Help with preteen atheist


#1

My almost 13 year old son has told me that he doesn't believe in God, and that belief in God is incompatable with belief in Science. He has always been a reluctant church-goer, he only goes to mass to please me, and my husband is a lapsed non-Catholic. My son has asked me if I can prove God exists, but I don't know how to explain this in a way that is both persuasive and age appropriate (he's not going to get it if I talk about St. Thomas Aquinas).

He is not being disrespectful; I can see he has thought about this. Can you recommend a book that would be age appropriate that discusses our faith and science? (or for me, about how to talk to him about this?)

thank you


#2

Thank you for coming here!

First of all, make sure you tell your son that you are HAPPY he is asking questions! Questions are a wonderful sign of growth and he SHOULD be asking them! The Catholic Church can answer every question that he has! God gave us inquiring minds...we are not robots that just follow directions, we have questions. The wonderful thing is that God has all the ANSWERS!

Perhaps you can search the name "Matthew Pinto". He wrote several books one of which was called "Did Adam and Eve Have Belly Buttons?" and other questions by Catholic Teenagers. He also wrote other books. This book is easy to read and gets right to the point.

Also make sure you ask your son lots of questions. Don't just give him information or a book but ask him questions. By asking him questions and listening to him talk you will get a better idea where he is at and why he is thinking what he thinks.

Why doesn't he beleive? After he tells you why you say, "well that's interesting." Ask him what he thinks about the earth or human beings. Ask him what he thinks about personalities or souls? Then say "well that's interesting." Thank you for telling me I would like to talk later today about this.

Show your son love and respect. This is HUGE. By showing him love and respect you are teaching him a key message that can be easily missed. Many children are turned away by the church because their questions are not accepted or encouraged. If you show your son that his questions are WONDERFUL and you can't wait to discuss them with him then he will always come to you. Your son will always come to you with questions and when they are answered he will learn something important. He will learn that the church is not a shallow hollow building but a true community founded by Christ that holds all the answers...

You can do this!!! Prayers for you


#3

At 13, I'd say he's probably ready to tackle adult reading on Apologetics. Peter Kreeft is a respected apologist, I'd check him out.

Older writers such as Chesterton and Lewis are great, but they may not resonate with him.


#4

[quote="bernadet, post:1, topic:232516"]
My almost 13 year old son has told me that he doesn't believe in God, and that belief in God is incompatable with belief in Science. He has always been a reluctant church-goer, he only goes to mass to please me, and my husband is a lapsed non-Catholic. My son has asked me if I can prove God exists, but I don't know how to explain this in a way that is both persuasive and age appropriate (he's not going to get it if I talk about St. Thomas Aquinas).

He is not being disrespectful; I can see he has thought about this. Can you recommend a book that would be age appropriate that discusses our faith and science? (or for me, about how to talk to him about this?)

thank you

[/quote]

amazon.com/Guard-Defending-Faith-Reason-Precision/dp/1434764885/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1300124478&sr=8-1

On Guard by William Lane Craig. It is a beginner level apolgetics book by a famous apologist and phiosopher. It gives, scientific, philosophical, and historical evidence for Christianity.

And here is an article he wrote on science and religion

reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5355

Take advantage of the popular articles section of the website, it's quite useful.


#5

[quote="bernadet, post:1, topic:232516"]
My almost 13 year old son has told me that he doesn't believe in God, and that belief in God is incompatable with belief in Science. He has always been a reluctant church-goer, he only goes to mass to please me, and my husband is a lapsed non-Catholic. My son has asked me if I can prove God exists, but I don't know how to explain this in a way that is both persuasive and age appropriate (he's not going to get it if I talk about St. Thomas Aquinas).

He is not being disrespectful; I can see he has thought about this. Can you recommend a book that would be age appropriate that discusses our faith and science? (or for me, about how to talk to him about this?)

thank you

[/quote]

I can tell you that he didn't think this up on his own. This is what is being promoted in the school systems which have been hijacked by the New Age movement, albeit very subtly.


#6

[quote="Monicad, post:2, topic:232516"]
Thank you for coming here!

First of all, make sure you tell your son that you are HAPPY he is asking questions! Questions are a wonderful sign of growth and he SHOULD be asking them! The Catholic Church can answer every question that he has! God gave us inquiring minds...we are not robots that just follow directions, we have questions. The wonderful thing is that God has all the ANSWERS!

Perhaps you can search the name "Matthew Pinto". He wrote several books one of which was called "Did Adam and Eve Have Belly Buttons?" and other questions by Catholic Teenagers. He also wrote other books. This book is easy to read and gets right to the point.

Also make sure you ask your son lots of questions. Don't just give him information or a book but ask him questions. By asking him questions and listening to him talk you will get a better idea where he is at and why he is thinking what he thinks.

Why doesn't he beleive? After he tells you why you say, "well that's interesting." Ask him what he thinks about the earth or human beings. Ask him what he thinks about personalities or souls? Then say "well that's interesting." Thank you for telling me I would like to talk later today about this.

Show your son love and respect. This is HUGE. By showing him love and respect you are teaching him a key message that can be easily missed. Many children are turned away by the church because their questions are not accepted or encouraged. If you show your son that his questions are WONDERFUL and you can't wait to discuss them with him then he will always come to you. Your son will always come to you with questions and when they are answered he will learn something important. He will learn that the church is not a shallow hollow building but a true community founded by Christ that holds all the answers...

You can do this!!! Prayers for you

[/quote]

Have him read the first section at least of C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity. It very rationally explains how there MUST be a God.


#7

Your son sounds very advanced for his age. His thinking in this regard is probably higher than that of his friends. I would recommend you to read, “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization” by Thomas E. Woods. This book shows how a lot of conventional science actually began by the work of Catholic clergy. This includes the Big Bang Theory, which was first postulated by Monsignor Georges Lemaître (look him up on Wikipedia). Once you have read the book, you can decide what to share or simply give him the book to read.

This may not give your son the proof he is looking for, but it will show him how God and science work together - they are not mutually exclusive.

Praying for you and him. This must be very painful for you, but like the above posts suggest, give him room to grow and ask questions. Show respect for his thoughts. PRAY FOR HIM. But don’t lose this opportunity for him to grow and understand the faith.

Peace,
Jeff


#8

[quote="ktmeyer, post:6, topic:232516"]
Have him read the first section at least of C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity. It very rationally explains how there MUST be a God.

[/quote]

Mere Christianity is one of my favorite books of all time, but I *disagree *with it's recommendation for the OP's needs. Because it's been out for the good part of a century, there are tons of 'refutations' of Mere Christianity available online. Not that these refutations disprove Mere Christianity, but they challenge Lewis' liar/madman scenario as a false dichotomy and Mr. Lewis is no longer alive to rebut them. Thankfully, others are, such as Kreeft, et. al. Hence, I recommend finding a solid, contemporary alternative.


#9

[quote="bernadet, post:1, topic:232516"]
My almost 13 year old son has told me that he doesn't believe in God, and that belief in God is incompatable with belief in Science. He has always been a reluctant church-goer, he only goes to mass to please me, and my husband is a lapsed non-Catholic. My son has asked me if I can prove God exists, but I don't know how to explain this in a way that is both persuasive and age appropriate (he's not going to get it if I talk about St. Thomas Aquinas).

He is not being disrespectful; I can see he has thought about this. Can you recommend a book that would be age appropriate that discusses our faith and science? (or for me, about how to talk to him about this?)

thank you

[/quote]

Actually at age 13, you can definitely quote Thomas Acquinas. I learned about the cause and effect, the design of the world, the conscience theory, etc. all from a young age. There are books that explain this in a simpler way, I suggest you get him a GCSE religious studies book on Christianity. I can't remember any titles but I'm sure there are abundant resources.


#10

Who is he hanging around with? I’d try to find him age peers or a youth group that is Christ-centered. Get him into a cause like pro-life, that is really not about religion but HUMAN RIGHTS (they all love that these days). Books are “meh” to a lot of teens. But real people, maybe slightly older, very firm in their faith, can make a huge difference.

It’s gonna take more work than giving him a book though. We Catholics aren’t that great with youth groups, not like some of the Protestants.

He needs a counter to all of the junk he’s hearing/reading at school, and a better set of happy, committed Christians to hang around with. Is he dressing like a scene kid or an emo? Lots of atheists in that crowd.


#11

Where he is getting these ideas from? I feel like the overwhelming majority of 13 year olds probably don't know enough about their faith OR science to be able to come up with a claim like that on their own. I suspect someone fed him that line. I was always really into science growing up, studied biology at a very liberal public university, and didn't start questioning my faith until my first year of college...but my response was not to stop believing, but to prove to myself that my faith WAS the truth, and I did so by reading....Augustine, Aquinas, CS Lewis, the Catechism, the Bible....everything I could get my hands on. And it only reinforced my faith. I do know though that having peers that are Christian helps...if your son's good friends are not religious, it will only serve to deter him from his faith, especially if he is the type to care what others think (which I was not). Its hard for most teens to relate to their parents and be able to respect their ideas when they are growing up in a culture that tells them that religion is for the weak and stupid, and portrays the faithful in such a negative light. It helps having friends that are religious to disprove that notion. My suggestion would be to learn more about his group of friends and try to get him involved in activities where he can form friendships with other Christian kids. In high school, my main group of friends were evangelical protestants (Calvary Chapel). They knew their stuff. I attended youth groups with them. And while I always felt a little out of place, I know that being surrounded by other Christians, even if they weren't Catholic, was preferable to being surrounded by people that would either try to tear my belief in God down, or couldn't relate to me at all.

Whatever you do, remember that faith is a GIFT from God, it is not something you can force on someone else. You have raised him in the Church and that is really all you can do, aside from praying and leading by example. Good luck!


#12

Ask your son to plant beans. And then ask how something that has no intelligence ( the bean plant) knows to wrap itself around a stick in order to survive and grow.


#13

Embear, it comes from school. The New Agers (really just Secular Humanists from the Enlightenment) have infiltrated and taken over education in this country. They’re indoctrinating our children away from the faith (on purpose). Even many naive teachers are doing this because they were so taught in the colleges, where these folks first got their foothold. It’s not an accident. It’s all part of a plan.


#14

Atheism is very cerebral, it requires concepts and analisis that normal kids his age don’t have the skills for. For this reason I think he is getting it form somewhere. Even if it is comming from his own mind and he cannot reconcile science (which most 12 year olds only know broad scientific concepts but not a full comprehention of a dicipline of science) with religion I would suggest some pretty heavy material for him. Our own Pope has some pretty cerebral stuff in reguards to this, also let him read some upper level aplogetics on this matter. He either needs the upper level stuff or the upper level stuff will show him that the modern media and social picture of science being knowlge and faith being superstition is just propoganda and he needs to recognize propoganda for what it is and realize that a well reasoned, logical, and well articulated argument for faith will trump an empty promise of psudo-science every time.

As an aside, this is one of the casualties of abandoning a classical education as a society, teaching kids to learn logic, and rhetoric is a lost art and they are defenseless when they run up against even the most amature practice of it.


#15

I have to tell you, 12 or 13 is not too young to be asking these type of questions-- after all, a century ago a lot of kids at that age were expected to apprentice out and begin to think as an adult.

My oldest child is 12, and for the past two years has taken courses offered for academically advanced children through our local university (my nine year old will be doing so this year). My kids are in Catholic school, and even there they have been exposed to other kids who question God (honestly, I think part of it is we teach them that Santa and the Tooth Fairy are real, so they begin to question ALL supernatural beings). When my son told me that one of the kids announced he was atheist, I took the opportunity to ask him what he thought about this, and point out relevant information that supports our beliefs as Catholics. We have our work cut out as parents to keep our kids on the right path, and that means we need to work at it on a regular basis through discussions about faith, theology, etc.

My kids are deep in their faith, and it is because we talk long and often about it, and we share books, articles, and movies to support out faith. Questions are good-- that means that they are thinking and attempting to understand their place in the universe, and their relationship with God.


#16

[quote="Scoobyshme, post:13, topic:232516"]
It's not an accident. It's all part of a plan.

[/quote]

Whose plan??


#17

[quote="Scoobyshme, post:13, topic:232516"]
Embear, it comes from school. The New Agers (really just Secular Humanists from the Enlightenment) have infiltrated and taken over education in this country. They're indoctrinating our children away from the faith (on purpose). Even many naive teachers are doing this because they were so taught in the colleges, where these folks first got their foothold. It's not an accident. It's all part of a plan.

[/quote]

Oh trust me, you don't have to tell me about this, I experienced it all in college. Professors not only made their political opinions known, but also regularly would crack jokes about how stupid, racist, ignorant ect. Christians are. Then you had the campus newspaper, which was regularly publishing articles that denounced everything Christian organizations on campus were doing (how dare they pray in a public place!?). The student body was nauseatingly liberal and completely obsessed with drinking and getting laid and partying. I am glad to be leaving. The faithful of my generation are going to have it tough, there is such a strong anti-religious sentiment from a lot of people my age, who see religion as nothing more than some stuffy outdated "opiate of the masses". And you're right, it was drilled into their heads by the liberal elite who run the schools and tout their moral relativism. These "teachers" are astoundingly arrogant and think their opinions of stuff that they know little to nothing about are fact and have no qualms passing them off as such. They don't encourage independent thought. Every time I wrote papers, I had to do so keeping my professors' biases in mind so that I could get a decent grade. Impressionable 13 year olds don't stand a chance unless their faith is strong and they can see everything for what it is. My parents prepared me from a young age for what I would face in the public education system, and when I saw it happening once I got there it made me laugh at how predictable it all was :rolleyes:

ANYHOW, I stand by what I said, a group of like-minded friends will serve as a good buffer from all the negative influences on kids at school.


#18

I hope it's alright that a non-believer is posting here, but I happened to see this topic and, as someone who has been an atheist essentially since I was about your son's age, I thought I might be able to give you a useful perspective.

[quote="bernadet, post:1, topic:232516"]
My son has asked me if I can prove God exists, but I don't know how to explain this in a way that is both persuasive and age appropriate (he's not going to get it if I talk about St. Thomas Aquinas).

[/quote]

Well, in the first place, I think a lot of religious folks would admit up front that proving the existence of god is indeed impossible -- that's precisely why religions say that faith is necessary. After all, if you could conclusively demonstrate that your god exists, you wouldn't need faith to believe...you'd have solid evidence, not faith.

And there's the whole problem. Your son will probably next ask why you should have faith at all and/or how you use faith to determine that your particular god -- the Christian god -- is true, rather than all the hundreds of other gods proposed by religions. And you won't have a good answer for that question because there's not one. Trust me, I've been at this for a long time, and I'm familiar with all of the arguments and angles, and there simply is not a convincing argument. If you want to convince your son honestly, you probably aren't going to do it through argumentation.

I would recommend that you try one of two things:
1) Explain to your son the things that convince you that god exists and ask him whether he also thinks that they are convincing. If he doesn't find them convincing, ask him why not. This will at least open up a dialogue, which could be very fruitful.

Option (1) will require you to think about what convinces you of the truth of your religion. Unfortunately, as I indicated above, I don't think that there are any convincing arguments -- at least, no convincing arguments that do not require faith to bolster them. So perhaps your best option is to combine option (1) with the next option:

2) Pray to your god to reveal himself to your son. After all, if your god does exist and if your god is all-knowing, then he already knows exactly what would convince your son to believe in him. So ask him to present your son with whatever it would take to get your son to believe.

It sounds like you are approaching this issue in the correct manner, giving your son a lot of respect, and that you're willing to be intellectually honest with him, which is great.

I'd be happy to answer any other, more specific questions, but if not, good luck with everything.

--AT


#19

To the OP:

I think a lot of religious folks would admit up front that proving the existence of god is indeed impossible – that’s precisely why religions say that faith is necessary. After all, if you could conclusively demonstrate that your god exists, you wouldn’t need faith to believe…you’d have solid evidence, not faith.

Don’t talk to your son about “proving” the existence of God. Talk to him about “evidence” for it, and then present to him some evidence and be able to show that this evidence is good enough to indicate that God exists and he should believe it. The word “proof” confuses people because it often makes them think of 100% mathmatical proof and certainty, which we don’t get in anything, not in history, science, or even crossing the street. I can’t tell 100% that I won’t die crossing the street, instead I assess the evidence (no cars coming etc.), and conclude that the evidence is sufficient that it is “probable” that I can safely cross the street.

  • So be able to give some evidence for it. I have suggested, and suggest again the book On Guard by William Lane Craig. He gives scientific and philosophical evidence that has been enough to convince many unbelievers including the famous atheist Anthony Flew, and Lee Strobel.
  • Do not fall into the trap of telling your son, “there are no good proofs, you just have to have faith.” This lazy response has destroyed the faith of a generation of young people. Faith is not simply a mode of knowing or a matter of belief as the above heathen thinks. Faith is the commitment of one’s whole being to God, in the realm of trust. Good reasons can help him to eventually make this commitment.

As to why Christianity and not other relgions, the answer of course, is the historical evidence for the Resurrection and Incarnation. WLC also gives evidence for this in the book I suggest. When you actually study it and don’t just rely on internet stereotypes, the evidence for Jesus is far better than for other religions. Of course, you will have to actually do the reading and go over it. Though I can give you a brief summary if you want.

Pray to your god to reveal himself to your son. After all, if your god does exist and if your god is all-knowing, then he already knows exactly what would convince your son to believe in him. So ask him to present your son with whatever it would take to get your son to believe.

A popular atheist trick is to say “if God really existed, then he would make it obvious to me that he exists, since I don’t believe in him, God must not exist.” Don’t fall for this nonsense. The Bible says that we can know God through nature, through the sin in us, and the apostles appealed to the historical evidence for the resurrection (to which they were eyewitnesses). You just have to do the work to be able to show him this. Read On Guard. One chapter a week, together with your son. discuss.


#20

[quote="TheRealJuliane, post:10, topic:232516"]
Who is he hanging around with? I'd try to find him age peers or a youth group that is Christ-centered. Get him into a cause like pro-life, that is really not about religion but HUMAN RIGHTS (they all love that these days). Books are "meh" to a lot of teens. But real people, maybe slightly older, very firm in their faith, can make a huge difference.

It's gonna take more work than giving him a book though. We Catholics aren't that great with youth groups, not like some of the Protestants.

He needs a counter to all of the junk he's hearing/reading at school, and a better set of happy, committed Christians to hang around with. Is he dressing like a scene kid or an emo? Lots of atheists in that crowd.

[/quote]

I agree with this.
Faith is called faith for a reason.
Your boy needs to experience the truth of Christ.. He experiences that in the environment of true Christians who live the Christian morality and kindness and where he sees people healed and transformed through the Name of Jesus. He will see the difference between how his non-christian friends act and think and how his Christian friends act and think, if he gets the chance to become involved with Christian young people. Thats your best shot.. if not your only one at bringing him back.
Explain to him the limits of science.. they cannot empirically disprove God, because science is only about measuring and observing natural empirical things.
It cannot see nor explain such things as freedom of will, consciousness or morality. Science asks how.. but cannot ask nor answer why.

If he is intellectual.. get him the book: "Whats so great about Christianity", by Dinesh D'Souza. Its an easy read and very persuasive and it deals with all common objections.. also scientific ones.
But I recommend inviting people to your home who have had strong religious experience.. This is more persuasive than any mind-gymnastics..

Faith is an experience of a meeting.


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