to church, go to church. If they want you to talk to a minister, talk to one. Show them that you are open minded. The more you fight them, the more they will work harder on “fixing” you. Arm yourself with knowledge and ask lots of questions. Ask questions that get them to ask questions. Ask question after question after question. Eventually they will not only respect you for doing as they asked, but even better, they will be able to relate to you through their own questioning. Don’t bash them, instead get them to understand you.
I don’t know if that will help but I hope it does. Hopefully others will read this and give you some more advice in the comments. Thanks for sharing Kevin.