I mean, they love me and they're not overly religious, but I'm still nervous about bringing up the topic at all because I'm not entirely sure how they would react to the news. I've kind of made hints and they've seen me with irreligious books (eg. The God Delusion), but I'm kind of a wuss to bring it out in the open. Any hints or tips on that or stories of how you told people you have close connections with the truth? Any and all help would be appreciated.
I was going to recommend reading atheist books but it appears you have already done that. Try to give them enough hints to let them figure it out on their own then tell them. If they already think you are an atheist they won't be very surprised when you tell them you are.
This isn't an easy issue to deal with, I know. But if we can all give a few tips and/or warnings, I think it could help you out a lot. I'm not expert, but these things are coming from my experience:
(1) Exposing your true beliefs will save you a lot of internal stress; being able to talk with a friend or two about it first can really help you in breaking the stigma about the conversation and relieve the stress of it having to be such an unknown, scary conversation when it comes around to your parents
(2) Don't shut yourself off from religious people in a disrespectful way; being humble is more often a good thing than not... just because you don't believe the material they believe doesn't mean that you should (or that it would even be beneficial to you) raise trouble and riots in the street... you are still going to be the same person after you've said that one short sentence
(3) Remember that you aren't apologizing or anything here; you deserve the same amount of respect as any other person... if you feel like you might "let them down" or "hurt them," think of it rather that you are being real, honest, and genuine with them... i'm willing to wager that any parent would like to know their real son rather than some guy that ran around, sucking his thumb and saying cute things
(4) Time helps; it'll help you to start being open about yourself sooner rather than later... be open, but not announcing (like you need to ride down Main Street and shout it from your car)... people will respect you for what you are doing and, in time, that hurt that one might feel from your actions will fade away--you didn't do anything wrong, rude, or disrespectful... it is them who need to come to their senses about the situation
Good luck, man! I'd be glad to hear how it goes and this site looks to be around for a good while if you need to blow off some of the steam... ;)
hmm maybe you could tell them in relaxed time, tell them slowly and i guess just stand up for what you believe in =) it is your life anyway, nobody can change you. i'm sure your family will support and respect your opinion =)
In my case, it came about unexpectedly. I was visiting my mother and when she suddenly asked 'When was the last time you went to church', I responded with 'Aside from attending weddings, not since I became and atheist.' Since she's become much more religiously active the last few years, she wasn't happy about that, but we sat and talked about it for a couple hours relatively civilly. It probably helps that she's not a fundamentalist or YEC Christian, and has a degree in biology. We've been swapping books with one another since then. I'll loan her 'The Blind Watchmaker', she'll give me Strobel's 'The Case For Christ' and so on.
I told my dad a day or two afterwards, when I called to get his take on my mother's reaction. Dad took it well, but then he's never been overly religious. I'm actually more worried about telling my grandmother and a couple of my uncles and aunts than I was about telling my parents. They're more hard-core, and I wouldn't be surprised to get the 'but atheists are evil' speech from them. With them, I'm trying to work it up gradually, via a comment here, a discussion there.
Nolan, living in the bible belt of Texas, I shared your concern 20 years ago while in high school (35 years old now). It was easy to "come out" to my friends and people I didn't know, but not to the people that gave birth to me.
Ultimately, I just did it. I believed that I had nothing to be ashamed of, and that they where the reason I was an atheist. I did not have to "come out" - I just am who I am and just need to be my self. If those that love me could not accept that - well it was their issue - not mine. Realizing that, one night after dinner - I asked my parents if they knew I was an atheist. My mother, a Catholic, was horrified and in denial. But I explained that they raised me to be an individual, to form my own beliefs, and to stand by my convictions. I explained that I shared their value system, just not their religious belief system. I thanked them for that, told them I loved them for that. The key, Nolan, is to be able to articulate your thoughts, to not get upset when they do, but stay calm, and ask them to respect who you are and what you are. The rest is up to them.
20 years later, we still share different views on religion, but they are my best friends and we still love each other dearly.
If you wish to talk further, just send me message.
I am also still in the same position, my parents are not fanatic but they believe that the Christian religion forms a vital part of morality, afterlife and all the wonderful things that I have heard since I could remember. For me it’s hard to think what their reaction might be and if everything is going to stay the same after the “confession”. But the solace comes in knowing that after you play open cards with them, they will respect you for who you are. And if they are loving caring parents their love for you will outweigh Jesus any day!