‘Dear Abby’ for the Heathen Set

By Wendy Thomas Russell | December 5, 2011 | 4 comments

If you happen to fall somewhere toward the non-believing end of the religious spectrum, you’ve probably had a chance to see first-hand how complicated life can be there.

Sure, you’re comfortable, happy and confident with your world view. But you’re also in a position to deal with perception issues, familial struggles, disagreements with society at-large, and uncertainty about bringing up kids in what amounts to a 21st Century counterculture.

Questions are bound to arise.

And when they do, Richard Wade answers them.

Wade is the author of “Ask Richard,” the country’s most well-known advice column for nonbelievers. His column runs regularly on the website Friendly Atheist, where he is considered a godsend — or the secular equivalent of a godsend — to thousands of people struggling with the sometimes painful intersection of belief and non-belief. (An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Wade was awarded the 2011 Bloggie award for best weblog about religion. That honor went to Hemant Mehta, creator of the Friendly Atheist site.)

As a person, Wade is as cool as they come. (But you already knew that because, you know, the hat.) He’s straight-shooting, calm-demeanored, uber-compassionate and whip-smart. Week after week, he manages to offer sympathetic, thoughtful and insightful answers to tough, sometimes impossibly tough, questions from lovable heathens around the country. And, at a time when the ranks of the nonreligious are among the fastest growing “religious” group in the country, Wade’s advice is increasingly sought out and valuable.

All of his columns are worth reading, but, for the purpose of this blog, I’ve tried to post links to only those dealing specifically with parenting.

Don’t forget to let me know what you think in the comment section! I’m always looking for other members to add to my newly formed Richard Wade Fan Club. Yes, there’s a secret handshake. I serve donuts and coffee at the monthly meetings. And posters are available at a nominal fee. (But hurry while supplies last. The posters go quickly. Chicks, as it turns out, dig hats more than they do scars.)

Single Mother’s Parents are Proselytizing Her Kid

Atheist Husband and Father Continues to go to Church

My Mom is Dying: Should I Lie to My Kids About Death?

Teaching My Kids Religious Tolerance and Science at the Same Time

Mother Lets Son Attend Church, Gets Flak From Fellow Atheists

What Do I Offer My Kids for Comfort and Assurance?

I Want to Stop My Nephew’s Interest in Religion

How Do I Handle My Six-Year-Old’s Beliefs?

My Zealous Catholic Parents are Indoctrinating My Kids

New Dad Misses Belief That God Will Protect His Daughter

Respecting Beliefs vs. Respecting Treatment

Atheist’s Freethinking Children Are Considering Religion

Am I a Hypocrite in a Group of Christian Mothers?

Atheist Parents Disagree About Circumcision

Relating to Religious People at Times of Grief

Disagreeing About Future Children and Prayer

You may also, of course, write to Wade with your own questions. His e-mail is askrichard@ca.rr.com.



  1. Thank you, Wendy and Leanna for your very kind words. I’m always happy when I learn that someone’s situation is a little better because of something I’ve written. I’m glad that you’ve started cataloging the posts that are pertinent to your readers, because the problems do fall into categories where people might find something useful for their situation.

    I get far more letters than I can ever answer. That’s the only part of this that makes me sad; I feel guilty when I must neglect to answer people because of the sheer number of letters. Hopefully, putting my responses into categories might help those to whom I cannot respond directly. I just learned today that someone over at Richard Dawkins’ website is starting to catalog my posts, so they can refer people to something that might be helpful for them. I’ve lost count; I think there are well over 200 Ask Richards. I guess I’d better get this done myself, and have a categorized index available on the Friendly Atheist website.

    I like your website very much. I hope that it continues to be successful and popular.

  2. Leanna says:

    I love Dear Richard. Thanks for gathering the letters most relevant to secular parenting! I especially enjoyed “Am I a Hypocrite in a Group of Christian Mothers?” I tried out a similar group as the reader in the article, and couldn’t handle the religion, though the group in my town is more overtly Christian than the one she described. Then I had similar issues when trying to decide whether to join Christian homeschooling co-ops. (I didn’t because apparently my hypocrisy only goes so far, and signing a “statement of faith” agreeing to teach my kids about young earth creationism was too much.)

    It’s really hard being a nonreligious parent in such a religious area. Very thankful for these connections with other parents like you and the reader in Richard’s article, who are facing similar parenting decisions. There are times when I try to talk myself into just pretending like I’m a believer, so I can go to church and get that instant community. I’m so jealous of people with “church families!” But I can’t raise my kids to believe that stuff, and I also can’t raise them to lie and say they do believe it. Unfortunately we don’t have a UU church close enough for regular attendance.

    • Always love hearing from you, Leanna. Thanks so much. It’s tough enough traversing these rocky areas while living in a liberal, progressive community — I can only imagine what it’s like to do the same thing in a conservative, religious community. The Internet really is a game-changer, though. Just nice knowing there are others out there trying to live the good life while fighting the good fight. :-) Also: Your official Richard Wade Fan Club Membership Card is in the mail.

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Due out March 31, Relax, It's Just God: How and Why to Talk to Your Kids About Religion When You're Not Religious offers a well-researched look at a timely subject: secular parenting. With chapters on avoiding indoctrination, talking about death, vaccinating kids against intolerance, dealing with religious baggage, and getting along with religious relatives, the book offers a refreshingly compassionate approach to raising religiously literate, highly tolerant and critically thinking children capable of making up their own minds about what to believe. The book may be pre-ordered by visiting Brown Paper Press.

      Natural Wonderers is my new blog published by the Patheos faith network. An extension of my previous blog — Relax, It's Just God — Natural Wonderers offers stories and advice on raising curious, compassionate children in secular families.
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