Terrified to "come out"... Looking for advice.
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05-03-2015, 09:07 PM
Terrified to "come out"... Looking for advice.
Hi, I'm new here. I'm looking for some advice from those who have been through a de-conversion in a family of believers. This is my first interaction with anyone non-theist, actually. Dodgy Here's a little background:

Grew up fundamentalist. After my parents divorced at 10, both sets of parents went a little less conservative, and settled in a moderate Baptist church. Went to college (engineering) but didn't attend church or anything. After college and marriage, decided to "get serious" about my faith, but really started taking it seriously for the first time in my life. Immediately had problems with the whole evolution thing. Also read Dawkins, etc.

Struggled with that for a few years, and adopted a theistic evolution position. This made me a "bad boy" in the church but I pretty effectively evangelized for evolution, even making great strides with my young-earth pastor. But theological problems kept plaguing me, along with a feeling that God is just not there. The "relationship" I was supposed to have with God didn't seem to be there. But I was getting good at pretending. Became a Sunday School teacher and small group leader. Accountability meetings with other guys every week, where I shared my doubts, but kept pushing on.

A few years ago, a job change allowed me to move back home, close to family, but no local friends. Found a church, but doubts grew stronger, fueled by lots of podcasts where I saw that a sceptical/atheistic worldview fits so much better with my experience. In the last few months, I've been able to be more honest with myself about what I do and don't believe, and its pretty clear to me that I do not believe there is a God. I've been pretty honest with my wife (who has some pretty significant doubts too), but it's pretty clear that she's not going to follow me down this road.

This internal struggle has been ripping me to shreds. I'm living a double life:
My entire family, including extended family, are Christian.
All my friends (here and long distance) are Christian, and only one knows of my recent realizations.
I have 3 kids all under 8, and we're raising them Christian, but they're becomming very good critical thinkers, and love science and learning.
My wife is Christian, but has her doubts too. But she's so much less intellectual and driven by feelings.
I'm very close to my Dad, but he thinks I'm a rock solid Christian. I became his project after coming out about evolution, but convinced him that I'm solid otherwise, although recently I think he's suspecting somethings up.
Even my non-Christian coworkers think I'm a good church-boy, just really interested in cosmology and biology.
I'm in a VERY conservative pocket in the midwest. Church is assumed.

My wife has suggested that my inner turmoil will only subside when I am more honest to my friends and family about my loss of faith, and she is probably right. But I'm terrified of the prospect.

In any case, I'm looking for any advice anyone might have to give, especially from those who have been in a similar situation. Specific issues I'm worried about:

-How to handle my kids, considering my differences with my wife.
-How to handle my Dad. Don't want to hurt him, and don't want to be his project.
-How to navigate this with my wife. She's very supportive and open and understands.

Thanks in advance!
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06-03-2015, 03:25 PM
RE: Terrified to "come out"... Looking for advice.
I can sort of relate to the wife aspect although I don't think she doubts at all. Of she is on the fence and staying there, just love her the best you can. At least yours kows where you are coming from. You can build on that.

"If we are honest—and scientists have to be—we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality.
The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination."
- Paul Dirac
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09-03-2015, 09:14 AM
RE: Terrified to "come out"... Looking for advice.
That's a pretty rough spot. I'm also smack dab in the middle of the Bible belt, and deconverted about two years ago.

Unfortunately, I can't really advise on the wife/kids aspect of it, because honestly, in order for that marriage to stay healthy, that really needs to be hashed out between the two of you. Most households that I know of agree on just educating the children and letting them make up their own minds, asking "well, what do you think is true" rather than just telling them one side or the other is the truth.

The biggest piece of advice I can give you, from my experience with my dad who is a pastor, is that once you've definitively decided for yourself that you do not believe in a god, stick to it, and don't be ashamed of it. Showing that your mind might not be made up, or showing that your own will is weak, will open up the door for those people who want to "work on you" and try to show you the way. Whenever my family has asked me about it, when they ask "So you don't believe anymore?", I act like they asked me if I put on a shirt this morning. Treat it like, of course, its a part of me, its who I am. "Oh yeah, no. It's just not me. Doesn't make sense to me."

I have NEVER been happier since my decision to sit down and REALLY examine my "faith" and whether I bought it all or not. Sure, it was tough as hell in the beginning, coming to terms with it and accepting this new world view, but it was worth it. I'm so proud of myself for breaking free from it and even my dad doesn't challenge me on it anymore because I make it clear that I'm not going to tolerate it. This is my life, and they just need to accept it.

Good luck on this path. Hopefully it all goes well for you, and you can find all the answers and support you need!
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09-03-2015, 09:32 AM
RE: Terrified to "come out"... Looking for advice.
Bible belter here as well.

I came out to my wife a few months ago. According to her, it took her about 2 weeks to get over the fact I was a non believer, and she doesn't want me to use the word "atheist" as it sounds like something you'd call a "devil worshipper". Regardless, she seems fine with it now. I urge her to ask any questions she has about it that way she doesn't build up any anger or resentment towards me and the way I believe. I want to be as open as possible, and I want her to know that.

I have no plans to come out to any other family though. It wouldn't be worth the trouble. I understand you'll have some turmoil with yourself, but I honestly believe it wouldn't be worth the fight. I would try to learn to be a little less guilty with your father. I'm in the same boat, and my Father will go to his grave believing that we're all Christian. I'm fine with that.

I know I sound a little contradictory between how I feel about my wife knowing and my parents knowing... But it is what it is.

As far as your kids go, I'm sure they'll make their own minds up later on in life. I wouldn't try to influence one way or the other. I would present the facts on both sides and let them decide for themselves later on down the line. More than likely, they'll understand the difference between fact and fiction.

Good luck!
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09-03-2015, 09:41 AM
RE: Terrified to "come out"... Looking for advice.
Well i have to say, i was in your position,

Though my parents,friends and fammily all are jehovas witnesses.
As i started to come out to them ( i tried a soft aproach) i felt that they were ignoring it and kind of,
wishing it away.

And as i became more and more agitated with them (they hate gay people and such things) and my girlfriend (who for me has been a rock of support and was verry annoyed with me for beign anti-gay i was that at first so yeah)

So i smacked it into there faces and i immidiatly felt as if an enourmous burdon fell of of me, the struggle continues as my dad keeps trying to convert me and this leads to discussions i do not wish to have (i have a rather dumb dad). But in fact even though i lost all of my fammilie and most friends, it was the best thing that ever happend to me.

Hope it helps and good luck !
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09-03-2015, 09:47 AM
RE: Terrified to "come out"... Looking for advice.
Awesome that your wife is chill about it. How to raise your kids is a compromise between you and your wife. She's going to see not raising your children in the church as an error that could have eternal consequences. Personally, I see it as psychologically damaging.

My ex and I have the agreement that I'm not going to say "there's no god" at this point in time. He's 6. Right now it'd be kinda like telling him there's no Santa, Tooth Fairy, or Easter bunny, either. We initially agreed to raise our son as a Christian because, well, we were both Christians, and our families are a Christian. So now, whether I like it or not, he has been introduced to the god concept.

One of our biggest fights was a result of a nonchalant "god dunnit" answers. He felt I was undermining our son's religious training by interrupting to give a scientific explanation, and I said "who's the one with the largest concession here? I damn near equate it with child abuse not to equip him with a brain and education." Ultimately, my ex and I agree that we are raising a critical thinker. No "because God made it that way" answers and I won't be the big, bad atheist that pops his delusion at an age where imagination is so important. At this point in the divorce, religion is the only thing we fight about.

I am very much in the closet. I have three family members that know I'm an atheist. I have three coworkers that know I'm an atheist. Coming out to my husband was the death nail for our relationship. I really have no advice on how to come out to family - I'm in a bit of a unique situation and for now keeping my mouth shut is in my best interest. It will probably be five or six years at this point - when my son is old enough to handle differing view points, and when I don't have to rely on my family for support, which I could very well lose.

I can say that when I come out I will very likely refuse to engage in religious discussion with my family. Faith is very personal, and the religious often see it as a personal attack. That's what my husband couldn't wrap his head around - he took it all so personal, and when I finally engaged and shared my viewpoints is when I think he completely gave up on our marriage, all conversation outside of "blues are in the washer" or "spaghetti is for dinner" stopped.

Good luck to you.

"If there's a single thing that life teaches us, it's that wishing doesn't make it so." - Lev Grossman
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09-03-2015, 09:53 AM
RE: Terrified to "come out"... Looking for advice.
No one really can ultimately tell you what to do. But since you are an adult it is much easier for you. You WILL get backlash to some degree. Some family will cut you off, others will simply wonder what went wrong. Only you can gauge your own family.

I would call it a cost benefit. If you think they will not cut you off, then that is one thing. If you do think they will, then you need to consider the relationship isn't worth it. I'd say if you know how they behave to non family members who are not Christians such as their friends and co workers, that may give you an indication as how they will react to you.

My mother when I first told her thought it was a phase I would grow out of. She never got horrified by it, but thought I was just trying to be different. My biological family though, when I met them as an adult never liked it. I do have problems with their doomsday attitudes but we have learned to keep our lives separate on social media to avoid that conflict. They did freak out when my younger sister gave up on religion. My older brother stupidly thought I was the cause of it. It was actually his behavior at a baseball game that broke my sister out of religion. She had always been "skeptical" but wanted to believe out of a sense of fitting in.

If you do decide to let them know, don't make it a war and let them know you still love them. But no matter what you do have the right to cut anyone off who sucks the life out of you emotionally, family or not ON ANY ISSUE. You have the right to be yourself. Don't let their baggage become your baggage. You don't have to cut them off, but you also don't have to put up with verbal or mental abuse.

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09-03-2015, 09:57 AM
RE: Terrified to "come out"... Looking for advice.
Check out videos on you tube by Dale McGowan, specifically from the Free OK event. it runs about 45 minutes. Its about giving kids all the info and trusting that they will figure out the answers. He also just put out a book ....the title is slipping me....but its about 'mixed' marriages.

I am married to a believer, there are a few of us here, we deal with it in the freedom to choose your own thoughts kind of way. each person must decide for themselves. As for our kids, its usually explaining "some people think this, some people think that, other people think this third way. what do you think and why do you think it?". They are 9 & 11 and both are self labeled as agnostic with a huge dose of eye rolling when people talk religion, lol. gotta love girls who have mastred the eye roll. Angel

maybe you should just let it slip that you are "having some doubts" as a way of softening the blow. let your family and friends get used to hearing those words before hitting them with the big one.


"Life is a daring adventure or it is nothing"--Helen Keller
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09-03-2015, 10:03 AM
RE: Terrified to "come out"... Looking for advice.
(05-03-2015 09:07 PM)microTree Wrote:  -----
My wife has suggested that my inner turmoil will only subside when I am more honest to my friends and family about my loss of faith, and she is probably right. But I'm terrified of the prospect.
-----

No probably about it... you are creating a future with one smart cookie, there MT and she at least, seems stable... hang on to her if she feels she can handle being an adult along with you. Wink

Take things slowly. You appear to be at the "don't ask, don't tell" stage and it's ok to keep it that way for a while.

At this point, you are not actually the one who will be in transition... it's everyone else who will need to come to their own understanding of who they think you are. It's up to them.

Of course, any relationship always carries a risk of changing ... that always happens when people grow... and grow up ... and ... some simply grow away. BUT ... some relationships grow deeper and can help individual growth... even if growth pulls people apart. A lot of that growth stuff is temporary ... kinda hurts sometimes.

Just remember ... in the end, all you really have is your self. Shy
***

By the way: Welcome to the forum! Smile

A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels. ~ Albert Einstein
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09-03-2015, 11:30 AM
RE: Terrified to "come out"... Looking for advice.
(05-03-2015 09:07 PM)microTree Wrote:  My wife has suggested that my inner turmoil will only subside when I am more honest to my friends and family about my loss of faith, and she is probably right. But I'm terrified of the prospect.

In any case, I'm looking for any advice anyone might have to give, especially from those who have been in a similar situation. Specific issues I'm worried about:

-How to handle my kids, considering my differences with my wife.
-How to handle my Dad. Don't want to hurt him, and don't want to be his project.
-How to navigate this with my wife. She's very supportive and open and understands.

Thanks in advance!

Sounds like you've already come clean with your wife. Kudos!

Pay very close attention to what I'm about to say: No one else matters.

Your Dad will be disappointed. You just let him know you're a good, moral person and that he raised you right.

Having everyone accept you would be great. But your wife is the only one who MATTERS.

Good luck.

Religion is proof that invisible men can obscure your vision.
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