WARNING! This may not work!
Right, now the disclaimer is out of the way and expectation levels set I'll proceed. I have many years experience in sales, buying, product management and project management. To succeed in these areas one has to know how to negotiate. Telling your family or friends you are an atheist is a type of negotiation in that you want them to accept your
world view as your
The principles behind negotiation are to bring the other person to a point where they feel changing their mind, or accepting your view, is the right thing to do. I'll make no bones about it this is about hard nosed self interest. The most important negotiation tool is emotion followed by logic. Nobody ever agrees with an enemy, they may acquiesce but they will not agree. You'll never bully your family or friend into really
agreeing with your world view, they'll just stop arguing. What we want is true agreement.
So in no particular order these are the things you need to consider.Choose one person.
Rome wasn't built in a day, don't expect to come out quickly to everybody. Who is the person least likely to freak out or possibly even support your position? You absolutely must not blurt out your new found atheism in front of an audience potentially hostile to your world view. Select one person, preferably the one who you are best friends with or you know for a fact loves you e.g. your Mum. Do this at a time and place of your choosing.
Choose your battle ground. Make sure you will have the full attention of the person you are going to disclose to and enough time to have a discussion, and also for the other person to cool down and assimilate what you have told them. Sometimes a car journey is a good place to do this, or a long dog walk or a fishing trip. Somewhere where the other person can't immediately call on reinforcements (You wait while I get your Father!) or shut down the conversation. You'll need at least a couple of hours of quality time to get this done.Do not challenge their world view.
This is critical, as you wish them to accept your world view, that you have to accept their world view in return. If you set your world view up as somehow superior to theirs you're done for. Sides will be taken and war will break out. Saying things like 'While I respect you're world view I don't feel comfortable with it, I need to find my own way.' is the way to go. This does not put the other party in the position of having to fight for their view. It also leaves the door open 'I need to find my own way.' This is giving them a place where they can accept your current position as it could well not be your final position. A number of religious figures have spent time on their own finding their own way. I seem to recall Jesus is supposed to have spent 40 days and 40 nights doing exactly this. So you're in good company. Do not take the line 'I'm an ATHEIST FU!' Ask for help.
There is nothing less hostile than asking for help, it is the ultimate submission and puts you in a very non-threatening light. The person you ask will immediately feel sympathy and worry and will wish to help you. Don't say you want help with your atheism (that's not up for negotiation). Ask the person if they love you. This will set off huge alarm bells and the person will immediately jump to the worst possible scenario from their perspective e.g. you're gay or pregnant (from a Fathers perspective
). This usually sets their expectation level very low so if you then go onto something less terrible they will immediately feel relief. If atheism is their worst fear then you have lost nothing doing this. Tell them you need help telling the rest of your family/friends about your world view. Don't make atheism the issue, that's not negotiable, what you're looking for here is a comrade and ally in telling people about your new world view, whether they agree with that world view or not. Tell the person you are anxious about telling the others and you need their help. Leave some slack in your argument.
This is difficult but again crucial to successful negotiation, nobody likes to feel cornered or that they have somehow lost. Leave the other person some neutral place to stand. Say things like 'I'm not set on this but this is how I feel I must go on for the time being.' This allows the other person to stand near your position. The critical thing is that you've got the subject out into the open in a non-aggressive and non-adversarial manner. You have a spokesperson
. Once you have one person onside then get them to do the work with the others. Let them become your spokesperson, your defender. If your Dad is likely to explode get your Mum on side. She'll know how to deal with him and the reverse if it's your Dad you've 'come out' to.
I've never had to do this myself but years of professional negotiation have helped me hone my skills in this area of human interaction so I hope some of the above is of help.