An Open Letter to my Dad

Poppa D,

Hi, it’s me, your daughter. I’m writing to you because I have something I need to tell you, and I’ve hesitated time and time again trying to find the right words and opportunity to tell you this, but both have escaped me, so I’m doing so via this letter. We both know I communicate better with written words than talking anyway, much to your frustration. But here I go…

Dad? I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in your god anymore.

Maybe I should have made sure you were sitting down while you read this…

Let me explain myself, please.

First of all, don’t take this as a sign of bad parenting, or not being there enough for me during our difficult times, because that isn’t the case. This isn’t due to peer pressure or trying to fit in, either. No one has forced me to renounce god or my upbringing. This was 100% my decision. I did have some guidance along the way from other non-believers, but they only helped me realize what I’ve known for quite some time before I officially took claim to atheism.

As a kid, I believed; or rather, was made to believe. For the most part, I didn’t have any problem with that, aside from having to get up early on Sundays for church, but no kid likes getting woken up at 7 a.m. on the weekend, unless it’s of their own volition for cartoons, but that’s beside the point.

As I got older and into high school is when I started having doubts. The pastor at church started droning on and on and his words didn’t make sense to me. They had no meaning. If I think about it, they never did…at least not comforting words. All the hellfire and damnation and wailing and gnashing of teeth sure stood out. As well as God’s spite and wrath and malevolence. Plus, a burning bush? Really? But I never understood the message trying to be conveyed in the hour long sermons. I was just jazzed to get out and eat the free donuts and a chance to goof off with friends in Sunday School.

Then, I met my now ex-husband and his family, the first atheists I ever knew in person. Now, I know you never cared for him, but accepted him because I loved him and therefore, you did, too, but don’t blame him or his family for bringing me to the “dark side.” They showed me it was okay to question my beliefs, that it’s okay to think that what I was taught all those years may be a fallacy. And for the first time, I did. I’ve always had issues with religion, Dad. Giving money to “god,” aka funding a new roof for the church? Sending missionaries to Africa to inflict our western ideals? Have a pair of used Reeboks and here’s a bible, you godless savages. That didn’t seem right to me, Dad. It still doesn’t.

I don’t know if you know this, but after I got married, I wrote a letter to the church, asking to be dismissed as a member, stating I no longer held their values at heart. An elder from the church called me and tried to get me to reconsider my request on the grounds that ” those that are lost to Him risk eternal suffering, but those that stay in his glory seek eternal life.” I politely declined and have been free for ten years now. 

I know you must be angry with me about this, and you have every right to be, I guess. Again, as I said earlier, it isn’t a reflection on you or you failing as a parent. You and mom both instilled in me strong morals and ethics and the right to do what I want. It’s my life, so live it as it’s best for me. Atheism is the choice I’ve made and I don’t regret it.

I know you have faltered in your own belief over the years. I remember times you refused church because you were angry at god for various reasons. Any thinking man should be angry with him. I recall the time we were watching a documentary on “muscles turning to bone disease,” and you said to me “I can’t believe our Maker can be so cruel and cause such suffering to his people.” This is how I feel, too. You, however, turned your doubt for god around and became more religious. I did not.

I don’t understand how anyone can worship a god like the Christian god, Dad. His acts of vengeance on humanity are disgusting. He created us in his own image, yet has no qualms about killing us if we turn against him. God is not love or peace. God is an angry, jealous being who willingly and knowingly inflicts pain and suffering on us and helps those who can help themselves. He doesn’t bestow us with gifts or blessings; we provide those for ourselves.

I know this is a painful topic, and I’m sorry to bring it up, but I also don’t believe in life after death. We’re given one shot here and it’s up to us to make of this time as we choose. I know your wife meant everything to you, and cancer took her away from you far too soon. “God only gives us what we can handle” and “he has a purpose for everything” is insulting to me, and it should be to you, as well. It was his plan to give Nancy cancer? It was his plan to take her from your life because as heartbroken and distraught as you are, it’s all part of his master plan? That’s bullshit, Dad. I know you hold on to your belief because of a chance to get into heaven and being reunited with her again. That’s such a wonderful, incredible thought and I love the romanticism behind it as much as anyone else, but the reality of it is too great to actually be true. Everyone wants to have their loved ones back. The thought of heaven as a place where this can happen is a brilliant one, but just isn’t feasible. But I entertain this notion for you because I know that it’s the only thing in your life that is giving you peace and solace.

This brings me to my next point: I haven’t ever mentioned this before because I know it’s important to you. You have faith and who am I to deny that of you? I have no right to try to inflict my lack of belief of you, but inversely, the same applies to you. I still pray with you because it makes you happy. Maybe this is wrong of me, and gives you a false hope, but I do it because I love you. Pure and simple. I go against myself in order to make you happy. I only hope you can do the same of me, Dad. I appreciate your prayers to an extent; it proves you do care, but to me, those prayers fall on deaf ears. I’d much rather have your continued love and support, but again, you do what you do, and I’ll do the same.

I hope this doesn’t cause a rift between us, Dad. We’ve been through so much over the last ten years that we have worked through. I’d hate to let a silly thing like this cause damage in our relationship again. The important thing is that you’re my dad and I love you, and we shouldn’t let such a trite thing like this affect that. I hope you agree with me.

However, I’m prepared for you not to accept my choice. Sadly, I’ve had many people rid me from their lives because of my atheism. It’s tragic to me that people let a meer difference in belief dictate their overall opinion of me, but it happened and it no doubt will happen again. I just hope you aren’t one of those people who disregard me for who I am without religion.

I love you, Dad. Always and forever.

Your daughter,