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Author Topic:   How do you share new disbelief with friends and family?
Jazzns
Member (Idle past 2907 days)
Posts: 2657
From: A Better America
Joined: 07-23-2004


(1)
Message 1 of 29 (629551)
08-18-2011 1:02 PM


So a few weeks ago I summoned the courage to post my departure from faith over at: Jazzns' History of Belief

I got a little less feedback than I had hoped but hey, what are you gonna do, its the internet.

I wanted to bring a little bit of it back up though because of one issue. The one bit of advice I was hoping to get from some fellow recovering Christians on this board is what to do about my friends and family that are still in the faith. Most of my change has been very internal and very private. To them, this will seem like it is coming out of nowhere even though for me this has been an agonizing, multi-year long process.

From feedback I got from some of my close non-Christian friends, they said that I might write a different version of the letter that isn't as "harsh" and use that as a foil for bringing it up. My only problem with that is that I don't know of a way to say that I left the faith because I discovered that the Bible is full of crap without coming out and saying exactly that. Without that information, I feel that many of them will think that I am coming to this conclusion out of ignorance which is the exact opposite of where I feel it is derived.

I can see some definite potential for some strained relationships because of this so I don't want to do this the wrong way. I am okay without being all "RA RA!" about this but I don't want to this be a surprise someday because of other factors. My kids are growing up and I think there will be more and more pressure from family to be sending them to church, vacation bible school, etc. I don't mind the kids going to church actually but I certainly am not going to just let them be brain washed. My beliefs will not be a surprise to my kids otherwise I feel I would be irresponsible as a parent. Therefore this will eventually come out from them. I want to take care of this tactfully before then.

The thing that sucks the most about this is that I don't feel like anything should need to change. I don't feel like I am a substantially different person. I still have the same value for the relationships that I have always had. But I feel like I could really loose something merely for honestly expressing my beliefs.

I hope there are some folks out there who have had to deal with this. How do you walk up to someone you love and tell them that you have rejected their faith, and by all accounts according to their beliefs, you are now a heretic and destined for damnation?

Faith and Belief please.


If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. --Thomas Jefferson

Replies to this message:
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Message 2 of 29 (629553)
08-18-2011 1:29 PM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum
Thread copied here from the How do you share new disbelief with friends and family? thread in the Proposed New Topics forum.

  
Coragyps
Member
Posts: 5552
From: Snyder, Texas, USA
Joined: 11-12-2002


Message 3 of 29 (629555)
08-18-2011 2:24 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jazzns
08-18-2011 1:02 PM


I'm a preacher's kid - missionary's kid, in fact - and have known for sure that I'm an atheist for about twenty years. I'm neither secretive nor outspoken about my lack of belief, with the exception of my mother. She's 85, never goes to church any more, but seems to still be devoutly theist. I won't tell her that I don't share her beliefs, not so much because she will worry about my "immortal soul," but more because she would feel that I'm rejecting my father's beliefs and, by extension, rejecting my father. That would beat her up pretty badly. She doesn't need the pain.

My 30-year-old son went through a deeply fundamentalist brainwashing about ten years ago, and is still close to being a YEC. We had a conversation a couple of years ago where I explicitly said that I had no belief in gods, and he acted quite surprised. I think he assumed that EVERYBODY is a believer, and just never paid attention during the few conversations about religion we had before.

My other three (grown) kids are atheist or agnostic. All four went to Sunday School and church through most of their childhood, and it didn't hurt them much. I can't see it helped them Be Better People in the least bit, either. (It was Episcopal, so anything they did get exposed too wasn't very full of brimstone.)

I still don't have any advice for you, Jazzns....


This message is a reply to:
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dwise1
Member
Posts: 4707
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 5.2


Message 4 of 29 (629565)
08-18-2011 3:58 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jazzns
08-18-2011 1:02 PM


Every family situation is in some way different.

I grew up nominally Protestant even though my family didn't attend church. My sisters were in Job's Daughters, I think because my paternal grandmother's father was a 32nd degree Mason. It turned out that my father was either an atheist or agnostic, but never discussed it; he had become disgusted by the hypocrisy he saw in church, but attended faithfully to keep his mother happy until he turned 21.

I attended church with the family of the girl next door (life-long playmates, what with her being 8 days younger than I) -- they were so nominally Protestant that I still have no idea what denomination they were -- and was baptized in that church around age 11. A year later I decided I needed to get serious about it, so I started reading the Bible, on my own. Since I was applying naïve literalism, I very quickly found that I couldn't believe what I was reading. Well, I reasoned, since I can't believe what I'm supposed to, I guess it's time for me to leave. I consider that to have been the right choice, but for the wrong reasons; everything I've seen since then, especially fundamentalist Christianity and "creation science", has confirmed my decision to have been the right one.

After having made that choice, I just simply stopped attending church. The only person I informed was my friend who couldn't understand such a decision. Then when I got married, it turned out that my wife couldn't stand Christians (was raised Catholic, but played hooky from catechism class) and my father-in-law is an atheist, so no problem there; myself, I have no problem with Christians and have many as friends. When I'm among Christians, I just don't bring it up, though if they ask which church I attend I will name the Unitarian-Universalist church I attended, though I am now inactive. And if they invite me to attend their services, I will politely decline; their services are so mindless compared to a Unitarian service -- when we attended a Lutheran service for family, my son, with years of Unitarian pew time under his belt, looked at me bewildered as if to ask, "What the hell is this?" One fundamentalist friend finally did rope me into a service and it was even more mindless than I had realized.

So my situation was easy. Another situation would be that of a friend who used to be a fundamentalist Christian and even ran off to Europe to become a Bible smuggler. She's a non-believer now and actually I think that her family is relieved that she is. But she's very wary of being around believers, because she says that they are very hostile towards ex-believers.

Yet another situation was that of Dan Barker, "America's leading atheist". He was raised in a fundamentalist family; his mother used to sing in tongues while doing her housework. He was personally called upon by God to go into the ministry and served many years as a travelling minister and missionary into Mexico. But then he slowly woke up and started thinking and reading and thinking some more, until he could no longer believe what he was preaching, at which point he stepped down. His fellow Christians' reaction was to try to reconvert him and, when that failed, they shunned him and pressured his wife into leaving him.

He tells his story in his book Godless, in which he goes a lot easier on his ex-wife than he did in his speech that I heard around 1990. He also tells of how he informed his parents and their reactions, so that might be of some help. Though in his case, he asked his mother a few direct questions about her beliefs, including about eternal damnation, and within a few months of thinking, she also deconverted, followed by his father, a former professional musician, who was finally able to return to the music he loved, swing.

That happy ending is undoubtedly not what you want for your family, since I'm sure that you don't want to unduly influence their beliefs. Rather than make it appear "out of the blue" to them, you might appear to quietly and politely distance yourself from religious observance. Actually, they may have been seeing it coming for a while now.

As for a version of the letter that's less harsh, to start with sending out a letter could invite confrontation, which is something that I don't think you want. But working on a less harsh version of the letter could prepare you with responses for when it does come up. Like saying that you can't accept the Bible as you used to and being able to give some valid reasons for having such doubts. And finding a way to affirm to them that it's not something that they can talk you out of.

Like I said, every situation is different and you need to feel out how best to approach yours.

FWIW, that question of damnation came up for me too this past decade. In the wake of my son's death, some well-meaning people tried to "help" by trying to convert me. But because by their doctrine he would be damned, they were actually trying to get me to embrace a belief system in which my son would spend eternity in Hell. I am not such a monster as to wish that upon my son.


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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Rahvin
Member
Posts: 3966
Joined: 07-01-2005


Message 5 of 29 (629571)
08-18-2011 4:55 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jazzns
08-18-2011 1:02 PM


I'm afraid I don't have much advice, myself. It's been something around 5 years since I first cast away my previous Christian beliefs and identified myself as an Atheist, and I've skipped the issue of notifying family by simply not telling them. They're aware that I no longer attend church, they know that I refused to attend with them the last time I visited, but ~3000 miles of distance and the fact that religion, while extremely important to my family, simply isn't much of a conversation topic in our phone conversations, I haven't had to spill the proverbial beans.

I'm avoiding it because I know that it will cause my parents and especially my grandparents pain, and I don't want that.

As you said, Jazzns, I am the same person, just as you are. There's no need for me to jeopardize their perceptions of me. Of course, I don;t have any children.

I'll tell my family eventually, likely sometime after my grandparents pass (hopefully not any time particularly soon). When I do, I plan to be as gentle as possible about it. Insulting and rejecting a person's deeply held beliefs can be very easily construed as rejecting and insulting the person instead; Christianity and faith are very closely tied with my parents' (especially my mother) identity.

I'm slowly testing the waters already, seeing my parents reactions when I outright reject things like the Flood, refusing to attend church, etc. I don't want it to be "out of the blue." I want them to suspect something is up with my beliefs. And when the time comes, I'll frame the debate myself. I'll explain my reasons, and why saying that I believe in god(s) would only ever be a lie, even if I tried to tell it to myself. I'll tell them that they're still my parents, and I still love them, but that I am no longer sufficiently convinced in the veracity of Christian dogma to say with any honesty that I believe it; and that I would consider attending church in such a state of disbelief to be dishonest. I'll explain why I still have a strong sense of morality without god, heaven, or hell, and why I find myself caring even more now for the well-being of others.

And then we'll see how they feel.


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AZPaul3
Member
Posts: 6007
From: Phoenix
Joined: 11-06-2006
Member Rating: 3.5


Message 6 of 29 (629583)
08-18-2011 6:35 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jazzns
08-18-2011 1:02 PM


Can't help you here Jazzns. I never had to face the situation. I did not grow up in a strict religious family. I never had to shake off a straight jacket strapped to my mind.

I was atheists from early high school. Never flaunted it and never denied it. I knew and I was comfortable. That is all that mattered.

Let the kids know, of course. If you teach them well they will make up their own minds, either way, as it should be.

As for the rest of the family? I don't know what to say. If it were me I'm thinking I would not make some big splash announcement about it. If the topic comes up then fine. Say my piece like it was nothing new.

Maybe a bit of attitude with "What? Is this some surprise to you? Really? Well it shouldn't be, you know. How about some more turkey?" Some people appear to be more accepting if they are presented with a fait accompli in an easy going normal course of business no big deal matter of fact way even if you think it is a bombshell.

But then again, I never had to "fess up" within the family dynamic you are facing. I wish you a calm wind and smooth sailing.


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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Butterflytyrant
Member (Idle past 3417 days)
Posts: 415
From: Australia
Joined: 06-28-2011


Message 7 of 29 (629613)
08-18-2011 11:25 PM


Hey Jazzns,

I lost a significant relationship because I did not believe in God. I thought we would be getting married and having children. When we started discussing these issues, it began to show the size of the problem.

For one, she wanted to be married by a priest in a church before God. I stated that anything I swore to god would be a lie and I did not want our wedding day to be a lie. She also wanted the future children to be sent to Christian private schools to ensure they received a proper Christian education. I wanted them to attend non denominational schools in order to receice a proper education.

These were issues we could not overcome.

You are already past this point. You already have the relationshipm and the children.

I am not going to tell you what you should or should not do. I will just say how I would make the decision.

Honesty is always the best policy. I will not lie to my family even if the truth may cause conflict. I believe that they deserve to know the truth about my life and the reasons I have made the decisions that I have. I have made some pretty bad calls in my time and I wont hide them from my partner and children. I am not at all suggesting that your decision is a bad one. I am just saying that it is better to get all of the information out there. It may be difficult for your children and partner to understand. If you do decide to let it all out, you will know that you have been honest with everyone and yourself.

I hope it all goes well for you.

Edited by Butterflytyrant, : No reason given.


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Jazzns
Member (Idle past 2907 days)
Posts: 2657
From: A Better America
Joined: 07-23-2004


Message 8 of 29 (629624)
08-19-2011 12:07 AM
Reply to: Message 4 by dwise1
08-18-2011 3:58 PM


Damnation?
As for a version of the letter that's less harsh, to start with sending out a letter could invite confrontation, which is something that I don't think you want. But working on a less harsh version of the letter could prepare you with responses for when it does come up. Like saying that you can't accept the Bible as you used to and being able to give some valid reasons for having such doubts. And finding a way to affirm to them that it's not something that they can talk you out of.

I feel like I am well girdled for answering the potential criticism. In fact, I feel like that might be part of my problem. I have been picturing my future in a confrontational manner and doing mental reps of what I would say in response to all the scenarios I can think of. I feel though like I may be missing an approach or a way to think about the problem because I am so buried in the details.

FWIW, that question of damnation came up for me too this past decade. In the wake of my son's death, some well-meaning people tried to "help" by trying to convert me. But because by their doctrine he would be damned, they were actually trying to get me to embrace a belief system in which my son would spend eternity in Hell. I am not such a monster as to wish that upon my son.

One of my first skeptical moments came when I realized that one of my parents had to be wrong. Either my mom was right and my dad was unsaved or my dad was right and my mom is an idolater. A mixed Christian and Muslim family can be very weird. But like you said, I don't know how people deal with the conflict in their head that they basically believe that these people that they love are eternally damned. Shouldn't that drive them absolutely nuts? If that is what really is on the line why aren't they freaking out every single moment about it?

I have been meaning to read Godless but my library doesn't have a copy. I may just go ahead and buy it.

Thanks,

Edited by Jazzns, : fixed subtitle


If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. --Thomas Jefferson

This message is a reply to:
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Jazzns
Member (Idle past 2907 days)
Posts: 2657
From: A Better America
Joined: 07-23-2004


Message 9 of 29 (629628)
08-19-2011 12:13 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by Rahvin
08-18-2011 4:55 PM


I'm avoiding it because I know that it will cause my parents and especially my grandparents pain, and I don't want that.

Thats exactly it. I don't think they will reject me. In fact, I highly doubt they would. Its more about the pain it would case. The pain that only exists because they believe and they love me.

As you said, Jazzns, I am the same person, just as you are. There's no need for me to jeopardize their perceptions of me. Of course, I don;t have any children.

Thats the rub for me. I have had the same approach as you so far but there is basically a timer ticking for me. It absolutely WILL come up because of the kids and the day is fast approaching.

I'm slowly testing the waters already, seeing my parents reactions...

Thats an interesting thought. I mean, I am already not going to church. Haven't in many years. Perhaps I should just start to slowly introduce other periphery issues. Still feels like lying though. I find myself wishing for Butterfly's gusto.


This message is a reply to:
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Jazzns
Member (Idle past 2907 days)
Posts: 2657
From: A Better America
Joined: 07-23-2004


Message 10 of 29 (629629)
08-19-2011 12:20 AM
Reply to: Message 7 by Butterflytyrant
08-18-2011 11:25 PM


Honesty is always the best policy. I will not lie to my family even if the truth may cause conflict.

That is exactly why I am struggling so much with it. I don't want to lie, but there will eventually be a point where I will have to choose to lie or not lie. And my hand is being forced on that issue. Otherwise I wouldn't even care to discuss it with them. We find plenty to socialize about without talking about god.

I have made some pretty bad calls in my time and I wont hide them from my partner and children. I am not at all suggesting that your decision is a bad one. I am just saying that it is better to get all of the information out there. It may be difficult for your children and partner to understand. If you do decide to let it all out, you will know that you have been honest with everyone and yourself.

Luckily all my very close relationships already know. They weren't founded upon religion so my religious choices have not matter one iota. My wife is cool with it, all my close friends are on board. Its just the legacy of my family and a handful of others that is hard. Grandparents, parents, in-laws, siblings.

I hope it all goes well for you.

Thanks Butterfly.


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crashfrog
Member (Idle past 462 days)
Posts: 19762
From: Silver Spring, MD
Joined: 03-20-2003


(1)
Message 11 of 29 (629630)
08-19-2011 12:23 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jazzns
08-18-2011 1:02 PM


Why not do what atheists have always done, and just not bring it up? There's no reason to have a huge announcement of it, and churches have always been full of people with absolutely no meaningful belief in God, just there because they thought that's what they needed to do to be good people, or to be thought of as good.

If you're OK with your kids going to church, and you feel like your family wants them in church, then send them to church! Find some nice Methodist church that's full of old people, or go to Unitarian church. Tell people it's "non-denominational." Don't send them to VBS; send them somewhere more worthwhile or just say that it's hopeless to try to get a kid interested in church while they're on summer vacation. Or just say your church doesn't do it.

I still have the same value for the relationships that I have always had. But I feel like I could really loose something merely for honestly expressing my beliefs.

Then don't express your beliefs! You're not a Christian, now; that bullshit about not hiding your light under a bushel doesn't apply anymore. Your first duty is to your children and your family. Maybe that duty means living a lie.

There's no magic words that are going to resolve the division in faith between you and your family. The way these things get resolved is that everyone agrees not to bring it up ever again, and pretends like there's no problem. There really is a genuine conflict between your family harmony and your desire to articulate your reasons for leaving the faith. So you need to pick which of those is more important, and then do whatever is required to that end. Problem solved.


This message is a reply to:
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nwr
Member
Posts: 5795
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005
Member Rating: 4.6


Message 12 of 29 (629632)
08-19-2011 1:05 AM
Reply to: Message 11 by crashfrog
08-19-2011 12:23 AM


Why not do what atheists have always done, and just not bring it up?

Yes, I agree. That's usually the best way.

The way these things get resolved is that everyone agrees not to bring it up ever again, and pretends like there's no problem.

That seems right to me.

Fundamentalism - the anti-American, anti-Christian branch of American Christianity

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hooah212002
Member (Idle past 107 days)
Posts: 3193
Joined: 08-12-2009


(2)
Message 13 of 29 (629635)
08-19-2011 1:21 AM


Why is lack of belief in god(s) something that one needs to be ashamed of? Does a Born Again Christian swelter in fear? No, theists shout it from the rooftops. They wear their beliefs like a badge of honor. Yet here we are: rational minded individuals who have thought this through and came to a conclusion to NOT hold a bronze age belief, and we feel the need to cower? Family should be there for you regardless of belief. Regardless of ANYTHING. If you're friends can't accept your new disbelief, they aren't friends.

Edited by hooah212002, : No reason given.


"Why don't you call upon your God to strike me? Oh, I forgot it's because he's fake like Thor, so bite me" -Greydon Square

Replies to this message:
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bluescat48
Member (Idle past 3185 days)
Posts: 2347
From: United States
Joined: 10-06-2007


Message 14 of 29 (629669)
08-19-2011 8:09 AM


I never had such a problem even though my parents were full fledged Christians, they were liberal in secular matters, and very open-minded.
My 3 siblings are , 1 Christian, 1 Deist & 1 Agnostic. I am the only Atheist. We get along fine since we don't go in to discussing 4 topics, Sex, Religion, War & Politics, what I call the 4 cornerstones of stupidity.

Edited by bluescat48, : tyyypooo


There is no better love between 2 people than mutual respect for each other WT Young, 2002

Who gave anyone the authority to call me an authority on anything. WT Young, 1969

Since Evolution is only ~90% correct it should be thrown out and replaced by Creation which has even a lower % of correctness. W T Young, 2008


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Jazzns
Member (Idle past 2907 days)
Posts: 2657
From: A Better America
Joined: 07-23-2004


Message 15 of 29 (629690)
08-19-2011 10:24 AM
Reply to: Message 11 by crashfrog
08-19-2011 12:23 AM


Why not do what atheists have always done, and just not bring it up?

It will be brought up eventually. I don't think it is unreasonable to prepare for that day.

If you're OK with your kids going to church, and you feel like your family wants them in church, then send them to church!

I am not concerned with them going, but I am not going to send them in order to perpetuate some false sense that we are religious. If my kids want to go I am not going to be against it. I am trying to find a way OUT of lying about my beliefs or how I want to raise my kids. I am trying to be honest and tactful.

There really is a genuine conflict between your family harmony and your desire to articulate your reasons for leaving the faith. So you need to pick which of those is more important, and then do whatever is required to that end. Problem solved.

Well, the reason I brought it up is that I don't feel that it needs to be that black and white. I do feel a need to articulate my beliefs but it has thus far been for my own self and in preparation for potential conflict, not because I need to shout it from the rooftops.

There is a realization that real feeling of people I care about and who care about me are on the line and I am simply trying to be sensitive and thoughtful about that. Simply stating the problem in the form of a delimma doesn't solve it though.


If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. --Thomas Jefferson

This message is a reply to:
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