Question:I have raised my children in a Christ-loving home. My daughter is now 17 and possibly leaving home in the next year or two. Recently, she has begun to tell her sister (15) and I that she believes in God but she "can't go along with the heaven or hell idea". She states she is "creeped out" by the whole idea of a soul. With all of the war in the world, she has begun to say things like "What does it all matter, we're all going to be dead in 3 days anyway." (And when we're dead, we're dead, that's all there is to it, according to her). I'm frightened for her, and I don't know how to help her. Please advise. My other daughter (15 year old) is really angry with her and is calling her an atheist.
It sounds like you are up to your eye-balls in living life with a couple of adolescents! Let me reassure you right at the start that it sounds to me (scary though this may be!) that what you are experiencing with both of your daughters is very typical for young people at different stages of adolescence! In fact, I have seen these kinds of situations over and over again. (This, hopefully will serve to reassure you!)
Adolescence is a time of change as young people move from childhood to adulthood. Part of the process that happens is that young people begin developing critical thinking skills which means that they begin to see "gray areas" in life where as younger children they only saw things in "black and white." Additionally, young people begin to think through their beliefs and values. Young people, in order to become growing, functioning Christian adults MUST move from a "borrowed" faith (the faith of their parents and their church) to an "owned" faith (one that is their own). It sounds to me that this is the stage that your older daughter is in. She is questioning what she has always heard and believed to be true. Now she has to come to conclusions on her own. This is not a bad thing! Much of the reaction you are experiencing from your older daughter is quite possibly less of a rejection of Christian (and your) values than it is an exercising and development of her critical thinking skills as she seeks to figure out in an adult way - what she believes about God and faith.
As a parent, I would suggest that you not overreact to your older daughter's positions. It is actually a healthy sign that she has questions and doubts. The next time a situation like this comes up, engage her in a discussion which will help her to think through the issues. Engage her in an adult discussion - as opposed to a "instructor/pupil" perspective. Help her to think through the issues, values, and implications of the different perspectives. This can be a lot of work on a parent's part and requires much patience. Yet, one of the goals of parenting is to help young people "swim" - as opposed to throwing in the lifeboats. Allowing and encouraging your daughter to express doubts and questions - and helping her to think through these issues in the safety of your home enviornment will be a big asset to her spiritual and personal development.
In the end, most young people who have grown up in a Christian home and go through a period of doubt or even rejection, end up embracing a faith that is quite similar to their parents.
Regarding your younger daughter, it seems possible that she has not yet come to that point in her own life where she has undergone doubts. Perhaps she hasn't yet begun to think critically about her faith; perhaps she has - and simply has not encountered a time of serious questioning and/or doubt. While everyone eventually begins thinking critically about faith issues, not everyone goes through a significant time of doubt or rejection. I believe that your younger daughter's anger towards your older daughter has probably more to do with her own fear than it has to do with her sister's beliefs. It sounds to me like she has probably lost a sense of security by your older daughter's doubt/changes in belief - which scares your younger daughter. Your younger daughter is probabably afraid (down deep) that the same thing could happen to her. I would encourage you to try to explain to her that times of doubt or rejection are normal - and Christ-followers are called to love others - regardless of their beliefs.
In the meantime, be sure to flood both of your daughters with expressions of your unconditional love! Be sure that they understand that you love them NOT for what they believe or don't believe but for who they are!
Lastly, be sure to uphold your daughters in prayer before the Lord! Ultimately, God is in control of your daughters' spiritual growth (1 Cor. 3 ). Don't give up!