On anonymous blogging and “coming out” as an atheist

I hope my readers don’t think less of me for this, but there is a reason I blog anonymously. The truth is, I’m not out completely to all of my family members. And at the moment, that’s okay. For me, coming out as an atheist is a journey rather than an event.

Basically, I stopped talking to my parents about my spiritual journey some years ago, and they probably assume I am still frozen where I was: Christian, but not of their specific brand. For the time being, I let them assume that. Why?

I could just say that I don’t want my younger siblings to suffer negative repercussions, or that I’m afraid my parents might cut off my contact with them, or that I don’t want to disappoint my aging grandparents, or that I want my own children’s interactions with their grandparents to be pleasant, at least when they’re small and can’t understand. All of this is true, but it’s more than that.

The truth is, my parents still have the ability to cause me pain. I know that if they knew I didn’t believe in a God at all there would be tension and anger and emotional manipulation, and I’ve been through all that before (when I refused to accept my father’s authority) and I don’t want to go there again. Not yet. The truth is, I’m afraid I’m not strong enough. 

One thing you have to understand about how I was raised is the concept of “enmeshment.” What with homeschooling and the lack of being allowed to be a normal teenager and differentiate from the family, it’s easy for kids to become “enmeshed” unhealthily with their parents. When you spend the first several decades of your life trying to do everything possible to please your parents and be what they want, your parents end up with the ability to cause a lot of pain through their disapproval. Old thought patterns die hard.

I absolutely do plan to eventually come out as an atheist to my family, and for several reasons. First, the more atheists people know, the more bias against atheists will be challenged. I want to be part of this. Second, I hate feeling like I’m hiding things, and a load will be lifted from my shoulders when there are no more secrets. So someday, I will be out completely and fully. Just not yet.

At this point you may be wondering why I blog. Why risk it?

Sometimes I ask myself the same question.

When I first discovered No Longer Quivering, the stories I read there played a big role in helping me come to terms with the Quiverfull side of my upbringing. I suddenly realized that I was not alone in all that. I felt the need to share my own story to help others as I had been helped, so I wrote it up and had it posted there.

Writing my story was so therapeutic that I wanted to write more of what I’d experienced, and more of my thoughts about it. I began to blog shortly afterwards as a way to sort through these issues from my past. It served as a sort of therapy to me. I never dreamed so many people would read it and identify with it.

Over the months I have received emails quite frequently thanking me for blogging, thanking me for putting a voice to what so many have gone through, and telling me how much my writing has helped them heal. I love to think that I can give back, that my experiences can help others. And now, here at FtB, I have the opportunity to shed light on these movements and issues for a larger audience.

And so I keep on writing.

In the meantime, I’ve been seeing a counselor off and on, specifically looking for advice and tools for dealing with my relationship with my parents and for growing stronger emotionally. This has been extremely helpful. I’d recommend it for anyone in a similar situation.

As the month go by, I can feel myself growing stronger and feel my confidence rising. I’m learning how to set boundaries with my family, reminding myself that I can only control how I act, and focusing on living my life positively, with joy, purpose, and love. I feel so much more at peace about it all, and having a young family of my own helps too.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an entirely closeted atheist by any means. I am completely open about my lack of belief with my friends and where I live, and I occasionally attend Secular Student Alliance meetings and other atheist get-togethers. My husband and I are raising our children without religion, and I’ve also come out to several select relatives and found allies in the process.

It’s just that when you’ve been hurt enough, there comes a time you don’t want to be hurt any more. And at that point, it can sometimes be easier – and healthier – to leave some things unsaid, at least for a time. It’s not about hiding or selling out. It’s about protecting yourself, giving yourself room to grow, and knowing what you can handle.

And someday, when I’m ready, I’ll take the final step and come out completely.

Convention on the Rights of the Child: Articles 1-5
Biblical, It's Roman' title='Monogamy Isn't Biblical, It's Roman'>
Biblical, It's Roman' title='Monogamy Isn't Biblical, It's Roman'>Monogamy Isn't Biblical, It's Roman
Red Town, Blue Town
Stop Stressing Out and Give Your Kid a Snuggle
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • ‘Tis Himself, OM

    I understand your concerns about your family. Recently my atheism caused me to become estranged from my twin brother, who is a staunch Catholic.

    Religion is one of the strongest, if not the strongest, influences in many peoples’ lives. For you to essentially say “I don’t believe in many of the things you spent years teaching me and which you still believe wholeheartedly” could be seen as a rejection of your parents. Regardless of how gently you let your parents and other relatives know of your atheism, some of them will be hurt and some will try to hurt you back.

    Many atheists have faced this problem and found there’s no easy answer. I hope everything works out well for you.

  • otrame

    I am so lucky that most of my immediate family are either atheist or really laid back Christian. We have enough trouble because my parents raised 5 extremely liberal children and then became Republicans (not for social issues, but for economic–though honestly I’ve never understood how my very smart parents could be fooled by people like Reagan, but that’s a whole conversation).

    It must be incredibly difficult to come out in a family like yours, Libby Anne. I get the impression that you understand that your parents were honestly trying to do what is right for you, and though they have hurt you very badly, you still love them and wish you could have their approval.

    But unless they change, you can only get their approval by being dishonest by omission. It must be awful. I have no advice, because while I can image how I would feel, my parents’ love has never been conditional. Even though I am a silly liberal, they love me dearly.

    But I do think that you are going to have to bite the bullet and sooner than you think. Kids talk. Even though she doesn’t know or understand anything about the issue, your daughter is likely to out the hell out of you before too long, so you need to be prepared.

    All I can offer is verbal support. Not worth all that much, but you have it.

  • Rachel

    Oh, enmeshment. I know this problem well. My mother wants to speak at my wedding next month about how “you’re not truly [of our faith] unless you have grandchildren who are as well.” How do I tell her no, it’s unlikely they will be (at least not in the same way she was raised, with one atheist parent for sure and the other who will not subject her children to religious day school)? Not without breaking her heart — and not without her inflicting so much pain on me that it would be unbearable to exist in any kind of relationship with her.

  • http://homepages.inf.ed.ac.uk/s0930006 John

    Thank you for writing. I grew up sort of on the edge of hardcore homeschooled evangelical Christianity; I was not homeschooled, but a few of my childhood friends were, and I think my dad sometimes wishes he had continued on his plan to become a pastor instead of a doctor. His side of the family certainly participates in the non-homeschool portion of evangelical right-wing culture.

    I was more-or-less “outed” as an atheist in college when my cousin saw something I said to my friends on facebook and told my uncle. The family response has ranged from emotionally heavy (my dad was crying when he first talked to me about it) to ridiculous (that uncle bought me a year’s subscription to answers in genesis magazine).

    I still self-censor to a large extent on facebook and around my family, just hoping the issue is never brought up. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to be fully myself with my family, especially with my mom becoming more religious as she develops a likely-terminal combination of cancers. I share your desire to be more public and outspoken, but it would break my parents hearts when they are most vulnerable.

  • ScottInOH

    I hope my readers don’t think less of me for this…

    Goodness no, Libby Anne. You’re doing a lot more than most of us, and you are helping many, many people. That you are doing it at some risk to yourself–and I understand the concerns you are talking about–makes me more appreciative, not less.

    All best wishes,

  • DS

    “Total Honesty” is more than a little overrated. We all have parts of us that are more or less private depending on the company we’re in at the moment. If there is part of your life that is not your parents’ business, that’s up to you. At some point it might be helpful for some people in your family to know your whole story, but it’s your choice how much you want to share. If you do get outed when you’re not really ready , handle it however you need to.

  • dianne

    IMHO, you should tell the voices, internal or external, that are saying that you MUST be out to everyone to shove it and be out only with those that you feel comfortable being out to.

    • Elise

      I agree with Dianne–no one should should be ‘forced’ to reveal private information about themselves–and yes, people have a right to privacy, even if that means privacy from one’s parents. Your writing reveals yourself to be incredibly intelligent, and smart enough to make that decision on your own.

      Regarding the anonymity, you are in good company with George Eliot, Jane Austen, furries, CIA agents, reenactors, and even people who play RPG videogames. Maybe even Shakespeare, too.

      There has been a long tradition of controlling one’s own identity. Cool!

  • Don Fearn

    How sad for you.

    I was lucky; Mom and Dad were remarkably cool when I told them I was a nonbeliever . . . but I sort of expected that ’cause they had never been pushy about religion and they had a lot of friends with varying religious beliefs.

    Meanwhile, thanx for your blogging . . . .

  • Beck

    I hope my readers don’t think less of me…

    Never, Libby. I think most, if not all of us, have at least a few things we don’t share with our families!

    In my family, we are very good at putting on a happy face. (Keeping sweet, as a whole family, you might say.) Everyone knows that I am an atheist, (so far, the only one of either branch in living memory) but no one ever discusses it. I usually just sit there and bite my tongue while they pray or talk about church or the end times or what have you. If I actually tried to share my opinion, it’d end pretty quickly in tears, accusations, and shouting.

    So I guess the closet door is open, but everyone acts like it’s not. I act that way too, because like you said, the alternative is pain. We’re social animals, and people we love have a unique ability to cause us pain. There’s no shame in trying to avoid that pain when you can.

  • Jason Dick

    Makes sense to me, Libby! For a while, I was pretty surprised at some of the things you were saying, given your status with your family. So it makes perfect sense that this is a pseudonym! I fully support your decision. Though my family situation was far less abusive, I still remember how extremely difficult it was for me to actually confront my parents. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for you in your situation, especially given the other consequences that may erupt.

    All I can say is, I am very happy to be able to read your blog, and I do wish you the best with it all!

  • Glenn Davey

    Writing this sounds like you’re actually READY to come out. You’re about to do it. It comes across clear as a bell.

  • ArachneS

    Thank you for explaining your journey towards “coming out”.

    I have not come out to my very catholic parents yet either. My parents also enmeshed religion very deeply into the family as well. And they are not liberal, or laid-back catholics either. My mom once gave me a book on the Dresden Bombings in WW2 and told me that was what hell was like. They had priests over for dinner, we said the rosary every day. I was homeschooled, we had priests say mass in our home for 2 years even(basically like the fundies version of home church). Nowadays there are baptisms or first communions every other year.

    Unfortunately, in my situation,coming out is a ticking clock because of the expected Catholic rituals. My mom has already started alluding to first communion for my daughter who is only four! (1st communion usually happens around 2nd grade). I’m not looking forward to the day when I have to tell her she is mistaken.

    • Uly

      Might be best to get it over with. Give her her time to come to grips with the fact that it’s not happening rather than waiting for her to invite all the cousins and then disappointing the whole family.

  • http://Thinkingenigma.wordpress.com Thinkingenigma

    I’m right there with you. I had a fairly similar upbringing and coming out was hardly a pain free process. I too blog anonymously, not because of my family, but rather because of my school. I currently attend a Christian University in the buckle of the Bible Belt. I am out at school, but I don’t want to be perceived as a trouble maker. My goal with my blog (thinkingenigma.wordpress.com for those who are curious) is to provide a point of identification for those in my position, much like your blog, Leaving Eden, and No Longerr Quivering did for me. Thanks for doing what you do, and I hope everything works out with your family

  • Gordon

    You sound very brave to me. I remember how hard I found it to tell my Mom. Then it turned out that my niece had already told her, so she had gotten over the shock by the time she saw me and was great about it.

    She still expects me to read prayers at family funerals, which makes me feel like a massive hypocrite. But all the people listening know I am an atheist, so there’s that at least.

    I really enjoy reading your blog and seeing your perspective, so if you chose to be anonymous to post I’m fine with that so long as the posts keep coming!

  • http://sheilacrosby.com Sheila Crosby

    Lucky me, I had supportive parents. I knew they’d love me regardless, but sometimes they disapproved of what I did (not of me) and that hurt. You’d risk total rejection by being honest, and I don’t blame you one bit. I just wince at the thought of how uncomfortable it must be for you.

    But I think you know we’re here for you, whatever you chose to tell (or not tell) your parents.

  • Yukimi

    I wouldn’t begrudge you blogging anonymously even if you had come out to your family. You have every right to enjoy your privacy because it is your right and it’s also a protection so if some nutty person decides you’ve said something offensive, they have it harder to find out who you really are if they plan on doing something bad to you.

    I get that coming out as an atheist in public is very important and I’m an out atheist everywhere because here in Spain, I’m not getting any backlash) but I respect everyone who decides to stay anonymous because there can be bad consequences.

    My 0,02 cents.

  • grumpyoldfart

    The truth is, my parents still have the ability to cause me pain. I know that if they knew I didn’t believe in a God at all there would be tension and anger and emotional manipulation

    Christian love and tolerance (what a load of crap that is.)

  • http://www.shadesthatmatter.blogspot.com asmallcontempt

    You know, after coming out to my parents last year, I really wish that I hadn’t. My husband and I had been atheists for several months, and felt convicted, as it were, to be open and honest with our folks (whenever we visit, we attend church and/or related activities and it comes up in conversation often enough to be uncomfortable for us).

    Weirdly enough, religious indoctrination can sometimes obscure the face that your children value honesty more than going through the motions. My parents have attempted to bribe me to stop blogging (seriously, “we’ll pay you double to stop”), and have attempted to emotionally manipulate me over and over. The last time I visited home, I was faced with an intervention where my mother and father essentially attacked me for being public with my atheism to ANY degree…it “makes them look bad”. It’s exhausting, physically and emotionally, to be forced to run these gauntlets.

    As much as I want to have the kind of relationship where we could discuss our differences, I was far too idealistic about the extent of their indoctrination…I should have known that the “treason” I committed would trump any positives they could see (like the fact that their daughter wanted to have an open and honest dialogue, rather than be disingenuous).

    Don’t let ANYONE make you feel guilty for not coming out to your family. I wasn’t particularly realistic about what sort of results it might get me, and I’m paying for it now. It’s not particularly fun.

    • Jason Dick

      Ugh, no, not fun at all. Fortunately my experience hasn’t been nearly so bad. The only thing I might suggest is to make sure that they don’t enjoy the conversations where they make you feel like crap either. This might sound a little bad, but really, to my view, they are attacking you when they try to pressure you to stop talking. And when they attack you, well, there’s no reason whatsoever to be nice back. Being nice back just gives them license to do it again later.

      But if you actually succeed in making the experience uncomfortable for them as well, then the next time around they’re going to not want to bring it up nearly as much. Even if they believe they should, the more you make the experience uncomfortable, the more they’ll want to avoid it. This works especially well if your visits with them are otherwise enjoyable. They will unconsciously seek to increase the enjoyable parts of your communications and decrease the unenjoyable parts.

      Of course, if your visits and other communications increasingly become only about your atheism, well, your relationship is dead anyway. Which is really sad. But it’s their choice, not yours.

      Anyway, don’t know if this is what you’re doing already or not. I suggest it only because it seems the norm in most of these sorts of situations for people to be overly-nice (especially to parents!).

      • kisekileia

        I agree with this. This is basically the strategy I used to get my mom to be less horrible about my ADHD instead of constantly blaming me for the symptoms and insisting that they reflected a lack of care and consideration for family members. Years of firm boundary-setting have paid off enough that most of the time (although not always) she and I can interact civilly, and I can spend time with her without getting emotionally ripped to shreds. Some people respond best to operant conditioning: you make it so that when they behave badly, they get results they don’t like, and when they behave well, they get results they do like. They eventually start to behave better.

  • Chris

    I think you should listen to the people urging caution, Libby Anne. If you come out to your parents, it’s guaranteed not to go well – they’re too deeply into their religion. And the fact that you’re an atheist blogger? You might as well announce that you’re worshipping Satan and that he really isn’t that bad of a guy.

    I think you should only come out if you are prepared never to speak to your parents again. Maybe it won’t go that way, but it seems like, given what you’ve described, that that is not an unlikely outcome.

    • Jason Dick

      To this I would simply add that her coming out is probably going to have to happen at some point as long as Libby keeps her relationship with her parents. However, the more confident and sure of herself she is, the better that is going to be for her. So it’s probably best to put it off for as long as possible, and perhaps even better if her parents find out slowly by degrees, allowing them to sort of come to terms with the situation.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      I have children. They’re still very small right now, but my parents will eventually realize I’m not raising them religiously. One of my kids will eventually say something. However, given that I never bring up religious topics, ask for prayer, mention church, etc, I can only hope that by that time they will have guessed.

      I don’t think my parents would completely cut us off because I can’t see them being okay with losing all contact with their grandkids. The best I can hope for is carefully managing the relationship, setting boundaries, and agreeing that some things will just not be discussed. This all after a cooling off period, obviously.

      For the time being, growing more confident and stronger has been really good for me, and I have every reason to think this will continue. When they do find out I’d like to be at the point where it can’t hurt me deep down inside, where I can just say “this is how it is, this is my life, and you’re just going to have to deal with it” and leave it at that.

      • charlesbartley

        Dan Savage has been instrumental in my coming out atheist to my parents. I am not sure that his tactic will work on your parents, in part because the mass-produced-lack-of-attention-to-any-one-child aspect that you have written about. Basically, it is to turn the tables around on the ultimatum: You have one year to rant, rave, cry, insult me, ask me any question, whatever… and then you either get over yourself and accept me as your child who is now an adult (along with my significant others) or you lose me and access all of your grandchildren.

        I basically didn’t come out to my parents. They figured it out (the not going to church for 10 years was probably a big hint), but both sides pretended to ignore it for a while. It was a big white elephant in the room.

        I eventually heard my mom talking to a old high school friend on the phone one night when I was visiting their house. She had not seen this friend or talked to her for 30ish years, and wasn’t a born again Christian when they had known each other. She was telling this friend how she was so sad at how I was so angry with God, and how I had slipped into atheism, but how she thought that I would come back to the church when I got over being angry. It was so very passive aggressive. Here I was, sitting in the next room hearing her comments and mischaracterizations and she knew that I was hearing them.

        Despite her words, I don’t really get angry about much. I am really easy going and was the peace maker/negotiator in our house when I was little. I did get angry about that conversation. To calm down, I thought “what would Dan Savage do?” (a much more amusing line of thought than “what would Republican Jesus do?).

        She had never talked to me about any of this and was completely wrong about most of what she said. I confronted her right after that phone call and said that I was offended by what she had said, and that if she was going to talk to a practical stranger about something that was not their business, she had better respect me enough to talk to me about it first.

        By putting it this way, I reframed the conversation to where she was the moral transgressor. She wasn’t prepared for that and it made our eventual conversation possible. When it happened, my dad wouldn’t have any part of the discussion and my mom just cried a lot. We still can’t talk about anything real any more. I am not sure it accomplished much, other that to reestablish that I was an independent adult, and that they had to have respect for me in order to have a relationship with me.

        Ultimately, that is one of the things that bugs me ever so much about Christianity: many Christians get in this loop where belief is to be respected and loved, but people–even their own kids–aren’t. It is morally repugnant to me. I know that they are just modeling the behavior of their god–and that is one of my reasons for rejecting him.

        The other part of Savage’s advice that I heed is “coming out is not an event, it is a process.” I have had to come out so many times, in so many ways, to different groups. I have often been shocked and surprised at the reactions–even with friends that I thought were safe (liberal, non-religious coworkers). Us Blog People will be there for you, if and when, you start going through this. I know we aren’t the same as real people that can give you hugs and stuff, but we still care about you.

      • kisekileia

        charlesbartley, there are two problems with what you suggest:

        1) You have to be able to tolerate a full year of no-holds-barred aggression and manipulation from your family in order to do it, and
        2) You have to feel that it’s worth it to cut off contact with your family if they won’t behave decently after that.

        If I ever become an atheist, I think it’s unlikely either of those two things will be true for me.

      • charlesbartley

        1) You have to be able to tolerate a full year of no-holds-barred aggression and manipulation from your family in order to do it, and
        2) You have to feel that it’s worth it to cut off contact with your family if they won’t behave decently after that.

        Oh I agree with you. Your first point is a worst case that is almost guaranteed-to-occur if your parents have the beliefs that Libby Anne has described (and that I grew up in a less severe form of). They are going to react badly. They are going to give you the no-holds-barred aggression. As she has said, For them, it is a question of saving your child’s soul from eternal Hell, of missing eternity in heaven with them. Who wouldn’t do anything to stop that?

        For the most part, the questions is not *if* that happens, but who is controlling the situation, and if it will ever end. Parents are used to being the ones in control. Especially within the patriarchy system that she describes. Asserting your adulthood and rights for respect as a human in this way puts that attitude off-balance. From other posts, it is clear that Libby Anne fears the reverse of this: them cutting her off, and away from them and her siblings. It is the nuclear option. The questions are:
        1) who triggers it and why.
        2) and can compassion, communication, reason and family bonds can win out over theological conditioning.
        If you are certain that they are going to trigger the nuclear option, then I think it is wise to go there first and on your terms: to give them the chance to back down, by demonstrating that you are not the evil atheist. You are not a corruption. You are their adult child.

        If my family insisted on pushing their beliefs on me in an abusive form of “you are going to hell, you are immoral, you are evil and worship satan” (all things that I have heard from them and their churches towards atheists and non-believers) then what would I be missing out on by cutting off that contact? I certainly wouldn’t have desired that, but I won’t be abused. Fortunately, I didn’t even have to make the nuclear option explicit. My parents didn’t go there. They backed down into the cold war situation that I described. It is not ideal, but it lets us remain family and I love them like crazy (and always will).

        One more thing: I would put off going anywhere near this if I were in Libby’s shoes until the situation is forced. I think her reasons for not confronting them with her atheism are wise. She has my upmost respect.

      • seditiosus

        To add to charlesbartley and kisekileia’s dialogue: I once used the Nuclear Option on my mom. It brought her into line faster than I could have believed possible and was one of the best things I’ve ever done. But – and this is a big but – I’m an only child. If I’d had siblings mom would have cut her losses with me and disowned me. I had her over a barrel, but only because she has no other offspring. I knew when I threatened to disown her that her response might be “go ahead and do that, I don’t care”; I was prepared for that eventuality and wouldn’t have minded if it had happened. I was happy to deploy the Nuclear Option because either she would behave or we’d never see or speak to each other ever again, and both possible outcomes were entirely satisfactory to me. If you’re going to drop the bomb, you have to be 100% confident that you can deal with whatever the outcome turns out to be. It’s an option of last resort.

  • Ron403


    Libby Anne, the more I read your blog, the more I know FTB made the right decision when they brought you into their group. You offer wonderfully nuanced and warm insights into fundamentalism and, when you combine this with your real-time participation in the process of moving away from religion, you become the de-facto subject-matter-expert for anyone contemplating doing the same.

    I look forward to reading your future posts and sharing them with family and friends. Well done.

  • Timid Atheist

    Dear Libby Anne,

    Thank you for sharing this. I understand where you’re coming from. Even coming from a background where my mother disliked going to church because the people there guilt tripped her if she wasn’t constantly doing something for the church and my father pretty much declared loudly, on a regular basis, that God was a bastard of epic proportions, I still hesitate to say openly to my parents that I’m leaning toward Atheism. (Hence my moniker when replying on atheist blogs.)

    I’ve attempted to tell my father, to little avail. He’s gotten on in years now and is starting to mollify his beliefs in a way that gives him comfort. “Maybe there isn’t a god, but it’s possible there was a Jesus. And really, it can’t hurt to teach kids some moral grounding and the bible has lots of that.”

    The biggest reason I don’t come out, however, is because I’m a single mother living in a state that absolutely looks at religion as something required for children to have a happy, healthy, well-rounded home life. And I”m in the middle of a custody battle for my child. If it were to get out during this time that I’m an atheist, I know without a doubt it would be a strike against me. and I can’t risk that, not now. Perhaps that’s selfish, but truly, my daughter sees me rarely enough as it is and to make that happen even less because I don’t believe in God seems even more selfish on my part.

    Again, thank you for sharing and making it known what you struggle with. It makes me feel less alone.

    I wish you all the best with your life and your family as you move forward.

  • Gwynnyd

    My family was always Catholic; if you missed mass on Sunday or ate meat on Friday it was a horrible sin. My favorite uncle, substituting for a dead father, would not “walk me down the aisle” at my wedding because it was not a Catholic ceremony and he just could not bring himself to do that, though he did attend. When I left not just Catholicism but all religion as a teenager, my mother reluctantly respected my decision, though she did not understand nor agree with my reasons.

    Last week, my 90 year old mother, still sound in mind and body, drove over to my house and asked for a serious, sit down talk. She looked very hesitant and worried, and since she has survived one round with cancer, I wasn’t sure what to expect. She announced that she, after many years of doubt, is no longer a Catholic, wants nothing to do with any religion ever again as none of them have any validity that she can see, and would appreciate it if I would respect her wishes and give a “celebration of life” party for her when the time comes instead of a church-based funeral. I have no problem with that. I hope it is many years in the future.

    Go, mom!

    There’s always hope.

    • karla

      Your Mom is AWESOME! Kudos to her.

  • carlie

    I struggle with this too. One thing I’ve wondered is if it’s necessary at all in cases where there isn’t a lot of physical contact necessitating explanation (parents seeing that you’re not in church on Sunday, for example). My parents don’t know a lot of things about me: they don’t know everything about my political preferences, they don’t know my favorite flavor of ice cream, I’m certainly not going to tell them what celebrities I find the hottest; why then should I feel like I have to tell them I’m an atheist? It’s just another piece of personal information about me in a list of a lot of things they don’t know.

  • Sarah

    I’ve thought this several times over the last year or so since I found your blog (a feminist site I read linked to No Longer Quivering) and I just wanted to say that I wish I knew you in real life so I could give you a hug.

    • Libby Anne

      Thanks. :-)

  • bodie425

    What a heartfelt post. Keep on blogging and we’ll keep reading.
    When I came out to my parents that I was gay AND atheist, I did it with wild abandon not caring where the cards fell. (I was still living at home, 23 years old, and in the Air National Guard.) My parents knew about my “homosexual” feelings so that part was no big surprise but the Atheist part was most certainly a big change. The relief I felt was immeasurable though; I was elated even. But, my parents encouraged self-reliance and self-development in us children so I guess they took it in stride.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mvils leni

    Best wishes to you and your family, Libby Anne.

    I’ve been non-religious and an atheist for most of my life. I didn’t care about what the family thought because I didn’t have to. I knew we’d eventually work it out.

    But I really admire your tact and your careful approach. I wish I’d read this sooner. It probably would have helped me approach things with less of a ham-handed, “up yours” attitude. In retrospect I think I would have benefited from that influence :)

    Whatever you do and however you do it, I think you’ll be alright. You have a great head on your shoulders (sorry, I know it’s a cliche!), so you already have a leg-up on a lot of us.

    There is no one right way to do this, but you have the best tools any of us could ask for: A good heart, a good head, and a good support network. A little luck wouldn’t hurt, but I honestly don’t think you’ll need it :)

  • http://sidhe3141.blogspot.com sidhe3141

    Thankfully I never had to deal with this, having grown up in a rather tolerant home. And I didn’t agonize over it either; being eight at the time, I didn’t really realize there was anything to agonize over.

    Though it does occur to me that thirteen years later I still haven’t come out to my godparents.

  • http://aceofsevens.wordpress.com Ace of Sevens

    I think my parents know. However, talking to them would be a bog to-do. What bothers me is this leaves them free to come up with their own explanations. My little brother reports they think I quit going to church because an older boy was picking on me.

  • sc_0cb306b9000523039a5cbe016adfac5c

    Strictly speaking, you’re blogging pseudonymously, not anonymously.

  • estraven

    I have a close friend who has never been able to admit his lack of religious belief to his parents. He knows his mother would be devastated and worried about his soul and all that, so he has chosen not to be up front about it. I know it’s concern for her, not for himself, that keeps him silent about this. And I don’t blame him for it at all. She’s aging, and what would be the point of it at this juncture? I don’t respect him any the less for it. Two of his three siblings also rejected the religion they were all brought up in (quite fundamentalist)and I don’t believe any of them have admitted to this with their parents. It’s a tough choice to make, where the pain involved has to be taken into consideration. I don’t think I could hide it, but I place no blame on others who choose to stay in the closet with their nearest and dearest.

  • anotherone

    What a moving post, Libby Ann.

    At the risk of sounding all paranoid/stalkerish, I want to encourage you to be prepared in the event that your anonymity is lost before you’re ready for it to be. It’s just that I’ve known a handful of people who have blogged anonymously, and all of them–every single one–have been found out, or outed, or whatever you call it. The level of hurt and blowback was pretty hard for them to deal with. So just be sure to protect yourself, and to give yourself the kind of emotional space you need in the event it happens.

  • thegirlwhowantstotalk

    I feel the same, I was bought up as a strict Muslim and I don’t feel the same way as my parents do about religion. But I will never be able to tell them. I know I will never be strong enough to admit it. I blog anonymously too. I’m still living at home and want to move out but I can’t until I get married to a Muslim. But I don’t wand to do that so I’m sort of stuck. :(

  • thegirlwhowantstotalk


    Have a look at my blog if you want .. wordpress.com/thegirlwhowantstotalk