Question for Parents


I’m 18 years old and I’ve been bought up as a Catholic for the whole of my life. I still go to mass, but I am actually an atheist. Almost all of my friends know this, except most of my friends through church. None of my family know this except for my brother.

As parents (or more spesidically Catholic parents) how would you feel/react if one of your children told you they didn’t believe in God?


Glad to have you here. My daughter (when she was 11) told us she didn’t believe in God. We just loved her, prayed for her, insisted she continue to go to Church with us, and rejoiced (a year or more later) when she asked to go to confession with me.

Ever heard of Pascal’s Wager? I don’t want to say that all atheists are destined for the hot place, but I think the wager is a good starting point. Plus, life is so complex, we are so complex, everything works together so well, do you REALLY think that we just evolved out of nothing?

Pascal’s Wager

* You live as though God exists.
      o If God exists, you go to heaven: your gain is infinite.
      o If God does not exist, you gain nothing & lose nothing.

* You live as though God does not exist.
      o If God exists, you go to hell: your loss is infinite.
      o If God does not exist, you gain nothing & lose nothing.


My first question would be WHY?

I would ask for a full and complete logic statement for your belief.
Believing in God is logical to me… not believing in God is not a logical conclusion (in my opinion), given the data points we have.

My reaction if this were my child…
“I love you very much and I’m very sorry that you’ve come to this conclusion. Please explain logically how you came to this conclusion.”

And I’d listen. And I’d counterpoint. And I’d listen some more… and counterpoint until the day I die.

I cannot force anyone to see the logic I see… but I will pray that all blocks from logic be removed from my children’s sight.


I’m a parent and I know how I would react. While my child saying that they did not believe in God would be very upsetting to me, I would understand why they would say that. As humans we tend to believe what we experience. We may say that we believe, but the truthisn’t fully grasped simply by us saying “I believe”. How many times do you hear someone say “that really hit home for me”? I wonder if that would be a better way to look whether you believe in God or not. Maybe God just hasn’t “hit home” for you yet.

I went through a lot of years where God didn’t hit home for me. I don’t understand why God does that to us. I know we are to love and obey God because He’s God not because we “get” something out of it. But speaking for myself, I do try to make good decisions in life and the more understanding that I have the better decisions that I can make…its like God was holding back some vital information that I needed earlier on in my life. But at that point in my life God “didn’t hit home” for me so my decisions were far less than favorable. Even now that I feel my faith stronger I realize that I still don’t have the full grasp of the truth which causes me some despair in life. After all if I want to do the right thing, why doesn’t God help me out??

Just my thoughts



Thanks for your reply. While I didn’t exactly want to get into an atheism vs. religion debate, I will say that yes I have heard of Pascal’s Wager. I would respond by saying firstly, we can’t help what we believe. If I go back to church and pray that won’t change in my heart that I don’t believe in God.

I am also confident in the non existance of God. I believe that this life here and now is what is important. Just as strongly as you believe in a God I believe the opposite so I see no reason to obey Pascal’s Wager.

Anyway Pascal’s Wager is also faulty becuase it really depends of the veiwpoint of the person who puts it forward. My Islam friends tell me that belief in Jesus’ deity is heritical and will be punished in hell. Should I be a Muslim just to be safe? Or any other religion?

As far as my life style is concerened, I intend to lead the best life I possibly can. I intend to do as much for other people as I can. I’m starting this by taking up a Medical degree in October. Will this help?

And finally, yes I do beleive in evolution. I don’t see any problems with it, except for the very beginning. But I would have more difficulty accepting that some supernatural being kicked the whole process off then in saying that ‘while we don’t know how it happened, that doesn’t necessarily mean we needed a God.’ Just because we don’t understand something, it doesn’t mean we must fill the void with belief without evidence.

But anyway I still don’t want this topic to become another Atheism vs. Christianity debate. In responce to the first part of your post, how would you feel if your daughter, when she was older, made the disicion to stop coming with you to church? Or told you she had when she left home? What if you knew you wouldn’t be able to convince her. How would you feel then?


Just FYI… as Catholics we are free to believe that God allowed evolution to take place. There is no reason why we should ignore scientific data.


For me, I had very solid belief in God for most of my life. Only really since the age of 15 or 16 did I really begin to question my faith. I did spend a long time thinking about this before I realised that actually I really didn’t believe.


Yes I know this. When I was a Catholic I believed in evolution. However, I don’t believe now in directional evolution. I don’t believe that humans were definatly going to exist, or that my existance was certain. I believe the chance that humans didn’t exist is much greater then the chance that they did.


Agreed… statistically the “chance” of life is infinitely small.
How do you propose it came about?


Well, it’s not over until it’s over. I would obviously be upset, but you can’t make someone believe what they won’t believe. I would pray that the Holy Spirit would change their heart, and I would love them.

I actually believe that there is a time when people have to put aside their childish faith and acquire a more adult faith. Sometimes that comes with a break from all belief, sometimes it doesn’t.

Yes, prayer would actually help. IF there is a God, and you ask Him to make Himself real to you, I’m sure He will. Your concern for your parents is admirable, but I’d rather my kids be honest with me than spare me any feelings they think I might have about something they would tell me.


Well actually we don’t know the statistical chance of life occuring. However, considering the potentially huge (in the order of a billion billion) number of suitable plantets and the vast amount time avaliable (more then human comprehension) I don’t think its that unlikly. Even if life was so improbabal that it would only occur on one planet dispite the time avaliable, we shouldn’t be too surprised to see its earth.

I don’t have an exact proposal that would be scientifically valid. But really you don’t hae to go too far. Once you get self replication, your kind of there. And chemical reactions can build up complex molecules without imput as long as the raw materials are avaliable. So I don’t think its as much of a long shot as to say that God did it. That does leave the question of where God came from, and saying he always existed is a bit of a cop out as it doesn’t leave room for argument or evidence. I could say DNA always existed and challage you to disprove that.


I’d say I am more concerned about my parents then my loss of faith. I don’t feel the need or desire to regain it.

But of course honesty is often easier said then done. I still can’t picture any easy converstion in which I told them I didn’t believe in God.

I expect they would probably would agree with your course of action (I would pray that the Holy Spirit would change their heart, and I would love them) but I still think they would be really upset.


I’m not a parent, but I’ll offer this: If you’re old enough to decide what you believe in, you’re old enough to take responsibility for it. Yes, your parents will be upset, but that is because they love and care about you.



I would respond by saying firstly, we can’t help what we believe. If I go back to church and pray that won’t change in my heart that I don’t believe in God.

I agree completely.

For me, I had very solid belief in God for most of my life. Only really since the age of 15 or 16 did I really begin to question my faith. I did spend a long time thinking about this before I realised that actually I really didn’t believe

I understood that. Believe it or not, you are not the first person to question faith. Is it safe to say that when you were a child (<15) you thought like a child and what you thought was belief was merely agreement of things that you were taught? Then as you grew your own reasonings started - finding who you are and what you believe in?

I wouldn’t tell your parents that you don’t believe in God, that may upset them enough that they will not listen to you further. I would say something to the point that you have started your spiritual journey to find the truth. Life is a journey and there is a great deal more to find as you grow older. Be patient and don’t jump off any bridges of thought too hastily. When God does hit home to you (and he will) then those thoughts, ideas, beliefs will begin to internalize so that what you believe is actually changed and you will own up to them - slowly maybe, or maybe overnight…everyone’s different

I would hope that if you go to medical school you would grow to understand how little you understand. Some people never learn this though!


I think of this all the time and my husband and I talk about the day that one of our children could come to us and say this. I hope it will never happen and if it did i would be devistated!!! I would pray myself to death i am sure and cry a river of tears. And i will love my kid just as much and show them that they still have my unconditional love. They would not be off the hook, there would be a lot of talking going on thats for sure. I do expect that all my children will at some point question their faith. thats normal and healthy, in this instance i hope it will only cause them to dig deep to learn more about it and become even more faithful. Everytime i question my faith and do a lot of research I come out of it even more in love with our God and our Church. I wonder what transpired that you were convinced that there isnt a God? The proof is all there for you if you want it.


Thanks, I think your probably right.


I’m a catholic parent and it would upset me if one of my children told me they no longer believed. It would never affect how much I love them.

I would also ask them to reconsider their beliefs. I would explain that while they are considered an adult at 18, they really do not have much experience in life. I would hope they respect me enough to at least try a few things before walking away from the church.

After all, I’ve given them my all since they were born the least they could do would be to read a few books or attend some classes?


A parent of a teen, and I was also once a teen myself :slight_smile:

To re-state someone earlier - if DS came home tonight and says “mom, I no longer believe in God” I would say “Why?”

We are a talking, debating, discussing kind of family, so - the TV Teen response of “I just don’t” or “I donno” are not part of our real-life family.

We would talk about it, we would discuss, I would encourage him to speak with other people he knows and respects. We’d encourage him to study.

It is NOT wrong to question faith, it is part of growing up - and it happens more than once in an adult lifetime for many people. As someone once said, God has no grandchildren. We much each come to our own relationship with God. I WANT my child to claim and experience faith firsthand.

Belief is an act of will, like love. Faith is a gift from God. You cannot will yourself to have faith, you CAN will yourself to believe.

You are stating that you choose not to believe - and my question is…

  • WHY?


One more thing, I admire the respect and concern you have for your parents. This shows you are not a brat :slight_smile:

To continue to attend Mass out of respect for them says something about the way they raised you.

When you go to Mass, are you refraining from reception of the Eucharist? Out of that same respect, I would advise you to speak with the Priest - in the confidence of the Confessional perhaps - because to receive in a state of disbelief seems wrong.

Prayers for you!


I have spent the last three or four years considering my beliefs and discussing them, even if not with my parents. I really don’t believe in God and I don’t see the need to try and believe again. It would be like me saying to you, ‘you really should consider Islam as an alternate to your faith’ and you giving it serious thought. I’m used to people thinking that because I’m 18 this is a phase or I simply lack the understanding that years of experience would give me. There is little I can say in responce to this. I suppose I could come back here in 5 or 10 years time and tell you what I believe then, but I really don’t see anything changing.

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