Humanist Network News column by Richard Wade

Dear Richard,

I've been an atheist for only a year or so now. My mother passed away when I was only 16 from a terminal illness, which sort of set forth my disbelief and doubt (I am 20 now).

Now that I acknowledge that there is no God, I have found it more difficult to enjoy the holidays with my semi-religious family. (I say semi-religious because they are more so "part-time Christians." They only take notice of God during the holidays, or during my doubt.)

When my sister-in-law and I got into an argument a few months back, I revealed that I was an atheist. Now my family makes a mockery out of my irreligious preference. I've also felt the sudden need to lie to my father, uncles and aunts about it to avoid confrontation. I don't initiate any conversations on religion, but in recent months I've been asked a dozen times if I believe in God. I've also felt the need to excuse myself when asked to say grace or even when I'm in the same area where people are praying over dinner. With Easter coming up, being a "closet atheist" has appeared to be more difficult than I had originally imagined.

Do you have any suggestions on how I should go about being honest with my family and telling them I don't believe in God?

--Closet Atheist

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Replies to This Discussion

Honesty is the key here. If it's your intention to be open and positive, keep it honest. If they ask you if you believe in God, simply say "No." It's not up to you to explain any further. Atheism doesn't explain something, its just the lack of a belief.
Be confident, too. You're not claiming agnosticism so you've definitely already made up your mind. Ask yourself why you don't believe in God; what was the path that lead you to this conclusion? If you feel that your family deserves an explanation then lay it out on the table for them.

I did this with my family a little over two years ago. Some ignored it and said, "Whatever..." Some quit talking to me altogether. Some (my parents) did demand an explanation but while giving it to them they decided they really didn't want to hear it so we'd just have to accept each other for who they were. Sad thing is that I surely am not closer to any of them now but I had to make a stand for reason.

To me it was worth it.

You can be positive about it. I have christian friends and one of the things that happened as a joke is instead of saying "Oh my god " I say "Oh my nothing!"


We all have a hearty chuckle over it.




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