Hello my fellow atheists,

I am really struggling to tell my parents that I am an atheist. First of all I want to give you a short overview about my situation: I live in Vienna, Austria, in fact a very secular country. My parents and all my relatives are Roman catholic (that´s the biggest religious confession in Austria). My father is very religious and indoctrinated me over my whole childhood. My mother actually is not really religious but always claimed to be so. In my teenage years I started questioning the Christian believe and for my luck ended up becoming an atheist. When I left home and moved to Vienna I also left church and became an atheist formally. All my friends an all the people I am engaged with know I am an atheist except for my parents and most of my crazy Christian relatives.

So how would you recommend me to handle this situation? I don´t want to hide myself any more pretending to be religious, but I also don´t want to break with my parents. I don´t care so much about my other relatives, but although my relation to my parents is not that good I don´t want them to thing I was immoral and a bad person. I my mother wouldn´t make so many troubles, but my father would be very disappointed and offended.

I would be very thankful if you could provide me some proposals to handle that. (Sorry for my bad English but I think you can understand what I mean.)

Best regards,

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Hi, and welcome :)

My first question would be, what have you ever done to make them think you may in fact be atheist and how did they react? If they tried to shrug it off, or did they get angry and upset? I would think given your mothers disposition on religion, you should consider taking her aside and telling her about your beliefs. Your mother would then have much more insight into how to deal with letting your dad know. Or, if it would even be a good thing at all depending on the possible ramifications. Would you rather pretend to be religous if it meant seriously damaging your relationship with your father? There's a lot of things there you really have to ask yourself. But thats just my 2 cents. I havs let my mother know how I feel about religion long ago, and now it's a topic we just don't discuss. I'm not sure if she thinks im a heathen thats going to hell or not, but I do know bringing the subject up causes her great pain, so I never bring it up and neither does she. Hope thats helps somewhat =/
Well, things are a little complicated.

I think my dad knows at least that I am not that religious as I claimed to be when I was younger. When I was a little boy, I think I was 8 or 9 years old, he suppressed me to become an altar-boy. I can´t tell you how much I hated that! When I was 14 I had the courage to tell him that I don´t want to do that anymore. He was very angry and disappointed, but in the end he accepted it. That gives me a little hope for my coming-out, but just a little. At that time I still believed in god, and I still went to church after that. Around 16 or 17 I realized that I was an atheist. I really don´t know whether he has an idea that I am an Atheist, but anyway I want to stop pretending to be a Christian. I just want the damage in my relationship to my father to be as small as possible.

Maybe it is a good idea to talk to my mother at first. But the problem is although my parents are Christians they are divorced since 2 years. And as you can guess, my mother and my father are not talking so much to each other now. (If they hadn´t had so much struggle with their religious believe they would have been separated for more than 10 years I guess.)

Well, nevertheless thank you for your advice. I think I will talk to my mother about it, when I see her next time. But I still have to think about how to handle it with my father.
Good Luck Andi, Let me know how things go. I wish I could help more, but I never had to go through letting my parents know as they found out when I was so young. I can imagine how difficult it is.. I still haven't told some members of my family, just because the way the believe , they will think I'm going to hell and it will cause them to worry. But I think you must tell your parents. It's just too important a relationship to have false pretenses in. Keep me posted.

First, you might want to ask yourself what your motives are. Is it really necessary to sit down and have a grave discussion about how atheist you are? They might think you feel lost or that there's a problem. Atheism is normal and proper way of life. You might feel better when you tell them, but they mot likely won't feel better. Remember that before you have the talk. When you talk to them, remember, you're talking about their beliefs and how they raised you. It's hard to have the discussion without making it very obvious that they are wrong.

There is an intermediate solution. Just be yourself. If the discussion comes up, then speak your mind. No need to be derogatory towards religion right away, but you can have an opinion. It is possible to be respectful without being silent. That way they can decide if it is important for them to know for sure.

Again, when these discussions do come up, be aware of where the discussion is going. No need to escalate into a deep philosophical discussion/argument if it's not necessary. Just find a way to change the subject. Have deep discussions with your friends and with us. This is true whether you 'come out' or just be yourself and don't make a big deal of it.

I'm 46 and can't talk about religion with my parents (in their 70's)...both devout Lutherans of the conservative branch. It's too upsetting. But I know they still love and accept me....although they feel the need to "pray for me", I am not offended by this.

I take this to mean they care about me. I couldn't possibly expect them to change their way of thinking/feeling/behaving. I accept them as they are. I don't insult them or call them "crazy". What good would that do? And they know I'm a responsible person with a moral compass. They don't have to worry about me (but that's what parents DO! I'm a parent of 2 kids myself).

I think getting over the idea of parents being "disappointed" is a huge developmental stage. It takes awhile to feel comfortable in your own skin and with your own choices. Personally, I never stood up at the dinner table and announced with a megaphone that I am an atheist. It's a personal matter to me. I'm willing to discuss it openly but not at the cost of making my mother cry over dinner! It would have to be a rational, unemotional discussion...and I can't see that happening. So I don't talk about it with my parents. And that's okay. I have other folks to talk to. And this forum helps a lot!
When people come out as gay, they have the same fears: that their parents won't love them anymore. But they do it anyway! This subject is important, because as families, they have an interest in intimate things, like having babies, and partners.

The atheist thing is important too, because families often skip the small-talk and talk to each other about real things, that include beliefs about the world and why we are here. It does you no good to your psyche to lie about it. Do you talk to each other in this way?

Gay people often have to confront a blow-out. The parents become angry, threaten, and bargain. In the case of minors, and college students, they sometimes do dangerous things, or remove support. That's why many gay teenagers wait until they are self-supporting.

After the blowup, gay people often have to switch roles with their parents in order to reassure them that they are still the same person they knew. But the most important thing for the parent to know is that the disclosure came because they loved them. They respected them enough to let them in to their life, to not lie to them. That the parent loved them enough to at least try to understand.

In time, most parents understand. Some even become big advocates for them. Once you know a person in this scary group of people you've heard about, you realize that many lies have been spread. The parent becomes a better person because of it.

And so will you. It takes courage, great courage to do it. But you take a big step in defining and refining your ability to take responsibility for your destiny, and your actions.

You were able to take that leap and maybe risk Ultimate Punishment to avow your convictions, right? So you can do it again to your parents. It's a break we all have to make eventually. We separate ourselves spiritually in many ways, from our parents, in order to assert our adulthood. So this is a second coming out to yourself. This is important.

In fact, my own parents became atheists. It took at least 10 years, but they did it.
I took the gradual approach with my mother. Any time evolution, ghosts, other religions, etc. came up, i brought up some tough questions, then gave my opinion. After a while, when the next topic came up, i just said "you should know by now that i don't believe in that stuff". That was it. She still hopes that i'll change, but time is on my side.
I don't know how to do this, but instead of saying I am an athiest, you can say I am not religious.

Avoid condemning them and their beliefs, they are your parents, don't attack the church, that is a direct attack on their identity.

Perhaps we place to much emphasis on trying to get our parents to accept us no matter what.
They are what they are, you are what you are.
I'm not going to give you steps on how to do this but I think it's good for me to mention that you should always follow what you know is true to you...not what a preacher, mother, father, sibling, relative, or whoever else says is true.

Since this is your family I hope they can look past your lack of belief and love you all the same.

Hope it works out the best for you.


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