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.

~Brady


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The reason I wasn't sure you were talking to me is because you said I am young. Nice of you to say but in fact I am 48.

For some reason I cant link a reply to you comment so I'll post it here:

"dude! u are trying to bring the concept of sin into an atheist website! WTF did u expect! I see a motive here. your young. and very smart.
take care for your own actions. then look at the result."


Where did I try to bring in the concept of sin? That is a mind control tool. Nothing more nor less. Something I am very much against. Please explain so can see where my thinking is wrong and do the relevant therapy to ensure I do not make the same mistake again.

What motive do you see? My only motive is to try to find a peaceful, simple method way to change the thinking of religious fundamentalists and Evangelicals. If we can do this, among other things, we can stop all this pointless suffering that families such as Brady's are going through. I know this seems like an impossible task, but there really must be a key. We should be searching for it.

I do not feel name calling and sitting in the sidelines, laughing at other peoples flaws is very productive. In fact from my observations it only seems to make things worse. Very much worse. There is enough division among people and as rational thinking beings we owe it to our species to try to change that rather than add to it.

All the issues boil down to one issue. Behavior modification. All religious fundamentalists and evangelicals have been subjected to very rigid behavior modification by the religious leaders and community in which they live. The have been programmed. There must be a way to reverse this damage and free these people from the tyrannical control of their unprincipled megalomaniac leaders.

For the past 30 years or so I have watched a lot of atheists complain about religion, and try to make rational arguments with the victims/faithful. Its time to realize that this strategy does not work and a new one must be found. The method I suggest is one I have had some success with. If this method were applied by a majority and actually worked it would solve all the issues.

Of course it may not be as effective as I suspect, but it is very effective on psychiatric patients with delusional disorder. Since there are great similarities between this disorder and the thought processes of the deeply religious I suspect it will work.

I would at least like to see some research done to find out.
This site: http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/ is an excellent place to look at the research findings about the mind set of fundermantal and evangelical religious groups. I recommend reading the free ebook “The Authoritarians” by Bob Altemeyer. After reading that I am in no doubt that the Fundies and Evangelist are very sick people.

Basically I would like to see some attempt made to make a change rather than the apathy which seem to be the current tactic.
Sheryl,
I'm sorry for this late response,
I think to de program ones self is a very difficult task. For me, when I first stopped believing in God and Jesus I found I was left in a state of existential angst and mild depression. Though the depression sometimes got more extreme. I think that was a direct result of the programming. Fortunately I found Behavioral Cognitive Therapy to be the perfect way to combat these feelings and they are not a problem for me anymore. I recommend reading "Feeling Good" by David Burn. This book not only teaches you how to deal with your own negative and distorted thoughts but it also shows how to deal with all kinds of difficult and irrational people without ever becoming angry or raising your voice. It can be picked up on amazon for a couple of dollars and it is an excellent investment.
The therapy it teaches you o apply to yourself is simple and very effective, I can honestly say it changed my life.
Good luck
I just finished reading the book "The Authoritarians" 10 minutes ago and not surprisingly he recommends pretty much the same kind of action to combat this problem as I do as well as many other positive actions.
:D
You haven't hurt them as much as you haven't allowed them to hurt you.
LOL don't worry. At least you made me take a longer look at myself and what I had said. Thats always a good thing. :D
I don't feel like I've commited a sin at all. My family thinks I have I think. They definitely want me to come back to the "truth" that is God. I think it would've been closer to sin to live a lie, to practice something I didn't truly believe. Being honest with myself, and speaking my mind cannot be a sin.

I don't think what I've done is a 'sin' but I do think my family's reaction to my scenario is simply tragic. I'm still hopeful that over time they'll learn to completely accept it, even though it may take a while...
I feel a similar pain as you do with my family and some close friends. I simply choose not to speak about my Atheism as I am much closer to being anti-theist than anything else. The problem you face now is that saying nothing hurts them just as much as saying the wrong things, you need to cleverly formulate a discussion intelligently designed (Ha! Get it?) to back them into one of the many hypocritical stances religious followers take. When faced with a blatant contradiction of beliefs, any logical human being religious or otherwise will have to reassess their values.

Obviously a devout christian like your mother could be taken back in time to watch the inevitable man made creation of the bible and still find a way to justify god. If they truly believe their religion, your personal beliefs will not affect theirs whatsoever. It is their desire to "save you from hell" that I assume upsets them so much and to that, the reply is simple.

To believe in a god for fear of hell and no other reason, is no more commendable than withdrawing from committing a crime for fear of prison. To believe in a god in the way an omniscient god would desire, would be to believe in him purely for his majesty. Unfortunately your skepticism, education, reason, logic, intellect, and knowledge of worldly affairs, prevent you from connecting the way of the world, and universe to any god at all.



Perhaps that's just what I would have said, I wish you luck fellow Atheist. Your family will be resilient, and do what is right which is place their love and acceptance of you above their religious dogmatism.
Its not enough for your ego to name call me to me?..Now you have to try to get other to join in?.. Seriously how low is your self esteem James?

Last time I saw this type of behavior I was 12 years old and it was in the school yard.

And this is just an outright lie:
"You must admit, he does seem to have a fixation on violence. He has brought it up so many times."
Why should she admit it? It is your dellusion.

I have never advocated violence nor even confrontation. I have constantly said communication is the only way to peace. Prove your claim.. Copy and paste it all. If its true I will apologize.
As for "I am not the one that proposed violence. In fact, I specifically spoke against it. It's Keith that keeps bringing it up" Thats not true at all. You are the one who has subjected me to your own brand of psychological cruelty and violence through constant name calling and questioning my intellect (I know I don't have one but I don't need reminding).
I saw a post you wrote on Morality recently and you clearly have an excellent understanding of it. It's just a shame you do not think it applies to you!
Also...
What issues have I avoided?
List them please I will address them.

All I see is you projecting your own issues on to me.


I would never visit you James, not from fear though.
I offered friendship. You insulted me and made it clear you will never be my friend nor ever listen to anything I have to say no matter what it is . I just don't want to spend time with someone who's mind is completely shut to all but their own vision of the universe. My time is valuable enough not to waste on that. However now that you are trying to incite others to hate me and deface my character I feel I should spend a little time defending myself.

"I suspect him of being one and here to "stir the pot a bit"" I know I am stupid but what exactly does that mean?

Why we have to do this in public is beyond me. all you had to do was add me to your freinds and we could debate privately there.

Oh yes I forgot.. You need your ego boost!

Seriously James... Get some help! Before you really do hurt yourself or somebody else.
James..More blatant lies. What is your problem?
You are completely inability to accept criticism is sad.
The only obsession I have with violence is the desire to avoid it. Since you have subjected me to a great deal of psychological violence it is not surprising that I would fear physical violence from you. Your childish attempt to turn this and other arguments around by simply copying what I said and directing it back at me betray your inability to find a response to my arguments. I now suspect I was wrong about your intelligence too.
Accusation and lies are your stock in trade.
Avoiding answers is done by calling names.
I have asked you many times what tactics you recommend that would lead to the destruction of religious hold on society. Your response was to call me name.. I take it this means you have no idea what to do to change things. Why not just say that? Its nothing to be ashamed of. Nobody has all the answers and I certainly do not.

The way I see it there are only two explanations for you ridiculous behavior.
Either you are a sociopath or you are in fact a Christian simply posing as an Atheist to incite bad behavior and give Atheists a bad name.

My only interest in you was to convince you that the tactics of accusation you encouraged (apparently jokingly as you later backtracked) are wrong and the only way toward peace in any adversarial situation is through non accusation communication.
If attempting to convince people that the only way to change anything with any permanence is through peaceful communication makes me a troll, then I am a troll.
Regardless of everything you say, our conversation is proof that I am correct.
I am only sorry I lost patience and temper and let you suck me in. I know better and obviously its something I need to work on.
James,
Something else I feel compelled to point out. You spoke of your difficult relationship with your own family and dumped the blame on your families inability to accept you as an atheist.

In this thread I questioned your advice and disagreed with you. Your response was extremely hostile and you proceeded to insult me and attempt to bully me in an extremely juvenile way. Two other people have dared to question you and you did the same thing to them.

So here's the thing. The evidence implies that your family do not have a problem with your atheism. They have a problem with you.

Why?

The evidence you have given us here shows that any person who expresses the slightest disagreement becomes the victim of your childish rage and is attacked on a very personal level.
If you treat your family in the same way I am surprised they even acknowledge you.

Do you even have friends or are they just bowers and scrapers afraid to question you?
I suspect the latter.

Of course what do I know?. I am just a moron who sits behind a keyboard... Wait a minute don't you sit behind a keyboard too?

Oh sorry..... Am I questioning your ideas again. I better get ready for another barrage of silly insults, childish names and truths form your delusional reality (that would be lies in the real world James, just in case you are uncertain of my meaning)

You poor man. Your family must love you very much if they still can bear to talk to you. So many issues on the wall right before your very eyes and you just cannot see them.
It would be heartbreakingly tragic if it wasn't so pathetic.
How can a man of such obvious intelligence be so utterly deluded?
We may never know.
Well, I think I know how difficult a coming-out as an atheist can be.
I myself came out some 3 years ago. My aunt's family is quite religious (catholic, in church every sunday, my cousin is studying theology...), so one day I asked my parents (I was 23 at that time) if my aunt would freak out or so if I left church. I didn't expect my mother to start crying, ask if It hadn't occurred to me how that might hurt her (my mother!) and leave the room. Half an hour later or so she returned and indicated that my question had hurt her so much that she'd thought about killing herself (through an overdose of valium oder sth. like that)! I don't know if she really would have done that, I guess not, but she really sounded devastated...
The problem: To her, belief in god equals being good, at least that's what I conclude from her question "what did I do wrong when bringing you up!?!"
My father alsways kept playing the role of the Swiss concerning that topic - say as little as possible, no statements, stay neutral. I left church in Jan 2009, which is still a secret to her, only my dad knows since he does my taxes for me. I guess he's an atheist, too, but wouldn't even discuss that with me in fear of losing my mother.
BTW: Yes, I'm from Germany. Yes, the state collects church taxes over here. And yes, I envy the US constitution for its almost perfect secularism!

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