Help! I raised an Atheist4
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. . .