Atheist college student dealing with Christian parents!

I'm 21 years old and am a junior in college. I have been struggling with my faith since middle school and finally came out as Atheist early this school year to my boyfriend (who has been with me since high school and was going through the same thing surprisingly) and a select few friends. However, I still live at home when I'm not at the dorms. My parents are some of the most conservative Christian people I know. They already know I'm a liberal and they are upset and saddened by the fact that my political views differ so much from theirs. How do I tell them that I'm an atheist? Should I? I'm afraid if I did that my mom would want me to speak to her pastor or something. I'd say no of course, I'm an adult. But I don't want that kind of tension at home. I'm so conflicted...

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It often comes down to a trade-off: a dishonest or partial relationship, versus any relationship at all. You may become a test to their faith. Near the end of my very catholic mother's life, she called me up one day and said "it's all bullshit". We laughed so hard we cried.

What was really funny is that growing up catholic in the south, we felt persecuted by the southern baptists. Ain't religion grand !

I can only hope my dad does the same!

Near the end of my very catholic mother's life, she called me up one day and said "it's all bullshit".

How long ago did she realize this?

Its ok, I was an Atheist at age 16. I told my parents and all hell was loose. But that was the best thing I ever did in my life. Because I was free. No more pretending, no more being someone I wasn't, no more lying to myself, just to fit in with my family. I was free and I was living from then and on as how I truly am: A rational thinking Secular Humanitarian Atheist. 

If you are live would be in danger or you are on the verge of getting kicked off and financially cut off from your parents, then don't say anything. If you think you will be ok, then gradually start to give hints to your parents.

In point of fact you could toss a hint out there anyway just to see.  They probably won't from one hint decide you must be an atheist; that's most likely too inconceivable for them to conceive of until you really unambiguously say it.  But you can see their reaction.

Or another... tell them some story about someone who told their parents and their parents were upset... see how they react to that.  If they say something like "I'd disown the ungrateful brat" then... just maybe you should wait.

They've sat all of us kids down and said that if we were no longer Christian that they'd kick us out as soon as we were 18 and that they would't pay for school. I don't know if it was an empty threat or not but I sure as hell don't want to find out. I have 3 more semesters. Then it will be easier.

The funny thing is, I don't want them to "see the light." I just want them to stop talking to me like I believe everything they believe and nod my head like I do. I want there to be honesty between us... But I have had that hypothetical conversation about if on of their kids were an atheist and they didn't react very well...

This is one of the trickiest question in a deconvert's (I suppose too in a convert's) life: how and when to tell loved ones you no longer agree with their deeply held beliefs. When I was considering telling my family, I was worried how they would take it, too. I hadn't called myself a Christian for almost two years by that point (I was actually an atheist for a little less than a year by then) and I was still getting emails from my very Catholic father with Bible verses and things about how Richard Dawkins wants to rid the world of all Christians. I was genuinely worried things weren't going to turn out well with him when I broke the news.

My impetus was the approaching one year date from my sister's death. I realized I simply would not be able to tolerate any appeals to "God this" and "Jesus that" and praying for her soul and all the religious trappings with which they would decorate any memorial service for her. I was not going to take any of that well, so I had to do something. When I did told them, it went really well. I let everyone know in a very lengthy blog post three days before I left on vacation to see them about how I came to be where I was. I didn't tell them all the reasons I thought religion was wrong and why God didn't exist (I'm saving that one, I stopped it at 14,000 words), but instead focused on myself and the how of becoming an atheist. In the end, I had some very lengthy, individual, and candid conversations with my birth parents and my step-mom about their ups and downs with their faith through their lives, and I found my parents and especially my father to be far more accepting than I thought they would be. There is still some tension there and I think he's going to eventually try to pull me into playing along with religion for "my niece and nephew's sake" since he is also raising them to be religious and Catholic. Like I'm going to put up with that.

But regardless...

My advice to you is that in your situation it may be best to wait until you feel it is necessary to tell them, but they aren't dumb. You'll eventually (who's to say when) have to contend with them figuring it out for themselves and possibly pressing you for an answer. Also, how you tell them you are an atheist and in what setting is just as important as what you say. Just remember that even though you think you know someone, people can still surprise you (which may turn out better or worse than you imagined, it's really not helpful).

And you can find some extra advice here: http://coffeeshopatheist.com/blog/2012/08/portrait-of-a-deconversio...

and here: http://www.rationalskepticism.org/education-parenting/how-to-tell-y...

Thank you so much for you're advice. You are so right. In the end it is up to me. I should do it when I'm ready.

I think that their views and your own are personal. Mutual respect for those views would be great, but we all know that most parents won't see past their own. Your parents clearly take their faith very seriously and  would like you to follow. But I see no reason why you can't live your own atheist life and share your views amongst those who have a more open mind. I know biting your tongue can be stressful, but there are certain parts of your life that your parents don't need to know about. And there's nothing wrong with it, sometimes it's easier to just try and keep the peace.

I'm afraid if I did that my mom would want me to speak to her pastor or something

Well if you think about it, that might very well be the way to go.  You could go see the Pastor and explain your position to him first.  See what he says.  Then when you come out to your parents, you can tell them you've already talked to the pastor.  I suspect they will feel that the Pastor outranks them as far as god is concerned.

You are at the age when you feel you're an adult but your parents still think you're a child.  So they feel responsible for you.  Choose your timing carefully, but if it were me (which thankfully is isn't) I'd go straight to the Pastor, and then your parents would pretty much have to go along with his directives.

This religion stuff is really shitfull, isn't it...

I respect the man and do not want him involved. Although I no longer go to church I still remember him being a really nice guy and even though I do not agree with him I think he is a great man, even though I do not believe in god. It would be preferable in my opinion to leave him and other members of my former church out of it.

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