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How you "came out" as an atheist to religious family.

atheism atheist coming out family religion

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25 replies to this topic

#1
annadios

annadios
  • 10 posts

I'm am a fairly new atheist and have not "come out" to anyone but my husband as of yet. He is supportive and empathetic though he still identifies as a Christian. I am very nearly ready to come out to my husband's immediate family and one very close friend, as they all still presume me to be a devout Christian as they are and they keep asking me to attend and/or help out with church events and I feel like a fraud making up excuses for why I can't.

 

I think calling a family meeting to announce my nonbelief seems melodramatic, but all the resources I've found online seem to just assume I will use this format when coming out to my family. My problem with this lies in that my father-in-law is working/living out of state and my close friend is also out of state for school. On top of this, everyone in the family has very busy schedules that would be hard or impossible to synchronize for a big family get-together so that I could tell them all in person. While I'd love for everyone to find out about my nonbelief in the most organic way possible (in conversation), I don't want anyone finding out secondhand, which would be unavoidable I think; I want everyone to hear it directly from me.

 

I have a "coming out" letter almost finished and edited, but now that I'm reading all these things online that assume an in-person meeting is the way to go, I'm second guessing myself about whether to use an emailed letter as my method. I think I would communicate more effectively and thoroughly in a letter, but I also think it could make things a bit weird since it puts the ball completely in their court to come talk to me about anything they might want to ask or say.

 

I am most interested in the story of anyone who has religious family and can relate to what it's like to be surrounded by people who assume you believe the same way they do until you contradict that assumption. And I'm interested specifically in the story of anyone who "came out" to their religious family by some means other than a dramatic family meeting. Is there any great way to do this? Is the letter an entirely bad idea?

 

As a side question: to what extent do you address religious friends' and acquaintances' religiously motivated posts on social networks? If someone posts something specifically about atheists that is just ridiculous and makes a habit of publishing falsehoods about evolution, etc., do you just roll your eyes and ignore them, or do you think certain things are worth addressing?

 


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#2
Pepin

Pepin

  • 530 posts

I certainly feel where you are coming from and am I guess it can be said that I came out, but it was during a breakdown I was having where I was saying far too many other things as well.

 

I am curious, what is the best outcome of coming out to these people? How does it benefit you? This isn't a leading question at all and it may sounds harsher than intended, but I am curious not just about your rational, but also about mine as I don't quite understand my own.


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#3
annadios

annadios
  • 10 posts

I am curious, what is the best outcome of coming out to these people? How does it benefit you? This isn't a leading question at all and it may sounds harsher than intended, but I am curious not just about your rational, but also about mine as I don't quite understand my own.

 

As far as I understand, your question is about my intention in and reasoning behind revealing my nonbelief in god/s and what good comes out of it. Well, for me it comes down to simply being an open, honest person with the people I care about. My in-laws assume I am just as religious as they are and they act and speak to me based on that assumption, so I feel deceitful when I just go along with it. For instance, if I keep on contriving excuses to not go to church functions with my sister-in-law, she will probably begin to take it a bit personally after a while, whereas, if she knew it wasn't personal, but rather a matter of differing world views, I think that would be a much happier situation in the long run. Another reason that applies to me, but not necessarily to everyone, is that I have a very young niece and nephew who are being indoctrinated by their fundamentalist Christian parents. Now, I don't plan on imposing my views forcefully onto them in any way, but I really think it's helpful for kids to know that not everyone agrees with how they/their parents think, as that is their natural assumption until they reach a certain age. Just by being an "out" atheist and a normal, moral person in their lives, I can show my niece and nephew that everyone does not agree with their parents and that it's okay not to agree.

 

Anyway, I hope that answered the question. Unless your question was about why I would need to inform people on social networks that I am an atheist...in that case, I don't really know that I need to. I am pondering how vocal I should be on social networks though (once my family is in the loop, of course).


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#4
Master Jay Paul

Master Jay Paul

  • 34 posts

I'm in a similar situation, annadios. I was raised in a protestant christian house, and of course I that's how I came out of it. However, shortly after I got out when I got to college I found FDR, and began to hear so many ideas that were controversial to what I had been taught to believe. About six months ago I became an atheist, but I continue to let my family believe that I'm still christian. They bring up things in general conversations about religion and it does bother me a little how I feel I have to lie to them, because I believe coming out to them that I don't have faith would be an anxiety provoking situation. There have been times when I'm talking with parents about my life now that I'm off at college most of the time and finding my place in this world that they almost seem to challenge my religiosity by asking me how often I've been praying or other compromising questions. I do at least fully acknowledge that I'm being manipulative by not being honest with them at this time. I have intentions to coming out as an atheist to them, but I too am unsure of what would be an appropriate way of doing this. I'm actually going to seek therapy tomorrow from my school's counseling center, and will hopefully meet with a therapist who will help me with this matter and many others I've been experiencing. I hope to one day after sorting though some to most of my issues to invite my family to counseling with me where I can disclose my atheism and many other things with them perhaps over the course several sessions. This is just an idea I've come up with now on the spot, but I think it may be a good way to make my personal revelations known to my family. I hope something I said has helped. When you decide to come out to your family I'd like it if you came back to this forum and let us know how it goes. I'd like to hear about what route you went with and how your disclosure went over with your family. If I can remember I'll be sure to do the same. Best of luck to ya, annadios.


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"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."


#5
Wesley

Wesley

    Self-Excavator


  • 1222 posts

One day, I was out to dinner with my father. Somehow we began talking about politics. I went into some anarchistic things and said my piece and used logic in order to deduce results. He argued with me and got angry until he found out I was correct and then said he agreed with me.

 

On the drive home, he said "You really have different ideas than I thought you did. Do you believe in God?" I told him yes, even though I was an atheist. He then asked what was the one unforgivable sin? I told him that it was to not believe in Jesus (as this is true. You can murder people, rape people, assault children, but if you believe in invisible beings then its all good) and he then was satisfied and didn't talk the rest of the drive. He was satisfied, but I had never felt more fear in my life. This was one of the first times where it was made real to me how non-existent my relationship with my father was.

 

The point is, that for my father, there is no coming out as an atheist. He would entirely disown me. Very soon, I will get away from him and I will not care what he thinks, but if I was ever in his house in the past and said that I was an atheist, I would have been kicked out within the hour.

 

Now, I am not saying that this will be your experience, but it is something to keep in mind that may happen. Your instinct was to pretend to believe. There was a reason you did this as you already know how your family will react in response to this and you were trying to avoid that from happening.

 

However, if you worked at it and used the knowledge you have, I bet you could write a script that would tell you exactly how this meeting with your family would go, how they would react, and what they would say. I would ask yourself why you were worried about sharing this in the past and what would happen if you did share.


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#6
Mick Bynes

Mick Bynes

  • 134 posts

My mom did not like it when she found out I was an atheist back when I was in my teens and early 20's.  She told me I should became at least an agnostic like my father.  I didn't in the long run.  It took her quite a few years to accept myself as an atheist.

 

I just simply told her that I was an atheist.  She was offended.  Nowadays she doesn't care.


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"I've never seen a homeless guy with a bottle of Gatorade" - George Carlin


#7
Edi

Edi
  • 3 posts

My parents aren't devout Christians - it's not the centre of their life, it's just something they do on Sunday and during bake sales - so telling them I'm an atheist wasn't a problem with them at all.

 

My fiance's Catholic family, however, is another story. His father in particular is a devout Catholic. At one point he wasn't even going to walk his daughter down the aisle because she lived with her fiance before they got married, but he's loosened up a little over the years. He helped us move our stuff here and will visit us, but will seldom accept food or drink in our house.

 

 

So how I came out to my fiance's family - I got really drunk at their house and blurted it out. LOL! My fiance's dad started pouring everyone whiskey and I have a very low tolerance for alcohol, so it went right to my head after the second drink. They began pressuring us about having a Catholic wedding, and after our polite, non-committal answers didn't cause them to back the hell off, I eventually blurted out, "I'm an atheist, so no, that's not happening." LOL! I'm not sure his dad heard me or not (he was in the kitchen and is hard of hearing), but his half-brothers and step-mother definitely heard it.

 

Strangely enough, since then my fiance has been pretty open about his disdain for religion in his family - to everyone except his father. I guess he thinks that his dad is up there in years and it just isn't worth 'putting that on him.' The way I see it, they're putting their religion on US, so I don't know why it has to be this shameful little secret. I don't see why we can't just...be us, you know?

 

The next time they start pushing the Catholic wedding stuff on us, I'll be tempted to say, "Well sorry, but I found a sweet and fabulous gay Justice of the Peace who is an ex-Catholic priest and is now a Hawaiian shaman who does secular weddings. Oh yeah, and we're eloping because it's something I've always wanted to do." ;)

 

Ahh, if only I had the courage to say what I really want to say instead of censoring myself all the time. LOL! I'd probably have no friends. ;)


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#8
annadios

annadios
  • 10 posts

Jay Paul: it's tough when you're not completely independent of your parents (I presume maybe you are partially or fully dependent on them for college expenses or summer housing while not at college?) to tell them something that could cause them some not-so-positive feelings toward you. Definitely if you're in danger of being cut off financially or something like that, I'd delay coming out to them. But the counseling thing sounds like a prudent idea. I had not thought of that - my school offers therapy as well, though the problem of my family not all living in the same state would still exist for me. I have completely revamped my coming out letter and I plan to get up the courage to send it in the next week, so I would gladly post the entire letter on this thread and let you know what kind of reactions I get to it if you're interested. I know I'm certainly interested to see what is going to transpire!

 

Wesley: I actually do not plan on telling my father either...ever. But that's because of alcohol and drug addiction issues and due to those, he is an incredibly irrational person who could potentially be dangerous to me if he knew. But I have no such concerns with any other family member. I'm actually expecting fairly benign responses, though I'm sure there will be concern for my eternal wellbeing and curiosity as to how I ended up not believing (at least I hope there is curiosity - that's the best I can hope for I think). I guess I've been pretending to be a Christian for the past couple months still because I haven't felt mentally or emotionally prepared to deal with the emotional responses I'm sure I'll get. In other words, I guess I've just been "psyching myself up."

 

Edi: Well, that's one way to do it! I certainly wish that was an option for me! If I were to get plastered so as to make it easier to tell them, I think they might think worse of me for getting shit-faced than they would for being an atheist...though maybe if I was wasted, that would detract from the atheism part...hmmm....  ;)


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#9
Josh H

Josh H
  • 80 posts

Hi annadios,

 

I am also a young atheist, as far as the adoption of the label is concerned. I "came out" in February of this year, despite first acknowledging to myself that I was indeed an atheist back in October of 2012. Perhaps my story will be of some use to you, understanding of course that what was best for me may not be in your best interests. I don't know enough about your situation to advise you on anything; I can only tell you what happened to me, in hopes that it will help you.

 

First, I'm happy your husband was understanding. That was very brave of you to be honest with him, and it's always a relief to know your spouse accepts you. I can also sympathize with your feelings of dishonesty, as they too gripped me before I declared my position on the matter. It was difficult to talk to my extended family without lying through my teeth; it's truly a horrible, sickening feeling. I found it difficult to maintain eye contact and I would just nod or agree whenever they told me something about Jesus. It wasn't the fact that I was closeted or hesitant about embracing the label of atheism, it was the fact I was knowingly being dishonest to my loved ones that bothered me so much.

 

Eventually I came to a point where I had to ask myself why I was doing what I was doing. It turns out, I was afraid of hurting other people, especially my grandma. Luckily for me I have an atheist cousin who encouraged me to come out, although he assumed my relatives would go insane or become very angry. I did not suspect that, having experienced for myself the sadness that comes with “knowing” someone you care about could be hell bound. They’re still sad about it but they must deal with it in prayer because they have not been forcing me to attend church or asking questions or anything for quite some time.

 

Long story short, I decided to come out. The decision was largely an emotional one, made to alleviate an emotional problem (guilt from hypocrisy and lying). Looking back, it probably wasn’t the best way to let people know what I really think. Here’s what happened:

 

I decided to “come out” as an atheist, and I did so on Facebook (probably not the best, thoughtful way of informing your loved ones). I chose to write down what I was thinking rather than have a face to face, primarily because my verbal skills amount to “but um, yeah.”

 

I believe this declaration was a mistake because the term has so much baggage that it automatically shuts down people’s willingness to be open – not only on your ideas about faith and god but also on everything else. I believe it would have been better to answer people’s questions or statements truthfully, i.e. “I don’t believe this.” This is because atheism is in essence the act of suspending belief in an absurd, undefinable, abstract concept called “god.” I think Sam Harris made a good point about the mistake of labeling yourself, unfortunately that came a bit too late. When one says that they are an atheist, people make a lot of assumptions that aren’t true. But in any case, whether you declare yourself an atheist, or avoid the label, the moment you express a lack of belief, is the moment many may pass off your other ideas as worldly, ungodly, or wrongheaded.

 

I wish I would have become a voluntaryist before coming forward with my atheism, because my religious family may have listened to me more then. My ideas about the state and spanking may have been better transmitted without the “this guy is talking nonsense because his thinking is askew without the Lord in his life.”

 

My parents and sister knew about my lack of faith long before this happened. I was never in any fear of being disowned or kicked out or the victim of an honor killing because they’re my family, and for all their faults they’ve dedicated a lot of resources into raising me. When I told them, sure they weren’t delighted but they said they loved me and wouldn’t ever disown me, even if I “decided to be gay.”

 

My mother cried when I first told her I had doubts about the “scriptural validity of the trinity” back in 2010. That was not fun putting my mother through that because she’s firmly committed to the fantasy. She wanted the best for me, and she wanted me to go to heaven with her. I can’t really fault her for not taking it well, since she hasn’t been exposed to anything that caused her to really question her faith (we’re all in the deep south, surrounded by confirmation bias). She was born into the faith to, and I won’t get into her background now, but yeah. It’s very easy to sympathize with both my mom and dad, given how they were treated. I’ll not get into my childhood here, but I can certainly say it was no where near as bad as they had it. The important thing is, we all want to be in each other’s lives. With time and patience, maybe this world might gain a few more atheists and anarchists. I wouldn’t count it out, given that I’m here, which is statistically a miracle, given where I’ve come from.

 

One other thing: I came out when I was fully dependent on my folks; I still am, for reasons I won’t get into here.

 

When deciding to be truthful about your stance on god, you have to weigh out what is more important to you. Would you rather wait until you’re financially independent? Do you want to tell everyone at once or personalize your messages? Would you rather your extended family take you more seriously on your views about the state? Would you rather tell the truth without labels that may make that job more difficult? Or would you rather embrace a label and be forthright about your stance on god?

 

It all depends on your own situation, where you are from, and how understanding or loving your family is. There’s no right answer here, but there’s consequences for everything. If you were living in Saudi Arabia and your religion was Islam, my advice would be very different because I would fear for your safety much more. It seems that fear is not warranted in your case.

 

I’ve included the letter I posted to Facebook, should it help you with your own. It may not be the best way of phrasing things but it got the job done.

 

As for the reactions? I got a few likes from some old acquaintances and a few questions via email from my grandma. I worried a lot for no reason. Everyone seems to be fine and I don’t have the guilt of living a lie anymore.

 

 

 

 


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#10
Master Jay Paul

Master Jay Paul

  • 34 posts

It certainly is difficult. I'm fully dependent on them for payment of those of my current expenses that I am not already paying for with my student loans.  I don't fear being cut off financially, but the thought of throwing that monkey wrench of coming out as an atheist is still quite frightening. It's more or less the social disapproval/ostracism and religious re-conversion attempts from my family that I believe would bother me the most. I believe that imaging my parents trying to debate with me about re-accepting Christianity is frighting, because if I were to make my case to them as to how I accepted it all as falsehood I'd of course be threatening their beliefs, reminding them of the how they had not only inflicted upon me, but also upon my older brother and sister their beliefs, and also be reminding them of how their own parents threatened them too into accepting their beliefs. I'm still trying to process the abuse from my parents they inflicted on me in this particular case, along with several others, and until I'm more confident understanding of it all and how it has affected me I plan on holding off on bringing any of these matters up with them.

 

I'd be happy to read over your letter if you choose to post it, and perhaps offer some constructive criticisms to it if I belief it requires any if you would like. I'd also be happy to talk to you about how it all goes when you do decide to let your family know this truth about yourself. I'm sure there will be a lot of things to sort through about your relationships with them when you do. 


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"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."


#11
tasmlab

tasmlab

  • 301 posts

I would recommend being as proactively disarming as possible.  E.g.,

 - Let them know that you won't be constantly be anti-religous around them, insist on debating them, being disrespectful*

 - Let them know that you won't be ruining any family traditions and that you'll celebrate Christmas etc.**

 - Let them know that it makes you happier and that they needn't worry about you

 - Express how important family, morality and virtuousness is to you, so they know you aren't looking for a pass to go Motley Crue*** on them

 

You may find yourself helping other nascent atheists in your family come around with your great example.

 

 

* Do all this stuff later after they are already use to you being an atheist

** If it is true.  We have atheist Christmas at our house without a problem.  No reason to throw out the fun stuff, as long as you are straight with your children.

*** Popular hair metal band from the eighties


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#12
travioli

travioli

  • 31 posts

Annadios,

I personally never thought of being an atheist it as "coming out"--maybe I just didn't really care what people thought. I've identified it now to be more that if they are going to pass negative judgement on something that is important to me, let alone true and moral, then I don't really know how strong that relationship is. That is pretty hard to be honest when relationships are built up like they get though.

 

I was about 16 when it started coming out. I was raised Methodist, and I just wanted to not go to church is how it started for me. After awhile it just came out that it didn't make sense to me--I came at the questions from my family pretty Socratically by just questioning them, etc. If they got hostile, I'd just stay calm and let them diffuse their anger. I'd never show any aggression and try not to fit into the stereotype of "evil atheists". The only real "conflict" I had was with my mom's parents, when they wondered why I didn't go to church when they visited. They seemed surprised and offended, but I guess I just didn't care. I thought a lot about how the truth and honesty was more valuable than relationships built on false premises. I'm trying to work through my childhood and any abuses that I had, and I think empathy was definitely both scrubbed out of me not present throughout my childhood, so maybe that helped me not be as concerned with their opinions? I even cracked jokes sometimes about it...because I view the institution of religion to be so debased. 

I understand that your situation is different, with a husband and in-laws, but I thought I'd offer my story. If there is any form of danger though, then I think it's best to not tell them, like you said. I think it would be cool if you posted that letter like Jay Paul said, I'd also be willing to look over it. 

Hope this helps!


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#13
annadios

annadios
  • 10 posts

Thank you all for your stories. They have each really resonated with me in different ways and it's reassuring to know that I'm not alone (of course I cognitively know I'm not alone, but that's different than actually experiencing the support). I've attached the letter I've come up with so far so you all can review and offer suggestions if you want...sorry, it's a bit longer than Josh's letter =p

Attached Files


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#14
jonagelle

jonagelle
  • 10 posts

You must not be athiest. All people are having their own challenges, yours is your sickness. You must be strong with your trial. You must not give up. Being a christian is your solution to your problem. You must believe in God so that you will be guided and find more happiness in what you do. If you have faith you will be blessed. All life has ups and downs. You must overcome all challenges that you take. You will find comfort in God's guidance. You must stay faithful to Him. And you will have a happy life. Do good things, attend church events, and whatever situations you encounter you must do good. Love God inspite all the difficulties that was given to you. Having a mental disorder must not be your excuse of going away from God.

 

Nathanael King is a Clinical Hypnotherapist, NLP practitioner and weight loss & nutritional therapist. He also helps people suffering from panic attacks or social anxiety. He has written a book on how to build confidence instantly using NLP techniques. Please click <a target="_new" href="http://dailyimproves...confidencefree/">here</a> to download now. You can also sign up for weekly newsletter at <a target="_new" href="http://www.SelfProgress.co.uk">http://www.SelfProgress.co.uk</a> for your growth.


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#15
Hannibal

Hannibal
  • 454 posts

As a side question: to what extent do you address religious friends' and acquaintances' religiously motivated posts on social networks? If someone posts something specifically about atheists that is just ridiculous and makes a habit of publishing falsehoods about evolution, etc., do you just roll your eyes and ignore them, or do you think certain things are worth addressing?

 

 

I don't have this problem, but it's no different to being an anarchist among statists. The more you embrace truth, and value truth as core to your being, the smaller your circle of friends will become unfortunately.

 

The thing is, as you circle of friends shrinks, the less you will care because you will realise that some of those friends are worth much less when viewed in the light of your better understood values. I'm not saying you have to call them out on Facebook (i just don't use it at all), but you should never compromise your values. 

 

You don't need to get involved in an argument, but you shouldn't hide. I.e. you don;t need to comment on someones post about evil atheists, but at the same time you shouldn't avoid posting about evil theists if the mood takes you. 


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#16
Stefan

Stefan

  • 10 posts

I am in a similar place. I appreciate hearing from everyone else on this.

 

I am planning on writing a letter. I will write a short one, giving a brief summary, then attach a very long one with a lot more detail into the why. I won't ask them to read it unless they feel they need to to understand more, or if they want to try to re-convert me.

 

Thankfully I am financially independent now and I have no fear of any organized shunning.

A meeting would not only be awkward and less clear, but just about impossible as I am involved with many different churches and have many other believing friends and relatives I keep in contact with throughout the country.

 

Thank you for sharing your letters. I may refer to them when I am "psyched up" enough to write my own. I would love to hear how it turns out for you, annadios.


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#17
JSDev

JSDev

  • 36 posts

Thank you all for your stories. They have each really resonated with me in different ways and it's reassuring to know that I'm not alone (of course I cognitively know I'm not alone, but that's different than actually experiencing the support). I've attached the letter I've come up with so far so you all can review and offer suggestions if you want...sorry, it's a bit longer than Josh's letter =p

 

Thank you for sharing that most beautiful and eloquent letter. You have a lot of courage, best of luck to you on your journey. I've been an atheist most of my life, but became a christian when I got married. I sincerely thought it would bring my wife and I closer. That lasted for about 5 years, until I just couldn't take it anymore. When I told my wife, I was terrified but she's has been very supportive, and now almost 10 years later our marriage couldn't be better and now she thinks of herself more as a deist and our teenage kids are atheists!


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#18
NeoEclectic

NeoEclectic

  • 43 posts

One day my mother asked me if I believed in God. I said "no" and that was basically the end of the discussion. The last thing she said was that it was okay and I can believe what I choose to believe as long as I'm a good person on the inside (and that's all that matters).

 

It was easier for her to accept because she always knew but just wanted to hear me say it. Also, my father is an atheist so she was already used to the different point of view.


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#19
Hugh Akston

Hugh Akston

  • 53 posts
I don't know why I cringe so much when people say they 'found' FDR. I must have some negative connotation to that phrase. Where have I encountered this specific turn of phrase before? I must have some latent unresolved issues. What's the big deal with someone finding a website?
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All phenomena are real in some sense, unreal in some sense, meaningless in some sense, real and meaningless in some sense, unreal and meaningless in some sense, and real and unreal and meaningless in some sense.

#20
Stefan

Stefan

  • 10 posts

Here is my coming out letter. I sent personalized shorter letters to each person with this attached, telling them that I didn't expect them to read this whole thing unless they wanted to try to reconvert me. 

 

I came out today to all my very religious family and friends. Thanks, Anna, for your very well-written letter. I drew from it in terms of calm tone and bullet-points for my personal letters.

 

Much love to all you closeted atheists. 

Stefan


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#21
Kason

Kason
  • 2 posts

Annadios, 

 

I just wanted to thank you for starting this thread. I know it's kind of old, but I just joined the boards this week and have been trying to absorb as much knowledge as possible. Coming out to my devoutly religious fiance.

 

I don't know what's going to happen. I assume there may be some serious tension. or termination. But I at least know that I'm not alone in this feat. 

 

And for that, I thank you and every response on the thread.

 

All the best,
Kason


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#22
dsayers

dsayers

    man in a pink bunny suit


  • 1295 posts

Welcome, Kason. Please feel free to lean on this community for support during your difficult transition. I for one admire your conviction to the truth. I hope you're able to help her.


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I am interested in the truth. I welcome all corrections and critiques.

 

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#23
pipeline_mike

pipeline_mike

  • 14 posts

Came out to my aunt the other day. She related a fantastic story of her first realization that there is no god. Alas, the tale is not mine to tell. 


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#24
Philip Saunders

Philip Saunders

  • 12 posts
Its great to see the different stories about this here.

I've had a bit of an ambivalent relationship with religion. I went to a Catholic secondary school in Ireland and I was a staunch atheist when I was a teenager- which used to get me in trouble. Then when I was 19, I moved to Scotland and was in a pretty vulnerable and lonely place I was accosted by Mormon missionaries and became intensely religious for about six months. I actually feel a little embarrassed to mention that phase here for fear of being judged!

After six months to a year of crazy my theism mellowed to liberal Quakerism. Now I consider myself an atheist Quaker- I still go to silent meetings on occasion and enjoy the social and aesthetic insights of the community, but Stef and others have done a good job in straightening out my metaphysics.
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#25
Wanha_Christopher

Wanha_Christopher
  • 3 posts

Hey Anna,

I read and enjoyed your well thought out letter. ( And last year -- so I know I am reviving an older thread )

 You thought "calling a family meeting to announce [your] nonbelief seem[ed] melodramatic?"Does a letter sort of increase the drama causing as well?

 I think you are completely valid in your desire to be honest. When asked the question: "
what is the best outcome of coming out to these people?" My first thought, is that you don't lose respect in yourself, and you get to keep your integrity which is important to you.

 I came out, as an agnostic after reading Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (which changed my life). & I came out on a case by case basis. If I was asked or invited to something religious or contradictory to my beliefs I would tell the truth or say I didn't think it was a good idea (which inevitably required me to tell the truth).
 My family hated it and my mother told me I was atheist and selfish, and that I secretly believed in god but deluded myself that I dont. But over time those relationships turned cordial and I'm happy for having told the truth, and continue to do so, without having to necessarily "come out" but to just be me.

 Although I must confess I do tell people I'm atheist more often than agnostic because it gets the general point across. When I tell people I'm agnostic, they often take that to mean confused -- which I'm not.

I hope everything went well with you letter,
Chris


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#26
johndavey

johndavey

  • 3 posts

Hey annadios, 
this is a great question and topic. Terribly difficult to implement, of course, so kudos for being courageous. If you haven't read Real Time Relationships yet, that's a really wonderful starting point for putting yourself into the position of being able to tackle this supremely challenging subject with your current social circle, particularly your family. I wouldn't worry too much about people hearing about your atheism second-hand, although I think the open letter to your peeps is not a bad way at all to go about this whole thing. I think putting yourself in a situation that is YOU vs. EVERYONE would probably be detrimental to your end goal (assuming I'm understanding it correctly). I've found (coming from a hyper-religious history) that conversations with people one-on-one has been *hugely* valuable to me in discovering who is "on my team" and who doesn't give a shit. Also, I believe having relentlessly deep and personal discussion with individuals about my own experience and growth in understanding has not only been life-changing for me, but seems to elevate others in the process. 

There's a lot more to be said about this, certainly, but best of luck and I'll be following this thread to see what the outcome of this is for you. Thanks for sharing!

-John


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