Reader AnonyMouse wrote a personal story about coming out to the family as an atheist — unfortunately, it didn’t go nearly as well as he had hoped. Maybe his insights can help others in his shoes.
And the note to parents at the end is a must-read:
I tried “coming out” to my family once. ONCE. It was about two weeks after I lost my faith (the worst two weeks of my life, incidentally), and it was a complete disaster.
Let me explain. My parents attend a fundamentalist church, and while they do not hold completely fundamentalist beliefs themselves, there is one thing that they hold: YOU. DO. NOT. QUESTION. GOD. You can question the Bible a little bit, but only to the degree that it reinforces your faith. Losing your faith is not an option. If you — like me — find some way to disprove Christianity using the Bible, it is only because a demon has shown you what to look for. On the off chance that you do stumble upon something entirely by accident, the reason it looks like it contradicts the Bible is because God has not given you the wisdom to understand it.
The three days in which my parents knew… it was as though everything I had gone through the past two weeks had been compressed into a single weekend. They proselytized. They threatened me with Hellfire. They tried to guilt me into reconverting with tears and much wailing. It wasn’t until Sunday evening, when all of the emotional stress finally built to a head, that we were able to resolve the issue — and I was able to decide once and for all where I stood.
Unfortunately, it landed me on the “wrong” side of the fence.
I am in ways grateful for the event. It allowed me to break down the web of confusion and self-deceit that I had lain out in my mind as a child. It allowed me to look at both the Bible and our religion as what they were, rather than what I had been raised to want them to be. It allowed me to find much more satisfaction in life on the whole. By removing the smothering shroud of an omnipresent God, I also cast away the self-loathing complex that was vital to our belief system.
But my parents know none of this. They think that I have returned to Christianity, and that is how it has to stay. If they learned that I had not returned to The Path, there would be weeping and wailing and Bible-Thumping and threats of damnation and accusations of consorting with demons and… well, you know how Christians will accuse you of “never being a real Christian” when you tell them you lost their faith? My parents covered that, but it was nothing compared to the other things they said to me. They were planning on throwing both me and my sister out of the house, knowing fully well that we would have no place to go.
In so many ways, my parents are wonderful and loving people. And I love them dearly. But atheism is one subject that I will never be able to broach. Based on what happened the last time, I am certain that they would never forgive me and probably spend the rest of their lives beating themselves up over their “failure” as parents.
At this point, I would like to say something important to any religious parents who might be reading this: Please do not dwell on your children’s beliefs. It may seem inconceivable to you that they could possibly reject your religion, and your first instinct will be anger and pain. But please, put this aside. Instead, I ask you to take a look at the good things about your children. They are probably kind, wonderful, and intelligent people. And I have very little doubt that they love you very much, despite your differences in belief.