How to protect my college student from new atheist reading assigments


For what it’s worth, (as a fellow college student parent) at this point, I would just let him go. He’ll likely read any of these choices and while doing so, will make notes of the things he disagrees with and you’ll be able to talk about it over Turkey in November.

My daughter read Hitchens in Dawkins her senior yr of HS and had sticky notes all over the place with notes refuting their claims.

Alternatively, If you must, then once you find out which book he’s reading, pick up a copy of yourself, read it and then engage in discussion.

You could also get him some books for Christmas that are more in line with supporting Christianity to counterbalance this assignment

Chillax Dad!



It’s more important to encourage your son’s faith than his critical thinking skills. You don’t get marks towards heaven for critical thinking. Of course, it’s nice to have that skill, though.



If you know the correct way to think, as a parent, you should of course tell your son how to think. “Don’t tell him he is wrong or right,” you wrote. Let him flounder, more like.



Here is a great website:

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Once he/she is in college you are at the point where you can tell him what you think but telling him what to think is not respecting his own thoughts and development. Let him flounder? Yes! It is how we work through our beliefs and come to rational conclusions that we can then defend. Would you rather he decide that he believes something because he was just told it was true and can’t question it or he believes it because he struggled over it and rationally concluded it was correct knowledge.
You state that as a parent you know the correct way to think. How did you learn the correct way?



One thing for certain—we all have a lot of faith that the college students will actually read these books they’re supposed to read. :wink:



Give your son his space

I always find the discussions around arguments for and against God interesting

I tend to believe apologetics is more apt when defending faith in the Church

Now questioning God out right I think relates to the gift of faith not to arguments. We are asked to believe in what we have not seen. It comes down to a gift given by God

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The problem with telling him the correct way to think, after a certain point, is that all he’s learning is to listen for other people to tell him what to think. That’s a recipe for disaster the minute you’re not around to tell him what to do. A faith based on thinking through the arguments is a faith that is better lasting than a faith based on what your parents told you that you should think.

Also, those are really terrible selections for atheist readings, unless you like scientists thinking they know how to be philosophers. I’d encourage him to talk things over with his parents and reflect on what he thinks, and maybe get him in touch with the local newman center if the college has one and he’s not already there.



I forgot to mention that! Have his contact campus ministry! My daughter is a junior at Ole Miss and is very active in their CCYM group which I was surprised to hear even existed.



I recommend this too. As a student I would probably get annoyed at my parents for trying to force me to read stuff, but if they were to put me into a bookstore and ask if I want to get anything, I’m more likely to actually read it lol.

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Parents these days are very tentative when it comes to expressing their beliefs. Some don’t even get their children baptized because they want them to come to all their own conclusions later. Well, newsflash, that’s not passing on the faith.

On every point, you yourself should know all the standard comebacks and be able to defend your belief. You teach your child all these standard comebacks, and even all the ways people avoid discussing things, such as ad hominem attacks, sending people on a wild goose chase by turning from one point to another, taking things off the agenda and so on.

What PattyIt is defending is something called values clarification versus moral education. You get kids to debate something like abortion (now the tactic is to not debate it in the first place) and somehow, they come up with their own answer. Well, theologians, philosophers, Catholic scholars have already come up with all the proper rebuttals and it’s up to us to teach these to the new generation. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There is only one right answer.

Now socially liberal parents believe if you have a firm viewpoint, you’re rigid or not open minded. The response to this is to say, “My mind is open. It’s just not vacant.”



The worry I’ve had is I’ve also seen the flip side often. Parents teach kids, “this is what we believe, just believe it and don’t ask questions.” That doesn’t lead to lasting faith.

I have my doubts @Sam_Glimpson would have asked the question he did, if he had no concern for passing on his faith at all.



Your son is an adult, and understanding the opponents argument is a key facet of debate that helps you better argue your own position. Just pray for him.



Is the purpose of this class to ultimately develop answers to refute those characters?

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Try giving him The book, Answering Atheism, by Trent Horn staff apologist for Catholic Answers. I have heard of it but not bought it yet.

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Even I struggle with that.



Your line of thinking is how my parents thought. It’s also why we have a very strained relationship and don’t communicate well.

To the OP, I agree with the other posters; your son is an adult in college. Discuss as you would with a friend over a drink, but otherwise, you’d be best left to kindly keep out of it.

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Thank you for the suggestions. I’ll check out the book you referenced by Trent Horn. Also, I hope the purpose is to develop answers and refute them. Time will tell. I was just surprised by this since it’s first semester freshman year.

Thanks again.



Yes, you are correct it is a Freshman Seminar. One of the other choices had something to do with riding a bicycle around the city. Thanks for the response.

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Thanks again everyone. I appreciate the information and suggestions and advice.
Hope you all have good days.

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