What Advice Do You Give To Those "Coming Out"?

I answered a teen's post on Yahoo Answers the other day and thought I'd throw out the question here for general consideration.

This guy was looking for advice on how to tell his parents he was an atheist. They were both theists. He didn't give a lot of details about his family, but I got the impression that he thought his parents wouldn't take it too well.

What I wrote was something like this: When you tell them, let them say whatever they want and express whatever feelings they have without you trying to stop them or "explain" yourself. Let them get out their initial "shock" reaction and don't ratchet up the emotions by stepping in or telling them they're wrong. At some point when they calm down a little, tell them that you didn't realize they would be this upset and ask to talk more about it later, where you would be more than willing to tell them anything they want to know; you will answer all of their questions. Tell them you love them dearly and don't want to hurt them or anyone else, but you need some time to calm down yourself before you can talk rationally about this stuff.

I'd like to know what advice any of you have given, and if it's worked out. Maybe others who read this thread in the future can get some ideas to try. I know there are lots of places around that give advice on this subject. If you want to link to those, that would be good, too.

Views: 28

Comment by Misty: Baytheist Living! on September 26, 2009 at 9:10am
My first suggestion is caution.
After seeing a few cases here on this site, I'd NEVER tell an under-aged person to come out to their parents when they still live under the same roof and depend on them for essential care. One kid had to face abuse, neglect, basically starvation because his fundy parents thought his soul was more important than his health. Whatever you believe, it can wait until you are on your own two feet, depending only on yourself.
I also caution people about coming out to physically unwell family members. For some, this is a huge, gutting shock. Affirming your lack of belief is important for one to lead an honest life, but is it selfish to do so when it will seriously injure/harm another?
After that, my advice is to do a lot of 'good' works to reaffirm you're still the person they've always known. Don't pressure them with discussions (as tempting as it might be) but answer any questions they might have with a calm, thoughtfulness.
Comment by Nix Manes on September 26, 2009 at 9:24am
I agree with the idea of not doing it when depending on parents for your livelihood. I forgot to mention that in this guy's original post he insisted that he "had to" tell his parents very soon, but wouldn't say why.

Thanks for your input. Very helpful, I think.
Comment by Reggie on September 26, 2009 at 11:25am
Everything is heavily influenced by the situation the closeted atheist is in. For some, like Happy Tikiman, coming out atheist in his community could cost him his budding business and livelihood. Others may face situations like what Misty outlines. More and more, many of us have the luxury of coming out and not suffering too dire of consequences for it. My advice is to take time and think it through very carefully before rushing to make any proclamations. Be prepared to lose friends, be harangued, become a pariah to religious cliques, and enjoy the wonders of reality that so make up for all of the former.


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