Advice please!: Atheist family heading into the Lions Den

My wife and I are heading to a family reunion and I need some advice from the community.


First some background.


My wife Jeannette (new TA member!) and I are both atheists/humanists. I come from a very conservative evangelical Baptist family, where the matriarch & patriarch and most of my aunts, uncles and cousins are either deeply involved in the ministry. I myself was once a youth and worship pastor, fully dedicated to serving Christ, but that’s another story altogether.


The members of my family are very loving and kind people, however their faith is stronger than their reasoning skills. On the last day of our last family reunion a few years back, my aunt told my wife she was going down the “Golden Path” to hell based only on her beautiful Egyptian tattoos. I know this came from the kindest place in her heart … she really didn’t want her to go to hell! However, at the time it truly hurt Jeannette who, coming from a Catholic background, didn’t understand the concept of evangelizing or that it came from a place of love. At the time, I was a very green atheist, so I didn’t have the strength or knowledge to say or do anything about it.

I abhor this kind of behavior from Christians and when it coming from my family it somehow felt much worse.

So … fast-forward to today. We’re heading out to another bible-soaked family reunion. Imagine jesus-themed campfire sin-alongs, grown adults performing plays and skits about how much they love being redeemed and every new conversation starts with the question “So, how is your walk with Jesus going?”

I’ve grown as a freethinker and I know exactly why I’m a humanist. However, I really don’t feel like outing myself to my family during this reunion, especially since both of my grandparents will soon be gone and I really don’t want to stress them out with thoughts of my eternal damnation. However, I KNOW I’ll be asked how my walk with God is going, and I’ll be asked why my family will not be going to church on Sunday.

This is severely stressing us out. We don’t want to come out, but I need some kind of loving response to these questions. I want to say something that will not incite more questions, but that will let people know were just fine with our lives and don’t need to be preached to.

We’re at a loss. If anyone else has some personal experience or advice on the matter, we’d be SO appreciative!

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Try singing Jesus' Brother Bob around the campfire!

I jest, but only a little. There's plenty of light-hearted amusement to be found in Xtianity that you can have fun with, and hopefully not start a lynch mob, without pretending to be something you're not.

Marc, the best advise I can give you is to answer each question with a question.  I know that can be hard but it is a good way to deflect the argument (and good mental exercise for you).  For example,  "Arn't you going to Church tomorrow?"  "Is Church the only place one can find comfort?"  "How is your walk with Jesus going?" "Is there a time table on the walk?"   I'm sure with practice you'll get good at it. Don't be flipant; don't be insincere.  Be yourself.  Isn't there an adage about keeping the peace by not talking politics or religion? 
As a former Christian who has had to sugarcoat his atheist/humanist worldview in the presence of Christians, it's been my experience that the best thing to say when asked about the topic is just to say that you are in a complicated place in your faith and to leave it at that. That way you aren't implicitly giving away your atheistic worldview but at the same time aren't lying to your loved ones by pretending that you still have a strong Christian faith. Otherwise you can follow Reggie's advice and simply lie your ass off, which could definitely be fun.
Marc, sooner or later you're family is going to have to know. The time when you come out can be delayed, but in a family where so much of the talk revolves around faith it's not going to possible to sidestep the issue forever, I suspect. But I hope that it will be at a time and in a way of your own choosing. When that day comes, it won't be any easier for you if, in addition to your religious deconversion, you also have to explain lies you told to hide your atheism. I wish you all the best.


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