Atheism Doesn’t Merit An Intervention

I am in the middle of a riotous love affair with the television show Intervention. The affair happened quickly, mostly out of boredom and, out of the chronically bizarre array of options on Netflix streaming, it received a resounding “whatever… good enough” before hitting the “play” button. Reality shows are not usually my cup of tea, and I had my reservations about a reality series’ ability to not sensationalize an already difficult and too-often misunderstood reality of addiction, but I found myself unable to tear away from the absolutely absorbing human-ness of the stories.

What is both fascinating and eerie is the familiarity of the show — the casual nature of the camera operators, the mundane appearance of some of the participants. It could be anyone — a cousin, an old school teacher, a politician. It could be you. While I’m as much a fan of fluffy entertainment as the next, and have more than my fair share of guilty pleasures, I appreciate the questions that the show raises; perhaps, maybe, just a little, it’s made me a tiny bit more empathetic to struggles we demonize and attempt to make invisible.

Although I devoured several seasons of Intervention, I never considered that I might one day be the recipient of just such a conversation.

It’s not because I have any addictions. Not for methamphetamine or cocaine or alcohol or speed or marijuana or shopping or lying. Not for disorders like bulimia or anorexia or depression. Not for behavioral tendencies like violence or rage or deceit.

But I am an atheist, and a relatively recently-minted one at that. And for Christian households with a certain kind of doctrinal belief, an atheist child is crisis on the order of addiction — with imminent, dire consequences. And, unfortunately, you can’t get much more conspicuous than contributing to a public, self-identified atheist website. Really, I ought to have seen it coming.

All told, my personal “intervention” wasn’t nearly as emotionally wrought as many shown in said television show. There weren’t cameras or lights or sound techs. There wasn’t an “intervention specialist” or trained psychologist present. There was no threat of 90-day rehabilitation programs for my atheist-writing-addiction.

But there were some uncanny parallels. Because my family assumed I would only visit them under false pretenses, I was deliberately lied to, and despite a tight budget and precious little free time, my husband and I made the 3-hour long trip to meet with my folks at their request. I was bullied and bribed in an attempt to force me to stop writing publicly, and was so dumbfounded at the offer of “double what you make with the website” to stop writing that I couldn’t muster a cogent response. I was shamed and told I was being “disrespectful”; specifically, that it was particularly embarrassing for close Christian friends to discover my writing. I asked what some sort of compromise could be reached, where I could respect my folks’ beliefs while still doing what I want to do, and was shocked to confront glazed-over stares. Compromise was never even a possibility; it was a simple “you will stop doing X if you really respect my authority/beliefs/personal history/so on”.

When I inquired about the nature of the offense –- the specifics that had led to the need for an intervention in the first place –- I was met with dead air. The only offensive thing that had transpired was being an atheist in a very public forum, nothing more. I have encountered some tension and negativity at my newly-found godless identity (as well as many displays of grace, kindness, and good-natured curiosity), but the main issue is that PDAs (Public Displays of Atheism) are big no-nos. It’s improper to “fall away” from the church; it’s downright impudent to talk about it.

While it was painful to sit through that conversation in the first place, it was made even worse by the fact that it was from people very close to me, people whom I love very much. In most circumstances, a social sneak attack is pretty unorthodox; interventions frequently make the victims feel attacked, their trust violated, which is why interventions are reserved as last-ditch efforts in desperate situations. Most parents, I would think, would reserve interventions for their just-shy-of-a-quarter-century-old adult child for life-and-death situations, and not as a matter of course. Religious people, however, are willing to make exceptions.

There are lots of things that can potentially mess up priorities in family and friendships, but all too often religion rears its ugly head. Valuing human autonomy, intelligence, and communication gets utterly thrown out the window when someone’s eternal soul is on the line. That causes Christians to do very funny things sometimes, like stage interventions for totally-not-intervention-worthy causes instead of having an ongoing conversation. Or to preach and proselytize without the invitation to do so. Or disown or shun their own children if they don’t have “enough” of or the “right kind” of faith.

All of those activities carry a certain risk when it comes to social and interpersonal contexts; many of them require you to forego any kind of mutual respect that you might otherwise have had. All of them require that you make religious belief a higher priority than the relationships between human beings.

To my folks, I have an Amy Winehouse song with your name on it. I appreciate your (albeit confused) concern and good intentions, but know that the days of you being able to dictate what I can and cannot do without any regard for my own wishes is quite over. I mourned for a while and shed more than a few tears into more than a few pillows in frustration and anger. Now that the tear are gone, frustration and anger are fueling me.

You have no right to demand that your concern over image issues trumps my desires and talents. You have no right to unilaterally control what I do with my life based on unsubstantiated claims and perceived insult. You have no right to insist that I continue to respect you without reciprocating. You have no right to think that your religion ought to trump our relationship.

For my part, I will continue writing for this site in the foreseeable future, now that I have dragged myself out of the disappointment and lack of inspiration resulting from the intervention. I want people to hear my story, if they want, and I want to offer a measure of comfort and community to a few people who may be experiencing similar things. I will try to be as courteous as possible, but your beliefs will no longer operate as a protective shield that I am not allowed to cross. I will not pretend that Christianity stops good people from doing bad things, and sometimes things in which you participate.

I may not have needed it, but your intervention has made me a stronger person, more principled, more self-assured, and not a whit more religious. In that sense, I thank you for reminding me how naked the Emperor really is.

 

About amanda

Amanda is a pie-baking, music-listening, lindy-hopping, yoga-doing, power-tool-wielding feminist, atheist, and wife. She divides her time equally between cooking delicious things, trying to make nice with the house cat, and ranting about religion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chrisalgoo Chris Algoo

    Great article – I’m sorry your journey here was so hard. If it doesn’t dredge up painful memories, may I ask what was said at the intervention? How does that even work for atheism?

  • pamsfriend

    Wonderful!

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    Amanda,

    Being a first generation atheist is sometimes tough.  Should you hve kids, think of how fortunate they will be if they also happen to not believe in the supernatural.  It is a lot easier being a 2nd generation atheist.  At least your own immediate family would then have your back. 

    • http://twitter.com/floppyghost Eivind

       That helps a lot.  A friend of mine who had a secular coming-of-age celebration had a grandmother who attempted to blackmail her, threathening that she’d not come, nor talk to her again unless she choose the christian confirmation.  It’s a repulsive idea for a grandmother to use emotional blackmail to attempt forcing grandchildren into going along with her personal beliefs, but such is the moral of some christians.

      Luckily she had sane parents who refused to accept that kind of behaviour. They said they’re a family who believe in freedom of religion, and if the grandmother is really unable to accept this basic concept, she is no longer welcome to have any contact with the family at all.

  • Ax

    Thanks for sharing your story. Keeping doing what you love and know we have your back.

  • Matto the Hun

    Thanks Amanda, that was a great and compelling post. Much appreciated.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/VHWZKWW3F65OX53TTTO5RBEAZA BeadKnitter

    I am so sorry you had to go through something so horrible. My heart aches for you. I, for one, am glad you are going to keep posting.

  • Happyhollie

    Thank you for sharing your experience. My mother’s way of explaining religion was always, “Whatever you feel is right for you, is perfect for you.” I once thanked her for that, to which she replied, “If I had known that would make you comfortable becoming an atheist, I would have done things differently.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/wonderist Thaumas Themelios

      I laughed out loud, but only at the absurdity of it. Wow. It is so telling of the fear at the heart of theism.

    • Marco Conti

      And absurd it is. I think your mother said that to you to make herself feel better but she believed all along that you would stay within your family’s religion like 99% of the folks out there. 

      Surprise!

      I think you should explore this with your mother and have her rationalize her latest statement. Why did she tell you  to make up your own mind in the first place? Did she really think that everything would be OK as long as you believed in something? Well, you still believe in something, just not the something that involves complete fabrication and Myth. 

  • Justin Miyundees

    If this isn’t classic Kubler-Ross grief sequence, I don’t know what is.

    We are so frightened of death that at first we deny it – that’s the wheelhouse of religion.  Challenge those absurdities that bring such comfort and assurance and you get anger.  Now your family has reached bargaining.  Accordingly, if Kubler-Ross holds true, depression is your next milestone and finally acceptance.

    Bargaining.  Just classic.

    • Michael

      And with regards to her loss of religion, it sounds like her parents are still in the denial stage.

  • CelticWhisper

    Brilliant.

    I hope your family does read this.  I hope they feel every bit as uncomfortable as they made you feel.  I hope the stark reality of their impotence and inability to control you hits them full force, and I hope it stings.  Badly.  And most of all, I hope they’re reminded of what they failed to do here every time you post another article to this or any other freethought website.

    What was done to you is inexcusable, but your response is the best one that could ever be imagined.  Highest accolades for turning this around and putting it to work for you instead of against you.  You refused to be beaten and every budding freethinker could take a valuable lesson from you.  May you inspire many.

    To Amanda’s family: If you’re reading this, you should thank your lucky stars (but more importantly, thank Amanda and her godless compassion) that you have any relationship with her at all anymore.  Know that were I in her shoes, I’d have screamed at the top of my lungs, inches from your face, that you burned your last bridge and that you would never, EVER, see or hear from me again.  What you did to her is something that no loving family member should ever do.  I understand why you think it was necessary and I do not care – you were still wrong, both factually (there is no such thing as an immortal soul, so your reason was empty and invalid) and morally (this should require no explanation), and you ran a very real risk of permanently destroying your familial bond with her.  If you have the slightest bit of compassion or simple common sense, you will never try a stunt like this again.

    • Thegoodman

       If you parents scold you like a child and you react by screaming like that, do you really think you are an autonomous adult? That is the reaction of a child.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Leithiser/593361421 Chris Leithiser

        I have to agree that such a response, like revenge,  is best delivered cold.

      • CelticWhisper

        In the heat of the moment, after spending a lot of money on a strained budget to visit under false pretenses, being lied to and admonished and, as you said, scolded like a child?

        Yes.  Yes I would.

        I likely would not be proud of it afterward, mostly feeling like I let myself down for letting raw emotion get the better of me, but I daresay that if it were the immediate prelude to cutting off all contact with the religious antagonists, I may not necessarily care all that much either.  As far as they’d know, their actions earned them an explosive and perhaps even frightening response from someone their religious doctrines told them would just roll over and take what they had to give, and after that they’d have no opportunity to get the last word in.  In the heat of the moment, I’d likely want to repay hurt with hurt, shock with shock, and intimidation with intimidation. 

        If I saw something like this coming before it hit me, then my response would indeed be very different.  I’d be able to process the feelings of shock, anger and betrayal ahead of time and in private, and would have put together a couple of plans in advance to either deflect or invert the words of my meddling relatives.  In that scenario, you, Chris Leithiser, and Stev84 are right – the response would be a calculated one and I’d have factored in considerations like how to show, in an ongoing and very public fashion, just how badly they failed and do it with a smile on my face the whole time.  And yeah, then I’d be dangling the cutoff over their heads to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

        I know myself, though, and for as much as we all (rightly) value reason, emotion is a powerful thing.  I’m not perfect and, having had religious conflicts with relatives in the past, there’s enough existing bad blood that I’d be very hard-pressed to respond well to a surprise like this.  Hopefully Amanda and others would be more able to roll with the (below-the-belt) punches.

        • http://www.facebook.com/chriswarr78 Chris Warren

          You write beautifully. Remind me not to get into an argument with you.

          • CelticWhisper

             Thanks.

            P.S. Remember, don’t get into an argument with me.  :)

      • jdm8

        I think it is best to take the high ground.  It’s a shame that parents who are presumably 45 or older resort to manipulation, lies and coercion to change their adult child’s mind.

        • Bear Naff

          No, what’s best is whatever works to keep the activity from happening again.  The “high road” is only good if it works.  Otherwise you’re just failing to defend yourself.

          • jdm8

            Still, I’d say reducing yourself to a shouting match as CelticWhisper might have been tempted, is not defending oneself, it’s just a losing proposition.

            Suggestions?

            • http://www.facebook.com/chriswarr78 Chris Warren

              I too have had the experience of a ‘three hours from home’ family ambush. You tend to feel like a caged animal. Worse still when you have your wife and children in tow, and its Christmas. No-one on this earth has the immediate, raw and visceral power over someone, save for family. I would argue that in the case of an ambush, all bets are off. High road? There is no road, Neo.  

      • Isilzha

         Because NO adult EVER gets angry and yells???  It may not be the best response to that level of betrayal and bullying from people you love and respect and who you thought loved and respected you, but it’s a very understandable and human response.

      • http://www.facebook.com/rlyndallwemm Rosemary Lyndall-Wemm

         If parents behave like irresponsible selfish children themselves AND they use emotional blackmail and devious underhand tactics THEN they have engineered a situation where only an extremely stable person would not react emotionally.  The more intolerable the pressure put on someone the lower down the maturational scale of response they go.  Those who are tortured will eventually blubber uncontrollably like a child. 

        The result is testament to the emotional immaturity of her family compared to her own incrediable mental stability.  I would have screamed at them.  They were repulsive. 

    • Stev84

      The better course of action is to blackmail them with severing contact. Give them a year or so to come to terms with it. And if they still act like children after that time, make true on the threat

  • Xeon2000

    Isn’t one of the guiding principals of any intervention the point at which you bring up specific examples for how the person’s behavior has hurt you? If they have nothing to contribute there, then I fail to see how it counts as an intervention.

    It sounds more like immature people throwing a tantrum, and using “intervention” to lend it an air of legitimacy.

    • Kodie

       Right. This story is a good example of when an intervention crosses the line to “ganging up on”. Pretty much that is probably how the subject of an intervention feels anyway, but organizing a group of people who all think this is a good idea, and execute it before anyone says hang back and think about it… what did they think would happen? Furthermore, I wonder how often any interventions work, or how many might be performed for just this issue.

      I imagine it the other way – for example, some one of your friends has been caught up in a cult. If one person tries to reason with them and can’t get them to leave the cult, they’re going to want to raise the concern of all their friends and do whatever they can to isolate that person while everyone who cares confronts them and tries to snap them out of it. Is that the wrong way? I don’t really see why atheism would be off-limits, as long as there are people who feel like it is the wrong way to go and your soul is on the line. It has the legitimacy of a popular psychological technique, as opposed to the extreme priestly exorcism.

      I just wonder how successful it is. It must work for some things, I can see it working for addicts or cultists with low to moderate results in the same way AA “works” – it becomes the default “cure” for addiction with about the same effectiveness as not going to AA, except with the endorsement of many friends of Bill, and the courts can sentence you to meetings if it fits the nature of your crime. Even going to court can be considered an intervention, if your lifestyle is hazardous enough to get you arrested, you’ll be surrounded by people who want you to face up to it and do the right thing from here on out. And the positive consequences there are pretty low as well. I just see “interventions” as another pop psych technique that has caught on with the help of talk shows and other “reality” programming. People like to think there are easy solutions for difficult problems, and some people think an atheist in the family won’t join them in the hereafter – now, even though I don’t agree with those people, I can hardly think that some of them would consider atheism any different from other social or personal harmful behaviors that “merit” something like an intervention.

  • Thegoodman

    The only silver lining to my terrible relationship with my parents is that their comments in regard to my atheism are laughable. Shed a tear? They are lucky if I even stop smiling.

    I am sorry Amanda’s parent are so diluted. I am glad she is working through it.

  • Miss_Beara

    Thank you for sharing your story. It is sad that people even have to go through this stuff with their own family. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/otakumommy Sheila Tagavilla Davis

    Just wow :/

  • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

    Whenever I read about atheists coming out, and they become ostracized by their parents, I get very uncomfortable. Richard Wade has dealt with that particular issue many times here, and now Amanda has graciously shared her own painful story.

    I just realized WHY I get so uncomfortable. At the risk of coming across as a bit of a naive reductionist, it’s because my expectation is that parents should KNOW better. They should KNOW that this god thing is nothing more than mythful thinking immersed in a fuckton of hand-waving. They should KNOW that their children are infinitely more important than YHWH simply by virtue of being real. That they cling to a god and resent one of their children for NOT clinging tells me that the parents and the child have swapped roles. And that’s what makes me so uncomfortable – I had always seen parents, grown ups, as being the pillars of reason and caution and sensible thinking. Obviously I’m old enough to intellectually understand that the vast majority of us possess critical thinking faculties that are anemic at best, but to hear stories of children (whether adult or not) being made pariahs by their parents for make-believe reasons punches me squarely in the balls emotionally.

    Amanda, thank you for sharing. It was hard to read, to think of you going through what you did, but I for one appreciate your effort and courage. Also, you helped me realize what was going on in my own head.

    • The Other Weirdo

       Once, many years ago now, I was trying to determine if I wanted to a date this particular woman. She already had children, so I fully expected that I would be lower on the totem pole than them. What I didn’t expect was that I would be the third one down, after her children who came second after her God. I gave up at that point. Not something one can compete with.

  • kathy

    Beautifully written and I applaud you wholeheartedly.  I’m absolutely appalled that this was done to you — an ADULT! 

  • dorothy30

    Not sure if you are a fan of the Thinking Atheist, but check out his website and YouTube videos. I think you will find sympathy  and validation there, since he has had a similar experience. In particular, a couple of his videos “Nothing More to Talk About”  and “Social Suicide” will probably hit the mark.

  • Tina in Houston

    Great essay! You head the nail on the head with what you said about respect. My family stopped respecting me years ago (surprising for my liberalism) and I refuse to give respect back.  

  • Mule Breath

    Powerful.

  • Bob Becker

    The saddest thing in the post, I think, was the offer to “pay you double” if you’d stop, for it means apparently that they think you were doing it for the money, and so a better financial offer would take care of the matter.   Truly sad. 

  • http://arkanabar.blogspot.com/ Arkanabar

    amanda,
    suffice to say, you were treated very badly indeed.  I have no idea how your family convinces themselves that an intervention and shame-culture tactics (no, your actions ought not to significantly reflect on them, and yes, I do read Dr. Sanity, why do you ask?) actually contribute to YOUR authentic good is entirely beyond me.  Contributing to your authentic good is what “charity” is generally taken to mean, by people with at least a little bit of awareness of the culture that gave rise to the KJV, and charity is the foremost duty of any Christian to all.

    The Catholic Church does not agree that “Valuing human autonomy, intelligence, and communication gets utterly thrown out the window when someone’s eternal soul is on the line.”  You are the one who decides where your eternal soul goes.  Coercion cannot produce an authentic love of God, which is what leads to an eternity in His company (ie, heaven).  Claiming that anyone’s atheism is sufficient cause to cut them off from any sort of human affection is no way to proselytize.  Every statement you make regarding how your family has no right to treat you is absolutely correct.  CelticWhisper is absolutely correct in saying that it was something no loving family member should ever do, and that is what makes this behavior contrary to Christian faith.  I will be praying that your family will accept and display a bit more of God’s grace in dealing with you.

    • idontbelievethisforaminute

      1. Why try to defend the Catholic Church when they have shown how fallible they are over the past few years, notwithstanding the classic history of the church?

      2. Why tell an atheist you will pray to help with the situation?

      3. We have already demonstrated that the coercion was intended to prevent further damage to the family’s public perception and had nothing to do with love of God.

      4. Christians have been brain-washed to believe that all behaviors can be forgiven, but an atheist’s conscious essence will be tortured for a gazillion trillion billion quadrillion thousand hundred 20 years to the power of infinity times two.  With this sound logic in head, “any means to an end” is an understatement.  Why worry about behaviors that can be forgiven when you can save the immortal soul of your offspring by being a total jerk for a few hours?

  • jeffj900

    This is every bit as shocking as a family rejecting a child because they are gay. You are right to stand your ground; they need to love and accept you as you are, or they must deal with the possibility that their failings will drive you out of their lives. 

    It is shameful, disgusting, and foolish of them to think they can force or coerce you into believing, or pretending to believe, the primitive nonsense that befuddles their poor Christianity-dazed minds.Really, they are the ones who need the intervention for their addiction to supernatural wishful thinking.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/OffensivAtheist bismarket

    You know when your watching a horror movie & you find yourself tensing up because you know what’s coming? So now you know how it was for me reading this, i wanted to say some pretty colorful stuff but out of respect for you & the fact they are “Family” i’ll hold off on this one.Awkward to say the least & TOTALLY understandable that you were upset but good for you standing up to them & we can only hope that one day they come around!

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    You have no right to demand that your concern over image issues trumps my desires and talents. You have no right to unilaterally control what I do with my life based on unsubstantiated claims and perceived insult. You have no right to insist that I continue to respect you without reciprocating. You have no right to think that your religion ought to trump our relationship.

    Wonderfully said! 

    So often I feel I must advise young people, especially teens to patiently hold their tongues until they’re no longer vulnerable to the financial and emotional extortion that their families can inflict upon them, but in your case, being in just the right financial and emotional position, you have crafted an exemplary emancipation proclamation. You turned their last attempt to pull you back into a subservient child role into a powerful boost to your role as an assertive adult.  What happens to your relationship from here on depends mainly on their ability to mature and graduate from their authoritarian parental roles to being respectful adults with you.

    I hope they can eventually get there.

  • Kyle

    Take the money and continue writing under a nom de plume? Oh right – ethics. Dang it.

    • Justin Miyundees

      Oh, we atheists don’t have ethics.  Haven’t you heard?  

      I see where you’ve gone wrong.  Read your play book – you can’t be good without god so only godly people have ethics.  It’s common sense.

      Got it? 

      Ok then.

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    The irony is that the modern style of intervention evolved from deprogramming methods designed to extract victims from religious cults. If anybody needs an intervention (or ten), it’s your family.

  • Onamission5

    Thank you for writing this. I am half tempted to cc it to my own parents, giving credit where credit is due, natch.

  • Josh

    *applause

  • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

    Thank you for sharing this, Amanda.  Your parents were so far out of line that it would take the Hubble to spot where the line was supposed to be!  You handled it with amazing calm in this piece and I applaud you.

    Oh and for the record?  I read your post to my mom and she wanted me to tell you this:

    “I already have a daughter named Mandy that’s a writer and an atheist, but I’d be proud to have another one.  Keep doing what you’re doing, there’s a mom out there in the world that’s proud of you for it!”

    I guess that makes me a proud sister? *grin*  Take care, sweetie, and I look forward to more postings from you in the future!

  • Ken

    My deepest sympathies, but these parental smothering issues are always tough.  I didn’t speak to my mother for three years after she found out I was airing the family dirty laundry to a therapist.  Unfortunately, when dealing with people who are carrying out god’s orders, there are seldom amicable differences of opinion.  The fallout from this is not over, and they will never stop trying to convince you of your folly, and they will probably trample all over any boundaries you try to set because — well, you’re wrong and going to hell and they have to save you because they love you.   Now the evangelical argument that faith is a gift of god, so it’s not really your fault you don’t believe in him, really gets lost in all these discussions.  Obviously, your parents believe they are stronger than god.

  • Steven Wade

    Great post. You are so brave!

  • pRinzler

    Stay strong, Amanda.  Maybe they can find their way back to you (the real you, not the one they imagine).  If they can, be ready for them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wonderist Thaumas Themelios

    I am so sorry that happened to you, Amanda. That is a terrible way for them to handle their feelings, by putting you in that situation. I do hope that one day they will find a way to become more accepting of you and the fact that you lack belief in their god(s). I obviously can’t guarantee anything, but I have heard of many similar situations in the past (not all regarding atheism, just generally a rejection of a child or adult-child for some perceived flaw), and a large proportion of those have tended to improve over time. Perhaps not all the way to ‘okayness’, but at least finding a way to live with the differences without letting it get in the way of the permanent parent/child relationship.

    Keep going, Amanda! This blog post was a great way to break through the negativity of that situation. You’ve got solid ground to stand on. You are in the right: They do not have the right to make those demands. You *know* that, as your blog clearly demonstrates. You have done nothing wrong in being an outspoken atheist, and you have nothing to apologize for. And you are not alone. We fellow unapologetic atheists will stand behind you on this.

    Unfortunately, breaking free of the mental and emotional hooks of religion can be a very painful experience. But it is worth it, for freedom of thought, the freedom to really be who you really are. Congratulations to you on breaking free from religion, and kudos to you for being so brave as to be able to write about it publicly. You are doing a good thing. I don’t think I would be presumptuous to say that we all appreciate it immensely. I certainly appreciate it, anyway! :-) Thank you for doing what you do!

    Cheers!

  • http://twitter.com/Three_Star_Dave Dave Hill

    What’s awful about this is that they don’t even seem to have the excuse of wanting to save your ostensible immortal soul. Their primary concern seemed to be the shame it would bring on them for your being *publicly* atheist.

    In other words, it’s all about their reputation.  Which is about as non-Christ-like an attitude as one can think of.

    • Michael

      Ah, but by keeping her a secret they stop others following her great example.

  • http://www.lonestaronalark.com/ Louise

    You are amazing. Thank you for sharing your story; it means a lot to me.

  • Mark Eagleton

    Wow. I think this is the most moving thing I’ve read all year. You inspire.

  • Marco Conti

    Dear Amanda, I know how difficult it is to sever ties with one’s family. I did it a long time ago and while eventually things got mended, for several years my family was dead to me. 

    I know it is painful, but if your parents are even close to being normal human beings (and the jury is out on that given what I have read so far) your absence from their life will hurt so much more than theirs from your life that something eventually will break.

    There is nothing more painful than losing a child. And losing your child’s respect ranks right there too. 
    I don’t know if you have children or not, but with their behavior they have earned a ban from the child’s life a s well because you know that they will try to undermine your authority and undo your parenting at every turn. 

    People like them pretend to be respected, yet they are unable to show the same respect to others.  I often wonder if they ever stop and think about their values and how they justify them to themselves. 

    If they were my parents I would not accept any more invitation unless they are preceded by a heartfelt apology and a commitment to respect who you are from now on. If they cannot manage that, I am afraid that any kind of relationship you will ever have with them will have a stain that no amount of washing will clean up. 

  • HughInAz

    There’s your biological family, and then there’s your real family – the people who accept you as you are, who share important values with you, and if there are values they don’t share, at least they understand how important your values are to you. Ideally there is at least some overlap between the two families. If not, it’s not the end of the world – if you have been lucky enough to form the second type of family as you go through life.


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