(I posted this originally in Family forum but I think it belongs here more)

So I came out of Fundie Christianity about 10 years ago with the help of genuine questioning, an atheist boyfriend, and exposure to a larger community of varying beliefs. My parents were obviously not happy about this, but over time, we all came to an agreement to pretty much not talk about religion or politics. (Most of the time). 

The problem I'm having now is that my sister (who is 15) is pretty much exactly where I was when I was her age. She's wrapped up in the fundamentalist world with plenty of encouragement by my parents. My mother always talks about how proud she is of my sister and even though it shouldn't, it grates on me to no end. I am an AWESOME human being. I am currently working toward a degree in physics, with the hope of getting a Ph.D. in Astrophysics someday. I have two amazing children. I am kind and loving and giving and just generally good. But it's not good enough for her. She thinks I'm a bad example for my sister just by virtue of not holding their beliefs. I really think even if I had held on to Christianity in a less fundie form, I would be seen as damned by them. 

I can leave well enough alone with my parents, but I want to question a lot of her premises and ideas. But my parents obviously are not happy about that. They don't want me "leading her astray." As it is, she's not allowed to spend any time with me alone, and when conversations DO arise, I'm always seen by my parents as bullying her. 

My family and I are all connected on facebook. I hide my mother so I don't have to hear all of her fundie BS (pretty much ALL she ever posts), but my sister and I are pretty close. I like to know what's going on in her life. Every now and again she'll post religious stuff, which I don't comment on unless it's hateful (she posted something linking gays to pedophiles once and I went on a 60-comment rampage against her and her cohorts). 

Here's the thing. I don't necessarily want to take away her faith. I have no problem with people believing what they want, for the most part. But I want to take away her fundamentalism. I want to question her assumptions, convince her to be Christlike, not a sheep of the power-hungry Church. 

I wouldn't have much of a problem cutting off contact with the family entirely except that I want to spend time with my sisters and I have two young children who love their grandparents. They are forbidden to talk religion with my kids, and I feel kind of hypocritical discussing my sister's beliefs with her. To be fair, though, I think there's a world of difference between 5 and 15. 

Anyway, I apologize for the rant. I really have nowhere to discuss this with anyone. Facebook isn't safe, nor is my personal blog, which is read by the family. I don't like to discuss it with my hardcore atheist husband because mostly he just doesn't like my family and I think he'd be perfectly happy if we never saw them again. So this is fairly an unburdening. :)

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Replies to This Discussion

I can relate despite my situation being slightly different. I was a Fundie up until 6 months ago. Despite my younger sister being an adult, I have been expressly told not to talk to her about her faith or my new found lack thereof by my parents.

It's obvious she is deep in her faith now, but there are things to look for in your sister or her surroundings that can indicate how open-minded she'll become later on. Later on when you'll have more opportunity to ask her tough questions and present knowledge that she hasn't encountered before.

First, does she have a history of open-mindedness or changing opinions? It doesn't necessarily have to be in regards to her faith, but changing opinions or attitudes in response to new facts and evidence is the first sign of healthy critical thinker. Even if she's not questioning now (or at least not giving the impression she has doubts), a pattern of evolving and maturing attitudes is an excellent sign.

Second, I don't mean to insult you or your sister, but how intelligent is she and how confident is she in her own reasoning ability? You're obviously bright and confident enough to pursue a physics degree, so I'm hoping that all the apples fall in close proximity. (Heh-Heh) Too much confidence and not enough smarts obviously leads to more arrogant close-mindedness. And you could have all the intelligence in the world, but if you're unaware of it or too afraid to think for yourself, it will lead to submission to dogma and complacency and she'll lose out on her potential.

Third, does she have any close friends (or boyfriends, lol) that do not share her fundamentalism? I'm not going into the influence of others because it's obvious you are quite familiar with that. The biggest thing for me was seeing other Christians that did not share my fundamentalism. That turned my world upside down and made me more receptive to different opinions.

Forth, does she show any interest in new ideas? Does she actively search out new knowledge from books, the internet, other media or other people? This is kind of a little of the first and little of the second.

I know most of these are like, "well, duh!", but I wanted to point out a few things so that maybe you won't feel so bad about waiting for her to become old enough to be away from her parents and think for herself.
I keep trying to tell myself that I came out ok so she's bound to, especially with me around to make her think. She's extremely bright, and also incredibly confident though I don't know about her reasoning abilities. She's so much younger than I am, we didn't spend a lot of time together in her tween years.

I previously thought she was semi-open minded, likely to realize that even if people have different beliefs from hers, that's ok. She loves, respects, and adores me, despite my obvious heathenism, so that's got to be a plus, right?

I just see her getting more and more entwined with her faith, with others who share her beliefs. She has friends/acquaintances who are not quite so intense, but I think she, in the spirit of her dogma, sees them as lost.

"She'll come through it," I keep chanting to myself, but then I know so many adults who have NOT come through it, I worry.
Wow. That sucks. Sorry to be so undiplomatic. I don't know what I'd do if I thought that people I really loved were being indoctrinated into such hateful societies. My foster family that I spent my high school years with are/were very fundamentalist (which is how I got into it--fortunately eventually recovering). But my sister and brother are more a-religious. They're conservative Southerners (I and my family are from Mississippi, although I now live in Vermont) and racist (as most white southerners are), but not really "Christian fundamentalist" like I was in my teens and early twenties. For better or worse your post makes me thankful. I absolutely love my nieces, and they are so intelligent. And despite growing up in the cultures of Texas and Mississippi they are at least not surrounded and influenced by the fundamentalist crap that I was in my teens.

It sounds like you've been doing an admirable job of riding the fence and not being aggressive with de-programming your sister. I think just making sure she knows that alternative views are out there--AND acceptable, will be a great benefit for her. Although she may not realize it, she's very fortunate to have you in her life.

I wish you the best and hope she comes around at some point.

Be patient, there will come a time when your sister goes to College, at that time, take her to meet some gay people, chat with her, meet her Christian friends and have her meet your Atheist friends/family. It takes time to come to reason after years of brainwashing, and you have to give her time. Maybe she'll never leave her faith, and that's not your fault, but doing this much just might change her.




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