A Suggestion for Atheists Who Want to Come Out to Their Christian Partners

Reader Gryph offers a suggestion for new atheists (having recently left their faith) who are in relationships with Christians and want to come out to them:

I’ve read several stories about how to deal with being in a relationship with someone after your own deconversion. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to convey my thoughts to my Christian wife without making her feel like I was attacking her. See, there’s a fine line between attacking someone and attacking someone’s faith; generally, the faithful are not able to make that distinction.

My solution, while obviously not perfect, was to write up a missive on my thoughts; what I do and don’t believe, just what exactly an atheist is, and why I moved from Christianity to atheism. For instance, a couple things I offered thoughts on were the problem of evil and some of the inconsistencies of the Bible. This format allowed me to gather my thoughts and present a more well-organized statement. I tried to keep from sounding accusatory or argumentative in an attempt to keep this from becoming an adversarial situation.

It also allows her to read, or not read, at her convenience. She doesn’t have to tell me she read it. It even gives her time to think about some of the comments without feeling the need for immediate response. In other words, it allows her a safe environment to take in what I have to say. I have no delusions that this a perfect solution for my situation or for others, but maybe, just maybe, it’s a first step to building a dialogue as opposed to an argument.

I remember writing up a similar statement when I became an atheist. I wrote it to no one in particular and I don’t remember if I even showed it to anybody. Still, it was good for me to get my thoughts on paper. It helped me gather ideas for when I was confident enough to talk about atheism with friends.

  • beckster

    I did the same. Although I think it horrified some evangelical family members who felt I had basically signed a pact with satan by putting my thoughts onto paper.

  • Calvin

    Eh, I have a different problem. I’m dating a Christian who wants me to become Christian because of the difficulties involved in not sharing the same religion. She’s trying to convince me to come to church with her. But that wouldn’t change my views at all.

  • freaktopia

    “there’s a fine line between attacking someone and attacking someone’s faith; generally, the faithful are not able to make that distinction.”

    i call b.s. – most people i know are christians and, of the ones who know i’m an atheist, don’t feel like i am attacking them in the least.

    that being said, writing down thoughts can be a very good idea.

  • http://evilburnee.co.uk PaulJ

    Still, it was good for me to get my thoughts on paper. It helped me gather ideas for when I was confident enough to talk about atheism with friends.

    That’s why I blog. Often I don’t know what I think until I’ve written it down.

  • http://bisforbarnstorming.blogspot.com BarnStormer

    Writing is good- it allows you to express your thoughts while you actually have a chance to think about them.

  • http://www.twitter.com/elicota Elias

    Smart idea wish I had thought of it for when I was dealing with my family.

  • http://blip.fm/snakelady snakelady

    Just a moment of irony…

    The ad at the top of the page: “Meet Christian Singles here”

    Here’s a link to the screenshot: http://bit.ly/hvIzF

    Too funny!

  • Tom

    When I came out to my grandparents as being gay, I did something similar: I went out and bought a book for them that was written for straight people with a gay family member coming out of the closet, intended to help them understand better.

    I took the book home and carefully read every page of it. I took a green highlighter and marked things I thought were particularly good or relevant. I took a red highlighter and marked things I thought were wrong or irrelevant. (Of course there were few of the latter or I wouldn’t have bought the book.) I wrote a letter in which I came out of the closet and explained the book, packaged it all up, and mailed it to them. I waited two weeks (it was some years ago and the mail was slow) and then phoned them to talk about it.

    I then learned the major failing point of this whole strategy: “able to read it at their convenience” also means “able to refuse to read it at all and work themselves into a tizzy about what they imagine it says (even though it doesn’t) because they won’t read it.”

  • http://www.anatheist.net James

    The refusing to carefully read the statement is definitely the one downfall to this, as the Tom notes above. A face to face conversational is probably the best course of action, so long as you can keep the conversation about you and not about your spouse.

  • http://mylongapostasy.blogspot.com ATL-Apostate

    I came out to my wife by accident. She happened to read an email I had sent to a friend with whom I happened to be discussing the subject. The fact that she read my email pissed me off a little, but it forced a much needed conversation.

  • http://thebeattitude.com theBEattitude

    There is no way I would do this on paper. I’m a face to face person anyway, but this is far too important to do in such a disconnected way.

    I’ve started this discussion with my Christian wife, but she is still under the impression that I’m simply going through a phase of doubt. Eventually we will have the conversation that this isn’t a “phase” of doubt. I’ve been a Christian for most of my life and examined and studied religion from every angle. My conclusion is the Bible is nothing more than a combination of archaic folklore, primitive teaching, and fictional accounts.

    Eventually my wife will understand my position through respectful face to face discussions. Unless she discovers my blog or reads my email like ATL-Apostate’s wife did. That would speed up the process. ;)

  • gribblethemunchkin

    Writing it down, even if you then hand the letter over and sit there while they read it does have some points to recommend it.

    When you write something, you can edit it before you hand it over. If you do it verbally, one wrong phrase can bollocks the whole thing up, especially if they are likely to have a strongly anti-atheist reaction.

  • http://atheistgravy.blogspot.com revatheist

    freaktopia said: “i call b.s. – most people i know are christians and, of the ones who know i’m an atheist, don’t feel like i am attacking them in the least.”

    I find this can be true when simply telling christians that I am an atheist, but on those occasions that I actually have tried to explain why I don’t believe, I am quickly met with defensiveness and hurt feelings, if not outright hostility, from the same christians.

  • Kate

    I did something similar: I went out and bought a book for them that was written for straight people with a gay family member coming out of the closet, intended to help them understand better.

    OT but Tom, would you mind sharing the name of that book? :)


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