I still remember an Atlanta friend’s surprise when I told her about some volunteer work I had done as a child.
Then it was my turn to be surprised: She admitted that she didn’t think less religious families like mine did that sort of thing.
I was raised in a neighborhood where religion was both diverse and took a backseat to other shared values, with no apparent harm. Crime was low, kids were well-behaved and neighbors valued one another and the world we lived in.
I don’t disagree with Shaunti that a collective spiritual life can strengthen a family, and it’s true that most people believe in God; who said anything about “a collective delusion?”
Still, I’m astonished at her inference that the positive effects of spirituality on families prove the existence of a loving God. That really flunks the logic test and points to a complete refusal to believe that anything other than a life based on the Bible will enable a family to flourish.
Living morally with or without religious structure – that is what creates those positive effects, and that’s what a family needs. There are those like mine that focused on morality through other means, with terrific results.
I have a brother who took in a teenage neighbor and put him through college. I have a sister who is known in her small town for extensive work with underprivileged young women.
Then there’s my friend Mike, a caring physician, loving husband, great father and fourth-generation nonbeliever. He’s close to his extremely devout in-laws, who marvel at his strong moral fiber.
One night at dinner, they finally worked up the nerve to ask him: “How do you know the right thing to do?” Mike smiled politely and responded, “Because it’s the right thing to do.”
These conversations are hard to have, but deeply rewarding.
During a visit back home recently, I worked up the nerve to ask my most religious childhood friend if she wishes I had accepted Christ as my savior. “Well, that would be great,” Zoe gently allowed. “But I don’t need you to believe what I believe.”
Moral houses built on ground rich from many beliefs, weathering storms together – that’s always been the right neighborhood for me.
Morals the mortar of many homes
Andrea Sarvady (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a writer and educator specializing in counseling and a married mother of three.