My father: People do things for three reasons; for themselves, for others, and for the love of God. Everything you do should be for the love of God.
Me: I’ve told you, I don’t believe in God, and I do things out of a variety of motivations, like everyone else, including you.
My father: I don’t want to hear that. You had such strong faith as a child.
Me: No, no I didn’t. You only thought I did. I’ve been agnostic –at the very least– for a very long time.
My father: You were raised to be —
Me: Yes, I know, I was raised to be religious, but I’m not. And guess what? I’m happy.
My father: It’s my duty as father to make sure you go to the right place [Heaven] and not the bad place [Hell].
Me: Uh, please don’t say things like that. It’s creepy.
My father: You don’t want to go to the bad place.
Me: Well, I don’t believe in “the bad place,” dad.
My father: This life is just a puff of smoke, [My Name], just a puff of smoke.
Me: Well, it’s my puff of smoke then. I would rather have a puff of smoke that’s mine than an eternity that isn’t. Yes, human life is brief, but I believe it’s all we have, and we should make the best of it and fiercely appreciate it, and not fall back on imagined worlds of punishment and reward awaiting us after death. My concerns are firmly rooted in the here and now. I do my best to live a reasonably ethical life and I don’t worry about the day my little story will reach its conclusion, ok?
My father: No…!
Me: Well, you can believe whatever you want to, but I think I go through life with a lot less fear than you do. I’m just fine with my puff of smoke.
Sigh. I have this conversation at least once every couple of weeks, at various decibels.