First of all, I love that so many sites out there use the phrase, "coming out," to describe this process.  It very much felt that way for me, and at the time I felt very alone.


I grew up in a strict, catholic family.  As a little girl, my imaginary friend was Jesus (I was probably just a bit confused about prayer at the time).  We went to mass every Sunday and I went to class once a week.  My father read the bible every night.  If I missed mass because I was camping with girl scouts, I was brought to Spanish mass even though I didn't speak a word of Spanish.  My father had me out on a picket line with pro-life signs at the age of 12.  My father would tell me that we knew the truth, and everyone else was wrong.  I was raised to think that I had to be catholic to be a good person, and I so very much wanted to be a good person and a good daughter.


It wasn't until high school that I remember starting to question some of the things that I had been taught.  I didn't have many catholic friends, and I didn't understand why I had to think that they weren't good people.  I knew otherwise.  My friends were fantastic, thoughtful, wonderful people.  I started to learn more about their faiths or lack thereof, and I discovered more common ground than difference.  When it came time for confirmation something felt off, I didn't want to do it but I couldn't quite explain why.  I was essentially forced to go to the retreat and I ended up completing confirmation.  I even taught an 8th grade class for our church after that.


I went off to college with big plans to study and learn and start a fantastic career.  Sadly, my father didn't lecture me on keeping my nose in a book.  He, instead, talked to me about the importance of finding a good man who believed the same as me (ugh inherent sexism).  I continued to go to mass for a while, but those nagging thoughts and doubts started to creep up again.  Within 6 months or so, I had put my thoughts on religion aside.  I only went to mass when I was with my family, and I was content with that for a few years.


My senior year of college, I went away to France for a year abroad.  There I engaged in more debates and thought experiments than ever before.  I stuck out like a sore thumb, and I was forced to take a good hard look at myself.  It was a challenging but rewarding journey of self-discovery.


I returned for home to my family for the summer (I had to go back to college for a 5th year to complete my double major with the year abroad).  At home, I tried to go back to the hum drum of going to mass with my family on Sundays, but this time I felt like a complete and total fraud.  My parents will tell you that I was being melodramatic, but before I came out to them, I honestly felt like I was dying inside.  I forget exactly what I said, but it was something to the effect of - I'm not catholic and I'm not going to church with you anymore.  This announcement was followed by a lot of yelling and crying and telling me that I'm going to hell.  I distinctly remember my mother telling me that she had failed me as a parent.  This hurt me so much.  I thought, "You failed?  You failed as a parent?  Your daughter is a dean's list student at a great university, she's going to graduate with two degrees, she volunteers at an orphanage on the weekends, she plays clarinet in the pep band, she speaks two languages fluently, she has a great group of friends, she doesn't do drugs or binge drink or sleep around, and she loves with all of her heart, but you failed completely???"  Arguments like that with my mom and dad continued for most of that summer.  I remember spending a lot of time walking the dog or escaping to the park.


The conversation went from I'm not catholic to I'm an atheist rather quickly.  My mother would say things like - okay you're not catholic, but at least tell me you're agnostic.  Due to common misconceptions about what it means to be agnostic or atheist (which are not mutually exclusive), I knew I had to be more honest and definitive in what I told them and that I had to do so in a way that they would understand.


I went back to finish college and things began to calm down.  My parents would still ask me to mass on Sunday during weekend visits.  My dad would send me jesus cards in the mail and sneak pamphlets from church into my luggage.  I ignored this and just went on living my life and loving my family as I knew how.  They eventually stopped.  I'm sure they eventually hope that I will ask to go to mass with them again one day, but they've accepted that things are as they are for now.  I can live with that.  There's no more anger, no more pretending - just honesty and love and that, my friends, you can have with or without religion.

Tags: catholic, coming, out, parents

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Thanks!  That is pretty much what I've been trying every time they mention something Grandma told them.  I also bought Richard Dawkins' book "The Magic of Reality" awhile back and I've been retelling parts of it to them since it's a little over their age range.  It's an awesome book where he discusses all sorts of scientific topics but first gives several of the most colorful mythologies that attempted to explain each topic, followed by the REAL scientific explanation that shows how ridiculous the myths are :)  But, yeah, I agree with you that over exposing them to all religions from our viewpoint is about the best way to vaccinate them from all of them.

I know second hand that Greeks still tell their myths to their children, as stories (they are still part of the culture), and apparently that even applies to emigrant Greeks.  I would imagine there has got to be some cognitive dissonance in the kids' minds there since the Greek mythos makes much better storytelling than the (allegedly true) stuff from the bible.

Emigrant Greeks are still considered Greeks.  We tell the myths because we need to explain what the ancient temples were for.  How could we understand the Parthenon on top of the Acropolis without knowing who Pallas Athena was?  Or Sounion, where the temple to Illios the sun god stands - or the Minoan culture on Crete.  The myths are not explained as religion, merely as stories.  There doesn't appear to be a reason for cognitive dissonance as a result of the myths.

I don't know much about Greek Orthodoxy because my family was not religious - but I wonder if their copies of the Bible, obviously in Greek, have the same translation problems encountered in the English translations.

Yes and no.

The old testament was of course originally in Hebrew, but a few centuries before Jeebus, it was translated into (ancient) Greek by (supposedly) 70 scholars and this translation is the "Septuagint."  Apparently Gospel Writer Matthew relied on this since it mistranslated "young woman" to "virgin" in Isaiah 7:14 and he alluded to the birth of Christ to a virgin as fulfilling this prophecy.  (If you read that part of Isaiah, it turns out he is just saying he himself plans to knock up the babe.)  In any case there are issues with the Septuagint as a translation of the Hebrew.

The new testament was written in Greek to begin with, so the translation problems would involve updating the  language some 1800 years, which I expect is not only easier than translating to t a totally different language, but also easier to do with Greek than it would be for English, because English has changed a LOT more since 500 CE than Greek has since 200 CE.

I have yet to come out to my parents because I know my experience will be very similar to yours. I don't want that tension while I'm living with them. I have 3 more semesters of college and then I'll think about telling them.

Probably a wise decision.  You're the only one who knows what you and your parents can handle whilst living together.  

I sometimes wish that I had waited until I was out the door on my way back to college.  Living there for the rest of the summer was tough, and that was just for a few months.  Sometimes I think that I was just nuts and I wonder where I got the courage.  My dad was physically abusive and controlling, but he hadn't hit me for a year or two by then.  I think I knew that if things got really bad I could escape to my boyfriend's place for the rest of the summer and take out loans to finish my last year of college.  I did escape there for maybe a week or so right after the first big blow up.

It's funny.  I had held on to that hurt for years without discussing it.  I brought it up this year and found that my mom doesn't really remember that summer the same way as me.  My mom now says that they've always respected my independence.  She doesn't remember the yelling, the badgering, the insults and injuries.  At first, I persisted in trying to get her to admit what she did and said.  Later, I realized that I just needed her to understand how I felt back then regardless of what she thinks happened.  We're not perfect, but we've definitely learned a lot about how to communicate and get along over the last 8 years.  I now have no regrets and no doubts that my parents love me just the way I am.

I hope for the best for you!

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