It is a tragic event when a son or daughter comes to their religious parent and proclaims their atheism. It is usually never good. Like scenario A: (which happened to me) Son comes to mother says I am an atheist, mother tries not to judge, son wants to talk about it to her, mother does not.

This leaves a huge elephant in the room that we both try to ignore. Am I so wrong that I dont want to ignore it? I want to talk about my beliefs to someone who has told me all of my life that my soul will burn in hell for eternity for how I now believe (or don't believe as I pointed out to her). It makes a normally pleasant mother rude and mad. I get hurt and it usually ends in a yelling match. We both blame the other.

I am sure to her this confirms that atheism has made her wonderful son a militant and is a bad thing to be avoided. How do I talk to her about my eternally damned soul, and that she needs not worry. I am sure this happens a lot. I have heard Christians share stories about their son/daughter turning atheist and that it has turned their otherwise sweet child into a devil. Theists on average get mad discussing the topic, its just a fact. Atheists can see it as any other topic and can talk candidly about it. I was hoping to psychologically analyze this debacle and help all other new atheists in this situation.

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My mother - tremendously Catholic (an adult convert at that) never condemned me for my atheism. But, I must admit, that we didn't talk about it much. Nevertheless, it didn't seem like an elephant in the room. I actually put it down to something she once told me:

The Church is a human institution and, therefore, fallible. And, while I hold the Bible to be holy, language itself is a human invention and, therefore, inadequate to infallibly convey God's intentions.

Now - to me, this seemed part and parcel of her tremendous cognitive dissonance - she was so smart, curious and knowledgeable about the world otherwise. This statement seemed to be the 'crack' that let her logic in - gave her wiggle room to love the message of love and forgiveness and elide some of the condemnation crap. So, while she was very Catholic in so many respects - she was able to be a pluralist - even with me and her granddaughter.
Your Mother sounds like an open minded and intelligent woman. I'm surprised she isn't atheist herself, lol!
Wow...for all of us that have grown up in a religious home, I think we can all relate. I go through it everyday, with my wife. We learned long ago that we just can't talk about it. She cries instantly (because I'm going to hell) and I get frustrated because she has absolutely no interest in finding out why I decided to leave christianity. However, I do know how she sleeps at night.
A christian told me once that god will reveal himself to everyone. For some, they can look at the "miracle" of child birth and instantly "know" there is a god. Others can look at the world and instantly see god. I told my wife god hasn't revealed himself to me yet...perhaps one day he will. I did add that its going to take a lot more than a baby or a tree...god is going to have to come down form the heavens, pull up a chair and answer some questions before I will accept his existence. At any rate, the pressure is now off of me and onto her fictitious god. She thinks he will reveal himself, so I am free to sit and wait. She doesn't push me to go to church or anything, because she knows I'm not going until her god reveals himself. She's just waiting patiently. It's a compromise of sorts, but it seems to keep the peace for the most part.
I don't want to be presumptious - but you put it out there. I think you might be lucky in a certain way. It appears that your wife loves you in a way that has put a few cracks in her faith. Maybe not. But it sounds to me that she might have been relieved that you gave her that 'out' - so to speak. I mean, basically, your 'detente' can last indefinitely. Interesting approach. Maybe you should be a professional diplomat.
Howard...
For me, I learned long ago that there is no possible way (today) that I am going to be able to speak openly with her about it. I mean, she is a teacher at a christian school. Even if she knew for a fact there was evidence out there that proved her beliefs wrong, she wouldn't want to see it. It would mess her little happy world up. It's like she's in the Matrix and likes it there. That being the case, its best to find a middle ground. For me, letting her hope that god will bring me around again is certainly the easiest way to keep the peace. It doesn't help me with the fact that I can't talk to her openly about what I think, but at least she's not crying over my impeding doom or trying to get me back fromt he dark side any longer.
that would make me very sad living like that... you're brave. that's true love.

I am a little more needy with my return of love. I need to understand her and I need her to understand me. Love is such a wonderful thing. It can bring together the most horrible differences of opinion. Even theism and nontheism.

I'm also much more blunt than you. If I saw my gf crying over god, I would talk to her about how a benevolent god wouldn't send me to hell forever and at least he would let me reincarnate and try again. That is what punishment is for: to learn. If god punished me and then sent me back to try again, you have nothing to worry about.
of course... then there's the little problem of the bible...*sigh*... theism is some very sad stuff. It would devestate me to believe that the love of my life is going to hell.
that's very clever of you. i feel that I have resolved the tension by making my girlfriend more secular and she now sees church as more of a social gathering than of learning about god. I'm really happy about that. I live my life always ready for the debate, but I really like how you managed the conflict like that. I hope that someday, perhaps close to death, you will come up with some new story though... I don't want you to lie to her and say that you see god because that would make it harder for other atheists and I don't want you to die without proclaiming you know god because that would devastate her.

you might want to think that through.
Yes, my girlfriend is a Christian also. We talked about our beliefs when our relationship was still young. We talked about it in a much more calm and mature manner. I asked her questions that she could not answer, then she told me that she didn't want to talk about it any more. I totally respected her wishes and haven't brought it up since. We left it on a pleasant note and it seemed to earn a more mutual respect between her and myself. But I was thinking that my Mother and I, we didn't have that pleasant ending and I guess I needed to have that feeling of respect from her. After all this is the woman who reared me to believe that I would be going to hell for the way I live now.

I look at he world and see wonderful things also. But you have to see the flip side, there is pain, suffering, starvation and confusion in this world also. Does God get credit for these things too? It might make her think about it.
You're a hell of a man. Hat's off to ya, my buddy.
This is why I would never marry a theist. Hell, I would never marry at all.
Rayray - Don't know how long ago this was or what has happened since, but I think in the immediate you did what you could. You put it out there, you kept the door open for discussion.

If the Theist relative doesn't want to walk through that door, that's on them.

I know that's much easier said than done. There are relatives I would love to have cleared the air with way more than we did. But ultimately, that conversation has to include both people.

And unfortunately, sometimes the Theist chooses to shut down. To be bothered by the big elephant in the room. Or my favorite, to make drive-by digs at the Atheist but then refusing to discuss it like an adult.

It's their problem.

It sucks because it's like losing that loved one.

It's why I think there are a lot of closet Atheists out there who would rather pretend to the world (and even themselves, as I did) that they are following the herd for fear of separation from that herd.

But at least you know there are other Atheists out there. We can form new families, find new loved ones.
Yes, its like the only problem with being an Atheist is the fear of God's beloved children. Its a shame. I'm still partially in the closet. Only a few people know, but I have only been atheist for two years in April.

What has happened since is that she agreed to a compromise, she would read anything I wrote about it. She is in for an eye full because I have a lot to say about it and I like to write. This may be the birth of a book. She hinted that she would like to respond in ledger back. So lets see how this goes...

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