“Ask a Priest: What If My Son Doesn’t Believe in an Afterlife?”

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Q: How do I respond to my 22-year-old who no longer believes that God created the world (“That’s your truth”), that we don’t have souls, and that we just stop existing when we die? I know there’s more to his disbelief, but that is the basis of it right now. – Kim

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: I’m sorry to hear about your son. He might be going through a stage in life where he rebels against religion and questions everything.

Or, as you mention, “there’s more to his disbelief.” I’m not sure if that means there are other things he doesn’t believe, or that is something bothering him beyond the religious issues.

Sometimes, when people question their faith, there is another kind of problem bubbling beneath the surface.

You might want to try to keep open dialogue with him as much as possible. But don’t feel as though you have to argue every point. He might not be ready to hear your arguments. In any case, the arguments might not really be about his core problem.

More important is that he senses your unconditional love and that you are listening to him. Keep praying for him.

And think about getting some books that explain the faith, and leaving them around the house discreetly. Maybe he will pick one up and read it.

Some suggestions: The Essential Catholic Survival Guide; Surprised by Truth; and the Youth Catechism (YouCat). You might read them yourself, too, to be prepared for more dialogue.

I hope some of this helps. Count on my prayers.

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