My husband and I both became atheists at the same time. We had been studying apologetics and reading the "New Atheist" books trying to find answers to the "issues" they brought up. Surprise! We ended up convinced pretty quickly that the Bible just wasn't true, and within a couple weeks, we had pretty much become comfortable with the realization that there is just no reason to believe a God exists. Unfortunately, both of our mothers are VERY religious. Neither of them know, and we dread the day they find out.
We just moved out of his parent's house into our own home for the first time (we married young and are both in school) and his mom brings up church every time we see her. She picked up on the fact that we didn't want to go when we lived at home and was pretty concerned. She even came to us and told us "she wasn't trying to be mean or force us to go. She just didn't want us to lose our way and (stifle sob) she just wants us to go to heaven." Now she is always asking us if we found a church in our new town and if we went to church Sunday. At first she was subtle about it, but know she has just started straight up asking us "please don't stop going to church." I have nothing against her, she's the best mother-in-law a girl could ask for and I love her to death. And I don't expect her to change her beliefs or even want that for her. But I'm not going to pretend to be a christian just for her sake. I have my own life to live.
My own mom is a die hard Biblical Scholar. She is convinced the majority of christians are wrong about the bible and spends hours everyday studying it and writing articles about what it truly means. It's interesting, but of course, she wants to discuss it with me and wants me to agree with her. I don't want to straight up lie to her about what I believe and I can only be so vague to avoid her finding me out. The latest topic is that Jesus came back in 70 AD and he's not coming back again so everybody is wasting their time waiting for his "second coming." All I can truthfully say is "yep, the Bible definitely says he came back then or he isn't coming at all." When she finds out I believe the latter, there will be a fallout. And my dad will undoubtedly be backing her up helping her ridicule me, (ironically, like they both did when I told mom I believed the baptist teachings she now despises were not biblical.)
Our main concern about when they find out (which they will when we have kids because I will not let their religious beliefs impair my children's critical thinking skills and fill them with fear of Hellfire just to spare their feelings) is that they will think we had some trauma, or just got lazy and don't want to go to church, or that we want to sin. You know, the usual rude and inconsiderate presumptions religious parents make about atheist children. So we have decided we are going to try and put together a book of sorts to just hand to them before we discuss anything. When we have Biblical debates, we have both read the bible. We know what we're working with, so we have some common ground. Once we get into atheism, they have no idea what we think, so we want to give them something to establish a common ground to discuss. We basically plan to pick a single point at a time, and write an essay on it. Then we'll just combine the essays into a book and call them chapters. When they confront us, we hand them the book. No discussion until they read it.
I'd love any stories about how your own religious parents reacted when you came out, and any suggestions you have for topics to defend our beliefs. I have counters for the most common apologetics like the watchmaker analogy, the cosmological argument, and the "absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence" arguments. I also have lots of biblical contradictions and scientific contradictions and then just the basic, "there is not a single piece of evidence that logically points to there being a god, especially not the Christian God specifically."
You should not have to defend your beliefs or develop debating points to counter your parents' religious world view. Just tell them, "we are not religious." No debate...no book of essays...end of discussion. Sometimes, you just have to tell your folks to go to hell.
Interestingly, your mom's Jesus in 70 AD theory suggests that even she experiencing doubt. That theory suggests that your mom is troubled by the Jesus' statement that he would return in the lifetime of his contemporaries. Read the Exegesis of Philip K. Dick for some insight on this theological problem.
coming out is one thing, accepting the consequences is another. I never officially came out as an atheist but the truth gradually dawned on my parents. They wanted me to marry a boy from their church when I was 18, but I refused. Up to that moment I had played the dutiful daughter... When I took a job, rented a room and moved out of their house they knew that I was going wrong in their opinion, and when I went to live with my present partner they told me I was going straight to hell. Relations with my parents never improved after that, whatever I did; they had a nice collection of remarks about me, like:
- I was sent by the devil to test their faith.
- I shouldn't have been born; the doctor said so. (they had nothing to do with my being born)
- I was marked by the devil: a cast in my eye, bad feet, not even fair curly hair and I was far too intelligent.
- I was a very disappointing daughter; I should have said "Yes" to everything they wanted.
- only a very bad child would go and live with someone from a communist family.
and so on. I never found a way to repair the relation with my parents, and after some time I just gave up. I wanted to be accepted the way I was, and they would never do that. Other people, like my in-laws, were ready to accept and love me, and I decided that people who accepted me were my family. I found many lovely and surprising family members, and contact with them helped enormously to heal me. When my parents died, I found out that I had already done the mourning in their lifetime.
Don't defend yourself! You have a right to be accepted, and a right to your own opinions, so don't go along with their games of 'I'm right and you're wrong'.
"I was marked by the devil... I was far too intelligent."
That's a very telling sign of the religious mind-virus's immune system! Critical thought is "wrong"!
I'm sorry you never had a good adult relationship with your parents... and I'm glad you found a real, accepting family!
and I'm glad you found a real, accepting family!
Me too, and it's staggering how many people became part of my family, some for a few weeks, others for decennia. Some of them I only know from internet, but that doesn't take away the good feeling. I'm really grateful to my big no-blood-relations family; I could never have coped without them.
Aw, so your partner is from a communist family. I learned about them very early on in school here in America. In case they ever attack we can find safety and refuge underneath our school desks. Those weird thoughts have comforted me now for many years.
My parents used to say that we wouldn't be allowed to go to church when the Russians came. I spent a lot of church time thinking how disappointing it was that the Russians weren't there yet...
As an American I have always tried to see and understand that the rest of the world does not have the same beliefs and politics as we do. America always wants to take charge and dominate the world stage, so when they do this I force myself to look at things from the other side.
As an American how can I tell you about things in other parts of the world, be it politics or religion? I cannot unless I have actually been there for some period of time. If this be true, then I will start acting like most isolated theists today and start making things up.
A real freethinker cannot do that. You will not find truth.
I don't know what triggered this reaction from you, Michael.
Possibly the fact that humans everywhere are really the same.
I looked at the preview of the book Why I Believed: Reflections of a Former Missionary on Amazon.
The author comments that believers feel their perspective is divinely privileged, and this helps them disregard skeptical arguments. What skeptics say is dismissed without really considering it.
This book has lots of good observations on what makes believers tick. The author was a young earth creationist at one time - now an atheist.
The book is only 99 cents on Kindle!