Humanist Network News column by Richard Wade

Dear Richard,

I've been an atheist for only a year or so now. My mother passed away when I was only 16 from a terminal illness, which sort of set forth my disbelief and doubt (I am 20 now).

Now that I acknowledge that there is no God, I have found it more difficult to enjoy the holidays with my semi-religious family. (I say semi-religious because they are more so "part-time Christians." They only take notice of God during the holidays, or during my doubt.)

When my sister-in-law and I got into an argument a few months back, I revealed that I was an atheist. Now my family makes a mockery out of my irreligious preference. I've also felt the sudden need to lie to my father, uncles and aunts about it to avoid confrontation. I don't initiate any conversations on religion, but in recent months I've been asked a dozen times if I believe in God. I've also felt the need to excuse myself when asked to say grace or even when I'm in the same area where people are praying over dinner. With Easter coming up, being a "closet atheist" has appeared to be more difficult than I had originally imagined.

Do you have any suggestions on how I should go about being honest with my family and telling them I don't believe in God?

--Closet Atheist

{Click for full article / response}

Tags: argument, coming out, disbelief, family, religious

Views: 18

Replies to This Discussion

Wow, this is a tough one. I really feel for you and I wish I had some practical advice, but I never had to really worry about that. In my family, nobody cared. It does seem, though, that you're having a tougher time HIDING your atheism than you would have in ADMITTING it. Maybe you can let them down gently by using terms like "naturalistic" rather than "atheistic."

As for the holidays, I never let my atheism get in the way of a good Christmas. I love Christmas. I think of it as the day I get to give everybody presents and we all eat together and it's fun. Of course, most of my family is also atheistic, so I guess even that is easier for me. Sorry I couldn't be more help. I hope somebody else on here has gone through what you're going through and they'll have some real, practical advice.
I am not actually out myself to my parents and I have been an atheist for almost 20 yrs. All they know is that I no longer attend church. I don't see any point in causing drama when no one is asking me about it. This does not sound like your situation but I do have some advise that I always imagined myself saying if confronted about it by family or anyone. Just make sure they know that this is not really a "choice" that you are making. I don't think that believers realize that. They think that since they "choose" to believe in a God that you must be choosing to not believe. So one thing I would definately bring up is that you could not believe if you wanted, because it does not make sense to you. I had always imagined this softening the blow a little. I can't imagine someone coming back with "well you need to make yourself believe" (although I wouldn't put it past some closed-minded believers I know.)
Easter Prayer:

Dear god;
Thanks for giving us free will.

Amen.
Just to be clear, as some of you appear to be replying directly to me, I didn't write this and I'm not in any situation even remotely close to the person who did. I just found it via Humanist Network News and thought it would make for an interesting discussion.
Liar. Bwahahahaha.
No, my mother is very much alive (even if she is a Catholic), and I don't even know my father. Also, my family is definitely not semi-religious, they're very religious, not just going to church on holidays, not just every Sunday, but volunteering at the church for every little event and mass at least twice a week.
I thought the link and reference to it being a Humanist Network News column by Richard Wade made it quite obvious...
The link was the only reference? The bold letters just above "Dear Richard," stating "Humanist Network News column by Richard Wade" doesn't constitute a reference to this post actually being from a Humanist Network News column by Richard Wade? Well then, I guess that was my mistake. Duly noted.

*face palm*

I was just busting your stones. And I love the image! I'm totally stealing that and putting it on the social networking page of anyone I know that says something ridiculous ignorant. Like many of my family members who recently joined facebook.

Oh, and if they didn't know I was an atheist before joining fb, they do now.
Yeah, I figured you were pulling a Joe Wilson there.
My dad doesn't really care either way if I'm an Atheist or not. But my step mom is Scottish-Catholic and VERY set in her beliefs.

We actually had a few run-ins on the topic of religion. I used to go home for xmas every year, and one year she forced us all to go to Midnight Mass. Even when I used to harbor a belief in god, we weren't Catholic, so I'm not sure why she got set on all of us attending Midnight Mass.

Well, the entire thing was in Latin, and considering I'd been traveling since early that morning, and was so tired I could barely stand, I was hardly in the mood to placate anyone. So when it came time for Communion, my step-mother stood up and said to me, with a smirk, that I couldn't take communion, because it was only for Catholics.

I promptly stood up and got in line behind her. She tried pushing me out of the line and telling me to sit down - but discreetly, because all of her Catholic friends were in line with her, and she didn't want to make a scene. So we got up to the Priest, and I took communion.

When I got back to my seat, she was waiting for me, and she whispered in my ear that I was going to get it when I got home (keep in mind, that I'm a grown woman, and not a child living under her roof). I promptly turned around, got back in line and took communion again.

That xmas, she tried to argue her religious position on several occasions, and I just stood my ground and countered every one of her points with logic. It ended in tears for both of us, because even though, I felt like she had no business trying to convert me, it was emotionally draining.

Since then, we have an invisible line drawn in the sand where we just do not discuss religion. Ever.
She knows my beliefs and I know hers, and she knows if she doesn't bring up Jeebus to me, I won't start knocking him.

But we needed to have that knock-down, drag-out holiday fight in order to set out boundaries with each other.

You're still quite young and just learning how to exert yourself, when it comes to family, but stand your ground. We're all behind you!
I have no idea how to edit my comment, but I just took a moment to read the rest of these comments and realized this isn't your personal experience.

LOL Oh well, take it as an antidotal story.

I actually feel bad for whoever wrote this original letter.

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