Ask Richard: Young Filipina Atheist Wrestles With Coming Out

This letter is from the Philippines, but it is worthwhile reading for anyone because the issues apply almost anywhere. Whether they live in the South or Midwest United States, the Philippines, Brazil, Ghana, or Iran, young people living wherever religion has an iron grip on the minds of the general populace will recognize the challenges facing this young woman. In our struggle for acceptance, respect and justice, we have brothers and sisters around the world.

Letter writers’ names are changed to protect their privacy.

“Finally an adult, but I still have no voice.”

Dear Richard,

I’ve recently turned 18 years old, but I have pretty much known most my life that I didn’t believe in God. Heck, I knew I didn’t believe in God even before I knew that was even possible. I live in a very Catholic country (The Philippines) and though my family is not very religious, they are religious enough to know for a fact that God is real and God is good. I have attended Catholic school my entire life (even my current university is Catholic), but I still do not feel this connection with God that most people have. I go to mass but I feel like I’m just taking up the space of someone who actually wants to be there. It feels wrong, for me, to go to mass and pretend to believe in something I absolutely do not care for. I even kneel and go to communion, and it feels so wrong! I want to stop.

Most of my friends (save maybe 2 or 3) are quite religious and are very uncomfortable with the idea of atheism. I tell no one at all that I am an atheist, except for those who tell me that they are atheists first. I don’t want to make my friends uncomfortable, or give them any reason to dislike me, so I just keep my mouth shut. Some of them are so extreme as to even dislike cursing, which is very difficult for me!

The whole point of this is, I am sick of staying in the shadows. I want people to know and respect me for my lack of faith, but I don’t know how to pull it off. I don’t know how I can keep the respect my friends and family have for me. I am afraid of losing my friends. I am especially afraid of my father, who is quite hot-headed and closed-minded.

Do you think I should just stay quiet or let them know?

Sincerely,                                                                                                                                       Nicole

Dear Nicole,

The age of majority in the Philippines is 18, so just as you say you are legally an adult. But like young adults all around the world, until you are financially independent from your parents, just as you say you won’t fully have your voice. Your freedom to express yourself can be limited. At any stage of your life there will be consequences for coming out as an atheist, but the consequences can be severe if your family threatens to withdraw their help for your food, housing, or education in an attempt to pressure you to continue practicing their religion.

This kind of tactic downright silly, since no amount of coercion will ever result in sincere and genuine belief. At most, it can only force a resentful pretense, and it just deepens your conviction that it is all a sham. Yet parents try this often. I wonder if some of them know they can’t compel authentic faith, but just want to keep up appearances in the eyes of their extended family and the community.

My general advice for any young person in your position is this: Before you do any self-disclosure of your atheism, carefully and discretely assess any risk to you physically, financially, and socially,  in that order.

The physical risk might come from your “hot-headed and closed-minded” father. It’s certainly not conclusive from just that description that he would be capable of violence, but it’s important to weigh the likelihood from your experience.

The second assessment would be for your financial risk. This usually involves a lot of guesswork. Use your overall impression of how your parents or other authority figures in your family deal with conflicts. Do they reason, argue and negotiate, or do they coerce, intimidate and punish? If a roof over your head, or a meal on your table, or the next  semester in your university is in jeopardy, then keep quiet to them, and bide your time.  Since your family is apparently not very devout but they are adamant about the existence of God, you might be able to negotiate skipping mass, but dropping the “A-bomb,” telling them that you’re an atheist, might not be prudent.

One other complication can be if you have younger siblings. You might not face physical or financial intimidation,  or you might be willing to endure it.  However, if you reveal your atheism, your younger brothers or sisters might come under increased scrutiny or pressure to “not be like their atheist sister.”  You can’t necessarily make all your decisions for their sakes, but it’s just one more wrinkle to keep in mind.

Finally there’s your social risk.  Begin by nurturing and strengthening your friendships with the two or three friends you mentioned who are not religious, and find new nonreligious friends. Before you tell anyone about your atheism, make sure they are discreet, that they know how to keep a secret without any exceptions. It is possible that some of your more religious friends will reject you if they find out, or you’ll simply drift apart because you cannot be fully yourself around them.

It’s important to have control over exactly when, how and with whom you share your non-belief. If you want to write about your views about religion on Facebook or some other social media, make certain that you cannot be identified. These are very efficient privacy-destroying devices. Many young people inadvertently “out” themselves before they’re ready by foolishly assuming that their Facebook “friends” are going to know that some information is not to be repeated, or that their parents won’t visit their page. Use a pseudonym when you comment on blogs like this. Do not use an avatar with your face, and give no clue to your identity. Erase your browser history every time you leave your computer. Assume that people will snoop.

You’re in luck. The Philippines has a very vital, active and courageous society of atheists called the Filipino Freethinkers. They’re young, strong, determined and bright. Last April, in support of women’s rights and secular sex education for the public, they took on the Catholic Church’s 16-year long blockage of  the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill. For two years I have been impressed and inspired by them. Here is their Facebook page as well. There is also the Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society, PATAS. Both of these groups know what you’re going through. They’ll reach out to you.

Find them, and find your voice with them. They might not be physically close enough to meet them face-to-face, but an online support group of people who care about you as an individual can be of tremendous value. They can get you through the next few years as you build your independence and start using your voice in broader areas.  I wish you all the best in your efforts, and I hope that you can enjoy happy and eventually fully honest relationships with your family and friends.

Related post: Ask Richard: Atheist in the Philippines Lonely for Freethinking Friends

Richard

You may send your questions for Richard to AskRichard. Please keep your letters concise. They may be edited. There is a very large number of letters. I am sorry if I am unable to respond in a timely manner.

About Richard Wade

Richard Wade is a retired Marriage and Family Therapist living in California.

  • http://neitshade.wordpress.com/ DaveD

    This is why I display the red “A” on my blog, and why I’m open about being an atheist. Not to persuade or coerce others to do the same, but to let those who would have difficulty if the “came out” that they aren’t alone. I have the luxury of living somewhere where it isn’t a huge issue, and I feel very lucky not to have to worry about religious oppression.

  • KateL

    I, too, am an 18-year-old Filipina atheist, and though I have the luxury of friends and family that are either accepting of my non-belief or don’t care either way, backlash is still something I have to deal with. Nicole, if you ever need someone to talk to or whatever, feel free to e-mail me: kate.lyesmith@gmail.com =) 

  • crk09

    Hi Nicole, well we have the same situation. I’m 19 and after I have graduated high school I come out fully of the closet as an Atheist. I have been studying in Catholic school since elementary but not any more. Almost all my friends knew that I’m an atheist. They have accepted me for what I believed in. So if they haven’t accepted for who you are then they’re not your real friend. Even they know that I’m an atheist, we still avoid talks about religions issue.  Just don’t care about the narrow minded person you would encounter. 

  • http://twitter.com/markmalcampo Mark Malcampo

    Hi Nicole,

    I hope that you would, in the time of your choosing, let others know of your true (un)beliefs. I’m also a Filipino raised in Catholic Schools just like you, and have a church-going family too. It took me years to finally have the courage to self-identify as an agnostic. I’m lucky that my family accepted me for my beliefs (after lots of philosophical talk on the dinner table). I also think that if your friends really *are* your friends, they would accept you whatever your beliefs are.

    Richard is right, the Filipino Freethinkers serves as a critical support group.  There are lots of people like us here in our country Nicole. Hope everything goes well for you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeiel Jeiel Aranal

    Hello Nicole, you’re most definitely not alone in godlessness in this “Catholic country” of ours. There are more atheists than you think and there are a lot of us here in the Filipino Freehinkers. I’ve been with the FF for the last year or so and I can definitely say that the group is a warm and welcoming bunch.

    From some of the stories I’ve heard at our meetups, there are many barriers to coming out as an atheist here in the Philippines. It’s not just age, sometimes even older adults face barriers to coming out.

    One of the things that the FF is trying to achieve is to give atheists here in the Philippines a safe and warm community to come out in. Many of us have faced difficulties with coming out as an atheist here and we’d like to give atheists and even non-traditional theists a community where they’ll feel safe and welcomed.

    I’d like to encourage you to join us in Facebook (perhaps under a psuedonym FB account) and also to come to one of our fortnightly meetups. We just had a meetup this past weekend, our next meetup will be on August 14, Sunday. The meetup details will be announced on our website and the Facebook group.
    If you’ve got any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me at jeiel@filipinofreethinkers.org. I hope Richard’s reply and the comments help you with your fears about coming out of the closet in the Philippines.
    Have a good day Nicole, and god less!

  • Gay Atheist

    Hello Nicole, you are definitely not alone. I’m 18 years old, too, and my situation is much worse, actually. I’m not only an atheist but also a homosexual guy. What I usually do is label myself as “Secular Humanist” or “non-religious.” You know, you don’t always have to tell you’re an atheist. When people ask you what your religion is, just say you’re not religious. I know it is quite impossible to “come out” as an atheist when you are still dependent on your parents. So my best advice would be to just follow what they want and do what they are expecting you to do in the meantime until you become independent from them. That is what we homosexuals do and I think that applies to atheists as well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/FilipinoFreethinker Red Tani

    Hi Nicole,They might not like or agree with what you’ll tell them, but by coming out of the closet you might even gain more respect from your friends — if they’re really friends — and family — they’ll always be family, and respect from them is almost guaranteed. With love and patience, I’m sure that even your father will come to accept you for who you are. Like-minded people such as those from Filipino Freethinkers (of which I’m a member) will definitely help you prepare for whatever you decide and cope with whatever happens after. Please feel free to give our group a visit. You are most welcome :)

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    Nicole,

    I don’t have any particular knowledge about religious attitudes in the Philippines, but most of the Catholics that I personally know in the US don’t (or just very rarely) go to church.  If maintaining the “Catholic” label is convenient (or necessary) for you right now, you could always try “being Catholic” but just not going to church all that often.  If people ask, you could always say “I’m still catholic, I just don’t go to church every single week”.  Then later on when it fits your life circumstances better, you can just come out as an atheist (or agnostic).

  • Fredericka

    “Before you do any self-disclosure of your atheism, carefully and discretely assess any risk to you physically, financially, and socially, in that order.”

    So much for the idea of being good without God. They call this “lying” and it’s generally thought ill of by theists.

    • http://twitter.com/gordongoblin Gordon

      and yet the bullying and harassment this type of lie is designed to avoid (at the hands of theists) is somehow a lesser sin?

      • Fredericka

        By all means, if there is no God then all is permitted; why shouldn’t you folks lie if it’s in your interest? But how do you know that this young lady doesn’t have a conscience, just because you don’t?

        • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

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          It’s easy to talk bravely about truth telling when you’re
          not the one standing in harm’s way. Encouraging truthfulness should be balanced
          by compassion, and that balance is different in every situation. Rigid, formulaic
          moralizing about telling the truth no matter what, coming from someone who stands
          to lose nothing does not show any interest in compassion, but shows only an
          interest in self-righteous posturing.

           

          Nicole clearly has a healthy conscience, because she has been
          uncomfortable with this conflict for a long time. She would like to be
          truthful, but it looks likely that her friends and family will not honor her for
          taking that risk.  Only she is
          qualified to make that final assessment. It is not up to me, you, or anyone
          else to claim that we know better than her.

           

          As friends and family, they should be loving and supportive
          of her. If it appears that they will respond to her truth with punitive actions
          that will not change her beliefs at all, but will only cause her suffering,
          then she has a right to withhold that truth. Withholding it will not harm them,
          but giving it could harm her.

           

          Telling personal information to someone else exists in the
          context of their relationship. Both people in the  relationship share responsibility for supporting the level of
          openness that is appropriate for that relationship.   If one side does
          not make it reasonably safe for the other to tell the truth, then they don’t deserve
          it.

           

          • Fredericka

            “Encouraging truthfulness should be balanced by compassion, and that balance is different in every situation.”

            No doubt with atheists telling the truth is always “balanced.” That is why Richard Dawkins, a Darwinian who celebrates Christmas, is not called a “Fundamentalist Christian,” whereas Anders Breivik, a Darwinian who celebrates Christmas, is. When people come to understand your preference for ‘balance,’ they no longer believe anything you say.

            • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

              This a classic troll response. You’re not responding the points I made, you’re just making up absurd straw man arguments about things off topic to keep expressing your hatred of atheists in general. You’re not adding anything of value to the discussion.  You’re only trying to derail it to circle around you, so you’ll have an audience for your indignant pose of superiority.

              • Fredericka

                What is your actual point? Suppose Mom and Dad decide they want to live their lives as hedonists, and announce, ‘Daughter dear, all the money we would have spent on your college education we spent on an RV so we can cruise around enjoying ourselves.’ If you wish to say, no, no, they must be martyrs, how otherwise can she blossom into a hedonist, please explain why she gets to be the hedonist and they are obliged to be martyrs, sacrificing their present enjoyment of life on behalf of a child who despises them. I know of a Bible verse, but I do not know the atheist verse explaining why this is the way it must be. Suppose they have beaten her to the punch and turned atheist first?

                • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

                  More troll response. I made my points very clearly, and you are being deliberately obtuse because you have no answer for them. You have no response other than yet another ridiculous straw man and false dichotomy about selfish hedonism vs. noble self sacrifice. What rubbish. 

        • Erp

          Would you lie to save a life?  For instance if you were concealing  runaway slaves in the US prior to abolition and were asked by the authorities where they were, would you lie?  Refusal to answer would lead to a search of your property including the place where they were hidden.

          Not equivalent but I would be interested in knowing the limits.

          • http://neitshade.wordpress.com/ DaveD

            Don’t you people know that the only acceptable lie is the one that helps spread the gospel! If you can make a few bucks along the way, so much the better. Just ask a paragon of virtue like Kent Hovind.

          • http://neitshade.wordpress.com/ DaveD

            Don’t you people know that the only acceptable lie is the one that helps spread the gospel! If you can make a few bucks along the way, so much the better. Just ask a paragon of virtue like Kent Hovind.

            • Fredericka

              If memory serves he’s in prison for lying on his tax returns, which is where he belongs if that’s what he did. I’ve never heard anyone say you should lie to spread the gospel. Christian ethics in my understanding does not permit doing evil in order that good may come, “And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.” (Romans 3:8).

              As far as making a few bucks, isn’t that precisely why you folks are urging this young lady to lie? Many people in the Philippines are not all that well off, and we do not know what kind of sacrifices her parents are making to help her stay in school. For all we know her mother is bending over a scrub brush cleaning floors to help pay tuition. Should we encourage Nichole to lean over and whisper, ‘Sucker!’

              • http://neitshade.wordpress.com/ DaveD

                So it’s OK on the one hand for a rich, religious person to lie outright in order to accumulate even more wealth, but it’s not OK for a poor atheist to keep quiet in order to avoid homelessness and penury.
                Just so long as we know what kind of “morality”  you religious types value.

              • http://neitshade.wordpress.com/ DaveD

                So it’s OK on the one hand for a rich, religious person to lie outright in order to accumulate even more wealth, but it’s not OK for a poor atheist to keep quiet in order to avoid homelessness and penury.
                Just so long as we know what kind of “morality”  you religious types value.

                • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

                  She didn’t actually say that, in fact she said Hovind belongs in jail if he’s guilty.

                  On the other hand, we aren’t saying Nicole should keep quiet just so she can make a few bucks, or get some other financial benefit either.

                • Fredericka

                  DaveD opines, “So it’s OK on the one hand for a rich, religious person to lie outright in order to accumulate even more wealth”

                  Why do you think so?

          • Fredericka

            Hi Erp. I personally wouldn’t. This is the famous case, would you lie to a crazed murderer holding a knife who asks of his intended victim, which way did she run? Pointing the wrong way saves the victim without any physical risk to yourself, whereas refusing to answer and grabbing for the knife means you might get stabbed. I think Augustine got this one right. Or I should say I hope I wouldn’t, because people often do what they themselves believe is the wrong thing simply out of fear and cowardice.

            • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

              What if you were in a position that made you incapable of grabbing the knife? Hypothetical: you and the other person have both been kidnapped by this crazed murderer, and have witnessed the murderer kill at least one other who displeased him. Your co-victim escapes when the murderer steps into the bathroom, and you are still handcuffed to the radiator, thus incapable of grabbing the knife or anything else to physically resist. He asks which door the co-victim left by, the front or back, because he couldn’t place where the sound came from when he was out of the room. Being honest means the escapee’s life is probably going to end. 

              What do you hope you would do?

              • Fredericka

                Hi Nathan. I think your hypothetical case needs refining. Add that the killer has Asperger’s syndrome. I am told that those with this condition cannot understand ‘lying.’ Anyone not suffering from this condition would expect you to lie! An expected lie does not deceive. I still think, contrary to plausibility, that the right thing to do is remain silent.

                Hypothetical cases are the mother’s milk of ethics. Pointing out that the case described is not likely to happen sounds like waffling, which is why I did not respond to Erp’s original Underground Railroad case by pointing out the Fourth Amendment does not permit the authorities to enter your property on no better grounds that your refusal to answer. Since it’s a hypothetical case, they can do that and worse! Some people think crazed killers and your nation’s enemies are not ‘entitled’ to the truth. Does anyone think your own mother is not entitled to the truth?

                • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

                  I will respond to you in a new comment, so that it’s actually readable. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/jeiel Jeiel Aranal

      Because lying is always wrong.

      Given Nicole’s situation if you had to protect her from her angry father and you believe that he would resort to physical violence on Nicole, would you lie to him to protect her?

      • Fredericka

        Actually I wouldn’t. BTW is there actual evidence that this man is a threat to anyone? Or do we know he is ‘dangerous’ simply because he is rumored to be a theist? (Perhaps of the same sect as “Fundamentalist Christian,” Anders Breivik.) The reason I ask is because most of the material on this site falls into the category of classical bigotry. It reminds the reader of the literature the Ku Klux Klan used to put out back in the 1950′s. Every example of an African-American person behaving badly they would high-light, spiced up if need be just as Anders Breivik was promoted into a Fundamentalist Christian. No example of a white person behaving badly ever appeared in this literature, even though white people are known to behave badly from time to time. No example of an African-American doing something positive ever appeared in this literature either. Naive people who did not know how to think critically would encounter this literature and conclude, ‘Wow, black people are really bad, and white people are really good.’ But this is naive. It’s just selection bias; the editors have high-lighted every case of black people behaving badly (indeed if they couldn’t find enough lurid content in the news-papers they’d just make stuff up.) Similarly with this site, every Christian behaving badly is high-lighted, and we hear of no atheist behaving badly, nor any Christian behaving well. People who are naive might conclude, ‘Wow, those theists are really awful, they even beat their children!’ I would want to see evidence against him before I thought ill of this man. Not evidence against the class to which he belongs, but evidence against him. Not just the knowledge that he’s a theist, if he is, but specific evidence of a history of violence.

        If this father actually does have a history of violent physical abuse against his daughter, then she needs to talk to the police, and not about religion. If her father threatens her with violence, she should flee, not lie. The only reason she is being encouraged to lie is for financial gain. Otherwise why not leave a note on the table then await the reaction? I would not encourage her to classify her own family as a feed-lot and hold on to her grazing privileges at all costs, specifically the cost of throwing her integrity in the gutter. For her to become a scheming, manipulative liar for financial gain is her loss, because it starts her plummeting down the moral slope, a descent difficult to stop. Is being treated like the patsies in a con game really fair to this father and mother, who are human beings after all and not an ATM?

        If the only reason to suspect this man of a tendency to violence is because he is believed to be a theist, then I would point out that it is bigoted to ascribe negative characteristics to others in the absence of evidence. To say to a theist, ‘How do I know you won’t become violent?’ is like saying to a black person, ‘How do I know you won’t mug me?’ Upon hearing the follow-up question, ‘What makes you think that I will?’ you ought to have a good answer, not 500,000 bad answers.

        • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

          Defending Nicole’s father against slander is a straw man argument.  No one here has said that just because he is a Christian of any kind that he is automatically suspect for violence.  That is your invention.  In my response to Nicole’s letter, I addressed the possibility of violence because she said, “I am especially afraid of my father, who is quite hot-headed and closed-minded.” To me as a counselor, that is sufficient to bring up the possibility of violence for Nicole to consider and to weigh according to her experience with her father.

          References to Anders Breivik is a straw man argument. At the time of my writing this, no one here has said or implied that there is any association between him and Nicole’s father.  That is your invention.

          References to Ku Klux Klan propaganda is a straw man argument. Again, no one here is “highlighting” bad behavior of Nicole’s father, and ignoring his good behavior. We can only go by the content in the letter.

          You frequently object to blanket condemnation of Christians by atheists, and I object to that too, when I see it. Unfortunately, you sometimes perpetrate the same offense when you make or imply a blanket assertion that all atheists do this, or that this site always does this, or that this site never highlights the good behavior of theists and never highlights the bad behavior of atheists.

          Actually, this site has often highlighted and approved of the good behavior of theists, and has often gone into very thorough and stern disapproval of the bad behavior of atheists. Watch for these. Don’t be your own example of selection bias.

          Your one contribution to this discussion that is worth considering is  that you think Nicole should tell her family about her atheism regardless of the consequences, and that keeping it a secret just to protect her ability to eat and sleep under a roof, and to continue to study at her university is an unworthy rationalization  for keeping this information to herself.  You characterize this as lying for money.

          My response is that there is no logical connection between her being an atheist and her being turned out of the house or her financial assistance for her education being terminated. Unfortunately, this is a too-frequent reaction from families described in the letters that I receive. 

          There is nothing in Nicole’s letter to indicate there has been any this-for-that agreement between her and her family about her being a Catholic as a requirement for these things being given to her as a member of the family.  So she does not have any ethical obligation to share her personal views on religion with them any more than she has an ethical obligation to share her political views,  or her private sexual fantasies, or any other irrelevant private information that have a good chance of creating strife in the family and bringing on absurd punitive reactions that help no one.

          • Fredericka

            Richard wrote, “My response is that there is no logical connection between her being an atheist and her being turned out of the house or her financial assistance for her education being terminated. ”

            I agree it is quite unlikely this family will turn her out of their house upon her disclosure of her religious sentiments. However, upon life-style changes consequent thereto, they may well remember they have no continuing legal obligation to provide a roof over her head. It happens.

            When I first read this post, I doubted there was such a person as “Nicole,” because it seemed odd a young lady so far away would express herself in a ‘voice’ indistinguishable from the web-master’s own voice, and unscrupulous web-masters have been known to ‘prime the pump’ in this way. I wonder if she is real. If she is a real person, I hope she thinks back upon the stories of martyrs she heard during her Catholic education: brave men and women who testified to the truth even unto death. I hope she will notice the stark contrast with what she finds here. No ‘Profiles in Courage,’ our atheist friends think it prudent to count the cost before making any disclosures.

            • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

              Yet more trolling. You deliberately miss the point, and then you attempt an insult by suggesting that the whole letter is bogus.

              I frankly wish this letter and the hundreds of others I receive were false. Unfortunately, the hate-atheists-for-any-reason-you can-cook-up mentality that you are so deeply entrenched in is all too common in religious families. If I were making these letters up, my responses would be much better. But I’m stuck with the reality of the misery that fear, ignorance and pig-headedness inflicts on people, and the fact that there’s not much I can suggest for a no-win situation.

              Your suggestion that Nicole should become a martyr is the penultimate of  arrogance and comes directly from your troll narcissism, and your apparent utter inability to have empathy. As I said in my first reply to you, it’s easy to talk bravely about honesty when you’re not the one standing in harm’s way.  You suggest to someone else that they should sacrifice themselves for your cause?  Go martyr yourself!

              I usually give trolls too much benefit of the doubt, and I now realize that feeding you is pointless and detrimental to this website,  wherever you infect it with your mechanical, mindless, reflex hatred of everything and anything that atheists say or do. I won’t be responding to any more of your desperate addiction to attention, and I strongly urge everyone else to ignore you as well.

              • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

                Will do. My last response went up just a few minutes before this, but I won’t make any more.

              • Fredericka

                “Yet more trolling.”

                I see it makes you happy to identify those who do not agree with you as trolls. They call that ‘name-calling.’ And what good does it ultimately do to stick your fingers in your ears? If you don’t like the very apt phrase “lying for money,” then would you prefer “lying to avoid financial  risk”?

        • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

          “BTW is there actual evidence that this man is a threat to anyone?”
          No there isn’t, and Richard doesn’t make that assumption in his answer. He specifically says that “The physical risk might come from your “hot-headed and closed-minded” father. It’s certainly not conclusive from just that description that he would be capable of violence, but it’s important to weigh the likelihood from your experience.”

          In other words, he’s saying to Nicole to use her 18 years of experience with the man to decide if her father would be likely to react with violence if she came out, and factor that information into her decision. 

          The question Jeiel asked is if “you believed” he was capable of a violent reaction, what you would do. That’s a hypothetical, not a “the man is clearly violent.” 

          It is not the theism that leads Richard to suggest she consider the possibility of violence, but the sad fact that physical domestic abuse is very common in the world. It would be irresponsible of him to assume that the man is not capable when giving advice (absent evidence to the contrary), just as it would be irresponsible to assume he is, and say “with that description your dad is obviously violent, so you shouldn’t say anything/run/get a bodyguard.” He did the responsible thing, and advised her to use her experience to judge.

          • Fredericka

            He is responsibly urging her to become a devious, scheming, manipulative liar. This is not good advice. She would be better off, ideally, to be an honest Christian, or if she can not be that, an honest atheist. Hmmm…are there any of those? You wouldn’t know it from this crowd. Just listen to yourselves and hear the moral degradation.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jeiel Jeiel Aranal

      Because lying is always wrong.

      Given Nicole’s situation if you had to protect her from her angry father and you believe that he would resort to physical violence on Nicole, would you lie to him to protect her?

    • Parse

      By all means, if there is no God then all is permitted
      But how do you know that this young lady doesn’t have a conscience, just because you don’t?
      As far as making a few bucks, isn’t that precisely why you folks are urging this young lady to lie?
      Should we encourage Nichole to lean over and whisper, ‘Sucker!’
       
      Fredericka, you’re trolling.  Please come back when you’re willing to converse with people, instead of beating up the strawman you think we are.  

      By the way, I’m sure that Damon Fowler is glad that you think there’s no risk to atheists coming out of the closet.  

      • Fredericka

        She has already figured out that cursing is permitted to an atheist: “Some of them are so extreme as to even dislike cursing, which is very difficult for me!” She is learning from the contributors here that lying is permitted to an atheist. What wonderful discoveries lie ahead for her! How can anyone defend the idea that ‘you can be good without God’ while watching this train wreck?

        Please do not bother trying to run the ‘I’m a victim’ scam past me. When I was young I was an atheist by default, no one ever having taught me anything better. When comes the knock on the door in the middle of the night? Never. Your Christian neighbors do you no harm, though you cannot stop trying to infringe upon their rights.

  • Fredericka

    Nicole, have the Catholics of whom you’ve asked counsel ever told you to lie? Here you are asking the atheists what to do, and they’re all telling you to lie. These are people sidling up to you in a dark alley telling you to do what you know in your heart is wrong. Who are your friends: those who want you to to become like them, as immoral and dishonest as they, or those who want you to remain an honest person?

  • http://twitter.com/AmIThatBad Gabrielle Vierneza

    HI Nicole, I understand your position. I,too, have a very religious family and circle of friends. Although I think my situation was way different from yours, I wasn’t afraid of coming out about my “anti-religion”ness. Luckily for me, they respect my opinions as I respect theirs. Good luck to you and I hope you’ll be free soon. :)

  • igme

    Hi Nichole, rest assured if your friends and family, there are many of us in FF whom you can drink and hang out with.  :D

  • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

    Fredericka, you are right that “Hypothetical cases are the mother’s milk of ethics.” Like mother’s milk for a child, hypotheticals support and aid the growth of our ethics. They let us consider possible choices before we are forced to make those choices in the heat of the moment. When we see a child making fun of another, and scold that child and then say “how would you feel if . . .?” we are presenting a hypothetical. Hypotheticals let us ponder how to respond to a boss who starts using sexist nicknames for a female employee, and claims its all in fun. They help us decide what to do if we learn a co-worker is skimming from the till, or that our spouse is watching the neighbors through a bedroom window. Or any number of things.

    Extreme hypotheticals, such as the one I proposed, can make it easier to get at the heart of the issue when two or more ethical principals are in conflict. In the one I proposed, protecting life versus lying. You responded that you would remain silent. An intriguing response. Its very possible that a crazed murderer who has already shown a willingness to kill would be displeased by your silence and kill you for it. So, you would die, but might have given your fellow victim enough time to get away. You’re to be commended for sticking to your guns in that case.

    You did not respond to Erp’s hypothetical because you apparently thought that it was too implausible, since America has laws preventing the authorities from entering your home just because you keep silent. Very well. How about if your were hiding  a Jew in Nazi Germany, and the SA were suspicious? There were no laws preventing them from entering your home for remaining silent. Would you have done your best to appear cooperative, and told a lie or two if needed? Or would you stay silent, knowing that the likely response would be a full search of your home, and probable arrest of you and the Jew you were protecting, which likely would lead to their death? This is a situation that actually happened in history, so it can hardly be called implausible.

    For a case a little more like Nicole’s, and that is also not implausible (given that similar situations have actually happened), let’s propose a situation very much like hers, except that the father or mother have flat out said “If you were an atheist I would kill you.” The parent has been physically abusive in the past, so its a credible threat. You can replace “atheist” with “gay,” or “transgender,” or probably any number of things. Would you suggest they come clean, or do as Richard has advised Nicole, and “be discreet, careful, and prudent”?  Would you suggest that the person tell the truth if the parent becomes suspicious and point blank asks “are you an atheist/gay/etc?” and doesn’t give her a chance to flee, as you earlier suggested (btw, it might be helpful to consider the psychology of abuse victims, such as presented here: http://pervocracy.blogspot.com/2011/07/why-does-she-stay-with-that-jerk.html)?Just so we’re clear, I’m making no claim that Nicole is in danger, as only Nicole has the requisite information to determine that. This is a hypothetical.

    I am genuinely interested in how you respond.

     To answer your question “Does anyone think your own mother is not entitled to the truth?”, I say it depends on the mother. An abusive mother is not entitled to the truth from their child when that truth could cause the child unwarranted suffering. I’m not talking about lying to avoid proper discipline, I’m talking about lying, or being silent, or telling half-truths to prevent abuse. However, I also do not think people are obligated to come forward with information to their mother that is not necessary for the mother to know.

    I suspect that this question stems from the commandment “Honor thy father and mother.” I would not say that honoring parents includes volunteering information just because they might be interested in knowing it, and not all parents are worthy of honor or respect (i.e., the abusive ones).

    I apologize if this was a “too long, didn’t read” comment. I attempted to only say what I thought important. You’ve said other things I could’ve responded to, but for now, I’m choosing not to. Richard, if you want me to stop feeding the troll, just say the word.

  • Rebecca

    It’s good to see so many encouraging comments from other young Filipinos who might be able to help Nicole!  This is definitely a tough situation for ANY person anywhere whose parents are even slightly religious.  There is such a stigma against atheists.  Even though the family might be okay with you not going to church, the A word will really alarm them.  I’m 24, completely financially dependent, don’t even live near my Christian fundamentalist family, and haven’t had the nerve yet to come out to them.  It’s a big decision, and I think Richard’s advice to proceed with care is great.  Being discreet and choosing who you reveal your non-belief to is a personal decision, and has nothing to do with lying.

    Fredericka’s trollish comments above were really insulting to me, though I guess I shouldn’t let them be because they’re so baseless.

    “For her to become a scheming, manipulative liar for financial gain is
    her loss, because it starts her plummeting down the moral slope, a
    descent difficult to stop.” 

    Nicole is clearly a thoughtful young woman, so this sort of assumption that she would plummet down a moral slope from telling a “lie” is ridiculous.  I’ve been “lying” to my parents for years by omission, and yes, it gnaws on my conscience!  I would love to have an honest relationship with them, but I know that what I’ll really get is a termination of our current (although strained) relationship.  It has nothing to do with being scheming or manipulative.  It has everything to do with knowing your family and knowing how they will react and wanting to save everyone a little pain and suffering.

  • Fredericka

    I hope this will be the last time anyone here associates ‘lying’ with Christianity and ‘truthfulness’ with atheism. You’ve left a paper trail, folks.

  • Pinoy_atheist

    Hi Nicole,
    I have read your letter and frankly I was touch. in all my years being a Pinoy Atheist, it never occurred to me that there are now many “Nicole” out there that is now facing such crisis.

    PATAS (Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society) is a very young group. We just created it only 6 months ago but now after this back-breaking six months of “Coming Out” in public we have muster enough strength and gathered enough resources to host the very first atheists/agnostics convention in South-East Asia. We even invited known atheists personality to come in the convention with the help of AAI. Now, you know that Filipino atheists and agnostics are being recognized in Europe and the US…thanks to the efforts of all the Filipino non-believers out there. I know this is not much, but we are all hoping that after this event, every faithless Filipino can walk proud with the “A” label.

  • John

    Speaking of the convention…I am proud to say that we will have Mr. Dan Barker and Jeremiah Carara to visit us all the way from America to speak to our convention. The convention is the first, not only in the Philippines but to all South-East Asia as well. We might also have Dave and Norm Allen Jr. in the convention as well.

    I would like to use this opportunity to thank all the people who made this all possible. First, to Miss Marissa Torres Langseth, her continued effort to support atheism and Humanism and her dreams. Without her, this didn’t become a reality. I also like to thank some other people (you know who you are) that even we are all oceans apart have encourage us and help us make this convention possible.

    So Nicole, you are not alone and Richard is right…we would like to reach you and other people like you who are facing this crisis against faith. We are not “keeping our self quiet” we are shouting to the world right know that Filipinos are also capable of rational thinking and critical thought. that Filipinos are getting tired of fantastic dogmas and doctrines, that we are tired living inside a fantasy land of gods, angels, demons, magics and miracles. We want to live in a real world @ Nicole and you are not amole.

    • John

      Excuse for the typo. It is “alone” not “amole.” Thanks again.

  • Tinx

    Hi Nicole! Ignore the troll please. It does sometimes happen that a family, no matter how much they might love you, have trouble accepting you as an atheist, mainly because of the negative connotation associated with it. People in general do not understand what it actually means.  But there’s no wrong in NOT LYING TO YOURSELF. Besides,  your atheism isn’t all of who you are, it’s simply a part of you.
    I’m an atheist. I also consider myself as a rationalist, and a secular humanist. My mother ignores my atheism most of the time, mainly because whenever she tries to engage me in a debate, she loses. :P My friends accept me for who I am, whatever religion they might believe in. In fact, my bestfriend is Bible Baptist, and we’ve been getting along fine for the past 8 years that we’ve known each other. My school guidance counselor asked me why I wrote “None” under “Religion” on my file, and we’ve had a long talk, after which she told me that it seems there’s no need to check on me regularly, since I seem to be doing good. Some of my classmates have tried to convert me back to Christianity, but merely quoting verses from a supposed ‘good book’ filled with atrocities won’t do them any good. My supervisor has asked me about it too, and I think I made him think about it a lot. Given time, he might even start on the road to atheism! And that’s just some of the stuff that I’ve been through with the people I interact with.I can’t really give you an answer to your problem, because it depends on the situation, and the kind of people within your circle. Just remember, religion or no religion, you’re NOT ALONE.So goodluck, and I hope by the time I’ve replied, you’d have figured out the solution to your troubles. :)

  • Tinx

    Hi Nicole! Ignore the troll please. It does sometimes happen that a family, no matter how much they might love you, have trouble accepting you as an atheist, mainly because of the negative connotation associated with it. People in general do not understand what it actually means.  But there’s no wrong in NOT LYING TO YOURSELF. Besides,  your atheism isn’t all of who you are, it’s simply a part of you.
    I’m an atheist. I also consider myself as a rationalist, and a secular humanist. My mother ignores my atheism most of the time, mainly because whenever she tries to engage me in a debate, she loses. :P My friends accept me for who I am, whatever religion they might believe in. In fact, my bestfriend is Bible Baptist, and we’ve been getting along fine for the past 8 years that we’ve known each other. My school guidance counselor asked me why I wrote “None” under “Religion” on my file, and we’ve had a long talk, after which she told me that it seems there’s no need to check on me regularly, since I seem to be doing good. Some of my classmates have tried to convert me back to Christianity, but merely quoting verses from a supposed ‘good book’ filled with atrocities won’t do them any good. My supervisor has asked me about it too, and I think I made him think about it a lot. Given time, he might even start on the road to atheism! And that’s just some of the stuff that I’ve been through with the people I interact with.I can’t really give you an answer to your problem, because it depends on the situation, and the kind of people within your circle. Just remember, religion or no religion, you’re NOT ALONE.So goodluck, and I hope by the time I’ve replied, you’d have figured out the solution to your troubles. :)


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