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How would your family react if you came out an atheist?

With love? Anger? Hate? Would they be supportive or try to convince you otherwise? 

I would love to know from various regions of the world. 

If a member of your family declared they were atheist, how would you react? If they started practicing another religion would that reaction differ? Have you already done so?

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6 replies »

  1. Good morning RE! That’s a lot of questions. I’ll try to be brief so as not to write a novel on your blog.

    To answer your question, I guess it would depend on which family you’re talking about: Now that I’m married and both my wife and I come from broken homes, I have no less than five distinct units that could be considered family. As far as faith is concerned, they all run the gamut — from my mother and sister on the dedicated Christian side, to my dad on the atheist side. I imagine some would express concern and I would definitely have a few conversations explaining my reasoning — but at the end of the day I’ve always felt loved and supported by my family, even when I left Christianity for awhile to pursue Eastern mysticism.

    If the more dedicated members of my family (wife, mom, sister) decided to “come out” as atheist, I imagine my reaction would be the same: I would want to talk to them and hear their reasoning, and I might bring up some points for them to think about. And, of course, I would pray for them. Ultimately, though, every one of us is responsible for our own decisions, what we do with the evidence we see — and all those who choose other than myself (even be they my own family), of course I would love and accept them regardless.

    Thanks for asking 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your detailed response. You provided the answer I love to hear, acceptance. I don’t mind that you would ask questions and ask what reasoning there was for a certain decision (not that is my place to dictate that!) as long as there was discussion, not exclusion.
      I hope you had a great weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks! I was actually a bit under the weather,unfortunately, but in the grand scheme I cannot complain 🙂

        Might I ask the same question of you? How would (or did) your family react if you changed your theological ideology? And how would you react if they did the same?

        Liked by 1 person

      • My family know I’m an atheist, and in the UK, as a white British person at least, it isn’t that special. Most people and families I know are atheist or at least not really religious. I’m thankful most people don’t raise an eyebrow 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. American Atheist here. I came out over a decade ago to Catholic family, and it took them years to accept it. First they dismissed it as a phase – mainly, I think, because I was in my early twenties at the time, and they made no secret of the fact that they didn’t take me seriously. Then I was told that as soon as life got hard, I’d be right back at the church. (Life got hard…I didn’t go back.) I even had one family member tell me that you can’t stop being Catholic once you’re baptized. (Um, watch me?)

    Thing is, they were never worried about my immortal soul or any of that nonsense. With my family, it was more about appearances. They were afraid of being judged by others and being gossiped about. When I had to go to masses, like during wedding and funerals, I was told to take communion so that people wouldn’t talk. I’m pretty sure a true Catholic would be appalled by that, but there they were, telling me to just fake it so that their Catholic community wouldn’t gossip about the atheist. I was like a shameful secret.

    They really flipped out when the found out my atheist husband and I don’t decorate for Christmas, don’t spend it with his family, don’t do anything – we sit around all day watching tv. It’s just a nice day off work. They called me names – heathen, Scrooge, Grinch, that kind of crap – they sent me boxes of Christmas ornaments, they harassed me every time we talked about why it’s so important that I decorate (something about tradition and the spirit of Christmas or some nonsense.) I never capitulated.

    At this point, I no longer care what my family thinks, because about 5 or 6 years ago, I saw a side to them that made me realize that these people may call themselves Christians, but they’re not Christians. (I mean, I already knew, but this underscored it.) I had agreed to spend Christmas with some family members, and one day when we were hanging around the house for most of the day, they had Christmas music on repeat, starting early in the morning. Well, it’s Christmas, and they’re into that, and they do it every year, so I wasn’t surprised. Then later that day, I found out that they had concocted this whole plan to play the music because they thought it would bother me. So all day, they kept making passive-aggressive comments, and I couldn’t figure out what their problem was. I was fine and having a good time, but they were getting kind of pissy with me. Finally, I came across an old Christmas/religious album I hadn’t heard in years that I like – just because I’m not a believer doesn’t mean I can’t like the music, or be nostalgic at times – so I was like, “Hey let’s play this!” And they were just DEFLATED. They were seriously upset. That’s when it came out that they had been taking venomous joy in the idea that I was going to be upset about the music, and I had basically ruined their day. They even copped to it – they actually told me I had “ruined our fun.” And I was just speechless – even typing it now, I’m like…wow. I really have no other words.

    I don’t care how they feel. It’s my life, and I’m going to live it my way, and they can do the same. When they do bring my atheism up, I simply say my beliefs or lack thereof are not up for discussion. They haven’t brought it up in a while, I think they’ve caught on that I’m not going to change, and I’m not going to argue. The undercurrent of disapproval is still there, and they’re still a tad bit passive-aggressive at times, but ever since they realized I’m not easily baited, things have been more cordial.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad to read that it doesn’t seem as intense as it did when you first ‘came out’. It is such a shame to read that families can be so aggressive to another family member if they differ in a belief. Just remember, you are not committing any wrongdoing! That is why I ask the question, because I know this is very common around the world.

      Like

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