Sunday, May 24, 2009

Another fine example of religious tolerance, acceptance and love

I've always been interested by so-called newspaper "agony aunts", those newspaper columnists who give personal advice to ailing souls who write in seeking guidance with whatever problems afflict their lives. It's not often-pathetically trivial problems that interest me; it's rather, why people bother to write in to newspaper columnists as though seeking professional advice from actual guidance counselors as though they were in any position to truly help you without knowing anything about you. I just read these columns for the occasional dry chuckle.

Well, anyway. One of these agony aunts is Margo Howard at, and she's just replied to some decidedly ... interesting bit of mail from religious lunatics regarding their poor daughter. And by "interesting", I mean downright disturbing. Once again reinforcing my ever-so-prevalent belief that no child should be brought up in a family dominated by religion ...

Dear Margo: Our daughter started college a year ago, and we’ve noticed during her visits home that she’s not the sweet, innocent girl we sent away for higher learning. We raised her with strong Christian beliefs, but lately she’s saying that she’s joined an atheist club on campus and is questioning everything we taught her. Now my husband refuses to let her in the house and is threatening to turn her in to the FBI. I’ve tried to cure our daughter and reconcile with her, but nothing seems to work. I’ve prayed over her at night while she sleeps, enlisted friends in a phone prayer tree and even spoken to my priest about the possibility of an exorcism. I’m at my wits’ end. How can I recover my daughter and keep her from hell? — God-fearing

Holy shit.

It's hard to decide where to begin here. So they've sent their pristine religiously-indoctrinated daughter off to college, which of course is where new ideas are formed and students are encouraged to question everything until they come up with their own worldview, and contrary to what they were evidently hoping, she seems to be slipping away from their faith, joining atheist clubs and questioning what she'd been told. Which, y'know, is good and all if it helps her mold her own opinions and beliefs.

So her parents respond by ... locking her out of the house? Trying to "cure" her of the atheistic disease, considering exorcism, and even threatening to throw her into the clutches of the FBI!? (What, do they think the FBI has a Religious Disbelief Task Force or something?)

Truly, the only way people ever make good parents is by encouraging their children to expand their minds – regardless of which direction said expansion takes. I may be a complete atheist, but if my hypothetical kid(s) decided to lean towards religion or any faith of their choosing, I would be disappointed, perhaps, but I would certainly accept that it's their friggin' choice and that I just don't have a say in it – and that I ESPECIALLY don't have a right to try and prevent them from believing what they choose to believe in.

Thankfully, Margo's reply to them, while diplomatic and restrained due to rules and guidelines of the website, is cutting and realistic.

Dear God: Whoa, dear. While I am sympathetic to anyone’s devotion to their religion, you need to realize that your daughter is a sentient being with the right to reject your religious views if she so chooses. Your husband is pathetically misguided if he thinks he can call the FBI to report the "crime" of your daughter joining an atheists club. Ditto for the exorcism. This young woman is not possessed, demonic or doing weird things; she is merely thinking and questioning the religion she grew up with. I would encourage you to understand that all people, your daughter included, have the right to think for themselves, particularly about something as meaningful as religion. As for hell, well, she appears willing to take her chances. — Margo, contemplatively

Well (and politely) said. Too bad she presumably isn't allowed to mention just how batshit insane these religious kooks that pass for parents are. For Christ's sake; threatening to throw your daughter to the freakin' FBI for being an atheist?

Note: actually, the more I read this letter and the reaction revolving around it, the more I'm actually beginning to doubt its honesty. I mean, seriously; turning her in to the FBI? I've seen some insane amounts of crazy even during my relatively short romp around the atheism-vs.-religion corner of the Net, and even then this still seems too unbelievable to be ... well, believable. I'm starting to wonder if I should just call "poe" on this one.

(via Pharyngula)


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