Epic letter to christian grandma. Feedback, please!
Posted: 14 October 2009 12:58 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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A couple of months ago, my fundamentalist Christian grandmother, after hearing of my unbelief, sent me a 33-page handwritten letter lamenting my unbelief, urging me to reconsider, and ultimately appealing to a fear of hell for the decisions I make about what I choose to not believe in.

Last week I chose to finally reply. After a few days of work on responding, my letter really started to grow. I finished my letter last night and posted it to reddit.com for some feedback. The response has been overwhelming (over 400 comments in the last 24 hours!) and I’m left in kind of an awkward space. What else can I do with the work I put into writing this letter?

This is not a coming out letter, it is not an attempt to change my grandma’s mind. It is an attempt at an explanation for why I do not believe as she does.You’ll see immediately upon opening the letter that my response has grown into a weird beast, some kind of hybrid between a letter and an essay. I’d like to invite you to read my letter and portions of the letter my grandmother wrote me.

Here is the link to my submission to reddit.com. You’ll find a link to my letter, and a second link to an excerpt from my grandmother’s letter. Have a look at some of the comments, too. They’re very entertaining.

http://tinyurl.com/yhsux6m

Thanks for reading this,
Josh Sullivan

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Posted: 14 October 2009 03:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Nicely done, Josh.

It was respectful, meticulous, relentless and probably an enormous waste of time, but I learned something and you managed not to call Grandma a useless anal fungus or deranged douche nozzle as many atheist are prone to do when writing long communications addressed to the howling mad.

I really enjoyed it.


Cheers mate.

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But that’s the way I like it baby, I don’t want to live forever.”

From the autobiography of A.A.Mills, ‘The passage of time, according to an estranged, casual tyrant.’

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Posted: 14 October 2009 05:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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Superb letter.  Have you any idea yet how it was received?

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I am the very model of a Christian Evangelical
I’ve no need for courtesy when fighting things heretical
I know the bible word for word; you’ll find me pedagogical
I have my faith so I’ve no need for ideas that are logical
Atheists and Pagans fall before my wit satirical
They’ll burn in hell just as they should; their cries will be so lyrical
I’m always right, you’re always wrong, my reasoning’s dogmatical
For I’m the very model of a Christian Evangelical

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Posted: 14 October 2009 05:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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I haven’t sent the letter yet. I posted it here to get some last minute feedback before sticking it in the mail. I’ll probably send it out to my grandmother tomorrow.

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Posted: 15 October 2009 12:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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I thought it was very well thought out and comprehensive but it’s presented like a dry scientific essay without any real emotion.  This may not be the best approach when dealing with your obviously loving grandma.  She will likely assume that you’re more machine than man now. 

I would make it more personal.  Remind her of all of the values she’s instilled in you and how she helped shape you into the good, moral man you are today.  Just my 2 cents!

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Signatures are pretentious and ultimately a distraction to the topic.

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Posted: 15 October 2009 12:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Johnny Sweatpants - 15 October 2009 04:09 PM

I thought it was very well thought out and comprehensive but it’s presented like a dry scientific essay without any real emotion.  This may not be the best approach when dealing with your obviously loving grandma.  She will likely assume that you’re more machine than man now. 

I would make it more personal.  Remind her of all of the values she’s instilled in you and how she helped shape you into the good, moral man you are today.  Just my 2 cents!

If you do that, it might be a good idea to remind her that you may have got them partly from her, but also because you are a normal, well-adjusted human being who is capable of empathy towards others—which is the ultimate source of our morality, not a supernatural sky-daddy who punishes us if we misbehave.

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I am the very model of a Christian Evangelical
I’ve no need for courtesy when fighting things heretical
I know the bible word for word; you’ll find me pedagogical
I have my faith so I’ve no need for ideas that are logical
Atheists and Pagans fall before my wit satirical
They’ll burn in hell just as they should; their cries will be so lyrical
I’m always right, you’re always wrong, my reasoning’s dogmatical
For I’m the very model of a Christian Evangelical

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Posted: 16 October 2009 07:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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Well, that was a wonderful presentation indeed. It should have at least a little impact on even the most absolutist thinking individuals among us, including your gramdmother but….I would not hold my breath.

Josh, I think you have done as well as you can do.

Best regards.

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‘Every reflecting mind must acknowledge that there is no proof of the existence of a Deity’

‘If ignorance of nature gave birth to gods, knowledge of nature destroys them’

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Posted: 16 October 2009 09:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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If Grandma wrote you 33 pages, you already know that she will campaign the rest of her life to get you to perceive the error of your ways and come back to THE TRUTH as she sees it. Family makes living rationally difficult.  I encourage you to stand your ground and fortify your mind with the history of the universe and life on earth as discovered by scientists. You may eventually have to stop discussing faith vs.science with her.  Very best to you.
Starfire

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Starfire
Champion of Rational Thought and Civil Discourse

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Posted: 17 October 2009 05:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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Poetic justice: a concisely written (if apparently excessive), specific, well thought-out response to an insanely long tirade founded in ancient ignorance. Too long and confusing for Grandma? Let her open a reason-based book or two for once in her life.

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Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it. For it cannot give it any foundations either. It leaves everything as it is.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Posted: 18 October 2009 10:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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Thanks for the feedback, everyone. I’m licking the envelope today and will send my little letter off to grandma tomorrow morning. I’ll post an update as soon as I have a response from her.

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Posted: 19 October 2009 07:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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Yes I concur with UZ on that. The grandma needs to read a book about science and skepticism. We are many centuries into the age of reason now and somehow she was left behind. It’s never to late to catch up, at least a little.

Maybe ‘How we Believe, Science, Skepticism and the Search For God by Shermer or

‘The Demon Haunted World’ by Sagan?


Many others as well.

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‘Every reflecting mind must acknowledge that there is no proof of the existence of a Deity’

‘If ignorance of nature gave birth to gods, knowledge of nature destroys them’

Percy Bysshe Shelley

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