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How did you come out to your family as atheist (or whatever you identify as)?

I have been considering for a while now how to work in the fact that I no longer subscribe to the beliefs of my family. They are devout, and I can't keep pretending that I still go to church. I know most people say not to make it a big deal, but this is going to be a big deal. Even a fraction of a detail that doesn't coincide with my dad's worldview is going rock the boat and maybe lead to a full interrogation. So how did you folks do it? Do they know the extent of what you believe? Sexuality coming out stories apply here, too!

By EarthKate
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40 comments

5

I've been an open skeptic since childhood in an otherwise religious family, so I had no coming out, but I did have a coming to a head. I dealt with the projected shame, guilt, and disappointment for years on my own, and I wish I'd have brought things to a head much sooner. When it became a potential threat to my children, I finally took the hard stand and gave them two options. 1. Respect my difference of beliefs without the constant underhanded challenges and have me and my children in their lives or 2. Watch us walk away and never look back. I was truly there. And it was oddly the one time the conversation didn't devolve into a fight. It was a slow process, but we've come a long way in our understanding. Family get togethers are enjoyable again, and devoid of the religious aspect while we all agree to simply focus on family. Love will trump hate. Hugs

Amzungu2 Level 7 Dec 11, 2018
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4

I resigned from my position as a Sunday school teacher and renounced my baptism by requesting the pastor to destroy my baptismal documents.

I wanted to wait for the right time to tell my parents, but the pastor I confided in felt obligated to tell my parents for me.

Something profound and unexplainable happened to me that changed my views on religion and in particular, life. It happened for the best no matter how terrifying my experience was. There was a sense of peace throughout my fear.

I've since been removed from any inheritance, family gatherings, etc.

I made the right decision for me. I don't regret it.

SleeplessInTexas Level 7 Dec 11, 2018
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4

Why are we always the ones defending our beliefs, when it is the rest of the world that believes fantasies that are based on zero evidence?

Rudy1962 Level 8 Dec 11, 2018
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2

This is such a meaningless transition and the word "coming out" doesn't apply. I stopped going to church and didn't give two sh-ts what anyone thought about it. If I had been confronted - there's always a front door that I can exit. As an adult, there's no way that I would have subjected myself to an interrogation. This is on the scale of "how did your family feel when you stopped believing in Santa". My life is mine to live and if my family doesn't approve - I could care less - I have no problem with not being invited to family events. My self-esteem and self-worth is not based on approval or validation from family/friends.

SLBushway Level 6 Dec 15, 2018
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2

Well, I gave my patents a double whammy. I came out as both gay and atheist at the same time. Strangely they were much mroe concerned about my being gay than my beign an atheist. That was my actual experience.

(Joking about this, but I started with the perfect set up, so here goes)

Yes, you say... but how can this work for me?

Well, tell your parents you are gay. Then you can tell them that you are nto really gay, but just atheist. It will be such a relief to them that it may not matter that much at all to them, s they will feel they just dodged a bullet.

If you are really gay too, this still wrokes, as they wotn' really be concerned aob ut yoru beign atheist so much as your being gay.

(OK, serious again now)

My plan was jus tto come out as gay, but I also wanted to avoid all the drama, so since i was atheist too, I decided if I also told them about tht too, they'd be disarmed from beign able to use all the religious ammunition they would otherwise try to guilt me with. To that extent it worked.

I was never close to my parents, and after coming out I knew I'd never be close to them. So, I felt I had nothing to lose, other than the potential to be close to them, which is something I never had, so I didn't think I'd miss it. And,m I didn't. On the brighter side, I was able to be myself around my family from that point forward, which ws much easier on me. I believe i gained more than I lost.

One added note. This was in the early 1980's, before email. I came out via a snail mail letter. i figure if I called them or told them in person some things may have been said (on both sides) which could not be taken back. If you come out, you do need to consider the methodology you use to relay the information. Only each person can assess which way of relatyign the information woudl create the least harm to the relationship.

snytiger6 Level 8 Dec 12, 2018
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Interesting snytiger6. I noted your comment about being distant ("not close" ) to your parents and wondered if you felt that you needed to 'out' yourself (in both senses, gay and athiest) as a means of connection with them?
I ask because I am not close to my family and 20 odd years ago sought approval from my mum for a change in my life that would have had no impact on her whatsoever (wanted to quit my career and start again). The irony is that had she been negative I'd have still gone ahead and did what I wanted to do. I just wondered why we do things like this when maybe there is no need?

@tartanathiest My family or origin was more a family were certain subjects were just not talked about. When I came out, I pretty much decided I was tired of "editing" what I said and did to please others and just wanted to be myself, be honest and let the chips fall wherever they may. If peopel could nto accept me for who I am (including family) then I really dont' need them to be a part of my life.

I did strtegize for the least long term damage inour relationship, but I was tired or not eing able to just be myself. I did hope tha tmy beign hones twould bring me closer to my family, but in the end it really didn't make much of a difference one way or the other. So, at least I am more honest abotu who I am, and I like who I am a lot more, even if my familial relatinships haven't really changed over the long run. I am happier.

2

Two years as a closet Atheist. still don't have the guts to tell my family, coz i know it'll break their heart. good thing they never questioned me about not going to church anymore.

lezzz Level 2 Dec 12, 2018
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Sorry you cannot express yourself lezzz. It must be difficult not being able to reveal your true feelings to those you love and respect most. 🙁
Stay strong and maybe one day this will change. If not you always have us to offload. 😁

@tartanathiest . oh thanks mate. no worries though. im getting used to it. besides i have real friends here that accepts my views. and yeah. its fun having friendly debate about any of their religious belief sometimes. coz either i win or i laughed about it. win-win for me 😂😂😂

2

My mom is extremely religious and it has def. caused riffs in our relationship. I remember I slowly stopped going to church during high school- much to her chagrin and she would guilt me into going. Soon I just went to Xmas mass bc tbh I like some of the music. For a long time, she was in denial about what I believed in until I flat out told her that I didn’t see any logical reason to believe in a God and even if God existed, I probably still wouldn’t worship Him. Eventually, after I negated all of her reasoning (most of them falling into the God of the gaps fallacy), I told her that she was free to believe in what ever she wanted but if she continued to berate and belittle me I would stop going home and cut off communication with her. She went about two weeks without speaking to me citing that she was “hurt”. But since then She has promised to stop bringing up the topic with me in order for us to have a relationship.

corey6 Level 4 Dec 11, 2018
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2

Honestly, compared to other things where I had to come out to my family, being an atheist was low on the list. I told them I wanted to stop going to Sunday School when I was 12.

PalacinkyPDX Level 8 Dec 11, 2018
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2

I just stopped going to church.

Lutherzme Level 7 Dec 11, 2018
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1

Lol. Welcome to my world. I've been very secretive about my beliefs. My ex wife and my children 14 and 15 do not know. Yes this is wrong, I should be honest with my children and blood relatives. But I live I reality. Until my daughter, 14, turns 18yrs old I will continue the charade. The repercussions of coming out aren't worth it. I don't mind. Its not just about me After all.

tyodaman Level 3 Dec 17, 2018
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I do the same but my immediate family knows I am atheist but choose not to acknowledge that . But don't you feel so suffocated and demoralised everytime you go through the charade . Please tell me more about how you cope with that

@lovin1987 yes. Suffocated is a good term. I wish to be "me" So strongly. Living a lie and being what seems to be everyone Else's idea of what I should be can be tough. But I also Havnt much of a problem lliving the lie. As long as others are happy. I've spent many years focusing on others happiness and well being that its kind of become part of me now. It kind of makes me happy. A conundrum of course. Lol. Hating the lies and loving the smiles of those that do not know.

@tyodaman It's so reassuring to know that there are other people who are dealing with the same issues I am facing.

1

Around age 5, I began asking why we had to drive to the next town over for church, when we could just walk 1/2 a block to one. That's when I learned that different people believe different things. I thought it was odd that God couldn't get everybody on the same page. I always knew I was pretending to believe, because everyone else claimed to. A few years later I started seeing Madelyn Murray O'Hare (sp?) on TV, and realized that atheism existed, and I wasn't the only one. Once I became taller than my mother, around age 12, I was done being dragged to church. There was never any declaration of atheism, or coming out. I just made it progressively more obvious.

HomeAloneSunday Level 5 Dec 16, 2018
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1

I need to say it, because my father wants me to say verses from the Quran at his funeral, one day. I asked him what has more meaning for him, verses everyone would speak in a language that it isn‘t mine or my own words that comes deep from my heart.

I told him what meaning religion has for me, or what we called religion. If religion is something that is good for us, combine yourself the ingredients of your religion.

My religion consists of family, friends, music, sport, laughing, nature. Everything I like and is good for me. My life.

I avoid anything and everyone who disturbs my peace and freedom.

Yucel Level 3 Dec 16, 2018
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1

It was a little difficult...I was around 10/11ish when I told my mum and grandparents that I was an atheist. One day they started talking about god and they wanted to take me to church that following weekend and without hesitation I told them that I’m an atheist. When they started asking questions, I simply told them I didn’t believe in god or any religious beliefs. They’re Pentecostals and didn’t take it well. I was told I was too young to understand atheism (but somehow not too young to understand religion!), and was told atheism is a serious “mental” disease only “god”, “jesus”, and the “holy spirit” can cure, but only if I was baptised and started going to church every weekend; which I never did.
Not long after I turned 15,, they stopped talking about religion. I don’t know what changed but they’re seemingly okay with it now.

SirenOfTheRocks Level 3 Dec 15, 2018
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1

My family is not close, and religion was not a factor for the most part. If I were in your place, talk it out with someone in your family that you trust to not blow up , then naturally tell them how you feel and why you feel that way. At all times keep your head up and don't let them bring you down. They will still love you at the end of the day. smile001.gif

Sevatar86 Level 4 Dec 13, 2018
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1

I never came out to my family as I really don't see a need to. If they asked me, I would be honest with them. It just never came up. I am only close to my immediate family and I know they will accept me regardless.

Fairiedust Level 4 Dec 12, 2018
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About the same as me. I did not find it hard, because I had no serious religious upbringing.
My family are agnostic about my views, as long as I'm alive and happy, they are.

Damn I wish it was never brought up. Every time I see him he asks if I went to church and how it was. Every time. It's not in a scrutinizing manner, it's just normal conversation for that house.

1

I've always been a pain in the ass for questioning everything - judgments, beliefs, whatever I saw around me, pretty much. As a result, I didn't have the closer connection that my brother and sister have with our dad.
It sounds like your dad keeps asking because your deception continues to give him hope that you remain on what he believes is the right path. Next time he asks, come clean and be ready for his interrogation. You're no longer under his roof and your morality is not religion-driven. If he can't accept that, it may be an indication that his faith is more important than you. That happens sometimes. Hopefully, it won't happen to you. Let him know that you're taking ownership of your life and are living it responsibly.

chalupacabre Level 8 Dec 12, 2018
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1

For me it was very easy as my father's side of the family are all agnostic. My mother was raised in a VERY strict Pentecostal household where she couldn't wear jeans or pants, no makeup, etc. It caused her to hate churches and religion, although she kept a personal belief in God. I was raised with no religion, and frankly no one in my family really gives a damn what the others do or don't believe. Just don't try to force your beliefs on anyone else and that's that.

KatMalina Level 4 Dec 12, 2018
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1

I never made an announcement. I guess when my first child was born and people asked about the christening and I said I wasn't having my kids baptized that was a fairly good indicator.

There wasn't really too much fuss over it.

KissedbySun Level 7 Dec 11, 2018
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1

I just said "I don't believe that crap". They just shrugged and said "Okay". That's pretty much it.

chucklesIII Level 7 Dec 11, 2018
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1

I came out to my parents rather angrily in situations that probably couldn't and shouldn't be replicated, sorry. Bad example but they got over it and figured out if they want to be in my life they'd have to live with it or suffer my big mouth bringing up the ways religion failed all of us. I don't suffer any foolishness and at a certain point unless theyre in poor health and closer to death than not, Id advocate pulling the bandaid off and give em some space to get over it.

If you happen to have a tender relationship with your parents, want to preserve it as much as possible, don't do well in direct confrontation, and feel you express yourself better in print, Id start with a heartfelt message to my mother. Try to explain where your line is drawn, how you came to your conclusions, where your source of morality does come from so she's not too worried about your rudder. Assure her that you love her but youre not taking any guilt trip shit. kindly but firmly ask her to be your advocate when you decide to similarly break it to your dad if she wants them to stay in your life.

Wurlitzer Level 7 Dec 11, 2018
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See that's the thing. My dad is all I have, which makes me hesitant to jeopardize our relationship. My mom died when I was 6 and subsequently I am an only child. I feel like telling him this would break an "us against the world" thing we've had for a long time. But I am also lying to him regularly about church.

@EarthKate yeah thats a tough one Im sorry. Any siblings or aunts n uncles to practice comin out to first? Im sure itll be hard to have the convo with him but itll just get harder waiting til later to admit how long youve been lying for his sake. I hope hes the kinda fella that at least respects ya for tellin the truth n will hopefully get over it soon enough

1

I realized at 16 years old that all religions were fairly tales mean to control people and their lives. The misogyny and the concomitant absurdity was too much for me. I simply said I cannot believe in religions and that was that. They did not like it but so be it. I am an honest person and was not going to lie.

Skeptic66 Level 7 Dec 11, 2018
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1

My mom called me an atheist before I even realized I'd slid past agnostic. She wasn't very happy about it but I stopped caring about what she thought long before then.

VeeGeeII Level 3 Dec 11, 2018
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0

I put it on my Facebook. I may or may not submit to their questioning. It's my truth to give or keep.

Concerning sexuality... even more important that you pick and choose who deserves to have their curiosity answered.

LeeArtoria Level 3 Dec 28, 2018
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0

I can relate to what you are saying as I am going through the same process. I don't want to hurt anyone but it's impossible to avoid that when you are from a religious family. I did it in stages . They have still not accepted the fact that I m not religious and still try to get me to go to church . In my community , it's difficult for a person without faith to have friendships and relationships . It's difficult to have to constantly explain to people why you don't want to go to church or why you are not religious. Even if you explain it to them they don't understand most of the time. I am not the kind of person who will constantly engage with religious people to stand up for my convictions. I am just tired of having to explain over and over again why I don't have any faith . So when my family insists I just go to the mass / religious service to oblige them . It's difficult to be completely liberated from religion without damaging your relationship with your family .

lovin1987 Level 3 Dec 21, 2018
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You don't need to "come out". To me, religion, or lack thereof, is deeply personal. If they ask just say it's personal. The problem i see a lot is that once you come out as atheist, especially if your family is religious, they try to push it on you and pretty soon theyre condtamtly sending religuois stuff to you and then getting upset when you don't respond the way they want and it creates unnecessary tension. So you don't need to say anything. Just stop going to church and if asked just say it's something you want to keep to yourself.

RickyCharette Level 3 Dec 19, 2018
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