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

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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

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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 Mar