Are you an agnostic divorced man whose Evangelical daughter (two weekends a month) is worried that you’ll go to hell? You’re in luck, because in the past week, two different columnists have offered you their advice.
You should be able to freely express your beliefs to your daughter, but your larger goal right now has to be to maintain a healthy relationship with her. At 13, she’s old enough to understand the concept of “agreeing to disagree.” There are many things a father and teenage girl can discuss besides religion. Certainly you don’t have to hide your views about science and homosexuality, but you’re only alienating her if you use your time together to give her a crash course in the Enlightenment . . . Explain that since you know it’s important to her, you respect her right to her beliefs, even if you don’t share them.
Meanwhile, Cary Tennis at Salon suggested faux (or maybe actual!) conversion:
The way to help your daughter grow is not to debate the existence of God. It is to go to church with your daughter and experience what she is experiencing. . . . Her problem is not that she believes in God. It’s that she believes you are going to burn in hell when you die. It’s her concern for you, and her fear for you, that are the problem. She wants to believe otherwise but has no solid grounds on which to place any hope. If you go to church with her, you will make it possible for her to believe that there is at least a chance that you will not burn in hell. . . .
Once you have [discussed the religion’s theology of salvation] with an official, you might be able to confidently tell your daughter, without going into specifics, that you think everything is going to be OK, eternal-life-wise. She would probably appreciate that.
Let’s turn this one over to the T&S commenters, who are always more than happy to offer suggestions. Take a look at the dad’s letter, at Slate or Salon. Pretend that you’re the advice columnist. What would you say? What should the dad do, here? Is there a right answer? (What do you think of Prudence and/or Cary’s replies?)
Would your answer be any different if the daughter were Mormon rather than Evangelical? What if the father was Mormon and the daughter agnostic (or Evangelical)? Would that change your answer?