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 dearmargo@creators.com. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.

COPYRIGHT 2011 MARGO HOWARD
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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116 comments so far.

  1. 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.

  2. 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! 

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.