Religious Family
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14-05-2013, 04:49 PM
Religious Family
I know a lot of atheists have to deal with their family being religious and this has been a particularly hard point for me.

My family is comprised of seriously devout Roman Catholics except for myself and my younger brother. My parents have always been big on religion... they made us do the whole Sunday School thing, first communion, etc. I never made it to confirmation because I got kicked out of class for asking too many questions they didn't have an answer to.

I've been an atheist for a long time, since my father died when I was 9. I remember when he was really sick (he had cancer) and I would just think to myself "how could any omnipotent god allow such a good man to suffer so much?". That was the turning point for me. I never really took much stock in it before that no matter how much my parents shoved it down my throat, but that was the point where I absolutely stopped harboring any ideas that there was a god. I've pretty much kept my beliefs under wraps from my family until recently.

Needless to say, it has not gone over well. My family hasn't disowned me or anything, but they absolutely cannot stop trying to convert me. I've asked them very respectfully to stop. Told them no matter what they say it's not going to convert me. Had debates with them (which always turn into arguments because they get upset and start yelling - and I'm just like dammit, you started this discussion). It seems like nothing gets them to cease with it. Any time I try to talk to my mother about a problem I'm having she tells me to pray. I'm like, really? You know what I believe and THIS is the advice you're going to give me? I need REAL advice.

I just don't know what to do to convince them that my opinion is not going to change and they need to respect that. I don't try to convert them, in fact, I try as hard as possible to not even discuss religion. Anyone have advice on what to do?
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14-05-2013, 06:54 PM (This post was last modified: 14-05-2013 07:08 PM by DancingSkeletons.)
RE: Religious Family
Well, I'm assuming you're under 18 or at least still depending on your folks financially. I'm also assuming "recently" here means less than six months.

Practical advice time! Give them time. Boring and slow, I know, but unless it's been like two years already with no change, they'll get the message eventually. If you really are under 18, they can try to chalk it up to something that will pass, and the only way to show them it won't is to... show them it won't. I know you've said you've asked them to stop and they didn't, but keep in mind that they fear for you and your immortal soul, which is kind of a big deal for them.

You've said you've already asked them nicely to stop, and that debates usually end up as arguments. The next time they try to debate something with you, you can simply say something along the lines of "Remember the last time you brought up something like this? We ended up yelling. I didn't like that. I love you very much and don't want to fight". You can always pull the "I'm not trying to convert you, so please extend the same courtesy to me" card.

Stop going to your mother for advice. It sucks to cut back interaction like that with someone that is so close to you, but from what I gathered, she only started telling you to pray when she learned you stopped believing, and she's probably trying to make a point. Make a point yourself.

Buckle up and get ready to deal with this until you're out of the house. I'm not saying it will be like this forever, I'm saying it can be.

Also, if I remember correctly, the catholic church preaches acceptance of other faiths. You could kindly remind them of that, although that could backfire too (they may argue it doesn't apply because you don't believe in anything).

Best wishes, friend! I will not be praying for you Smile

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15-05-2013, 03:17 AM (This post was last modified: 15-05-2013 03:28 AM by Luminon.)
RE: Religious Family
(14-05-2013 04:49 PM)empyreus Wrote:  I know a lot of atheists have to deal with their family being religious and this has been a particularly hard point for me.

My family is comprised of seriously devout Roman Catholics except for myself and my younger brother. My parents have always been big on religion... they made us do the whole Sunday School thing, first communion, etc. I never made it to confirmation because I got kicked out of class for asking too many questions they didn't have an answer to.

I've been an atheist for a long time, since my father died when I was 9. I remember when he was really sick (he had cancer) and I would just think to myself "how could any omnipotent god allow such a good man to suffer so much?". That was the turning point for me. I never really took much stock in it before that no matter how much my parents shoved it down my throat, but that was the point where I absolutely stopped harboring any ideas that there was a god. I've pretty much kept my beliefs under wraps from my family until recently.

Needless to say, it has not gone over well. My family hasn't disowned me or anything, but they absolutely cannot stop trying to convert me. I've asked them very respectfully to stop. Told them no matter what they say it's not going to convert me. Had debates with them (which always turn into arguments because they get upset and start yelling - and I'm just like dammit, you started this discussion). It seems like nothing gets them to cease with it. Any time I try to talk to my mother about a problem I'm having she tells me to pray. I'm like, really? You know what I believe and THIS is the advice you're going to give me? I need REAL advice.

I just don't know what to do to convince them that my opinion is not going to change and they need to respect that. I don't try to convert them, in fact, I try as hard as possible to not even discuss religion. Anyone have advice on what to do?
The problem with saying anything is... Most of things we say, the way we say it, maybe it gets the point across sometimes, but also it closes the other person's mind, pushes them into defense or provokes an offensive reaction. Often they can't but yell at you to "save face" even if it's obvious you're right, because you are right, but right in their face.

Yes, if people are all right, emotionally mature, sure of themselves, they can swallow the bitter pill, admit a mistake, back off and be still friends. But this is not exactly a history of Christianity or any deep held belief. You have to sugarcoat them things, let them win brownie points, gain their respect on your terms. Don't do anything at all costs, don't drive the point home, don't push it. Look out for situations that allows you to be right without them being obviously wrong.

What I usually say is this, they are parents and you are their child, so it is a good example. As a child you go along with whatever your parents say. If parents are religious, the child is religious. But such a faith is not genuine, it's a copy of the parents' faith, a weaker reflection actually. And it often doesn't hold as we grow up and start having our own thoughts. You grow up out of childish habits and you grow out of this faith, it doesn't grow with you because it's not yours. It's your parents. They meant you well by providing you the best thing they knew in life, but this is not something that people can just give or copy. True faith must be a gift from God, a direct relationship to God, not through your parents and then to God.
If God does not exist or chooses not to give you this relationship, it is not your fault. What you can do is to let go of all the imposed and contrived religious stuff and find out what's genuine about the world. Make room in your life for the real God if he exists. If he doesn't, that's all right. Some of the finest and most moral people were non-believers in God.

And if you have any nerves and tears still left by then, read them a chapter on Children from the book The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. It is absolutely beautiful.

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

This is the second time I give this advice today and that's good, because yours is a common situation and I think this is a good advice.
I know it's going to be a soppy and serious discussion and I wouldn't like to have such discussion with people who provide for me materially. My family isn't very close. But if you can make your parents understand that, I think it would help greatly. You always have the option to wait this one out, but right now I believe it is possible to educate people, to make them think. I know a man who dissolved a group of KKK and white supremacists in a month by educating them, by pushing the right buttons that allow them to listen without getting defensive. You need less, just to get yourself some peace before you move out.

If you claim there are nuances to principles, there are no nuances to getting arrested or shot for disobeying the power.
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15-05-2013, 03:25 AM
RE: Religious Family
Catholics? Well, I'll give the same advice as I would if they were zombies... remove the head or destroy the brain.

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15-05-2013, 04:59 AM
RE: Religious Family
(15-05-2013 03:25 AM)frankiej Wrote:  Catholics? Well, I'll give the same advice as I would if they were zombies... remove the head or destroy the brain.

They're Catholic. Their brains are already destroyed. Drinking Beverage

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15-05-2013, 05:30 AM
RE: Religious Family
(14-05-2013 06:54 PM)DancingSkeletons Wrote:  Well, I'm assuming you're under 18 or at least still depending on your folks financially. I'm also assuming "recently" here means less than six months.

Practical advice time! Give them time. Boring and slow, I know, but unless it's been like two years already with no change, they'll get the message eventually. If you really are under 18, they can try to chalk it up to something that will pass, and the only way to show them it won't is to... show them it won't. I know you've said you've asked them to stop and they didn't, but keep in mind that they fear for you and your immortal soul, which is kind of a big deal for them.

You've said you've already asked them nicely to stop, and that debates usually end up as arguments. The next time they try to debate something with you, you can simply say something along the lines of "Remember the last time you brought up something like this? We ended up yelling. I didn't like that. I love you very much and don't want to fight". You can always pull the "I'm not trying to convert you, so please extend the same courtesy to me" card.

Stop going to your mother for advice. It sucks to cut back interaction like that with someone that is so close to you, but from what I gathered, she only started telling you to pray when she learned you stopped believing, and she's probably trying to make a point. Make a point yourself.

Buckle up and get ready to deal with this until you're out of the house. I'm not saying it will be like this forever, I'm saying it can be.

Also, if I remember correctly, the catholic church preaches acceptance of other faiths. You could kindly remind them of that, although that could backfire too (they may argue it doesn't apply because you don't believe in anything).

Best wishes, friend! I will not be praying for you Smile

I agree with this. If you are still dependent on them you really only have 3 choices.
1. pretend to go along with their ways and put yourself back in the closet
2. fight it out everyday
3. just back off these relationships until they can be more respectful of your position.

I don't recommend the first 2 choices.

And while the 3rd option probably isn't what you want to hear, its what I think is going to be the way to preserve this relationship in the long run. In the future after the shock has worn off and they realize that you are the same person you ever were. And the discussions have been cooled down, its possible to build the closeness again. But for awhile just give them space to cool down, to wrap their head around it, to get over being mad about it. Find other people that you can go to for advice. You can't drop a bombshell on them and not expect repercussions.

And while you are in your Mom's house and dependent on her I would advise you to keep quiet about it (but not deny) and just avoid discussions on the topic.


Be excellent to each other and party on, Dudes!
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15-05-2013, 07:09 AM
RE: Religious Family
I appreciate all the advice guys. I'm not actually dependent on my parents (I have a step-father, for clarification. I know I talked about my dad dying) for anything, I just haven't moved out yet. I'm currently in the process of looking/buying a house.

I think I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing by avoiding the topic with them. It seems to be the best course of action, hopefully they will come around to accepting it, but if they don't it's not a huge deal as long as we don't discuss it. My family is really great outside of the whole religion debate and I feel pretty lucky about that.
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15-05-2013, 07:23 AM
RE: Religious Family
(15-05-2013 07:09 AM)empyreus Wrote:  I appreciate all the advice guys. I'm not actually dependent on my parents (I have a step-father, for clarification. I know I talked about my dad dying) for anything, I just haven't moved out yet. I'm currently in the process of looking/buying a house.

I think I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing by avoiding the topic with them. It seems to be the best course of action, hopefully they will come around to accepting it, but if they don't it's not a huge deal as long as we don't discuss it. My family is really great outside of the whole religion debate and I feel pretty lucky about that.

The good news is you'll soon be out of the house, the bad news is that the undercurrents of their desire for you to come back into the fold never go away. This is from personal experience, decades after deconverting from Catholicism and religious dogma and many years after my parents finally confronted me about my atheism, the relationship never fully recovered. You might as well get used to this as being the most likely probability.

The advice from Skeletons and B&A is solid. Remember you are upturning their concept of the world and (after)life and they want the best woo for you. Undecided

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16-05-2013, 02:23 PM
RE: Religious Family
Yeah, it's tougher if you are still living with them, even if you are looking for somewhere else. The proximity can make the topic come up so much more, especially if they go to church. All my relatives are also Catholic.

As others have said, sometimes trying to avoid the whole topic is best. Often, religious people take offense when you say you're an atheist, they take it personally and that's why the screaming matches happen, even when you're being calm.

The problem with the "I respect your views, please respect mine" angle is that most christians actually believe they have "the truth" and you don't, so they think it's in your best interest if they keep harassing you about it. Their religion specifically tells them to not mind their own business. (That being said, I had some JWs come to my door today! I yelled "No thanks!" over the sound of my dogs barking and then slammed the door.)
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