Dealing with family's "pain" caused by your deconversion...
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02-01-2013, 10:14 PM
RE: Dealing with family's "pain" caused by your deconversion...
They seem pretty firm in their beliefs, so I think reasoning or trying to deconvert them is out of the question, my best suggestion : be respectful, avoid religious discussion.

Bury me with my guns on, so when I reach the other side - I can show him what it feels like to die.
Bury me with my guns on, so when I'm cast out of the sky, I can shoot the devil right between the eyes.
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04-01-2013, 03:29 PM (This post was last modified: 04-01-2013 04:09 PM by Luminon.)
RE: Dealing with family's "pain" caused by your deconversion...
I haven't read through all the thread, only OP and a few posts, Ghost specially. Good advice.

But if Seth and his TTA podcast taught me anything, it's the fact that atheism is not always about reason and logic. Religion isn't about reason and logic and neither can be atheism. Reason and logic are arguments for those using them, which are not people related to you by blood and life.

Deconversion is entirely possible by heart alone. By seeing the cruelty and hate of God. Really, how many people God killed in Bible compared to Satan? There's blood dripping from almost every page. Except when it's not blood...with all that 'begetting' and 'knowing' Undecided Wink There's no fair deal in it, there's talk of love, but it's not love, it's not how parents treat the children they love. You need to talk in a way they understand. If they understand only feelings, you need to let them know how do you feel about God and Christianity, that you feel mistreated by it. You must make them know that the reason why you left Christianity is because you seek to be a better, more moral person, more true to yourself and above all, more compassionate. You can't help but have compassion with those suffering in Hell or abandoned by God without help. And that Jesus is a very inadequate help for them, just one middle-eastern prophet, unjustly punished for sins of someone else...

You can start with an indirect approach, let's say you hang out with your parents and you read this news article... "Wow... they say right here about this crazy space aliens sect in Ukraine. They brainwashed their people, first they made them feel like shit, told them they're flawed and unevolved, unworthy to go to the alien spaceship... Then they told them that the prophet has a cure, he can cure their genes so that they'll be pure for the time when the aliens come, they just need to believe and obey... Then they'll be pure and better than all the outsiders... "

And then you mutter under your breath...
"IT KIND OF REMINDS ME OF GOD"

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07-01-2013, 07:49 PM (This post was last modified: 07-01-2013 08:03 PM by SingingBear.)
RE: Dealing with family's "pain" caused by your deconversion...
Maybe this is a bad approach, but my family and I sort of have a no-man's land when it comes to our communication. They don't ask me about my lack of belief and I don't criticize them or try to change them in the slightest. Dad will sometimes put in something about Armageddon coming, or Satan's influence on the world. I simply say nothing. The bait is there and I don't bite.

Is it wrong that I leave it be? That I don't speak out against bad logic and lies to my parents? Perhaps it is, but it preserves the peace. Both of them are over 60 years old. They seem to be comfortable in their habits. It's been years since it's done me any harm. I've made my peace with the past, though it still pricks me from time to time.

They do worry for me, but at least their religion doesn't teach the Hell lie. The worst for them is that I will die and not live forever with them on a paradise earth. They're right on 2/3 of that outcome. Big Grin

Just a quick addendum-- I know I quote from Sam Harris all the time, but my post signature seems to have some relevance here. There is probably nothing I can say, no amount of reason or proof I can offer, to beat that ultimate conversation stopper. My father, for instance, believes that scientists are under demonic influence. That they have an agenda to sway the righteous. When he hears facts and figures referring to how old the planet is or to evolution, he does the equivalent of plugging his ears and going "LA LA LA". He's wearing blinders willingly. The only one who can remove them is him.

Since they believe that righteousness and goodness spring from Jehovah and that non-believers suffer for their rejection of him, I figure that the best I can do is set a good example. Be a good man. After all, here I am-- a non-believer thriving. When logical discourse fails (and believe me, I've tried) what better "witness" can I give them?

"The problem with faith is that it really is a conversation stopper. Faith is a declaration of immunity to the powers of conversation. It is a reason why you do not have to give reasons for what you believe." - Sam Harris
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14-01-2013, 06:55 PM
RE: Dealing with family's "pain" caused by your deconversion...
(02-01-2013 06:05 PM)Azaraith Wrote:  I would reserve abandoning family for cases of real physical or emotional abuse - if we can't remain on good terms with family because they don't share our beliefs and even disrespect them, how are we better than those families that would kick out their children for going against their beliefs?

While ideally I would like to interact with people that understood and respected my beliefs, the question of theism doesn't make up the entirety of my life or what I can relate to them with. I just don't bother arguing with them about it anymore - they're not open to the idea that they might be wrong and it's not worth the strain to try.

(30-12-2012 11:51 AM)Full Circle Wrote:  I feel like I could have been the author of your response Azaraith as it so mirrors my thoughts and situation. I am in daily tumoil with the rift between my parents and I. Somedays I'm ambivelent about the whole situation but on others a I feel depressed and sometimes even anger. I'm looking for a coping mechanism, one of the reasons I came to this site, in the hope of finding like-minded people in a similar situation that will share a liitle wisdom and some insight that has proven helpful to them. So my question to you is what do you do to help quiet the inner turmoil? I will appreciate thoughtful and sincere input.

I'm not sure if you meant to reply to Impulse (your quote) or myself, but I spend a lot of time reading about philosophy, science, etc. from books by Carl Sagan, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and the like as well as watching/listening to some Youtube videos on similar topics. I defer any and all discussions with friends/family to email/fb now since that helps to calm nerves and give people real time to think about what they mean to say as well as research it. Unfortunately, it has the side-effect of producing extremely long and time consuming emails/discussions... ha That has done wonders for both my ability to formulate my thoughts and convey them to others in a way that fends off the more emotionally charged arguments (especially where I'm not confident in an area due to unfamiliarity).
Thank you for your response and excuse the delay, much traveling during the holidays. I also spend a great deal of time reading the very authors you mention (add Russell and Ingersoll to that list) and watching many a Youtube video of same (Hitchens is my favorite). I have no doubt whatsoever about who I am and what I believe or in this case don't believe. To me it is so clear. Maybe I need to explain the "inner turmoil" a bit more. It has to do with whether I continue to let my elderly parents continue to have a flicker of hope that maybe I'll reconvert and let them die with that hope or to once and for all put an end to this in no uncertain terms. What is the humane thing to do?
They are getting quite old and I picture a deathbed scene where one or the other asks if I believe, saying no causes great pain and sorrow for them in their last days but I remain true to myself but on the other hand if I say yes I betray who I am but give them one last joy. Remember these are people I sincerely love.
I hate fucking religion, it does nothing but cause suffering. Letting off a little steam, I'm fine...really. Thank you for listening.

Throughout history conversions happen at the point of a sword, deconversions at the point of a pen - FC

I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man's reasoning powers are not above the monkey's. - Mark Twain in Eruption
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14-01-2013, 07:11 PM
RE: Dealing with family's "pain" caused by your deconversion...
(07-01-2013 07:49 PM)SingingBear Wrote:  I figure that the best I can do is set a good example. Be a good man. After all, here I am-- a non-believer thriving. When logical discourse fails (and believe me, I've tried) what better "witness" can I give them?
None as far as I know. Good for you.

Throughout history conversions happen at the point of a sword, deconversions at the point of a pen - FC

I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man's reasoning powers are not above the monkey's. - Mark Twain in Eruption
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16-01-2013, 02:00 AM
RE: Dealing with family's "pain" caused by your deconversion...
(02-01-2013 09:47 PM)Ghost Wrote:  Hey, Azaraith.

I haven't really read through the thread. I just wanted to offer something.

Imagine you have a daughter. You love her. You raise her through scraped knees and piano recitals and pig tails and her first crush and that crazy boy band infatuation. Now imagine that one day, she comes home and tells you that she does XXX hardcore porn.

Your response, I would imagine, would be one of pain, would it not?

I'm not comparing Atheism to porn. What I am saying is that the reason the porn thing is so painful is because there's not a lot of arguments that are gonna make you OK with it. It's so far beyond the pale that you just plain can't understand why she would do such a thing, or how she could do such a thing and you worry about the damage it will do to her life.

Your parents look at Atheism as something that's beyond the pale. It's incomprehensible to them. Their little boy has crossed a line that they don't think they can get you back from. And they probably can't. If you put yourself in their shoes, in the shoes of a parent that has tried to keep their son safe his whole life, it's an understandable reaction.

So, how does the porn star get her parents to be OK with her choice? I have no idea. But that's what you have to do. Help them be OK with your choice. Because right now they're just afraid for you. I imagine that step one is acknowledging their fears. A little bit of empathy could go a long way. And remember, they're your parents. They love you. Love them back.

PS: Anyone who told him to discard his parents, please go suck a dick. You're terrible people. For real, what the fuck is wrong with you?

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt

You're spot on - that's what makes me uncomfortable, I know that my deconversion hurts them like I've abandoned them or something. I've taken to avoiding the subject, but it's painfully obvious that they wish for me to return. That's something I can't do, as I can no more choose to believe in Christianity than I could Zeus at this point. Instead all I can do is do my best to demonstrate that I can live fully, honorably and happily while being an atheist.

I've long since put an end to debating the subject though - in the earliest part of my life since falling away from belief I felt I had to defend my beliefs and debate with them about it. Now I see that as just pointless - though sometimes deflecting is difficult (such as when directly asked about something or such).

I most definitely love them and know that their feelings for me haven't changed even though they do disagree with my choice. They're certainly not the type to excommunicate or spew vitriol towards family members for leaving the faith.

(04-01-2013 03:29 PM)Luminon Wrote:  I haven't read through all the thread, only OP and a few posts, Ghost specially. Good advice.

But if Seth and his TTA podcast taught me anything, it's the fact that atheism is not always about reason and logic. Religion isn't about reason and logic and neither can be atheism. Reason and logic are arguments for those using them, which are not people related to you by blood and life.

Deconversion is entirely possible by heart alone. By seeing the cruelty and hate of God. Really, how many people God killed in Bible compared to Satan? There's blood dripping from almost every page. Except when it's not blood...with all that 'begetting' and 'knowing' Undecided Wink There's no fair deal in it, there's talk of love, but it's not love, it's not how parents treat the children they love. You need to talk in a way they understand. If they understand only feelings, you need to let them know how do you feel about God and Christianity, that you feel mistreated by it. You must make them know that the reason why you left Christianity is because you seek to be a better, more moral person, more true to yourself and above all, more compassionate. You can't help but have compassion with those suffering in Hell or abandoned by God without help. And that Jesus is a very inadequate help for them, just one middle-eastern prophet, unjustly punished for sins of someone else...

You can start with an indirect approach, let's say you hang out with your parents and you read this news article... "Wow... they say right here about this crazy space aliens sect in Ukraine. They brainwashed their people, first they made them feel like shit, told them they're flawed and unevolved, unworthy to go to the alien spaceship... Then they told them that the prophet has a cure, he can cure their genes so that they'll be pure for the time when the aliens come, they just need to believe and obey... Then they'll be pure and better than all the outsiders... "

And then you mutter under your breath...
"IT KIND OF REMINDS ME OF GOD"

I'll have to agree to disagree about the role of logic and reason in deconverting - for me, it was 100% about beginning to question my beliefs and using reason and logic at first to try to prove them, and then when that failed, to dissect them and understand what actually is true. I didn't see the God of the Bible as evil or malicious until long after I had stopped believing. In my case, if I told them I was leaving Christianity because I wanted to be a better person they'd take it as an insult to their character, as they strongly believe that Christianity makes them better people (and they are very good people, though I believe that's a reflection of them, not Christianity).

(07-01-2013 07:49 PM)SingingBear Wrote:  Maybe this is a bad approach, but my family and I sort of have a no-man's land when it comes to our communication. They don't ask me about my lack of belief and I don't criticize them or try to change them in the slightest. Dad will sometimes put in something about Armageddon coming, or Satan's influence on the world. I simply say nothing. The bait is there and I don't bite.

Is it wrong that I leave it be? That I don't speak out against bad logic and lies to my parents? Perhaps it is, but it preserves the peace. Both of them are over 60 years old. They seem to be comfortable in their habits. It's been years since it's done me any harm. I've made my peace with the past, though it still pricks me from time to time.

They do worry for me, but at least their religion doesn't teach the Hell lie. The worst for them is that I will die and not live forever with them on a paradise earth. They're right on 2/3 of that outcome. Big Grin

Just a quick addendum-- I know I quote from Sam Harris all the time, but my post signature seems to have some relevance here. There is probably nothing I can say, no amount of reason or proof I can offer, to beat that ultimate conversation stopper. My father, for instance, believes that scientists are under demonic influence. That they have an agenda to sway the righteous. When he hears facts and figures referring to how old the planet is or to evolution, he does the equivalent of plugging his ears and going "LA LA LA". He's wearing blinders willingly. The only one who can remove them is him.

Since they believe that righteousness and goodness spring from Jehovah and that non-believers suffer for their rejection of him, I figure that the best I can do is set a good example. Be a good man. After all, here I am-- a non-believer thriving. When logical discourse fails (and believe me, I've tried) what better "witness" can I give them?

Same here. Religion is pretty much a non-topic now. Politics is heading there - we agree on a lot more there, but still disagree drastically when it comes to most social issues...

(14-01-2013 06:55 PM)Full Circle Wrote:  
(02-01-2013 06:05 PM)Azaraith Wrote:  I would reserve abandoning family for cases of real physical or emotional abuse - if we can't remain on good terms with family because they don't share our beliefs and even disrespect them, how are we better than those families that would kick out their children for going against their beliefs?

While ideally I would like to interact with people that understood and respected my beliefs, the question of theism doesn't make up the entirety of my life or what I can relate to them with. I just don't bother arguing with them about it anymore - they're not open to the idea that they might be wrong and it's not worth the strain to try.


I'm not sure if you meant to reply to Impulse (your quote) or myself, but I spend a lot of time reading about philosophy, science, etc. from books by Carl Sagan, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and the like as well as watching/listening to some Youtube videos on similar topics. I defer any and all discussions with friends/family to email/fb now since that helps to calm nerves and give people real time to think about what they mean to say as well as research it. Unfortunately, it has the side-effect of producing extremely long and time consuming emails/discussions... ha That has done wonders for both my ability to formulate my thoughts and convey them to others in a way that fends off the more emotionally charged arguments (especially where I'm not confident in an area due to unfamiliarity).
Thank you for your response and excuse the delay, much traveling during the holidays. I also spend a great deal of time reading the very authors you mention (add Russell and Ingersoll to that list) and watching many a Youtube video of same (Hitchens is my favorite). I have no doubt whatsoever about who I am and what I believe or in this case don't believe. To me it is so clear. Maybe I need to explain the "inner turmoil" a bit more. It has to do with whether I continue to let my elderly parents continue to have a flicker of hope that maybe I'll reconvert and let them die with that hope or to once and for all put an end to this in no uncertain terms. What is the humane thing to do?
They are getting quite old and I picture a deathbed scene where one or the other asks if I believe, saying no causes great pain and sorrow for them in their last days but I remain true to myself but on the other hand if I say yes I betray who I am but give them one last joy. Remember these are people I sincerely love.
I hate fucking religion, it does nothing but cause suffering. Letting off a little steam, I'm fine...really. Thank you for listening.

That's a very tough situation - I see a difference between a small white lie to dying parents and living a lie for years. I would be tempted to give them the impression that I believed to make their dying days better - give them a bit of happiness or comfort, even if it was a lie. Then again, I'd like to believe I'd stay on the high ground and never lie. But such a situation cuts more quickly to the chase about whether I would prefer their last days to be happier or for me to remember that they died believing my lies... To be honest, I'll have to say I'd do whatever I could to make their last days more comfortable, I couldn't bear letting them die while terrified that I will not be joining them in heaven. I'm hoping that I don't have to deal with that for a long, long time though.

Better without God, and happier too.
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16-01-2013, 04:23 PM
RE: Dealing with family's "pain" caused by your deconversion...
Azaraith, thank you for sharing thoughts, not an easy topic. I suppose this is one of the differences between an atheist/humanist and a religious person. I don't want to hurt the ones I love needlessly or callously. When the time comes I think I'll tell them what they want to hear and I'll continue my life knowing I didn't inflict any additional unecessary pain or sorrow. I'd rather continue living knowing this than with the alternative. You sound like a well grounded person and I appreciate your candor. I hope you don't ever have to face such a situation. For now I'll continue in the no-man's land that Singing Bear describes, both sides limit any comments or conversation on the topic because it gets too raw and highly emotional and neither side moves an inch. Just goes to show how discussing the illogical with the fervent seldom leads to a peaceful outcome.

Throughout history conversions happen at the point of a sword, deconversions at the point of a pen - FC

I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man's reasoning powers are not above the monkey's. - Mark Twain in Eruption
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16-01-2013, 06:47 PM (This post was last modified: 16-01-2013 06:50 PM by Simon Moon.)
RE: Dealing with family's "pain" caused by your deconversion...
(02-01-2013 09:54 PM)Anjele Wrote:  It may help to just continue to be a decent person so that you can show that your atheism hasn't turned you into some sort of horrible monster.

You are the same person you were before they knew of your lack of belief.

Being combative or remote will just be blamed on Atheism.

It doesn't sound like a lot of time has passed since they found out...let some time go by without confrontation to give the hurt feelings a little time to not be so tender.

Just a couple thoughts.

This is what I was going to suggest.

Just ignore the entire subject as best you can. If they bring it up, just casually change the subject or deflect their concerns.

Continue living your life as the good person you are, which is demonstrable based on the fact that you care about their feelings, and you won't lie to them.

After enough time passes, and they see you haven't turned into a drug addicted, rapist, baby eater, they should come around. If they don't, there might not be much you can do about it.

What I've seen in the past from a couple of friends that had similar problems with their parents, is that their parents have become more liberal in their beliefs. They altered their beliefs to accepting that good people will get into heaven too.
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17-01-2013, 09:59 AM
RE: Dealing with family's "pain" caused by your deconversion...
(24-09-2012 06:13 PM)Azaraith Wrote:  I'm not really sure how to explain it, but since I left Christianity behind, my parents have expressed hurt from that - my mother said she cries at night about it, etc. They're earnestly worried about me burning in hell - telling them that there is no hell to burn in doesn't help, as they're so far into their delusion that the concept of Christianity being false seems silly to them. They've gone so far as to say my college education was a complete waste of money, because that's when I started drifting away from belief - to them, it's more important that I believe than I get a good education, good job, and succeed (also, I was "smarter when I was 13 [and believed]" and such Dodgy ). They've even questioned whether I really ever believed, since to them it's inconceivable that a Christian could walk away from faith.

I honestly care about their feelings though, and wish I could do something... I know that they'd be thrilled if I converted back to Christianity, but I can't a) force myself to believe something against all evidence and logic or b) fake conversion - I don't like the idea of living a lie or double life to fool them into being happier. I've got as much chance of de-converting them as I do winning the lottery 50x straight, so getting them to join my side is off the table too...

How do you deal with that, for those that are in a similar situation? I know they won't be "getting over it" any time soon, so I don't have that hope... Saying "I don't want to talk about it" just prompts a "that's because you can't defend your faith in atheism, just admit you're wrong" response Rolleyes
I say this to everyone in this circumstance: Ask your parents what their motive for having you was, to enforce Christianity on you, or to be parents?

Leviticus does not justify stupidity, but it is more than enough to define corruption of the human mind.

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17-01-2013, 11:22 AM
RE: Dealing with family's "pain" caused by your deconversion...
(30-12-2012 11:51 AM)Full Circle Wrote:  
(25-09-2012 08:31 AM)Impulse Wrote:  My situation is similar. I have family members who are distraught with the whole idea that I will likely go to hell. They regularly pray for me and tell me so. I often hear expressions of grief from them and how much they wish I would reconsider. They keep telling me to learn more about Catholicism (the religion I grew up with) in the hope that it will bring me back despite my repeatedly replying that every time I read more, I find more reason to confirm my atheism.

As a former Catholic, I understand their position and why they grieve. It also tells me there is little I can do to console them. For that reason, I simply try to be as respectful as possible by making sure I am never rude about my atheism or about their religious beliefs. As much as I dislike it, I also allow them to discuss religion and my atheism as much as they want to help them process it all. I do draw the line at rudeness though. If I notice they are becoming rude, I'm not afraid to say so calmly and request that they return to more polite discussion. The bottom line is to respect their feelings and to try to maintain a state of civility between you while also remaining true to your own beliefs. Under no circumstance would I "give in" and pretend to believe, think, or do something just to make them feel better. It is them, not you, that is really causing their grief. It's hard to watch, but you likely can't relieve them of it.
I feel like I could have been the author of your response Azaraith as it so mirrors my thoughts and situation. I am in daily tumoil with the rift between my parents and I. Somedays I'm ambivelent about the whole situation but on others a I feel depressed and sometimes even anger. I'm looking for a coping mechanism, one of the reasons I came to this site, in the hope of finding like-minded people in a similar situation that will share a liitle wisdom and some insight that has proven helpful to them. So my question to you is what do you do to help quiet the inner turmoil? I will appreciate thoughtful and sincere input.
Sorry for the delayed reply Full Circle, I didn't see your post until now.

It is sometimes difficult to quiet the inner turmoil. However, it is made easier for me in part because I live in a different state than my parents and siblings. So my interactions are mostly by telephone which has much less impact than more frequent in-person interactions. Still, the conversations aren't ever easy when they turn to religion and the lingering thoughts afterward can be difficult to quiet. As time has gone on, however, I have been able to move beyond those lingering thoughts more easily because it amounts to more of the same that has gone on for years now (more than 20 for me).

It's important to do your best to depersonalize the whole matter. Realize it is them that has "the problem" and not you. It's too easy to think that you are the one who walked away from religion and therefore you caused their grief. However, that logic is like a group of bigoted comrades where one walks away realizing the bigotry was wrong and then feels guilty that he let the others down and internalizes their expressions of disappointment. In reality, you did what you had to do; what you know is right. It isn't your fault that your family members haven't arrived at the same understanding. If you can truly internalize that realization, then it removes the guilt portion and cuts the inner turmoil in half. What remains is the discomfort about the family conflict because you love them and they love you. I think that's something you just have to learn to live with, unfortunately.

Personally, I also feel grief in the opposite direction. I have a family member who is dedicating her life to studying and learning about Catholicism. It bothers me greatly to see her wasting her life away like that and I think my atheism has solidified her resolve to continue doing so. Part of the way that I cope is by coming here and by reading and learning about religion and atheism in a variety of places. Doing so reinforces for me that I was right to give up religion. It also gives me material for my discussions with her. Hopefully, I can help her to open her eyes or at least to recognize that some aspects of religion are seriously questionable.

But I'd be lying if I said I am able to completely quiet the inner turmoil. Even after over 20 years, there is rarely a day that goes by where the family religion differences aren't on my mind.

"Religion has caused more misery to all of mankind in every stage of human history than any other single idea." --Madalyn Murray O'Hair
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