Shun the Non-Believer? July 23, 2008

Shun the Non-Believer?

Billy Graham, in his syndicated column, received this question:

DEAR DR. GRAHAM: Our 17-year-old daughter says she doesn’t believe in God anymore, and now she even refuses to go to church with us. When we try to talk with her about it we just end up in an argument. What can we do? — Mrs. S.McD.

Despite the fact that I agree with the daughter and not her parents, I actually don’t mind Graham’s answer that much, at least when compared to what others in his position may have said.

The most important thing you can do is to pray for her — because only God can overcome her spiritual resistance and draw her back to Himself…

But you also can let her know you that love her, despite your differences — and by doing so, you’ll be showing her that God loves her also. Don’t let your discussions degenerate into arguments; this will only make her more determined to keep her position. In other words, don’t let this become a test of wills between you — your will battling against her will — because almost the last thing she wants to do right now is admit she is wrong…

Of course, she’s not wrong. By going against what she was raised to believe, she’s probably quite intelligent.

But what is Graham saying?

Pray for her — we know that won’t achieve anything tangible, but it won’t hurt the daughter.

Show her you love her — which is exactly what she needs.

It’s much better than a few other alternatives we’ve heard before: Make her talk to a pastor, send her to a “Jesus Camp”-like place, try to argue with her, etc.

Not surprisingly, Graham thinks the daughter is an atheist because she “wants to run her own life — and that’s far easier to do if you push God out of your life” rather than the fact that atheism’s just a more honest depiction of reality. But I doubt anyone would expect him to say otherwise.

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  • Ron in Houston

    I do think some atheists become that way as a sort of anti-authoritarian reaction. I suspect that a whole lot of ex-fundamentalists start out that way.

    I’m not saying that’s a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination. For me, religion was never forced down my throat so there was nothing to rebel against.

  • chatterbox

    Yes folks, that’s right, if you want to run your own life, think for
    yourself, come to your own conclusions – get rid of god! Even the
    Rev. Billy Graham admits it!

  • I used to worry that my kids would rebel, start going to church and end up in a cult. Now I realise that such a think is just crazy talk.

  • llewelly

    For about 22 years my own mother has been praying that the Holy Ghost will lead me back to the Iron Rod of God. So far I’ve heard nothing from Mr. Ghost. Fellow sure takes his time.

  • Gabriel

    Wow, just wow. Not what I would have expected at all. Love her, don’t argue with her.

  • Polly

    “wants to run her own life — and that’s far easier to do if you push God out of your life”

    It certianly is! but, probably not the way Graham’s thinking about it. He probably means wanting to “sin.”

    But, to my surprise, once I ejected my co-pilot, I was much better able to maneuver my life in positive ways that religion would not have prohibited. It was the constant “waiting on the Lord for guidance” that stymied me.

    Anyway, what the hell’s wrong with wanting to run your life, yourself? In any other context, that’s called self-reliance and is evidence of strength of character.

  • Polly

    I would have been surprised if Graham had given the answer implied by the title of this post (kinda misleading there Mr. Mehta).

    As evangelists go, he’s a pretty nice guy. Who just happens to believe some pretty not-nice things.

  • Llewelly:

    “For about 22 years my own mother has been praying that the Holy Ghost will lead me back to the Iron Rod of God.”

    Videos! Videos! We want the Iron Rod of God!

  • Xeonicus

    He also states in his article: “Atheism has become something of a fad in recent years, and this may have influenced her.”

    That line annoys the hell out of me. Being an atheist has many disadvantages and little going for it. It’s not a trendy, capricious life decision. A lot of people have devoted countless hours to mulling over these life questions. I WISH I were a Christian, it would make my life and relationships so much easier. It doesn’t work like that though, only a coward and a liar pretends to believe in something they can’t accept.

    Why does this guy have to belittle her views and insult her intelligence at the same time?

  • Justin

    Xeonicus said

    Why does this guy have to belittle her views and insult her intelligence at the same time?

    Call me cynical, but that seems to be the modus operandi of every (99%) religious apologist on the block.

    After the two grillionth time, it’s tough not to stereotype them, but religious apologists could conduct themselves better.

  • Darryl

    Who would have thought that American evangelicalism would have descended to the level that I long for the more restrained, less in-your-face approach of the Rev. Graham?

  • llewelly

    Videos! Videos! We want the Iron Rod of God!

    It was something the prophet Lehi saw in a dream. It represented the word of God. A good Mormon is supposed to hold fast to the Iron Rod of God. If you follow the rod you’ll get to eat God’s fruit. Nobody has ever video recorded it. However – it has been depicted in some form or another in any number of Mormon films and plays. It’s possible a youtube search might turn something up, but I’m too lazy to try.

  • chancelikely


    Given the position he is required to espouse, that’s pretty close to the best possible answer. Pray (do nothing), continue to love her, and leave her alone, to either come back into the fold or follow her own path.

  • Oh well. That seems to be the approch my parents have taken with me. It definately will not cause me to go back to Christiantity because it was not mere rebellion that stopped me believing. But it sure does make my life a lot easier. 🙂

  • EKM

    This is the second time in about three months that I have seen at article by Billy Graham in which he says that someone is an atheist so they can run their own life. But what is wrong with that? Christians looooove to yack about what a free country this is. Why is running your own life so bad?

    And I am sure that Mr Graham and a lot of other Christians consider themselves experts on the topic of whether or not someone is doing what God wants.

  • Jacob Dink


  • Richard Wade

    Mr. Graham often portrays teenagers’ “wanting to run their own life” as a phase they go through, something they’ll get over once the madness of adolescence subsides. That might be so in rare cases, but it’s not likely. He does a lot of wishful thinking about people.

    He goes on in the article to say this:

    Let me encourage you also to ask her why she has come to this conclusion. Has someone influenced her? Has she been reading one of the recent books on atheism?

    Ooh, look for the wicked kid from the wrong side of the tracks with a switchblade in one hand and a copy of The End of Faith in the other. I wonder if their picture of whoever might be “influencing” the girl looks something like Marlon Brando in “The Wild One.”

  • “Not surprisingly, Graham thinks the daughter is an atheist because she ‘wants to run her own life — and that’s far easier to do if you push God out of your life’ rather than the fact that atheism’s just a more honest depiction of reality. But I doubt anyone would expect him to say otherwise.”

    As far as I understand, atheists do not want to be treated by us christians as people who are inferior to us because of their perception of the world. This desire is absolutely just ad correct – to do the opposite is totally against Christ’s words (which we are meant to follow…).
    Faith can only stem from freedom. The choice of going to church should also stem from freedom. As a christian I must respect the non-believers’ freedom. But can an atheist “endow” me with this freedom? Or do you really BELIEVE that this is a conflict between “honest and dishonest depictions of reality”?
    Sorry for my “special” English – this is not my native tongue.

  • Deuteronomy 21:18-21

    A good old-fashioned stoning anyone?

  • cipher

    Why does this guy have to belittle her views and insult her intelligence at the same time?

    Because that’s how he reinforces his own beliefs – although, at this point, it’s probably mostly ingrained habit.

    I can’t believe the old f*rt is still writing a column. But then, who better to write about the Biblical period? He was there!

  • bipolar2

    Hi y’all . . . gotta read yer Bible real close like. We has a divine right to hate reason, to know nothing, and force you to become holy just like us — that there is what we calls love.

    ** Christianity is the practice of nihilism — Nietzsche **

    For 2,000 years one vile hallmark of xianity has remained its hatred of natural science and skeptical philosophy. The Stoics and Epicureans of Athens laughed at Paul of Tarsus when he spoke to them. Paul’s anti-intellectual rejoinder is still holy writ:

    20-Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21-For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22-Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23-but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles . . . . 1Cor1 20-23 NIV

    In short, Paul and his fellow down-and-outers created a god glorifying their nihilistic valuations.

    27-But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28-He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are . . . . 1Cor1:26-28 NIV

    Xianity still appeals to those who believe themselves mistreated. To those in whom resentment surges. To those who must punish their guilty selves. To those who must project that guilt onto others and nature.

    “Xianity is the practice of nihilism.” Directed inward, hatred of self. Directed outward, hatred of others and the world. Revenge seekers acting on absolute *truth*.

    Hatred is not some peripheral ideological stance — it is Paul’s life-negating worldview, tarted up as the religion of “love”.

    © 2008

  • Cade

    I just have to say kudos for the Charlie the Unicorn reference 😀

  • casey coston

    It seems to me that the reality Jesus offered in his life was also an honest depiction of reality–peace/nonviolence, equality, love for all. Forgive us Christians for not living up to this reality.

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