Need advice from fellow atheists
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25-05-2012, 08:57 AM
Need advice from fellow atheists
Hi everyone,
I've been consciously atheist for about 8 years or so, having been non-religious for at least 10 or 15 years before that. I grew up in a very religious household though, and only decided to "come out"to my parents a couple years ago. They are very old and very religious. After an initial confrontation, they let the matter drop. I thought they were simply in denial (and maybe they were for a while) since they kept treating me as if I had never said anything to them about it. Their speech patterns have always been littered with religious phrases, but other than finding that a bit annoying, I decided to try and put up with it in deference to their age and ill-health.

Recently however, I have noticed that they (especially my dad) have gotten more aggressively religious in our conversations. I'm still not sure how much of the "pray for us" and "leave it to the lord" type phases are simply force of habit or conscious goad, but it feels as if they are slowly pushing toward a confrontation. I'm an adult in my mid 40's, and certainly don't need their approval for how I live my life, but as their eldest son and closest (geographically) relative, it often falls to me to deal with their care, and I usually have at least 1 phone conversation with them a week. I have no intention of initiating the conversation, I have already said my peace, but if they force it I tend to be a "cards on the table" kind of guy. I just don't want that conversation if and/or when it happens to be driven by my annoyance with their denial and on-going religious tweeking, so I'm looking for some ideas as to strategy to keep the conversation civil and adult, since no one can turn me into a petulant teenager faster than my parents, and obviously that won't help anything.

Thoughts? Suggestions?
Thanks in advance!
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25-05-2012, 09:11 AM
RE: Need advice from fellow atheists
I can't help you. I'm commenting anyways for some reason.

I'm lousy at confrontation as I am like you, all cards on the table. I don't like playing games and am not afraid to say my peace at any time if pushed or asked. My emotional responses are reflective of how I am being treated. But I don't hold back. Usually if i know something will go badly these days... I avoid at all costs because I don't really think it's a good idea to lie, or play pretend, but avoidance is effective. For as long as it's possible anyway.

I find that typically when someone says they want the truth they don't mean it. They want to hear what makes them happy, and that's just not me. Unless what I think will actually make them happy. That doesn't happen as often as I'd like though haha.

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25-05-2012, 09:20 AM
RE: Need advice from fellow atheists
Well, first of all, I will never tell my parents/grand parents that I am not religious. I do not, absolutely do not, discuss these matters with anyone over the age of 30. They in my opinion are too far gone. If they haven't understood it by now, then they never will. This obviously would have helped in discussions because there never would have been any.

Now that you are at this point though, I will try to use what my my debates most civil with my peers. I simply speak the truth that they cannot deny--the fact that they cannot actually know 100%. It's the most humble position I think you can take. "I don't know and neither do you."

I think this ends conversations rather quickly with the only refute for them is proposing faith. At this point you can merely point out what does faith actually do? People give the word a stronger meaning than it actually has if they were to thinking about it legitimately.

That is about all I have mate. Make the conversation a level playing feel where ideas cannot be discussed because they don't know 100% and bring it down to critiquing words that they give a higher meaning than they should.

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25-05-2012, 09:46 AM
RE: Need advice from fellow atheists
Thanks for sharing your story and I agree with NotSoVacuous.

My threshold of age is a bit higher (60+ or so) but in a nutshell, I believe it's virtually impossible to change someone's mind on god and religion as they advance in age, and even trying can have negative psychological consequences. I literally think that it could prove unhealthy or even dangerous. Heck, my thirty-something fairly open-minded wife admits that the idea of no afterlife (e.g. never seeing her loved ones again after they die and/or after she dies) makes her cry and she's not even devoutly religious, so imagine what it must do older, more entrenched folks.

So as much as you might want to put your cards on the table, I'd probably leave it alone if I were you. It could do more harm than good.

Just try to find common ground in your human love for one another.

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25-05-2012, 09:57 AM
RE: Need advice from fellow atheists
I am a bit like lucradis in such cases. I try to avoid the topic as much as possible and only when pushed enough will have a talk. And when I have that talk it will be frustrating for both parties. For me because I know I am right, for the other party because they know they won't change my mind.
I have weird issues on some topics with my mother (not religion though) and I simply never talk about it and when she mentions those things, I ignore it completely and move along.

Not sure how well you feel with this kind of dealing but for me it works just fine.

"Freedom is the freedom to say that 2+2=4" - George Orwell (in 1984)
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25-05-2012, 10:15 AM
RE: Need advice from fellow atheists
(25-05-2012 08:57 AM)BadKnees Wrote:  Thoughts? Suggestions?
Thanks in advance!
I'm also in my 40's. This isn't necessarily advice, but if it helps...

Several of you know that I'm an "out of the closet" atheist - no pretense or apologies. But it sometimes can be problematic.

I find it interesting that my wife - also an atheist - always takes the time to tell me, prior to engaging in social events with friends or family (many of whom are religious): "No bringing up the topics of religion or politics! I want this to be a nice evening!"

It's interesting because I never bring up these topics -- they are always brought up by others TO ME! Since I'm a pretty outspoken guy, people feel drawn to ask me about my views - to which I always respond, "Hey - it's just how I see the world - it works for me. I don't get brownie points for converts - keep doing what you're doing...If you want to get into a theological discussion, we can talk about it some other time..."

With regard to the religious sayings - I still say "Jesus" or "Lord knows" or "Only god knows..." Habit, vernacular...means nothing to me, but I always laugh a bit after it comes out of my mouth... Years of exposure takes a while to get away from it...

As to you're parents - if it were me, I'd simply tell them that it's how you perceive things. As they are getting elderly, they have an expectation of an afterlife and they want to make sure, at least in their minds, that you will be joining them. I have had several relatives express their sorrow to me that I'll be spending eternity in hell and not joining them in the after earth party above. I simply respond that if there is a god, then I'll be measured on the quality of the life I've led and not on whether I believed in some book written by half-illiterate nomads...

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25-05-2012, 10:22 AM
RE: Need advice from fellow atheists
Haha, don't trust anyone over 30, where have I heard that before? Oh yeah, my hippie days in the 60s... Smile

Anyway, I have an aunt who is 84 years old. She is devoutly catholic, pays to have masses read for all her dead family and friends (individually, and it ain't cheap and she does it regularly, 7 dead sisters and their husbands, her parents, and various other people) and it pretty much uses up most of her money. It makes her happy, she feels she has done something for them. I guess it's quite the psychological band-aid, to still be able to help people after they died.

She firmy believes god will take care of her and everything, and she is still alive (the last in the family of that generation) because he needs her to do some more good deeds. So she hands out some gift cards to poor people on the streets, restaurant ones and an occasional hotel night for the homeless, department store ones for poor mothers and the like, nothing can be cashed out for money, they have to use them.

She lives very frugally to be able to afford all this and she has a happy personality.

I usually hate when people talk religion, but with her I put up with it and don't ever contradict. She is old, it makes her happy, she makes others happy - I can't argue with it.

So, she is on the extreme end of what religious stuff I will listen to, and there are others, kind of on a curve.

If someone puts their actions and their money where their mouth is, I have to respect that.

If someone is just genuinely concerned for my well being, and the talks annoy me, I just put a limit on the time I spend with them.

If someone yells "praise the lord" in every other sentence, they won't see me again, and it's not worth arguing. It would lead no place.

Age has something to do with it too. Young people are always worth discussing things with, they have great potential for change and they are the key to the future of atheism (and everything else).

Middle aged - it depends. Some are just getting ready to shed a lot of shackles, some are not ever going to change. Middle age is often a fork in the road....

Elderly - what is the point? No point at all pulling the rug out from under them, let them feel safe and secure for what little time they have left. I just change the subject as needed. There is always something to talk about that does not touch on religion.

That's just me, how I see it and choose to handle it. I always engage the young, feel out the middle aged and let the elderly be.

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25-05-2012, 10:58 AM
RE: Need advice from fellow atheists
Hmm... I wouldn't have any expectations in the matter.

Old people become cranky ... it's just a part of winding down. The older one gets, the more one clings to the things they are sure of. If your parents are secure in their faith, end of story - their story... not yours. They've always been your parents and will always be apprehensive about your future until the very last second of their life. This is unavoidable for them. Also, they are at the end of their life and are grading their accomplishments -not the least of which is you.

A thing that might be a source of tension, is you. Yes, you could avoid them completely, but that wouldn't really accomplish anything in your relationship. And actually preparing for some particular confrontation might actually add tension. Why cause these old people (or yourself) anymore stress?

The one thing you can do is continually reassure them that you are a wonderful person. Let them see "the good son". Show them how freely and confidently you interact in the world. Let them see the take charge kind of guy you are. Do NOT seek approval - rather market yourself to them. Let them see that YOU are an amazing person who has his shit together. This can alleviate a lot of fear and tension they may have about you and your future.

Ask any Theist and they simply can not fathom how anyone can operate in the world without God. They think so little of themselves and their fellow human beings because only God is great. They have no control over their own lives and no confidence without God, so it is incomprehensible that someone without God is even able to tie their shoe, much less live to the ripe old age of______30... 40... 90..?

Your parents love you. They have faith... but not in you. It's nothing personal - all people of faith are blinded by it. You don't have to take away anyone's faith to make them see that it's not necessary.

Your parents love you... all you can do is love them back... and make sure they see it. Make sure they know you are, and will be OK.
Sorry to ramble. Shy

Faith is an unnecessary ruse... don't let it snooker you.

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25-05-2012, 11:31 AM
RE: Need advice from fellow atheists
(25-05-2012 10:58 AM)kim Wrote:  Old people become cranky ... it's just a part of winding down.


I disagree vehemently! Some elderly may become cranky - usually because their bodies don't let them live up to expectations anymore - their own or those of others.

But I have known and do know a lot of happy elderly people who are anything but cranky. They accept physical decline and so do those around them - that is a prerequisite. They have no unreasonable demands put on them, both physically and psychologically. I live in an area where a lot of people are retired and I see a lot of people in their 80s and up regularly.

Older people enjoy a lot of things the younger ones are blind to because life is too demanding. As long as there are things to take delight in, there will be happy, smiling old folks. I find a lot of older people less rigid, more appreciative, more caring and less judgemental.

People who are frustrated all the time are cranky - young or old, no matter. Whether old people are frustrated has a lot to do with their environment and the people they deal with.

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25-05-2012, 11:42 AM
RE: Need advice from fellow atheists
(25-05-2012 11:31 AM)Dom Wrote:  
(25-05-2012 10:58 AM)kim Wrote:  Old people become cranky ... it's just a part of winding down.


I disagree vehemently! Some elderly may become cranky - usually because their bodies don't let them live up to expectations anymore - their own or those of others.
I've read a bit of research that indicates the frontal lobe in the brain (that which is your filter) shrinks with age -- it explains why many of the elderly tend to just blurt out what's on their minds regardless of who it might offend. When they were younger, they might've thought those things, but had the better sense than to say it - that seems to dissipate with age. I'm actually looking forward to the day... Wink

That can be construed as cranky to some...

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