A young man, grappling with his changing beliefs, was facing a family conflict centered around religion. The man had been raised in a Christian household by his father, so when he shared his recent thoughts at the dinner table, the conversation took a solemn turn.
A Religious Upbringing
The man explained his perspective on his religious upbringing: “My dad raised me a Christian, his way of trying to fulfill his desire to have a “nuclear family.” You know the drill, happy Christian family sorta thing. It all sorta goes back to his childhood. Long story short, my dad had an awful childhood, absent parents, that type of thing.”
Unbeknownst to his father, the man had begun to lose faith in Christianity. “I’m not sure exactly when or why, but over the past year I’ve really fallen out with religion”, he explained.
The Familiar Prayer Routine
The family had a tradition of saying a specific prayer before meals, a practice deeply ingrained in their daily routine. However, as the young man’s faith waned, so did his enthusiasm for participating in this ritual.
A Moment of Disruption
During one such mealtime, the young man kept his eyes open during the prayer, signaling his reluctance to take part. His father, noticing the deviation from the norm, stopped mid-prayer and said, “Oh… sorry God, it looks like my son is distracted.”
Revealing His Non-Belief
Unwilling to continue with the charade, the young man responded, “Well, I’m just not really religious anymore.” This confession opened the door to a larger conversation about faith and personal beliefs.
The Father’s Reaction
The father, evidently upset by this revelation, expressed his sadness. “Never mind I guess”, he lamented. “Just never tell your grandpa that. It’ll break his heart worse than it broke mine.”
The Attempted Explanation
The young man attempted to engage in a conversation with his father to understand his perspective better and explain his view that belief was a personal choice. However, his efforts were met with resilience, and his father opted for ‘the silent treatment’ instead of dialogue.
The Struggle with Guilt
While grappling with the situation, the young man felt a twinge of guilt. He recognized his father’s supportive and caring nature, and this made him question if he had done something wrong. He felt that it almost would have been better if his father had lashed out, giving him a stronger reason to reject Christianity.
The Dilemma of Pretense
Contemplating a potential solution, the young man considered pretending to be religious to spare his father’s feelings, despite the moral implications. This internal conflict arose from the simple desire to maintain harmony within the family.
The Silent Tears
Despite his best efforts, communication between the young man and his father remained strained. On many occasions he would peer over to his father, only to discover him crying tears of sadness.
In search of clarity and advice, the young man turned to an online community, asking whether his actions had made him ‘the bad guy’ in this situation. To his relief, no one expressed this opinion. “You didn’t “make” him cry… your choice makes him sad”, comforted one reader. “That doesn’t de-legitimize your choice – he’s allowed to feel sad, but you’re still your own person.”
Worried for His Son
Despite siding with the son, most readers still felt sorry for the father, who was clearly genuinely saddened by the situation, yet reluctant to lash out. “I can see where your dad is coming from… as a devout Christian, he’s probably just worried about your soul”, one person pointed out.
Honesty is a Virtue
Many readers expressed the importance of honesty in this situation. “Lying about who you are is never the answer”, advised another reader. “It only ensures you will remain discontent, and if someone needs you to lie about who you are, they might not be the best person for you anyway. He may or may not get over it. But you need to live your own truth, and your truth is atheism.”
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