Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Am I hurting God by having a relationship with my atheist son?

This question came up in a support group recently. (I'm reproducing it here with permission.) The question was:
I'm so lost. I feel I'm dishonoring my Father in Heaven. I just want to love my son who is a devout atheist. I'd like to know am I hurting God by allowing my son to be in my home and share his feelings? I am desperate to be a good Christian and still have a relationship with him.
Here's my answer - offered, again, in the hope that it might help:

Bear in mind that I am not, myself, a Christian. Also, bear in mind that the answer to this sort of question is going to vary according to denomination, individual church, and quite possibly by whether or not the pastor has had coffee yet. So this isn't going be The Christian Answer; it's just how I look at it, based on the kind of Christianity in which I was raised.

First of all: being a Christian is about following Christ, right? Well, if there's one defining characteristic of Jesus' earthly ministry, it's that he was willing to hang out with inappropriate people. Tax collectors, prostitutes, beggars - he talked with them, ate with them, came to their homes. He didn't avoid them or keep them at a distance. He loved them where they were, and as they were.

Second, I don't think God finds human doubt or disbelief anywhere near as troubling as humans do. Yes, sure, you have the Apostle Paul talking about how God's presence and nature are completely obvious from the world around us, and unbelievers have no excuse... but this is the same guy who had to be struck down by a blast of light and spoken to sharply by the Almighty before he could recognize his Lord and Savior. I'm not sure Paul is the best one to consult on the topic. Instead, let's consider another Apostle: Thomas, Doubting Thomas, who had to touch the wounds before he could believe. Jesus didn't curse him, or rebuke him, or cast him out. He said, "How much more blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe." Thomas gets kind of a bad rap, but as far as I can see Jesus still counted him among the blessed.

Finally, there's the nature of God to consider: all-knowing, all-loving, all powerful. If He is all knowing ("to you all desires are known and from you no secrets are hid") then He understands our failures and our limitations. He understands your son's disbelief, not just the fact of it but the why of it as well. And He understands it with love and with compassion.

So, no: I don't think you're insulting God by sharing a home or maintaining a relationship with your atheist son. If God exists, and if He's anything like I was raised to believe, then I don't see how He could be offended by anything done out of love.


  1. what a heart felt plea. of course the man should seek a good relationship with his son. What concerns me though is the doctrine and teaching he is receiving that makes him even think this could be a problem. for me, this is a major red flag.

  2. It does seem to be a very common worry, though, as though doubt -- or disbelief, or sin -- were something you could catch just by being around someone who already has it.

  3. I would think God would be insulted if you broke off your relationship with your son.

    Great response Michael. Have you had a response in return?

  4. Yes; this was a few days ago, and I think it helped. I'm hoping that by putting it here, in public, it can maybe help other people as well.


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