A friend emailed me a link to this video I posted on my blog.

The video is about coming out to your evangelical family as a gay person. However, my wife are thinking we will apply this tactic to "come out" as atheists to her family.

Watch it (sorry I can't embed it here).

What is your opinion of this? Is it applicable? Do you think it will work? Do you think you would try it? Have you done this? etc.

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My whole family knows of my atheism. It's crushed some of them, but I thought it worst to pretend to be something I'm not.
This is one I've watched before, and I think it's a very healthy strategy.
Not one I've employed in my own life, but it's a good one.
My coming out was gradual, or shall I say is gradual. I've not come out to say, "I'm an atheist", but rather, "I don't believe that", in conversation.
Since my mother forbade religious or political discussion in her house years ago, the topic just rarely comes up. When it does, my dad has questions, I give reason and my sister (very fundy) gets mad, which prompts my mother to tell everybody to stop immediately. And we do.
I think this is a good approach. I will say that withholding your presence IS a valuable tool. If you have children (their grandkids) it works even better.
Every family has its own dynamic and personality. What works for some families, won't work for others. There is some truth in what Dan Savage had to say, but it won't work for everyone.

My coming out story (gay & nonbeliever more or less simultaneously), for what it's worth:

My own family was not demonstrative, they did not discuss feeliings, they avoided conflict. They were very caring providers for their aging parents, their siblings, and their children. They just didn't talk about things that might create conflict. Even though I was raised in a Baptist church, the vast majority of the bad behavior regarding religion, in my early life, came from the community, not specifically from my family.

I don't agree with Savage about not coming out to family while you are financially dependent on them. It's different for teenagers, who truly are dependent, and have to live by the rules when in the house. But once someone graduates from high school, if they expect to live their own lives, in their own way, then they need to become financially independent. Even if it's difficult. When I was 17 (Oh no, here's that "when I was young spiel), I knew that if I was going to live my life, in my way, then I could not ask for my parents to support me. I worked odd jobs, I was a landscaper, I cleaned cages at a kennel, I cleaned toilets at a church (argh), I flipped burgers, I did handyman work and housepainting, and more. I tried going to school at the same time. When I ultimately gave up, I wound up in the Army. We were fighting a different war at the time, and I knew the risks. I also beleived in what I was doing. After that, I went back to school, and had some savings to draw upon, but still worked the entire time that I was in college and graduate school.

It was often very hard, but I never had to pretend not to be myself. Ultimately, I did get an education and career, and it was without financial contribution from family. There was never a question of being someone who I was not, so that I could have their financial support.

If I had pretended otherwise, then that would be violating a trust. In essence, the relationship would be damaged by "I needed your money, so I fooled you". As it turned out in my family, they had to view me as an adult.

What Savage had to say about they need us as much as we need them is true - if they are stinkers about areas of disagreement, the options are to fight about it, or accept it, or decide that some areas are off limits for conversation. In my family, that last was the only option. I do regret the time lost from my family, because I know that they did love me. The absence hurt them, and they worried tremendously about the dangerous situations that I got myself into in the Army. I never returned to live in the backward town where I grew up, and really that was never a realistic option. Even now when I visit that place, I get a creepy sensation and want to get out.

My ideal, if I could have done it over again, would have been to be the strong one, tell them "we need to have a sit-down conversation about an important issue", set aside time to do it, and then tell them. I would not let out as a "by the way" or do it during a holiday or other special occasion. (I remember one Christmas when I was told by someone who I was involved with, "I've decided to get married, but not to you". At least it was a memorable holiday).

I would say something to the effect of, I know this is very important to you, and I take your values very seriously. I know this is a difficult conversation. What I have to tell you is.... that I no longer beleive in religion. Any religion. It's not something that I came by lightly, but once it's gone, it's gone. In order for us to have an honest relationship, it's important that we be open about this issue. " From there it would depend on their reaction. If they said "Oh, silly, we already knew that", it's a lot different from "oh my god, you're going to hell! What about the kids? You're sending them to hell".

Once past the initial reaction, depending on what it is, it's time to lay out the rules. I would give them time to process the information. They may have suspected anyway. I agree with Savage, your presence in their lives is probably the most important thing in their life. At that point, it's back to the 3 options mentioned before - agree to disagree, vs. some topics are off limits, vs. argue about it.

Being a lot like my parents, for me the arguing about it would never have been an option.

Good luck with however you approach this. It may be difficult, but once it's out, I hope that it is a releif. Keeping silent can be a burden.
Here's my problem.

My father was a fundamentalist preacher. He is dead now, but my brothers and sisters and all their families are die hard fundamentalist Christians. Not only that, but I went to Bible College and Seminary and was a preacher myself for awhile. I raised my kids as Christians and we even home schooled them using textbooks from Bob Jones University. I sent all my kids to Bible College. To top that off, one of my grown children now is employed by Ray Comfort (banana man) who produces the Way of the Master TV shows and has challenged Richard Dawkins to a debate. I really really doubt anyone can top my experience (well maybe Nate Phelps can) of being in the midst and mire of a fundamentalist family. I became a non-bliever gradually over the years, but have considered myself an atheist for about 10 years now. My unique position is that I am a parent and a grandparent. While I can live in disharmony with my siblings and assorted in-laws, I would find it very difficult to be ostracized by my grown children and not be able to see them or my grandkids. So I have not come out of the closet about my atheism. It IS difficult to hide it sometimes, but since we live 2000 miles or so apart they have not found out yet. I don't like living a lie (mainly because its so damn hard), but I just can't see tearing my family apart over this.
What a challenging situation. It's the opposite end of the discussion - instead of coming out to parents, it's coming out to kids. I would hope that you could gradually introduce them to your atheism, but you know them best.

I wasn't able to see anything but a shirt hanging in a closet. 




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