President's Column: Teen Atheist

By August Berkshire

august headThe following letter to the editor was published in the [Minneapolis] Star Tribune, Sept.15, 2012, p. A8 under the title "Parent Should Embrace Daughter's Choice.

As president of Minnesota Atheists, I appreciated Carolyn Hax's advice to the mother who is concerned about her 16-year-old daughter, “Emily” (Daughter ‘comes out’ as an atheist, Sept. 10). Surveys show that about 25 percent of younger Americans now hold this world view.

At this point, Emily can no more pretend she is a Christian than her mother can pretend that she herself is an atheist. The mother should honor the courage, honesty, and trust Emily had in confiding in her.

It sounds like the mother brought her daughter up with good ethical values, and there's no reason to suspect that this good behavior would suddenly disappear due to the loss of belief in an invisible sheriff. In fact, if the only reason a person acts well is due to divine threats, it makes that person's morality suspect and shaky.

Perhaps Emily, like so many people her age, is rejecting the tribalism, sexism, homophobia, antipathy toward science and other contradictions found in many religions.

Studies of evolution reveal that for societal animals such as humans, empathy, cooperation and a sense of justice are normal. Most people, regardless of their religious beliefs or nonbeliefs, are decent, law-abiding citizens.

So let us treat each other well and with kindness. Actions speak louder than words or beliefs.

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