I was adopted into a fundamentalist Seventh Day Adventist pastor's family. My parents loved me and I enjoyed a happy and secure childhood. Although I felt disappointed that I couldn't take dancing lessons, be involved with local theater or participate in competitive secular activities on Saturdays within the community (gymnastics, piano recitals), I was convinced that "the Sabbath" was sacred and that was just part of the consequences of following the truth. My Adventist church school experience provided me with plenty of social opportunities that were acceptable within our culture.
Leaving that subculture was incredibly difficult. I've had to restart my life in so many aspects, in my 40's. Several years out now, I feel like I've processed through the stages of grief for the most part, including the anger that has surfaced over the fact that I was not allowed to develop huge aspects of my talents/interests from a young age.
I know that my parents did the best they could. They honestly adored me and raised me the way they thought was right. They still fully believe Adventism is The Truth.
My problem now is that I just don't feel like I have much in common with them anymore. I'm constantly editing aspects of my life so as not to upset them. (They're in their early eighties.) We can't discuss politics, they disapprove of public education, dancing, popular music, theater, wine, etc. - so much of what our life centers around now. We don't live near them (a good thing in many ways), so not only do we have very little in common, we don't have current shared experiences - only a past steeped in the distinctive traditions of the cult they are active members of.
I don't expect them to live more than another few years, and I don't want to regret not having had a closer relationship with them at the end of their lives, nor do I want to hurt them anymore than I already have, by leaving their church. That has been extremely painful for them and they pray for me daily. Still - how do I rush my recovery from religion? How do I maintain more than a surface relationship with them? How do I find common ground on which to keep any flame alive? Honestly, it's so much more comfortable for me to have little communication with them anymore, since I no longer see them as a source of wisdom, but I want to do the right thing.
To make matters more complicated, I've met my biological family as an adult and have so much more in common with them (They're Unitarian).
A Unitarian friend says they are mostly non-believers who cling to the communal aspects religion fosters.
I have the same issue with my mother and it has come down to me getting real honest with what I value and understand and making no compromises. She can still get me ruffled when she is making the passive aggressive God threat during conversation, but as I get older I realize she found Jesus out of fear and she cannot handle the thought of her blanky being an illusion. So, I try to make light and joke with her as much as possible without taking it too seriously. Religious people are terrified deep down inside . . . it evokes a certain amount of compassion out of me, but I still maintain my stance which is - Religion poisons everything...:-)
I am so glad you met your biological family and have things in common with them. That is a real gift. I have no idea of how to take care of your problem, even as I read your frustration and mixed feelings. You clearly express sensitivity to your aging adopting parents; Perhaps just trusting your intuition is the best thing I can think of.
I don't recommend loving your family "no matter what." Get honest with your self, find your deepest truth and express that, if to no one else but yourself—then you will have an authentic experience and know what to do. Don't pretend to love when inside you are feeling something else. Loving "no matter what" is not a mental decision but a biological reality. But first you have to get clear, pay attention to all, and I mean all of the negative aspects in yourself and honor them. This could be a great time for healing.
Thanks for your kind replies, everyone. There really isn't an easy answer, but it's just nice to be heard and understood.
And yes, James, there do seem to be a lot of non-believers within Unitarianism. I try to periodically scan the upcoming services on their website, choosing to attend an occasional one that interests me. It still seems to have more spiritual overtones than I would prefer, but I usually find myself leaving with a smile.
Making new friends IS tough. It takes a lot of courage to exit the madness, when that's always been your comfort zone and is where everyone you know resides.
Our family just relocated to a completely different part of the country. It's the first time we've moved without automatically plugging in to the local Adventist congregation for an instant new community. The nice thing is that when we do meet people, we're starting fresh. So any new friendships will be built on other things we have in common, leaving religion out of it.The foundation of a relationship matters a lot. It's difficult to salvage those that were built on an intense sub-culture that you're no longer a part of. It's hard enough to maintain relationships long distance, let alone in a different language.
Diana, I also was raised Seventh-day Adventist and left when I was 32 (am now early 60s). I empathize with your painful realities in dealing with your own feelings and dealing with your parents' reactions. When I left after seriously studying the doctrines for a few years, I felt like I was emotionally jumping off a cliff, not knowing how easy or difficult the landing would be. It was hard--I lost many friends. It's so important to be true to yourself--you've spent time figuring that out and the journey will continue. But it will become easier! It's so interesting that your genetic "heritage" is more Unitarian than SDA! Hang in there--you are not alone. Finding groups (like this) to replace what you've moved beyond will be helpful.
I was also raised SDA and left at 22. My parents were so incensed that we never spoke for five years, my dad even physically assaulted me. They would not even recognize my children as grand children. Over time we did begin to communicate but there was always that white elephant in the room. They went to their graves never forgiving me for leaving their religion. After my mom passed my brother found a letter my mom had written that he was so proud to pass around to the family(he is still a member), and in that letter my mother wrote about how pathetic I was for not believing as I had been taught. They were never open to any discussion about their religion, how dare I question any of it. What is left of my family will be divided forever I think. This is one of the dark sides to religion. In your case I don't think there is much you can do, just know it is not your fault and you are not alone in this struggle, they are the ones who put you in this situation as they should be loving and excepting of whatever belief or non belief you come to, it is your life.