My 20 year old son chooses not to live the way we raised him.

Linda - posted on 06/18/2011 ( 57 moms have responded )

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It has always been a challenge to get my oldest son to go to church, although he went. He went to public school, and he chose mostly non-Christian friends. I always told him he needed a balance in his life, but he really liked his set of friends. He is in a junior college and has done extremely well in math and science (straight A's). However, he has just told me he is not a Christian, and is definitely leaning toward being an atheist. I am very conservative, but he is completely the opposite politically, and now spiritually. He is living his life the way he wants to live it. He is not a bad person - but he is not living the way he was raised. He also is very angry. I am so upset about this. What do I do?

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Krista - posted on 06/18/2011

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What do you do? You do nothing. He is a grown man, and has the right to choose his own spiritual path. Pray for him if it makes you feel better, but this is his choice and his journey, and if you nag or guilt him about it, it will only drive him away from you.

Believe it or not, it IS possible to be a good person and be an atheist. The two are not mutually exclusive. He actually sounds like an intelligent, thoughtful young man -- you should be proud of him.

Mrs. - posted on 06/18/2011

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It sounds like he is doing well in school and is well liked. As well, he is independent minded and a "good person".



When you say, "but he is not living the way he was raised.", do you just mean he does not believe in organized religion?



It sure sounds like he is living by some of the major tenants of Christianity..you know, being a good person, a good neighbour, loving yourself and others.



You also say he is angry...do you mean angry about discussing the subject with you or angry in general?



It may just be he has different values than you. That does not mean that you failed in when raising him. It sounds like you did an excellent job.



If the worst thing your kid is into while in college is atheism, you are doing alright, IMO. You never know where he'll end up religiously or politically. I don't think I'd want to wait until he changed into what I thought was right to accept him for what he is now. You may miss out on a different, but deeper adult relationship with your son.

[deleted account]

You said atheism is not a death sentence. Again, I disagree. What happens when we die? I believe in eternity, heaven or hell, and if I believe that how do you expect a Christian, let alone a Christian mom, not to be concerned about her son?



Maybe he's angry because you believe in a being that would condemn a good person like him to eternal suffering.



All this business about his choice, his life. You made a choice too. That's what you believe. And it has consequences too.

Krista - posted on 06/22/2011

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Exactly. It's always hard when our children choose a different path, because we cannot help but take that as a rejection of a path that may mean a lot to us.

I am very socially liberal. If my son grows up to be homophobic, for example, then yes, that is his choice. But I of course will feel disappointed, and will wonder what I did wrong. That's human nature, and that's one of the heartbreaks of parenting: we can raise our kids with our values, but there are NO guarantees that those values will stick.

All that we can really do is remind ourselves that our children are completely separate individuals -- they are not extensions of ourselves. And we love them, even if they baffle the heck out of us and break our hearts. :) And if you have a good relationship with your son, perhaps you can get to the point where you can actually sit down and have a good, thought-provoking talk about your different philosophies and why you feel the way you do. Maybe it'll help you understand each other better. But you probably won't be able to do that just yet while you're still upset and where the emotions are still fresh.

We raise them to be good people. If we've accomplished that, then that's really not so bad, is it?

This conversation has been closed to further comments

57 Comments

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Medic - posted on 06/22/2011

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Who are you to say that your way is the "right" way? Are you saying that every other religion is wrong? What is right for you may not be right for him. If I had someone breathing down my throat telling me that I needed to come back to the right way and that they will pray for me I would be one very angry person. I am christian but I also am very scientific. I lean more towards the sciences than religion for things though. How others choose to worship is really none of your business even if it is your children. Our children are not supposed to grow up and be the exact same as us. Hince the "gift" of free will. Stop stressing...and who knows maybe there is no heaven or hell. Guess we wont know till we get there.

Johnny - posted on 06/22/2011

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I'd have to say that this sounds like a normal sort of thing. I was actually raised as an atheist. It was hard for my parents when I started going to church in my teens and getting involved with religion. They always supported me, attended my baptism, got up Sunday mornings to drive me, and never showed judgment, disapproval or tried to change my mind. As I grew up, I realized that it wasn't right for me and I now consider myself an agnostic. They were quite relieved, but I did not find out until years later how worried they were.

Every person believes that they are right about the way the existence should be viewed and life experienced. So of course parents do not want their children to develop beliefs that the parent fears will lead them down the wrong path. But if you raised a good, kind, caring, thinking young man (which it sounds like you did), he will find the right path on his own. It may not be that which you would choose for him, but that isn't what being a parent is really about.

♥♪Megan♫♥ - posted on 06/22/2011

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I just have to ask... he was raised to be a good person right? And he was raised to think for himself, right?
He's not out doing anything that could pose a serious threat (I've taken care of people whose children and grandchildren are selling drugs right in their own homes without regard to their well being) or have serious repercussions. He's not breaking the law at all. I say come to terms with the fact that your son is doing what most younger people do and you'll be fine.
Heck back when I was in my early 20's (I'm almost 30) I got interested in Paganism and did research on that and Islam.

[deleted account]

Oh! When you said he was angry, I assumed it was directly related to your disagreeing about your faith/lack of faith? My bad.

Have you ever considered asking him why he's angry?

Linda - posted on 06/22/2011

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Dana, I'm not sure why he's angry. It is not over the top anger. I think it is pretty normal for a 20-year-old who is attempting to find his way. He is frustrated because he hasn't been able to find a job..

User - posted on 06/22/2011

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He is his own person. You can accept him for who he is and not push your beliefs onto him, and ask him not to push his beliefs onto you. Otherwise you are risking losing him forever by pushing him too much.

Charlie - posted on 06/22/2011

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He is a grown adult, respect his choices and love him as your son.

♥♪Megan♫♥ - posted on 06/22/2011

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Sorry I'm Catholic and I wasn't raised to believe in a God that would punish us for eternity by not being by The Book. That's just depressing in the first place, who wants to be a part of a religion with a God who's always frowning upon every thing we do. Who wants that? I like to believe that God loves us and will forgive us. Not condemn us to hell for going against some things. He gave us free will in order to allow us to think for ourselves.
Your son is an adult and it's not like he's out doing terrible things such as murdering, doing drugs or causing physical and emotional harm to anyone (although I'm sure you believe it's causing you emotional harm) He's obviously had enough of a good upbringing to not drop out of school and run around with a bad crowd. He's just running with a crowd of non believers.

Linda - posted on 06/22/2011

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Crystal & Roberta, Thank you for your messages back to me. You understand my pain for my son. I am not controlling him, but as one of you said it is as if a knife was stabbed in my heart because I love him so much and I want to be with him in eternity. I had a brain tumor when I was 25, and lived. I was supposed to die let alone have 3 beautiful sons. However, I know people who weren't sick at the time and have died. You never know what tomorrow brings and that is my struggle. I know I cannot make him choose the right path. You both, and some of the others understood that.

I am thankful that the moderator told us to cut out the theological debate. This is not a debate, but I do appreciate their comments as well. It is eye opening.

Jaime - posted on 06/22/2011

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Linda, I was raised in a Christian home, and even liked going to church when I was younger. I attended youth group and my mom was a Sunday school teacher and on the board for our local UCW. Today I am an atheist. I just chose a different path to what I was exposed to, but I can promise you I still hold a lot of respect for my mom's beliefs because it doesn't change how much she loves and cares for me at the end of the day. I think that it will take some adjustment on your part to be comfortable with your son's conversion to atheism, but eventually I think you will understand that his non-Christianity is but one facet of his entire person. He is your son first and foremost and he'll be that for the rest of his and your life.

Marci - posted on 06/22/2011

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Remember that Adam and Eve had the perfect environment as well as the perfect Father, yet they chose to sin. Keep praying for your son. Praying could very well miracously bring your son back.

[deleted account]

As an adult, your grown son has made a lifestyle decision that works for him. As a mom, yo udid your job raising him and exposing him to your faith, morals, beliefs, and values. Being an atheist does not make you a bad person. It simply means your son had so many questions about religion, faith, God, etc. and he answered his own questions by turning away from the faith in which he was raised. You can still pray all you want, but the only thing it will make yo udo is feel good about you as a person of faith. It's not going to miracously bring your son back to a church. He sounds like a great kid in college, enjoying life, and staying out of trouble in respect to illegal activities. Is he away at college partying it up every night and blowing off classes?! If not, be grateful! Pick your battles with your adult children-freedom of religion should not be one of them.

Krista - posted on 06/22/2011

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Folks, I don't really think that a theological debate is beneficial to the OP at this time. If we could stay focused on helping the OP figure out how she's going to deal with the fact that her son has chosen a different spiritual path than she has, then that would be swell.

Thanks!
Krista
WTCOM Moderator

Jackie - posted on 06/22/2011

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"God cannot save those who will not believe and accept His free gift of Salvation."

Free gift?? I dont think so.

Kate CP - posted on 06/22/2011

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Well, once we die and get to the out side of the gates of heaven, don't you think we'll all believe then? And if we didn't believe before, and that's a sin, Jesus said we would be forgiven all sins. So, technically, even if I don't believe in God or Jesus now...when I get to the heavenly gates and SEE that they are real and say "Lord, forgive me" I'll be forgiven and allowed into heaven.

Kate CP - posted on 06/22/2011

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From Mark 11:23-26 "...And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses..."

Crystal - posted on 06/22/2011

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The Bible verses I referenced before were in the new testament. Sin separates us from God. God cannot save those who will not believe and accept His free gift of Salvation. You have to repent of your sins and sincerely ask God to come into your heart, which is meant by being "born again".

Jackie - posted on 06/22/2011

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Well, that may be why he's pissed off. If someone said to me that they will prey for me, I may be offended.

Kate CP - posted on 06/22/2011

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That's not what Jesus said. He said all sins will be forgiven and we will be allowed into the kingdom of God. Or are we talking about the Old Testament where God hates everyone?

Crystal - posted on 06/22/2011

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Pray, pray, pray! There's power in prayer. You followed the will of God by educating your son about His Word and commandments. As many have said though, God did give us free will to choose, but is that suppose to take your pain away? Knowing that if the Lord came back today ; you wouldn't see your child in heaven with you and realizing the eternal torture they will have to endure, is the most excruciating feeling imaginable. My personal experience, I was raised in a Christian home and went to church since I was a baby. As a teen and young adult, I was fearless. The fear of God doesn't exist in me anymore, resulting in me to stray away. All the temptations and pressures of this world are just too hard to resist for most people. The entire time I had fallen away from Christ, I knew what was needed, but had the mindset of "I have plenty of time when I'm older to get saved". My parents would harp on me all the time and it would make me angry and I'd push them away. I didn't understand why they just couldn't love me for me. I felt like I was never good enough and couldn't do anything to please them. I was a good person making a good life for myself....so what if God wasn't a part of it.... Boy was I young and dumb. As a mother now, I understand. You're hurting for his soul. Non-believers won't understand. We are not promised tomorrow. As we near the end, the burden for our lost loved ones gets even greater.



It does sound like you raised a good person, but contrary to what Kate said, not everyone will be let into heaven. Being a good person doesn't get you into heaven. John 3:3 says ....Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. We are saved from eternal damnation through faith and His salvation!.



Don't give up praying for him. My uncle (in-law) was an alcoholic for many many years, but that didn't stop his mom and family from praying for him. He was on his death bed several times because of it. He's now in his late 50's and 2 years ago, he gave his life to the Lord. He's been sober every since and is healthy as can be! One more, then I'll stop :) Yesterday, I had the priviledge of praying with a 56 yr old co-worker that received Christ's gift. It's never too late....but we never know when our time will come. I'll be praying for you all.

Sherry - posted on 06/22/2011

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There's nothing you can do. Your son has to find his own way in life and if he wants to be Atheist, you have to either accept him as he is or risk losing your relationship with him. It sounds harsh but it's true. He's exercising his free will and all you can do is continue to love him.

Roberta - posted on 06/22/2011

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Dear Linda:
I know and can feel your pain. My three sons went with me to church regularly. They were baptised, and confirmed as teenagers. They were also active members of our youth choirs. My oldest son was a server and carried the cross and did other things during the service. However, there does come a time where they have to make their own choices about their faith. My sons are all now in their 20's. My oldest son Greg comes to church regularly, but my other two do not. In fact when my youngest son was in his later teens he came out and told me that he had lost his faith. I guess he has doubts about the resurrection and the virgin birth. But at that time it felt like he had stabbed me in the heart. It really hurt and I kept thinking what did I do wrong as his mom? I must have done something really bad. NO! I did nothing wrong. Gary was at the age where they question and I felt what he was taking in science was making him doubt. Remember though even those of the strongest faith doubt at times.
What you have to come to deal with at this time is that you personally can do nothing about this. What you need to be proud of is that you took him to church and he has that faith background: many do not. It doesn't mean that your son won't change his mind. Faith and life are journeys. Sometimes people grow in their faith, sometimes they don't. But God loves your son unconditionally. Remember that and Jesus loved "doubting Thomas". It is time for you to let go and let your son discover who he is and what he believes. Pushing him will only alienate you and your son. Take care Linda. Give yourself a hug. There was nothing wrong with you or your parenting. God loves you too.

Jessica - posted on 06/22/2011

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Pray for him... that's all you can do. Give him to God, and He'll work it out. ;) It may take a while, but leave it in His hands.

Sabrina - posted on 06/21/2011

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Pray for him and a good book he could read on Worldviews is called "The Universe Next Door" I have read the book and it is very good. It has also been used as a college text book.

Danielle - posted on 06/21/2011

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Without touching the whole religion debate my advice is to let him know you love him no matter what. That you're always there if he needs you and will give him the best advice possible. I'm a preacher's daughter. Did the whole church every Sunday and Weds night. As an adult I don't go to church, although I know I should. My mom is very overbearing when it comes to church and God. For a long time I would avoid her b/c it always turned into a " You need to get back in church" conversation. I know one day I will get back in church but it will be on my time and not hers. I know right from wrong and I always catch myself thinking about the things my parents instilled in me. I know he does the same. Just be there..that's all you can do. He may be angry b/c he feels like he's disappointing you and doesn't know how to intigrate what he believes with what you believe and may feel he doesn't fit anymore. I really hope things work out for you.

Jane - posted on 06/21/2011

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Often when people become parents they change their mind about religion. However, everyone has to find their own way in the world. You gave him a solid background, but now you need to step aside and let him chart his own course. Pray for him, love him, and support him. He may surprise you with the choices he ultimately makes, even though his journey is different than yours was.

And always remember that every American citizen has the freedom to vote however they wish. He is an adult and a voter, so how he votes is none of your business. In fact, within families it is best to avoid discussing politics or religion when you know that different family members have different beliefs.

The only other thing I can suggest is that as his mom you might try to see if he will open up about why he is angry. Sometimes just being able to express the anger can help people release some of it.

Stifler's - posted on 06/21/2011

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Nothing. My sister was raised in a Christian home and she's an atheist and constantly arguing with my parents about God and stuff. I don't go to Church either. Neither does my other sister.

Constance - posted on 06/21/2011

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I made my own decision how I would choose to worship. My family supports everyone when it comes to there faith and life. If any of my childeren decided to leave the church I would be ok with that. Now I have 4 as well that have never really had experience with faith. I can guide not force.
He will find his way back when he is ready. Please remember Mother Theresa also battled with her faith throughout her life. Had doubts that she was doing what she was destined to do.

[deleted account]

Pray and just love him how he is. It's the only thing you CAN do. You can not control what another person thinks, does, or believes (especially another adult), but you can control your reaction to it and what you do. Just love him. He knows the Truth deep inside somewhere, but it's up to him what he does w/ that.... not you.

Kate CP - posted on 06/21/2011

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I'm confused. Didn't Christ say that all sins are forgivable and everyone would be let into the kingdom of heaven?

Jackie - posted on 06/21/2011

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So you raised him to be independent, educated, well liked by peers, thinks for himself? I fail to see the problem here.

Joyce - posted on 06/21/2011

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Let it go, Mom. They pretty much all do that at one time or another. He's twenty years old?? Leave him alone!!

Sasha - posted on 06/21/2011

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The same thing happened with my family. But it was me that this happened too (I'm 22yr). My family went to a Lutheran church every sunday blah blah blah. My mom still praises the Lord, reading the bible and prays at mealtimes. He's just seeing the world with a different set of eyes. Are you afraid he's not going to get into heaven? If he's not pushing his beliefs of Atheism on anyone trying to get people to reform, you should respect his views and let him be his own person. And he should also respect your beliefs when he's in your own household. You don't have to push them on him, but if you pray at mealtimes he should fold his hands and bow his head with you. Etc. He's grown and creating his own life.

♥♪Megan♫♥ - posted on 06/21/2011

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Your son isn't out drinking, doing drugs or breaking the law so IMO it's not a big deal that he's questioning his beliefs. God gave us all free will so that we can have the ability to do that for ourselves. Questioning our faith and having doubts makes our faith stronger- at least that's my belief.
You say that he's very angry right now, the best thing you can do for that is to love him and show your support without trying to pressure him back into going to church because you'll do more harm than good. Trust me.
Just ask him if there's anything going on and don't pressure him to believe as you do.

Peita - posted on 06/21/2011

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Hi Linda, I just read your comment about 'Science has taught your son evolution', I have a friend who came from a religious family (her sister in particular has very fierce religious beliefs - her religion or nothing at all mentallity), my friend married a scientist and he is very pro evolution (not completely atheist), but that is because SCIENCE has taught him to analyse and research EVERYTHING. I guess what I am trying to say is that this friend of mine has a good balance (in my opinion) between evolution and religion, maybe your son in time will come to some sort of balance too. Science once proven is kind of hard to argue with where as people find religious beliefs harder to prove and believe in. I believe in evolution, but love the idea of somewhere to go after death, my children are all baptised as I love the idea of the church being in our life as a support system, but I don't attend church regularly and I believe that religion should be a personal choice, just like political views, sexual preference, contraception etc, they are all personall choice and I don't believe it is aanyones right to force an opinion on anyone. I am not forcing my opinion, I am just letting it be known and I hope you will be able to still have a great relationship in the future with your son despite his personal beliefs which have altered as he has learn't more about the world!!

Linda - posted on 06/20/2011

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Hey Tonya, I appreciate your reply to me, however, I want to respond to you. I do love my son, and I will always love my son, however, as a Christian I can't not pray for him. You said, "There is no correct way and that is how religion is built...do as I do or don't come back kind of mentality" You have the right to have that opinion, but I really disagree with you. Jesus is a gentleman and He knocks at the door of our hearts. He does not push himself into our lives, but He patiently waits to be invited. It is as simple as that.

I have invited Jesus into my heart and I can't not obey the Bible and share the good news of the gospel. You said atheism is not a death sentence. Again, I disagree. What happens when we die? I believe in eternity, heaven or hell, and if I believe that how do you expect a Christian, let alone a Christian mom, not to be concerned about her son? Again, that does not mean I am going to stop loving him. You said you were raised in a Christian home. I am sure that you have people praying for you as well for you to know God's grace, love, forgiveness, and mercy.

Mabel - posted on 06/19/2011

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Oh please! If your son is the man he wants to be then be happy for him.He has made his decision and it is yours to back that decision no matter what it is.I was raised a Christian and I am now an Atheist.I don't regret making that decision for myself and if you actually listen to your son I am sure he can tell you how and why he made the transition to Atheism.It is not a death sentence to not believe in a god and the only person his decision will end up hurting is you if you can't come to terms with it.If you pray for him he will feel like he can't make you happy and he will eventually get to the point of cutting you out.So don't think of changing his mind or trying to show him the "correct way" of living.There is no correct way and that is how religion is built...do as I do or don't come back kind of mentality.

Coco - posted on 06/19/2011

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Like you said, he's living the way he wants. There's no way my words can patch up a mother's heart. Know that you haven't failed. No of us are perfect at exposing the life of Christ nor showing his grace.
Pray, and God will do His will in His time.
Hope, but do not dwell on this. Also don't bother him with it, wait until he brings the subject up, if ever. I would tell him that I pray for him and stuff like that, but don't confront him. If he's been raised up in the church, he knows the 'answers' but it hasn't pierced his heart yet.
do not give up on prayer. I've heard too many come-back stories, we can't give up! He is greater than our misses.

Christine - posted on 06/19/2011

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Pray, love him & don't push. You don't need to apologize for wanting your son to be a part of the faith that you raised him in. It is easy for others to say that he is an adult now & can choose his own values but everyone has a vision for who they want their child to be & has deeply held beliefs & would be terribly disappointed if their child seemed to be turning their backs on that (Ex: You raised your child to be very aware of social issues & all they want to do is make money & don't seem to care about people or you raised your child to value education & they decide to drop out of high school and play in a band). Be patient. You want him to have authentic faith & each person needs to come to that on their own terms. In the meantime, don't beat yourself up for the choices that he makes.

Linda - posted on 06/19/2011

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Jodi, No. I guess I phrased that completely wrong. I will always love my son no matter what. We are having discussions that are difficult. He is really smart and he can definitely argue. Science has taught him evolution and that is his belief now. I am a Christian, and I believe there is eternity, and we have to make a choice about eternity. When I asked him about that he says he is not worried about it. He thinks we live and die and that is it. As some of the other replies, I am going to love him with God's love and not get into these arguments. I hope that makes sense.

Linda - posted on 06/19/2011

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Jodi, No. I guess I phrased that completely wrong. I will always love my son no matter what. We are having discussions that are difficult. He is really smart and he can definitely argue. Science has taught him evolution and that is his belief now. I am a Christian, and I believe there is eternity, and we have to make a choice about eternity. When I asked him about that he says he is not worried about it. He thinks we live and die and that is it. As some of the other replies, I am going to love him with God's love and not get into these arguments. I hope that makes sense.

Jodi - posted on 06/19/2011

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" I am going to pray for him and work on continuing to love him, which I always have done."



I can't see why you have to work on continuing to love him :\ Are you saying you are finding it more difficult to love him simply because he has chosen his own route with respect to religion? I know I have never had to work to love my children, no matter what their foibles. Yes, there are times I am disappointed in their behaviour, but I still love them! It certainly isn't something I have to work on.

Peita - posted on 06/19/2011

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It's sounds like you have raised a confident, independent, young man who is making decisions on his own... A job well done I would say....

Samantha - posted on 06/18/2011

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my mother raised me to make my own decision. she didnt expose me to God, but i found him on my own. i strongly believe that our children will make their own decisions, all we can do is love them for who they are. if my children (whom i dedicated to Christ recently) are raised in a loving warm supportive enviroment and educated about God i trust them to make the decision that is right for them. i really hope that they choose to follow God, as i chose. i want to see them in heaven along side me and not be forever separated from them (after death) but in the end it is between them and God. i cannot force them to believe anything, i cannot force them to live their lives a certain way, but i can show them Gods love, and show them the support that they have no matter what. i can teach them all i want but in the end all i can do is love and accept them

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