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Atheist Teenager Living In A Right-wing Christian Home...


Guest tomorrowshorizon
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Guest tomorrowshorizon

I was wondering if anyone else is going through/already went through being a (closet) atheist in their parent's home.

 

Most of the time, everything's fine, and I just avoid discussion religion as much as possible. However, it inevitably comes up, especially since my parents are very devout, and insist that I attend a church youth group and at least one (preferably two or more, depending on the church season) religious services a week.

 

My question for all of you is this: How should one deal with living in a theocratic household? Are there any ways of talking parents into backing off on the church requirements without admitting to being a nonbeliever?

 

Specifically, I'd like advice on this stuff:

-If/when/how to admit to being a nonbeliever

-Good excuses for missing religious services and/or not attending

-Ways to get away with reading non-Christian material (say, Nietzsche or Dawkins)

-How to keep from being bored out of your mind/laughing during Church

-How to keep from feeling like a spineless fake when impersonating a Christian

-What not to do if you don't want to get found out

-How to help younger siblings without admitting to being a nonbeliever...

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Hmmm.... That all depends on how dedicated your parents are. I am sure if you make mention of actually wanting to back off on going to church, all "hell" might just break loose. What I might do first is to make it slightly less-than-subtle that you aren't interested in participating in religious services. "Mom, I am just not interested." Hopefully, they might just back off when it is apparent to them that you have absolutely no interest.

 

Or... if they decide to mandate participation, things might start to get interesting. How close are you to being out on your own?

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Story of my life (fanatical parent)... I am going to think of decent answers to these questions... mainly because I wanted to know them so badly when I was there. But right now I need to think for a bit.

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Guest tomorrowshorizon
How close are you to being out on your own?

 

 

I'm 17, with a whole year of high school left to go. So not as close as I would like.

 

My dad's pretty much a fundamentalist, although he can see reason if it's properly presented. He's a very firm believer, though. My mom is one of those "nice" Christians that believes in God probably because its easiest to just go with the flow, and because she agrees with the "Golden Rule." She has a touch of fundie, too, though.

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"However, it inevitably comes up, especially since my parents are very devout, and insist that I attend a church youth group and at least one (preferably two or more, depending on the church season) religious services a week."

 

AN EASY WAY TO GET OUT OF CHURCH

 

Argue that in the Bible, people prayed in their houses because there were no established churches (read Acts and you'll notice what I mean.) Argue you want to get back to "true christianity" and therefore will no longer go to church but would rather pray alone in your room (Matthew 6:5-6). Then just chill and read or something for an hour alone every week until you move out. It's worked for me for almost a year.

 

IF THEY MAKE YOU GO

Consider it an opportunity to corrupt the youth. One of my greatest joys in life has been to study the Bible and then use it as a weapon against Christian theology. Remember this is a book that is written in a way where you can bend it anyway you want. It can be extremely fun to start religious debates espcially when you discover that you know more than your pastor, like I did. He says, for example, "homosexuality is a sin." Come up with some verses that contradict what he said (its possible if you do your research.) Hopefully, you can frustrate the hell out of your youth minister while at the same time appearing all the more pious than him by knowing your Bible better. I used to really have fun with this. I'm something of an actor so I enjoyed the drama. If he tried to stop me I'd yell "You Pharisee!" or "you corrupter of souls, decadent blasmepher, you are the son of Satan!" and stuff like that. Remember, Jesus in the Bible hated religious leaders. To stop having to go to church, ask WWJD. If there's a bake sale, say they're bringing commerce into "The Father's House" and refuse to go to church, shit like that. It's probably not most people's thing but hey, it was fun and it was good practice for the stage.

 

Another thing you could do is make up your own meaning for what you're studying in church. As you read the Bible, mentally critique it or look at it from a Humanistic perspective. Ask yourself, "can I apply this without religion?" Sometimes you can't but sometimes you can. Look up the Gnostic church(http://www.gnosis.org/eghome.htm). They read the Bible as exclusively symbolic. For example, on Jesus's ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, they note that he refuses to be crowned but rather comes to deliver his uncompromising message. What does this mean? We should not always do what others say is right (accept the crown) but rather do what we know is right (deliver the message.) See what I mean? You don't have to believe shit and that still has deep meaning. Fundies don't get the meaning of the story at all but if you look up the symbolism behind the sunday school lesson, you can discover something profound. (don't mention Gnosticism to them though; most fundies call it satanic)

 

Another trick is to go to the bathroom for long periods of time. It also doubles as an escape route if there's an exit nearby, like my old church. I used to pretend to go to Sunday school then I'd just sneak out to the bathroom and go to the park across the street.

 

"Ways to get away with reading non-Christian material (say, Nietzsche or Dawkins)"

 

Say you want to write a refutation to their ideas and present it to the youth group. You have to write apologist crap which sucks but hey at least you get to read it. Or just go online. Nietzche's public domain by now.

 

"How to help younger siblings without admitting to being a nonbeliever..."

 

Emphasize the 1% of stuff in the Bible that is actually good to counterbalance the other 99%. At worst, they'll become unitarians.

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How should one deal with living in a theocratic household?

I have to admit, up front, that much of my advice isn't pleasant or easy. I don't even ensure that it is correct for your situation. You need to know what is right for you. My mother was insane about it and the church was even more insane. For me, I felt in physical danger (with good cause) if I came out. So I didn't... not for years. I learned to play the game well... without going insane... but it sucks.

 

Are there any ways of talking parents into backing off on the church requirements without admitting to being a nonbeliever?

Depends on the parents. I was in church 5-7 days a week every week. And I never got a reprieve.

 

Specifically, I'd like advice on this stuff:

-If/when/how to admit to being a nonbeliever

Personally, I would advise against coming out. I waited eight years until I was 21... and even then it was a disaster which ended worse than you care to imagine. Likely, my mother and family was/is a little bit more insane than yours. If you are going to do it, wait until you aren't living at home. Then be gentle but firm. Two years after I first came out, my mother finally figured it out again for herself and my being gentle but unmoving was essential. Although, in honesty, it didn't make a massive difference.

 

-Good excuses for missing religious services and/or not attending

I never really found one. You can be sick only so many times. I did work random jobs for the church and frequently had things to be doing during service. And once a month I skipped the Wednesday night service completely (with a couple friends) and went to hang out behind the church.

 

-Ways to get away with reading non-Christian material (say, Nietzsche or Dawkins)

Balance it with apologetics. Find a book attacking the author and pretend you're going through it to attack it. This may not work (and worked rarely with me) but it is your best bet. I ended up hiding most of it... and when it was found it was burned.

 

-How to keep from being bored out of your mind/laughing during Church

Depends on the type of service. I would read the bible... or pretend to take notes but write stories instead... or sneak out (masturbating in the bathrooms during service was a good way to kill 5-10 minutes). Or whatever... I practically lived at the church so I had a lot of ways but most of them depend on the church and your place in it.

 

-How to keep from feeling like a spineless fake when impersonating a Christian

If you figure it out... let me know. I never did find a way to not feel like a worthless shit. Especially since I ended up in leadership and actually encouraged people in their faith. I was a pathetic fuck... and never really found a way to be content with it except that I understood it was the only reasonable option.

 

-What not to do if you don't want to get found out

Volunteer... attend things you don't need to... go on missions trips... etc... basically become even more the person you despise from the above question about feeling like a fake. Don't ever breathe a word about your doubts or ask questions you know there is no answer for.

 

-How to help younger siblings without admitting to being a nonbeliever...

Both my younger sisters are still deep in it. But that is their path... I can't walk it for them. The only thing I can advise is to be willing to listen to them without judgment.... so they know they can come to you.

 

 

 

I think I covered everything there... incompletely but whatever. I suck at giving advice.

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Guest tomorrowshorizon

Thanks, everyone, for all of the great (and honest) advice.

 

I'm definitely going to try the apologetics route to weasel in some atheist reading material.

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-Ways to get away with reading non-Christian material (say, Nietzsche or Dawkins)

 

If you work a job and can acquire the books without your parents' knowledge, you can always hide them and read when it's safe. I did this for a number of months. I kept my books on science and religion (as well as CDs and DVDs relating to atheism or such) in a box in my closet. The box was for a butane lighter, and my fundy parents never bothered it.

 

 

-If/when/how to admit to being a nonbeliever

 

If you're up for it, ask probing questions to see how your parents would react. This will help you gauge how set they are in their beliefs.You don't have to come all the way out the closest: Unitarian Universalism might be something you can identify with at this point, and it's still related (somewhat) to Christianity. Not many UUs consider themselves Christian, but enough do that you can get away it. I don't mean going to UU church: you can just identify as being a liberal Christian. Your success with this approach would depend on how fundamentalist your parents are and how well you can rationalize believing in a more liberal theology -- so that they can see that you have legitimate difficulty accepting fundamentalism.

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Discussing beliefs by first asking them questions about them, their past, or the past of family members, is probably a good way to probe the reaction you're likely to get. Honest questions raised by what you hear in church would be another way...you truly don't understand how some things fit together, right?

 

One more year of attending church isn't too much of an ordeal, though, if you can treat it as an anthropological exercise, make other arrangements when you can, and maybe set some limits on what you're willing to do. It's how I handle religious ceremonies and other times I kind of have to go to church to keep the peace. It helps sometimes I can also treat it as language practice, but if you pay attention to what sort of messages are being sent and received, and how people are sending messages to each other about their pious nature.

 

With siblings, I always talked about things with my brother than neither of us could talk about with my parents. Depending on what kind of relationship you have with them, they could help you as much as you help them. Treat their opinions with respect, tell them about your struggles, and you may find you have allies in your house.

 

My parents still don't believe I'm not a Christian, even after I had a secular wedding. Families are fun.

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You sound like me but I am living at home because they are paying for college and its in my town.

 

The things that you do, do not neccesarily say you are an unbeliever, ( I have not yet revealed my truth yet so listen up) What I do is place hints and stuff, make them uneasy. How I got out church was quite neat, my parents just stopped going and they asked me why I don't like going. I had two options tell them I am an atheist and a domino affect occurs throughout my whole family of how hellbound I am. ( Me the only nonbeliver is a lot weight to carry) Or tell them the partial truth twist it just enought to not hurt anyones feelings: I said I go to school all week, (college) and I just don't want to go anywhere on the weekend and it is a time for to rest. ( Yes sometimes I have snapped and made tears from mom but right now religon is not brought up, I am not going to church, and I am yet to betray my best friend who thinks I am Christian but I am not. :woohoo: )

 

The time will come when I will come clean but I feel it is not a good idea right now. I come clean more on politics with my parents and I am more liberal now.

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Specifically, I'd like advice on this stuff:

-If/when/how to admit to being a nonbeliever

 

Its hard to give a good answer to this one, it depends on how devout your parents are... Some would disown you...others would just shrug their shoulders...most likely your parents fall somewhere in between those two extremes, in which case...it mostly depends on how important your relationship to them is... the reality is that you can't have a close relationship with your parents if you are lying to them So if its important then you should find a way to tell them.

Though my parents didn't like hearing I was an unbeliever we are closer now than we were before because I don't feel like I have to keep things from them (on the other hand I'm no longer living at home) My sister is though and she says that some things can be annoying, They continue to force her to go to church...though in my case my parents blame me for her becoming an atheist Every case is different so you will just have to make up your mind yourself.

 

-Good excuses for missing religious services and/or not attending

 

How about telling them you want to explore the beliefs of other denominations by going to church somewhere else....the go hang out an an arcade or something (only if lying to your parents doesn't bother you)

 

-Ways to get away with reading non-Christian material (say, Nietzsche or Dawkins)

 

tell them you are doing research...or that you are reading it to debunk it....honestly I don't understand how Christians can claim to have the ultimate truth and then be afraid of books by these people. I didn't shy away from them when I was a believer.....but then I'm an atheist now...so maybe they do have something to be afraid of :wicked:

 

 

-How to keep from being bored out of your mind/laughing during Church

 

My sister bought a video MP3 player and watches anime in the church balcony. Short of that bring a book or actually listen to the sermon for pure entertainment value.... You'll be holding in giggles the whole hour.

 

 

-How to keep from feeling like a spineless fake when impersonating a Christian

 

Hey, don't feel bad...millions of people all over the world pretend to be things they aren't...I don't really like crowds of people, and yet I work in a customer service environment. Think of it this way...you aren't pretending because you like lying...you are doing THEM a favor by not saying anything...you also don't own them anything...certainly not an explanation.

 

 

-What not to do if you don't want to get found out

Again it depends on your parents and how on the ball they are....I would avoid doing anything overtly unchristian...but what that is depends on your parents denomination. You can hide your atheist books and your porn colection :wicked: but they may find them and then all hell will break loose....if it is at all an option it is better to tell them than to let them find out.

 

How to help younger siblings without admitting to being a nonbeliever...

 

speaking from personal experience I'd say don't interact with your siblings on issues of religion at all...even more so if you keep your deconversion a secret. When your parents find out...and then find out one of your younger siblings is also an unbeliever...you WILL get blamed for it and you WILL never hear the end of it. :shrug:

 

I realize that it can be hard to see your siblings acting religious and you would rather they get out...but unless they come to you with doubts of their own...I'd suggest minding your own business.

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I remember the first few months of my atheism I hid it and just went to church but never became a member or anything like that, my Dad hacked onto my yahoo messenger and seen I was talking to LaVeyan Satanists and thought I was worshipping Satan, not exactly the way I'd want my parents finding out about my disbelief. I thought my parents knew I was an atheist but I'm guessing they thought it was a phase of unbelief as I told my Dad I was an atheist a while back and he was shocked and I was shocked he didn't know. I wish I had told my parents earlier, I just let fear consume me too much then but hey, you neevr know what the parents' reaction is when you tell them you're an atheist. So basically it's my Dad who makes me go to church, my Mom works on Sundays and I know I could get away with not going if it was just her I wouldn't be going to church, she works on Sundays anyways, :lol:

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My parents didn't disown me, they just refuse to accept I'm an atheist and make me go to church once a week on Sunday mornings, it's very stupid but in 3 more years I won't have to go through this bullshit anymore.

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Also the fact that I listen to death metal and black metal didn't help ease things, :lol, my band shirts is the primary cause of religious fights, but I buy whatever I want basically, so it's kinda like "you're 18, do what you want" but then it's not in some areas, like religious belief.

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Now I'm an open atheist, I don't really care who knows I am one, used to be afraid a while ago, but I've gotten over it. Atheist is my religion on MySpace and I got plenty of Christian friends from high school who get to see that, I'm awaiting questions from some of them. haha I'll get to see them all in real life soon too.

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I lived with my mom up until a year ago. The best thing to do is to go along to get along. In the words of James "thunder" Early from Dream Girls, "you have to fake your way to the top..." I simply just don't get into religious discussions, even now that I am on my own. Trust me, it is not worth it. Just go to school...Find away to skip youth groups...and then get into a college where you can live on campus.

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As for not feeling like a heel, while faking church, well, I may have a bit of advice on that. First, I can almost garuntee that there are others in your boat there. People watch, check body language, etc. and see if you find someone else in your position. There is also the fine art of gamesmanship when it comes to blending into an environment where you don't belong. Plus it may generate more interesting oppertunities.

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