Well this is my first post on here, and its a bit of a long one, so please forgive me. Yes, it's another one of those need advice with family type posts. Let me give you some back story for this one, so settle in. :)
My entire life I've been pretty much an "on the fence" agnostic atheist. I really didn't care one way or the other. My father was catholic and my mom was baptist, but growing up, neither really practiced except on major holidays. I was baptized catholic but honestly didn't care. It was done when I was six, so I really didn't have a say in it. As I got older, I started reading more, and exploring the world around me, I really started questioning the existence of any deity at all, and about at age 14 or so I told my parents that I was an atheist. They both told me "No you're not," and I just dropped the conversation because they were my parents and who was I to argue with them. The subject of religion really never came up again, and I continued to read books voraciously and suck up everything like a sponge, ever increasing my lack of faith.
Fast forward to January 2010. Near the end of the month my father passes away, and I as the oldest of four children, step up to the plate and deals with all the crap that comes with getting arrangements taken care of, along with dealing with a shattered wreck of a mother, a grandmother (his mom) who is trying to push her will on my mom and is causing nothing but family drama, and a host of other problems on the personal front alone, with job issues being a whole other department. By this time my mom started going to church more and more, and me wanting to be a caring son, said some words of comfort to her such as "Dad's in heaven now" and "he's in a better place" and whatnot. I didn't believe a word of what I said, but anyone who has dealt with a grieving parent, you learn to be as comforting as you can.
Skip ahead to a couple weeks ago. My mom was on her laptop doing her thing, and I was on my laptop doing mine. Out of the blue she says to me, "I know you don't believe in God, but I know you believe that dad is in heaven, you've told me as such." When I told her that I really didn't and said that I told her that because I was trying to be comforting to her, she looked at me like I had immediately grown three more heads and six more arms. The look on her face was one that was of disgust. Later that week I tried to discuss my beliefs with her, she just shut me out. For the past couple weeks, our relationship has been fairly rocky. I've been reading more books by atheist writers and more books on my college major, psychology, while looking for work and listening to archives of different podcasts, just generally doing my own thing. Well today she walks by me and says " you know, ever since you started reading more, you've been confrontational to me." I didn't know what to say to that, so i tossed my headphones in until she left the room, then called my girlfriend and discussed it with her. She basically told me that I could move in with her and her family, and the company she works for is hiring and could get me a job. I currently sleep on the couch, and have been unemployed since february of last year.
Ok, enough of the backstory. My question is this: How does one deal with a parent like this, since I'm living with her currently and, as of right now, have very little money and no where else I can go? I've seriously thought about dropping the one class I'd have to go to campus for next semester, selling a bunch of my possessions and moving in with my girl.
Any thoughts would really be helpful, since it really feels like I'm banging my head against a wall here.
Great title, very appropriate for the topic. First, let me say I am sorry for the passing of your father. I can hear you are in a very difficult situation with your mom. I'm not sure how much advice and help I can be but be assured you will find support here.
Becoming an atheist and evolving into your non-belief can be very empowering. Especially when you do a lot of reading on the subject, you get inspired and want to share you thoughts with others as it all seems to make so much sense. Although I encourage this and hope you speak out as much as you can, I think when dealing with a family member, patience and acceptance of where they are in accepting you is warranted and needed. If your mother has deeply held beliefs and raised you to believe as she did, in some ways, she may see herself as having failed. Speaking as a parent myself, this is something we would hope never happens. There is also the cliche old dog new tricks and that combined with your new ideas may be too much. Might you be more confrontational because of what you think? I have no way of knowing that, only you do. But try to be in the moment of each encounter with your mother. Be aware of your feelings both emotionally and your reactions physically. Do you tense up? Do you get angry, impatient? Acceptance of where she is in this process is just as important as her acceptance of where you are. Perhaps more so even, because the transition for you may of seemed natural, to her, it will take longer. But as ironic as this may seem, come to her with reason, you're not a criminal, you're not violent, you have just come to have a different view of life. Reassure her your love for her and your hope just accepts you for who you have become. There's really nothing else you can do. Remember though, with the death of your father, she is most likely struggling with her emotional state, and your "rebellion" in her mind, may only add fuel to the fire. She needs support and love. Give her that.
In terms of moving in with your girlfriend, again, I hate to cop-out but that is something only you can decide. You said you are the oldest? With the death of your father, do you think your siblings have turned to you for support now? Would moving out be the best thing for your them and for your family? You have your whole life to be an atheist and an activist. You have friends here that will allow you and encourage you to do so. But perhaps now is a time to give a little with your mom. Ask her what she needs from you. You do not have to change your beliefs to do so.
Parenting is the hardest thing in the world. Our love for our children outweighs anything as does our sorrow for their pain, or failures. It sounds like your mom is struggling with many changes in her life. As hard as it might be, be there for her. Your girlfriend and all of us will be here for you.
I am sorry for the great difficulties you are experiencing in your life, at this time. I hope things improve soon.
That is a very touchy situation you are in. I am curious. If your mother knew you did not believe in God, why did she accept what you said about comforting her about your father being in heaven? I was wondering if, possibly, when you told her that, she took it as a sign maybe you would come around to her way of believing, or were in the process of doing so.
On the other hand, she then stated, later, she knew you did not belive in God, and in the same breath, she said she knew you believed your father was in heaven. When she did that, she may have been wanting to broach the subject with you because she was wanting to sort it out.
I was wondering, if you could go back to that moment, would you have replied differently, knowing what you know now (the drama that it caused)? Any further comments I might have on your thread would possibly require me to know your answer to this question. Thanks.
Firstly thank you both Robert and Flower for your replies. Your words of encouragement have given me hope, and both of you point out a few things that I did not see in my haze.
When I have more time later I will reply to both of you individually, but for now I wanted to seriously say thank you.