Dear Margo: An Age-Old Question

One young man struggles with his beliefs: Margo Howard’s advice

An Age-Old Question

Dear Margo: I am a 16-year-old boy who has been wondering if it’s bad that I question if there is really a God. I mean, I do believe in him, but there are times I am uncertain. I guess I’m asking: What if he doesn’t exist, and we spent our lives believing in nothing? Then again, what if we spend our lives not believing and he really is true? I guess I just don’t want to make a mistake and choose the wrong way to think. Thanks for listening. — Confused Teen

Dear Con: Your question and your thinking have landed on Pascal’s Wager: “Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.”

I believe it is possible, also, to believe in God — or an equivalent force — without following any particular religion. I must say, you don’t sound confused to me, but, rather, questioning and thoughtful, which are the qualities that account for the scientific and moral progress we’ve made over time. Perhaps you will become a philosopher. — Margo, approvingly

Psst, the Old Wife Is Jealous and Not Happy

Dear Margo: I have been in a relationship with a wonderful man for four years, and we’ve lived together for the past two. The problem is with his not-quite-ex-wife. They were separated for two years before I met “Hal.” Their daughter is soon to be married. She and I get along well. When she first started planning the wedding, she let her mother know I was invited. The mother was angry for two weeks; she did not want me at the wedding. Well, she got over that.

The other day, when Hal called to tell me she asked that I not sit in the front row during the ceremony, I kind of understood (although, naturally, I would prefer to sit with him rather than behind him). But then, when the invitation came for the rehearsal dinner, she called him to ask that I not go to the dinner. I suggested to him that we take his two nephews out to dinner that night. Nope, can’t do that because they are going to the rehearsal dinner. So Hal is not going to the dinner, and I am having trouble getting over being angry and hurt by the situation. I didn’t steal her husband, and in fact, we’ve never even met. How can I get over this? — Gnashing My Teeth

Dear Gnash: As for not stealing her husband, merely showing up after their car wreck of a marriage is enough for some dames to hold it against you anyway. (I have been the victim of this myself.) It is irrational, so forget it. It often means she is lonesome and probably wishes she had him back. And I actually don’t think you have a problem. That the father of the bride is skipping the rehearsal dinner means you have nothing to be angry or hurt about. He took your side, which is lovely. As for where you sit at the wedding, this request you can honor. I have been at weddings where the m-o-b has no s.o. and the father is romantically involved. Enough said. — Margo, maturely

* * *

Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

Click here to follow Margo on Twitter

116 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Deeliteful says:


    I’d rather believe in God and find out that He doesn’t exist than not believe in God and find out (until it’s too late) that He does exist. What do you have to lose believing that God exists? I understand your questioning; I believe most of us do question the existence of God at some point in our lives.

    I do not apologize for believing in God even though that is an unpopular stance. I’d much rather believe in divine creation than the “big bang” theory. I like knowing I was created in the image of a Supreme Being and not just an evolution of what? Again, a somewhat unpopular belief on this site.

    Dear Teen: Continue to study and follow YOUR heart.

    • avatar Jrz Wrld says:

      Having recently “come out” as an atheist, Deeliteful, I can assure you that your stance is the popular one.

      I would posit this in response to your statement: If there IS indeed a God he is something that cannot be defined by any of the religions that humans have managed to create. If God exists, I am reasonably certain that the being that created entire galaxies and universes cares about what little rituals humans follow or how they view him. I have seen nothing to convince me that the Bible is anything but a reflection of the fears and neuroses of its authors.

      I find your question of what one has to lose by believing kind of off-base actually. 1) I would presume faith is not based on having nothing better to do or hedging your bets. 2) Indeed, there IS something to lose if one is worried about pleasing what in all likelihood is a fictional creation. You see it all the time, people justifying their acts or beliefs by saying it’s what God wants. Some use it as an excuse, but others truly believe that if they marry outside their religion, embrace their gay friend, divorce their abusive spouse, etc. that God will be unhappy. By choosing to believe in a higher being one is often adopting a set of externally imposed rules, and that factors into your other life choices.

      To the LW, whatever you choose to believe, you have the right to do so. Keep asking questions and researching and draw your conclusions from the answers you receive.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        I think it’s funny how popular it has become to say how being a Christian is unpopular. Especially in a country where the vast majority define themselves as Christians and our politicians have a remarkable tendency to forget that other religions and beliefs might actually exist. If anything is true—Christians like to bash each other.

        • avatar chipgiii says:

          Christian has become a bad word in this country.  Christians are scorned, derided, called stupid, and laughed at.  Just don’t do those things to any other religion!

          • avatar David Bolton says:

            “Christian has become a bad word in this country. Christians are scorned, derided, called stupid, and laughed at.”

            I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that “Christian” isn’t so much a reflection of one’s spiritual beliefs these days as much as a marketing brand, a status symbol, a bumper-sticker and t-shirt slogan, a weapon, a tax-shelter, and any one of a dozen other things that have nothing to do whatsoever with Jesus.

          • avatar blue tooth says:

            I’m sorry but Christians saying they’re scorned,derided, called names, etc. in this country is like white people saying they’re suffering from racism and discrimination, or men saying they’re being persecuted by feminism. In this country, if it happens once, it’s more than countered by the many times it happens in the other direction.

            This is like those Defense Of Marriage people saying they’re being bullied by, and their civil rights are being violated by, “those gay people” who want to get married.

          • avatar John Lee says:

            “Christian has become a bad word in this country.  Christians are scorned, derided, called stupid, and laughed at.  Just don’t do those things to any other religion!”


            I see that some people have already responded similarly, but I want to add in a bit in concurrence.

            It’s pretty crazy that you actually believe this, but then, that having irrational beliefs is central to religion.

            Do you think a single atheist Presidential candidate will ever be nominated (much less elected) by either the Democrats or the Republicans?

            Do you know how many atheists are in Congress?  ONE.

            I live in liberal California and there is still almost zero chance that an atheist will be elected to the US Senate or Governor.

            Do you know that the majority of Americans (76%) identify themselves as Christians?

            Yes, of course you have been criticized at some point for Christian, I don’t doubt that.  But compared to what atheists, Muslim or Buddhists face, it is NOTHING.

          • avatar chipgiii says:


            I believe what?  If you are asking me if I believe that Christians are bashed on a daily basis, it isn’t a matter of belief – it’s the reality I see and hear.  I see the “bashing” of others you mention as well.

            If you are accusing me of having beliefs central to my religion, I ain’t very religious.  I find the free thinkers fascinating and believe they make a lot of sense.  I NEVER degrade any religion, or non religion (atheist, agnostic, etc).  I am critical of fanatics regardless of faith, or lack of faith.

            No one has ever criticized me for my religion – really don’t have one.  I have been criticized for not taking a harder look, but I’m okay with that.  My beliefs are my beliefs and I am willing to listen to others – but that doesn’t mean I am going to be a convert.

            I honestly never think much about a politicians religion.  I don’t think I care if they are or are not religious.  I don’t want atheist telling people they can’t believe, or religious people telling atheist they should believe.  I do find fundamentalist frightening – and yes a bit more so for Islamic fundamentalist than other religions.  But recent history may be the culprit there.  I’ve also read “The Al Qaeda Reader” which is a pretty scary read. 

            Hey I spent three weeks in Santa Rosa area three years ago, nice country!  That area is really liberal, nice people nevertheless.

            Anyway the post you responded to is my observations, not judgments, not my beliefs…observations.

          • avatar chipgiii says:

            Almost forgot:
            “Christian has become a bad word in this country.  Christians are scorned, derided, called stupid, and laughed at.  Just don’t do those things to any other religion!”  <—You rarely hear comedians or pundits taking shots at other religions. 

          • avatar blue tooth says:

            Oh you mean like how that pro-Perry Christian minister said that Romney belonged to a cult because he is a Mormon? You know that the Mormons aren’t Christian, right? They don’t believe in Christ. Does that make them a cult?

          • avatar chipgiii says:

            Ahhh Blue,

            Don’t know, but I believe there is a very fine line between religion and cult.  Actually much of the time I can’t tell the difference. 

            The only person I follow blindly is my wife.  She make my life good even in trying times, so I ain’t pushing my luck!

          • avatar Carrie A says:

            I’m not sure if this is serious or not but just so you know Mormons do believe in Jesus (I was raised in the church). I’m surprised the minister would even make up something like that when there’s so much other weird stuff in the church that he could have pointed to.

          • avatar Sleepwalker says:

            …Scientology anyone?

            Also, I think you can narrow it down more when it comes to people taking shots at Christianity. Most of the jokes I’ve heard are about Evangelical Christians. I rarely hear jokes about Unitarians or Episcopalians…actually I don’t think I ever have.

          • avatar grn_chile_grl says:

            Guess we’re too small for general public to take shots at, but our Unitarian Universalist minister had impeccable timing:

            “How do you run a UU family out of town?”
            “Light a burning question mark on their front lawn.”

          • avatar blue tooth says:

            Oh wait, I got one:

            A priest, a child molester, and a rapist walk into a bar:

            He sits at the bar and orders a drink.

          • avatar David Bolton says:

            And didn’t the Rev. Terry Jones do something nasty with a copy of the Koran lately? Oh that’s right—he did.

          • avatar chipgiii says:


            He did and the whole world bashed him, rightfully so. And in Iran this past August the had a bible burning campaign – no one cared. 

          • avatar David Bolton says:

            “the whole world bashed him…”

            Really—the WHOLE world stood against Mr. Jones? I wonder if this guy did…

            “A radio ad for a handgun training class that bars Muslims and Obama voters has sparked an investigation in Texas.

            “We will attempt to teach you all the necessary information you need to obtain your [Concealed Handgun License],” the ad says. Then towards the end, it adds: “If you are a socialist liberal and/or voted for the current campaigner in chief, please do not take this class. You have already proven that you cannot make a knowledgeable and prudent decision under the law.”

            And then: “If you are a non-Christian Arab or Muslim, I will not teach you the class with no shame; I am Crockett Keller, thank you, and God bless America.”

            I guess I can understand why he’s so upset—what with the persecution he probably undergoes on a daily basis. But like the old saying goes: “when you’re a hateful nut job who takes out a radio ad showing how bigoted you are, you deserve what you get.”

            Or something like that.

          • avatar blue tooth says:


            I gotta wonder where you live, because I live in New York, (you know, that Sodom of Sin, Immigration, Homosexuality, Communism, and just plain ol’ Liberalism) and I can’t remember the last time I heard someone say, “Those damn Christians!” Or, “Those dumb Christians!” Or anything else using harsher language, for that matter.

            It might’ve happened a couple of times that someone got down on a particular priest who was molesting children, or the church hierarchy which transferred him instead of reporting him to the police, or the Televangelist who spent years blasting the culture of homosexuality and adultery, and then it turned out he was using church funds to pay for a habit of ecstasy-fueled binges with a transvestite hooker, but those are examples of being outraged by actions, not by religions.

            Unless you think that kind of stuff is ok, and we should just be quiet about the hypocrisy of it all.

          • avatar chipgiii says:

            blue tooth,

            Presently live, for the last three years, in Raleigh, NC area.  The first 55 years, I lived primarily in NJ: three years Germany, 7 months La, 3 years Fl…  Most of my professional life I worked for NY Times (not exactly a hub for conservatism) – but I was on the business side, not editorial. 

            I am not in disagreement with most of the comments here on the insensitivity in all directions.  Truth is for many years, I thought the only bad religious people were tv evangelist.  Maybe because it didn’t matter much to me, I didn’t notice that Christians were bashed too.  Living in the “bible belt” one quickly realizes that church is a bit different here – a lot more people attend for one, or at least it seems so.  Anyway a good friend of my, very liberal and very brilliant, was doing some consulting work in GA.  I checked into FB and was reading her comments regarding that consulting experience.  The group she was training, all execs, said a brief prayer prior to lunch (not all that uncommon down here, and first time it caught me off guard to say the least).  Anyway, on FB she had a field day mocking and abusing these people:  calling that bible thumpers, morons, etc.  I was shocked.  This is a person with a Masters in Mathematics from Cornell, and a Masters in Applied Statistics from U of Wisconsin.  The exchange of FB quickly grew into a banquet of bashing among some, thought to be, very smart people.  This really caught my attention, making me much more tuned in to this type of stuff. 
            I don’t dispute Christians bashing others for one second.  I do notice now though that no one has corned the market on bashing, and for some Christian bashing is a pastime. 

          • avatar Messy ONE says:

            A lot of so-called “christians” well deserve every epithet and the all the mocking we can muster. They’ve earned it.

          • avatar chipgiii says:

            Messy One,

            “A lot of so-called “christians” well deserve every epithet and the all the mocking we can muster. They’ve earned it.”

            Okay, but then isn’t it fair to say that a lof of other individuals in other groups: “deserve every epithet and the all the mocking we can muster. They’ve earned it.”

            I just don’t see the bashing as a one way street.  Nor do I care who “started” it.  I think far too often we tend to lump a group together based on the stupid actions of a few. 

          • avatar chipgiii says:

            blue tooth,

            “Unless you think that kind of stuff is ok, and we should just be quiet about the hypocrisy of it all.” 

            Exactly!  I don’t think it is ok.  I totally get that the bashing has been going on for years by “so called Christians.”  Nor do I think that “bashing” in the other direction is ok either.  Who bashes more?  Does it matter?

          • avatar blue tooth says:

            When one group is orders of magnitude larger than the other, and bashes the other in much greater numbers, it does matter who does more, because along with the who-does-more is the issue of if the smaller group could be threatened by the larger group. In the US, are atheists, Jews, Muslims, etc. many times ostracized by christian individuals and christian groups? In the US, are christian individuals or christian groups ostracized by other, non-christian individuals or christian groups in any similar numbers? In any significant numbers at all?

            You mention in over 55 years one FB incident. From that you say that it happens daily?

          • avatar Lym BO says:

            John, Yours is in interesting stance; however, I would guess there are more than one atheist in Congress. I would also guess that there has been a President that was agnostic or atheist. They simply didn’t convey it to the masses because of its unpopularity. Politicians get elected by being mainstream. Heck, my Lutheran pastor frequently mentions that many of us likely are skeptics. He then attempts to persuade us to think otherwise. At this point, I’m not buying it. Furthermore, I think when a religion is ingrained in our culture and upbringing it is sometimes easier to attribute life events to God than not to do so. If there was no fear of the afterlife, I would guess a lot more people would be openly challenging their own beliefs.
            I go to church for two reasons: the first is I think it is good morals & beliefs to instill into my children. Our view of Jesus is he was a pretty cool guy & solving his riddles are fun. The second reason is I enjoy pondering about the pastor’s sermons. Most often I leave even more convinced that Jesus most likely had delusions of grandeur. He obviously was charismatic unlike anything we’ve seen, he talked in circles and vaguely because he was extremely intelligent which left his followers confused, but mesmerized. If he was on Earth today I’ll bet our take on him as a race would be totally different. As for miracles, bring those to the present & many of them could likely be discovered/explained. These people were living in a time we can’t fathom and their perception is likely altered.

          • avatar snowwhite4577 says:

            I don’t know anyone who has anything against Christians in this country….the majority of people I meet don’t have a problem with Christianity…more the people who act holier than thou, pass judgement on others, expect everyone to live by Christian beliefs and who put down other religions and belief systems because they act their own is the only one–who tend to be Christians.  

            And honestly; ask a Muslim or an atheist about being scorned, etc.  Compare stories and get back to us on that.

        • avatar Rita@ Goldivas says:

          Christians do seem to have a persecution complex these days. Maybe that’s how they justify their meanness to non-Christians.

          • avatar chipgiii says:


            My perspective is so far christians, non-christians, agnostics, athiest, etc – none have cornered the market on meanness, or kindness for that matter. 

      • avatar Rita@ Goldivas says:

        Jrz, you’ve summed it up perfectly. LW1 may want to look for a Humanist group in his area.

      • avatar BeanCounter says:

        I don’t like to call myself an “athiest” because it’s almost like I’m playing with “their” rulebook.   They say there IS a god, and then I have to label myself something that is in THEIR eyes, a non-belief in their dogma???

        I don’t believe there should be a label for people that DON’T believe in something is ISN’T a  proven fact. 

        By the way, did anyone else think the writer of #1 is probably some douchy kid who likes to hear himself talk and who’s probably lonely?  Poor kid.  Writing into Dear Margo about this…I’m sure it just thrilled him to see his letter in print, which is obviously the only reason he wrote it.  To say that Margo can provide clarity into the existance of God is a bit….silly?

        Steve, decisively

        • avatar David Bolton says:

          @Bean: Ouch. I actually thought he came across as being thoughtful and kinda mature for his age. At least he’s not whining about some CIA agent leering at his Kim Kardashian ass. Or even worse—it could be another recap letter.

        • avatar grn_chile_grl says:

          “…did anyone else think the writer of #1 is probably some douchy kid who likes to hear himself talk and who’s probably lonely?…Writing into Dear Margo…thrilled him to see his letter in print…”

          Probably just as happy as some lonely person spending their lunch hour reading Dear Margo and is thrilled that someone is responding to their post.

    • avatar Katie themick says:

      If there is a God, and he actually punishes nonbelievers, do you really think he’s going to be all cool with “hedge your bet” theists? Keerist.

    • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

      Once you wager that God exists, you have to wager on the right God that exists. 

    • avatar Daniele says:

      Margo gave an excellent answer. It provided a non-judgmental, non-proselytzing path for the teen to follow. He might be looking for “right” and “wrong” in whether or not to follow God, but no one can answer that question. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be faith, would it? Instead, the teen is free to question and think. He must, as all persons who deal with religion must, reconcile faith and fact. He may persue Christianity as its most ardent follower, but he must realize that he will not know the “fact” of god during his lifetime. The only thing he will have is the “faith” of god. This is not a case of following your heart. It’s a case of bringing the heart (belief) and the brain (reason) together in a single understanding of the world. This understanding is the foundation of strong faith because questions of evolution or the big bang theory cannot shake the faith because the believer’s reason has the power to reconcile new information with the belief system. It’s how Christians who subscribe to evolution and the big bang theory are comfortable with both their beliefs and their acceptance of scientific knowledge and advancement.

      No one asked you to be ashamed of your beliefs or apologize for them. We can all disagree and still be friendly and respectful. I don’t have to put your beliefs in quotation marks, signifying that they are not true. I accept your beliefs as something precious to you, which I respect. I believe that as human beings, who are inherently good, we should all respect each other’s right to personal belief systems and how we each feel our own belief system is valid. However, I feel attacked for my own beliefs, as if I am somehow a bully for not agreeing with you, for choosing atheism over Christianity, and science over the bible. You don’t have to defend yourself, but I have to question why you would phrase yourself in such a way that it seems that people who believe as I do should apologize to you. I’m normally a lurker who enjoys both Margo and the comments, but this, well, it felt hurtful and incendiary.

      • avatar Deeliteful says:

        Daniele: I’m not sure if you are responding to my original post because there are so many other posts in between. Assuming you are responding to my post, I did not ask anyone to apologize to me for their beliefs nor did I imply that I am ashamed of my belief.

        As far as putting words in quotations you used a few quotations marks, too. Invariably when the topic of believing/not believing in God is discussed on this site, there are posts from people who are atheists who state that people who believe in God are somewhat less intelligent, very foolish and even delusional comparing belief in God as silly as belief in Santa Claus. I find those comments hurtful.

        When it comes to politics and religion I usually don’t comment, either. I’m not discussing religion now, just my belief that God exists. I certainly did not intend to insult or offend anyone.

  2. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW#1: Keep your options open.

    LW#2: Isn’t the rehearsal dinner traditionally hosted by the groom or his parents? So why is MOB
    nosing into that, given that an invitition was received?

    • avatar Katharine Gray says:

      Its not clear who is hosting the rehearsal dinner nor is it clear whose names were on the invitation.  If the mother of the bride is paying for it (and that happens often), then she can nose into it.  If the Groom’s parents are paying for it…maybe they are honoring the bride’s wishes or maybe they don’t want the drama of the legal wife dealing with the shack up at their party.  I mean, it is entirely reasonable for them to conclude that the shack up is not all that important to the family dynamics since the father of the bride not only doesn’t think enough of her to marry her…he hasn’t even divorced the mother of the bride yet! 

  3. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW#1:  It is entirely natural for you to start questioning the existence of God at your age and even more norma lto question the religious beliefs you have been taught.  Be assured that it is not unusual for people to question the nature and existence of God their entire lives.  Welcome to adult world (at least in the spiritual quest sense).  

    LW#2:  I don’t know if Margo missed something here or if you were being cute when you described the mother of your boyfriend’s daughter as his *not quite ex-wife*.   Are they divorced or not?  I’m not sure my opinion would change either way but it would be even stronger if, in fact, they are not divorced but separated.  I understand that you were not the cause of the initial separation between your boyfriend and his not quite ex-wife.  But frankly, I think you are lucky his daughter invited you to the wedding.  I have friends who would not invite their divorced father’s live-in to their wedding so the daughter is extremely gracious to include you in the wedding,  since despite your living arrangements…your boyfriend hasn’t bothered to marry you and make you an official member of the family.   Its not clear whether he has even bothered to divorce the girl’s mother. 

    As for sitting in the *front row*….are you kidding me?  You didn’t raise this girl… you are only shacking up with her father.  There is nothing wrong with that but it does not entitle you to be queen of the parade here.  As for the rehearsal dinner, I really don’t get what your problem is since your boyfriend has chosen to abandon his daughter on a very special occasion in her life to cater to your feelings.   Maybe you should think about having some respect for your boyfriend’s daughter here on her special occasion.  The not yet ex-wife may be calling the shots and she may not be.  I have a friend whose parents had been divorced for 10 years and she refused to let her father walk her down the aisle because he insisted on bringing his live-in to the wedding.  Are you really going to deprive your boyfriend of his opportunity to give the father of the bride toast at the rehearsal dinner?  I would rethink that if I were you.  Assuming you are planning a long-term thing with your boyfriend…it would be wise to make his daughter’s life easy and not come between her and her father on an important night in her life.

    Seems to me you got the man (well…partially since he hasn’t put a ring on it yet and the bride’s mother may still be legally entitled to wear that ring) and you might just be grateful for that and cut the bride and her mother some slack here as they deal with figuring out what to do with the father’s live-in.

    I hope you don’t expect to be escorted down the aisle following the mother of the bride, groom, grandmothers etc.  And if I were you, I would do my best to not show up either mother in terms of dress etc. at the wedding.  


    • avatar blue tooth says:

      Don’t beat around the bush, Katharine. Are you on the Wife’s side or aren’t you?


    • avatar B.eadle says:

      Totally agree!!! This new one is, no matter what she seems to think of herself, a long term shack up! Does she ever question why this man, to whom she is so devoted, hasn’t divorced his first wife!!?? Maybe the ACTUAL mother of the bride, a.k.a. the ACTUAL wife doesn’t want to have to explain to others at the rehearsal dinner at wedding that you are her HUSBAND’s girlfriend.

      On a side note, I’d have to think that if he loved you, he’d want to at least divorce the first wife. While he is still married, you really are nothing but “the other woman.”

    • avatar KarrinCooper says:

      Wow repeatedly calling this woman a ‘shack up’ is rather rude.

      • avatar Brooke Schubert says:

        Rude or not, it’s correct.  She’s a woman knowingly carrying on with a married man.  Despite his assertion that the marriage is over, the glaring fact remains that they did not divorce.

        • avatar chuck alien says:

          wow, shacking up AND carrying on!

          how do i love it here, in the early 1950’s. relationship dynamics are so… quaint.

    • avatar Messy ONE says:

      There’s a very simple etiquette question here that Katharine needs to get her head around. By the way – you must have had a pretty foul divorce yourself there, K. It really isn’t healthy to wallow in resentment for years. You ought to talk to someone about that.

      In this LWs case, the daughter likes her and they get along. She’s a smart, mature young lady and seems to understand that her father deserves some happiness. If her mother’s petty, childish behavior is typical, then I can see where the daughter is coming from. Weddings are supposed to be fun, happy events, not battle grounds for embittered ex-wives (and she IS the ex-wife, notwithstanding any papers she hasn’t signed yet) to continue to try and control other people’s lives.

      Here’s the rule:

      You NEVER, ever get to invite half a couple to ANY event. If a person is married, cohabiting, in any kind of long term relationship, you MUST invite both of them together. If you don’t, then expect that neither will attend. You don’t have to adore the spouse, but you must acknowledge that the person you know/are related to, etc. DOES adore them and that they are a unit.

      The MOB in this case is, as I said before, being petty and childish. The invitation to the rehearsal dinner was done badly, and the correct thing for the father to do was decline any invitation that doesn’t include the LW.

      Why is it that people just can’t understand how to be polite for a couple of hours instead of spending (in some cases) years whining and complaining about a situation that will never change and that they have no control over?

      • avatar astrobasego says:

        Agree completely with messy. Perfect response. Formal event etiquette dictates these guidelines. I’m surprised with everyone bashing the lady with terms such as ‘shacked up’. Rude. Who knows, maybe the poor guy is not retired and instead of forking over his life’s work to a woman he parted ways with has decided to wait on the divorce until it is financially feasible for him. There are a variety of reasons spouses separate and remain married. Perhaps his ex requires insurance? Tax purposes? Hard to say, but in trying financial times haste in these decisions can cause financial peril not easily overcome.

    • avatar amw says:


      I’m a little surprised at your harsh words. Did we read the same letter? I don’t think I’ve ever read a response of yours that I didn’t agree with, so forgive me for being shocked.

      I am actually a bit taken aback by the MOB’s attitude. If my mother tried something like that, I would likely reconsider her invitation to our wedding.

      Some people choose not to get married. That doesn’t lessen the significance of their relationship or the relationship they have with each other’s families. Just the same, some people wait to get divorced for numerous reasons…while I don’t agree with prolonging the inevitable, there may be a very good reason not mentioned in the letter. Its not unheard of.

      FOB is not abandoning his daughter. He’s making it clear that he will not tolerate such nonsense from the ex, including her insistence that LW not be at the rehearsal dinner. I don’t blame him and kudos to him for sticking up for his significant other. Too many LW’s can only wish for such a thing!

      And quite frankly, while donating to the cause is very sweet, I am perfectly content to scrape up the cash myself because NO ONE will dictate who I can and can’t invite to the wedding. That isn’t to say I’m not trying to be as polite and accomodating as possible, but when it comes right down to it, the attendees will be of my fiance’s and my choosing, not our parents. Suggestions are welcome, demands are ignored.

      • avatar Messy ONE says:

        As an addendum – part of growing up is realizing that both parents relationship with each other has nothing to do with the kids. They were together before the kids came along and if they separate later, the children not only have no say in the matter but have no right to complain about future spouses/SOs.

        The FOB has a right to be with the person of his choice, as does the MOB. Who that person happens to be means nothing. What some “kids” seem to forget is that their parents live with the people they love. They do not spend their lives with their kids, or in this case, their exes.

      • avatar Katharine Gray says:

        Actually, I have never been divorced and my parents were not divorced but I have had several friends in the position of the bride.   I’m not particularly on the side of the not so ex-wife.  I’m thinking of the daughter.  She is caught between both parents and instead of all the adults trying to avoid the drama and make her day pleasant and less stressful they are making it all about them.   And I cannot imagine how the daughter feels knowing that her father is refusing to come to her rehearsal dinner because his girlfriend is not invited.  Neither of the adult women involved should come between the father and daughter.  But, given that both women are acting stupidly about this, I’ll say the one who pushed the bride out and is still married to the father (for whatever reason) gets her way.  And, I don’t think that the usual rule of inviting couples applies to persons who are not married…especially when one of the couple is married to to the person doing the inviting.  If the daughter REALLY wanted LW#2 at the rehearsal dinner, she would have told her mother to buck up as she did for the wedding itself.  My guess is that she is trying to make both her parents happy here and would prefer not to have to deal with LW #2 at all.  *Getting along* with LW#2 does not trump her not wanting her mother to be more miserable about the situation than she already is.  I’m not opposed to shacking has its benefits and it has its drawbacks.  This is one of the drawbacks.

        But beyond that,  I don’t understand why LW#2 is in a snit about this.  She is getting her way…the boyfriend chose her over his daughter on rehearsal dinner night so she won that emotional battle.  She is going to the wedding but has to sit in the 2nd pew with the grandparents.  She is still whining.  David had it right.  Her real problem is that she is living with a man who won’t divorce his wife and marry her.   Her choice to do but it does come with some consequences such as not being treated like the wife she isn’t.   

        • avatar Messy ONE says:

          I guess you missed the part of the letter where the LW says that she and the daughter get along swimmingly and like each other. The daughter is not the problem. The LW is not the problem. They and the father are the only ones acting like adults here.

          The MOB is behaving like a spiteful 10-year-old. She has no right to expect that everyone would even try to obey her and is deliberately choosing to hurt her daughter by throwing these little tantrums. We’ve ALL heard the baby-ish howl of “I’m not going if SHE does!” Most of us get over that before we leave junior high school.

          You’re right about one thing. The daughter has to get a grip and make sure her mother knows that she is not the one running things. If Mom keeps this up, SHE is the one that will be alienating her daughter – there’s only so much anyone can take of the whining, and MOB has no right to do this to her kid. Mom is the one shoving the daughter into her own drama. This has nothing to do with the daughter at all.

          Mom needs to get a grip and realize that her marriage is OVER. He is never going to go back to her, and as I said before, if this is the way she behaves all the time, I can see his point. It’s been four years since the split, Dad is a grownup and has moved on. If Mom has been sitting on her backside feeling sorry for herself for all these years, then SHE is the only one with a problem.

          • avatar Katharine Gray says:

            Actually, I did not miss the part of the letter where LW#2 says she and the daughter *get along well*.  I have known a lot of daughters who are forced to deal with their father’s new wife/girlfriend/live-in and you know what?  They might say the woman is pleasant enough and the are happy their father is happy and that they *get along well*  BUT (and there is always a BUT) they really would be happier if the new woman wasn’t around.  This applies even if the father was a widower when he remarried.  In fact, I cannot think of ONE instance where the new woman was genuinely loved and appreciated to the point where a daughter would put the new woman’s feelings above her mothers feelings.  And I guess you missed the part of the letter where the ex-wife is not really an ex.  While the marriage may be over emotionally, it is not over legally. And while we can all dream up reasons why the man in question hasn’t divorced his first wife…if he wanted it to have happened it would have happened…even if he had to buy the health insurance for the invalid ex-wife on the open market.  (I knew a man who was separated for over a dozen years claiming he could not divorce his ex-wife (who left him) because she had multiple sclerosis and needed his healthcare.  Somehow, when he really wanted the divorce…it happened.  And the ex-wife with the terrible illness outlived him and seems to have received excellent health care after the divorce).   My guess is the man in question doesn’t want to pay the cost financially and/or  emotionally of pushing the divorce and that fact, and not the request that the girlfriend not attend the rehearsal dinner, is what is hurting LW#2 the most.

            Neither the wife or the girlfriend is acting maturely here.  That said,  I repeat…i give priority to the feelings of the woman who actually gave birth to the bride.  And just maybe…the bride is the one behind this whole thing anyway.   

          • avatar Messy ONE says:

            I see, so just because YOU haven’t seen an instance where the new SO was liked by the kids, it never happens? Interesting. So I’m guessing that Constantinople doesn’t exist either? I mean it’s probably one of those cities that you haven’t actually seen, so it must be fiction, right?

            Projecting, much? Why would you think that women can’t be as nasty and hard to live with as men? Or is the man the villain in every divorce? Women can never, ever be spiteful and childish, so naturally the husband must be punished. That’s what it boils down to, right?

            Has it occurred to you that the mother might ALWAYS have been a nasty character? That being married to her might have been an exploration of new vistas of pain every day? The kids don’t necessarily know these things until they’re adults and they can analyze situations from a different perspective.

            I’m guessing that the LW has been far easier for the daughter to deal with than the mother is. The daughter knows that the marriage is over (because your insistence that the “marriage” is still legal is just so much nonsense).

            You’re far too emotional and upset about this. I’m sorry if you have Daddy or stepmother issues. At face value, this letter is far simpler than the hysteria you want to attach to it.

  4. avatar David Bolton says:

    LW1: Believe in something because you want to believe it—not because you’re told to, or because you’re afraid not to. Just keep in mind that there is NO need whatsoever for a middleman in your relationship with God. Figure things out on your own—and enjoy that power.

    LW2: The headline is rather misleading, because she’s not exactly the “old” wife as much as she’s THE wife. Personally, that would bother me more than attending or not attending a wedding.

  5. avatar Constance Plank says:

    #2, Katharine Gray, you are right on target. Me, I’d be utterly charmed to be invited to a putative almost step-child’s wedding. And whatever role I was given, I would stead-fastly be charmed to be included. No matter what the out-side hysteria. A supportive spear-carrier is a Good Thing.

  6. avatar WCorvi says:

    Pascal’s Wager is in fact not true. One could spend their entire life kneeling in a church trying to please god when he doesn’t even exist. Maybe to some this is winning, but not to me. On the other hand, one does not have to rape, pillage, and plunder to lead a fulfilling life. I spend my life studying the interesting structures in the universe, and helping others to understand them. If this offends god and I end up in hell for eternity, then so be it – I suspect it will have interesting structures to study.

    My mother spent her whole life working hard, and when not working, kneeling in church trying to please god. Her view of heaven was having a place to SIT! And not work! She could have had those here on earth, if she just hadn’t fallen for a bunch of claptrap given out by the pope. A pope, I maintain, who knows not one iota more about it than you or I.

    • avatar butterfly55 says:

      I created upset with my mother recently when I stated that religion was mostly a matter of where you were born, if you were born in the US you were most likely christian or jew, Utah – good chance at mormon, other parts of the world you might get islam, muslitm, heck maybe even cannabalism in some back area – didn’t go over well – she is a CHRISTIAN couldn’t have been anything else.  To me it’s location, location, location.  I have no need for a greater power to want to do good, this is our life, make it a great one.

    • avatar Jrz Wrld says:

      My mother recently told me I was stupid for being an atheist. I asked her if she was smarter for following a church that until recently considered child rape to be simply a cost of doing business. Wow, that didn’t go over well.

      • avatar KarrinCooper says:

        Wow Jrz, I am sorry. That really blows biscuits…..

        When I told my folks I was Wiccan my mom simply asked if I was at peace. My da on the other hand…when my mom died he made the comment ‘Too bad you aren’t Christian so you can see her in heaven’. Smart A$$ me simply replied ‘I am sure they will let those of us from the wrong side of the tracks visit’…..believe however you will. There is NO absolute as Margo has so wisely pointed out :). I did a lot of studying before I found where I belong…..but once there it was a wonderful feeling 🙂

        Blessed Be


    • avatar RiaPendragon says:

      The fatal flaw with Pascal’s Wager is that it only takes into account one God. There are many religions and many takes on God(s) or Goddess(es) and most don’t take kindly to idols being worshiped. So the wager is not simply believing in God, but picking the right one. It you choose wrong it’s very likely you’ll be punished right along with us atheists.

      • avatar KarrinCooper says:

        Ria – be that as it may, polytheistic religions always have a main Supreme Being so no, the theory is not that far off. As for Atheists being ‘punished’ I am sorry but I don’t see that as being true. Sounds like a religious chip there….?

    • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

      The point is not whether Pascal’s wager is true.  We can not prove God’s existence one way or the other.  The issue is one of probability.

  7. avatar chipgiii says:

    I don’t particularly care what you believe as long as you treat others with decency and respect.

  8. avatar Barbara says:

    LW#2: The wedding is not about you. I cannot believe that you would want the bride’s father to not be at the rehearsal dinner because you are not invited. You are the mistress (sorry, no other word for it since he is technically still married.)
    Why would you want to ruin the bride’s time just to spite his still-wife? Get over yourself. Get your paramour to stand up to his responsibilities as a loving father and be there for his daughter. How would you feel if your father didn’t come to one of your important wedding events because he was sleeping around with someone else?
    This isn’t about the wife and the mistress. It’s about the father and daughter.

    • avatar Rita@ Goldivas says:

      Thank you, Barbara. And Katherine as well. LW2 needs to get over it. As David said, the fact that the wife is still the wife and not the ex-wife is a bigger problem than the wedding and rehearsal dinner.

      • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

        Alot of people remain married for financial reasons, particularly in this economy.  I see alot of couples who are separated but married for years because the other spouse is in ill health and cannot find reasonable insurance rates. 

    • avatar amw says:

      He’s not sleeping around with someone else. He is legally separated…which in many states is filed at the courthouse (they cross my desk at least once a week).

      The LW is not being full of herself. She has developed a relationship with her significant other’s daugther. She’s horrified that the “ex” is choosing such an important event to suddenly throw a fit.

      No where does the letter state she forced “Hal” to stay home from the rehearsal dinner. He made that decision.

      Truthfully, there is no significant purpose of the rehearsal dinner other than to thank those that have assisted with preparations and shared in your joy. I certainly wouldn’t lose sleep if someone was unable to make it. And if I were in the bride’s shoes…I’d be proud of my Dad for sticking up for the woman in his life.

    • avatar Messy ONE says:

      The father did the right thing. No one EVER has the right to invite half a couple to ANY event. It’s rude beyond belief, and the father had every right to decline the invitation. In fact, his declining to go to the disaster of a party should tell his daughter all she needs to know.

      He doesn’t live with his kid, he has CHOSEN to live with the LW. If she’s not welcome, then he won’t go. That’s the correct and normal response to a tacky invite.

      • avatar Barbara says:

        As I’ve said, I think LW#2 should think about the daughter/bride rather than herself. Somehow everyone has taken the letter writer’s word for it that the mother of the bride is a terrible person. I’d like to hear her point of view before painting her the complete villain. I would never ask a significant other to miss a part of a daughter’s wedding just to spite an almost-former spouse.

        • avatar amw says:

          I don’t it its for spite and I don’t think she asked “Hal” not to go.

          Personally, I think the LW is thinking about the bride which is why she wrote in to Margo.

          I am in the process of planning my own wedding, so my opinion is solely based on what I would do were I in the bride’s shoes. Granted, she and I may see things differently…she isn’t the one that wrote in so we can only speculate. Therefore I’m taking the LW’s word at face value.

          The MOB may not be a terrible person, but her attitude is incredibly childish and awfully presumptuous. The wedding is about the bride and groom…period.

  9. avatar Lobo79 says:

    LW#1 –
    First of all, I hope this day finds you well. While I have been a lurker here since Margo first came to wowowow, I have never felt compelled to make an account, until I read your letter today.

    I want you to know that searching and wondering about existence is completely natural – most people go through some sort of an exploration phase (or two, or three, ad infinitum). I don’t want to make this a pro or con religion post, even though I know many people will do so, because in America religion is very tied up with our day to day lives.

    The thing I want to stress to you is that there is no “wrong way to think” as you stated in your original letter. As long as you are thinking for yourself, digging into your beliefs is not wrong, and the people who would tell you to stop questioning are people you don’t need to listen to anyway.

    You can be a good, and decent, and moral person as an atheist; just as you can be a good, and decent, and moral Christian, or Muslim, or Buddhist, or whatever other faith one could ascribe to.

    Be who you are, don’t let others force their beliefs on you, and keep struggling to find your answers for your journey. Whatever your faith (or lack thereof) just know that life is precious and your job is to live it to the fullest. I hope this helps in some way, these are big questions at any age, and I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes on this subject…

    “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”
    — Marcus Aurelius

    • avatar KarrinCooper says:

      Spot on Lobo! I have to wonder, with such sage typing why you lurk! Welcome to the asylum! 🙂

      • avatar Lobo79 says:

        Thank you Kar’rin, I appreciate the kind words. I always read the comment threads but haven’t ever posted because some of them can devolve into insults & name calling – I’d rather not be a part of that. This is a subject I’ve been thinking a lot about myself, something that has been bouncing around in my head for the last few years, and I felt I needed to comment on it.

        Now pass me the little white coat, I’m ready to strap in. 😉

        • avatar KarrinCooper says:

          Well I am glad you did – I think it was the best comment all morning! Oh and here’s your ‘jacket’, dinner is at 6 😉

    • avatar Irreverent says:

      Best answer so far.

      Very well done.

      Thank you so much for your insight and your contribution to the discussion, Lobo79!

    • avatar R Scott says:

      Lobo – Excellent! Thanks for posting and I hope you do more of it.

    • avatar grandopal says:

      Lobo- I’m a lurker, too.  L W#1- All thoughtful young people question the belief system they grew up in.  You are not “bad” for doing this.  Atheism is the belief there is no God. An agnostic believes that the existence of God is unknowable.  Many people believe in a higher power, but don’t need the structure of organized religion.  Keep exploring different beliefs until you find yourself.  There are many thoughtful books on the subject.

  10. avatar Brooke Schubert says:

    LW#1-The most important thing about theology is to constantly question.  The problem with religion comes when people blindly believe what they are told without any justification for doing so.  Continue to learn and question and come to your own conclusions about God and how to worship and you’ll live a full and intellectual life!
    LW#2-The fact of the matter is that you are dating a married man, and therefore technically have no real role in the wedding party.  You aren’t the stepmother.  It sounds like the poor bride is doing her best to include you in her wedding AND make her own mother happy.  Do what the bride wishes and move on.

  11. avatar amw says:

    LW 1: I was brought up in a household with a Catholic father and Atheist mother. Mom agreed to allow Dad to take us to church but renigged on that agreement early on. As the years went by I became involved with a group of friends that attended one of our local Baptist churches. I started attending their youth group services in an attempt to better educate myself about God and religion. Unfortunately, inquiring minds were not welcome within that group and it wasn’t long before they asked me not to return.

    Whether to believe or not became a constant struggle. There were so many things that made sense and others that didn’t. It seemed very hypocritical to claim to love all God’s creatures while judging those that didn’t conform to a certain belief and/or lifestyle. I went to multiple churches over the next few years trying to find my place and left disappointed each time. That’s when I decided to do my own study of the bible and religion in history.

    What I learned in that time will stay with me forever. I discovered the similarities and differences not only in the different Christian religions but also in those of other cultures. I made a decision about what I believed, feeling confident about the evidence I had uncovered to back up those beliefs.

    I am under no circumstances suggesting you believe what I believe or follow the path that I did. What I am recommending is that you do your own research and perhaps visit multiple churches in your area. We will never know everything there is to know about how we came to be or what happens when we pass on. But I do think its possible to feel confident about how you live your life and secure that you’re being the best person you can be.

  12. avatar Elizabeth L says:

    LW#1 At 16 you should be questioning everything I found Atheism is the way to go.

    LW#2 I think you need to take the high road first tell FOB to go and enjoy the daughters big day by himself and than plan a dinner a few weeks later for You,Dad and the happy couple.

  13. avatar htimsr40 says:

    Pascal’s Wager is patently false. If you spend your life believing in some mythical entity and making decisions based on that false belief, then you have wasted great opportunity to better understand the world, better participate in that world and accomplish more based on your own humanity. Think about all the hours wasted in church if God (as he is posited) does not exist. Think about the lack of examination of your personal morals and values if you have chosen to abdicate your own moral thinking to a book written by scam artists and charlatans. If God, and religion, are false, then it would be no different from dedicating your life to the teachings of any other defrauder.

    Surely you wouldn’t argue that I lost nothing if I followed the teachings of, say, Uri Geller …. and spent my entire life trying to develop psychokinesis and telepathy because He said they were possible.

    A life dedicated to a false prophet would be a life wasted.

    To be clear, I am making no claim about the existence, or not, of God. But it is patently bad advice to tell a questioning young man that there is no downside to believing. HE needs to investigate and determine his own mind on this matter. There is great diversity among great people and great minds on the issue, and the advice to believe without hesitation is horrible advice.

    • avatar KarrinCooper says:

      There IS no downside. If he follows his own path, how can that be a life wasted? No one here has told him to be a sheeple, so where you get that is beyond me. He SHOULD study and delve and test the waters and find his path in life. You stated ‘”A life dedicated to a false prophet would be a life wasted.'” How can you say that is true? No one knows for a fact if there is something bigger out there or not. So there IS no downside to his beliefs, whatever they may come to be. Also hate to tell you being Xtian doesn’t always involve chruch….I know more Xtians who live their beliefs every day in what they do and how they live than where they worship.

      Blessed Be

    • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

      You cannot say it is patently false because you cannot disprove or prove any part of it.  It is a wager.  Pascal wagered on god.  The best that you can do is state that Pascal got the probability wrong in that it is more likely that a life worshipping a god that does not exist is likely to lead to a worse outcome than not believing in a god that exists.

    • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

      Also, I do agree that even if one believes in God and a particular religion, it is important that there be a critical examination of those beliefs rather than unthinking acceptance. 

  14. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #1 – There is a quote that is within a crystal encrusted picture frame on my office desk, that I look at everyday morning before I begin work.

    “I would rather live my life as if there IS a God and die to find out there isn’t one – than to live my life as if there ISN’T one and die to find out there is.”   

    Words to live by. For me, it is as simple as this. Believing that there is a higher being, a creator of all there is…..that brings me comfort and peace of mind. I know I’m not alone and that millions of people believe as I do.  I personally would feel it a waste to go through life not thinking that way and believing there is no creator and that we and all we know….just happened. How shallow a belief.

    • avatar Deeliteful says:

      “I would rather live my life as if there IS a God and die to find out there isn’t one – than to live my life as if there ISN’T one and die to find out there is.”  

      What I said earlier, Belinda. Thank you for agreeing!

  15. avatar D C says:

    I have known a woman like the not-quite-ex-wife.  They stayed married because she was in ill health, and he covered her with his insurance.  The marriage was strictly for her convenience and there was nothing left between them but business. 

    Perhaps this is the situation of the boyfriend of LW2.  If so, that doesn’t really make the girlfriend trhe shack-up slut puppy so many are enjoying calling her.  Perhaps she just cares deeply for a man who is trying to be a decent human being.  Perhaps the not-quite-ex-wife wants the daughter’s wedding to not be a place where people who are not privy to the financial arrangements would raise questions. 

    I really, truly, hope that LW #1 is right, and there ISN’T a God, because if He does exist, He’s going to be really pissed off at all the judgemental name-callers who post in this section. 

  16. avatar Katie themick says:

    LW2, let your husband go to the rehearsal dinner. It’s nice that he stood up for you, and he should, but it’s his daughter, okay? Say he should go, gracefully, and if the nephews aren’t invited, treat them to a meal. And get the guy freakin’ divorced already, yeesh.

  17. avatar R Scott says:

    LW1 – At one time I questioned like you. Once I took labels and rituals out of it and just considered it nothing more than a broader intelligence (not “higher”, “greater”, etc.) and realized that I am probably part of a greater whole, whatever that may be, I felt better. Be true to yourself, follow your moral compass and listen to your gut. Do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, not because some Big Sky Guy is going to reward you. Avoid doing harm because it’s the wrong thing to do, not because you fear the punishment. When you make a mistake, learn from it, forgive yourself for it and if possible help someone else avoid the same thing. Keep questioning and don’t let anyone make you believe anything that does not feel right to you. You are going to be just fine!
    LW2 – I realize there are a million sides to every story and none of them are completely true but hold on a second. You’re getting all wigged out about wedding invitaion rituals and stuff and you’re living with a guy, who after 4 freakin’ years hasn’t divorced yet? Regardless of what the situation is that keeps him married for all intents and purposes you’re his mistress. For your sake if nothing else, he needs to end his marriage. Hello!?!?!

  18. avatar ablex says:

    Margo’s advice to the questioning young man, although commonly repeated, makes absolutely no sense. She is suggesting the he “choose” to believe in god. How can one choose to believe in something? I can’t choose to believe in gods any more than I can choose to believe in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. It would be lovely to think that unicorns and leprechauns exist somewhere, but I can’t just decide to believe that they do. You either believe in something or you don’t. To question the existence of something is to disbelieve.

  19. avatar ablex says:

    Margo’s advice to the questioning young man, although commonly repeated, makes absolutely no sense. She is suggesting that he “choose” to believe in god. How can one choose to believe in something? I can’t choose to believe in gods any more than I can choose to believe in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. It would be lovely to think that unicorns and leprechauns exist somewhere, but I can’t just decide to believe that they do. You either believe in something or you don’t. To question the existence of something is to disbelieve.

  20. avatar Lila says:

    On beliefs, we have discussed this before: I don’t think a person can really CHOOSE what to believe. Either something makes sense to you and you believe it, or something does not make sense to you, and you don’t. I could kneel in church all day, say my prayers every night, do charitable works and check all the behavioral blocks that go along with Christianity, but if I don’t believe that Jesus is my savior, I am screwed.

    Well, I guess I am screwed, because while Jesus’ teachings make a good bit of sense to me, the religion (and the church) that sprang up around him does not, and no amount of examining it, twisting it, origami-folding it, will make it make sense to me.

    Even if God were actually close to what we imagine, Katie is quite right: This is the creator of the universe, of life, of physics, of time. He is no slouch and won’t fall for that old “hedging your bets” trick. Either you really believed and were a true… um… whatever the true religion is, or you were not. And yes, Butterfly55, the religion we are “assigned” IS a matter of birth location. We are more likely to believe nonsensical things that our parents indoctrinated us into, than nonsensical things that come to us from strange lands.

    But I’m in closest agreement with Jrz World: I don’t know if there is a God (this is the definition of agnostic: not knowing), but if there is, it is something far beyond our understanding and bears practically no relation to any organized religion. Those religions were created by human beings. God does not necessarily owe us any rewards, punishments, or an afterlife. God does not necessarily hear or answer our prayers.

    Elizabeth Edwards said: “I do not have an intervening God. I don’t think I can pray to him — or her — to cure me of cancer…. I believe that we are given a set of guidelines, and that we are obligated to live our lives with a view to those guidelines. And I don’t that believe we should live our lives that way for some promise of eternal life, but because that’s what’s right. We should do those things because that’s what’s right.”

    I think that’s probably right.

  21. avatar P S says:

    LW1 – I’m in my 40s, Catholic, and I still occasionally ponder on what you’ve shared. It’s perfectly normal and IMHO a GOOD thing because it will help stretch and grow your beliefs.

    In the end I always come back to believing that yes, there is a God, and NOT solely based on thinking I have to because “what if I didn’t and it turned out He’s real.” For me it’s about developing a spiritual relationship with my Creator that encourages me to learn to love others, and maybe one day accept myself too, warts and all.

  22. avatar Paul Smith says:

    Read the classics. Atheists or no, the end is the same.

  23. avatar carol grzonka says:

    belief in god does not automatically affiliate a person with any known system of beliefs.  i have a strong faith, but i don’t consider myself christian, catholic or any other named religion. i am not stupid,  naive or unaware that the bible was written by a bunch of guys in highly conservative, exclusionary times who were just interested in maintaining their power structure. and editted over the centuries by same.  religion has been misused to do too much damage.  but that being said there are also daily small miracles to be thankful for. and, personally  i have done, and managed things, that should and were impossible for me to do without a god in residense.

  24. avatar Briana Baran says:

    Re: L#2: Apparently some of you are not aware of the complete ramifications of “separated”. There is such a thing as a legal separation. It is extremely common in civilized, Western countries other than the United States, and not at all uncommon here. Two people who are separated may be legally and technically married…but they do not cohabit. There are so many reasons for this that it is mind boggling…including ugly custody disputes, jointly owned property that cannot be sold despite a judicial order to do so, a threat of a contested divorce ( which can be an absolute nightmare for all concerned), jointly owned business concerns…and on and on it goes.

    LW2 met the man after he had been separated for two years. My guess is that this means he was not cohabiting with his wife, had no romantic or sexual involvement with her, and is only married to her in the strictly legal sense. We don’t know why they are still married after six years of separation…but clearly HE is comfortable with this appalling marriage-breaking slut of a woman with whom he lives. Who wasn’t present for the dissolution of said marriage, who doesn’t know, and has never even met his wife-on-paper-only, and who is on excellent terms with his daughter.

    This is LW2’s SO’s daughter’s wedding. She likes LW2, and they are on good terms. She invited her to the wedding. Her wedding. The problem isn’t with anyone but wife-on-paper-only. She doesn’t want LW2 at the wedding, sitting up front, or at the rehearsal dinner. I’d venture that she is jealous, even though LW2 did not contribute to the break-up of her marriage, and appeared on the scene after two years of separation…and has failed to conveniently vanish. I would even go so far as to wager that she is the one holding up divorce proceedings, given her recent actions. She is the one having problems accepting reality. I’ve never been in this situation, so I’m not projecting personal feelings. But clearly some of you are. “Dating a married man”. “You’re mistress”. “The other woman”. “Knowingly going out with a married man”. “Shacking up”. A man who was been S-E-P-A-R-A-T-E-D from said wife for two years before she met him, who didn’t destroy the marriage, who is probably self-supporting, whom the daughter clearly accepts and likes and who is…hello out there…living in 2011, not 1811. Good grief.

    So, LW2, be happy that he loves you, and that his daughter accepts you. Hopefully, divorce proceedings that will make all involved free and clear are in the offing.

  25. avatar Allaroundtheworld says:

    The only reason I go to weddings is the cake.

  26. avatar Linda Myers says:

    #1 Raising my own children, I only asked them to find a belief rather than telling them what to believe. “God” to myself, is an energy not an entity. Regardless, a persons belief even when seen as not believing still fuels thier passions/visions and strengths which are far more important than labels being attached or any religous affiliation. No one really knows what lies beyond mortality and to spend a life trying to get it right according to a belief structure which is mandated seemingly creates a loss in just living to the best they can be. You came into this world in your truth and will leave in your truth, all else is just an experience.

    #2 I agree with those here who said the only real choices should be of the bride/groom. I could see an alternate mother/father figure who actively participated in raising a child also being in the front row, though in this case I think etiquette would take a precedence. The rehearsal dinner, both father and girlfriend should realize this is a one time deal in many brides lives and move past the either or, and let him show a presence if only for a short period of time The girlfriend you are obliging today could be only a memory in the future, the moment with your daughter will only happen once for this event.

  27. avatar Tabatha01 says:

    Wow, I can’t believe the name calling.  The man was separated for pete’s sake.  Not to mention for 2 years.  My exhusband had a girlfriend a few months after we split up.  It took about a year for us to get the divorced finalized as I had a good job with health benefits.  He had a back problem so I kept him on it until he was better and could get back to work!  I never once called his girlfriend such ugly names.  Of course, had we had a daughter about to be married I am sure I would not be unkind to his girlfriend by trying to uninvite her to our daughters wedding or any of the other fun things that go along with it, ie. Rehersal Dinner, Bridal Shower etc.  What kind of woman does that?  Only one who is insecure, perhaps even hateful or jealous that her ‘husband on paper only’ found happiness.  What gives?  Shack up, mistress etc.  Well okay then, any of you name callers have parents that were not married before you were conceived?  You know the ‘technical’ term for that don’t you?  Do you think it would be appropriate for me to call someone that?  No, of course not.  Each situation must be viewed on its own merits.  Not only that but blanket statements are a way of covering up the truth, rather than exploring it. 

    Letter writer number 2:  Simple, don’t hid for this, ask your SO’s daugher if she would mind if you attended.  If she says she’d love to have you, then you should both go!  If not, be gracious and tell your SO to go for a bit and toast his daughter, then the two of you can go out for a romantic night! 

  28. avatar jnaki says:

    If God were not to exist we should have created one because humans in nature have propensity towards evil.  Imagine if humans were left to their own devices: they would kill each other.  Most of the main religions  believe in one God who is the one and the same at al times.  God broyght us morality and goodness.  With these traits came happiness and sociability.  believing in God adds rather than subtract from life’s happiness; so, why not believe in him.  He doesn’t ask you to kill, steal, lie or any of the bad habits that are prosecutable by law.  believing in God brings meaning to life and adds sweetness and the great bonus is the kingdom of heaven.  If we assume that God doesn;t exist, are laws which are inspired from God’s words compel us to abide by his rules.  But I caution you that you can’t go to heaven if you don’t believe.  Good deeds are not enough for inheriting the kingdom of God.  He said I am the resurrection and the life he who believeth in me though is dead shall never die.  Strong words and deservant of every single moment of our lives to believe in Him teh Almighty.  God bless you and send his holy spirit to enlighten you in his glory. 

    • avatar butterfly55 says:

      But those who do kill, steal and all of those bad traits go to prison, find God and are suddenly saved.  No thank you.   I have a great belief in being good to others, all others, and would rather be free to live my life that way.

  29. avatar martina says:

    “What if he doesn’t exist, and we spent our lives believing in nothing?” 
    Does he need to believe?  When my daughter found out that there was no Santa Claus the first words out of her mouth were ‘Now what am I going to believe in?”  I quickly started looking for a church and admonished myself for having neglected her spiritual upbringing.  Even at a young age she believed that there was a higher being out there watching over us.  She just didn’t know who/what it was.  We found a lovely church and her faith is strong.    The right faith and church can offer comfort, support and good moral groundwork.
    As a Christian, in order to get into heaven you must accept Jesus as your savior – that is was we are taught.  In order to accept Jesus as your savior you need to believe.  If you are believing just to hedge your bets on getting into heaven, I would think that it also means that you believe in heaven and you should then you believe in God and Jesus.  But do you actually have to say the words and consciously and fully believe or can you just live your life as he taught and would want you to live it and it is assumed that you have accepted him? I have also been taught that God is a forgiving God and I can’t imagine that he would throw those that have lived good lives into hell just because they have not accepted Christ. 

    • avatar chuck alien says:

      you know, some people would look at the fact that you replaced Santa Claus with Jesus because your daughter needed to believe in something, anything… coupled with your continuing faith… and think that was hilariously ironic.

      “Even at a young age she believed that there was a higher being out there watching over us.”

      yeah, see… first it was Santa. Then it was Jesus. One day it will be money. It could be Sponge Bob for all the difference it makes. You break down your own faith as a simple sop of a child, then proclaim it awesome. Hilarious.

      You know, hypothetically.

      (for what it’s worth, I don’t think Sponge Bob would throw good people into hell, either)

    • avatar blue tooth says:

      “As a Christian, in order to get into heaven you must accept Jesus as your savior”

      That’s the Puritan and Calvinist strain of Christianity. The one that believes Man is fundamentally flawed and sinful, and only an external agent can save him from the damnation of his own being. How Cotton Matherish.

      Myself, as a Christian, I was taught that good works and a moral and upright life earned your place in heaven. And as an adult, I find it really hard to believe that the billions of upright and good Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Confucians, and Shintoists, could not get into heaven.

  30. avatar Diane Shaw says:

    Ltr. #1. First, disclosure: I absolutely believe in God & call myself a follower of Christ.  Now on to your situation.  It is good that you are questioning as life itself is a journey and we are always in search of answers.   By questioning, whatever you come to believe, you believe it because that was your decision, not a set doctrine merely handed down to you that you were told to believe.  Doctrine/dogma is what religion is.  Unfortunately, man has turned God into religion that many people seem to fight over and that I have trouble coming to terms with.  I also see no difference in man’s interpretation of our origin’s (big bang theory) and the biblical retelling – one is secular, the other theological.  So, if you really want to come into faith, or not, read the bible (and the history and back-story behind much of the text) along with the various belief systems out there (athiests, philosophers, scientists, the great “religions”, etc).  Knowledge is key and should help point you in the direction you feel you need to be.

  31. avatar Ar Mo Chroí says:

    LW1: I, too, have had the same questions. I’ve answered it as much as possible (for myself–won’t share cuz this is a personal journey) & am now satisfied with my search. I’ll always keep looking though. 🙂

    My small piece of advice is this: Surround yourself with friends & acquaintences of various religions. Surround yourself with friends/acquaintences who are both agnostic & atheists. If you get to the point where you’re comfortable asking them why they believe what they do, ASK. There’s never any harm in asking, & there’s no such thing as a stupid question either. 🙂 Do some searching: read up on all the various faiths that exist in the world.

    Depending on the people around you, they will either encourage you in your search, or they might not. Ignore the critics. Don’t let them stop you from your journey.

    This is what I did & it helped me immensely. For me, I am a hodge-podge of various religions & beliefs I read up on. I comfortably call myself Spiritual. However, I still read up on all other systems & faiths that are out there; even the ones I find a bit…odd, let’s say. Learning a little about each faith has given me a greater understanding of those people who choose to believe in their faith.

    In my journey, I have learned that keeping an open mind is key. So is acceptance, even if you disagree with something.

    My advice? Do ONLY what is comfortable for YOU. Do not give up until you get the answers you seek. Ignore those who wish to prevent you from proceeding in your search. Listen to your gut. Keep asking those difficult questions. Continue to search for your truth(s). Don’t permit anyone to tell you that you’re wrong. You’re not. Remember: If it makes sense to YOU, that’s all that matters.

    I wish you well.

    Love & light to you, my friend.

  32. avatar Phillip Koons says:

    LW1: I identify as agnostic and have absolutely no love for organized religion. I simply can’t love something that has condemned me my entire life.

    However, that’s my experience and my journey. The important thing is to continue to question and follow your own heart. When it comes down to it, your spiritual journey is one for you to make alone. That questioning will help get you to a place where you find your own peace with the matter.

  33. avatar chuck alien says:

    “Pascal’s Wager” is such unbelievably self-serving nonsense.

    Just… what a shallow, blinkered, deeply cynical, completely-missing-the-point way to view faith and reality.

    You’re trying to hedge your bets against the omnipotent creator of all reality. Provided that turns out to exist… yeah, that will work. It’s so incredibly idiotic. And ironic. Idiotironic, even.

    It’s essentially the 3rd grader argument for belief in God.

  34. avatar Nylter says:

    The problem with Pascal’s Wager is that it’s false logic because it assumes there’s only two answers. There’s a pletoria of responses that come  between atheist and monotheist, all of which get missed in the Christian/Muslim/Jewish orientation of the discussion I’ve seen so far. There’s no need to believe in one god when the choices range from many gods, all gods, some gods, certain gods, little gods, worshiping a chandiler, or self worship, to name a few. Too many people get locked in binary to see the colorful clustering of choices out there when the binary blinkers have been taken off.

  35. avatar Mike in Asheville says:

    Confused Teen:
    I disagree with Pascal’s Wager or the What Do You Have to Lose choice.

    I find that all religions greatly belittle God; turning the creation of the universe into a human construct that simply cannot begin to equal even an iota of what exists of creation. The universe that we can understand consists of several hundred billion gallaxies each with several hundred billion solar systems. And we only know of less than 20% of the energy and matter of our universe.

    At the moment of Big Band, and use simple logic here, there was a first spark of indivisible energy, so small there cannot have been something before it. As written in Genesis, “And then there was light!” In a less than a billionth of a second, the universe was larger than our solar system. Think about that for a moment: it takes light from our sun 8 minutes to reach us, it takes over an hour to reach Pluto — but in that first billionth of a second, the universe expanded at a speed so much faster than the speed of light (186,000 miles/second), the universe was more than a billion miles around (I am rounding here so not to be too technical; Wiki has good astro-physics pages on Big Bang and Cosmic Inflation that provide the accurate expansion of the first moments of existence).

    That was the beginning, so far beyond our human ability of comprehension. Yet in that beginning, was the birth of every pre-atomic part that exists today. In that beginning, every iota of every bit of energy and matter was there as ONE. Every single atom of the trillions upon trillions of atoms in your body today began there at ONE.

    What God is is in you. God as the creation of all that is, includes you — all that is you was there at ONE, part of God.

    It seems silly to me that God has any concern at all whether bits of creation eat shellfish, trim beards, smoke or drink. And it is quite obvious that religions have corrupted their own principles abusing their very on “Commandments” to further political gain.

    I think of life and God this way: every single bit of energy that was there at ONE remains today. Converted into all sorts of other types of energy and mass, suns, planets, mountains, water, dust, and at least of Earth animals and plants. But everything, without any exception ever, is and has been recycled — never used up, but repurposed. In my mind, that means every moment of every life still exists at some level, and when we die, that which was all our life joins with all other. By joining back to ONE, each spirit MUST BE RECONCILED with all other — every moment of pain you caused in others, you will bear too; every failure to others, that pain too. A loving God, to be a part of that ONE, must experience all that IS.

    No man and certainly no religion can tell you what God believes — only you can observe God’s nature and follow a good heart. For me, a good heart does not demonize a man who loves a man but applauds the killing of a man; does not send into hell for making love without a marriage ceremony; does not keep from heaven for not being praised by a man and dipped with water; does not reserve virgins for suicide killers; does not ignore harms committed by clergy simply because the clergy forgives themselves. The God that has created the universe is not fooled by silly humans trying to pull off fast ones nor faked out by “just in case” prayer or piety.

  36. avatar Jody says:

    I remember asking the same question about God’s existence when I was in grade school… A Catholic grade school. I researched what it meant to be a “good” Jew back in Jesus’ time, and found things that go against what I was taught as a Christian. For example; marriage is one of the 5 things a “good” Jew would have done back in that time. I always figured Mary Magdalen was the “13” apostle, even when I was 12 years old. And so on…

    I guess what I’m saying is that I believe questioning your beliefs or what you’ve been told to believe is never a bad thing. For me, personally, the irony would be that questioning God’s existence is exactly what God would want you to do. He would want you to push the envelop, even in regards to Him, as Moses did, or David did, etc. It’s natural. I have encouraged my kids to do the same over the years, prompting many incredible conversations and learning experiences.

    For me… it’s about finding your comfort zone (for today, because it could change tomorrow), while appreciating and accepting differing opinions/beliefs. After all… We are all one.

  37. avatar bright eyes says:

    Although I’m reading this letter late, LW#1 fits in with what went on in my son’s class the sme day this was published:  A good natured debate of Creationism vs Evolution. We talked about it – and why he feels the way he does- before hand (they are given the topic days before hand to get arguments together) so I can get some understanding of where he is coming from and ask questions that he will be asked in the debate and help him prepare. I think it’s in every child’s nature to question their place in the world if not a bigger question – their place in the universe. Growing up most kids are handed their viewpoints by their parents – I belive it’s only right for anyone to question things and come to their own conclusions. There are no absolutes in religion or life. (And yes, that’s just one person’s opinion) All people have the right to doubt, the right to question and the right to reach their own conclusions.