Ughh, so it has been a thing with my family for my entire life that we get together for lunch on Sundays. No big deal, and I generally get along well with them, and enjoy spending time together. Anyway, they are all Southern Baptist Christian, and I have to put on the 'smile and nod' routine with them, since being out would cause too much strife. I don't 'join' in the blessing, and I usually avoid engaging in religious disussion, but I almost found myself in a bit of a pickle today.

First thing, my grandma (who is essentially the kindest human I have ever encountered) was discussing church, telling my mom (who didn't make it to service) how few people were there, and that the pastor seemed as if he were a bit depressed. She didn't direct anything toward me, but I couldn't help but get the feeling she was sorta steering that way without saying as much. (Could just be my overly analytical tendencies though.) Conversation continued amongst them, and after doing some prep on the meal, I sat down with a small bite of spinach stuff, to taste test and see if it was any good. Now, normally, no one would have batted an eyelash. Mom usually gets some type of gnosh for us to share while the food is cooking. But today, my grandma's husband said, "Aren't you going to say a blessing before you eat that?" I looked up with a bit of a deer-in-the-headlights expression, and replied, "Uhh, I... Was just trying it out..." My grandma said, "Oh, you can just say one to yourself." My sister agreed. Then Mom chimed in, "She's just being the guinea pig." As I was clamoring internally at how to do damage control, the rest of the fam gathered 'round the table and they said the blessing, so it was dropped. PHEWW...

The rest of the afternoon went by as usual, though they had a few more theologic conversations, but didn't try to draw me in. I did add that Seventh Day Adventists indeed do not believe in secure salvation (as my husband was raised Adventist, he's agnostic/weak atheist btw), and they rambled on about it being false doctrine and all. Of course, I couldn't help but smirk internally, as all their 'doctrines' are false.
So yeah, it was a bit stressful, but crisis averted... This time.

As an aside, it seems that they zero in a bit more on me when my husband isn't there... *sighhh*

Any advice for keeping them off my back in the future?

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it seems to me that you don't get much happiness out of such meetings, but I admit it's asking for trouble if you don't go. How comfortable do you feel as a closet atheist and do you have plans to leave the closet? Would your family break contact or just make your life a misery? Tell us more.

Gee that is a miserable pickle. My advice would be worthless to you because I don't like or respect many of my religious family members and stay as far away from them as possible. I make it very clear I do not believe in god or jesus or the bible or any of the fairy tales that I used to teach when I was a believer in superstitions. The funny thing is, many family members tell me, privately, that they do not believe in supernatural powers either. 

If your grandmother is as kind as you say, perhaps she would be able to love you and not judge you even if she knew you do not share her beliefs.  She may know, already. Her husband may not be so kind. 

The family I grew up in was how passive aggressiveness went from one generation to the next. Punishing kids for saying what they needed to say did the deed.

Having no children, followed by four years of hardball politics, an assertive communication course, and lots of opportunities to assert myself helped me break the cycle.

Well, if you ever DID get stuck with the duty, you could pull an "Atheist Pig" on 'em:

Sometimes I just LOVE that porker!

With the courage of a lion, the wisdom of an owl, the spirit of a Russell Terrier, he is Atheist Pig!

Not trying to tell you what to do, but my personality is such that after a few years as an atheist, I grew very annoyed at the constant religious talk in my family, especially them trying to get me to come back to church and participate in prayer.  

I finally informed my Mormon family of much of the solid scientific evidence that showed religion to be false.  I told them that I could no longer stand to hear religious superstition, so if they could not keep it to themselves, they did not feel like family.  The ones that still can't keep it to themselves, I don't visit anymore.

They are good people and I enjoyed their company when I was a brainwashed believer, but the annoyance is just too much for me to put-up with now, so I can't see them as family.  There is no more enjoyment in their company.

I love your response Spud! 

I'm with Spud! I got out of moronism almost 54 years ago, so wouldn't know my relatives if I passed them on the street.

Mother is still around at 89, but I've never been in the closet. She didn't like it at the time, but that was her problem. We were never close, & never will be.

You have to decide whether staying closeted is worth the internal stress.  How much would coming out hurt people you truly care about?  Who, if any, would be able to step back and continue to accept you without your accepting their magic?

If it would hurt too many too much, I guess it's the status quo.  For now, at least.  Is there any way to decrease the amount of exposure without causing pain?  Arriving late or leaving early?

Often it's just put up with it.  At some point there will be a shift: somebody dies, somebody moves away, another family member comes out, something.

Then you reassess your situation and make any change you feel is called for.

My best wishes for now.

Thanks to each of you for the input! I've been reading your responses throughout the day, and refleting on how I actually feel about everything.

Anyway, in all honesty, I most definitely would prefer to be open and out about my atheism. I feel like people's preconceptions about us won't be changed if we don't make efforts to challenge them actively. But, my husband has recommended against it, making the point that it would cause a huge rift between both of our families and us. (Not to mention, that you can't drive 5 minutes in my area without passing at least half a dozen religious yard signs and a couple of churches. Hell, there's four or five flavors of Christianity on my road alone!) But yeah, I think at least while my grandma is alive I'll have to keep it under wraps. She really is just the most loving and kind person I know, and I couldn't bear the thought of her being utterly distraught over the condition of my 'immortal soul', even though I see her beliefs as ludicrous now. As for the rest of them...

Mom and I have a close relationship, and she does know that I am not willing to attend church anymore. If I were to come out, she would certainly be upset, angry, and probably throw in my face how 'disappointed' my Dad would have been if he were still alive. My sister, brother-in-law, aunt, uncle, and grandma's husband would all gang up on me, shaming and condescending, talking over me and shutting out anything I would have to say.

I don't really think anyone would cut me out completely... My grandpa was a vehement atheist for many years, only to be converted sometime when I was growing up. (??? Wish I could pick his brain on that one...) He was never ostracized that I am aware of, but he was the patriarch. I'm the youngest though, save the kids, and am still viewed as pretty low on the totem pole.

•Plinius, I think you're right. It does seem to be more stressful now that I've realized my atheism. I dread time together more than anticipating it. O_O;

•Joan, I guess it's just because we've always been a close family, that the thought of breaking ties over it is really daunting. I do think my grandma would continue to love and respect me, as she was never harsh with my grandpa, but privately it would tear her up inside, I'm certain.

•Tom, I guess it's just not in my nature to be assertive. I actually got a little opinionated a few months back, and was attacked on all sides. (Actually, it was one of the days that my husband didn't go to lunch...) Super unpleasant!

•Loren, maybe someday I will have the fortitude of the Atheist Pig LOL! ;P

•Spud, I have a feeling it will eventually come to that. Currently, my plan (if it becomes necessary) is to tell them that I am no longer comfortable with discussing the subject, and if they don't want to respect that in my company, I will have to make myself scarce when the topic comes up.

•Jerry, I guess at the moment the stress isn't unbearable (I don't handle stress very well generally). My husband has been patronizing everyone (including me when I was a believer... Poor guy!) and playing the part for a long time, so I intend to follow his model, until they push me to enact my aforementioned plan. Ironically, Mom depends on me to show up first a lot of times in order to prep the meal while she's at church. Go figure...

I'll keep you all updated, if you'd like, as to how things play out. Again, I appreciate your responses, and am grateful for the empathy and advice!

Mel, you had a nice variety of responses and in the end, you will do what is right for you. I/we support you in that. I hope you have loving, generous responses when you choose to reveal your thoughts and if you do, that will be wonderful. If you don't you will be strong enough to take whatever they say or do to you and you will remain the honest, thoughtful, caring one thru the ordeal. I hope your grandmother has a healthy and happy rest of her life and that you enjoy her company often. 

Hang in there!

One of the ideas in these links might be useful at family meals if/when you decide it's the right time to be more outspoken:

Secular Celebrations & Humanist Ceremonies: Graces

(including this godless but not antitheistic benediction:

"For the meal we are about to eat,
for those that made it possible, 
and for those with whom we are about to share it,
we are thankful.")

Secular Gratitude




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