When Families Argue Over Religion…

I’ve never had this sort of conversation with my parents… mostly because we don’t discuss religion anymore. I don’t know if silence is better than an ongoing, constantly-frustrating dialogue that at least has a chance of persuading them I might have a point about this whole religion thing, but it may be the best I can hope for:

(via The Thinking Atheist)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

    In the ten years I’ve been an atheist, I’ve been able to enlighten my mother about the kinds of problems many people find with Christianity; with religion; with theism. She’s come a long way in her understanding, and I’m proud of her. She even defends atheists when some of her Christian friends demonize them in discussion. But sometimes, even now, she remarks that she must have made a mistake when raising me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=801475081 Harald Haugan

    While not word perfect, this was pretty much the conversation I had with my mum last year…I’d told her before that I was atheist, but she put it down to a ‘phase’ then (and probably still does). It ended with her telling me I made her want to puke.

    Not exactly the thing you’d like to hear from your mum when you’re in your late thirties, and always wanted to make your mum proud.

    But it did remind me how I used to think while I was a believer. If I’d been in her shoes I would probably have felt the same way if she’d said this to me…

    It’s a tricky one. Not to put too fine a point on it…

  • shoe

    More or less the conversations I’ve had. My mother cut ties with me around Christmas last year. She was sick of my “atheist pretend bullshit”. The irony cuts so deep.

    • Jasper

      I really don’t get the “pretending” part. I don’t think my mother is pretending to be a Christian

      • Shoe

        It’s a belief that you are not saying that you believe the same as them only because they think you are trying to hurt their feelings.

        • onamission5

          This.
          25 years in and my parents still think I’m being an atheist AT them, personally, out of spite.

        • http://twitter.com/docslacker MD

          Oh so very true. My mother thought I didn’t want to get Confirmed to punish HER.

  • Joy Morris

    About two years ago I gently questioned my mother’s beliefs and found out (much to my chagrin) that she’s a diest. (I dunno but there has to be a point to all of this).
    I suppose at least I have a more firm idea than my parents’.

  • Terri Garrett

    I’ve learned how not to have this conversation because not only is it unproductive – it’s destructive. Throughout the call, the guy is letting his mother lead him, bait him. She’s playing the music and forcing him to dance. We don’t have to keep having these kinds of conversations with our families.

    The mom kept asking him questions, he responded. She pulled out emotional blackmail, he responded. We need to stop letting someone else control the conversation. Simply say, “How about this. Go ahead and ask me a question about my belief in god. One question. Then I’ll ask you a question. That is how ‘conversations’ work. And the only rule I have is that we keep our voices calm.”

    It’s simple and terribly effective. And we’ve gone from these futile emotional bombs to real communication.

  • SeekerLancer

    I never really had this conversation. my parents were annoyed but they were smart enough and liberal enough to get over it quickly. I’ve made my views as clear and logical as I can and they even agree with my letters to the local paper most of the time. I think religion is just a comfort for them and not a serious belief. I’m fortunate I guess.

  • anniewhoo

    I never had an issue with telling my parents I was an atheist,. I was raised Catholic, but my dad was always an atheist (even though my mom called it, “he doesn’t like church”) and my mom, later in life accepted that she’s an agnostic. While listening to this call, however, I did think of my own future. What if that was me and my child, but my child was telling me that she has become a Christian, Jew, Muslim, etc.? As a mom, it would be hard for me to swallow. I would be heartbroken if my little heathen decided she needed a mythological super power to get through life. Am I any different than this mom?

    • Shoe

      If you treat your child in the same way? No, then you are no different. As an atheist or agnostic, you should support your child as much as possible as long as it doesn’t pose any physical or financial danger for themselves or others. Philosophy can be argued, but you shouldn’t think less of them just because their opinion is different. Be kind, be loving. Hate only begets hate and pushes people apart. You owe your child better than that.

      • Drakk

        With respect, I disagree. A person who, without the defense that they were indoctrinated into it before they really were able to understand it – a person like that who later in life, willingly and in full understanding, throws their lot behind a vile institution like the catholic church? No, that decision does not deserve support, and deserves criticism.

  • http://www.facebook.com/karen.uncoolmom Cary Whitman

    Holy crap! Excuse me while I go call my parents and tell them how much I love and respect them, and how thankful I am that they raised me and my siblings with only a minimal amount of religion that they clearly never really believed in anyway. I am truly sorry for all of you who have had conversations like this, it must be heartbreaking. Take comfort in the fact that you, and more and more parents, are now raising their children with reason and logic instead of guilt, threats and forced belief in mythology. Someday your children will thank you, as I am about to go do right now.

    • nakedanthropologist

      This just made me feel better. Thanks :-)

  • Fighter

    Wow had this Conversation with the in laws times ten! On more than one occasion. They use the same bs tactics how they failed raising their daughter etc etc. I had to put rules in place as they kept braking them. No praying in my house, no teaching my kids anything religious(this is left to me and my wife to teach my 4 &6 year old) no taking kids to church if they sleep over and maybe a few more. These people turned into completely different people when they thought the kids were old enough to brainwash. So much more to tell but u get the hint. Best of luck everyone and don’t give in!!!

    • sane37

      I just tell my kids that its ok to pretend there’s a God – just remember that its pretend.

  • http://www.facebook.com/WarrenSenders Warren Senders

    Mercifully, I never had to go through this; I was raised by atheist scientists. But I know a lot of people who did.

  • http://tehbiter.tumblr.com/ Rich

    Luckily a conversation that I never really had with my parents. I was a non-believer at a young age. I was in the third or fourth grade when I told my parents that I didn’t believe in the bible. It was an absolute shock to my mother, but other than a few comments here and there and one instance while I was in the hospital, that was the end of it. At the time I didn’t know what an atheist was. I did a very through study of many religions before deciding that I was an atheist (at a much later time).

    Even the instance while I was in the hospital was hard to be mad at. I was near death, and my father and mother had a priest come in and bless me. It’s hard to be mad at them when I just had a bit of water splashed on me, and it made them feel better. I discussed it with my father after when I learned about it. I told him that I wasn’t mad, but if something like that were to happen in future; I would appreciate it if he would respect my beliefs. He apologized. Very civil.

  • spunqz

    Powerful video. Pretty much represents my life. It hurts so much knowing that my only option to live freely is to move to another place forever, start over, be completely alone. It’s hard to stay motivated sometimes. To all those who have cool parents, I envy you so much.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

      yup.

      thank your parents for loving and accepting you, if they do. it really sucks when they don’t. no one can fuck with your life like a hater parent. take it from those of us who know.

  • dats3

    Sounds a little similar to a phone call I had with my mom a few years ago, but she cried more. Then gave me religious books to read which I did read. Haven’t talked about it since. I told a friend about how upset my mom was and I wished I’d never discussed my lack of belief with her. It wasn’t my intention to hurt her. My friend said that Christians take it personally when someone doesn’t believe. Why would that be?, I asked. She said, and I believe this to be true, that when a Christian confronts a non-believer they see it as an attack on who they are as an individual and on everything they stand for and their perceived place in the universe.
    When Christian parents take it personally it’s all of the above but also they take it as an affront to their parenting. They’ve somehow failed and/or their child is rebelling. I’m a parent now and I’ve let my son explore all sorts of wacky things in his short 9 years. I can’t imagine treating him with anything but love and respect if he were to one day tell me that he became a Christian, Mormon or whatever. It’s his choice what to believe and can’t do anything but love him and set an example as best I can.
    Coming out as atheist, agnostic, etc., does pose some risk to your relationships. I generally keep it to myself because I fear i’ll lose those relationships. In some respects it almost not worth talking about but then again how can we not talk about it to the one’s we love? Why should we have the above conversation over and over again? I say this: Regardless of what you believe we are all worthy of respect and love. I care less about what someone believes in but how they treat others.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/EYZCDG3OAPGD3PDG7XD7SM7OAM ElizabethS

    I don’t use the word atheist with my family for this reason. I simply tell them I have problems with the Bible. We’ve discussed those problems and I was told that “you’ll come back to God, everyone always does”.
    So we just don’t talk about religion anymore. I have holiday gatherings at my house and they are secular; I don’t offer a prayer or bring up religion. So far everyone is keeping to the ‘code of silence’.

  • allein

    Haven’t bothered to tell my parents. Religion was a thing we did on Sundays when I was growing up, and then I just sort of fell away from it. I don’t pretend to be religious, my parents don’t question; it’s just not really something that comes up.

  • Alex Adieu

    I suppose I’m just less emotional than some people. When I left the church and people I had known for years acted like this, I hung up on them family or not. When they decide to have an ADULT conversation with me, then I won’t cut them out of my life. If my parents pulled this on me, they would be lucky to see me on their death bed (and I have had people steal from me before such as hundreds of dollars that I forgave and still maintained a relationship with once they paid me back). If my parents love their religion over me, they aren’t worthy of me and are NOT my parents. I say this as a 34 year old. If my own children (as adults) made these remarks to me I would cut them out of my life as well. I learned a long time ago to not tolerate this kind of behavior from people.

  • Alex Adieu

    One last thing, what I just typed is after a period of time, not the first argument. I actually avoid these kinds of conversations at all costs to avoid hurt feelings. Cutting people out for me (although I do it unapologetically once pushed to that point regardless of blood or water) is more or less a last resort. Once I do it, good look getting me to take it back as it has nothing to do with hard feelings towards you, simply the principles I live by. If you are so hateful towards me that you act like this, you are a danger to me because you can’t tell a difference between fantasy and reality. How do I know you won’t try to murder me or my family? You act as crazy as Westboro Baptist people, how else am I supposed to react? You are a danger to yourself and those around you so stay away from me. Still, last resort.


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