Need advice about adult daughter becoming an Atheist and disrespect towards family

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anonymous user
Registered: 12-31-1969
Need advice about adult daughter becoming an Atheist and disrespect towards family
Sat, 09-29-2012 - 12:12pm

Hi, I’m hoping I can get some great advice on a family matter I have at the moment.  My daughter (23 yrs.old), who was brought up Catholic, has been dating an Atheist now for about 10 months.  She has since told me that she no longer believes in any religion or faith and considers herself an Atheist as well.  Her dad and I have told her we are not happy about this, and question why, but will not treat her any differently or love her any less.  Well, we are sure her boyfriend is behind this, and his mother and her boyfriend are Atheists as well so I’m sure they are encouraging her.  I will admit my daughter did have some doubts growing up about the Catholic faith but would still attend church with us as a family.  Everything was fine until my daughter decided to post on Facebook comments ridiculing the Bible and pretty much all religions.  We were Facebook friends so she knew I would see her posts.  When I commented on her post about how she is offending people with her comments she pretty much called me a hypocrite and some other not-so-nice things, all posted on Facebook for everyone to see.  She also stated if I didn’t like her comments she was going to “unfriend” me which she has done.  Her boyfriend’s mom and her boyfriend commented on her posts how they agreed with her and that organized religion is the cause of all problems in the world. My daughter is currently living at home, finishing up her Masters in Psychology, and we are pretty much supporting her financially, but she spends all of her free time at her boyfriends home (he lives with his dad.)  We have spoken to her about what she has done and how she has offended me, but she feels she has done nothing wrong.  Ultimately, all we are asking for is respect.  We have not dwelled on the religion thing but once she started posting negative comments on Facebook and offending me, that was the last straw.  We have done so much for our daughter and cannot figure out why she is doing this, except to impress her boyfriend.  We truly feel we are loosing her.  Any comments or suggestions on how to handle this would be appreciated.

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-22-2004
I think you have recieved very good advices. The worst thing here MOP, is dissrespect. She should respect the rules and family she is living with. If she wants to embrace anyother religion that is up to her. But the family she is livig with is catholic, and it`s not nice to ridiculize the religion of the family you are living with, and paying for your school.Stay out of facebook and any fight. If things get tough, you can suggest her to move with her boyfriend, where she might receive with his family all the religious and finantial support she needs and wants. If she were in a house of anyone (friend,aquaintance, or rented room) I´m sure she wouldn´t dare to rediculize or dissrespect anyone. MOP, the same aplies to you!
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-29-2002
  1. I am Agnostic.  I have found a great deal of comfort once I really reconciled my beliefs and allowed my mind to question beyond what I was raised.

My parents are very active with in their church.  And my brother is a devout Catholic.

I personally do not post my personal beliefs, whether they are religious or political, because I am not one to make a bold statement regarding those topics.  But a large number of my friends and family will, and more often than not they are all very different.  I tend to just read them like I would any other post, and if it does strike a nerve in me, I hide the post.

What I would personally suggest to you is perhaps taking a moment and asking your DD some questions to get a better understanding of where she is coming from.  She could very well have found that Athiesm is by far a better fit for her beliefs wise.  And that is not at all a bad thing, a large majority of Agnostics/Athiests hold themselves to very high standards in regards to Ethics and Morality, and those standards are usually backed up with the belief that we as Humans need to maintain that standard.

You may also effectively find that opening yourself up to your Daughter's perspective may go a long ways towards opening up the dialogue and her being more respectful about her opinions at least towards you.

Community Leader
Registered: 01-03-2004


No doubt your daughter is being heavily influenced by her love interest and his family. It could be over what brand of car to drive or whether to eat meat or not. Unfortunately, when it's religion, it's a lot tougher to understand.

For the record, I think nearly everyone with a faith system (Christian or not) goes through a period of doubt, disenchantment, and alienation from formal religion and religious practices. And, it's hip to be a Christian basher right now - all you have to do is read the news. Every week there's a new effort by the atheists to attack long-standing traditions such as prayer at football games or the word "God" on civic symbols. Jesus could relate!

That said, I think it's very important you take a stand with your daughter's decision to not just reject Christianity, but to NOT attack her own family, publicly or not. To that end I recommend the following (You can vet this with your priest or a family counselor and adjust accordingly.)

1)You affirm your love for your daughter because that's what a parent does. You acknowledge her difference of opinion and her perfect right to express it. She's still your daughter no matter what. And, I think, it's especially important these words are uttered to her face-to-face and with both you and her father together. In fact, I'd encourage your husband to say this to your daughter. Sometimes it carries more weight when it comes from Dad.

2)Your husband also needs to step up to the plate here on your behalf and put your daughter in her place as your husband. And, yes, that's Biblical and it's appropriate. He needs to make it abundantly clear to her that loving her unconditionally as your child does not include allowing her to disrespect and insult to her parents, especially you, her mother. In other words, put the bit back in her mouth as your child. She needs to know where the line in the sand is at - in neon red if necessary.

I also believe that you can love someone and not be able to live with them. Personally, it's perfectly OK to set boundaries with your daughter.  I'd make it clear to her that while you love her as your child and want what's best for her, you aren't going to give her permission to kick you in the teeth when it suits her and there are consequences. The most obivous is she can find another place to live and another way to pay for her education. You and your husband are NOT obligated to be punching bags for her self-expression.

In time she may come to understand she really doesn't know it all (about age 40 for most of us) and that her childhood and church experience wasn't as awful as she's being led to believe. And save your breath trying to present "facts" about what religion has done in the world. It will fall on deaf ears.  Christians and Christian churches have done much to aid the world. Mother Theresa is only one such example of the "good" the church has done in our day. Millions upon millions of dollars, man hours, and "hands and feet of Christ" have reached out to the world in time of need and in every day course of life. Your daughter wouldn't understand what it really means to "die to self" until she herself lived and worked among them. Perhaps that's what she should do as part of her "growing up?" Perhaps if she saw how others lived she'd have a different understanding of "religion" and of "non-faith."

Good luck.

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-21-2007

I agree she should not be posting such things on facebook. And I also beleive it is no ones "duty" to educate anyone on anything to do with religion in a way that forces a particular opinion or that implies what others beleive is wrong. It sounds like she just needs to get over herself and grow up. I know when I made comments along those lines when I was a teenager, it was partially an attention thing.Then I became an adult and realised I was disrespecting others and that life was easier keeping my opinions like that to myself rather than voicing them and dealing with retalliation. Religion controversy is a constantly burning fire and it sounds like she simply enjoys adding fuel it. Hopefully she snaps out of it soon before she says the wrong thing to the wrong person. She just needs to learn that everyone obviously has different views (if we didn't and all thought the same, this world would be soooo boring) and clearly she feels entitled to hers and makes it known, and probably wouldn't like it if someone told her what she beleived was wrong. Sooner or later I am sure she'll see shes fighting a battle that will always continue to just go in circles and no one will ever "win" and she'll probably get bored of sharing her thoughts and just keep them quite. Thats my theory. Funny thing is (and no offense) if religion didn't exist alot more people would get along. You and your own daughter don't see eye to eye right now due to religion. Ironic. lol

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-21-2007

(supposed to be in reply to OP) I just read the post out of curiosity after stumbling across and wasn't intending to reply but I'll throw my two cents in.

I am 24, so pretty much your daughter's age. Personally I am agnostic, with a tendancy to lean towards atheism, but ultimately I am undecided. Anyways, I used to broadcast my opinions on religion (which some I have in common with your daughter) but that was when I was like 17. Now I think it's just rude, unnecessary and disrespectful and immature. I just keep my opinions to myself regarding religion. IMO who cares what anyone else thinks or believes? Sure we want our children to share the beleifes we raise them with, but once their adults, which your daughter is at 23, they are going to make their own decisions and beleive what they feel is right for them. My dad is luthern, he knows my opinions but he respects what I beleive, as long as I am not harming anyone and just going about my life. It's not like  Iam sitting there throwing it in his face and telling him what he beleives is wrong. Because I  don't and never would.

I am expecting a baby of my own this March and my bf and I share the agnostic beleif even though his family is catholic. We intend to not incorporate religion into our child's life until it is at an age where it can decided for itself. We will explain whats out there, what we beleive, but the option will be up to our child. It isnt up to us what our child, a completely seperate, independant human will beleive and not beleive when it comes to something like religion.

If I were you I would simply ignore your daughters comments, even if they are insulting to you. Who cares what she says or thinks, shes 23 not 13 right? All you can do at this point in her life is offer advice and hope she takes it. If she doesn't, well thats up to her right.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-08-2006
I think you need to split this into different issues. I agrees with Sadie about Facebook. If she lived halfway across the country and you used Facebook to stay connected, that is one thing. But since she lives in your house, you can be her mom, not her freind, in person. If she isn't sharing about her life in person, then don't try to read about it. As far as religion goes, many people Shane their interests and beliefs to fit in with the man they are dating. I might discuss that with her casually, maybe not as it relate to her but in a general way. But if she truly has lost her feelings for god, that is something she has to work out. I had a church going upbringing, although not Catholic. I find organized religion both exploitive and hypocritical..I do not intend any offense...that is just my feelings. And yet I have developed a strong sense of gods presence in my life and of a heaven that comfort me. But I got here after a time of not believing. I am pretty sure my family prays about this a lot...I do not fight with them about religion or call them out on their beliefs because I think it is a very personal decision. I will talk about what I believe, but only if ome one else asks. The last issues is that you are supporting your fighter. If your gree meant included that he would go to church with you, she is violating the agreement. If it was that she would not sleep at a boyfriends, same thing. But if it was that she attend class and get decent grades and he is doing that, then she is keeping her part of the bargain and I wouldn't change things over this. I would be concerned that she is being influenced by a man, and I wouldn't do anything to push him onwards him. If she wants to discuss religion with you as a way to understand her and your feelings, I might do that, but not if it feels hurtful to you. If others criticize her to you, then I would just say 'we all have to find our own ways'. I think it is important to remember that how things are right now re not how by will be year, she might want to become a just never know. Best wishe SJ
iVillage Member
Registered: 02-14-2004

I'm sorry for this riff between your daughter and you.  I know it hurts to have your beliefs ridiculed and to be subjected to disrespect. 

I know that young people go through a lot of changes and question things they have been raised to think is the way things are, and to see your grown child changing themselves to fit in with their current bf/gf can be so frustrating and hurtful.  Your daughter's sudden atheism might be just an "I've gotta fit in and be ME" phase.  She's trying on something new and it's causing a stir giving her lots of attention, and it's making her think having "her own" ideas make her independent and all grown up. 

She appears not to be independent of you financially or for a roof over her head, so perhaps being disrespectful to you and your beliefs is an erroneous, but typical way a dependent young woman can make herself feel like an adult.  I think young people try on many "coats" while becoming the person they will end up being, so right now I wouldn't be pushing her to return to the church.  THAT is in the Lord's hands, and no amount of upset or trying to convince her she's wrong is going to change her...and may even cause her to hold on tighter to her new beliefs. 

While I understand your feelings about your daughter becoming an athiest, and many will tell you there's nothing wrong with being one and agree that religion is the bane of humanity, when you have a personal relationship with the Almighty, it's very hard to see your children taking a different path.  But, I'd deal with that part of it through prayer that she finds her way back or that you are able to find peace in her choice.  The more you "nag", as you already know, the more it'll only cause her to embrace this newness with more gusto.

As for her disrespect...first, I'd get off Facebook.  People say religion is the worst thing on the planet, but I personally think Facebook is up at the top of that list.  I see how many people have so many problems because they're on Facebook that I would like to see Facebook go the way of 8-tracks.   I'd get off Facebook and just ignore what's posted there.  She can't argue with herself...she needs you to play the opposing party, so don't play.

I think she's trying to exercise her "I'm a grown-up" muscles with this disrespect, which indicates to me that she is really feeling uncomfortable inside that she isn't supporting herself but is instead relying on Mom and Dad.  I would look at the financial support you're giving her that's beyond what's absolutely necessary (I think it's great you're supporting her through college, and don't think setting her up to have to drop out or move in with the BF permanently because you're not paying for it or providing her with housing any more would be helpful at this point.)  BUT, I do think I'd stop offering gas money or buying her extras like her favorite breakfast cereal when you've got other breakfast offerings in the house...or buying her things you see at the store you think would be perfect for her.  I wouldn't announce you're changing things, just quietly back off on anything but the basics.  And, I wouldn't EVER say "well, you're so disrespectful I decided not to do any extras for you...I'd just let things be a little less comfortable and her a little less "queen of the house".

When she talks religion, change the subject or walk out of the room and don't get pulled into the frey. 

This isn't something you're going to argue her into changing, but you don't have to put up with disrespect in your own home.  This is one of those situations I believe will work themselves out over time...especially because she's at an age where she's trying out new things and seeing what fits.  After all, you really can't force her back to God.  {{{{{HUGS}}}}