Author Topic: How to tell your family you are an atheist.  (Read 3436 times)

Troll god

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Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.
« Reply #15 on: October 28, 2011, 03:11:44 PM »
Time ago I was talking to an american girl(14 yo). I 'met' her randomly on a chat. She told me that her family was catholic, racist and violent. She told me she was from Ohio and she told me that she was afraid to tell her parents that she was not believing in god. I told her to call the police if they would become violent again, she said she'll do that. Frankly, I don't think she's going to do that. She was so afraid even because she told me her story, I did not even wanted to know her name, she told me her name anyway(I'm not thinking to tell that). Funny thing is that, that chat was not even supposed to allow under-aged persons there, she told me that she was chatting anyway, because she was feeling alone in her house, her parents was very strict and wanted her to have catholic friends only, but the area was full of protestants. :-[
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kimberlyfaith81

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Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.
« Reply #16 on: December 14, 2011, 03:47:14 PM »
Thank you for the very well thought out advice.  My deconversion occurred about four years ago.  I have deeply religious family and friends.  My ex (husband at the time) was pretty blasé about religion in general.  So telling him was easy.  But the rest of my family.....  Siiiiggghh.  I do love my parents, a lot.  And knowing where they are, I knew that declaring myself as an atheist would be emotionally devastating for them.  I mean, on their knees every night begging god to save my soul, devastating.  So, I didn't plan on telling them at all.  One day, I picked my mother up in my car to take her somewhere.  I happened to be reading "The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality" at the time.  I did NOT leave it in my purse on purpose, I think.  She found it.  Oh boy.  Surprisingly, the response was rather muted.  Bascially, they believed it was a phase I was going through.  I would work through it and find my way back to the truth.  I had stopped going to church already, mostly with excuses.  I stopped coming up with excuses and stayed home.  A couple of years go by, no one has asked me about my faith, I've kept my mouth shut out of respect.  But they want my children in church.  Every time the doors are open, they want my children there.  What do you do?  They adore my children.  I'm sending them to hell with my blatant disregard of the Lord's wishes!!  How do you look your parents in the face and smile while you "send their grandchildren to hell???"  So, I started taking them to church.  I'm such a coward.  First day I went, my father cried.  Literally cried, in church.  No one asked if I had changed my mind.  I didn't offer.  Am I still an atheist? YES.  Do I want to break their hearts?? NO! But I want better for my children.  So, here I am.  Stuck, pretending.  And finding myself very thankful for HAF!

Tank

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Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.
« Reply #17 on: December 15, 2011, 03:45:44 AM »
Thank you for the very well thought out advice.  My deconversion occurred about four years ago.  I have deeply religious family and friends.  My ex (husband at the time) was pretty blasé about religion in general.  So telling him was easy.  But the rest of my family.....  Siiiiggghh.  I do love my parents, a lot.  And knowing where they are, I knew that declaring myself as an atheist would be emotionally devastating for them.  I mean, on their knees every night begging god to save my soul, devastating.  So, I didn't plan on telling them at all.  One day, I picked my mother up in my car to take her somewhere.  I happened to be reading "The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality" at the time.  I did NOT leave it in my purse on purpose, I think.  She found it.  Oh boy.  Surprisingly, the response was rather muted.  Bascially, they believed it was a phase I was going through.  I would work through it and find my way back to the truth.  I had stopped going to church already, mostly with excuses.  I stopped coming up with excuses and stayed home.  A couple of years go by, no one has asked me about my faith, I've kept my mouth shut out of respect.  But they want my children in church.  Every time the doors are open, they want my children there.  What do you do?  They adore my children.  I'm sending them to hell with my blatant disregard of the Lord's wishes!!  How do you look your parents in the face and smile while you "send their grandchildren to hell???"  So, I started taking them to church.  I'm such a coward.  First day I went, my father cried.  Literally cried, in church.  No one asked if I had changed my mind.  I didn't offer.  Am I still an atheist? YES.  Do I want to break their hearts?? NO! But I want better for my children.  So, here I am.  Stuck, pretending.  And finding myself very thankful for HAF!

I have started a new thread based on your post as the issue is relevent to many families and isn't absolutly on-topic in this thread.

Here is the new thread http://www.happyatheistforum.com/forum/index.php?topic=8885.0
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unholy1971

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Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.
« Reply #18 on: December 18, 2011, 08:51:26 PM »
I haven't yet told my family that I am an atheist.  My family are all devout christians, so if I ever tell them, they are not going to take it well.  I can see them have an intervention for me LOL.

Poptop

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Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.
« Reply #19 on: December 18, 2011, 09:03:32 PM »
Ha ha, an intervention. You're not alone in that concern.  I've often worried during my drive over to a family members house for a dinner invitation is actually going to be an intervention. 

lomfs24

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Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.
« Reply #20 on: December 26, 2011, 11:47:06 AM »
Thank you so much for the helpful advise. I was raised a Jehovah's Witness, my father still is. My mother passed away a few years ago and my sister got divorced so she was cast out of the congregation. My sister has made no effort to return to the organization. So when I made the decision that I no longer held the same world view as JW's my sister was the natural choice to talk to. She was very receptive and stated that she felt much the same way I did, although, had not done the research to reach that conclusion. That was the easy one. My father on the other hand is the one that I am concerned about. Since my mother passed he has married a woman that, in my humble opinion, doesn't have brains to pour piss out of a boot. And he seems to listen to what ever she says. I think that my father will listen and understand where I am coming from but I fear that I will lose him because of the moronic rantings of that woman. And it's not like he will completely shun me, it's just that he will never find the time to come and visit which will be hard on my kids not ever seeing grandpa again.

superfes

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Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.
« Reply #21 on: January 16, 2012, 04:06:16 PM »
Wow,

You know what... I didn't really come up with a plan...

I remember one year my parents came down to see me and my brother, I don't remember if he was still going to school or not, but we both live in the same state... anyways, I remember it happening in 3 conversations, I started by merely showing my disinterest, but by the 3rd conversation that same night I was pretty much to the point of irritation >_>

Don't think people should follow my example at all BTW.

Here's how it went, in the first conversation my mother was asking me to reflect on my absence of church going and I should consider going to church again so I could right myself in her perspective, for which I stated that that probably was never going to happen.

The second time she brought it up she was trying to assert her beliefs by telling me about her dream and that she prayed about it and brought up the event that made me question my beliefs in the first place (This is me saying that the event was something that affected our family as a whole not that I'd told my mother about how I lost my faith ;-), so I was told her that it was my firm belief that all of that crap is completely fictitious and she really shouldn't bother me about it any longer.

When my parents were readying to leave, my mother attempted to put in a final effort but I interrupted her and essentially told her to shove it and to take care of people that she could actually help because I was free >_>

Anyway... there was some time before my parents spoke to me again, I'm sure I made an impression on the other people around me at the time as well <_<

So, don't do what I did unless misanthropy is your thing.
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Amicale

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Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.
« Reply #22 on: January 19, 2012, 08:36:32 PM »
This is a great set of instructions, and I think they'd be really helpful and supportive for someone struggling with how to tell their family.  :)

For me, there was never one 'moment' when I 'came out' as a skeptic to my family. It's been a long, gradual process. As a child, I attended a Catholic church with family members, and in my teens I stopped going, and dabbled in a bunch of different stuff, read a ton of philosophy, researched world religions, and generally just tried to open up my mind a little more, a bit at a time. I quite often felt strongly pulled in two different directions. Christianity appealed to me mostly for sentimental reasons -- it was what I'd been used to for so long, and in many ways, it was a comfort and source of strength. On the other hand, my naturally skeptical side often kicked in, and I was asking all kinds of questions of myself and others. As I entered university, I still attended Mass or Protestant services from time to time (I wasn't devoutly loyal to either camp), but I started reading more and more about science, philosophy, history, etc... and I found myself getting pulled more strongly in a secular direction.

While all this was going on, as I learned new ideas, talked with folks and came to new conclusions, I shared those concerns and ideas with both my mom and a few close friends, etc. As I said, it was gradual. Eventually, I realized I was comfortable enough to be essentially where I remain today: I don't know if a Creator exists or not, but I don't care for the way the idea of God has been used and largely abused by almost all of the world's religions, Christianity included. The arguments and apologetics for faith made less sense to me, and I saw the way people spoke, claiming to know the mind of this God, although almost all of them disagreed on a lot of the fundamental aspects, although all claimed the same basic faith. I'm sick and tired of churches pitting themselves against one another, and of them pitting themselves collectively against everyone who disagrees with them. I'd no longer feel comfortable belonging to any of them. As someone in another thread here said, God needs a much better PR team.

I've shared these views, along the way, with the people who are close to me. They understand my perspective, and for the most part, my family's respectfully disagreed with me, but they've let me think whatever I want to, without giving me much grief about it. My grandpa sometimes jokes that I belong to the "round church" (you run around and around in circles so the devil can't catch you, lol) but overall... I'm profoundly aware that I've gotten off VERY lightly, in terms of how little my immediate family was bothered by my telling them about my beliefs.

My dad, on the other hand, was another story. He hasn't been a big part of my life for years, and he moved far away with his second wife... but ever since I've clued him in on my doubts and ideas (he's a fundie Protestant), he's just given up on talking much. If we talk once every month or two, the conversation's strained, it never lasts long, and from what he's told me, he believes I've screwed up my life irreparably with my 'heavenly Father' by my ideas and choices -- which is ironic, considering my earthly father bailed on us when I was a kid, LOL.

So, it is what it is. I'm thankful to have a close, loving immediate family who I get along very well with, and if one person out of the bunch wants to phase themselves out of my and his grand daughter's life... that's his choice. I'd rather live with integrity, and try to teach her to also.


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Harmonie

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Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.
« Reply #23 on: January 27, 2012, 10:50:05 AM »
I don't think I can ever do it. I've come out (about another thing) enough, and even that has been 'ignored' by my family.

I think that in this case I'll just keep my mouth shut. Aside from prospective employers, my family is perhaps the most scary group to tell I'm a atheist. They are so religious. I got that vibe from how they've talked about those who are non-religious. My sister had a really bad ex who cheated and he identified himself as an 'Agnostic' (yet he was as conservative and homophobic as they come). So my mom went on this rant about how we must not date those who are not religious because they are not good people.  :-[

They never force me to go to church, in fact they hardly go to church themselves. So you know, I have to pick my battles wisely. This one isn't worth fighting. In regards to my friends and otherwise I'll let them know I'm an atheist, but with my family it's best I just not.

"I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires." - Susan B. Anthony

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Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.
« Reply #24 on: January 27, 2012, 11:16:12 AM »
You know your situation best so only you can make the appropriate choice. IF you ever do decide to tell your family this is one possible way you could consider doing it and nothing more.
If religions were TV channels atheism is turning the TV off.
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Amicale

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Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.
« Reply #25 on: January 27, 2012, 09:28:46 PM »
I don't think I can ever do it. I've come out (about another thing) enough, and even that has been 'ignored' by my family.

I think that in this case I'll just keep my mouth shut. Aside from prospective employers, my family is perhaps the most scary group to tell I'm a atheist. They are so religious. I got that vibe from how they've talked about those who are non-religious. My sister had a really bad ex who cheated and he identified himself as an 'Agnostic' (yet he was as conservative and homophobic as they come). So my mom went on this rant about how we must not date those who are not religious because they are not good people.  :-[

They never force me to go to church, in fact they hardly go to church themselves. So you know, I have to pick my battles wisely. This one isn't worth fighting. In regards to my friends and otherwise I'll let them know I'm an atheist, but with my family it's best I just not.

Tank's got that right for sure, Radiant. There's no one way you 'have' to do it. Sometimes, certain scenarios work well for others, but not for us. Only you know your family and how they'll react to something. If you're fairly sure that the answer is 'very, very badly', then you might consider others in your life who you trust to speak to about how you're feeling... family friends, teachers, your own friends... even us here online, for now. :)

The main thing right now is keep yourself safe and secure, probably. Nobody wants their entire family ignoring them, fighting with them daily, or worse. So, it's your call who you tell and when, but rest assured that you can definitely find community to toss ideas around with anytime.


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En_Route

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Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.
« Reply #26 on: February 08, 2012, 02:02:14 PM »
Atheism on the whole is no big deal in the UK, although of course it may be an inflammatory  issue within particular families. As far as I can see in America it is something which attracts serious social opprobium (maybe not so in New York and other big cities?) There is no equivalent here of the bible belt, where it must be impossible for an independent mind to breathe.
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Dobermonster

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Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.
« Reply #27 on: February 08, 2012, 10:10:16 PM »
En_Route, that's just one of the reasons I feel more kin to the UK culture than my own. I remember watching an episode of QI (trivia-based panel show, for those who haven't seen it) where they talked about the Rapture, and Fry introduced the subject with something like, "Do you know what I'm referring to? It's huge in America . . . " My first reaction was to wonder that the subject was not widely known or acknowledged, immediately followed by wishing I lived in a culture that took the same sort of remote interest in a mythology so many here take seriously.

Back on topic . . .

My first attempt to ease my family into coming to terms with my disbelief was . . . less than successful. I was 16, and still quite deferential to my parents. It took me a lot of courage to firmly but politely explain that I didn't truly believe in the teachings, and that until I came to some sort of conclusion, I didn't want to continue attending church. I tried to explain it as just needing some time to consider things and do my own independent research, so please don't force the issue. The week that I did that was filled with lectures, and tears (mostly from my mother . . . and who wants to see their mother cry?). They only stopped asking me to come to services a few years ago. I've gone into some detail in other posts about the rest of the story, so I'll stop there. To summarize, my lack of belief still hasn't been accepted, and I seriously doubt it ever will. Perhaps there are some things I could have done differently or said better to keep the peace, but I was embittered about religion early on in my adulthood, and it's difficult to suppress all the urges to lash out (verbally) after years of oppression.

I certainly advocate the majority of the original post. If you want to stack the odds in favor of an easy transition, enter like a lamb, not a lion. Keep the peace when possible, and whenever else, keep your head. Reiterate your love for them, even if their reaction seems loveless. Emphasize your desire to put your relationships first, but don't let them use that to blackmail you into submission. If they pray before meals, be silent and respectful. Understand that these rituals, and others like them, are not something to be fought over - it's not worth it, and they are essentially harmless. Save your energy for when you need to advocate on behalf of reason in real world, truly harmful situations. There are plenty. If they are essentially reasonable and intelligent people, there may come a time when you find yourself (wanted or unwanted) in a theological discussion - this is not necessarily a bad thing. If it's civil and respectful, it may be an opportunity to help them understand your position and debunk myths about atheism (for example, the belief that atheists are amoral). Above all, don't expect them to change, and don't try. I wish everyone in this position good luck and fortitude.

When you're feeling discouraged, find something to inspire you. I personally love watching shows and documentaries on new and old scientific discoveries, or just learning more about things I'm fuzzy on, like quantum theory. Reason isn't just a way of life; you can find great pleasure in seeing its rewards.

« Last Edit: February 08, 2012, 10:12:55 PM by Dobermonster »

En_Route

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Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.
« Reply #28 on: February 09, 2012, 07:19:42 AM »
En_Route, that's just one of the reasons I feel more kin to the UK culture than my own. I remember watching an episode of QI (trivia-based panel show, for those who haven't seen it) where they talked about the Rapture, and Fry introduced the subject with something like, "Do you know what I'm referring to? It's huge in America . . . " My first reaction was to wonder that the subject was not widely known or acknowledged, immediately followed by wishing I lived in a culture that took the same sort of remote interest in a mythology so many here take seriously.

Back on topic . . .

My first attempt to ease my family into coming to terms with my disbelief was . . . less than successful. I was 16, and still quite deferential to my parents. It took me a lot of courage to firmly but politely explain that I didn't truly believe in the teachings, and that until I came to some sort of conclusion, I didn't want to continue attending church. I tried to explain it as just needing some time to consider things and do my own independent research, so please don't force the issue. The week that I did that was filled with lectures, and tears (mostly from my mother . . . and who wants to see their mother cry?). They only stopped asking me to come to services a few years ago. I've gone into some detail in other posts about the rest of the story, so I'll stop there. To summarize, my lack of belief still hasn't been accepted, and I seriously doubt it ever will. Perhaps there are some things I could have done differently or said better to keep the peace, but I was embittered about religion early on in my adulthood, and it's difficult to suppress all the urges to lash out (verbally) after years of oppression.

I certainly advocate the majority of the original post. If you want to stack the odds in favor of an easy transition, enter like a lamb, not a lion. Keep the peace when possible, and whenever else, keep your head. Reiterate your love for them, even if their reaction seems loveless. Emphasize your desire to put your relationships first, but don't let them use that to blackmail you into submission. If they pray before meals, be silent and respectful. Understand that these rituals, and others like them, are not something to be fought over - it's not worth it, and they are essentially harmless. Save your energy for when you need to advocate on behalf of reason in real world, truly harmful situations. There are plenty. If they are essentially reasonable and intelligent people, there may come a time when you find yourself (wanted or unwanted) in a theological discussion - this is not necessarily a bad thing. If it's civil and respectful, it may be an opportunity to help them understand your position and debunk myths about atheism (for example, the belief that atheists are amoral). Above all, don't expect them to change, and don't try. I wish everyone in this position good luck and fortitude.

When you're feeling discouraged, find something to inspire you. I personally love watching shows and documentaries on new and old scientific discoveries, or just learning more about things I'm fuzzy on, like quantum theory. Reason isn't just a way of life; you can find great pleasure in seeing its rewards.



A lot of Americans seem to have swallowed wholesale everything they were taught before the age of six and have never thought to question it since. It still seems mind-boggling to me that a large swathe of the electorate of a supposedly sophisticated superpower could ever have taken a blatantly opportunistic ignoramus like Sarah Palin seriously. Here we would have simply laughed her out of court as a figure of fun.  America really at times gives cynicism a good name. I think your reactions in your more tender years are pretty well standard- impossible to find and express yourself without rattling the cage. As for  Quantum Theory, as the man said, if you think you understand it, then you don't understand it. It is bracing to realise though that the fundamental building-blocks of what we perceive as reality defy all the laws which we think we can safely infer from that reality. I think in any attempt to explain our origins we are simply out of our depth. In describing quantum phenomena we have to draw on analogies plucked from our limited experience but we can never actually capture their essence.
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Dobermonster

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Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.
« Reply #29 on: February 09, 2012, 12:48:40 PM »


A lot of Americans seem to have swallowed wholesale everything they were taught before the age of six and have never thought to question it since. It still seems mind-boggling to me that a large swathe of the electorate of a supposedly sophisticated superpower could ever have taken a blatantly opportunistic ignoramus like Sarah Palin seriously. Here we would have simply laughed her out of court as a figure of fun.  America really at times gives cynicism a good name. I think your reactions in your more tender years are pretty well standard- impossible to find and express yourself without rattling the cage. As for  Quantum Theory, as the man said, if you think you understand it, then you don't understand it. It is bracing to realise though that the fundamental building-blocks of what we perceive as reality defy all the laws which we think we can safely infer from that reality. I think in any attempt to explain our origins we are simply out of our depth. In describing quantum phenomena we have to draw on analogies plucked from our limited experience but we can never actually capture their essence.

That's what I find so interesting and (dare I say it?) awe-inspiring about a concept like quantum theory. It is a scientific theory that humans have developed, and yet it is beyond the capacity of the human mind to truly understand it. We can say it is true because it can be tested against other known truths, and accept that in full knowledge that we may never really know what it means. Who would have thought that we could calculate the probability that an object will spontaneously appear outside of the box that contained it? I've heard some argue (you can guess from what group) that it's akin to holding a religious belief. But of course, those can't be objectively tested.