When I quit the seminary and left the church I tried to slip as quietly out the back door as I could. At this point my theology professors from college, many of my college and seminary friends, and most of my extended family know I'm an atheist. I officially resigned my membership with the SDA church almost two years ago. Now I'm an atheist blogger and I've talked about the SDA church on the Chariots of Iron podcast a few times.

 

I'm as out of an atheist as I can be, both with those inside the SDA church and everybody else.

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I can't imagine what a struggle it would be disagree with your wife on how to educate your kiddos. You probably feel a major loss of power.

I missed responding to the kids detail when I responded to your initial comment on my blog. I would agree that having your kids force fed psudoscientific BS 24/7 would be terrifying. Here's a few approaches that might make a compromise possible:

1. The kids can go to church regularly and to an Adventist school as long as they go to Camp Quest each summer and as long as you are free to teach them science and critical thinking yourself.

2. The kids can go to church if they go to public school.

3. The kids can go to church regularly if they want to and they can go to an Adventist school through elementary school, public school for middle school, and they get to choose which for high school.

My husband and I left the Adventist church 3 years ago. We transitioned out to a non denominational Christian church for a year, then finally stopped attending. He considers himself agnostic and I'm an atheist. We have three children. Our 11 year old still considers herself Christian, our 15 year old thinks of herself as an agnostic/theist and likes what I've told her about being a Unitarian, and our 18 year old son considers himself an atheist along with me.

I have told a few close friends, but none of my SDA friends and family. My father is a retired SDA minister. My parents are traditional SDA's, who are nearly 80 years old, and are devastated that we left the church. They pray daily for us to return.

We've been approached by several Christian friends about our lack of church attendance, and my sister just carefully asked me a couple of weeks ago, if we were still attending church. I told her that we had become uncomfortable with organized religion, having come to realize how many different ways of interpreting things there are and have decided that religion is a personal thing. I told her that most major world religions have some variation of the golden rule, and that we're loosely using that as a good guideline by which to live our lives. I don't know what I'll say if she pushes further, asking if I still believe in God.

Sometimes I'm "tempted" :) to fill in the blank religious status on my facebook account to indicate that I'm an atheist, but the thought of my parent's broken hearts prohibits me from doing so. Thankfully we live several thousand miles away, so that helps us maintain the God believing illusion for now.
It took me quite a while to put atheist on Facebook. My parents already knew that I wasn't a Christian but the last time we had talked about it I still loosely believed in some kind of god. When they either saw atheist or first heard me use the word it was no surprise. You're parents already think you're an apostate, what more damage could you do?
When I told my (clergyman) brother, his reaction was, "You're an agnostic. Atheists believe they know there's no God." I felt this was an issue of semantics and that probably no atheist claims to know there's no God, but that all evidence would point to the absence of one. I told him that to me, agnostic meant "the question of whether a god exists is unknowable," and that I didn't like that word because it implied I was bumbling around not really knowing what I believed, when in reality I had made a clearcut intellectual stance on the matter.

A few conversations later he said, "I don't think you've rejected God after all . . . I think you simply have the wrong idea about what it means to be a Christian," pointing to factors in my upbringing. I said that rejecting a god kind of depended on me believing that that god existed. Which I didn't (and don't).

I'm still so grateful that he didn't start treating me any differently as a member of the family. I've heard such heartbreaking stories about people being ousted for their honesty.
How many of those stories are from Adventist backgrounds? We have the advantage that our families don't think we'll be tortured for all eternity, I think this makes it a lot easier.
I think you're right. Those stories (from http://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/) are frequently told by apostates generic American Christian denominations. People on that forum who grew up nontheist are the minority, and some are from European families where nonbelievers seem to enjoy a much warmer reception.
That's a good point that our SDA family don't believe we're going to be torchered forever, which must make it easier for them. I'm grateful for that.

If I were to tell my parents that I am atheist, they would cut me out of their will. Ellen White gives a lot of counsel about not leaving an inheritance to children who are "not supporting the cause of God". Here's a link to an article by G. Edward Reid, the SDA financial guru who has authored books available at the ABC and conducted financial seminars at SDA churches around the country. Of course, this is to encourage members to leave a significant portion of their estate to "furthering God's cause". http://www.willplan.org/sermon8.pdf (You have to scroll down several pages to the "Responsibility of Parents to Children."

My parents told me years ago that if either my sister or I were to leave the Adventist church, that they would cut us out of their wills as my Aunt and Uncle had done to my cousin, although he doesn't know it. Of course, I didn't think that would ever apply to me, but I still found it extremely sad at the time, thinking "What about the prodigal son?"

When I told them I had left Adventism, I told them that I realized this meant that I would be cut out of the will, but that I had to do what I believed was right, and that this important decision had only come after many hours of studying and prayer. I wanted them to understand that I hadn't taken this whole thing lightly.

They haven't said anything about it since. My sister has told me that as the executor of the will, she'll know if they do that and thinks it would be wrong.

My guess is that they are still waiting to see if I'll return, or have decided to interpret EGW's statements loosely as being about children who aren't Christians. Perhaps they have already cut me out and are able to do that without my sister's knowledge, I don't know.

It's not like there will be much money involved anyway. And a third of it already goes to the church. (They consider that to be like their third child.) My husband and I are comfortable financially. I guess I just find it such a hurtful thing for a parent to do that to their child, that I'm not ready to know/accept that I've been officially shunned/orphaned.

Even though they at first believed I was lost when going apostate, I think they still cling to a bit of hope that I'm just temporarily misguided and might return to "the truth". If they know I've become atheist, it's like I've not only left the country, but I've left the planet, in terms of not "coming home again".

Because they are in their late seventies and both of their sets of parents had died by their early eighties, I don't expect them to live another twenty years like some people do. They both have poor health.

If we lived closer and I saw them frequently, I would be less likely to allow the illusion I'm still a Christian to continue. There was no way I could get by with dropping out of Adventism and them not knowing - it's such a major lifestyle and there's such a grapevine involved, but in my current situation, I can dodge the question of whether or not I'm a God believer or not. Truthfully, I don't think they would want to know. My dad has already said that if I was going to leave the church, he wishes I would have waited until after he died.

All things considered, so far, I've decided it's just not worth it to me to officially declare my freedom on facebook. I'm already able to live my life the way I want to, it seems silly to "force them" into a position of cutting me out this late in the game, and kinder to allow them to retain a bit of hope. If this would have happened twenty years ago, I would have just laid it all out. They would have been in a stronger position to consider there may be a chance I'm right about leaving. But, they've invested their entire lives in the church and just couldn't bear to ever see Adventism as less than true. It would be devastating for them to spend their last few years knowing they put everything into a bogus belief system. Of course, I had to go through the stages of grief in realizing that I wasted 40 years in it myself, but I'm young and strong enough to come out the other side and spend many more productive years barking up a valid tree.

On a final note, if I were to fully divulge my atheist status to them, if may start up another barage of letters, books, cd's, e mails, etc., re-doubling the effort to bring me back. We've achieved a state of agreeing not to discuss religion, and I'd rather not stir the pot.

This sounds like my in-laws. Pastors family. Not very close to any of their children, but very eager to dangle the golden carrot of inheritance! in front of all of them.

 

Currently, they aren't speaking to my husband or I because my husband's brother is dating a girl- an Adventist, for crying out loud- that they don't "approve of"...for no discernible reason. So, my husband told them to back off. His brother is only 40. Never been married. Wonder why?

Yep, my dad's a retired pastor and takes a lot of pride in his celebrity status (even though he was never in the GC) within the church. It was very difficult for him to cease to be the spiritual shepherd/mentor for my husband and I.

Pride and fear. That's what it's based on when you get down to the roots.

In a way, I guess I'm playing into that by not telling them I'm an atheist now. They would be not only heartbroken, but shamed. And hence, so would I.

When I left Adventism, I came to realize how much importance I had always placed on what other people thought of me. The more rules you have, the more judging goes on. And I was very good at playing the game.

Then there's also the deal that if you are educated and reasonably good looking, you're a rock star in Adventism. It was hard to become a nobody and loose that esteem. How freeing though! I now realize how ordinary I am, and I've come to embrace that.
"If you're educated and reasonably good looking you're a rock star in Adventism."

I never realized how generalized that rule is until you said it. I remember being treated that way, but now that I think about it, so were others who fit that description.

lol I was one of the ugly ones. :D

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