So over the holidays my sister and her husband come from out of state to visit with Mom and the rest of us. During that time we had a private discussion about theism and my lack of participation. Then my sister says "I really wish you would stop talking to Mom about your atheism. She loves you and can you imagine her hell that she won't see her boy in the afterlife because of your belief." I was a little annoyed that she made a comment like that. So now I am stuck between a rock and a hard place. Should I address my mother's hell and attempt to somehow placate her or just leave it be? I have to be true to myself and not live a lie. If my mother's anguish is real how can I help her deal with it? She has said nothing directly to me about it but has evidently confided in my sister. I wish dear ole Mom could see things differently but her reality is not one without god.

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Comment by James on December 28, 2011 at 12:23am

I would remain true to myself, but still talk to her about it as well. If she is truly worried about not seeing you in the afterlife, you could always try telling her that if there really is an all loving God and you face him after your death, that the fact that you were a good person in life should be far more important that what you believed or didn't believe. So, if there is a loving god, and there is an afterlife, she has no need to worry. Of course, whether that works will all depend on what brand of believer she is.

Comment by Ed on December 28, 2011 at 9:29am


Thanks. This is what I hate about religion. It puts people in untenable situations like I find myself. In some ways it's similar to being a therapist or shrink at a mental institution. Hopefully it won't drive me crazy as well.  :^ )


Comment by Ed on December 28, 2011 at 10:19am

@ Flower

I can understand your suggestion but to do that would be the first time in my life I have lied to my Mom. Granted it would be one of those little "white lies." As if that mattered.

Comment by Ron Humphrey on December 28, 2011 at 11:06am

It is a difficult situation.  Somewhat similar to one I found myself in a few years ago.  I was visiting my last living aunt at Christmas and some how it came out that I did not believe.  The reaction was that I had ruined her Christmas.  I papered over it as best I could, but did not back down.

If your Mom loves you and from your post it seems that she does, put it in those terms.  Say to her that you know that she loves you and that you love her unconditionally.  If she does, she will not be so upset.  It seems that it is your sister who is upset with you.

Comment by Scott A. Hunt on December 28, 2011 at 1:15pm

I've been thinking about this lately.  I keep wanting to ask my mother about how she can believe in a god that would send me to an eternal hell for not believing.  But if someone murders me and then repents, the murderer gets to go to heaven.

Comment by Ed on December 28, 2011 at 2:10pm

@S  cott

If you ever figure it (religion's illogical nature) out I would appreciate knowing.   :^ )

Comment by John Willis Reiser on December 28, 2011 at 2:17pm

The fair thing is to first ask your mother whether or not she has discussed this with your sister at all.  Your sister may well be taking the liberty of projecting her own beliefs onto your mother. If she did, you should indicate a willingness to discuss your beliefs with her, if she chooses, but you should not lie to her about praying to Jesus or to Pete Rozelle or to anyone else, nor should you get into a mode of asking her questions you know she cannot answer.

If your beliefs make her uncomfortable, so be it.  You never took an oath to never make anyone uncomfortable and nobody promised her that her children would always agree with her.

Comment by Ed on December 28, 2011 at 2:19pm

@ Ron

" It seems that it is your sister who is upset with you."

This is probably more to the issue at hand. My willingness to assert my atheism has somehow shook the foundations of my sister's belief. Perhaps she is annoyed that it has caused her to pause and do some personal inner reflection. Soul searching if you will.

In order to save our relationship we have mutually agreed to not engage one another about theism. Sex and politics are still on the table, for now.  ha ha

Comment by Scott A. Hunt on December 28, 2011 at 2:25pm

@Ed I think we would all like to know that answer!

Comment by Unseen on December 28, 2011 at 11:03pm

She knows you're an atheist. That bell can't be unrung, unless you want to pretend to "convert" to her brand of religion. I suggest you only talk to her about it when she brings it up. What's the point of talking to her about it anyway?


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