So I came out of Fundie Christianity about 10 years ago with the help of genuine questioning, an atheist boyfriend, and exposure to a larger community of varying beliefs. My parents were obviously not happy about this, but over time, we all came to an agreement to pretty much not talk about religion or politics. (Most of the time). 

The problem I'm having now is that my sister (who is 15) is pretty much exactly where I was when I was her age. She's wrapped up in the fundamentalist world with plenty of encouragement by my parents. My mother always talks about how proud she is of my sister and even though it shouldn't, it grates on me to no end. I am an AWESOME human being. I am currently working toward a degree in physics, with the hope of getting a Ph.D. in Astrophysics someday. I have two amazing children. I am kind and loving and giving and just generally good. But it's not good enough for her. She thinks I'm a bad example for my sister just by virtue of not holding their beliefs. I really think even if I had held on to Christianity in a less fundie form, I would be seen as damned by them. 

I can leave well enough alone with my parents, but I want to question a lot of her premises and ideas. But my parents obviously are not happy about that. They don't want me "leading her astray." As it is, she's not allowed to spend any time with me alone, and when conversations DO arise, I'm always seen by my parents as bullying her. 

My family and I are all connected on facebook. I hide my mother so I don't have to hear all of her fundie BS (pretty much ALL she ever posts), but my sister and I are pretty close. I like to know what's going on in her life. Every now and again she'll post religious stuff, which I don't comment on unless it's hateful (she posted something linking gays to pedophiles once and I went on a 60-comment rampage against her and her cohorts). 

Here's the thing. I don't necessarily want to take away her faith. I have no problem with people believing what they want, for the most part. But I want to take away her fundamentalism. I want to question her assumptions, convince her to be Christlike, not a sheep of the power-hungry Church. 

I wouldn't have much of a problem cutting off contact with the family entirely except that I want to spend time with my sisters and I have two young children who love their grandparents. They are forbidden to talk religion with my kids, and I feel kind of hypocritical discussing my sister's beliefs with her. To be fair, though, I think there's a world of difference between 5 and 15. 

Anyway, I apologize for the rant. I really have nowhere to discuss this with anyone. Facebook isn't safe, nor is my personal blog, which is read by the family. I don't like to discuss it with my hardcore atheist husband because mostly he just doesn't like my family and I think he'd be perfectly happy if we never saw them again. So this is fairly an unburdening. :)

Tags: children, family

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*hugs* I have my own sister problems, so I don't know how much my advice is worth. I think all you can do is continue to be a good example and keep the lines of communication open. Keep questioning her intolerant beliefs. She is very young and as I have learned the hard way in my own life, being young can also mean being very stupid and intolerant. Hopefully, in time, with gentle prodding, she will change into a more compassionate, tolerant person. I haven't had any luck with my own sister in this regard, so I hope you fare much better than I have.
A lot of the ignorance comes from not actually knowing people who are what she was raised to hate. So I think exposing her to real gays and other safe people would really open her eyes. She's young and she wants to fit in, and religion offers that. I don't know, though, how you can introduce her to differing viewpoints if she's not even allowed to be alone with you.
Is she considering going to college? I am guessing furthering her education would be a "safe" topic even in front of your parents. You could always encourage her to choose a large public university and living on campus instead of at home. Once, she is on her own at a large public university living in the dorms, she will naturally be introduced to a wide variety of beliefs, lifestyles and sexual preferences. She may choose to turn tail for her fundie beliefs, but at least it will be a choice after exposure to many ideas and ways of living.
She's a very bright girl, and I'd LOVE to see her go to college. Unfortunately, I suspect if she can find a way, she'll be going to a religious school instead of a public university. They're just that way. She's homeschooled now, and you KNOW that any way they can keep her from the corrupting influence of the world, they will. I'm just lucky that she adores me, because I'm hoping she'll spend some time with me once she's an adult who's allowed. That's another reason I hesitate to push too hard - I don't want to alienate her.
I had a friend like that. Notice the past tense. >.X She was also homeschooled in a highly religious atmosphere, and then went on to choose a women's Christian university. The result is I stopped talking to her when she decided the devil was trying to kill her, to keep her from teaching kids at AWANA about Christ. >.X

So, please, do whatever you can to push her towards more moderate beliefs, somehow.
Hopefully, she'll find a religious school that is more open minded than most or she may even find more debauchery at a xtain school than at a public university. I know growing up in the public school system, there was a lot less drugs/sex/etc in my public school than most Catholic schools.
Mandie, my heart goes out to you. How utterly cruel and hurtful of your parents. That kind of rejection of who you are must be very painful. We never get too old to need our parents approval. Such blatent favouritism is really not good for your sister either. The problem seems to be two-fold. Religion is not just a matter of 'faith' to your sister, she has found a a way of completely winning the good opinion of her parents. May advice would be that you could gently tell her how you feel and point out that her/your parents favouritism/criticism/judgmental attitudes are incredibly 'unchristian' and therefore hypocritical. I would not argue with her, you will be perceived as the aggresor and your parents will continue to depict you as an unsafe person. It will be hard for you but I feel you must wait. If and when she is ever strong enough to question she will come to you. She already knows that there is an alternative, you have done your duty by her, and at a heavy personal cost. But right now you are a cautionary tale against her ever doing anything that might cause them to disapprove of her, it must be very frightening to her to see how easily her parents can turn on their own child. Poor her and poor you. As for not talking to your husband, you must, you need support. This is an awful thing that is being done to you. Forget the religiuos side of things, your parents treatment of you is hateful and cruel, not a burden to carry on your own, although you do sound like a couragous person who has had to make some very hard choices. As I said Mandie, my heart really does go out to you, I do hope the situation resolves itself. Peace friend. X
I had tears in my eyes reading this. I marked it in my e-mail so that I could come back and respond when I was more calm but every time I read over it to form a coherent response I get all misty again.

Thank you so much for your compassion. I have been thinking that I shouldn't feel so hurt and rejected, that as an adult I should be able to say "screw them" and move on. But it DOES hurt, constantly, probably because I can't really put them behind me. Thank you for your understanding and affirmation of what I'm feeling.

I also really appreciate your advice. I think this is what I have been wanting to do but haven't really been able to formulate in my mind. I keep feeling like I should DO or SAY something to win her away from this horrible bondage of herself and other people at the hand of her faith, but you're right. She knows who I am, and if she's not ready to hear what I have to say, it will probably only strengthen her resolve.

And yes, you're right, I am the black sheep. The cautionary tale against her doing anything that might cause them to disapprove and I KNOW that would be even harder for her than it is for me because she loves her father so dearly (he's my stepfather, and while he's the only father I've ever known and since I was 10, she's so much closer to him than I ever was - and he's the vocally disapproving one).

Anyway, my point is you are kind and correct and I really appreciate you taking the time to respond to me.
Damn girl I feel u.I acxually split up with my babys mother and a lot had to do with how passionate I am about the truth.She is a Bhuddist and a doctor very smart indeed but supersticious.My passion about the truth would always make us clash heads.You can imagine they were really heated arguments,and plus she has many years of education over me.Let's just say when a doctor and a man that sells rotisserie chicken for a living gets into a debate there's gonna b some serious plucking going on.I grew up 15 min. away from the white house,she was born and raised here in Louisiana.Her father a retired engineer for NASA.and a registered republican that now lives in Mississipi.Her parents tried to convert me many times and it always turned ugly even racist.All the arguments she would have with her family about me would be about why isn't he a theist?she would reply he makes me happy only to be followed by why didn't u marry a doctor a teacher etc.Don't get me wrong for the sake of my family I have to keep the peace.My baby is 4 now me and her mom separated I have talked to her parents, and they agreed to keep the peace as long as my baby attends a Christian private school I said ok as long as you guys pay for it.Things are better now we agreed not to talk about religion and politics and focus on the damage that was being created by the whole issue.I'm happy to say I'm still atheist, and there's no way to get rid of the disgust that I feel when we have prayers @ her table.I hate the idea of my baby going to Christian school but I will be very prudent to show my baby the truth.In conclussion the only thing that has worked for me is faking the funk.
In other words don't ask don't tell.
If you look at this from a psychological perspective I would encourage you to focus on a couple of points.

This is about you. It is about your history and your changes and what you believe to be “correct” answer. And while I and many other here may agree with you it is still just that; our perspective.

What is the difference between you and your parents (as it relates to your sister). Both parties want the best for her. Both parties think they have the only right answer. Are there things that you could point to that could qualify as manipulating? It would appear so. Are there things they could point to that would qualify as manipulating on your part? Probably.

Any conflicts you have with your parents should be segregated, as much as mentally and physically possible, from any issues you have with your sister. These are two separate issues and need to be contained separately. Do they influence one another, certainly, but the fact is they are still separate dilemmas.

Approach…
Many of the people we interact with have similar stories and deal with family issues as it relates to differences in theological / metaphysical beliefs. In my experience I do not remember a single instance when persistence and / or aggression accomplished the task of changing someone’s mind or perspective. When a human perceives aggression they will always engage in defensive behavior. It is only when in their own mind they begin to question information and look for different answers that changes occur.

Love is a very strong motivator and my assumption would be that love is part of your motivation to engage with your sister. If I may suggest making this the most prominent point at any and every opportunity. As long as she sees, feels, and knows that love is your motivation it will assist in keeping the lines of communication open.

Be positive about your life and point of view. As someone pointed out your sister will see how your parents react to you and would obviously not want this same type of treatment for herself. By pointing out all of the positive reinforcement you receive in other areas may provide a pathway for her to inquire about your life. All of the friends you have the types of activities, positive aspects of a secular life.

What not to do…
I would discourage any conversations with your sister that involve comments, directions or information on the subject about or with your parents. This will obviously be seen or manifest itself into a confrontation. Which will lead to defensive behavior and recoiling of the people you are trying to reach.

Be honest…
One of my favorite quotes is from Harry Truman “I don’t give people hell. I just tell the truth and they think it is hell.” This is true on multiple levels. While the truth may set you free it may also create problems for you in a relationship if presented in the wrong manner. Remember, if she perceives and attack she will become defensive. Never lie, simply be careful how you frame the information.

I wish you well in your endeavors. Just remember, we all live our own lives and most of the time we are resistant to anyone else telling us what to do. The only person in this world you have control over is yourself.

- Peace, Chad
Chad, I don't at all think that my way is the only right way. I just think that their way is definitely the wrong way. The way of discrimination and hate and turning aside...

I would be perfectly happy if she were the kind of christian a few of my friends are - kind and loving and open and also lovers of Christ. I honestly hope she comes to be that person someday, even more than I would hope for her to be agnostic or atheist. I think she could have a peace then that I cannot have. I often WISH I could have faith along with my humanity.

I appreciate your thoughts on focusing on my affection for her and showing her the light in my life. I think it's the best way to ensure she turns to me if she is ever driven to question the bitterness of her faith.

I just feel such an urge to question her prejudices and biases, to make her THINK. It's how I came out of my dogma, and I don't know if I would have otherwise. Thanks again for your input.

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