Why I'm wary of "coming out" to my family

I came across a comment by Eoganachta Mor on my last blog post that brought up some similar thoughts of my own. The original comment was as follows:

The irony is that people talk about 'coming out as an atheist' like they do with homosexuals admitting their nature to their parents and friends. It's like there is some great problem with these things. I cannot understand why people discrimerate like this!! It is ironic that everyone assumes that you are a straight christian until you say otherwise. It's crazy! Why doesn't everyone have a clean slate about a person before having to correct all the assumptions they have made?
Assumptions are bad scientific practice!

As sad as it is to admit this, I feel I must count myself fortunate to have been born a heterosexual, due to the rampant homophobia and intolerant remarks I've noticed from my family as well as others in the area where I live. My mother and grandfather have been accepting of my atheism and I know that if I had been a lesbian they would've found the strength to be accepting of that as well, against the ideas that were taught to them by the church. My dad, however, has made offensive homophobic remarks fairly frequently for years, and even stopped going to church entirely because ECUSA (Episcopal Church USA - the national church as a whole) has decided to be open and accepting of gays in ministry. This has a point, I promise. And here it is.

For a long time, this was what kept me from voicing my doubts about Christianity to my dad, even before I became an atheist. I was afraid that he'd view me the same way he views others with certain "different" viewpoints or lifestyles. (Today, as I mentioned in a comment on my last blog, I refrain from telling him because he is quite sick and I feel that casting doubt on his beliefs would be detrimental to his emotional health. I believe that he would be more open to accepting my viewpoint now than he would have been a few years ago.) He was raised by strictly Catholic parents who went so far as to refuse all forms of birth control (in fact, his mother had six live children in total and many more miscarriages, and nearly died giving birth to my dad) - so I have little doubt about the kinds of absolutes he must have been brought up believing. He's no doubt come a long way from where he was, but I'm sure that he's still at a disadvantage because of the things he was taught by the Church.

My mom's side of the family is also mostly Catholic, though for the most part they seem to be more reasonable about issues like birth control and wifely subservience. My late uncle on her side married a woman shortly before he died. It was the second marriage for both of them, and they both had kids already. My newest aunt is a very lovely woman in many ways; she is kind, generous, and loving. However, she has one large flaw, which is that she was also brought up in the discriminatory, conservative Christian culture. I was at her house with my parents, grandfather, and ex-boyfriend (also an atheist) a few years ago, and she was ranting about her son going to visit his father. Apparently the father was dating a younger woman - an atheist - who was really into doing things for shock value.

She and her son are both Christian (she loves to tell the story about how they both got "saved" at the same time - never mind the fact that they had already been "saved" prior to that) and she was up in arms about the fact that her ex-husband wouldn't take him to church on Sunday. She went so far as to say that his girlfriend "better not be teaching [her] son any of that atheist devil-worshipping crap!" I was deeply hurt, and didn't feel free to speak up in the presence of my dad, so I let it go.

It's sad that in this day and age, with all the scientific advances and acceptance of non-Christian religions, there is still such a backlash against non-believers. Nobody cares much about what you believe as long as you still believe in some sort of god. I suppose if you believe in the "wrong" god, then they figure that you'll still have a good chance of being rewarded for your faith... or maybe they figure that even though it's the "wrong" god, you still have a basis for morality because you still have the threat of being punished or rewarded by a deity. It's sad that people will go to such lengths - believe horrible things, do horrible things, ostracise their loved ones - all basically because they are so afraid of ceasing to exist when they die.

When will people realise that morals mean more when they aren't coming from empty threats and promises, and that it makes no sense to accuse an atheist of worshipping anything due to the very nature of atheism? And perhaps most importantly, when will people stop clinging to outdated notions of "Big Brother in the Sky" and realise that non-existence after death is not a scary thing?

Views: 25

Comment by Mario Rodgers on March 6, 2010 at 11:37am
Nothing chaps my thighs worse than somebody calling an atheist a "devil-worshipper". There is just something horribly ignorant about that belief. The more kids that free themselves from religion's influence, the better the future of the world will be.

I don't know of any religion that believes it's okay for other people to worship other gods. It's only through secular pressures that people are forced to seem tolerant. I've even seen people write posts to a person of a different belief saying "Yes. As a Christian I believe you're going to hell. But that's not for me to decide your fate." What nonsense is this? Stop and think about that for a second and you'll realize that one, you sound absolutely fake, and two, you willingly worship a monster with that much control over your fate just for what you believe.

But people need to have their religion seem tolerant and peaceful of other religions to make it seem attractive to potential followers. Atheism is the last group of people along with homosexuals that seems socially acceptable to abhor and discriminate against. And even homosexuals are gaining acceptance!
Comment by Rowdy Allen Moore on March 6, 2010 at 4:08pm
Great points. I was raised in a non religious house. I had nothing to start with but an interest to find something. I looked into all religions to see if one fit my personal take on life. None of them fit my thinking. A friend of mine argued that he questioned God because of suffering. His basis was that people that sin sometimes don't suffer before death and that people who haven't sinned sometimes suffer a long time before death. I tried to explain that sinning has nothing to do with your death. A human body failing is just the way things work. He could not pull the GOD part out of his argument to get what I was saying. It's like blaming or giving credit to a big father figure that's not there, to just make sense of the world. In my area people accept different versions of Christianity but if you say you are atheist they look at you like you have a third eye. My family does listen to my point of view but they haven't figured out where they stand yet. Maybe not pertinent, but its my first comment on this site. Thanks =)


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