Coming out of the secular closet.
Post Reply
 
Thread Rating:
  • 0 Votes - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
10-12-2014, 11:38 AM
Coming out of the secular closet.
So, my wife and I went to my parents for dinner last week, and they confronted me about some Facebook posts I made that we're critical of religion. My parents have never been church-going pious people, but they have always held on, at the very least, to their belief in god. I told them that I have been questioning my whole life, despite my best efforts at believing, and that I have come to terms with the fact that I am an atheist recently. My mom's jaw dropped and she walked off. My dad and I went out back to talk. He said, "You're my son, and I'll love and respect you no matter what, but...", and then began to try and debate me. I told myself that I wouldn't ever get into a debate with family over the issue, but there I was, my father taking the offensive, so what was I to do? Have him chalk up my current disposition as nothing more than being a young fool? I had to explain myself so that he knew, at least, that I have done the math and taken in all the information I could from both sides, and have formed my conclusion based on unbiased logic and reason, and not simply some fad. That conversation actually went well, and at the end he said, "well, I obviously can't change what you believe or don't, so it'll just be an issue we disagree about that won't be a topic of conversation." That was perfect... Until my mother walked in. Backstory on my mother; she was raised by a former preacher and grew up in New Mexico on a bible college campus. She has never, from what I have observed in my 20 years on this Earth, had an original thought. Because of how she was raised, the bible was right, god is great, and that's it. No questioning, no stirring in her pot of thoughts. Despite that, my mother has always been like my best friend. I've always had complete transparency with my parents (except for my skepticism, obviously), and I have always been "her baby", as my older brother was always difficult and ambitious. Back to our story; she walked in and immediately interrupted me, and said something along the lines of, "so what, are you going to be sacrificing virgins to some pagan god now?". I said, "Mom, atheism is defined as not having a belief in god. That's it. There are no gods to worship, no covenants to make. Only what is here and now, and has tangible evidence." She then began to tell me how angry she is, and how she can't believe that I am doing this, and so on and so forth. So, again, I try to explain that this isn't some rash decision I've made or some fad that I'm joining into. I explain that I used to spend nights crying and pulling my hair trying to understand why my mind works the way it does, and why I can't just go along like a good little Christian like everyone else. I then ask her (as I was getting frustrated that I was being attacked by my own mother), "If there was a all-loving, benevolent being that wanted all of creation to know him, why would he not help me? Why would he let me, one who genuinely wanted and tried to believe and know him, hate myself and contemplate suicide because I couldn't handle the emotional damage the dilemma caused?"
She had no answer, and would resort back to, "you just have to believe. You just have to believe", almost as if it was some mantra. This is how the rest of tht night went. She would make an ignorant claim, I would rebut, and she would have nothing.
Fast forward to last night.
I text her and ask if we can come over. She says, "yes, but I will not be cooking". We arrive, and notice that she has had a couple drinks. That's all fine and well, and we're hanging out and talking about everyday things, and then she brings it up. I knew it was bound to happen since she was drinking, but I figured my dad and I could change the direction of our conversation. I was wrong. She just kept on talking about it, in a drunken stupor, and I just kept either pretending not to hear, or just trying to put comedic relief into the air. She then tells me that she isn't putting up my Christmas ornaments from my childhood, and that she talked to my dad about cutting me off (even though I'm completely independent, and have my own family and home), but he said he would divorce her. This is the point that I couldn't take it anymore. I said, "Mom, dad and I told you not to go there and you did. I made light of it, and tried to act unphased all night, but I'm done. I'm not going to debate with you. If you need time away from me, that's just fine. But if you don't drop it and agree to disagree, you are going to cause damage to this family, and potentially ruin our relationship." About this time, my dad walks in again, and says "Damn it Carolyn, I told you to leave him alone. I told you not to even bring it up, and now you're going to end up chasing off your own son." My dad and I went to the kitchen, and I cooled off enough to try and do damage control. "Dad, I'm fine. Don't fight with her about it. I know she loves me, and she knows I love her, and despite her best efforts, I'm not going to let it push me away." He said, "Kyle, I love you and I completely respect you, regardless of all this." That was it, we loaded up our baby, and my wife and I won't home. I'll admit, while driving home, I shed some tears. Never in a million years would I think my mother would disown me, or not want to be around me. Like I said, I have always been her baby, and we always had a great relationship. I finally fell asleep around 1:30, and got up this morning and went to work. She called me and said she was so sorry, and that she really does love me unconditionally. She said that we should come over this weekend, and she'll cook dinner, and we can get thins back to normal. I hope that will be the case, but we'll see...
Has anyone else had similar experiences?
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
10-12-2014, 11:52 AM
RE: Coming out of the secular closet.
Hug

I would set boundaries with you Mom until you can get to a point that you are both comfortable.

Maybe tell her that you will come to dinner, but she only gets to ask 3 questions about your atheism, must listen fully to your answers fully, and then the topic gets dropped and everyone talks about the other stuff.

While you have had time to sort out your thoughts, she is at the beginning, and she is getting flooded with emotion, thoughts, questions, fears, etc.
You cant sort this out in one night, so agree to take it in steps. She will need time to process your answers and to develop new questions.

The goal is to keep the line of communication open, minimalize the emotion, and still be connected as a family.


"Life is a daring adventure or it is nothing"--Helen Keller
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 2 users Like Bows and Arrows's post
10-12-2014, 12:10 PM
RE: Coming out of the secular closet.
Sounds to me like your dad settled it with her and all will be fine.

No, thank dog I didn't have to go through that.

I think though that you will be just fine. And Kudos to your wife - since you barely mention her I assume she is not part in the issue in any way.

[Image: dobie.png]Science is the process we've designed to be responsible for generating our best guess as to what the fuck is going on. Girly Man
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
10-12-2014, 12:11 PM
RE: Coming out of the secular closet.
(10-12-2014 11:52 AM)Bows and Arrows Wrote:  Hug

I would set boundaries with you Mom until you can get to a point that you are both comfortable.

Maybe tell her that you will come to dinner, but she only gets to ask 3 questions about your atheism, must listen fully to your answers fully, and then the topic gets dropped and everyone talks about the other stuff.

While you have had time to sort out your thoughts, she is at the beginning, and she is getting flooded with emotion, thoughts, questions, fears, etc.
You cant sort this out in one night, so agree to take it in steps. She will need time to process your answers and to develop new questions.

The goal is to keep the line of communication open, minimalize the emotion, and still be connected as a family.
This!!!!!

This is essentially what I had to do. It has taken some time but things are now back to as normal as I can reasonably expect with my family. My Atheism is no longer a point of conversation, it has been accepted and people have moved on. Sure, it gets brought up occasionally but it usually passes quickly.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
10-12-2014, 12:12 PM (This post was last modified: 10-12-2014 12:19 PM by Mr. Boston.)
RE: Coming out of the secular closet.
My "coming out" to my mother didn't go quite that badly, though it WAS an extremely awkward situation. My mother was an active Methodist Minister (she's since retired) when we had our discussion about faith, god, etc. It was about 8 years ago, when my wife and I were planning our wedding. We wanted my mother to perform the ceremony, as we figured it would be a touching, lovely gesture on her part; and that's exactly what it ended up being, but not without some difficulty. My wife is half Jewish, ethnically-speaking, and I'm atheist, and we wanted a purely secular ceremony without any reference to god or religion. We sort of posed it to my mother in the guise that because there was so much variation between all the faiths practiced on all sides of the two families, the fairest thing to do was to take faith out of it altogether. But she kept asking if there could be a blessing here, a bible verse there, and since I felt pushed and somewhat on the defensive about why I wanted MY wedding a certain way I had to delve into it with her. I tried to be inoffensive as I could, but basically I explained to her that I have never felt religion made a convincing argument for the existence of a higher power, that I felt our universe COULD operate by entirely natural means, and that to me there was no requirement for a prime mover or supernatural realm of any kind. It was hard for her to take. I think mostly because faith, and God for HER had always been a source of incredible comfort. I think her primary concern was that my life would be missing something without that same comfort. Borrowing from Carl Sagan I told her that I was made of star stuff and that one day I would go "back to the universe," and that was all the poetic reassurance I needed. She's never been "happy" about my atheism, but she doesn't fight me on it either. That said, my mom's not your typical minister either. She's always clashed with church authorities, she's extremely liberal, defiantly performs gay weddings, baptizes children of unwed parents, and she's always had VERY irreverent things to say about church politics. I've often thought she got into the ministry at least in part to try and change the hierarchy from within.

I did get a little push-back from my mom after my son was born and we declared we had no intention to have him baptized or ritually circumcised in a temple either. But she got over it. My brother is also an atheist, but he's always kept it from her, though I'm sure she suspects it of him too. He agreed to let his kids be baptized because his wife was raised Catholic, though they don't attend church and I suspect she's not much of a believer either. Anyway, my mom has one set of grandkids she can pretend are being "raised with God," and that seems to placate her, lol. She has asked whether or not she's allowed to talk about God, the Bible, Jesus, etc. with my son. I've told her I think he's a little young for any of that yet, but that I'm not trying to keep him away from religion or religious people - and I certainly don't mind him understanding the basic history of religious thought and culture. I'm confident he'll figure out what's what on his own, and if I "teach" him anything it'll be for skepticism and an expectation of convincing evidence to support any claims made about "truth" or the universe.

Anyway, my mom and I love and respect each other, but I will say our relationship has been a bit "colder" and more emotionally robotic than it was when she was still suffering under the delusion that I was suffering under The Delusion, lol.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
10-12-2014, 12:23 PM
RE: Coming out of the secular closet.
Wow, thank all of you for the responses! I had a great feeling about this forum, and you guys have definitely proved what a great place it is. Bows and Arrows, thank you so much for your advice.
Dom, my wife did have some part, but I figured I'd leave it out, as my fingers were tired of all this texting (I'm on my iphone). Basically, when I have up trying to talk to my mom last night, and just stayed silent, my wife, very tactfully and respectfully, explained to my mother that I am the same man that I always have been, and that I am just more comfortable in my own skin and with my own views. I couldn't be more blessed (see what I did there? ;D) when it comes to my wife. She was questioning her belief during our whole relationship, and I told her from the start what I believe, and that I would not force my views on her in any way. I even told her I would go to church with her if she wished. (Luckily, she came to the same conclusion as I, through research of her own)
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 2 users Like EppurSiMuove's post
10-12-2014, 12:42 PM
RE: Coming out of the secular closet.
Contempt that comes from a bottle is shakey at best. She was sauced, her brain farted and it came out her mouth - it happens.

Your mom is human and it will take time for her to mold her behavior around this new version of reality. She's lucky to have you to help her to grow up.

After all her years of christian learning, maybe your mom will actually learn the meaning of "unconditional love" from her atheist son. Shy

A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels. ~ Albert Einstein
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
10-12-2014, 12:51 PM
RE: Coming out of the secular closet.
Sidenote, my "coming out" to my dad was over a few beers in a bar. He was raised Catholic and any "belief" he retains is far more about superstition; taking the whole "Pascal's Wager," approach of not wanting to be struck by lightning for misbehaving if it IS true, lol. Doesn't stop him from having a good time whether God likes it or not though, lol. Anyway we were talking about the utter tragedy of the whole Catholic sex abuse scandal as it had recently started to really come to light how pervasive the problem was in the Boston area. And I made some comment that it only made me happier to have left god and religion for atheism. So he said, "So you're an atheist, huh?" and I told him none of it ever made any sense to me, and it was horrible what people had done in "His" name over the years. He agreed that religion was an evil of the world but he didn't want to roll the dice on there being no god at all. We had a big laugh and he bought the next round. That was about 10 years ago and it hasn't come up between us since then.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 2 users Like Mr. Boston's post
10-12-2014, 01:04 PM
RE: Coming out of the secular closet.
(10-12-2014 11:38 AM)EppurSiMuove Wrote:  She had no answer, and would resort back to, "you just have to believe. You just have to believe", almost as if it was some mantra. ... Has anyone else had similar experiences?

It is a mantra. My dear old mum still prays for my sorry soul and says I think too much. God love her.

Nice username. I'd go with that with to your mom. And yet it moves, mom, and yet it moves.

There is only one really serious philosophical question, and that is suicide. -Camus
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
10-12-2014, 01:06 PM
RE: Coming out of the secular closet.
Though mine was not a drinker and always a believer Mr Boston, your Pop sounds a bit like mine. I think he was just glad his kids were equipped enough to make up their own minds. Shy

A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels. ~ Albert Einstein
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 1 user Likes kim's post
Post Reply
Forum Jump: