[split] Ask Some Atheists
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17-10-2015, 10:29 PM
[split] Ask Some Atheists
Hey, my name is Daniel and im 16 years old currently. Just looking for some advice on wether or not to tell my heavily christian parents that im an atheist, and if I should, how do I do it?
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17-10-2015, 11:24 PM
RE: Ask Some Atheists
(17-10-2015 10:29 PM)Thewypolecat Wrote:  Hey, my name is Daniel and im 16 years old currently. Just looking for some advice on wether or not to tell my heavily christian parents that im an atheist, and if I should, how do I do it?

Hi Daniel. Welcome to TTA.

We're gonna need more info from you to be able to answer that question.

It's essentially a cost/benefit analysis ... what will you lose vs. what will you gain.

This means that you'll need to able to predict the reaction that you'll get if you tell them.

But yes, there are different ways of telling them that may have different outcomes.

The main thing, if / when you do spill the beans, is getting them to realise that you are still you. Meaning that, you have changed your beliefs and not that your beliefs have changed you.

DLJ

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18-10-2015, 02:25 AM
RE: [split] Ask Some Atheists
(17-10-2015 10:29 PM)Thewypolecat Wrote:  Hey, my name is Daniel and im 16 years old currently. Just looking for some advice on wether or not to tell my heavily christian parents that im an atheist, and if I should, how do I do it?

Everything that follows is advice from someone who never had to deal with what you're dealing with, so take it with a grain of salt.

I'm agreed with DLJ. Unless you're going to go the gung-ho "I'll be radically honest at any cost" route (which I do not recommend), you need some way to gauge how they will react. Look at how they react to stories of, say, gay and lesbian youth disowned and kicked out of the house, or forced by their parents into reeducation camps. (Er, sorry, the term is reparative therapy, my bad.) Watch how they react to stories of atheists on the news or in the paper.

Potential costs to consider include: being kicked out, being forced into some sort of reeducation program such as a religious school, religious camp, etc, losing priveleges like internet, cell phones, driver's license and car, and (especially) support for college or even a home once you turn 18. This is above and beyond any emotional grief or risk of personal violence that you might face. It's quite possible that your family will inflict none of these on you. They might be accepting and supportive and even proud. You know them best and we can't tell you anything about them that they don't know. But don't think you know them when it comes to this. I've lost track of the number of stories of families who reacted far worse... and far better... to news of a deconversion than the atheist expected.

The best case scenario is that they'll just shrug their shoulders and be cool with it... maybe even they'll say that they don't believe either. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Know the truth will likely be somewhere in between. But prepare for the worst.

Prepare for a coming-out conversation with them. Don't script it all out. Have a few choice phrases for the key points rehearsed and ready to drop in when the points arise, but don't try to force any square pegs into round holes. Have a rough outline for things to say during pained silences but be prepared to abandon it or never use it. Above all, your focus should be on what your non-believing status DOESN'T change. As DLJ says, you're still the same person you know, with the same interests and the same love for them and the same love of life and the rest of humanity and the same plans for the future. If they bring it back to Jesus, say (unless it's stretching the truth too far for you) that you still regard it as a story of someone who made a wonderfully loving act of self-sacrifice, a story with a great many morals to offer, but that you can no longer believe that the story is factually true. Emphasize that it is doubt about the factual truth of the religion that makes you an atheist, rather than any moral disapproval of the central figures or the followers of the religion. This deescalates the emotional state somewhat (though not completely) by making your move to atheism an act of disagreement rather than disapproval or disavowal.

Do NOT attempt to persuade them of the falseness of Christianity. First, you're unlikely to budge them. They're likely to be more entrenched in the religion when you have this conversation than they have ever been before or ever will be again. Second, it will put them on the defensive emotionally, and that will escalate tensions rather than deescalate them. And third, time spent trying to persuade them is time better spent trying to reassure them.

THEY may attempt to bring some sort of logical argument for the existence of God, Christ, and so forth. Be prepared to, briefly, explain why you don't find that particular (emphasize "particular") argument persuasive. Prepare by examining the common apologetics and counterapologetics (available all over this site), but don't bring them up unless your parents do. Attack the argument, but not them and not the religion. Explain why their particular arguments are not a good argument. Shift the stakes of that portion of the discussion from the question of whether God exists to the question of whether that particular argument is a good reason to think that God does. Make it about the argument and not about God. Stay away from the harsher arguments that attack Christianity and its God as morally bankrupt, or insulting ones which compare belief in God to belief in leprechauns or Santa Claus. Cut this phase off after a little bit. Set a mental stopwatch for these arguments. Five minutes if they're so rapid-fire that they're tripping over each other, ten minutes if they're brief, twenty minutes if they're more in depth. Once that's up say that you're willing to have an extended discussion on the topic over a period of weeks and months, but that it's not going to get hashed out all in one day. Ask them to take some time to organize these arguments. Your parents may need time to collect their thoughts, but be too frazzled to realize it. But again, don't be the one to start a debate about whether Christianity is true. If they start it, hold your own and keep it short, but don't start it yourself. That doesn't advance your goals in this conversation.

Also be prepared for a lot of silliness. Prepare to be confronted by promises or statements you made when you were much younger, twelve or eight or six years old. Be ready for a bunch of blatantly false statements about atheists. Be prepared for declarations of hurt, guilt trips, even severe insults. Counter all of these with factual statements that acknowledge what's said while denying it any hold on you -- things like "I changed my mind" or "I grew up" or "that's not true about me" and "I'm sorry you feel that way about this". Repeat these, word for word, if your parents keep on the topic.

Above all, recognize that the nature of this conversation will be emotional and not intellectual. You will not win by neatly presenting a persuasive argument while poking holes in theirs. You will win by enduring and calming the emotional storm. Have you ever had a really heart-wrenching breakup conversation with a significant other, especially one where you're doing the breaking up and they're reacting emotionally? Or even just seen this happen? That is what this might be like. In a sense, they can't really know the real you, because no one can truly know anyone else. They know only their perception of you, and that version of you that they've perceived all these years and which they love deeply, is now shown to not be what they thought it was. Recognize the pain in this.

It's not fair, but despite the fact that they are your parents, YOU MAY NEED TO BE THE ADULT IN THE ROOM. It's possible that they will be panicking. You need to help them down from this panic without telling them that this is what you are doing. Keep your calm. Keep your cool. Let their intended and unintended insults wash over you. Keep your voice serene and firm. Count to ten before responding. Monitor yourself closely and if you catch your speech quickening, your pulse racing, your pitch of voice rising, or your volume heightening, take a deep breath and rein yourself in. Make yourself as saintly (pardon the term) as you can in how you deal with them. Make identifying the nature and source of their emotional reaction, the core hurts and fears behind them, your first and foremost priority, and always attempt to soothe that. (Don't explicitly tell them you're doing this, though.) Set an example of maturity, calm, and peacefulness. Set a TONE and hold it until they conform to it. Understand that they may need to wind through an emotional roller coaster. Give them plenty of room to express themselves and listen calmly, both to defuse the arguing feel of the conversation and also to let them exhaust themselves a bit. Be a solid and stable rock.

This can extend beyond this one conversation. Whenever this topic comes up, you will need to the mature adult. Maybe they can be mature adults about it too, and maybe not. Again, this is preparing for the worse. It may be nowhere near this bad. But be prepared.

In the future, if they try to push religion on you, indulge them, but do so in a manner that makes it clear that you're focusing on facts. Take notes. Analyze. If they want you to talk to your pastor, agree readily... then take notes and analyze. Take the discussion seriously and keep the lynchpin on belief in whether the religion is factual. If they force you to attend church, go along readily... and take notes and analyze. (You might forgo communion and prayer out of respect, but this might be seen as a provocation.) Read the Bible from cover-to-cover on your own initiative -- I highly recommend this for any atheist anyway -- and take notes and analyze. If they insist that you read it, you can tell them, "I'm already up to Proverbs and I'm taking notes, want to see?" Study the religion like you are an anthropologist, a scientist studying an alien culture. (And it will be alien. You will be seeing parts of the religion you never knew were there, and parts you did know were there you will see very differently.) Be wasteful in your willingness to accommodate their efforts to persuade you, but solid in the integrity of refusing to say you believe something when you do not. Do not share your opinion on the subject unless it is solicited. Never try to persuade them.

Above all, unless they react with love and acceptance, rob the situation of emotion. Emotion is your enemy in this. Keep the tone either analytical and neutral or serene and peaceful. Try to keep them from spinning off into the emotions of panic and helplessness.

If things do not go well, have backup plans. Identify friends or relatives you can stay with if you are kicked out. Get a job. Have money saved away and a resume started. Identify charities, preferably non-religious charities, that you can rely on if you need them, and don't be ashamed to use them if you DO need them. Get your grades up and keep them straight As so that you can get a scholarship if they won't fund your higher education. You might need to fall back on all of these on short notice.

Worse comes to worst, do not let yourself be the target of their physical violence. The moment that happens, get away from them, get away from the house, and get to law enforcement. If you're worried in advance that it's coming, set something up to record. This can mean the difference between getting safe shelter and being returned to their custody.

Again, I'm painting a worst-case scenario here. It will almost certainly not be this bad... but you should be prepared in case it is.

You might consider a gradual approach to coming out. For example, you could start by saying that you're having doubts, rather than you out-and-out do not believe. Easing them into it like this might lessen the shock and panic they will go through, and thus make the whole process smoother and more civilized.

Finally, be prepared for the possibility that you might be outed. Maybe you'll say something to a friend who will say something to their parents who will say something to yours. Maybe they'll check your browser history or your phone's text message log. Maybe they'll see some of the things you're posting on Facebook. Maybe they'll see a library book you checked out and left lying on your bed. By all means make a decision about whether to come out, and if you choose to come out make decisions about how and when to come out, but be prepared to have the issue forced in a time, place, and manner not of your choosing. Be ready, keep cool, and don't panic.
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18-10-2015, 03:39 AM
RE: [split] Ask Some Atheists
(17-10-2015 10:29 PM)Thewypolecat Wrote:  Hey, my name is Daniel and im 16 years old currently. Just looking for some advice on wether or not to tell my heavily christian parents that im an atheist, and if I should, how do I do it?

Any idea how they'd react? Maybe start by talking about atheists in general, ask them what they think. If they come out with "they are evil, they're serving Satan" and other such claptrap, then you know to keep it on the downlow for now. If they come out with "Well, they're wrong but everyone's got their own take on stuff, they gotta work it out for themselves" then you're good to go.

A good book to read and possibly leave lying around the house, is Blue Like Jazz - you might be able to find it at your local library. It's a stupid book really, but the author is some kinda hippy Christian who's cool with atheism and talks about it a lot in the book. You could read it and bring up discussion points - another way to see how they'll react without necessarily exposing yourself.

There's a verse somewhere in the Bible too, about how "every man has to work out his own salvation in fear and trembling before the Lord". Find it, bookmark it, and when the parentals lose the plot, whip it out and Bible their asses. It's my old man's solution - he's a bit put out that I'm an atheist but seems like that particular verse has made him lay off any plans for trying to convert me back or whatever, since he's been instructed by Jehovah himself not to interfere.

We'll love you just the way you are
If you're perfect -- Alanis Morissette
(06-02-2014 03:47 PM)Momsurroundedbyboys Wrote:  And I'm giving myself a conclusion again from all the facepalming.
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18-10-2015, 12:59 PM (This post was last modified: 18-10-2015 02:31 PM by GirlyMan.)
RE: [split] Ask Some Atheists
(17-10-2015 10:29 PM)Thewypolecat Wrote:  Hey, my name is Daniel and im 16 years old currently. Just looking for some advice on wether or not to tell my heavily christian parents that im an atheist, and if I should, how do I do it?

When I was a Lutheran-educated kid your age studying nihilism, existentialism and dualism, I never attacked my parents on Christianity directly. What I did do was ask "Can you give me any plausible, no matter how remote, mechanism of action for me to survive my own death? Your promise of a postmortem preservation of identity is snake oil from some charlatan." Think they realized I was a lost cause right then and there. It's never been a problem in our relationships since.

#sigh
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