Twice a year since I have stopped being christian, I face a dilemma. Being the daughter of two christian/ex-catholic parents, the you can probably guess what two days those are: Easter and Christmas. Since I am still at the age where I spend my holidays with my family, and my parents feel it is necessary to go to church on these days, I usually get dragged along. Every holiday I am torn: do I go or not? And with Easter just around the bend, this question is once again on my mind. Oh yeah, keep in mind my parents do not know I am atheist.

So here are the arguments for both sides:

1. Don't go
Well obviously, I don't want to be anywhere near a church any time of the year, so why would I want to go on Easter. Also, I feel the whole "its Easter we HAVE" to go is such a disgusting attitude for christians to have (though my parents pretty much go every Sunday). I feel that I am old enough that I shouldn't be expected to tag along, and that my parents should ask if I want to go. Finally, I feel like I am not being true to myself. Every churchy act I am forced to mime my way through is painful. I practically rolled my eyes the entire way through my cousin's recent catholic wedding...

2. Go
Not going would involve coming out to my parents. Which would only cause drama and probably involve my mom crying and calling someone from my churchy past to talk to me and "get me back on track." Then the whole holiday would be awkward and my extended family would hear about it at the grandma's house and my mostly christian family would quietly tut behind my back and wonder "what went wrong." Also, with both me and my brother at college, Easter is one of the few times that the family is together all day, and I know that is important to my parents. It makes me feel a bit selfish that I can't suffer through one hour of church to make a nice day for my parents.

So there is the problem. I am torn between being true to myself and self-sacrifice for my parents.

Anyone got any advice or similar experiences?

Views: 82

Comment by Morgan Matthew on March 4, 2009 at 11:30pm
I agree with Doone. I have caused so much drama with my step moms parents (and her) it is not even funny. Trust me not a fun christmas holiday.

BUT that was two years ago

Last year I did not go and nor did they :) So pushing logic on them actually worked and they thought about it more :)
Comment by James on March 4, 2009 at 11:42pm
A compromise like that could work. But I think her biggest conundrum is the way the family will react to her Atheism. Making it clear that you wouldn't go if you were by yourself still involves letting the proverbial 'cat out of the bag'. How you think everyone will react will make a big difference. But if you do come out, make it clear that you have been an Atheist for a while now. Quite often, people will realize that they never noticed a difference. That was the reaction I got from a good friend. She was aghast and was worried about what had happened (as it something terrible happening has to make you an Atheist... but that's another rant). But I told her that I had been so since before we ever met. When the subject came up years ago, I had said that my parents are Catholic, so she simply assumed. Just being a good person all along buys you more credit in this department than you'd think. Due to this my parents were quite OK. My dad was better than my mom, but you have to really think how they will reach.

But in reality, you will likely need to tell them eventually. So why not get it over with now so that they are better equipped to deal with it and you have more time to explain exactly why you feel as you do. Time is a healer, and they should come to terms with it. Maybe you can tell they your feelings, but ask that you ask that they respectively not spread the news to everyone. My parents and I have a similar unspoken agreement. They know but haven't told any of the rest of the extended family. Likely out of my wishes and partially not wanting to have to explain anything. But it works.

OK, If I were in your shoes (as I was with my GF's mom last x-mas), I'd respectively choose not to go to the service, explain why if pressed, and attend the family gathering as you normally would.
Comment by Morgan Matthew on March 4, 2009 at 11:44pm
But in reality, you will likely need to tell them eventually. So why not get it over with now so that they are better equipped to deal with it and you have more time to explain exactly why you feel as you do. Time is a healer

my point exactly :)
Comment by noisician on March 4, 2009 at 11:52pm
I know where you're coming from.

Even though my family is theoretically religious, none of them ever go to church any more (as far as I know), so holidays are no problem with them.

But my wife's family are regular Catholic church goers, so we used to have to go with them any time we were at their house on Sunday or the 2 big holidays. Eventually after several years they got the message that we don't go to church ourselves (even though my wife still considers herself a Catholic) and stopped asking us to go with them.

There is something to be said for making people accept or at least deal with you for who you really are, rather than who they would like you to be. Gay people come out, and I have to admit I think that would be even harder than coming out as an atheist. But yeah, I am like you and have not come out to relatives who'd be unhappy.

1 hour 1 or 2 times a year is not bad if it makes your parents happy. But it's the principle of the thing I guess, not just the incredibly boring hour at church, right? (For the latter, maybe you could try to make a game of it and take note of all the crazy superstitious things that the priest utters.)

Or tell them you've become a Scientologist.
Comment by noisician on March 4, 2009 at 11:54pm
For some reason, with my wife's parents, they wouldn't be upset if I told them I was a Scientologist or a Mormon or a Buddhist or any crazy thing, but if I told them I was an atheist I know they would freak out.
Comment by MightyMateo on March 5, 2009 at 6:39am
Eh, I dont see a problem with going to church with your parents on the holidays. If this is what they like to do then you are simply accompanying them. I would not participate in any of the little ritual they do though, you know, like bowing your head to pray, singing songs..."please stand" "please be seated" etc.. Thats what I did anyways. Point is, sooner or later we all have to face the things that scare us most and I know how terrifying it is to worry about potentially losing the respect of your family. If your family is a close one, and it sounds that way, they should be able to see through the god fog and realize what is really important, their daughter, family. Maybe it will get them thinking about things as well.
When I visit my parents, and they know I am atheist, I go to church with them if they want me to but it is rare. I dont believe any of that crap anymore and its not like religion is an actual disease that needs to be washed off after you enter a church, (Though I do feel like a shower after I go) I find it interesting to go and study the people some times. My family is close enough to know what really matters and what is really important so when I told them I was atheist they accepted it and did not seem upset or ashamed at all because they love me unconditionally. It's liberating to get that off your chest though and it seems to me that your family is very close, hopefully they should have no problem seeing what is real and what is important, you.
Comment by Rev. Tom Hicks, D.D. on March 5, 2009 at 7:47am
Yeah, just go. To them it's 'bout their savior & for you it's spendin' time with loved ones. That is a compromise & family should always come first. You'll understand when you have kids of your own.
Comment by Dave G on March 5, 2009 at 2:13pm
I run into this when visiting my grandmother over Christmas. Grandma, and most of the rest of my family, range from nominally religious to quite religious. And one of the regular, long-standing traditions is attending the Christmas Eve service at my aunt's church. Usually I have at least one cousin who is performing (singing, usually), and everyone is expected to be there.
While I have no real interest in the church service itself, save from a sociological point of view, I always attend the Christmas Eve service, and I try to see it as a family outing. Lots of family there, the music is usually good (you don't have to believe the message to enjoy the music), and while I may not believe in what they are celebrating, I do believe in spending time with family.
I don't participate in the rituals, though. I'll sit there quietly, listen to the music, and entertain myself by making counter-arguments to the preacher's sermon in my head.
Comment by davesnothome on March 6, 2009 at 1:24pm

OK, I'm going to be the boat rocker and I'll rock it with a quote from Sam Harris; " ...the very ideal of religious tolerance—born of the notion that every human being should be free to believe whatever he wants about God—is one of the principal forces driving us toward the abyss." It's that quote from The End of Faith, and that book that really turned me around. I'm not sure when I stopped believing but I am sure when I stopped pretending and it was about halfway through his book.

Lauren and I love our family but we constantly have to decide what to do in your situation regarding being dragged to church, and with even more uncomfortable situations like everyone standing in a circle holding hands and blessing the damn food ...better yet, figuring out how to respond to the insistent "bless you's" when one of us is unfortunate enough to sneeze.

It is my personal opinion (as not to decide for everyone) that this site is a place to learn how to graciously resist the social, familial, and governmental pressures to conform to expectations based on an archaic religion that should have been kicked to the curb decades ago.

I feel a huge responsibility to spread reason where I live.

Comment by Whispers on March 6, 2009 at 9:35pm
You can always try an excuse. You are not feeling well, want to get easter dinner ready etc etc. It is not the bravest route to go, but if you think your parents would flip it is a good start.


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