I have been an outspoken atheist for a few years now, and I've recently found out that my dads' brother, Ken and family are atheist as well.  This surprised me not only because my uncle once was on his way to be ordained, but growing up with my cousins, I remember the whole family being quite firm in their beliefs.  Their atheism came into public knowledge this past Thanksgiving when a debate broke out between their family and mine. (I'm the only atheist in my immediate family).


    At first, I was happy to see other atheists in my family, but I listened more than I spoke during this talk, and it seemed to me that Ken's family were, for lack of a better phrase, atheists for the wrong reasons.  The more they spoke, it seemed like they had a personal grudge against the churches, rather than a rational argument against a god.  Their logic was faulty, and their arguments were full of holes.  It didn't really seem like they were actually atheists, but believers who hated the church. 


   Now, I know my uncle decided against being ordained when the priest molestation cases were all over the place in the early 90's(Belleville, IL, where I live, had a very large number of them).  I don't know if the family had any first-hand experience with this, but the way they were speaking, I wouldn't doubt it.  Phrases like "I hate Christians" and "I would never allow a priest to enter my house."  were being thrown around by them.  I thought this was strange considering how devout I remember the family being.


   And then, there's Ken's son, Paul.  Paul has always been...well, just odd.  That's just something that the family has had to come to terms with.  For example, he once started up a .com business called "afterlife messages" about 7-8 years ago.  He would "hire" a terminally ill patient, then his customers would pay to have a message delivered to a deceased love one by the dying patient once they reached the afterlife.


I know...


   It failed outright, and our families had a good time making fun of him for it, but in hindsight, this really disgusts me.  I feel this is on the same level as Pat Robertson or John Edwards simply taking advantage of people's beliefs in order to make money, popularity, or what have you.  This is not something I'd expect any atheist to do, and I don't want to be affiliated with him at all.  But I've tried to talk with my family to let them know that not all atheists are as batshit crazy as my cousin, and I'm always greeted with a look that says "Oh god, he's turning into Paul".


So what should I do about this?  I go kind of passive on it, since I only see that family 2-3 times a year, but my immediate family sees them more often.  And as outspoken as they are about it (especially Paul), it seems to come up almost every time they are with my family and frankly, it's embarrassing.

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Wow that is a tough one Brian. I am a newbie atheist but have experience in dealing with people. Maybe you you could point out to your immediate family about the faulty logic using perhaps your own reasons for being an atheist. But I'm not quite sure how to approach the less rational members in your dads family. If your family could have some insight it could better equipment them in dealing with it. That my two bits worth of advice.
It sounds more like your uncle is an anti-theist, rather than an atheist. I really don't know what you could do other than trying to engage him in a private conversation about his beliefs etc, and maybe explain your position with relation to his. That is a pretty crazy situation.
Why do you need to do anything? Not all atheists are rational just as not all Christians are child molesters or like members of the Westboro Baptist Church. There is not much you can or should do besides represent yourself well.
I would talk with your uncle and explain some of your own logic. He may be an atheist or an anti-theist but not have the knowledge to distinguish the two. Education is always better than ignoring the problem.
I pretty much agree with everyone else. I also think that if you are able to get some private chat in, you'll be able to share your ideas and logic without disruptions and stuff. It may take some time, but I'm sure that after some thinking they will come to a much reasonable conclusion on where they stand as theists or atheists based on your input.

[It is true that both atheists and theists can be irrational/illogical, but that doesn't give us a reason to stop explaining to them their faulty logic]
Of course, one may see this as "spreading the word", but this is about reality when you are talking about science and good reasoning. People NEED these to be able to make good decisions, it has been proven and observed.
Yeah, doing a good thing for the wrong reason can be a very bad thing. To have people use bad logic believing they have the most logical answer is not good. I don't know about any of you guys but I feel that logic is the most important thing, and if someone where to give me a solid, logical reason for something I would stand by it. Logic should come before belief, you shouldn't have to defend something but rather you should be convinced of something. I know what I'm trying to say but man it's hard to articulate without sounding like a debate mercenary.
Thanks to everyone for your replies.  But really, my uncle doesn't seem to be the problem here.  All the kids in the family are grown up with their own kids, and I don't think that they are taking cues from Ken anymore, and really, I think Ken is the least outspoken of any of them.  Paul and his mom, Donna are really the most vocal of any of them.  But I think at the end of the day, the problem will have to be solved come the next family get together (where I'm present).  Like I said, I listened more than I spoke at Thanksgiving, and I'll just have to reverse that next time.  I've been really more concerned with the notion that maybe it was better to say nothing at all.  I think all of you have answered that for me.

I've noticed this a lot actually. a lot of people who claim to be atheist that i have met, like you said...only seem to be angry with organized religion or their god for some reason. Idk if that's really enough to define you're self as an atheist to most, but not to me. I agree that an atheist should either never have heard of a god in the first place, or have a rational reason why they do not beleive in a god. the later usually is rare in my experience, at least where I come from because it requires a person to actually do the research and start questioning their socially acceptable comfortable religion, which most people are afraid to do.


anyway, i guess the best thing to do in this situation, since you are outspoken..which is hard to be sometimes in the first place, is to make sure you're family knows the difference between agnosticism, gnostic atheism and well..the lack of belief in a god for the time being. More people need to know that not all people who "reject" god is bitter. They need to know that there are rational reasons for someone not to beleive in something..especially when that something isn't a default stance.

My mother is a bit in the same quandry, she still clings to much of the beliefsystem while simultaneously rejecting the Christian God. She generally hates Christians because she has been the victim of much malign behavior committed by people who claim moral superiority through religion. I deal with it by letting her occationally rant on and let off some steam, which she feels most comfortable doing in my presence.

My suggestion would be to actually let them have you as a soundingboard and appeal to their rationality once things start going completely pearshaped. I believe you might be in the best (non-professional) position to actually deal with this, especially since it may involve trauma. It seems they might be on a bit of a guilt trip over leaving something they still love and the best strategy in my opinion is the one used to deal with friends which have gone through a devestating breakup. Read up on the stages of grief, and even if it doesn't work you might just have learnt something new in the process.

Also, your one claim looks like true Scotman fallacy, but it's inconsequencial to the question posed so no harm done. :)


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