Came out to my parents as atheist today. Did it 'soft' enough that I think they don't think I'm serious...they think I'm just doubting and searching for God. They were upset, but hid it out of respect. Hugged me, told me they loved me, suggested we watch TV when we both sensed the serious discussion had gone on long enough.

This is going to be difficult. But I'm sure it is good for me. And I think I'll eventually feel good about it.

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He could have asked for help at any time, yes, but what he wanted in my opinion wasn't help. It was a personal revelation of God's power working in his life.

Exactly.  That God of his imagination that shows up On Demand because someone is being petulant really doesn't exist. 

In a lot of ways, what he seems to want is a relationship with God where he can behave like a whiny child (or worse, an emotionally abusive spouse).  "Do this for me, or I won't love you anymore"; "If you don't do this for me I'll leave you."  That's just not healthy for him or anyone else.

Whether in the end he's looking to grow as a humanist or whether he eventually wants a more genuine relationship with God, he's got to begin by getting clear of the ridiculous stuff.

"In a lot of ways, what he seems to want is a relationship with God where he can behave like a whiny child (or worse, an emotionally abusive spouse).  'Do this for me, or I won't love you anymore'; 'If you don't do this for me I'll leave you.'  That's just not healthy for him or anyone else"

It's interesting that we have two different perspectives on this same scenario. I don't see it as "do this or I won't love you anymore," as much as it's "please, just show me that you love me." I don't see it as a whiny child situation, but as a neglected child situation.

What child does not seek the attention of a parent? What parent would be remiss to give a child attention when that child is truly hurting? It's not like some kid who keeps pulling at his mother's shirt asking for cookies in the grocery store. It's more like a serious spill from a bike with a potentially fractured limb. If one's faith is being weathered by the ravages of doubt, then I think it's fair to say that person is suffering from a severe spiritual crisis, a spiritual crisis that is worthy of intervention. If God really is an all-caring father figure, then he was derelict in his responsibility to show that he cared for the well-being of his child. I've always said that the silent treatment is a poor communication tactic.

And you're right, that's not a healthy relationship.

Furthermore, most Americans see God as a figure who does provide signs and good fortune for those is need, and they believe that these things are supernaturally given. That if one relies on God, then God will provide. It's more often the case that people see whatever eventually happens as some sign that God is trying to communicate, because they are looking for a sign. To not receive one, to be left stuck in the moldering pit of "Wait" in the game of "Yes, No, and Wait" that dominates the subtext of God's communication with humanity, is the opportunity to finally realize that there is no one with which to communicate.

I understand that for anyone who now says that there is no God and earnestly tried to cultivate their own belief, you have to see that they must have failed somehow either in their conception of God, or through a faulty theology, or maybe they really didn't try hard enough, or some other, any other, excuse, because what's the counter argument? Maybe they failed because God never existed in the first place? I'm not entirely certain that's an idea that you are willing to accept.

I'd say that you seem to want to encourage Physeter (and probably more of us) to have a... let's say... more sophisticated view of the divine. If you're serious about "getting clear of the ridiculous stuff," then by all means, go ahead and explain away, but please do us a favor and don't compare us to whiny children and emotionally abusive spouses. This is partly because many of us have been in a similar situation and would likely feel the comparison insulting, and partly because my sister was murdered by an emotionally abusive spouse.

Asking God for a sign that he cares is not like being an emotionally abusive spouse at all. I know what those people are like. Please don't make that comparison again.

Bob how can one objectively clear themselves of what you call the "rediculous stuff". Do you mean the stuff that you...Bob...find rediculous? Or what is objectively rediculous?

The problem seems...according to your discription of religious one can objectively define anything let alone that which is rediculous. I can think of two ways to deal with this:

1. This is all full of shit because all christian theology is rediculous

2. Your reply is full of shit because what is considered "rediculous" at a religious level is entirely subjective and personal and you have no right to comment on anyone elses religious world view because it is personally subjective (in which a cannot communicate to b their world view...b cannot do so to a) and therefore nothing can possibly be objectively communicated, contrasted, compared, analysed or judged it to begin with.

In either case it's all absolutely bursting with an enormous quantity of shit.

If anybody's emotionally abusive in this scenario it's god. Love me without a shred of proof I love you back, or I'll torture you forever.

Question: How are we supposed to feel the pain of hell without our body and its central nervous system?

Thanks for the earlier comment,, Bob. That one was sensible and made me think. And I appreciate your perspective on creationist literature.

This one, though, would be quite offensive if it wasn't so patently absurd to suggest that I am behaving like an abusive spouse towards God.

You seem to completely miss the point of the prayer I prayed four years ago--"Jesus, if you're not real, I'm not going to follow you anymore." When you, Bob, say "You had pastors and friends! If you really wanted help and advice, you could have asked them at any time!" -- you seem to imply that I needed help finding God. My goal was not to find a way to help myself keep believing in God; my goal was to figure out what is true.

I wasn't a nonbeliever to begin with. I've told this story many times--I was a Christian for 23 years, remember? I went to Africa as a missionary for 8 months, and studied for four years at a Christian college where theology and Biblical studies were mandated alongside my physics classes.

I went to Africa, in part, as a "step of faith". I wasn't sure of myself, but I believed in God anyway. I believed God was calling me to serve him in this way, and I believed God would make himself known as I humbly obeyed. I prayed over and over that year, "God, reveal yourself to me, not as I think you should be, but as you actually are."

All my life, when I had questions about God or about theology, I would go to someone Christian for help. I would go to a pastor, or a religous leader, or ask my Christian friends what they think. I would read C.S. Lewis or Thomas Merton or Josh McDowell. I even did a church study on "hearing God". Finally, I began to notice all these different people were talking about God, but didn't seem to have a real, live, living God to speak to them like they claimed.

Exactly as Sagacious Hawk said--I didn't want other people to bolster my faith in God, when one of the tenants of Christianity is that God will speak to you and wants a personal relationship with you.

Do you and I have a a personal relationship, Bob? And yet you are willing to speak to me.

And you don't just speak in platitudes or quotations, either; you actually think of arguments and different things to say specific to what I am asking you. Suppose I told you that I wanted to be your best friend, and that I would do ANYTHING you asked me to. If you later asked me to do something, like come to your house, or send you some money, or just give you a call because you need someone to talk to--would that be an example of you making insolent demands on me, or would that just be you trying to take me at my word?

Of course, it was foolish of me to think God would want to have anything to do with a doubter--that he would ever reveal himself to someone who didn't already have faith. It was pretentious of me to think God would make himself known in a tangible way, or that he would stand up for himself against liars, against those who would falsely use his name. It's silly to think God's spirit coming upon someone would be anything visible and undeniable, and it's wishful thinking to imagine God would ever impower his followers with real miracles, rather than just empty arguments, when they encounter a challenger. It was stupid of me to think God would give a physical punishment to someone who failed to believe in him, or that when the Bible promised the bread and wine have power, it really meant it.

In other words, I guess I was just not as sophisticated as you. I read the Bible and thought that it meant what it says. I should have known that to believe in the Bible, you must believe it is "true" in some sense without holding any literal truth.

Or if my last post was TL;DR?

If you really wanted help and advice, you could have asked them at any time!

I didn't want help and advice. I wanted a relationship with Jesus.

I highly recommend How to tell you're an atheist by Daniel Dennett. I think this one is one of his best.

That's a great thing, even if they're a bit slow on the uptake!

I talked with my brother today. He loves me, he respects me, he doesn't agree with me. I think I just kind of 'vented' at him because I'm not scared of him like I am my parents. Told him a whole handful of things I've been thinking about, like certain parts of the Bible I don't agree with anymore, and how it really doesn't look like Christians are "filled with Christ".
He said how much he felt like he just wanted to "jump" on me with all kinds of reasons why I should believe, but he knew that wasn't what I needed or wanted right now. That reminded me that I should be respectful too, and make sure I'm not trying (too much) to argue against his faith.

He asked me straight up what I think about gifts of the spirit, like prophecy or speaking in tongues, so I gave him a straight answer. I said it's psychology, your brain tricking yourself, and "cold readings". I should have mentioned "confirmation bias" also. He believes in all those things.

We had a good talk. I still worry that my parents are going to stop being "understanding" and become angry when they realize I'm not coming back. But it feels so good to get all this off my chest. To be able to not hide it anymore. Hopefully this will work out for the best.

If you remain firm but respectful,matter-of-fact and almost non-emotional (or at least non-confrontational, it will make your family/friends very confused. If they get "angry" your response is one of maturity, as you look them in the eyes and say, "I no longer believe what you believe. Yelling at me will not change that" - and walk away.... Again, they will be forced to be respectful to you if they wish to engage in any kind of conversation.

For now it is still sinking in. I would not bring up the subject for a while. Just live your life and try to focus on other things. If they bring it up, set your boundaries. Don't let them sabotage the conversation, and don't let them press your buttons. Do not let them get a reaction out of you. This sets the expectation that they MUST respect you, even if they don't agree with you.

Do not agree to discuss things if you are not in the mood or if they come at you with their list of demands. If there is even a hint of disrespect in their tone, shut the conversation down, "I can't talk right now, I love you? Bye"....

You are in charge of you.
Bill of Assertive Rights

You have the right to judge your own behavior, thoughts, and emotions. You don't have to agree with the judgments of others. With this right comes the responsibility for the managing your behavior, thoughts, and emotions.
You have the right to offer no reasons or excuses for justifying your behavior. Sometimes you just want to say "no." You don't have to have a good reason for declining an offer. I practice my assertiveness when a salesperson come to the door. I say, "I'm not interested right now." Sometimes they want reasons, but I proceed to shut the door on them. But if it's a little kid, I'm nice. :)
You have the right to judge whether you are responsible for finding the solutions to other people's problems. Just because someone wants you to find a solution for them doesn't mean that you must.
You have the right to change your mind. As women, we already know this, right? :)
You have the right to make mistakes--and be responsible for them. Everyone makes mistakes. As long as we are taking appropriate responsibility, no one should make us feel even worse than we already do.
You have the right to say, "I don't know." We are not require to have all the answers. Besides, pretending like we do turns other people off!
You have the right to be independent of the good will of others before dealing with them. This means that we are not obligated to be nice to someone if they are nice to us! Around Christmas time, this is a huge issue. How many times have you scrambled around for a gift because someone gave you a gift and you weren't planning on getting on for them? In reality, you are free to give gifts to whomever you please no matter what they have done or have not done for you.
You have the right to make illogical decisions. We don't always make decision based on firm grounds of deductive reasoning, and that's ok.
You have the right to say, "I don't understand." It's ok to ask about something if you're not sure. No one should make you feel stupid.
You have the right to say, "I don't care." We may not have an opinion on every issues, and frankly, we may not even care enough to form an opinion. If we cared about everything from baby seals to HIV to what to have for dessert, we would get very overloaded--and very disappointed.
Physeter the Bill of Assertive Rights was presented to me at a women's domestic violence group. There are slightly different versions. I do however think the key concepts are powerful....I hope they give you the same kind of strength they gave me.


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