Since becoming an atheist I have definitely felt more free. It used to be that the only negative feelings I had were when my mother forced her religion upon me, but it was tolerable. But now I have another negative feeling-- fear. I have been an atheist for 5 or 6 years now, but I've only recently been really open about it. My immediate family didn't know until I was 16, and I am just now really coming out about it to my extended family. Since coming out about it, its caused a lot of tention in my family, and I am really afraid of losing them. I know I should feel that if they decide to distance themselves from me because they would rather put their invisible sky daddy above family that it would be their own problem, because the bible teaches unconditional love to your family (except for that one passage where jesus says to hate your mother and father if you want to be his disciple), and to love and accept thy neighbour. On the other hand, the bible teaches you to distance yourself from negative influences, and since I'm the black sheep of the family, I'm afraid that negative influence is me. I just love my family, even if they are all religious nutjobs, and I want them to feel the freedom that I have felt since becoming an atheist. I'm just afraid they are going to become ashamed of me or something, and distance themselves, and claim they still love me, but in reality are hurting me. I don't understand how they don't see that their religion hurts people they love.
Does anybody here have the same fears? Has anybody had to deal with losing people to religion?

Tags: family, fear, loss

Views: 50

Replies to This Discussion

I'm not suggesting that you hide who you are, but you do have some control over the situation. Your on your own, so it makes things much easier.

FB has settings that you can put them on a list that keeps them from seeing things you don't want them to. Your home is your home. You keep what you want there. You don't have to invite family to see you. You can go visit them. (you can always create a second FB account too. One for the fam, one for your friends. I know people who have done that for just this reason, or to have a professional page they can give to prospective employers.)

As far as wanting to correct them, what's more important to you, that you have a cordial friendly relationship with your family, or that you make sure to point out that they are wrong? I know that urge to correct them is strong as I've been there, but you have to pick your battles carefully. Do you honestly think any of them will listen, or just wait for their turn to talk?

Is there anyone in your family who you know you can have an argument with?

I can argue with my parents, as they know that simply because I disagree with them, doesn't mean that I'm stupid. They raised me to think for myself, and don't want to disown me when I disagree on an issue with them.

I cannot argue with my sister. She makes everything personal. She thinks that if I don't agree with her, that I hate her and think she's stupid, or, because she is completely self centered, thinks I'm taking the opposite point-of-view just to piss her off. She bases her thoughts almost exclusively on emotion, and you can't have a rational argument with someone like that.

I would also look at who has really been there for you when you need them. Who has been there to listen, and not judge you? Try to talk to them more one-on-one. Gradually let them see this side of you. Sometimes gradual is good. It allows them to see that you are still the same person you've always been, even if you don't share the same world view any more, and perhaps they can gain insight into why you think the way you do. Sometimes, those walls of prejudice start to erode, when they realize they know someone who's an atheist/gay/of a different culture/race when they know someone from those groups. And then you'll have an ally that will defend you.

And finally, I know this sounds harsh, but where is it written that you *have* to like or even love your family members, or ever really associate with them?

I've always thought, that just because you share some of the same DNA, doesn't mean they have the right to treat you like crap, and expect you to take it and never react. Nor does it mean that you have to stick around and take it.

If they don't treat you in a respectful manor, avoid them. Surround yourself with those who treat you with respect and dignity, and accept you for who you are even if they don't always agree with your life or choices. As contrary to popular belief, family will not always get your back. They won't always be your soft place to land. And as I get older, I find that my friends have become more of a family to me than my actual family has ever been.

And I love my family.

Jenn
I like my family. I don' really have any friends so they're all I've got. And my parents have always been there when I needed them. I'm just afraid that there's gonna be a time where they feel they have to decide between their own daughter and their religion. Even Jesus shouted 'Father, why have you forsaken me' as he was dying on the cross. While the bible preaches love and forgiveness, I just don't see why they should not distance themselves from me when god had forsaken his only son himself.
I have never gone out of my way to preach to my family. I have only ever brought it up with any of my family when my cousin posted a status on his facebook basically telling atheists to silence themselves. I also sent a message to my cousin expressing how I still loved him even though we were on different sides of the debate, and he responded saying he was just tired of 'science nazis' shoving it down his throat. I was not gonna let that one just slip by. Calling anybody a nazi completely undermines what the victims of the holocaust had to go through. Besides those two instances, the rest has all been them initiating it or commenting on my facebook statues. I used to ask my questions right off but she would get angry and accuse me of arguing, so I've since stopped that. As for setting my facebook so my family can't see certain things or creating another facebook; I feel like I have nothing to hide. The thought of doing anything like that out of fear seems a bit silly to me, because I am avidly against fear-based religion.
There certainly is biblical support for disowning a child who is not in the Christian fold:
"Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it." (Matthew 10:34-39 NASB)

So, if your family is your life, and you want to be you and not a fake, I think you ought to broaden your horizons and get some non-family friend life, especially atheist friends because they can lend you support in dealing with this very difficult situation you are in. You can meet atheists at a Universal Unitarian church or by finding a meeting at: http://www.meetup.com/


You need to strike a balance between expressing your true identity and not offending your family to much. I think that "I feel..." statements would help you. Whenever someone tries to overpower you with religion, start a sentence with "I feel..." Then, you will not come off as antagonistic. For example, if a relative says, "I will be praying for you," say, "I feel bullied (or violated) when I hear someone say they are praying for me." That way, then they need to think about how they may have crossed a line unnecessarily.
I agree. It is easy to not bring it up, but what if a loved one brings it up. My religious fanatic mother always talks to me like I am a Christian even though she knows I am an atheistic. I learned that was because I tolerated it.

A couple of months ago she said to me that she was praying for this or that and I said, "Please don't talk about Jesus stuff to me."
She said, "Oh my goodness, you are rabid!"
I took that to mean that I was a rabid atheist. Needless to say, our phone conversation did not last much longer after that dialog. I have spoken with her a few times since then, and she has not gotten religious on me. However, there has been a certain coolness between us now. There is not much left to talk about since she always talked to me religiously.
If your loved ones start talking about praying, praying for you, the Lord's will, or other words that imply you have the same beliefs, I think an atheist should say something. It is like they are saying they have the right to overlook my beliefs because they are the subscribers to the dominant belief system.
Brianna, I had the same fears when I first realized I was an atheist. Would my friends leave me? Would my family shun me? So I wrote the "Letter" that I told you about in your last post. It is a weapon for me, but not to engage first. If anyone wants to back me into a corner, I'm not going to yell or get into a pissing contest with them, I will just hand them the letter. I addressed it to myself so it wouldn't address the reader directly, thereby lessening the chance of them being offended. You or anyone can use the letter also if you feel backed into a corner. Just hand it to them and walk away. They will then have to read it to further argue with you. It debunks many religious "theories" (if you want to be so bold as to call them that). It will show them that we have a very big reason to believe the way we do.
The only problem with trying to reason with most christians is that the bible and their churches teach them not to listen to us.
Remember that they are human, if it only plants a seed for their questions that they suppress, that would be a good thing. Don't forget that they are still human with reason underneath all of the religion. This is the best alternative to arguing that I could think of. The religion teaches them many things that they do not follow... ever. Hope for the best!
wow, i feel the exact same way!!!
"You can lead a christian to reason, but you cant make them think."

I too have tried to reason with family, often it is a painful experience for all involved. I now have the policy of not bringing it up. I now let my relationship with my family be based on non-christian things, if they bring god into it, i either walk away from the conversation or, if feeling belligerent, point out how wrong they are.

M.
Brianna, it looks like you've received a lot of good advice and suggestions. In my experience it can go any number of ways. What I have found works best with family is not to put down their religion if you decide to reveal your atheism. That is harder than it sounds, but I find that while I don't want to be shunned, neither do they. Religion, while seeming silly to some of us and not a "big deal", is many times a very big deal to someone else. I try to respect their right to believe whatever they want and keep in mind that it is as annoying for them to have someone try to persuade them as it is for us.
The decision is yours, but there are ways of handling it that cause less friction and distress.
It's usually harder with family, but family's capacity for acceptance is often greater. I don't know your family, but I hope they fall into that category.
When my little sister came out to my parents about her being a lesbian, my christian Mother took it pretty hard. Now, they are as close as ever and it has really helped my Mom to be more accepting of others.
Peace,
Shelby
My parents took coming out to them about atheism harder than coming out to them as bisexual lol!

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