OK, so here is the deal. My family is really, REALLY, religious (Southern Baptist) and I slowly separated myself from their beliefs for the past 5-6 years until about a year ago where I am a full blown anti-theist. As one might expect, this has caused tension with my family (they don't know that I no longer believe in god, they just think that I am a horrible Xtain). This came to a head about 8 months ago when I posted on facebook (oh wonderful facebook, the place to go for drama) that I support gay rights and that they should have the right to marry and such. While this got a lot of positive feed back from my friends, my two (lets call them Cain and Able lol) brothers started posting things such as its a mental illness and that god does not approve and such. Their posts of course received a lot of negative responses and while Cain backed off (to fight another, less public day), Able kept right at it, even going so far as to call my friends and myself some kinda ugly names (liberal crap head [lol], embarrassment to the family, dumb, unintelligent, etc) After the name calling started it got really ugly as one can imagine. Able is also a police officer and he also said things like how the police are anti-gay and other things that could really get one in trouble. Believe it or not, Able's facebook was then "hacked" and he had to delete his account.
All this led to a phone conversation I had with Able were he called me more names (little bitch being the most common) where he decided that we just weren't going to see each anymore. Time went by very peacefully for me, except for my father telling me that I needed for forgive Able and such and me ignoring him and telling him that if Able wants forgiveness then he has to call me and apologize. Anyway, a couple of weekends ago I come to find out that my aunt and uncle were up to see my step-mom graduate, I couldn't go to the graduation because it was mother's day and I didn't think that my mother would appreciate me going to see my step-mother on her day. They had a huge family dinner, and since my bother was up, I didn't find out about my relations even being in the state until after they had all left. I confronted my father about keeping me in the dark and basically lying to me and he said that it wasn't to hurt me, just to not cause drama.
I happen to feel that they are taking his side after all the shit he said about me and I am the one being punished, not him. Should I not be feeling this way? I am just...I don't know how to say what I am, just...empty...over this experience. I feel let down and abandoned by my family, I wanted to "come out" about my atheistic beliefs (I knew it would be a big deal and I would probably loose them, but I had hope that they would just love me anyway) but I feel that after this experience I really can't because then I really would be viewed as the worst person ever and they would shun me. And while I love my husband and his family (they are much more open minded, my husband is an atheist as well) I don't know if I could stand being cut off from everyone in my family.
So I guess, what do you think about this situation and is there any advice on how I should deal with them?
(Sorry for the book)
Best of luck to you, Amanda. Please, let us know how it turns out.
Not to sound trite:
Above all else, to thine own self be true
--"...then it follows, as the night, the day, that thou canst not be false to any man."
Polonius, to his son, Laertes
As Gary suggested: To thine own self be true.
It is important for you to stand your ground and do that which keeps you at peace with yourself.
I always suggest that a 'coming out' atheist approach family members one on one or in very small numbers, otherwise they will usually gang up on you. I would avoid a religious debate and just express your fundamental reason(s) for becoming atheistic.
Finally, it is important to stress that you are the same person inside and still love your family very much but want them to respect your decision as an adult who thinks for herself. Love should not be conditional or predicated on one following the rules, regulations, and beliefs of others. I would consider it superficial and petty on their part to ostracize you from the family. In the end you must do that which provides YOU with self respect. Family harmony is not the key issue here. Remain resolved and hopefully they will come to accept your lack of belief.
Thanks Ed (and Gary), it's important to hear that from others. I try to avoid conflict as much as possible (hate it when my family is mad at me or in general) and will more often just bow to their wishes instead of sticking to my guns, or at least appear like I agree just so there won't be any more conflict and we can move on to something else. I have defied them in so many ways one would think I would be a pro by now but it still gets my stomach in knots.
You might already be having that dinner with your parents, so my thoughts may be too late for your first big coming out event. But I'll share a little anyway.
I, too, grew up going to church twice on sunday, and wednesdays and fridays too. Church camp every summer. I even taught vacation bible school. My extended family now runs the gamut of non-religious to full on creationist. My immediate family is mostly pretty liberal christian, so it wasn't as difficult as your situation when I came out to my parents, sis and bro-in-law last year.
Here's my standard opening gambit when I'm talking to christians about being atheist:
If I am wrong, I am more than willing to stand before god on judgment day. If he knows my heart, he knows I have always sought the truth. I did not willfully turn away from him. It was my desire to understand him and know his will that drove me to deeper study of the bible, and to try to define my faith more clearly. It became harder and harder to reconcile my faith with the god of the bible. If god knows my heart and will punish me for eternity anyway, there's nothing I can do about that. And if that's the kind of god he is, I cannot worship him. (Not will not - but can not.)
I find that starting from that experience generally puts to rest the subject of salvation. I'm willing to let god be my judge, so they should also be willing to leave that up to god.
After that, there's no telling where the conversation goes. But honesty and looking for common ground are usually good tactics.
Wish you the best! And you are not alone!
"I can't believe in the God of my Fathers. If there is one Mind which understands all things, it will comprehend me in my unbelief."
-- Gerald Kersh --
I hate to say it this, but in your situation I would not tell them right now. You are clearly very emotional about this topic and I would wait awhile and clam down. Issues with family are offen very emotional and you do not want to make a bad decisions in the heat of the moment. If your family is very important to you, it is not worth losing them. All I am saying is wait. Tension in you family is very high right now and will at least would wait until it is clamer and your fight with your brothers is over. If family matters to you a lot I would not risk it.
you are not alone.. same here
my family aren't just religious.. they r Muslims..
and if they found out ( you can google that) :l
hope everything goes well with you <3
Oh Cheesus I would have the most fun with your family if I was you. Btw, when you do come out to them, it might be interesting to come out as a satanist first, then when their jaws drop just be like JK IM ATHEIST! and it won't seem so bad.
Meg - the last person posting that they had a problem similar to Amanda's, I suggested telling the family it was cancer, followed by "just kidding," - but I suppose Satanist would work too --
I want to give you a hug. I'm in kind of the same situation just not as dramatic and severe. I'm happy you have your sister and husband. I've been lucky enough to have an atheist friend group to vent to (and this amazing site). Let us know how the dinner goes. This is kind of inspiring me to come out too. I wish I could help and give you advice, but I'm stuck in the same rut and not sure how to go about getting out.
But what I can say is, be strong and do what you think is right for you. Sometimes you have to put yourself first and do what's best for you.