Monday, June 10, 2013

Faith And Hope: A Conversation…

Before my husband and I had children, we discussed how we would raise them and the subject of religion came up. Neither of us went to church on Sundays or adhered to the rules very strictly. We didn’t go to confession, we ate meat on Fridays during Lent, and we didn’t get ashes on Ash Wednesday. But, we did obey the ten commandments and try to live good lives, as best as our imperfect selves would allow us. But when it came to our children, I wanted them to have a good religious upbringing and faith. I believed faith was important, and along with it comes the power of hope. How many times had faith and hope gotten me through life’s difficult moments? I wanted to be sure they had that in their lives. We did try to instill faith and religious beliefs in our children, but I will admit, we could have done a better job. They went for religious instruction from the ages of seven to thirteen, as the church required, and made all their sacraments (baptism, communion and confirmation). When my older daughter was sixteen, the pedophile priest scandal broke out. My younger daughter was about to receive confirmation in three months. I wasn’t a happy camper about this turn of events, but felt she should finished what she started in case she wanted to marry in the church in the future and needed it.

It was at this time that my older daughter informed us that she was an atheist. Frankly, I was stunned, but honestly thought this is just a phase she is going through and she will snap out of it. She explained to me all her reasons for not believing in God or any of the Bible “stories.” I told her she should keep an open mind and do research before she dropped her faith. She told me she had been researching and that she was going to continue, but she had pretty much made up her mind. I blame it on her high intelligence and science. Science has really pretty much done a number on religion. Religion was created by man centuries ago to explain things that were unexplainable at the time. However, science has managed to explain away almost everything and added to the scandals of the church, it makes it hard to believe in anything. I understood where she was coming from and still hoped she would manage to find her faith in tact in the end.

At about this same time, I was diagnosed with a rare cancer. I was devastated and scared. I called everyone I knew to tell them and to ask them to pray for me. The irony that my own daughter could not pray for me because she didn’t believe in God or heaven, saddened me. I felt if God was going to listen to anyone’s prayers in this matter, it would be hers, but none would be forthcoming. She was an atheist.

One day, while we were talking in her room, I told her that it bothered me that she did not believe in God. I explained how she wouldn’t get into heaven even though she is living life as a good person should. I asked her, “What will you do when the time comes and you find out there is a God and heaven waiting for you, but you can’t get in?” I told her, with tear filled eyes, that I had needed her prayers and was sad that she couldn’t offer any for me. And then she looked at me, tears streaming down her face, and she told me she felt bad for me. She told me she was afraid that when I died I would find out there was no God and no heaven and this was all there is. She said she was the one who felt sad for me because I would be very disappointed. I didn’t know which one of us to feel more sorry for. It really was a profound moment we shared. There was no way for me to change her beliefs. Her knowledge and experience lead her to this place. I felt partly responsible because I had not made religion a more important part of our lives. My parents never made religion a priority, but my brother and I grew up with out faith in tact. Who knows what would have happened or if it would have changed anything for her had we done things differently. It is what it is. I love my daughter and I always will.

It’s now ten years later and she is still an atheist. It doesn’t seem to bother her that she is missing a religious dimension to her life. I don’t know how she gets along without prayer or where she gets her hope from, if she has any. Maybe we need to have a new conversation so I can understand it better.

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