How have you all dealt with your religious family members?

Are you still in the closet?

Have they disowned you?

How do you handle holidays and family functions?

Does anyone still have religious spouses?

I'm sure many of us will be encouraged and can learn from your insights.

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Replies to This Discussion

They evangelize because they LURV you! After all, now that they've decided being gay won't send you to hell they can quit harassing you about that, now they've just got to get your pesky soul inside a church asap :)
I've been atheist for one year next month. I was lucky to be living with just my son at this time. I told my brother almost immediately, because he's a physicist and bounces between weak theism and weak atheism pretty regularly so I knew he wouldn't condemn me. I waited to tell anyone else until I had my arguments for nonbelief better thought out. My mom and sister both know now. They are sad and expect me to change my mind someday. In the same way I'm sad to see my niece raised in evangelical Christianity, my sister is sad to see her nephew raised outside of it. My grandmother is a retired Christian cult leader (Carol Balizet of Home in Zion Ministries, if you care to Google it). She has Alzheimers at this point. I've considered telling her, with the knowledge that she'll probably forget it before I speak to her again, but haven't done it so far.

Really my family handled it much better than i thought they would. I chose not attend family gatherings for holidays this year though. So Thanksgiving was me and my son eating Boston Market and watching Winnie the Pooh, Christmas was Chinese food and rewatching Toy Story, and Easter was spent at the pool. As he grows older, I'll add more real "celebration" and figure out better traditions, but *I* needed a year off from the family insanity. Keeping most of my contact with my family limited to the phone is helpful, because I can always quickly get off if things get too intense. Likewise they can do the same. Now that I'm out, I'm outspoken. Just this afternoon when my sister told me "I know in my soul that God exists. I've seen evidence many times." I told her, "I haven't. I prayed for decades. At this point I don't even believe we have souls. And even if someone could prove to me the god of the Bible is real, I wouldn't worship him because of the things done in his name or at his command in his own book." That pretty much ended the outing lol.

I guess just.... wait till you feel centered in yourself. Don't get into debate if it will harm you or your relationship. And never compromise your rights for the sake of someone else's feelings.
yep, that's my Giggy. Once I get a car again (unemployed) I plan on going to more skeptics events. We did a winter solstice gathering and that was really nice. Mostly we just hang out at the local pool and I debate the other parents :) They all like me as their "wacky atheist friend", the same way my muslim friends liked me as their "wacky xtian friend" when I was in college studying middle east politics.
Oh, and the author of that article Adrian? I've been in contact via email back and forth the past few months. He's agreed to promote/distribute my book about growing up with her once it's finished, even though he knows I'm atheist and will be bashing christianity throughout, so that's my kind of pastor :)
I am not telling my parents. (My Assemblies of God preacher father and mother) It would do nothing but cause them pain and in return cause me grief. I'm a new transplant to Texas and finding it hard to be blunt about my non-belief.

Holidays---we celebrate the secular side. Hell my daughter is allowed to go to church with my parents, we just debrief her when she gets home.
I have told my mom about my atheism, I worked up to it over several months by stating the inconsistencies that I found, as well as similarities with other religions. About a year after I told her that I am atheist, she told me that the things I had to say made sense and she now calls herself an atheist too. :)

I am still in the closet with most of my family, they are super devout and would probably start throwing holy water on me or something - lol - but would probably disown me in the process. As far as holidays and stuff, I moved about 1500 miles away from my family with my son, so we don't have to worry about family gatherings. As far as a religious spouse, I have never been married (and hope to maintain that stance) but I have removed the religious boyfriend from my life and have vowed that I will not become involved with anyone who is of the religious persuasion... I don't think a relationship would stand much chance if the other person thinks I am going to hell, and I think they are delusional.
Wow, sounds so much like me. Except I haven't quite worked mom over yet, but I did spend six months talking about logic and reason and science before dropping the A-word.
I was raised an evangelical. when i was 14-15 my family changed their religious beliefs a lot and we became even more 'fundamental'. The changes aligned with "messianic judaism" (christianity and judaism mix). So i started reading the old testament more... I was always 1 to debate, and i occasionally found myself debating atheists, they raised several points i couldn't counter (where did god come from, etc). I started telling people online i was agnostic when i was 16/17 years old. When i was 17 i was about to start dual enrollment in university and high school. I knew that if my siblings were ever allowed to go to university i would have to tell my parents about my unbelief first, otherwise they would blame the university, regardless of what i said. So about a month before classes i told my dad i was agnostic (i was saying i'm an atheist to everybody else).

It's been kinda rough since then... After about 3 months i told them i wasn't going to participate in their religious gatherings (about which they still make comments). I haven't been excommunicated or anything, but it is a very tense relationship. I'm hoping that moving out will help soothe things.

Crazy coincidence... I was fed Baptist-ness till I was about 13, and then my family turned to the 'messianic judaism' thing as well. That was a pretty crappy time in my development of self to suddenly turn family traditions, holidays, etc. upside-down, and I'm sure it contributed to the questions that led me to atheism.

Have things improved for you in the 3 years since you posted this?

I was raised with the whole End-Times-is-upon-us concept. My parents are fundamentalist, survivalist / back-to-the-land hippies, conspiracy-theorist, Pentacostal, "spiritual warfare" xtians...need I continue? Oddly enough, they aren't your average xtian redneck: my mother majored in physics and got her degree, and my father is a computer programmer.
I learned all sorts of odd things, from how to butcher chickens and identify edible wild plants, to the idea that vehicle malfunctions and family dissention is ALWAYS caused by demons.
I didn't believe I would live to 18, I assumed I'd be martyred by the antichrist's minions first for my inherited xtianity. Hence, while I was homeschooled with an extremely good education, my mother neglected to help me plan for college, or a career.
My friends all had the notion they would stay at home until Prince Charming asked daddy for their hand, and enter blissfully into a nice xtian marriage, and be fruitful and multiply. (Scary!)
But I was taught to be independent. So when I moved away to follow a summer job, so I could keep insurance on my car, my parents reluctantly gave their blessing.
I was getting pretty frustrated and confused with the shallowness and hypocrisy in my own "faith", although I'd been actively involved in children's ministries prior. But that summer I met a guy, an ex-Mormon still indoctrinated with their worldview. Parents and church found out...I was on a fast track to hell...and after going home at the end of the summer job, I was put under tremendous pressure to "repent". Which involved breaking up.
I read xtian books, I tried my best to "come back", I even convinced myself twice...but I wouldn't break up without personal confirmation, so my parents deemed it all fake. Although I didn't even know it, they were right.
I was given an ultimatum: break up and repent, or never set foot on their property again. By feeding, housing, or clothing me, they were supporting Sin, and they "couldn't" do that.
I moved into my car, angry, conflicted, and convinced that something was terribly wrong about their religion.
Three months later I enlisted in the US Army, and began to finally work through the 20-year brainwashing I had received. I went from Christian, to nominal xtian, to I-don't-give-a-f***, to agnostic, and finally I have found clarity and am proud (and relieved) to call myself an atheist.
I told my parents a little bit of my gradual deconversion. Only in the last few months though I've been really honest with them, and told them what I believe (or don't believe!). Also, I finally got the guts to change my dogtags from Chr-non-denom to Atheist, as you can see in my profile picture.
My parents have gone from "righteous anger" to terror of hellfire on my behalf, to sorrow and prayer, and now I am sure they continue to beg their imaginary friend to help me, but they certainly know better than to task me with their religious criticism.
I am (with the help of my shrink) starting to work through the deep anger issues associated with my past, and hope this year to be able to have a fairly reasonable debate with least show them that I am calmly and logically thinking through my decision, not making it soley on an emotional reaction to their mistreatment of me.
I'm still somewhat in the proverbial closet. I've told some friends, but my parents are both devout fundamentalists as is the rest of my family and my girlfriend's family. My girlfriend knows about my beliefs and she's a very liberal Christian herself. I don't know when or if I'll ever fully come out with my atheism.
My own mom refused to go on foodstamps for her three near-starving children, because "the Lord will provide". It wasn't pleasant. Sorry to hear about your nephew; I'm sure you know that religious medical neglect is my crusade issue. In most states, it is possible to make a report to child services (I'd suggest the school if they were enrolled...) and get someone out there to explain to her why it's vitally important to provide proper medical treatment. These things don't always have to end in tragedy.



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