I grew up in a devoutly religious home, and throughout my childhood and into my teens I believed in God without question and was deeply involved in my church. But in college, I started to rethink things and my disbelief grew and grew; after I graduated, I swore off religion completely.

Throughout my 20s, I passionately tried to convince my parents that their beliefs were wrong, unfounded in reason, and silly. They could not be persuaded, of course, and the only result of my arguing was a lot of tension and disappointment between us.

Now I am 43 years old. I don’t believe in God; I never go to church; and I remain, moreover, bitter about all the years in which I unthinkingly participated in rituals that I now believe serve to keep people complacent. But I’m also old enough to understand that my parents gave me everything they could — materially and spiritually — and they taught me what they thought was right.

When I go home to visit them, I’m always torn: Should I go with them to church because I know it would make them happy? Or should I be true to myself, and honest with them, and stay behind? Last time I was there, I didn’t go and I still feel badly about it.

Good but godless