This mail is for Everyone

This one is addressed to everyone on the site, so you know what to do, people!

My name is Brittany. I am 17 years old, and an atheist living in Pensacola, Florida.

Something happened just recently in my family that I really want to share with you as well as other atheist communities. I could really use some advice- this problem has been present for as long as I’ve come out as an atheist and seems to be deteriorating my family the longer I remain an atheist. I desperately need some feedback because, at this point, I don’t know what else I can do.

Last night I was watching television, and completely unannounced to me, the entire youth group of the church I used to attend came to my house- my little brother being the driving force. Needless to say, I was extremely nervous, but I knew what they were here for and decided to just push through it. Of course, it was about an hour of preaching directly to me under the watch of my previous Christian peers, Christian friends, and Christian family. I’m not going to try to be noble and say I fared well- I don’t think I’ve ever been shaken up so badly. I cannot ever accurately portray the guilt I felt when my brother, unable to speak and overcome with tears, confesses to me how much he loves me and looks up to me followed by how my entire family and the church thinks my life has become “dead” for not having Christianity the driving force of my existence.

What I find interesting is that I’ve just recently been able to cope with numerous anxiety problems I’ve been having due to leaving religion. Although I wouldn’t say it is post-religion PTSD, (although I’ve learned a lot from Rich Lyons and I do seem to exhibit the majority of symptoms) I’ve always known I have not necessarily been as stable since I’ve had to deal with these issues. This past year, I’ve finally been able to gain control of my anxiety. And although attacks can still be triggered by church services or late-night surprise preaching, I finally came to a point where I felt like I could be a normal kid again. Christianity is what made me “dead.”

I was really shaken and scared last night but I understood their good intentions. I simply responded after the hour “Thank for guys for coming. I think it’s very sweet that you’re concerned about me. But I’ve grown up in the same upbringing as all of you, and I’ve made my decision.” I was careful to be very polite, although there were a few choice words I would have liked to say. Regardless, there is no point in arguing with them.

Afterward, I was ranting to a good friend who is also an atheist and understands when I need to vent. He actually brought something up that I can hardly force myself to consider, but I fear it may be my only option. He suggested that I just tell my family I’m a Christian. Go along with it. Not to be neutral or even passive, but just to pretend I buy it. Maybe it’ll make things easier while I’m still living here. Although saying I’m a Christian may be easy enough (if we aren’t considering my flaming pride-fullness), pulling off such an act would require me to completely dive into my Christian life before I came out- events, services, friendships, worship, praying, and all. (At least while my family is looking.) Like I said earlier, the thought of this is enraging to me because I want so badly just to be myself and for that to be okay. But I’m afraid it will never be okay until I finally leave.

Of course I’d still be an atheist, but this idea has really been bothering me. I want to be proud of who I am as a non-believer, but if it is tearing my family apart, is it selfish for me to even acknowledge my beliefs? Part of me says they are selfish and playing the victims, but the other part of me is just exhausted of all this and wants to just breathe freely again. The only thing I’m truly worried about is if giving in to this idea and throwing my alter-ego into Christianity will once again trigger the anxiety issues I’ve worked so hard to overcome.

I understand this is a lot to process, but I really need some help.
Is it worth it to tell my family I’m an atheist if it only causes chaos? Should I just pretend I believe for their sake, and continue my life as an avid non-believer under-cover?

Please let me know what you think and feel free to have members give feedback- I want as many points of view as I can get.

Thanks so much for all you do,
Brittany

Here’s what burns me up: believers being so “bothered” by our non-belief they just can’t let it go. They force people like Britney to make these kinds of horribly¬†difficult¬†decisions. Sure, it comes from a “good place”, but so did the desire to burn witches to save their souls. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Sound familiar?

With that said, I’m the least qualified person to answer this. Honestly, I’ve never been in a situation similar to yours Brittany, so any suggestion I make is tainted by my perception as an ‘ivory tower’ non-believer. So please guys, can some of you with similar life stories give her some useful advice?

Comments (36)

  • avatar

    Riz S

    Never pretend to be someone your not.

    Life is always going to present challenges to overcome of one sort or another, and this is simply one of them. If something is trying or challenging, it doesn’t mean you roll over and play dead like a coward.

    It means you perseverance with your head held high, to be the person you want to be and know you are.

    Pretending is for little children, and as you already told your religious peer group: You’ve grown up, and you’ve made your decision.

  • avatar

    Riz S

    you’re* … I cringe at my own spelling mistake.

  • avatar

    darkpaw

    As Riz S said, don’t pretend to be someone you’re not.

    There is no point in trying to please your family by lying to them. They should be grown up enough to understand that you have made a decision, and even though that decision conflicts with their beliefs, it was your decision to make.

    You will be a better person by being yourself.

  • avatar

    Niveker14

    Being 17 means you’ll only have to stick it out another year, at which point you can leave your parents house (and probably your town) and be independant. I know a lot of people don’t like to hear it, but sometimes you just need to keep your distance from your family, at least for a little while. I know moving out and being on my own improved my relationship with my mom tenfold. To make sure you’re able to move out, I’d recommend keeping up with your schoolwork, applying for college scholarships, maybe even getting a job if you don’t have one already, to save up some cash.

    In the meantime I would absolutely say to not lie about who you are. It just sets a bad precedent. It might be easier in the short time, but in my opinion it won’t work for you longterm for a number of reasons. As a rule of thumb I recommend always being true to yourself. Yes you being out as an atheist is causing your family chaos, but that’s not your fault, its theirs. And its not your responsibility to change yourself on that level to conform to their ideals. I’ve run into similar problems with my family, though I’ve never had a whole youth group show up at my door to preach to me, that must have been dreadful, but I’ve found that honesty is always the best policy. (Not a hard, fast rule mind you, just a policy).

    My mom’s friend told me not too long ago how she feels sorry for me because I don’t have god in my life, yadda yadda, I said not to worry, because I feel sorry for her too. I was being a bit snarky for sure, but I got me point across.

    Just remember to always stay true to yourself, and don’t try to fit into the box that others want to put you in, especially when you’ve got reality on your side ;) Try to stick it out for another year, get into a good college (or just any college really) and move out, preferrably far away, and be prepared to support yourself just in case. The time apart and independance will do your family good in the long run, or at least it’ll do you good in the long run.

  • avatar

    Joe Dixon

    I don’t know. She’s 17. My feeling is if it’s safer for you to stay in the atheist closet then do it. Once you’re out on your own you can tell everyone to piss off.

    She’d hardly be the first teenager to lie to her family or community so she can get some peace. I mean, it’s easy to talk about being yourself when you’re not the one trapped at home and dependent on other people. However when you are, sometimes you’ve got bite the bullet and swallow a lot of BS. It’s sad. It’s not fair. It’s outrageous. But then that’s life.

  • avatar

    Vincent Barbosa

    I was a Jehovah’s Witness all my life until I turned 21. I became an atheist by default and naturally, I received the talks, the support groups, the lectures, and of course the bashing from everyone including my family. It was hard to deal with and sometimes I felt like killing myself. But what stopped me is the value my life now took. Being aware of your own mortality entails that your life is more precious to you than ever before.

    The Witnesses were not being mean to me, they just wanted to save me from becoming a “lost sheep”. And it’s okay. They didn’t understand what I went through and it’s not my responsibility to explain it to them. I found contentment in reading my books. Philosophy, Religion, Science, and especially joining networks on Myspace (which was much more famous when I was 21) or Facebook.

    Podcasts like this one helped me put things into perspective. Realizing that my position, or view, about the world was not rare. Many people shared my experience and in a weird way it comforted me.

    I suggest that you compare the two options carefully. Sometimes it’s important to consider the value of your life and the happiness that fills it. See which one of these decisions carries more fulfillment for you and everyone else. Don’t forget that your parents really love you (that’s the only way they know how at the moment). But deep down, they love you and support your every decision. It doesn’t take a left-wing liberal parent to accept the changes in their children’s life decisions. It’s in their DNA to love their children, you can count on it.

    Above all things, stay true to yourself. A life filled with lies isn’t one of honesty and you’ll only be emulating the lifestyle of the average religious person who hasn’t come out of the closet yet. Your happiness is the most important thing right now, and instead of focusing on the despair of the situation, focus on the future outcome when this whole nightmare will end and you can finally walk around town as the friendly village atheist.

    In a way you’ll be setting an example for the community as a secular thinker. Your highest ideas should be honesty above all things.

    Think hard about this. Your answer is more obvious than you think. Remembering a saying my psychology professor and life mentor taught me, he said, “Society grands freedom to the brave and shelters those who succumb to the pack.”

    I hope this helped.

    ps. by the way, I’m also from Florida. Miami! :D

  • avatar

    Ryan Boddy

    Brittany,

    Stand strong and don’t let anybody, even your family, try to bring you down. You are close to getting out on your own so hold on. Things will get way better after you are out of that situation, you will find like minded people and best of all, you can choose who you want to spend your time with. Now for the bad news. Don’t allow those types of ambushes and especially do not fall for their emotional manipulatuion. This is a good test of the quality of their character, if they continue to treat you this way, family or not, they are not worthy of your time.

  • avatar

    Jordan Kotzebue

    My explanation to my family was something along these lines.

    “The best I can do is keep an open mind. I would ask that you please do the same. My path is my own and no one can take it for me. I’m confident I’ll find my way. If you can’t respect anything else, please respect that.”

    I didn’t even mention religion, faith, god or atheism. And like NIVEKER14 said, you’ll be out of the house soon. That’s closer then you think.

  • avatar

    Tom Farrell

    Hi Brittany,

    I’d like to give you advice in three parts: what to do, what I would have done in your shoes, and how to think about it.

    WHAT TO DO:
    Do what you feel you have to do to survive. That sounds a bit basic, but really, it’s what you have to do when you’re a kid.

    If you believe that you’re incapable of withstanding the emotional onslaught your family is dumping on you, and you believe that lying will be successful in getting them to leave you alone and that you can successfully do it for a year until you can move out, and you’re prepared to deal with the consequences when you eventually stop lying… well, go ahead. You aren’t the one putting ridiculous pressure on a kid, so you wouldn’t be morally wrong to do what you have to do to survive. But do recognize that it will just make your family all the angrier and all the less trusting down the road when you drop the act.

    On the other hand, if you feel that lying and the feelings of hypocrisy that goes with it would be more stressful for you to cope with, or if you aren’t prepared to deal with the anger you’ll face when you drop the act, don’t even consider lying about it. Deal with each day as it comes, try to be reasonable, but stand up for yourself. The situation you describe with a crowd of people ganging up on you to pressure you into going to church is not acceptable, it’s abuse, plain and simple. You should not have to be treated like that in your own home. I do hope you understand the seriousness of the wrong that was done to you.

    If you believe that the pressure your family is applying to you at home is too much for you to cope with regardless of your action, go to a principal or guidance counselor or nurse or teacher you trust at your school and tell them you have major family problems and it is becoming emotionally abusive and you need help. They’re supposed to take that very seriously. Keep trying people until you get help.

    WHAT I WOULD DO:
    Please understand that what I would do is not necessarily right for you to do. You know better than me what is going on in your family, you know better than me what you personally are capable of putting up with, you know better than me how strong your personality is. So that you understand where I’m coming from, I’m not only an atheist but also gay, so when I came out of the closet at 18, I recognized that my being gay might drive every friend and family member out of my life (this was over 20 years ago and the world was less tolerant) and I was prepared to live with that for the chance to live an open and honest life instead of living in the closet. But not everyone can live with that, and I wouldn’t judge someone who isn’t prepared to take big risks.

    If I were in the situation you described, that a brother brought together a crowd of people to gang up on me and try to pressure me into religion I didn’t want to be a part of, I would begin by walking out. I’d go into another room and lock the door and call a friend to tell them what’s going on and ask them to remain on the phone so they could hear and call the police in case I was harmed in some way – because I do not trust crowds of people who invade my home with an agenda of forcing me into something I don’t want.

    If anyone tried to physically stop me from departing to my own room, I would scream as loudly and horribly as I could, and fight tooth and nail until they let go. Again, I would take it very seriously if a crowd of people invaded my home to try to make me do something I didn’t want to.

    Next, as soon as the crowd had left, I would confront my parents about having allowed such abuse to happen to me in my own home, and make plain that this was very frightening and must not be permitted to happen again or I would be forced to involve authorities for fear of my safety.

    I would then make plain to the sibling that he’d completely lost my trust and that it would take him a very long time to earn a little of it back, because having a crowd of people in my home to try to make me go to church is just beyond the pale, and because he had made what could have been a simple difference of belief (he believes there’s a god, I don’t) into an angry confrontation in which he made plain he is *not on my side*. Why should I trust or love someone who makes plain they’re not on my side, that their love is conditional on my living my life the way they want me to instead of the way I want to?

    And then I’d start making plans to get away from them when I turned 18. Which is, in fact, what I did with my family. I made sure to pick a college 350 miles away.

    HOW TO THINK ABOUT IT:
    It really bothered me when you asked “I want to be proud of who I am as a non-believer, but if it is tearing my family apart, is it selfish for me to even acknowledge my beliefs?”

    Your being a non-believer isn’t tearing your family apart. Their bigotry and inability to cope with the idea that you can think for yourself instead of blindly thinking what they tell you to is what’s tearing your family apart. Remember at all times: the problem is them, not you. You should be able to tell the truth about your beliefs and reasonably expect that while your family may disagree with you and try to convince you to change your mind, they shouldn’t be ganging up on you and applying enormous emotional pressure to the point that you’re stressed out about it. The wrongdoing in the situation you describe is entirely theirs, and you must not allow them to make you feel guilty about it. Get angry, not guilty. What you describe they are doing to you is immoral.

    You’ll be 18 soon. I know it feels like forever, but it isn’t. Then you can leave and go to college and be your own person. Do what you need to do to survive that year, but don’t let them convince you that you’ve done anything wrong. You haven’t.

  • avatar

    Edward Kryslak

    I would suggest she tell her family how it is, that they are using Christ for a crutch and that as people grow they get rid of the nonsense that they were brought up to believe. First the imaginary friend, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and then finally the most evil of the lot the Christian God.

  • avatar

    Phil Hardy

    Good advice so far. I’d also recommend mailing Ask Richard on the Friendly Atheist blog.

  • avatar

    Nathan

    I didn’t lose my religion until after I moved away from home, so I can’t speak from direct experience, but I do come from a religious family.

    In my experience, when someone tries to convince me that I’m wrong or convert me, I like to drop some knowledge on them or ask them questions that they can’t answer. I try not to be too combative unless they are being rude to me. Educate yourself on the Bible and science, and try to take emotion out of the discussion. Most Christians won’t even want to discuss religion with you anymore, and you’ll probably even plant a few seeds of doubt along the way.

  • avatar

    Michelle

    Brittany,

    I’ve been (and I still am with my father – which is funny: he’s a non-practitioner catholic and he has tantruns over my atheism while my mother who’s a new-born christian doesn’t mind att all about me being an atheist, but I digress) in a similar situation.

    In this situation the best thing to do is talk to your family, tell them you’re an atheist, you’re fine with that and nothing they do will change your mind/who you are. Tell them you understand why they are worried, but there’s nothing for them to fear. Tell them they can ask you anything they want about atheism and you answer them, making them see atheism is not that “seven head demon” they think it is. The reason why they think you’re in danger for being an atheist is because they don’t know anyhting about atheism; they think you’re denying their god by not believing in him and therefore you’re going to be punished in hell. We both know that’s not true.

    I’m sorry to tell you this, but your family is appealing to emotional blackmail in order to make you feel bad and come back to church. They are being selfish by not respecting you and your wishes. If they really love you, they should want you to be happy, no matter what choices you made in the “religion department”.

    It’s not worthy to stop being who you are; it’s not worthy to come back to the anxiety issues you had when you were a christian to please them. You would be supressing who you are and that’s not good.

    I really hope it all goes well for you :)

  • avatar

    Tim

    The other option is to go to war, only if you’re sure your family won’t disown you though…

  • avatar

    Bryan Elliott

    If you have to ask a question like, “is it selfish for me to even acknowledge my beliefs?”, you don’t really understand selfishness.

    Of course it is selfish, almost by definition. Acknowledging your beliefs is, by its very definition, focusing on your own interests. The implication of your question is that selfishness is inherently “bad” – but that is simply not the case.

    Selfishness is an attribute of motivation, and while many self-interested goals are misaligned with group goals, many other self-interested goals are aligned just fine – or neutral to – group goals.

    So that’s really not the question to ask.

    You want to weigh the personal benefit and familial harm contextually inherent to honesty about your beliefs against the personal harm and perceived familial benefit to lying.

    Note the key word there: perceived. I think that’s where this question is easily answered. See, you perceive that claiming yourself a Christian would put things back to normal – but I think that cat won’t stay in the bag. Your relationship with your family needs to be based on trust; the second they discover you are lying to shut them up, you’ve done two things: illustrated they can’t trust you, and validated that atheism has made you a liar – never mind the lying is reactionary to their bad behavior.

    No, I think it’s best to stay honest. You’re already out, and now you have a cadre of individuals that now know a personable, pleasant atheist. They have a human face for the inhuman label. That’s a tough hill to climb, and lying to your family and peers will only tumble you back down to its base.

  • avatar

    Gordon

    I’m going to suggest the Blasphemy Challenge.

    If they come to preach at you, ask them politely to stop. If they refuse say “I deny the Holy Spirit” look at them and add “and Jesus said that could never be forgiven, now stop wasting your time and mine.”

    If they still refuse to stop put some headphones in, or leave the room.

  • avatar

    Gordon

    It is perfectly ok to say “I feel much better without religion”

  • avatar

    Ben Agag

    I think you need to tell your family how much they hurt you by putting you into that situation. They may say something like, “You are hurting us by not believing,” and try to change the focus but try to stick to the point.

    Say that all they achieved was making you even firmer in your belief (if this is so) that religion makes good people do evil things.

    Hang in there, many of us have been in similar situations and it does get better.

  • avatar

    GA_Wolf

    Try your best to get a strong support system in place, likely consisting of numerous friends that understand and are accepting (or share your beliefs). Regardless of whether you decide to fake it, or be out, you’re going to need real friends and real support. There will be those days when you’ll need to have a real human to lean on and vent to or you’ll feel that you may explode.

  • avatar

    blue2redlight

    While some will say to stand tall and be proud of your unbelief in many cases it’s not a realistic option. Being as young a you are and dependant on your family for your well-being, it may not be advisable to stand firm in their faces.

    There is nothing wrong with playing along with the bible thumpers and biding your time until you can escape from under their thumbs. If you want, you can say one thing and think another in order to protect yourself. My recommendation is to throw yourself into your school work and (as was commented above) apply for scholarships to advance your academics.

    Just continue to remember that there is a whole community of like minded people outside of your parents and THEIR friends.

    As the great Dan Savage says when you get older and become independent ‘It gets better’. He started a project (www.itgetsbetterproject.org)to give hope to young LGBT kids who’re having a rough time growing up but the principle remains the same in this case. You’re not alone.

  • avatar

    Gordon

    There is no way that going back to living a lie will not bring back that anxiety. The only viable path is to make it clear to your family that you are happier without religion, that you still love them, and that their behaviour is incredibly inappropriate.

    You shouldn’t have to listen to prostelytising or emotional manioulations! Tell your brother that it is more like waking up than dying!

  • avatar

    Gordon

    “I love you, I look up to you, I want you to change”

  • avatar

    Apollo

    As long as you are not in any physical danger or under threat of other severe sanctions you should be ok to discuss this with your parents. I would say that if you go the route of undercover atheist you are going to be under some serious scrutiny from your family and church if you have a “sudden conversion” back to the fold. Expect them to try and trip you up to test your faith is real.

    You said you had an atheist friend, do you have others? Getting with a secular peer group would go a long way to supporting you in times of emotional need. (see below for some links)

    You have to also consider that your relationship with your parents and brother may never recover. But, this does not mean you can not lead a full and happy life.

    I moved just far enough away from my parents that it’s not convenient enough for them to drop by (a 3 hour car journey each way does wonders to put them off) though our differences were not based on religion nor sexuality. I have a number of friends now who are closer to me than my family ever were. You can always find like minded people.

    Looks like you have a couple of groups in your area

    http://www.meetup.com/Gulf-Coast-Freethinkers/

    http://www.atheistnexus.org/group/pensacola

    You may want to network at the larger event and find out more about what is going on in your local secular community.

    Oh and welcome to the wider global atheist community :D

  • avatar

    Sarah

    Brittany,

    I come from a similarly overbearing religious family who did not take it well when I announced my atheism. To this day, they still do not fully accept my decision. However, I have stood my ground and refused to lie about being a Christian or attend church when it makes me uncomfortable, and over the years the pressure has lessened. I still keep in contact with them, though certainly at a distance and on my own terms so that I am free to shut them down when the preaching, wheedling, or guilt trips begin. If you were still in the Christian closet, I would advise you to stay there until you left, but since you have already made them aware of your beliefs, you now need to stand firm and refuse to change.

    Please understand that religion is a “safety blanket” for most people, who need it to feel like there is a meaning to their life and someone is watching out for them. The fact that you don’t need this safety blanket intimidates and threatens your family, which is unfortunate. Coming from a similar background, I can tell you that by staying strong, they will eventually begin to get over it and will most likely still love you despite your disparate beliefs. My family and I now have an agreement that I will attend church with them when I visit their home, and none of us attend church when they visit mine. You too can reach an understanding with your parents if you make them see that you are an adult who thinks independently.

    Do not give up your self-esteem or your value system for your family. They are not willing to give up theirs for you. I wish you all the best.

  • avatar

    Gordon

    I’ve often challenged theists who preach on the internet with a question: “How could you be happy in heaven if even a single person you loved was in Hell?” – to me it is a huge flaw in the heart of the whole afterlife theology.

    Usually they waffle about how the person would deserve to be in Hell and it that the person had the choice to acept god. It always comes off as fake. They are talking abou a “person” rather than someone they love.

    At least I can give Brittany’s family credit on this one. If they really believe non-christians go to hell they also seem to really be worrying that they canot enjoy Heaven without her.

    This seems to me to be the genuine consequence of [a]believing in heaven and hell, and [b]loving one or more other human beings. The afterlife, that is meant to be a security blanket, is more like a sword of Damocles.

    I’ll bet that the lifting of worries like “what if that person doesn’t get into heaven with me” are part of why Brittany’s anxiety is lifting. I know that I’ve lost my fear of death since I woke up from religion.

  • avatar

    Vinny O

    Brittany, I am really sorry that this is happening to you right now. In my experience, I have not been accosted by my past after leaving Christianity. But, then again, that was Catholicism and they are mostly a very lazy religious group as far as keeping people indoctrinated (something I am sure that Emperor Palpatine, I mean Ratzinger, wouldn’t be pleased with).
    My own experience aside, there is no easy answer here. I could tell you to stick by your convictions, but doing so might seem so difficult now. Obviously by using your brother they were appealing to your emotions in order to get you back– I am proud that you could be so firm in your assertions, even in that climate.
    I am sorry that I don’t have an answer for you, but hopefully just knowing that you are both right and not alone will keep your mind from turning to the dark side (internally). Then again, if you go back to looking like a Christian, you could work on the inside to bring it down. It is incredible what a love of science can do to bring people around.
    Good luck, Brittany.

  • avatar

    Harold Wasserman

    I would tell these bible-thumpers I would be happy to join them if they can answer two questions:

    1) Prove to a scientific accuracy; e.g. repeatable testing, that God exists.

    2) Prove, also with scientific accuracy that Jesus Christ ever existed.

    That is way religion requires faith since all their tenants are unprovable.

  • avatar

    Harold Wasserman

    I would tell these bible-thumpers I would be happy to join them if they can answer two questions:

    1) Prove to a scientific accuracy; e.g. repeatable testing, that God exists.

    2) Prove, also with scientific accuracy that Jesus Christ ever existed.

    That is why religion requires faith since all their tenants are unprovable.

  • avatar

    Gordon

    Maybe say to them more or less what you’ve said here “do you want me to pretend to be christian to make you feel better?”

  • avatar

    Harley Miller

    When I was going through these issues, I was on deployment in the Navy. All I got was emails from concerned family members, so it wasn’t as bad. What I did was email everyone in my family that i was an atheist and unless you don’t want me in your life, don’t sit me down with your concerns about my soul. I also told them to ask all the questions they want about what it is to be an atheist (kind of funny that its really one question). Luckily I had quite a few non believers in my squadron as a support group. So I guess if you could learn anything from my issues when I first came out it would be; get a good support group and let everyone know that if they like having you over for thanksgiving dinner, to leave their dogma else where.

  • avatar

    ferocious

    Don’t do it – they’ll get over or they won’t – you MUST remain who you really are and do you really want to have to go to church and all that stuff. They are being manipulative and trying to lure you back. Be strong – htere are a lot of us and on this site you have lots of friends….

  • avatar

    Brittany

    Wow, guys. Can’t explain how much it means to get some feedback and advice from you all. I’ve decided to just continue on and take these problems one at a time with patience and (with a lot more practice) the knowledge I need to get me past this final year. Thank you so much, everyone, for your help. It really is communities like these which help kids like me get through tough situations. Thanks a million and have a great day!

  • avatar

    John

    Hi Brittany,

    My suggestion to you is to state your lack of belief, and that you are open to being shown evidence to the contrary. Adopt the ‘weak atheist’ stance. That allows you to politely deflect any attempts to proselytize to you or to railroad you by quoting bits of the bible at you ad nauseum. ‘I would be happy to believe in the existence of your invisible pink unicorn if you would show him to me.’

    This is complicated of course, by your current living and family situation. However if THEY choose to disown or mistreat you because of your lack of belief, you can always ask them how their Christian values suggest that you should be maltreated? You are not cutting them out of your life, THEY are threatening to cut you off by virtue of your reason.

    I would suggest you be non-confrontational, but also that you should not feel compelled to dishonestly ‘pretend’ to be Christian. After all, when you have left home and moved on, your family would probably feel very upset if they felt you had lied to them all along about your beliefs. You may even want to explain this to them – you have too much love and respect for your family to permit yourself to just go along for the ride, and to blindly attend religious services / support groups where you don’t share their common beliefs.

    While this certainly must sound to you like a terrible situation, its one that most of us have experienced at some point or another, and it may well come up again in your life in the professional or interpersonal setting. So dealing with this effectively now is a great learning opportunity!

  • avatar

    Angel

    Smile and nod as much as possible. That is to say you don’t have to lie but try to avoid the conversation as much as possible. Everytime they make you angry or say something judgementle focus that anger into to something productive. When you get angry do some reasearch about what college you want to go to. Work on scholorship applications. Look at average apartment prices where you want to live. Make sure your resume looks the best it can and start putting in job apps.

    I grew up in Orlando. My grandmother was alot like the mom from Carrie. Not only was I told I was going to hell contantly but I was whipped to.

    I’ve always been stubern and outspoken so I had a hard time not combating the ridiculous things that would come out of my parents mouth. So when I was 16 I had an exorcism performed on me infront of the entire church.

    Here I am now @27 in NY where I’m about to get married to the person I love more than anything with a job that allows me to live comfortably.

    Just hold on for one more year and you’ll make it out.

  • avatar

    C Conti

    I don;t think going back into the closet will do you any good. From that point on rather than regain normality you will be held as an example of a former atheist that has seen the light again.
    Your situation may very well get worse.

    maybe, you can fake some sort of agnostic crisis where you are evaluating your options and “searching your soul” to buy time. Not sure about that one. It depends on your particular situation.

    One thing for sure, you have to find away to stop the events you described from repeating.
    Pick any one of those people in the intervention and place them in the middle of an atheist intervention. They wouldn’t fare that well either. So don’t feel bad you couldn’t extricate yourself from it with logic.

    My suggestion is to keep a low profile until you can gain your emancipation. Don’t pick fights. No matter how tempting.
    Sidestep arguments if you can. It may be a bit cowardly but you have to survive the next few years.

    I am thankful I never had to suffer through something like that. I am an “ivory tower atheist” myself. I can only give you my heartfelt sympathy.

    Also, keep in touch with other atheist online and in your town. Checkout meetup.com. Volunteer with a secular organization. Do some good in the name of science and reason. Remain a good person and help others. Show them they don’t have the monopoly on righteousness.

    Good luck

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