I was never on good terms with my parents, but every Christmas Eve we go to church and spend hours at a vigil. I can't even explain how painful this is; not only is it boring, stupid, long, dragging, and pointless, but it's absolutely humiliating to be there. My father insists on sitting in the front row, where the priest can see me, thousands of people watch me take Communion, and my peers from high school, who know me as an outspoken atheist, can see me being forced to kneel and pray. I feel less than human.


I am 18, but still financially dependent on my parents. I am in college so I don't have to deal with their shit while school is in session; however, that's the point. This year, it's going to be much more painful because I know what independence is like. Not that it wasn't painful before; it's a problem when I dread the holidays for all the religious shit my parents pull. My friends are either believers who willingly go or aren't forced to attend so I have little support in that vein. I have hinted to my mother that I don't want to do it and she is utterly disrespectful of my feelings. She is one of the most ignorant people I know, and over the summer, she suspected me of being atheist so she said many hurtful things like "atheists have no morals" and "you'll come back to the church, this is just a phase". She doesn't know I have been atheist since I was 11 or 12-ish. But as I mentioned, I do not have a good relationship with either of my parents; I haven't spoken to my father in more than two years, and we live in the same house and my mom is a plain bitch. Also, no church, no presents on Christmas. I have no other choice, other than get/feign illness which I am actually strongly considering. Do the good people of Atheist Nexus have any advice or words of support to provide? I would appreciate it, because it's a situation I can barely tolerate.

Oh, and happy holidays to you all. :)

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I feel you pain.

This probably isn't too helpful, but when I was at the same stage / age your issues are part of why I enlisted in the Army.  I thought that if I accepted my parents money, I had to obey their rules.  Once independent, I lived life how I thought was best.  It was a hard route to take.  I don't necessarily recommend it, but it's ethically sound and I was stronger for it.


The economy is lousy, I don't know if you can get a job that will support you, but that's the ideal.


Sorry for your struggle.  That which does not kill us makes us stronger (Nietsche)


Thanks for your support! I know I can do my own thing when I'm out of college/with a job, but it doesn't take away from the dreadful, humiliating experience...

Hi Kathleen,

 I'm sorry for what you're going through and I'm afraid I can't really think of any good advice. Your idea to fake being sick xmas eve may be the best as a short term solution. Of course, it's not a solution but may be the easier thing for now. I wish I had a grand idea to help you out.

 I read this post last night and didn't reply because I had nothing helpful to add. This morning though, I thought maybe just hearing that people care may help a little. I see that you have had only one other reply. Please don't feel it's because nobody here cares, I think they're like me and just don't know what to say.

 Best wishes & please let us know how it turns out.

Thank you very much for your support! Just knowing that people here can sympathize with me is enough; after all, it's one of the main reasons why I joined AN.

That does seem hard to bear - moreso living with people who are so against who you are then the Christmas Eve sermon.  The sermon seems a symptom of the larger problem - they don't accept you as an adult whose choices must be respected.


As far as the sermon - I think I would go.  They cannot control your thoughts, so think about whatever you like while you are forced to sit there.  Preferably thoughts that do not make you angry.  As far as the humiliation, there's a quote my English teacher had on her wall.  I can't remember it exactly, something like "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."  So what if the priest sees you?  Like he has any control over you.  And the friends who know you are an outspoken atheist?  Perhaps your being there and going through the motions but still being an atheist will help them see, on their own, that church attendance does not equal Christian.  I don't understand the forcing you to take Communion...I thought having a nonbeliever take communion defiled it for everybody.  But, hey, if they want you to mess up their Christmas Eve communion, who are you to object?

Basically, go, and go with goodwill.  Don't pretend you believe, but show them that, even when forced to attend, you can rise above, be good-natured, and still not believe.


Or, to phrase it another way:  Let's say you were in Japan, and your host family wanted you to visit a Shinto Shrine.  They wanted you to walk under the torii to purify your soul, wash your hands at the fountain to further the purification, ring the bell to alert the gods to your presence, and then clap your hands and pray.  Wouldn't you do it?


Anyway, leave home at the first good opportunity.  Another quote:  "That which cannot be changed must be endured."  I don't know what you do for summers, but you might consider working somewhere like Wall Drug or Disney World, or somewhere else that offers room and board in addition to wages.

this is much better than what I had to suggest.  I was thinking, what if you cross your fingers when you take communion - does that mean it doesn't count?  Or wear an obscure symbol of atheist"Oh what a cure pink unicorn!"

Yeah, as I said we don't have a good relationship and that's one of the many reasons why we don't.

It's difficult for me to go in with emotions other than anger; if I'm not thinking about being forced to sit there, it'll be how much my life sucks, how much better my friends have it, etc. I usually bring things to do but in previous years I spent the entire time being close to tears. Also, it's not just a simple Mass; it's going an hour before for some stupid Christmas concert thing the church holds before Mass and getting front row seats, then the Mass itself which is extra-long. The whole ordeal is three to four hours.

The part where you quote your English teacher really inspired me. These people aren't going to harm me even though they make an erraneous assumption that I am there by choice. I fear reprisal from my parents if I show that I don't believe, but anyone can tell I'm not very passionate about the ceremony (I literally just go through the motions; I stand and sit at the proper times and walk to take Communion, but I don't chant their ridiculous nonsense or make the sign of the cross or any of that). I suppose I'm doing it correctly, and I definitely agree that I should go in headstrong....it'll make me feel better.

I wouldn't mind going with the Japanese family....the first and primary reason is that they are gracious hosts to me and it's not comparable to berating me and forcing me to sit in a pew for several hours with thousands of sheep gawking at me. As far as I know, Japan is a very secular country so merely going to a Shinto shrine isn't going to label you as much as going to Catholic mass (where people are going to assume that you are in fact Catholic).

I'm going to attempt to get a job, but for the time being it will be difficult for me to live on my own....especially since my mom has a bit of separation anxiety and probably won't even let me. I've considered dropping out of college and going on my own, but that's a whole nother topic for a whole nother day that goes beyond the scope of this topic...

Make no mistake, I very much appreciate your advice....I feel less afraid of being humiliated. I think it was my biggest qualm besides the boredom but that's the lesser of two evils. Many thanks for your thoughts and your time :)

Hey, thanks for your response. :)

Unfortunately, my parents are not THAT fundamentalist; they're strongly Catholic but they're not big on actual religious dogma if that makes any sense. From my experience, Catholics are more about Church dogma than hardcore biblical teachings, especially less so than Protestants are. If anything, it would lead to more fighting as I'm not completely out yet.

I have no plans to keep in contact with my parents at all when I am financially independent; unfortunately, that won't be for quite some time as I am a freshman in college and I plan on going to law school after. I will get a job over breaks and the summer but I don't think I'm able to pay for myself all the way through school.

As for the presents....honestly, I think I would be forced to go regardless of whether or not they were in the picture. :/

I really appreciate your kind words and support, though. I don't feel alone in my struggle and every post thus far gives me a little more strength. Cheers :)

well, I tell my mom that I go for midnight mass, but I don't go to the church at all. I go and sit in the local bus stand and download songs or videos on my cell.. My mom goes for mass in the morning. and my father expired. My brother is abroad... well, my mom thinks that I go to the church.. She knows that I am an atheist and she can't force me to go.

Well, in your case i don't know what to advise. I'm also 18. Came out as atheist at around 16. But i came out slowly at first refusing to say the rosary. Well, you could first start by saying that you don't want to sit in the front rows. That's what i did:) First I began sitting in the last benches. then I told my mom that i'm going for the 9a.m mass(she goes for 8a.m mass) I just went for some 2 sundays then stopped going to the church and quietly began going to the football ground nearby. But before going home i just used to take a round near the church to see which priest said the mass just incase mom asked which priest did the mass.. hehehe

Well you just try to achieve your freedom step by step:) Your first step is getting the freedom to not sit in the front rows.. or to convince your parents that you will go for mass at a different time and not with them..

Well, all the best:) Just stay cool:) Hope things will get better in the future....


 How did your xmas eve turn out?

So Kathleen, do you have to participate in the catholic aerobics as well?  ; )   just poking fun at you.  I hate it when ever there is a family gathering and they all want to pray before we eat.  It's not so bad at moms house, they just say a quick one and i don't even have to bow my head, but at my aunts house in Tennessee, it's a full blown pentecostal revival type of prayer,,, talking in tongues and everything...  during such pre-meal prayers, my kids used to look at me out of the side of their eyes and chuckle because they knew how we felt about that silliness.  I couldn't help but laugh when my kids 8 and 5 were mocking them on our drive home, they knew better than to make fun while we were there.  When the kids would be running through the house on a sugar high I would always ask them if they were on Mt Dew or did they get the holy ghost, to which they would respond with more running, hands in the air and mock talking in tongues.... hilarity. 

So I guess my answer to you Kathleen is to keep a good sense of humor about things.  Im sure your friends know you gotta do what you gotta do for now.  Make light of the rituals, joke about it later.  I'm glad i was never forced to go to a catholic church though.  I'd be pretty uncomfortable kneeling in front of a priest with my mouth open waiting for him to put something in.  ; )    Cheers, Dave

Get independent a.s.a.p. I wanted to say "put your foot down", but every situation is unique, and i don't have to deal with the backlash. You probably won't be able to have a civil conversation about it. They think that you couldn't possibly know better than them, because they raised you. It will probably be a tough road, but take the high road. Grin and bear it, and live a good life. They may come around later, maybe not. I'm sorry that you don't speak to your father. It would be good if you could discuss topics without attacking his faith. I wish my dad was around. It seems that we have to have more patience than the religious, because they can get away saying incredible things, and if we say a word, we are shouted down. Very frustrating. The younger people are getting it, and i'd like to know the stats on older people deconverting. Wouldn't that be a dream? 


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