Hands Off! (Redux)
Message from the IAmAnAtheist.com feedback form.
I read your message threatening you with child molestation for corresponding to the teenage girl. I agree that the letter writer went too far in making unsumbstantiated threats, but I also think that people leaving comments and you are not really looking at the whole picture here.
If you were a parent you would understand the panic it would induce if someone was trying to take your child away from you. It must feel to this person like you are some nameless stranger in a van offering their daughter to get in and be driver who knows where to face who knows what. That is a terrifying feeling and is why the parent gets the feeling that you are attacking their baby.
How would you feel if a religious person started spouting their rhetoric to your child and was trying to convince them to join some dangerous cult? Wouldn’t you leap to their defense with every weapon in your disposal?
You also have to look at this from the other side and not just from your prejudice. I as a Christian know that there are some things that we as mere humans are not meant by God to question but to take on faith. If we ask questions about certain unanswerable things then we are giving Satan a hook to get his hooks into because his smooth answers will surely be more attractive than no answers to things that God intends to remain a mystery.
I am sure you are not a bad person but I must admit that I would also be riled if I discovered that you had been secretly e-mailing my little girl and badgering her to turn against her salvation. Perhaps in the future you will take more care when writing to children, particularly girls. Perhaps the best thing to do is to say that they are not old enough to be writing to you and if they want to discuss religion they should show respect and go to their parents and not to some strange man. The internet is a dangerous place for the young and for girls in particular. What if she had written to someone who wasn’t as well intentioned as you?
I think that I am indeed looking at the whole picture. I am a parent, and I agree that I would be horrified if I felt that someone was trying to lure my child into a cult. However, advising someone to research their family’s beliefs, read the book that their family considers holy, and continue attending religious services with their parents shouldn’t fall under anyone’s definition of trying to turn a child against their parents’ religion.
The young woman who wrote to me was not questioning some deep religious mystery that should be taken on faith. I don’t have her letter anymore (I don’t keep my past correspondence), but her main question was along the lines of, “Why should I read the Bible when it’s all a bunch of lies?” That’s a question that any Christian worth the label should have an answer for. And frankly even if she had been asking about something more controversial, I would feel no guilt for giving her my opinion or pointing her toward scholarly resources. If a religion is afraid of scrutiny, then I would suggest that there is reason to fear the religion.
Regarding your closing paragraph, please understand that I was “secretly” e-mailing this young woman only in the sense that I did not attempt to notify her parents that she had written to me (and would have no way of doing so even if I wanted to). I also was not “badgering” her to “turn against her salvation.” In fact, I said nothing against her parents’ religious beliefs. And I certainly wouldn’t tell a 17-year-old that she isn’t old enough to be writing to me, or that she should be afraid of the Internet.
You also seem to think that it makes a difference that this was a female writing to me. Why is that? And what does my gender have to do with anything? I do not discuss my gender on this blog, and the young woman who wrote to me did not appear to make any assumptions about my gender. It seems like an irrelevant issue.
I very often — two or three times a month — get letters from young people who are afraid or concerned because they have doubts about their religion or are afraid to talk to their parents about their change in beliefs. I have posted some of those letters to this blog along with my responses. I have never tried to turn anyone against their parents, and I have never encouraged young people to rebel. Instead, I encourage clear thought and intelligent inquiry, involving the child’s parents where appropriate and practicable. I see no reason to change my ways, and will continue to respond to these e-mails in this manner. If that makes some parents nervous, then I would suggest that they are likely far less secure in their beliefs than they claim to be.