Help! I raised an Atheist

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Sometimes bad things happen to good people, and sometimes good Christian parents raise children who reject the faith. Sometimes that rejection lasts for a few weeks or months. Other times it stretches out over years. So, what do you do when your teenager comes home and announces he is an atheist? 

This question is not an easy one, and any easy answer would be terribly inadequate or hurtful. Therefore, I want to take several days to work through the answers to this question. Today I want to identify the different reasons for unbelief. In the future I will suggest ways to talk through each. 

First, neither over-react nor under-react. Kids hate it when their parents freak out, and human anger never brings about the righteousness of God. Your son is possibly just testing you, seeing if you give him the freedom to have his own opinions and beliefs. So give him room and show respect for his opinions and feelings.

But you also do not want to under-react. No response is just as disrespectful as an over-reaction. Don't treat your son like a child who is going through a phase. He is not a four year old asking for sandwiches so he can runaway. He is a young adult who is trying to figure out the world. Give him the respect of asking him about his opinions and how he formed them. 

As you talk to your teenager, patiently and kindly diagnose his unbelief. Do not assume you know why he has rejected belief in God. There are many possible reasons, try to narrow down his. 

He may be overwhelmed by cultural pressure. Schools, television, movies, internet videos, etc. fill our minds with people who ridicule Christianity. When Christians are in the news inevitably it is for something embarrassing. Teenagers feel a strong need to not be embarrassed. Claiming to be an atheist gives you much more credibilty in many circles than claiming Christianity. 

Emotional dissappointment drives many people to atheism. The first atheist I met grew up in the church. His father abandoned the family for another woman. He plainly stated, if God were real, that would not have happened. This same argument convinces many who have experienced pain and dissappointment. The argument itself is not valid, but it carries emotional weight. Like most of our opinions, it feels right so we believe it. 

Some people choose unbelief because of intellectual pressure. Christians in academics feel terribly lonely. History books tell the story of atrocities carried out by the church. Science books talk about evolution and leave no place for God. Because so few of our kids hear serious discussion of philosophy or religion, they easily think only uneducated people could possibly be Christian. 

Many others are convinced by a silent moral argument. One man told me he grew up in the church, but was also exposed to pornography early. He knew he could not believe in Jesus, and satisfy his sexual desires. So unconciously he chose to continue his immorality. To satisfy his conscience, he called himself an atheist and chose to believe those arguments. 

Finally, some kids in the church simply adopt the true religion of their parents. We all know that many parents go to church, but their lives do not display any true belief in God. We may fool ourselves, but we will not fool our children. Teenagers hate false pretenses.  If a teenager has grown up seeing his parents wear the false mask of religion, he will very likely reject the church all together. 

In the coming days, I will write about how to address each of these issues. For now I want to give you believing parents a spark of good news. 

In light of all the things lined up against our kids, why does anyone believe? Because God actually does exist. He is there, and he actually cares about us humans. Not only that, but he loves your children. His plan for your sons and daughters may involve a short (or long) visit to the far country of unbelief. But He loves your kids. 

Talk to your children and try to find out how they arrived at unbelief. Before you can hope to show him the road back to Christ, you need to discover what road he took away. And talk to God. Pray that he will reveal himself to your children. He created the universe in 6 days. Convincing a teenager that He exists just isn't that hard for him. 

More to come. . .

4 Comments

Sadly, there are many of us walking this heartbreaking road.

My suggestions:

Ask your kids why they’ve chosen atheism. Do they have a good reason, or are they just repeating slogans they’ve heard from other kids, i.e. there isn’t enough evidence to believe in God; so many people have been killed in the name of religion; if there really is a God, there wouldn’t be so much suffering in the world, etc.

We must be equipped for these difficult questions. Be prepared to talk to your kids about why you believe in God, in general, and Christianity, in particular.

Buy a book called, On Guard, Defending Your Faith With Reason and Precision, by Dr. William Lane Craig. He is one of the best defenders of Christianity in this generation. He travels all over the world debating some of the most strident atheists.

Watch a talk Dr. Craig gave in Tulsa in 2012 at an apologetics conference at the Church at Battlecreek
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mTd6mRJXVo
In it, he lays out a strong case for both theism and Christianity. Dr. Craig believes that, given the secularism of our society, and particularly the university, if we don’t train our kids in apologetics, it’s like sending them out to battle with rubber swords and plastic shields.

Watch a video by Dr. Gary Habermas on the Resurrection from the same conference. He lays out a clear case
for the Resurrection which he has been studying about 40 years
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNdmSQKyzgc

Here is a link to a Gospel Coalition article written by William Lane Craig as a rebuttal to atheist Richard Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion. It isn’t light reading, but it will give you a framework for the kind of arguments being circulated on atheist/infidel blogs
http://thegospelcoalition.org/pdf-articles/Craig_Atheism.pdf

Watch a documentary called, The Privileged Planet. It’s a well-done, fascinating look at the fine-tuning of the universe for complex, intelligent life. I highly recommend it.

We have got to pray for this generation. There are several groups in town that meet to pray for prodigals and at RO we have several families who are struggling with this. I’d love to meet with others for regular times of prayer.

wow that was a lot of great insight for a short post, thanks for addressing this

Thanks Ricky for addressing this topic

This is without a doubt the most difficult spiritual road I have ever traveled... the struggle is mine as well as my son's... Thanks for addressing it and for the encouragement.

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