coming out of the religious closet

today i let my mom read one of my essays i wrote for my history of religions class. big mistake. she’s quite christian, i’m quite the opposite – an atheist. i’ve kept that a secret from my family for about 3 years now. i havnt had any plans of telling them about it either. but when she read my essay she accused me of blasphemous editorialised skeptisism, and asked me if i believed in any of it. i paniked and said “i dont know”. after she calmed down she gave me the nightly “good night i love you” but also she slipped in a “god loves you too”. my gut sank to the floor. it would kill her to know that i was an atheist. i mean she already thinks that she FAILED as a parent due to the fact that i cant keep my room clean. what would happen if she found out her oldest child was a heretic, a blasphemer, a pagan, a NON BELEIVER?

has anyone been in that boat?

How old are you?


Wow… :confused: Reminds me of me. I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep it up as long as you did, even…

I have absolutely know idea what you should do, but post back, I’d like to hear how things turn out. :confused:

Deep Sandwich- I like your handle!

With regard to the family situation, I’ve never been in that position myself, but my best friend, whose parents are both christian, renounced his beliefs on reading Paul Davies’ God and the New Science. His parents are none too pleased, and he mostly avoids bringing it up with them. His family is unlikely to accept what he thinks, especially as his uncle is a minister. He keeps it low profile.

My advice to you, and what he’s done, is to keep the peace- it won’t kill you, and it will make your parents happier. Find people with whom you can discuss your naturalist philosophy, and keep that something private- not something to hide, but something that’s none of your parent’s business. I never talked to my folks about girls I liked. Same deal. Not their business.

That’s my $0.02.

I would either…

a) keep it a secret until you’re older and it won’t be as big of a deal.

b) become a rhetorical master and simply verbally pummle your parents with concepts they can’t get their heads around. Eventually they’ll just leave the subject alone.

What religion are you, deep sandwich?

Heu… you mean “New Physics”?

But what does this book contain against christianity? :confused:

Uccisore, i am 18

pxc, so far so good… as of now i havnt seen my mom since last night so… yeah…

Phaelix, my handle history is kinda funny; i’ll tell you about it if you want but not here. i laughed hard with your " That’s my $0.02." nice

Old_Gobbo, A) thats what i plan to do and B) dispite the fact that that would be hilarious, it would be detrimental to my relationship with them

jjg, i am an atheist

Sâmkhya, i second your inquiry

to all, thank you

I understand that, Sand. What religion were you brought up with?

ah… lutheranism

I find this to be an interesting character study. So far, everyone has seemed to say that the religious beliefs of a teenager are more important that family. That is to say, he’s been an atheist since he was 15. We haven’t gone into the issue of whether or not atheism is correct, because clearly that’s besides the point.
But how about this: Be very open and frank about your religious beliefs (or lack of such) with your family and friends. If what you believe is true, they have nothing to fear from you, and if what they believe is true, you have nothing to fear from them. If you being an open atheist puts consderable strain on your relationship with your family, then you need to either just live with that strain (because at least it’s honest) or else consider what your reasons for being an atheist are (have they grown any since you were 15-16?), and whether or not they are compelling enough to remain in the position you are in. You apparently have your family and a good number of your friends who would all tell you that atheism is baloney if you asked them. I’m just going to assume for the sake of argument that your family isn’t a bunch of morons, and that the things they say may actually be worth listening to.
So that’s what you are up against: Your family, and whatever they would present as reasons not to be an atheist. You need to carefully measure the reasons (whatever they may be) that you have to go against them, and decide if they are strong enough. Simply resolving yourself to be an atheist no matter what, and just hide it from everyone (except, of course, your real and true friends on the internet) is extremely anti-philosophical, and I’m surpised that that’s been the approach generally endorsed so far.
Simple put, if the things your family would say and do if you were honest with them would make you want to stop being an atheist, you should stop being an atheist.

EDIT: The reccomendation to turn yourself into a rhetorical expert so you can shout down anybody who disagrees with you was especially reprehensible. But then I don’t need to tell you that- I’m sure you’ve experienced others who play that game, in the form of over bearing religious folks.

Ucissore, you’re wildly over-idealising the situation. Sure, in a pure philosophical context it would be best to have it all out in the open and thrash it out, but it’s no secret to anyone that religious beleifs are very rarely based on any kind of rationality. This is a very emotionally charged situation. Do you think if he comes out with it to his family they’ll be all “well, that’s interesting son, why don’t you tell us all the reasons our precious beleifs are wrong and then we’ll have a quiet and non-recriminatory conversation about the relative merits of our respective points of view?” I have my doubts.

I think the suggestions so far have been eminently practical.

I also think that everyone should have liberty to beleive as their individual experience guides them. I think Sandwich’s liberty in that direction would be compromised if he made an issue of his beleifs. That’s leaving aside the effect on his domestic situation.

Ah yes, it was indeed God and the New Physics. I read it myself, and although Davies ends by saying that there is room for there to be a God, my friend felt that Davies had logically annihilated all of the forms of God that would make meaningful sense to him- certainly the standard Christian one. Of course, he’d recently been studying a course called “Science and Religion” at university and had been actively questioning his beleifs. I think the book was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Sounds like a good story, Sandwich. I’d like to hear it.


 I totally agree with you here, IF you are including atheism among religious beliefs in the above.  
Of course not. It will probably lead to a fight, maybe accusations of him going to hell, or pleas to go to church and 'give it another try' or whatever. 
[i] On the other hand[/i], do you think a 15 year old comes to atheism because he read Aquinas and Bertrand Russell, compared them, and made an informed choice? I have my doubts.  The kind of response he'll get from his family is most likely directly comparable to the kinds of emotionally charged situations that led him to atheism in the first place. If your reasons for being an atheist are, for example, "God is mean and church is boring", then things like "You'll go to hell and dissappoint your father" deserve to be heard out. 

Practicality implies a goal. If the goal is making sure Mr. Sandwich’s beliefs don’t get challenged, then I’d have to agree. If the goal is to improve or sustain his family life, then I disagree- keeping this kind of thing to oneself (especially when you still live with your parents) is likely foster a lot of resentment.

I don’t see it as a matter of liberty- it seems to me that everyone has no choice but to believe as their individual experience guides them. If Sandwich’s parents convince him not to be an atheist, then that’s a part of his individual experience, and the change in beliefs that results can only be a good thing according to the above, yes?

   If you mean, it might be made to feel bad about his beliefs, and might be pressured to change them, then I agree. Part of 'thinking for yourself' responsibly is not being insulated from the consequences of unpopular beliefs. He [i]is[/i] 18.  Roam the internet, and you'll quickly note that a person can cultivate a belief in absolutely [i]anything[/i] if they insulate themselves from all criticism. That may be an expression of liberty, I see it as a self-imposed oppression. 
   Also, the idea that strangers on the internet (myself included) are appropriate for consolation and advice, and yet one's own parents need to be kept in the dark, is silly and dangerous.

Ucissore- I’m not going to point-by point your arguments because, frankly, I’m lazy. I’ll try to address the gist of your argument and I hope you’ll forgive any minor slip-ups.

You make a lot of good points, and in several cases I’m willing to concede- "I don’t see it as a matter of liberty- " yup, point taken. " I totally agree with you here, IF you are including atheism among religious beliefs in the above. " I am indeed.

No doubt Mr Sandwich’s beleifs will be challenged regardless of what path he follows. The problem with making it a family issue is that factors that have nothing to do with the issue at hand get wrapped up in it. “You’ll go to hell” is a relevant argument. “You’ll disappoint your father” might be true enough, but that’s Sandwich’s decision, and it’s hardly germane to his decisions about the veracity of a religion.

I will address this one specifically-

Do you truly beleive christian parents will ever accept their son’s atheism without resentment? Resentment of some kind is in this case a given.

I’ll agree with your point about people on the internet giving advice, but I don’t think taking advice from his folks is the likely answer. They’re quite likely to be biased. But well-informed friends, yes. Mentors, yes. And of course himself most of all.

Hopefully she would pray for you, like Augustine’s mother did for him – because she loves you.

Give me your phone number and I’ll tell her, if you don’t want to.

Vale bene, (Be well,)
my real name

ps: What brought you around to atheism?

 See, I disagree with that second part. I think everything is relevant. Look a beliefs like solipsism. So far as I know, there is no iron-clad defeater for it, we consider it absurd primarily because 'no one can live that way'. 
  Leaving Sandwich alone for a moment, let's pretend I'm a Christian living in a part of the world where being a Christian will get me very heavily persecuted. I think that's a worthy consideration, if the question is "Should I be a Christian?" that is, I ought to have some extremely powerful reason for believing as I do in order to maintain those beliefs. 
   So...I guess I half agree with you, then. IF Sandwich is an atheist for the right reasons, then family strife is not relevant to his belief in atheism. If he had some argument or reasoned stance as the center of his (dis)belief, then his family's opinion would be irrelevant to that. But I think that's a [i]very[/i] big 'if'. I think very few people, even wise philosophical people, come to the beliefs they advocate or defend for the 'right reasons'. IF Mr Sandwich is an atheist for the 'wrong' reasons (because Christianity condemns something he finds enjoyable, or because of some sterotype about 'religious people' that he's bought into, or whatever) then things like "You'll dissappoint your father" become relevant. It's comparing apples and apples. 
Perhaps, but then that would be their problem, and they would be the cause of the resentment. Mr. Sandwich risks resenting his parents and seeing them as oppressors or whatever, if he feels he has to keep his religious ideas a secret from them. Of course, a lot of that depends on just how important this sort of thing is to him. 
Assuming he has a good family, I think they are the first place to go, especially at the age of 18. Their primary bias should be his well-being. The problem about "well-informed friends, Mentors, and himself" is that it's very easy to only expose himself to opinions that reinforce his views. None of those sources are very likely to challenge anything.

Well, having grown up with a Baptist father and Atheist mother my experience wasn’t to bad when I presented my religious fact to them and told them I was atheist… but imagine the utter confusing they felt when I spoke of Satanism… Once again under there common misconceptional belief that Satan is ALWAYS referred to as a Christian symbol of hate and sin and complete evil… They assumed the worst… Believe me… It is best to come out and say it so that you don’t feel uncomfortable everytime they bring up religion. At least if you tell them the truth they won’t ask you to go to Church… Well… Actually Don’t tell them because they probably WILL make you goto CHURCH!!!

Run… Just Run… I heard Mexico is nice… but don’t drink the water.

calm down Ucci… the tool isn’t the problem, it’s the person.

Hey Sandwich… I’m just curious, what exactly are your reasons for thinking that God actually does not exist? Are you deep into the athiestic end… or swimming somewhere just south of the agnostic spectrum?

Ucissore- Hmm… perhaps we could agree that we don’t either of us really know enough about Sandwich to have a justifiable opinion. I have enough trouble giving good advice to people I know, to be honest.

I recommend everyone read God and the New Physics if you haven’t! It is most diverting.

That seems reasonable, actually.