I recently got back into Irvine after a trip up through a large swath of NorCal to visit friends and family. I really have two sets of family up there; one is my "older brother" (met many moons ago through the Big Brother/Little Brother program) with his family in the Bay Area and the other is the group of actual genetic family in the Sacramento area.

I've mentioned being an Atheist and being a member of Atheists, Agnostics, and Rationalists at UC Irvine to my brother and his family, but I still haven't to my family in Sacramento. Most of my hesitation to "come out" with that side of the family is the fact that they're all deeply christian and (actually not good) lean towards an ID view of the world which actually bothers me more than the theist/atheist divide.

I had promised to myself that I'd try and bring up the topic while I was up there for this visit, but didn't end up going through with it. Started to sound out my cousin while he was firing up the grill in back, but ran into the ID/Evolution wall and decided to cut my losses there.

I really don't think my family would go ape-shit and cut ties if they officially found out as I think most already know to some extent, but....I'm just not sure. In my head there's a less than 1% chance of it being really bad, but I don't really want to risk it.

The truth is that for the most part my family lives up the good ideals of Christianity that we (Atheists) tend to forget actually exist. For all the blowhard Ted Haggard assholes there are going to be 10 people like my family who really believe and that belief is a cornerstone of their philosophy, but also don't really go out of their way to impede progress for the rest of humanity. For the most part they just want to live their lives, worship as they see fit, and move on.

So this lead me to the thought (mostly self-justification) that "coming out" them isn't worth the less than 1% chance of a bad reaction. I enjoy spending time with them and 90% of the time that I spend up there is doing the same old family shit that most American families do. BBQing, watching movies, and just shooting the shit about the everyday events in life. It's like a sanctuary for me from the rest of the world and I'm not sure how much risk to that I'm willing to go in to for a topic that I know isn't going to get anywhere on either side.

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Comment by Alex Uzdavines on July 18, 2008 at 2:53pm
Thanks for the advice on actually sitting down and having the discussion. Another part of my reasoning for not explicitly mentioning this to my family is that I only see them a few times per year and I'm not sure how much value there'd be spending the limited time I have possibly arguing about theology versus partaking in the usual family stuff.

Something I'll have to think about as time goes on and I'm becoming more active in the Atheist community. Do I want to bring it up myself or am I fine with them finding out through the net?
Comment by Jasen on July 18, 2008 at 8:09am
I tend to look for what I have in common with my family, then build from there.
Talking about what you value versus the origins or foundations of those values has worked well for me in building inroads and explaining my operative philosophy. The values come first in the discussion, then I gradually work backwards to connect it to my foundational beliefs. These are typically values my theistic relatives hold in common with me, but they haven't been able to think through alternative justification that doesn't rely upon an imagined deity-authority.
Values are a good common ground, and the discussions give the bible-fetishists a stronger foundation for our shared values. And, well... if I'm honest, then this also softens them up for discussions we have where we don't hold common values. They're already prepped and primed for a specific mode of discourse that's not reliant on an imagined diety-authority. The rationality is in the mode of argumentation, so that's where the win is.
Comment by Madeline (Brigit) on July 18, 2008 at 6:38am
I'm there with you man, coming out to otherwise understanding family members is not worth it in some cases.
My mother in law would flip if she knew both me and the hubs are atheists. She is a formerly-creationist Pentecostal, but since both of us were science majors she asked us about biology/evolution . I started slowly explaining the mechanisms by which evolution operates (thanks to PZ et. al) in plants and then went from there. She is a few years later pretty comfortable with theistic evolution. She even started drinking beer and wine with us! This wouldn't have gone as far if she knew all the 'god's love' drivel I spout is just a translation of what a heathen thinks into non-threatening language.



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