Opposition from family for becoming an Atheist

Hello Everyone! This is my first blog post on this site. Recently I became an Atheist after reading Richard Dawkins's God Delusion. I am seventeen years old. But as I would expect from any concerned family, my family couldn't come to terms with the fact that I am an Atheist. I explained to them why god cannot exist. I explained to them the truth in evolution and natural selection. That there was no place for God in all of this. They vehemently argued against my scientific claims. In fact the disturbance spread so fast within my family circle that i started recieving calls from all over the country. Not only did I recieve threats of being effectievly quarantined from my family but also countless religious books to convince me to rethink my decision.

 

But I'm firm. I don't have any place for theism or god in my life. But if I tell them that they'd throw me out of the house and I cannot be just diplomatic and nod to their religious dogma. I'm an Hindu and I'm forced to pray for fifteen minutes in the morning and chant prayers. If i don't do it then it is tantamount to being rude and disrespectful to elders and to our sacred religion. But I don't want to do it. Should I just tell to them I can't but I am fearful of the consequences. What should I do? I am dependent on them for food, education etc... I cannot just tell them I am not religious anymore. But at the same time I hate religious dogmatism. What should I do? ANY IDEAS????

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Comment by Aniruddha on February 2, 2011 at 5:39am

 I do International Baccalaurete...so my first experience of special theory of relativity and quantum mechanics has left me awe-stricken. I just wanted to know how is it to be studying quantum physics.....

Comment by Aniruddha on February 2, 2011 at 5:39am

Hello Mr. John,

Thank you for that wonderful comment. Actually I did experiment Buddhism and I was a Buddhist for some good time before becoming an Atheist. In essence, Buddhism and Hinduism are amazing religions among all organzied religions. Surprisngly, Hinduism especially Early Hinduism was hardly any different from Atheism. I have no problem with Hinduism. In fact after, the many texts I've read on Hinduism, I feel it is refreshing. The problem arises with the misinterpretation of Hinduism or so I feel. My family is exceedingly open-minded. They don't have a problem with my Atheist views per se..but somehow seem to be hostile to 'conversion'. Their argument is that religious views are incovertible. Thats where me and my family disagree. I had a discussion with my dad the other day, and he too is a mathematics and physics major, he is almost 90% Atheist. Where he differs from me, is that he believes that I must be old enough to decide for myself and as I child I am too young to decide my religion.

 

I don't think so. And I feel there must be free conversion on both sides. Children born to religious parents have to have the freedom to become Atheists and vice versa. I agree Hinduism is spectacular but I am not satisfied with it. You are physicist, you probably admire Newton's work. His laws on mechanics are very close approximates on the nature of particles. yet as a researcher on quantum physics, you would have probably have had to give up newtonian mechanics to grasp it. I think Hinduism is like Newtonian mechanics. It is undoubtedly close to truth. But there is always room for more truth. I am bit taken aback by the conservative nature of family. Hinduism is no doubt wonderful. But it can be improvized. And as a rational human being I have the right to chase truth, even if it means opposing my religion.

 

Taking a bit of a tangent from the topic. I too am extremely interested in Particle Physics and Quantum Mechanics. I d

Comment by John Camilli on January 31, 2011 at 8:15pm

Oooooooooooookay, I have a few things to say that you may or may not want to hear, but if you claim to be more open-minded than a theist, then hopefully you'll listen anyway.

 

First of all, being a Hindu does not mean you have to believe in God, per se (at least not in the strict sense that a Catholic or a Jew believes in God). There are many sects, like any religion of course, some of which will disagree with what I'm saying, but Hinduism is originally a pantheistic religion, meaning it equates God to nature, and does not subscribe to the idea that there is just one God. You also don't have to ascribe to ideas like miracles, divine intervention, or even creationism, although I know Hindu mythology contains these ideas.

 

I should interrupt myself and tell you that I was raised Catholic, not Hindu. My experience with Hinduism came second-hand when I met, and grew to love, a girl from Kolkatta in college, in America. She was a first-generation Brahman immigrant and her parents still live in India, but she has two older brothers here with her and her parents visit ocassionally. They are not ardently religious, but they still practice a lot of the daily rituals of worship, I think more out of habit and for structure, than out of devotion. More difficult for me to deal with was the authoritarian family dynamic. Samhita (that's the girl) had to involve her family with every decision she made, and was very reticent to branch out on her own. She didn't even tell her family about me until we were split up, after four years! It was very frustrating to me, and only after the relationship ended did I really come to appreciate their perspective.

 

Although we did not end up together, I was left with an abiding love for all things of Bharat. I was always open-minded about religions, and have studied many of them quite thoroughly, but Hinduism and Buddhism have received special attention from me because of my remaining love for this woman. They also both happened to mesh with where my own philosophies lie because of their openness to all ideas, even those that do not match their own (theoretically, at least). Perhaps your family are stricter practicioners of their faith, but you need only look a little more deeply into their beliefs to find that Hinduism and Buddhism are founded on acceptance of all faiths, all paths to God (whether one views God as nature, or as a supreme creator, or as Mother Goose).

 

I understand having a problem with the rituals and prayers. I have a big issue with that kind of thing myself. I think it's not only pointless, but harmful, to attempt to ingrain rituals into minds that do not understand their meaning. The reluctant practicioner will not only fail to get any "enlightenment" from their practice, but will likely become resentful for being forced to do them over and over without knowing why. Even many of the people practicing these rituals do not know why they are doing them; do not know what the original purpose was. In principal, this is the same problem I have with the modern education system - it is memorization over meaning.

 

But, inspite all of that, I want to encourage you not to rebel. I would not suggest that you lie about your beliefs - I think people should be able to live with reality, and if they can't it's too bad for them, so ultimately I would say, if your family just won't accept your way of thinking, fuck 'em. But before you get to that point, realize that you are doing the same thing they are. You are rejecting their way of thinking and claiming to know that God cannot exist. Those are your words. But you can't know that. No one can. Thousands of people, for thousands of years, have tried to prove either that God does, or that God does not exist. No one has succeeded in constructing an infallible proof either way, so in the end a belief or disbelief in God is still an assumption.

 

The view of modern science is that God is unnecessary for the universe to work the way it does, and to have all the variety of experience that it has. But science is only able to purport ideas about what exists, it has no ideas about before there existence, if there was a before. So even an ardent scientist, put to the point, would have to admit that God could exist.

 

If, as you say, you are firm in your disbelief, then you are being just as close-minded and un-accepting as your family is, and there's no help for that situation. But if you are willing to learn (which you evidently must be, since you readily absorbed Dawkin's ideas), then I would suggest doing some real research into Hinduism, and Buddhism too. I have mentioned that I study those religions, but I did not yet mention that I primarily study particle physics and quantum mechanics. I'm a big fan of Dawkins myself. But as I have come to understand more and more about physics, and science in general, in have noticed some absolutely AMAZING correlations between Eastern religions and Western science.

 

When I really started studying Eastern philosophy, I felt as if I already knew most of it, and it was because my study of science had lead me to so many of the same thoughts. The idea that all things are connected; all influencing each other. The idea that all aspects of existence are contained within our very being; that we are both the creator and the created. The idea that we go through life with blinders of "self" and "ego" that shade our perspectives so that we cannot truly see; that knowledge has less to do with collecting information than learning to see through the information one has collected (to see the forest for the trees, so to speak).

 

Hinduism, of all religions, had the closest estimate to the universe's actual age, hundreds of years before science even made a worthwhile guess. It had the closest estimate for the size of the universe, and the make-up of matter. And more importantly, in my opinion, Eastern philosophies have grasped the idea that human perception, and human conclusions, will always be flawed. They assume subjective perspectives, while Western philosophies insist on purporting universal truths that simply do not exist. Even scientists get caught up in the idea that they are working with truth when all they really have is limited, and skewed, observation. Interpretation is always up to the individual, and Eastern philosophies seem to understand that.

 

I'll wrap this up with a suggestion I don't really agree with, but that may help you, if you want. If you can't come to terms with your family and you become tired of fighting the issue, tell them you've become Buddhist! It's an offspring of Hinduism, after all, and it allows you to believe or disbelieve anything you want. Buddhism is actually the closest thing I've found to my own philosophy (I only really take issue with the idea of enlightenment, which I do not think is possible for humans). And if they still want you to practice the rituals that they follow, you can tell them that Buddhism encourages its practicioners to follow their own path, not to force themselves into a certain way of living. I would not suggest just using that as an excuse though. Do some actual research into Buddhism, and Hinduism too, or some other philosophy. Whether or not you end up agreeing with them is irrelevant: you will learn things from them, about yourself and about reality, even if you do not realize it at the time.

 

That's my cents. Peace. Namaste.

Comment by Gary Renegar on January 30, 2011 at 12:23pm
I agree with Cliff. As you probably understand by now, no amount of logic will change the religious beliefs of your family. Those who ascribe to religion can seldom be reasoned with logically because there is no logic in religion.  I imagine a good deal of the members here (including myself) are forced to play along with their religious family members from time to time.  It sucks, but it is what it is.  Stay strong because you are on the path of science and reason, not superstition!
Comment by Aniruddha on January 29, 2011 at 11:38pm
By the way just a small change...i was an Hindu(by coercion and threat)..i'm an atheist now...i am not an Hindu anymore!!

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