Growing Up Gay and Without Religion in the Bible Belt (New Member Intro)

Greetings and Salutations,

My name is Don, an artist and writer residing in the Bible Belt (within a small town just north of Atlanta). I'm a new member and wanted to take a moment to introduce myself. There seems to be a wide range of diverse and like-minded people here, so I'm looking forward to interacting and perhaps making a few friends along the merry way. Of course, a big hug goes out to those out there who read this.

An abridged history of myself: I've lived in the Bible Belt all of my life. Art and writing have seen me through some difficult times. I'm in my early thirties now, but... it has been a long road. Growing up gay in the South can be nightmarish, particularly during adolescence. When one adds a lack of religious belief on top of that... well... to put it bluntly, sometimes I'm surprised to still have all of my limbs and extremities. All hell can break loose when people start speaking in tongues... Often, I've felt very alone in a rural/ suburban area where mega-churches occupy every other street, and the good ol' boy network holds sway over sanity and reason.

During school, there was the regular parade of death threats and dirty looks by loving Christian classmates. At one juncture, I remember walking around the outside of my high school in order to get to my next class, just because the hallways were a constant battle. It's always nice to be walking along and have your books knocked out of your hands by friendly God loving football players, or to be slammed into a wall and have teachers look the other way. I fondly remember a girl named Jessica Kanup and her shark-faced barbs: Faggot, homo, gay boy, queer, and so forth. I'd kind of like to see her on a "Where Are They Now?" special.

I've never believed in God. For a brief period during elementary school, I attended a small church with a religious neighbor/classmate. Alas, my relationship with religion was doomed from the start. I remember sitting on a pew during church as a preacher ranted, thinking: If God exists, why does He allow my father to hit my mother? Why does He let my father hit me? Or hurt my sisters? I never understood. So I thought, either God doesn't exist, or He doesn't know. Otherwise, He would help, wouldn't He? As the years of abuse trudged on, eventually I settled on the God doesn't exist mantra.

Fast forward to a recent dilemma (and this is also part of why I joined this network... to be able to discuss this/ get opinions on the following scenario):

Outside of funerals and the odd Thanksgiving prayer, the rule of not engaging with religion has worked... until fairly recently. Within the last few years, my eldest sister (roughly ten years older than myself) has become very religious. Just when I thought that I had reached the safety zone of adulthood, religion returned to cause more friction. And I should've seen it coming. A few of my sister's friends were always very conservative and religious. Unfortunately, they've succeeded in roping her in. Now, my sister, brother-in-law, and my eldest nephew all harbor that "lost, far-away" look in their eyes. It saddens me greatly. I feel as if I don't know my sister anymore... like I can no longer identify with her... like I've lost her in a way. She was never the easiest to get along with and has always leaned on the judgmental side. From my perspective, religion has only served to amplify the "I'm always right, you're always wrong, how dare you disagree with me" personality type. I hate that she has gone in this direction, because we shared such a troubled childhood with my father, we've been through a lot, and I love her dearly.

Now, my sister's family gives a never-ending stream of money to a church that they attend every Sunday, Saturday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. They teach Bible classes that they aren't qualified to teach, spreading ignorance. They can't afford, nor do they have time, to keep their house up. Example: a broken AC unit at their house has remained in disrepair since March, because all of their money has gone to the church. My eldest nephew has been sleeping on an air mattress in the living room all this time as he tries to save up money for a mission trip to South Africa... all in order to spread further ignorance. A friend of mine made a joke in regard to this that made me laugh: At least my eldest nephew will be used to no air conditioning...

Seriously though, it greatly saddens me about my sister. I feel more and more uncomfortable around her. Happiness alludes her... it's as if she has convinced herself that she's happy, and wears the mask of happiness, while uncertainty lurks underneath. She no longer has time for anything other than work and the church, often neglecting our mother. Sometimes she calls my mother on the phone, telling my mom that she needs to think about "salvation." Evangelical books have been popping up at my sister's house. They feverishly pray at every single family get-together.

At one juncture, my sister became upset with me when I didn't go to my youngest nephew's baptism. She wanted to know why I didn't go. Sadly, I felt as if I couldn't tell her the reason. In all likelihood, if I had told her the truth, that I thought it was wrong to force a ten year old boy to pledge allegiance to an imaginary being for the rest of his life and that he was too young to know what he was doing, she wouldn't have spoken to me for a year or more. She does that frequently now... when she gets angry at someone, she doesn't speak to the offensive party for months on end... which, to me... that seems to not mesh with the "Do unto others" motto.

I feel so sorry for my youngest nephew. I want so much to take him aside and say something along the lines of: "Not everyone believes in God, and it's okay if you don't... don't ever do anything out of fear." But, he's not my child. He is my sister's child, and despite how I feel, they are raising him in the manner that they desire. I do know that he went away to a Bible summer camp, and came back from it scared to death, because some kids there had told him that if he wasn't baptized, that he was going to burn in hell for all eternity.

Maybe some members here have had similar experiences and could offer advice? Perhaps, even though I can't overstep my boundaries with my nephew, I could tell him what I believe, and leave him to draw his own conclusions? I don't know. My main concern is my sister. She has every right to do as she wishes, but sadly I see us drifting further and further apart... and I kind of feel like I survived all of that stuff in school, only to have it resurface again... and I just, I feel like I can't deal with religion anymore. I just can't, period. I'm over it and can't tolerate it causing me distress. At my sister's birthday party recently, I felt so uncomfortable with the way that she and her friends were carrying on (God this and God that) and praying that I had to leave the room and disappear. I stuck around until the candles were blown and that was all I could handle.

I wish that I could move away to some other area, but my mother is older now, and she needs me. Maybe I should just continue my current strategy, by not engaging with my sister or her family over religion... but it's getting harder and harder to do so as she sinks deeper and deeper down that path. In other words, dear readers... please help!

Lastly, I'm currently writing a novel about all of my experiences here in the South. I've fictionalized everything, so hopefully my sister won't get angry and not speak to me for a year. That has helped too... to get some of this stuff off of my chest and turn it into something productive and artistic that might help others. Obviously, it helps to write about it here as well. Also, I realize that this has become a lengthy introduction, and perhaps the part concerning my sister would've been better suited for another section of the forum, but I had to get it off of my chest, and it came out here during the wee small hours of the morning. So please forgive me for the length of this post, and if you've made it this far, I appreciate you reading this and I appreciate your time.

Love and Best, Don

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Welcome, Don. Glad you found this little island of sanity were I (and others) come to vent, and engage in conversation where we all have something to share. And, I've occasionally let my guard down and  actually learned quite a few things from others here.

Like Loren, I'm more the 'spit and vinegar' type myself. I once called law enforcement on a Baptist Church that was having an outdoor sing and prayer fest on the National Day of Prayer for disturbing the peace. They're right across the street from my law office and I couldn't get a lousy thing done with all the 'holy holies,' 'hallelujah brother' and tambourine banging. In that vein, and living in a rural area, I don't give shit who knows I'm atheist, and those who know me, know I don't care. On the other hand, I never had to experience vicious attacks and ostracism because of my sexuality. While I understand the godless part (brother and sister-in-law are evangelical missionaries), I can only do my best to empathize with the rejection of your sexuality, and your worth as a human as a result.  I do think Sentient Biped is correct. There are a number of religious sects who warmly welcome LGBTs (so long as they think like them). Being an apostate, godless, heathen and infidel - well, that's another matter. One, I might add, that I wear like a badge of honor.

As to your sister, all I can say is good luck. Haven't spoke to my brother in 3 years, and quite honestly, I don't miss the confrontation one single bit. Nor, the patronizing ignorance of my sister-in-law.

Once again, welcome. Look forward to seeing you around here. 

Hi Pat,

I look forward to conversing with you as well.  Thanks for the thoughtful reply and the welcome.  A little island of sanity is what I need!

In regard to your brother and sister-in-law's evangelical missionary work, I fear that is where my eldest nephew is headed.  If my nephew does end up going to Africa as a missionary, I just hope he comes back safe and sound, even though I can't support his cause in the slightest.

I think the longest span of time that has gone by without speaking to my sister is about six months or so.  And, that wasn't really my doing... she was the one giving the silent treatment.  It's hard... I'll be as nice and non-confrontational as possible, and still end up on her bad side just because I disagree with her opinion.  From her perspective, for someone to disagree with her equates to "you are against me."  She just doesn't understand that it's okay to disagree about things and that everyone is going to have his or her own opinions about something.

With all of that being said though, she's still my sis and I still love her- thorns and all.  I do hope that someday you and your brother can at least be on speaking terms.  I understand however that... sometimes distance and time apart can be a good thing, and of course I'm not aware of all the intricacies and dynamics of your relationship with him.  Maybe you and your brother will be able to reconnect in the future/ start anew?  Even if your brother is impossible to communicate with without confrontation (as my sister is at times), I bet that deep down you still love him, and he loves you...  

"Not to me, it isn't."

Mindy, saying something like that takes some major league guts, in my humble opinion.  I appreciate the regard you hold me in, but don't ever sell yourself short.  You got your own spit-n-vinegar going on, yourself.  Don't doubt that for a second!

Booklover, Pat, and K. Hughes, thank you for the warm welcome also.  

Booklover, speaking of Santa... oh gosh, there was a funny, but liberating moment a couple of years ago: It was nearing Christmas.  My mom and I had gone out to eat at a local Chinese restaurant.  We were about to break open the fortune cookies when conversation steered toward my sister and her newfound religion.  

At the time, my sister had started calling my mom up every so often to preach about salvation.  Also, more and more, my sis was inviting my mom over to the church for Sunday potluck, that sort of thing.  Anyway, I knew where all of this was headed, even if my mom didn't (though I'm sure my mom can take care of herself).  

My thought: My sister was going to try and rope my mother into the fold and insist that she get baptized (which, little does my sister know, our mom was already baptized as a child).  My young nephew had recently been forced into it, and I felt like she was starting in on my mom.  

I suppose someone can get baptized any number of times... but the thought of my mom being pushed into a nutty thing like that again... I don't know.  It pushed me over the edge I guess.  So I sad something to my mom along the lines of... "Be careful about going over there and spending time with the loonies... you'll come back speaking in tongues."  To which my mom replied, "What do you mean?"

So then I started to explain how I didn't think religion was a good thing, that I thought it hurt people, that it did more harm than good, that I was sad that my sister was becoming this way, and so forth.  Eventually, my mom asked, "Do you believe in God?"

Without missing a beat, I replied that I believed in God about as much as I believed in Santa or the Easter bunny.  Alas, I'm sure that was a bitter fortune cookie for my mom to swallow, but she took it much better than I thought.  It felt good to be honest with her.  My mom has never been very religious... I think she just kind of goes along with the flow and tries not to upset anyone.  However, just the thought of mom becoming like my sister is too much.  If my sister wants to be crazy about religion, then I feel that she should keep that to herself and do her own thing, and not try to force her beliefs upon others.

In hindsight, boy... my impromptu coming out as a non-believer to my mom over a bowl of vegetable lo mein is pretty goofy and laugh inducing.  There are much, much worse ways that the non-believing conversation could happen.  I guess I'm glad that it happened the way it did, when I was least expecting it.

Thank you again Booklover for sharing your thoughts about your sis and nephew with me.  I agree with Loren... the "Not to me it isn't" reply took some spit-n-vinegar.


Ruth, now that I've had more time to think about the alcohol and drug analogy, my sis used to drink a lot when she was younger.  So it's almost like she has traded one vice for the other... I didn't even think about it that way/ from that perspective until you mentioned that.  Also, I better be careful about what I say to my nephew, and let the religion conversation just come up naturally, as it did with my mother, as I can see him repeating what I say to my sis.  My sis would be the type of person to not let him come around me anymore/ keep him away from me... sadly.

Lastly, have to get going, but Pat and K. Hughes, I will definitely write more later and respond to your posts in-depth also.  Pat, wow, that's a hoot about calling the police. *laughing.  K. Hughes, I empathize.  A friend of my grandmother's died last year, so I went to the funeral.  That was a mistake!  They started speaking in tongues and began speaking about the evils of a convention that was in Atlanta (I have no idea what convention... as the preacher never specified, but perhaps he meant DragonCon- it was the only thing going on at the time).  *laughing.  Oh boy.  Or perhaps he meant gay pride, as that may have occurred simultaneously with Dragon-Con.  It was BEYOND ridiculous and over the top, and had he ranted much more, I would've bolted for the church door.

  

Don, welcome to Atheist Nexus and this community of non-believers. You have come to the group that can hear your angst and many of us have similar experiences and understand.

I grew up in a violent home, married a violent man and had three children with him. They were ten years old when I put them in my car and ran 2,000 miles, cursing Jesus and god all the way, to start a new life. I promised the kids they would never be afraid again in my home and we would learn a better way to live in community. I had no idea how I was going to do it, so I started college seeking an answer to what makes a healthy, productive, happy individual and family. My search for answers turned up some freeing ideas that I had no idea existed. I thought all wives and children were beaten; that delusion did not stand up to scrutiny. I thought I had an imperative to follow what I later named "The Passive Gospel" in which I was to yield, pray, obey, turn the other cheek, crucify myself daily in imitation of the crucified christ and rejoice in my crucifixion. Education freed me from that stupid notion.

During my studies for a master's degree, I wrote, "Toward a theory of family violence, its antecedents, treatment and prevention. For my doctorate I wrote, "A Splendid heresy". Seeking information, asking questions, finding alternatives, writing and writing and writing I defined how religion requires unhealthy functioning of its members, I created a new paradigm to replace the old sick stuff, and a way of life that not only brings effective, efficient, functioning, but also joy, peace and decent values to one's life. 

In the process, I had to divorce my family members who wanted me to return to the fold, and accept the "god-given" definition of who I am, and how I am to relate to others. That was the very best lesson I learned. Giving up my family meant letting go of diseased thinking.  Sure there was a price to pay, and I am so grateful I made the choices I made and took the path I did. 

May I be so bold as to suggest that you write as honestly and clearly as you can. Even use a pseudonym, if you feel it necessary. Get your work out in front of others' eyes. Atheists have a reputation for being honest with their feedback. Some of our ideas can be tossed in the trash after you think about what we say or incorporate the ideas into your value system. The point is, you do your own thinking. No one else can answer your questions for you. You have eyes to see, ears to hear, a heart that feels, and guts that give you courage. Take risks. State your ideas; once you see your own words in print and read comments from others, you can decide for yourself what works for you and what does not. 

As to your mother, I feel for you, I understand your quandary. I am a 77 year old woman being treated for breast cancer with chemical and radiation. My prognosis for a complete remission of the disease is excellent because we caught it early. However, I have a family that respects and loves me, takes very good care of me, and I am so very grateful for them. When I am too sick to eat, they prepare chicken soup or bring me fresh water. I trust them to take over my banking, which I seriously neglected. They take care of my household chores, such as winterizing the house and garden. I expect to be back to full health of a 78 year old in the spring.

The point is, I am growing older, I need help and am so grateful my family steps up to the plate and does what I am unable to do. I suppose there will come a time when they will be changing my diapers. Life does have a way of coming around. 

I wish you well and look forward to your writings. 

Joan,

Thank you so much for your warm and thoughtful response.  I imagine that you and I could sit down together and swap many, many tales.  Obviously you know this, but it took an incredible amount of bravery and courage for you to get in your car and leave.  I was thirteen when my mother decided to leave my father.  For so many years, I kept wishing that we could get out of that situation.  As an adult, looking back on it, I understand that she was probably scared and that there was likely a time (before I was born) when he wasn't so abusive.  Maybe she kept thinking he would change...

One of my earliest memories, if not the earliest, is of my mother and father fighting. I was probably... four or five years old.  A commotion woke me.  I went into the living room and saw them fighting and crashing into walls.  My sister kept trying to call the police, but he ripped the phone out of the wall, sent her into a wall, and knocked her breath out.  My mom had a black eye for about two weeks and hobbled around from where he had kicked her.  Afterward, my sister ended up running away from home for a while.  

Over the years, fights happened regularly... about every two weeks.  On occasion he would take his gun out of the closet and place it on a shelf in the bookcase in the living room where we could all see it- I suppose he was trying to intimidate us or scare us with it.  We never had any idea of what might set him off.  We would be joking with him about something, and he would take it the wrong way and go on a tirade.  For example, he came home from the grocery store one day.  He was carrying a grocery bag with a loaf of bread in it.  I tugged on the grocery bag playfully/ lightly as he went by- he then struck me so hard against the face that tears instantly came out. His red hand print stayed on my face for the rest of that evening.  I never tried to joke or tease with him again about anything after that.  

I'm sure, from what you wrote, that you understand and can identify.  We went through a lot of the same things I bet/ are birds of a feather, especially in that regard.

In regard to your cancer, stay strong and keep fighting.  Keep being brave.  Keep being strong.  It sounds like you are well on your way toward a complete, healthy recovery.  Your family loves you and I'm glad that you have that safety net there :).

Lastly, I much appreciate your encouragement in regard to my writing.  That was so very, very thoughtful and nice of you.  I'm about a third of the way through my second draft, so any and all encouragement is still appreciated.  I'm hoping to finish in January by my birthday.  In tone and atmosphere, it's shaping up to not be dissimilar from Judith Guest's Ordinary People novel.  Maybe I will be able to read some of your writing at some point?  
 
 

Don, your story brings tears to my eyes, even as I realize you are now fully grown and able to create your own life-style. Having been so cruelly treated, I suspect you have compassion that others may not have for those who have been beat down as children. That is one of the reasons I chose a profession of empowering people who feel helpless.

Thanks you for your encouragement in my cancer challenge. This group of very special people have walked the walk with me from the very beginning on the day of diagnosis through the many tests, chemo treatments and now finishing up with radiation. I have only two more weeks of that, and then seven months of chemo every three weeks. I can handle all that. I wouldn't wish the chemo-cocktail on my worst enemy.

Your writing gives me great encouragement that you will come out of the memories of abuse, strong, self-confident, compassionate and wise. You mention January is your birthday. Mine is Jan 21, 1936. I will be 78 years old and so very grateful to be alive.

I am writing small episodes for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren and posting some of them on "Hanging with Friends," or "Godless in the Garden". Just click on my name and you will see past postings.

Hi, Don-

I, too, am new to this site. Welcome! First, I'm so glad to learn that you're writing a novel. It's quite obvious, from reading your account, that yours will be a significant contribution to the literature. I grew up in the Midwest and 'came out' to my mother at age 15. It would be another 15 or 20 years before she would consent to hug me, again. In other words, I guess she didn't believe me when I told her I wasn't, at all, attracted to her... Even now, she's quite certain I'll burn in hell. So, we mostly don't speak.

What you've shared about your high school experiences is heartbreaking, but not unheard of. I had the sad pleasure of meeting Matthew Shepard's mother, shortly after his murder, and truly, had she not been the friend she had, he might not have lived as long as he did. Every minute of every day, Matthew ran the gauntlet of hate. There is much more help available for our young members of the lgbtqia community today than either you or I had, but we still have far to go. Your tenacity and intelligence can be a vital part of making that happen.

If someone had asked me what two things could I not imagine being in the South, I'd easily have said "gay" and "atheist." I can't imagine how you've survived. A good friend of mine, an atheist, moved to the deep South some three years ago. The next thing I knew, she was sending out "electronic prayer cards" and theological statements uttered by cats wearing vestments (in Facebook, of course). I did talk to her about it, briefly, and she mentioned that 'church' is how people network down there. I'm still confused because that didn't explain how, or why, she got infected.

Your comments about refusing to go to your nephew's baptism struck a chord with me. I recently attended a ceremony for a Buddhist group in which a woman had her two daughters, ages five and three, "join" the organization. I guess I was the only one who didn't think it was cute (or surprising?) when each of them, after being asked to say something about their "faith" before the congregation, refused to talk, at all. I still wonder why I was, apparently, the only one aware of the fact that those children didn't know what the hell they were doing up there. Yes, it's a bit disconcerting.

As for your sister, she just sounds scared, as do many "saved" folk. The other day, a Christian called me "the whore of Babylon" and told me that "God has reserved a place for you in the lake of burning fire." I responded that that sounded really scary ("burning" fire, that is...). Two hours later, he was walking around drunk. Prior to learning I'm now damned, he'd thought me a prime prospect; but when he learned that I wouldn't go to bed with him, even if he gave me a color TV, I guess all bets were off. I'm convinced that many people who previously avoided religion eventually "join" because they're getting older and they want to be extra careful "just in case it's true." They don't understand that "God" would have to be really stupid to accept that kind of "commitment." Additionally, it's very convenient to do whatever the hell you feel like doing, then just go to confession, or ask for forgiveness, afterwards.

All I can say regarding engagement with your sister is: Don't beat yourself up. She'll probably do all that for you because, of course, being gay places you among "the lost-est of the lost." Just live your life; don't put anything, especially love, on hold; and don't invite her to anything you wouldn't want to find the Westboro Baptist Church picketing (like your wedding, should you get married, if you aren't, already). But come to think of it, that might be a plus at your book signing... And I'm not trying to be funny. It's just that I've got a good 20 years on you and I've learned that there are some wounds and fractures that even time doesn't appear to be able to heal. But that doesn't mean you have to be wounded. 

I truly appreciate your strength and your sharing. 

All the best to you,

Vivien

Hi Vivien,

Thank you so much for the very warm and well-written response.  Oh gosh... my sis!  This evening my mother and I had dinner with her.  Out of nowhere, my sis started talking about politics and became confrontational in regard to my political views (odd, seeing as how I never talk about politics).  Alas, she knows I voted for a certain someone that she didn't vote for.  As a good combat strategy, I used the DO NOT ENGAGE rule... the same rule that I use for religious topics.  For the most part, the strategy worked.  It annoyed her that I wouldn't take the bait, but it's the way it has to be unfortunately.  She just can't handle a differing opinion without becoming upset.  Again though, I love her dearly.  Yes, Vivien– deep down I think she is just scared and unsure of herself.


On a side note, she and a few of her friends at church are currently quarreling and behaving like kids.  Example:  "You wouldn't let my daughter's boyfriend come over to your house, how dare you... now I'm not going to talk to you for the rest of the year!"  Ugh.  It's like high school all over again, complete with in-fighting, silent treatment, and taking sides against one another.  It seems so childish.  Ah well.  In a way, I feel sorry for them... that they can't see the forest for the trees or abide by their own self-imposed belief system.

It must have been harrowing, to meet Matthew Shepard's mom so soon after his death.  I agree that we still have a long way to go in regard to protecting and offering help to lgbtqia youth.  Maybe you do this as well, but sometimes I think of the people who were so awful to deal with during high school.  I ask myself if I'm angry at them.  Usually, the answer is a resounding no.  I don't know if this is a healthy way to look at it or not, but I feel that bigoted, hateful bullies are in their own hell, often without even realizing it; and it's a hell that likely worsens with age.  How miserable they must be!

In regard to your friend who moved to the South... yes.  A good ol' boy church network is very much alive and well here.  My eldest nephew stayed in all kinds of hot water during his school years.  For the longest time, his name was synonymous with trouble.  Recently however, as he becomes more and more involved with religion and church, it seems as if things are handed to him on a silver platter (employment, a broader social circle), with little to no effort on his part.  Do you still communicate with your friend?  It is baffling to think, "How did this person become so religious, when he/she wasn't that way before?"  Hmmm... maybe it can be easier just to give in and go along with the crowd?  Or, to put it another way, easier for someone to wall off part of their brain and coast along on illogical reasoning, rather than fight against it?  I don't know... that's a tough one.

Lastly, the Buddhist group... wow.  On one side, it's beyond goofy.  On the other, it's exactly as you put it: Disconcerting.  How could anyone actually believe in something so illogical and beyond reason?  Deep down, I imagine that a great many people who "believe" aren't being honest with themselves.  As with your friend who moved to the South, maybe it's just easier for some people to coast through life without rocking the religious boat, so to speak.

Well, I better go before I write a novel here!  Thanks to you as well for sharing your experiences...

All the best to you and stay strong also–

Don 


   

 


  

Don, I’m totally new here myself and still getting my bearings. But since I’ve got a week or so on you I can welcome you to the board. 

When I read stories like yours I feel what I guess is a variant of survivors guilt.  I’m gay too. Your story could easily have been mine. But I’ve been lucky. My family is only culturally religious and not homophobic. But I have friends who have been on the receiving end of God’s “love.” It’s brought them nothing but pain. And it’s taught me a lot. 

Religion of the sort embraced by your family is a drug. You are dealing with addicts and with addicts the drug rules. “She no longer has time for anything other than work and the church, often neglecting our mother.” Replace “the church” with “getting her Christometh fix” and you’ve got it in a nutshell. 

And then there’s your older nephew, who is preparing to go half way around the world to find souls to feed to the Sky Troll when there are those right in his own back yard who need his help. This is not what responsible and compassionate people do. But it’s what people who have bought into a virulently expansionist religion like Christianity do. 

When it comes to your younger nephew I don’t know what to suggest except to show by the way you live that there is an alternative. I’m thinking that most of us were not proactively converted to atheism. We came to it quietly and on our own based on what we’d learned and seen and through the grace of our own reason. Be as open and accessible to your nephew as you can, provide the best example you can, and let him figure it out. 

You are a lot more understanding and forgiving than I would be in your situation, especially when it comes to your sister. I have no use for religion in general, and Christianity and its younger sibling Islam in particular. I tried the live-and-let-live approach but that didn’t work for me when dealing with people who know the will of the Living God and whose commission in life is to make me and everyone else submit to it. 

You obviously have a lot of strength to draw on or you wouldn't be here to write what you have written. I'm really glad you decided to share with us. 

Greg,

I very much appreciate your warm thoughts.  We will go gayly forward together (joking with you) *smiling.

Yes, my youngest nephew will likely be okay in the long run.  He's a smart cookie, so your advice to essentially lead by example is spot-on.  Over time, he'll draw his own conclusions.  I would only ever mention my beliefs if he specifically asked or if it came up naturally during conversation, and even then I'd probably not make a big deal about it.

In regard to my older nephew: At dinner the other night, my mom did convey to my sis exactly what you just mentioned... that he shouldn't make the trip, and that there was so much that he could do here in regard to helping people out.  I was proud of my mom for saying that to her.  After my mom said that, my sis gave no response (no response = disagreement).

I'm sorry to hear about your friends who've endured hardship because of their religious upbringing.  You just being there for them helps greatly I imagine.  And speaking of forcing religion onto others... I'm in agreement that it's one of the worst things about Christianity.  If the Bible works for person A, it won't necessarily work for person B.

Lastly, thank you for sharing as well.  It's good to know that there are like-minded individuals out there.  I'm happy and humbled by everyone's warmth, kindness, and encouragement.

*Sending warmth, kindness, and encouragement to you in return.  

  

 

Don,  I forgot to add my oldest grandson is gay.  He moved to a larger town during college and is doing great.  You will be fine.  K,

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