Experiencing an ethical dilemma? Need advice from a humanist perspective?
Send your questions to The Humanist Dilemma at firstname.lastname@example.org (subject line: Humanist Dilemma).
All inquiries are kept confidential.
Disagree to Disagree: I’m twenty-five, and since high school I’ve had a far more liberal view on my religion than my parents. I believe that my religious views shouldn’t play a role in anyone’s life but my own.
This all started when I began dating someone of a different ethnicity and religion. My parents didn’t approve because she wasn’t the “same” as us. Her differences don’t really make a difference to me because I think that we’ve drawn these invisible lines using culture and religion to separate us when I think those are only minor aspects of a person. My relationship with her kind of broke my parents.
My dad feels like he’s failed by not passing on his religious beliefs and that I’ve lost my morals because of it. But I’m at peace with my view and don’t think people even need religion to have morals. I don’t even want to talk to my parents anymore because every time I try to explain my beliefs I just get shot down with angry rants about what “we should be doing,” mainly rooted in dogma.
I’m happy with my significant other and our differences don’t bother us, but I want my family to see all the great things that I see beyond the labels. But I guess my biggest question is: How do I explain to my parents that my difference in beliefs isn’t their failure? I know it’s a lot but I’ve just been having a hard time navigating all this and I will take any advice.
—My Rights Are Not Their Wrongs
The first thing you have to do is recognize that you can’t control what your parents believe any more than they can control what you believe. You can wish they’d see things your way just as they can wish you’d see things their way. But wishing doesn’t make it happen, and maybe nothing can. Regardless, you need to live your life, let them live theirs, and make the best of whatever intersection there is.
Whether or not your parents see your divergent views as a failure on their part is irrelevant. Telling them it’s not their fault will not change their minds if they believe that it is. You’re not doing anything wrong, and it’s on them to accept or reject your life, while it’s on you to live it according to your own lights. This is what you’ve been doing, except you keep worrying about what they think, and it’s eating you up.
Accept that your parents will think whatever they do, and since you’re not responsible for that, just put it out of your mind. If you can’t enjoy their company, avoid it. But I wonder how much of what you describe is really going on with your parents, and how much is you projecting these ideas and expectations on them—perhaps even leading them to react in the ways you expect them to. In any case, do whatever you can to let that baggage go, even if it involves some therapy to sort out your sense of guilt. Then put it aside. If there’s a problem, it’s theirs, not yours. They can, if they choose, perpetuate it in their minds. But you can, without their assent, unilaterally resolve not to keep it going in yours.