Hardest thing about coming out Atheist....causing pain to my religious family

First off, these first 2 paragraphs are an intro to me and my stance since I haven't posted here before.  I come from a very Christian family.  My mom attends church every weekend, and church get-togethers and everything like that.  She plays guitar in church.  My younger sister is damn near just as devout as is the rest of my family.  As for me, I only went to church when I was young because I had to, because it made my family happy.  I never truly submitted to any of it.

I was always skeptical of religion even though I never said a word of it the first 22 years of my life so I got to thinking:  This isn't right, I should be able to voice my beliefs to my family and friends.  At the ripe age of 23 (two months ago to be exact)  I did, and so far the results of doing so have been tough to say the least, more so for the rest of my family, but if it hurts them, it hurts me.  I love my family and I hate putting them through this but I just couldn't stay quiet any longer.  I couldn't keep going to church and thinking how ridiculous everything was. I couldn't keep pretending I was a Christian when I wasn't, and never truly was.

This has truly been hell for me seeing what I've put my family through by coming out Atheist.  I know I've really hurt them, but there was no other way to do it.  It had to be done.  My mom and sister came to visit me this weekend for the first time since I graduated college and I have discussed my decision and the religion topic in general a few times with them over the past few days.  I can tell they are devastated.  To me, it's my decision and is no big deal of course (at least it shouldn't be) but what is tearing me up is the fact that they're actually crying over it and making me feel like I'm lost, like I don't actually know what I believe in.  My mom asked if I would still go to her funeral, being an Atheist.  I was like 'WTF?!  Of course I will'.  She said she couldn't stand the thought of me being at her funeral and not believing she was in heaven.  They made it so that I honestly didn't want to defend myself, not that I couldn't.  I just didn't want to defend my Atheist stance because I knew whatever I said would just hurt them more.

Anyone else have advice for me that isn't cold and unrealistic?  I know my family is ignorant and I love them, so I don't want to abandon them or anything.  I also don't want to cause them pain because of my stance.


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No, you won't think your mom is in Heaven, but you also won't worry that she might be in Hell either. I worried about that as a child, when my grandparents died. They were fairly good people by secular standards, but by Christian standards? They swore a lot and were secrectly racist and I never saw them go to church. I was afraid they were in Hell. Just hearing them saying "goddamn" a lot made me think that!

Or, you could just lay on her the fact that, according to the Bible, NOBODY is in Heaven (or Hell) until the final judgement of Armageddon. Everyone's in limbo, unaware of the passage of time. Nobody is in Heaven or looking down on you or anything like that. Even if you DO believe in God, the Bible doesn't say anything about people going straight to Heaven, except Jesus!

Whatever you say to your family, it isn't going to be enough. This is something they're just going to have to learn to accept. There really isn't anything at all that you can say. Just give them their time and space to sort through it on their own.
Galen, I don't think being racist would have been something God would have held against your grandparents.
Knowing my mom, she refuses to believe any of our family might have a remote possibility of being in Hell. I tried suggesting to her that I don't believe in a Heaven or Hell and it just made things worse. She brought up the religious argument that if I don't believe in Hell, what makes me good? I tried arguing that humans as well as many other mammals are born with morals of what is right and wrong and that we don't need a book telling us this, that it is redundant and not needed. Then she was like "No, babies are born full of sin" blah blah. I brought up the Bible saying a lot of things that aren't moral to me, like hating on gays and stoning nonvirgins to death, etc. Then she brought up that the Bible wasn't literal. It's just so frustrating to argue with them that I just don't want to because all her replies are based around blind faith.

I've come to the conclusion, as you said, I'll just give them more time and if they are a truly loving family, they'll accept it and move on in time.
This is very interesting. Actually, you yourself should be living proof for your mom. When she asks you what makes you good if you don't believe in hell, you need to ask her if she thinks that you are a good person. Surely she does. That should be all the proof that she needs. Not to mention countless examples of christians who are not good people, and non christians who are very good people. Clearly one doesn't need to to act on the lowest level of thinking (fear of punnishment) to do good deeds and be a good person.

I think a lot of the time christians play the "out of sight, out of mind" game when it comes to the topic of hell. They don't seem to bat an eye at the eternal torture of the majority of the worlds population as long as they and the ones close to them will be in paradise together. I think most of them know this is not good nor loving, but they prefer not to think about it as they would rather focus on the heaven and angels side of it. Your coming out as an Atheist in and of itself isn't the sole source of the pain for them, though it plays a part. No, I think it's forcing them to consider the dark side of their beliefs as they can no longer push them to the back of their mind. In other words, you're making them actually think about it.
The fact alone that people talk like they're going to Heaven annoys the Hell out of me (no pun intended).

I know what I'm saying is forcing them to think a bit more about what they believe, or at least it is for my sister. My mom has been too long with it to doubt it in any way, but it's not my goal to convert any of them at all. I just want them to respect my beliefs and not keep trying to get me to come back to Christianity (the dark side IMO). Ya, the argument that morals come from the Bible is completely ridiculous. What I find more scary than anything is that there ARE people that harbor the reason that people would be heartless barbarians if an ancient book didn't tell them how to act.
The, "Am I a good person?" question is an excellent response, Apple. It's so simple I feel a bit dumb saying I've never thought of that reply.

I also agree, wholeheartedly, that the biggest thing about being an Atheist around people of faith is that they are then compelled to actually think about what they believe in.
I completely understand what you are going through because my family is very religious too. Not only my family, but my wife's family too. I abandoned the "not cold" solutions a long time ago. Trying to argue something that people base their ENTIRE lives upon while trying to be considerate of their feelings, takes far more intelligence than I possess. I don't believe you will make much progress in doing so either.
When I am confronted about my beliefs, I do not spare their feelings (family or not). I will be respectful and never do I resort to name calling or projecting biased opinions (my opinions) about what they believe other than I don't think it's right.
As for your mom implying that you are not good because you don't believe in a heaven or hell, you should tell her that good and evil are not based on those two places. Look at Ghandi. He wasn't a christian so I am almost certain he didn't believe in the heaven and hell your mother believes in. Would she argue that he didn't understand what good is because of that.
I always like to say to people who argue things similarly, "God is evil." Mostly I enjoy the shock effect, but I will explain. Ask your mom, "Is god omnipotent?". She should say yes unless she has a free thinking brain (doubtful since she is a devout believer). Then ask, "Did god create everything?". She will definitely say yes. Then ask her, "Who is the most evil being in existence?". She should say the devil. Now if she answers the way I just outlined, then she has just said that god is evil. Because god knows everything (omnipotent) and created everything (including the devil), knowing that Lucifer would do what he did and become what he became. So god created Lucifer knowing that he would become the most representatively evil entity in existence. Therefore, god created evil. Now, I don't believe in god or the devil, but christians do and your mother's idea that you cannot understand what makes you good if you do not believe in a hell falls flat because good and evil do not start at those places. They started with her god. She will refuse to believe it but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be said. Sorry this post is forever and a day long.....hope it helps.
Thanks for the welcome! I'm really glad I found this community to exchange experiences and thoughts with.

I knew it wasn't going to be easy coming out to them and I'm confident that they'll become more tolerant of my stance in time, although I do think they'll always be disappointed. I was so sick of pretending and really it was a huge relief to finally let out what I actually felt although the consequences have been tough to bear. Honestly, I wouldn't come out to your family until you're ready. You have to accept the fact that they'll never be ready though so do it when you feel ready to deal with their response emotionally (the hard one as I'm finding out right now) and intellectually (the easy one). Personally, I wouldn't do it while living with them though otherwise you'll never get a break from the questions and hardships that come with it and I also think they'll need time to take it in without you. Some choose to never come out at all, but then again maybe those people don't have to be submerged in it as much or pretend as much like we do either so it's not as big of a deal whether they come out or not. Also, I've always been an honest person and I hate holding things back or hiding things which is another reason I deemed it necessary to come out. I thought my family, if anyone, has a right to know what I actually believe whether they were going to like it or not.

I believe our generation has a job to bear the burden of 'coming out' to our religious upbringings so future generations won't have to. It's been hard, but necessary to me anyway...and if my family truly does love me, they'll learn to accept it.
I respect and admire your bravery, Brady.

I also completely agree about coming out to make things easier for those that follow.
My "coming out" is on a "Need to know" basis. And nobody I deal with (including family) needs to know.
I thought my family needed to know, I was just getting too sick of hiding things and pretending.
And what would you define as the "need" to know?


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