How have you all dealt with your religious family members?

Are you still in the closet?

Have they disowned you?

How do you handle holidays and family functions?

Does anyone still have religious spouses?

I'm sure many of us will be encouraged and can learn from your insights.

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Well, both my parents are not only fundamentalist Christians, they work at a missionary training center. I'm the oldest child, the apple of their eye, who went to Bible college to be a missionary, then went to China to "bring the good news" to the people there.

After going to China, I became an atheist (long story)...but it took me about 10 years before I could tell my parents. Not because I was afraid of rejection, or anything like that, but simply because I knew the stress and pain it would put them through to think that I was going to hell.

I finally did tell them, simply because I hated lying and having to maintain such a charade; and their reaction was pretty much what I expected. Still accepted me the same, still treated me the same...and assure me that they're praying for me (in fact, I've got a whole army of missionaries praying for me).

I still participate in Christmas and other stuff like that, but only the secular side...they know that I won't participate in the religious aspect. But neither will I ruin their holidays by trying to convince them that they are wrong.
Nathan, I just finished reading your life story and was horrified to learn what you went through. Having been born and raised in a strict Mennonite family in rural Pennsylvania, I can somewhat relate to what you experienced (though on a scale of one to ten, my childhood was a one compared to your ten!). Mine was a legal escape - at 18 I married a Brazilian and moved as far away as possible, to São Paulo, Brazil. However, my mother never missed a chance to badger me about joining a church or teaching my children about God. And every time I'd go home to visit, to keep the peace I'd always go to church with her. She was the only person to whom I could never expose my true thoughts. As John mentioned, "I knew the stress and pain it would put them through to think that I was going to hell". I haven't been to a Sunday church service for 36 years (other than when I'd accompany her) and yet almost every Sunday when I wake up, one of my first thoughts is "It's so good to be able to sleep late and not have to go to church."
I have seven siblings and only one is religious (a pastor, in fact), but she doesn't daunt me or badger me. The others have all "escaped", with varying, slight degrees of religiousness, and we all speak openly and easily about our beliefs or lack of beliefs. My children were never exposed to religion and my husband and I allowed them to follow their own beliefs (all three turned out to be "searchers of the truth"). Strangely, often at religious holidays (Easter, Christmas) I sometimes feel sorry for the fact that my children never learned the hymns or had any kind of contact with traditional Christian beliefs (fortunately those thoughts only last for a few seconds - loll). And I still enjoy singing Christmas Carols – brings back wonderful memories! My husband of almost 40 years would probably consider himself a born again non-practicing Christian but he's very liberal and fortunately accepts my unorthodox opinions.
When we first got internet about 15 years ago, it was through atheist chat channels that I was able to really purge myself of all my religious baggage. I remember the uneasiness I felt initially as ideas were exchanged and how after a few months, I realized how empowering it felt to have finally rid myself of any vestiges of fear of an afterlife or an all powerful God.
By the way, Nathan, you're right - your father's known throughout the world. As I said, I live in São Paulo, Brazil and recently saw a news program on a major Brazilian TV station where he was a featured story - I was horrified. And with an afternoon off and through a bit a surfing, I ran across your story. I just feel so, so sorry for your siblings, nieces and nephews and other family members who continue in this insanity. Your escape from this lunacy is incredible and the mental baggage you carry must be indescribable. All I can say is, I wish you happiness.
A lot of my friends growing up were Mennonites :)
Does the discussion only relates to ex-christian ethiests or ex-muslim can also take part?
Muhammad, yes feel free to share here and anywhere where it seems appropriate. However, for the record this group is particularly for those who have come from Christian backgrounds.

You may be interested in the Atheists Who Were Muslims group. I will talk to the guy who created it and see about featuring the group.

And Nate, you don't need tell us how you deal with family. I think we all already know. ;)
My mother wants to be a Buddhist and is the one I complain to the most about the evil of religion.

My wife thinks(I'm optimistic, what can I say) she is Christian and doesn't want to hear my complaints about religion. We have a five year old daughter who thinks she believes in god and mommy doesn't let me talk about all the god(s) that may or may not exist.
Since my wife stopped going to church and no longer forces our daughter to go, I don't discuss my disgust with religion with her. Although she does see me on this site often.

I'm not close with anymore of my family members although most of them are religious. My father-in- law has lost his parents (mother to leukemia in 2005 and father who had severe Alzheimers, last month) which I believe led to the first time I have ever heard him mention god. He said things like, " I guess the closer you get to death, the closer you want to be god," which nearly had me in tears and made my stomach churn. His mother was a faithful church-goer for decades and also contributed to his views, I'm sure. Still I hoped he hadn't received poor news from a doctor's visit or the like.

So I have the mother who sent me to all those religious schools who doesn't care at all I'm an atheist but STILL thinks I "turned out" so good because of the supposed moral teachings of Christianity.
A wife who doesn't go to church, but likes the idea of eternal paradise and re-uniting with family, and also doesn't want to hear me speak out against religion.

The few friends I have are open atheists or as I suspect, closest atheists, as the actions of the religious are just as unappealing to them as they are to me.

I don't think I was ever mentally abused by a faithful school or person, but I was dis-advantaged as my knowledge of Science is lacking compared to those of my age with modest education.

We put up a tree and give candy, but no direct religious aspects to it-more like we celebrate the capitalists holidays.
Ella I wish the best for you and your family. Withheld affection is quite painful.
I kinda dealt with it by not dealing with it. I simply didn't hide what I was. I decided that if my family truly loved me that they would be able to cope. I wasn't disowned, although my mom and I have tried to talk about faith, religion and atheism. Her views of religion are rather not that complex, and it's hard to have those kinds of conversations. She's still involved with a church in the denomination I grew up in, and when we do talk about religion, she's worlds apart from what I would consider rational belief, but we get along well enough (There's all sorts of other issues that cause their own tension, religion is just one of many).

The rest of my extended family, I take a policy of don't advertise, but don't hide. I don't really talk about it that much, I'm not really that connected to them.

My children spend 50% of their time with my first wife, their mother, and 50% of it with me. She is not christian, she and I met when I left Christianity and started learning about paganism. She is pagan, and has taught the children about it. However, her parents are Methodist, and have been trying to indoctrinate the children in Christianity, which hasn't worked for the most part. My current spouse is an atheist. I've been working on teaching the children critical thinking, and they seem to be grasping it. My son doesn't believe in God but still believes in Santa Claus (I'm working on that). My daughter, who is a little older, could probably be best described as an agnostic.
1-I am not made for being in closet. I am quite vocal and expressive. so my ethieism is well known.
2-As for as religious occasions are conscerned I attend burrials and other cermonies of the dead where it is absolutly necessary(quite religious occasions). On Holidays(two Eids) where every young and old goes to mosque, I like to stay in the bed. That whole day I don't forget to tell people I haven't visited their mosque for 15years(I enjoy when I see people getting uneasy not on my staying to bed but on my mentioning it).
3-As for as my faimly is concerned(here everyone is more or less religious) they don't like my athiesm at all. Sometimes get worried about me going to hell(I call it a better place than Paradise because all the wise people will be there). My mother sometimes(very little) felt proud of my logical thinking. My father gets aggressive when question of religon arises but is often beaten in arguments.Here society also matters because we konw each other well in 5 to 7 km radius(so my atheism is known to almost 15 thousand people).With society our relationship is antagonistic. People take us as enemies of God.If they see some young one arround us they don't forget to tell him to stay away.When enter a gathering people usually avoid talking about religon. Even if they are already dicussing some religious stuf they change the topic.
My wife is fine.Not an athiest but curtsy to staying with me very libral person. My greatest worry is my children.I suspect When they sit in gatherings in my absence, people get Sarcatic about thier father's beliefs.
When this happens time after time for years they may develop sort of guilt about it. And to wash away that guilt they may turn religious. I have seen sons of some senior friends becoming religious in this way.
Kudos for coming out in a culture that so despises non belief from former believers. Studying Islam helped me leave Christianity, but I made some wonderful muslim friends in that time as well. If we can hold onto the good aspects of our cultures, while letting go of the myths and guilt, I think we (humandkind) will do just fine.
They evangelize because they LURV you! After all, now that they've decided being gay won't send you to hell they can quit harassing you about that, now they've just got to get your pesky soul inside a church asap :)
I've been atheist for one year next month. I was lucky to be living with just my son at this time. I told my brother almost immediately, because he's a physicist and bounces between weak theism and weak atheism pretty regularly so I knew he wouldn't condemn me. I waited to tell anyone else until I had my arguments for nonbelief better thought out. My mom and sister both know now. They are sad and expect me to change my mind someday. In the same way I'm sad to see my niece raised in evangelical Christianity, my sister is sad to see her nephew raised outside of it. My grandmother is a retired Christian cult leader (Carol Balizet of Home in Zion Ministries, if you care to Google it). She has Alzheimers at this point. I've considered telling her, with the knowledge that she'll probably forget it before I speak to her again, but haven't done it so far.

Really my family handled it much better than i thought they would. I chose not attend family gatherings for holidays this year though. So Thanksgiving was me and my son eating Boston Market and watching Winnie the Pooh, Christmas was Chinese food and rewatching Toy Story, and Easter was spent at the pool. As he grows older, I'll add more real "celebration" and figure out better traditions, but *I* needed a year off from the family insanity. Keeping most of my contact with my family limited to the phone is helpful, because I can always quickly get off if things get too intense. Likewise they can do the same. Now that I'm out, I'm outspoken. Just this afternoon when my sister told me "I know in my soul that God exists. I've seen evidence many times." I told her, "I haven't. I prayed for decades. At this point I don't even believe we have souls. And even if someone could prove to me the god of the Bible is real, I wouldn't worship him because of the things done in his name or at his command in his own book." That pretty much ended the outing lol.

I guess just.... wait till you feel centered in yourself. Don't get into debate if it will harm you or your relationship. And never compromise your rights for the sake of someone else's feelings.


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