So recently there was an email sent out (by my father, to the rest of the family) and it was basically saying that all Democrats hate god and blah blah blah, nation dying blah blah blah, here are some bible verses. After some intense discussion where most of my family shat on my beliefs and called me stupid, I started a discussion with my father asking him to not include me on these types of emails in the future. He then said that I need to change my ways and I emailed him back instances where religion has failed and should not be involved in government. This was his response:
Here is my two cents.
Focus on persuading your father to accept an arrangement where you both avoid religion and politics in your email and everyday conversation. Emphasize that your relationship with him is important to you, and that you propose this out of concern that the resulting discord otherwise saddens and hurts you, and is harmful the relationship between you. Tell him the family bond is more important than matters of churches and governments.
Here's the most important part. If he insists on starting these conversations anyway, then go ahead and have them. But each time, remind him how he's insisting, express your concern for the relationship between you, and tell him you'd prefer to avoid these subjects in the future for that sake.
Then, have at it. His cherished beliefs are fair game by his own doing. Respond to what he says. Make absolutely sure you never attack him personally. Instead, put all your effort into refuting any fundamentalist positions he puts forth, whether religious or political. Prepare for it. Make it your hobby. Read up on common religious arguments and fallacies. Be a skilled debater. Do your homework. Stick with facts and logic. Cite your sources of information. Ask him to provide his sources and to be specific. Above all, read up on the Nazis, as you can be sure he'll make lots of feeble and fact-free comparisons between your views and theirs.
Sooner or later, after he's taken a few intellectual beatings, or dished out a few emotional ones to you himself, you'll have laid the groundwork for one of two things. He'll either accept your offer to avoid the subject, or you'll have good reason to tell him you'd rather delete his email unread, or withdraw from an in-person conversation and go home.
This approach might take years to fall into place, and may involve a few more damaging and hurtful exchanges, but in my similar experiences with hyper-religious family, it works eventually.
HONESTLY, you ask? Of course you aren't "horrible." What you are, unlike your father, is intelligent. The very fact that he justifies everything he purports to believe by referring to an ancient black book of dubious authorship is proof that he is not a thinker, but a follower, no matter how eloquently he expresses his beliefs. Please, Amanda, keep thinking! To surrender that right and privilege is to deny your humanity.
My only problem with you is the apparent lack of courage implied by your not proudly proclaiming that you are an atheist - a person who guides her life, not by supplication to supernatural deities, but by science and reason. In my 77 years of existence, I have encountered uncounted entreaties and objections from parents, relatives, friends, and others who tried to shame me into believing the nonsense they believed. NOT ONCE did it occur to me to replace reason with superstition. THAT really would have made me ashamed. I am unambiguously proud to be an atheist, and IF that's what you are, so should YOU be proud to embrace it.
Thank you guys so much for your thoughts. I really appreciate all of them. I'm getting to the point in my life when I'm just done dealing with my family. I've already "come out" to my step siblings and am going to tell my sister soon, I just want to tell her before I tell my father, step-mother, and mother and all hell breaks loose. I've been putting it off because I am a coward, I'm worried about losing them and being completely cut out of the family get togethers. I've already been cut out of several due to the conflict between my brother and me, and I feel that this could be the catalyst that would cause them to cut me completely out of their lives. Like a cancer, which is what they would think about me. Ugh kk enough bemoaning my situation, I'm sure others have much more difficult ones. Thanks again guys!
'To thy own self be true'.
Your willingness to pursue a path contrary to family and much of culture, while unsettling, is seen by many intellectuals as, the way to enlightenment. Sadly, I am not yet convinced that atheism is on that path, but it has been my experience, that if there is a reality, thet deep experience should offer a glimpse of it.
Your father, while commited to a position you find divergent from your own, still holds some things as sacred. These might only be perceived darkly, or measured with blunt tools, but could offer you both a ground on which to stand. Sadly, I have not always been able to find these with a shared clarity..;p(.
I wish you well. Mind /soul building is very hard work....
It's obvious, Amanda, that your father loves you very much, but it is equally obvious that like many Americans,, he's bought into the whole Judeo-Christian religion, written by men thousands of years ago, who weren't even aware that the earth was round.
As it says in the comical Christmas Carol I'll be posting in a couple of months, "It's better to be loved than to make a point."
I'd keep my letters friendly and loving and stay completely away from the subject, with one exception - if he includes a biblical quotation in his letter, without any further comment, in your return letter to him, include a quotation from someone like Jefferson, Adams, Einstein, or other famous pesron, denouncing religion. If you need some, I have lots.
When I was growing up, my dad was pretty religious, too. There was a lot of pressure from him to go to church and to be active in it. Even though he said I had a choice in going, I really never really felt like I did. If I had said no, then his disappointment would have been obvious. My father, being a man I respected, was not a man I wanted to disappoint. So yes, I felt like I was forced to go as well. Eventually, I wanted to go. I got pretty wrapped up in it, but it was more along the lines of "if you can't beat them, join them."
Venturing out on a limb, I'd say you might feel a similar way and that every time he attempts to convince you that he is right it comes back to feeling like you don't have a choice if you want his respect. It might help if you explain to him what your ethics are and where they come from. It's hard for many religious people to contemplate how to live life without it. My dad told me that without religion he wouldn't know what to do in life. They think that the same goes for everyone else that without the guidance of the divine, a person liable to go all crazy and the world will fall apart, which we can see is silly, but to him, that's how the world works.
It sounds like his religion is a very important part of who he is. I'd imagine he thinks it was one of the greatest things that happened to him. Telling him that you don't want to hear about a part of his life that he thinks is the greatest thing since sliced bread is probably pretty disheartening to him. He may feel that your rejection of religion is a rejection of him.
Assuage his fears. Let him know that you are still an ethical person and you certainly going to lead a life like that of his father. Help him understand you and where you are at and how you view life. He's concerned about you. He thinks that he's found the best way to live life and that (probably because of his experience is life) he thinks that any other way will lead to ruin. And he wants that best way for you because he cares. So when you say that you disagree with him about matters of faith, I imagine he might also take it as a rejection of a gift that he's trying to give you out of love.
I know it's seriously tempting to combat these fallacious ideas about a Christian country and the Biblical basis of America and how the world will end if Jesus isn't important and all that other nonsense, but leave it for another day. That's not the battle you need to fight. Don't get distracted. The battle you need to fight is acceptance. You won't do that by standing apart, but by reminding them that about values you still share. If your family wasn't important to you, I don't think you'd be arguing with them or worrying over this enough to ask a bunch of people on the internet their opinion.
Here's an example right here that I couldn't help but notice: "He then said that I need to change my ways and I emailed him back instances where religion has failed and should not be involved in government." Your dad is saying that he is concerned for your future and you respond with politics? I can see your point in there (religion can be detrimental to people's lives), but that's the wrong way to go about explaining it especially to someone who is likely to never experienced how it can hurt others. That's a point you can start from: by explaining how their actions are hurting you. That you want to be a part of the family, but that you feel that being religious is part of that requirement.
It's a fine line some of us have to walk. I hope it works out for you.
Thanks Hawk, you have a lot of valid points, thanks for the time and thought you put into responding to this. And I think that's probably the best route.
Well, I do what I can!
imo, the very first sentence is suspect:
Well, my question would be when did I ever “force” my beliefs on you? You may have been required to go to church when you were under our roof, but you were never forced to pray for Christ to be your Savior.
Children model strongly off of their parents in a natural and automatic way; to the point of overriding external cultural influences. That's not wrong by itself, but this is a dicey subject you have to be really, really careful about, imo. I think taking you to church should have been presented to you a little more objectively, by allowing you to ask to go after speaking to people of different faiths and, of course, atheists. As long as you do this due diligence, what you teach by example isn't bad by itself.
You're right, that first sentence is suspect, because he did force his beliefs on me. We went to church at least 3 times a week, we were home schooled (I was the only one who didn't go to the xtain school my siblings went to for high school since we moved and there were no xtain schools around us), growing up every adult that I had contact with told me that I was going to hell if I didn't accept jesus as my personal savior AND when I finally did my family would refuse to tell me if I really was saved for not. Hell is a terrifying place to think you are going to when you're a little child (or at anytime if you believe in it). We had family devotion time every night where the bible was read, prayed before every meal, holidays all related to christ in one way or another, and other faiths and belief systems where ridiculed and said to be false. What else was I supposed believe if I didn't want to go to hell?
Ugh, sok, stop rant now. XD
Welcome to the 'A little more light Zone'. As an atheist/humanist, we often rant at theists, find fault with other beliefs, and net-pick at details. Atleast, you are more free to change your mind, and allow yourself the opportunity to try the options from column B, without too much condemnation. What condemnation you do received can be mostly ignored, unless they are from the sysop. LOL
Wow, really sucked to be you as a child! That whole "home-school/Christian school" thing is nothing more than an effort to keep any other ideas out of kid's heads except for the ones Mom and Pop want in there - a combination of brain-washing and Stockholm Syndrome.
In this country, that constitutionally separates church from state, Bush II established vouchers - taxpayer money - for parents to use as tuition for private (i.e., religious) schools, relieving those parents of the burden of paying for their decision to indoctrinate their children in a plastic bubble, isolated from real life, and placing it on us.