If you've come out as an atheist to your Christian family what motivated you to do so? I realize this may seem like a stupid question. I've heard people say that they feel that they need to be honest or that they have to be true to their beliefs. For me though, I just don't see the point. Now that I don't believe in any of that afterlife stuff, I can't really think of anything stupider to create tension between me and my family than something as trivial and ridiculous as what we each think happens when we die. I also understand that it is anything but trivial for someone who really believes my immortal soul is on the line. For that reason I haven't come out and I don't really ever plan to.
Bob, I can certainly understand wanting to maintain the status quo within the family but (well, at least for me) it’s always been a source of irritation for me when my family presumes what my views on god are. For many years after I “came out” about my beliefs (or lack thereof) my mother would still persist in telling me that I must still believe in some sort of higher being. It was ridiculous and it made me feel small, like I was somehow socially inferior for not embracing their spiritual vision.
I’ve long been a great believer in the adage of “to thine own self be true”, which for that very reason was why I decided to let my family know that I was an atheist. In fact I’ve even gone so far as to let my co-workers know that as well, because I really don’t like having people presume what my spiritual beliefs are. And yes, I know that I’m inviting people to find fault with me for it but I have no desire to spend my life feeling like I have some sort of dirty little secret. After all, America was basically founded on the idea that all men were created equal, regardless of what they may or may not believe.
Besides, I agree with an observation that Richard Dawkins made in one of his books that Atheism today is pretty much viewed publically in the same light as homosexuals were in the 1950’s. And I’m definitely not the type of person who backs down from popular consent just to maintain the peace. After all I am a child of the 60’s and my parents took me to way too many protests in my youth. So I learned early on to stand for what I hold to be true.
Oh! And John, if you want to really to throw a good point at your sister perhaps you might want to try one I’ve used many times with my sister (an extreme right wing Christian fundamentalist) in the past.
Ask her if she was born believing in god; if she’s anything like my sister she’ll probably say yes. Then point out to her that several years ago the New England Journal of Medicine did a study on homosexual’s and found that neurologically homosexual’s have a predisposition towards being attracted to the same sex because their physiology makes them that way. In other words they were born that way. So if your sister was born with the belief in god then how is homosexuality a sin if the person is born that way? She might as well say that being born another ethnicity is a sin.
"She might as well say that being born another ethnicity is a sin."
AHAHAHA Depending on the exact message she's been taught, that might be exactly what she says!
"Now that I don't believe in any of that afterlife stuff, I can't really think of anything stupider to create tension between me and my family than something as trivial and ridiculous as what we each think happens when we die. I also understand that it is anything but trivial for someone who really believes my immortal soul is on the line. For that reason I haven't come out and I don't really ever plan to."
The point is that religion is "really big shit" to people who believe. With at 78.4% of people in the US claiming to be Christians it is really big shit for a lot of people. As far as Christianity is concerned one of the biggest "big" issues is what happens after you die. After all if it wasn't, then what big stick would the Church have to intimidate you into believing. There are many atheist who have left the church and still harbor an irrational fear of hell since it has been indoctrinated into them. What happens after you die has to do with whether god judges, it has to do with sin, it has to do with death being a curse, it has to do with resurrection. It is far from a trivial issue. In fact, even apart from Christianity the issue what death as been at the core of human thought ever since we could think.
Having said that I wouldn't suggest making a big deal out of it or planning an huge annoucement but I would certainly not avoid the issue.