Lack of Faith Is Causing My Family Distress
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20-06-2013, 05:47 PM
Lack of Faith Is Causing My Family Distress
I'm sure 1000 threads have been made concerning this topic, but I just wanted to chat with someone. I'm extremely introverted, and I have major depressive disorder, so I don't usually talk too much.

I've recently turned 21, and I don't currently stay with either of my divorced parents. However, over the last few years, my mother's side of the family has shown increasingly serious discomfort in my perceived atheism. I would not in a million years tell them I am an "atheist" (worse than cursing in the Bible Belt), but I don't go to church anymore, and I typically disagree with them on political views Christians seem to rise against (abortion, stem cell research...). They've put 2 and 2 together.

They certainly aren't mean or cruel to me about it. They just often let me know how worried they are about my eternal soul, and the sleep they lose over it at times. I know they primarily feel this way because they care about me, but I obviously can't go around pretending to be Reverend Hero.

To make things clearer, my whole family is religious, and all my friends are religious, and their friends are likely religious. My girlfriend isn't really, but she isn't the best to talk to about this kind of thing. Any people out there feel like sharing their advice with me? Anything you have would be much appreciated. I can't tell you enough how lonely I feel every day.
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21-06-2013, 03:29 AM
RE: Lack of Faith Is Causing My Family Distress
Hero,

Welcome to the forums. I'm sorry to hear you're going through this, but rest assured you're definitely not the first nor last. I've gone through some very similar issues myself. When my family finally found out I was an atheist there was this time where they did everything from send me books to send me video links and silly websites. Of course they always told me they were worried about me and my soul and didn't want me to burn in hell, etc. It sounds like you've been there.

I went through some odd stages in my deconversion. In a funny way I think a lot of people go through the stages of grieving as they do it.
- Denial
- Anger
- Bargaining
- Depression
- Acceptance

And that may sound odd. I've heard it before and can even relate those to my own experience in going through it. When I first went through my deconversion I recall thinking, "Nah there's just no way... am I? Really? An... atheist? Well, I don't wanna tell anyone. I hear no one likes those people."

When I accepted it, I started getting upset and pissed. I became pretty anti-theist to a large extent. I went through this mode where if my parents weren't starting a conversation on it, I was instead. We'd go back and forth. Mostly because I felt lied to, as if people had been helping me live a lie. It took me a while to realize that a lot of people, most of them, really actually believe all that crap and weren't willingly lying to you, but instead, just living a lie they thought was true, etc.

I can't say I went through the bargaining phase.... but I do recall going through a LOT of depression. There was a point in time where I worked the graveyard shift in my line of work for 2 years. I was the only person to work there during that shift. So I was socially isolated, dealing with coming home and contemplating about this all the time. I just really wanted some answers and clarity. I just wanted my family to not be upset with me. My parents were still begging me to come to church.

Eventually, with time, I accepted that I was an atheist. I wouldn't call myself really anti-theist at this stage in my life, so much as I'd consider myself "anti-fundamentalist" - I don't really feel the desire to debate every single theist that comes around. I don't feel the need to attack on anything to do with a god or gods. I try to concentrate my life on being happy, living a good life, and hopefully in doing so, others will see it and want to do the same. If someone asks what my religion is, I'll of course talk about it because you never know if you'll end up helping someone else who maybe themselves is afraid to "come out of that atheist closet."

But it takes a substantial amount of time to get to a point where you may be comfortable with things. It was certainly not overnight for me.

I found that sitting down and having really down to earth talks, not to debate the existence of a god or gods, but to discuss life itself and being a good person and why you feel you are comfortable in your decisions... it can sometimes help a lot. I think one of the largest things that has helped my family is that I recognize their sincerity, even though I often disagree. I think it provides someone with a "thank you" and a "I don't agree" at the same time. So now when people say, "i'm worried about you so i've been praying for you about x, y and z" i say something to the effect of... "Thanks, I know you only do that because you care. It means a lot that you care. Rest assured, I'm not worried about x, y and z because..." and usually a conversation ensues. But I've found people take things far more palatable if you start with something like that, than, "WHAT? Don't pray for me, prayer does nothing, you fool!" - at that point, you've shot down the potential for any interaction, and most people take that personally not because you called prayer stupid, but because they feel like you're calling them stupid as a person because they believe it works and you're calling it a waste of their time. Is it? Well yeah, I feel it is, but hey, there's better ways to start a conversation.

One of the more difficult conversations I've had was with my dad. One day my wife and my mother were out having a gal's day out. My dad stayed behind and almost immediately started in with asking me if I believed in an afterlife. When I said no, he got really mad and took it personally. I honestly didn't understand why at first until I realized that he was taking it as some sort of insult because he seemed to think that I didn't care about their well being. It took me a while to realize that he has been using religion as a serious crutch and it was almost like he looks forward to that day when he passes away because he "needs hope." Sounds sad, I know, but it's exactly how I would describe my interactions with his conversations and how he sees an "afterlife."

Everything varies of course. Your experience and my experience will not be the same, even if we share similarities.

I'm quite comfortable in my heathen skin at this stage in my life. I feel fine with it, but several years ago I couldn't and wouldn't have said the same. With time hopefully you'll be more comfortable with it. I went from a very introverted atheist who was afraid to even speak the word to someone who is very happy with who I am, in which my family knows who I am, and things are slowly becoming much more cohesive in our family once again. I do not let my stance on the subject of a god or gods define me, because at the end of the day, being an atheist just means you lack belief in a god or gods. It is not 100% who you are. There are plenty of other stances you take on many other subjects, in a wide variety of things which are also important in your life.

If you can keep that in mind, and if you can ensure that people understand that as well, life is much easier, and people tend to be a bit more understanding as well. Obviously you cannot get through to everyone.

However, I would definitely say to take things cautiously if you fear any serious repercussions. There are some who have had no issues in being an atheist where they are at, others on the other hand have been disowned, and others even fired, etc. Not saying it to scare you, just saying, be cautious and be wary of your surroundings and how it may affect you.

I can relate on the whole gf god talk thing. My wife would describe herself as "Apatheist" (she doesn't really believe, but doesn't give a damn, so she's uninterested in the entire subject) - So I spend most my time in my philosophical moods online browsing through data. Hence why I am here Wink

Sorry to type 5 billion paragraphs in response to yours... I sometimes write books. Hopefully things go smoothly for you.
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21-06-2013, 07:44 AM
RE: Lack of Faith Is Causing My Family Distress
Logish's post was excellent. I would just add that it's ok for you to say 'STOP' to someone who is pressuring you. By your description of yourself, I imagine there may be some in your life who feels the need to talk on and on, apply some guilt trips, and be pushy about you believing as they do, etc.

It's not ok for them to do that to you. And finding the strength to say ' STOP! I don't want to discuss this with you" or however you want to word it is important.


"Life is a daring adventure or it is nothing"--Helen Keller
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22-06-2013, 05:42 AM
RE: Lack of Faith Is Causing My Family Distress
Welcome, Hero, many of us know what you're going through. I can't add much to what has already been said, but will say that I live in Mississippi, so I know how the mindset is. I'm lucky in that my family is not very judgmental. My Pentecostal brother worries about my atheist mother's and my soul, but he's quieted down about it. Hopefully your family members will chill at some point and realize that family is a whole lot more important than belief systems.

Godless in the Magnolia State
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24-06-2013, 06:09 AM
RE: Lack of Faith Is Causing My Family Distress
Why would someone lose sleep over your choice to deny religion. Think about dear auntie tossing and turning all night because you deny religion. Ain't gonna happen. And worrying about your soul. These are guilt phrases. Any time someone makes such remarks quickly ask how so and so is doing as tho you didn't hear the remark. This must be done consistently until they realize it is futile. Religion in the big picture is all about guilt, that is how the church maintains control and gets your money.
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