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."
It can be hard coming out to devoted Christian relatives. How do you tell them you're an atheist without simultaneously disparaging them and their fellow churchgoers? That's the rub.
My parents are in their 70s now, so I did not want to upset their worldview, but like you said, you have your own life to live. What I did, is I pointed out to my parents that I'm not a big churchgoer, I've studied philosophy and religion from around the world, and I've decided that I am a humanist. It sounds better than atheist, which I consider to be a much more inflammatory word.
I told them that we don't have to keep talking about it, but since I am moving into the public eye, I felt I had to give them forewarning.
That's a very interesting idea you have about putting together letters/ essays/ chapters about your perspective.
Also, there is a foundation called Recovering from Religion that you may find useful. You aren't the only one coming out, and you face very similar challenges as other people around the country and around the world.
I wish you the best in your coming out with the parents and in-laws!!
Thanks! I definitely agree about staying away from the word "atheist". I plan on avoiding labels at all, and just telling them my opinion on the subject. they can call me whatever they want to, but I definitely want to avoid going into the conversation with all the stereotypes and baggage the word atheist carries with it. Once they know what I think, i feel like it's important to wear the label proudly though, becuase them seeing that their daughter is still the same moral, thoughtful, intellegent person she was when she was a christian will help diminish the stereotypical view of athiests. It will probably (hopefully) be several years before they find out the full scope of how much I disagree with them. For the time being, it will be more of helping them deal with the fact that I don't intend to go to church. I don't plan on having kids for a few more years (I want to be out of college), and that's when it will most likely come to telling the whole story about my atheism.
I wish you lots of success!
As much as I hate to admit it, when someone reacts negatively when I them them I'm Atheist... if that person is someone I really respect and whom I want them to respect me), I'll follow up by saying 'you can also call me a Secular Humanist and that the American Humanist Association's motto is 'doing good without god'... just to soften up their view of me. If an acquaintenance keeps saying that 'I just have god's spirit in me as I do good for others', I firmly stand my ground and state that I can 'do good' without believing in silly superstitions, myths and religion-imprinted fears adn I tell them that they're refusal to accept me as-is not only is insulting to me but hurts my feelings.
There are books on 'how to come out as an Atheist', (search Amazon) and one I'm reading now is: Mom, Dad, I'm an Atheist: The Guide to Coming Out as a Non-believer by David G. McAfee which is very information, well-researched, concise, a tad humorous and from a very non-emotional perspective about a subject that usually stirs up a tremendous amount of emotions. Apparently the author has amother book 'Disproving Christianity and Other Secular Writings' to help friends and family who are confused about their beliefs.
Just continue to stay connected with Atheist Nexus and if you have a facebook page, there are MANY facebook sites and facebook groups that are Atheist-related- some have very aggressive in-your-face 'phuck relgion' attitudes, some are humorous and ALL keep you current with religion/atheist current events, happenings and news.