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Microbiologychick
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Hey Everyone,

 

Long time reader of Ex-C, first time poster.

 

I'm in a major bind. I had planned to put off coming out to my family for a while (they are hardcore Southern Baptist, I am an atheist). My grandmother happened to google me and found my facebook, which had pictures of me attending the Godless Pub Crawl, an event of the Atheist Community of Austin (ACA). http://atheist-community.org

 

She was extremely upset and promptly told my parents. My mom was also extremely upset, but my dad was halfway reasonable and we had a short conversation. This all took place at around midnight last night. It hyped me up to the point where I did not get a wink of sleep, and now I am going to have to mainline red bull to get through a long Monday.

 

I know that I will probably get 20 calls today, with much wailing and gnashing of teeth. There will be threats of both hellfire and being financially cut off (they pay a few little things that I could easily take over, so that is rather empty.) They also want me to go to counseling, which is ridiculous. And not only did they learn of my atheism through the pictures, but they learned of my secret older atheist boyfriend. I'm pretty sure they are going to put a lot of undeserved blame on his shoulders, which will strain our relatively young (6 months) relationship.

 

I just really dread having to deal with this.

 

Any suggestions/commiserations?

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Guest SteamTull

I say avoid the counseling, even if it means getting that money cut off. Seems like an okay trade considering the situation. It sounds like your dad is trying, so put him between you and the rest of the family (If you feel comfortable doing that). It's rare for people in your situation to have an ally (as iffy as he may be) to stand up for them a little. Perhaps he can open up their minds enough to except you. Worth a shot.

 

So I guess my advice is: Hit up your dad asap and explain that he could try and be a sort of a moderator in order to have your voice heard more clearly through the rest of your family's blabbering.

 

Of course, I'd fully expect him to get out of it somehow. Even if he agreed, there's a good chance you'd be cornered by your more negative family members before any reasonable people can step in the way.

 

Worst case scenario: Your family berates you and try you get you into counseling. Keep your cool and explain things as good as you can. It's not easy, just remember to keep your cool, everything else is secondary to keeping your cool. In my opinion anyway.

 

Good luck

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Hi MC,

 

Unless you're really young you can try to reason with them along the lines of "I'm mature enough to make up my own mind about these things." I'm also from a Southern Baptist family and I nicely, but firmly, let them know that it was my right to decide what my religious beliefs were going to be. The more you have sorted out the basis for your beliefs the easier it will be to respond to any criticism they give you. To the best of your ability, stay civil even if they don't.

 

Good luck!

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Ouch! Another smackdown from the pages of Facebook. I echo what the other poster said about trying to have an ally in the battle. Do you know why you don't believe anymore? That will be your best thing to cling to in this battle for your mind. They will represent a wall of religion coming at you with visions of damnation and demons deceiving you. You have reason, failed promises of God, the vile nature of God in the Bible, but ultimately it will come down to what is in you versus what they want you to conform to. You are being different, and that causes a reaction in a social group. They will want you to conform so you don't further upset the structure of the group.

 

My own opinion is that you have a prime opportunity to sow seeds of doubt in them, and maybe even draw one or two out. They aren't nearly as bulletproof as they imagine themselves to be. I know this from years of dealing with cult members. Some really don't care if it is true or not, just that they fit in. Others with a conscience really do care, though it may take time for your words to sink in. But ultimately you should definitely reject "counseling" which is a veiled word for "you are wrong and need to conform, and this inquisitor here will help you become re-indoctrinated."

 

"Be strong and courageous!" You are seeing the world without the filter of religion. You are not wrong. They are in the weak position, though they don't yet see that. You can face them and be ok. You will be ok.

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Refuse to talk to them until they're more reasonable. It's your life, not theirs.

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  • Super Moderator

Hello and welcome.

 

It's always uncomfortable when family and good friends find out that you disagree with them. Remember, that's all it is - you disagree with their opinions.

 

You don't need counseling, but you do need to demand respect for your right to come to your own conclusions.

 

Good luck!

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Good luck with this situation. Sounds like your dad is the only one you can talk to. If I were you I would not speak to anyone else in the family unless they can calm down and be reasonable, which means no threats of hell.

 

Stand your ground and don't let them get to you. You are entitled to your own beliefs. Refuse the counseling unless you like to be browbeaten. Its typical for fundies to believe that atheists are mentally deranged.

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I second Florduh's post. You deserve to be respected for holding a different opinion.

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you do need to demand respect for your right to come to your own conclusions.

 

To expand on that, in my opinion, demanding respect can be as simple as refusing to talk to them unless they measure up. Walk away, hang up.

 

Here's a few examples from my family. A few days ago I was talking with one of my sisters. At one point she gave it to me straight. I asked her, "Do you realize that this sounds really egotistical?" She said she does. When it was clear that she really understood what I was asking and when she affirmed that she understood that it sounded egotistical, I told her, "I cannot have anything to do with people who are so egotistical." Then I hung up.

 

I may be wrong, but I think with time it will sink into her conscious mind that such disrespect is not going to get her what she wants from me. It's been a good two and a half years since my family found out about my deconversion and it's been a very tumultuous time for our family. Our mother passed away half a year after my deconversion, and their religion demanded that they take a stand on my lack of religion. It was a seriously complicated situation and many misunderstandings and seriously hurt feelings came out of it.

 

What relationships would have been like were it not for the complications of the funeral I will never know. Just having Mom out of the way has made things easier for me on many levels, though I can't quite get it into my head yet that she's really gone. I haven't visited yet since she passed away, so it's like she's just being nice and quiet for a change, and not guilt-tripping me to visit when I don't want to.

 

With Mom out of the way, I was able to cut contact from my side without feeling guilty. None of the others have the power to guilt-trip me like she used to. (I've also put her in her place when necessary, regardless of how I felt. I was an adult with my own home at the time, and in no way dependent on my family.) Even though I had "cut contact" since the funeral, I could not stop the letters, gifts, cards, etc. from family. But I could throw them out unopened or return them if I didn't want them. And I used all of those tactics at some time or another.

 

Despite everything, after two and a half years, one or two of my sisters seem to have come to a level of acceptance of my position that I never thought possible. All the same, I do not look to my family for my primary relationships. Like you, MC, I found a local secular group to associate with. Don't let anyone take that from you.

 

About your boyfriend. Would it work to inform him about what happened and how your family is taking it? I assume you met him at the atheist gatherings and that you looked up the meetings before you knew him. If that is the case, then they are stupid to blame him, and will do so only because they can't accept that their own sister/daughter/granddaughter would do her own thinking.

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If you aren't financially dependent on your parents (or don't have to be), as hard as it will be, I think that you should just politely and respectfully turn down all suggestions of things they want you to do or believe for right now without getting into a big discussion or debate. Emotions will be high, and that's not always the best time to try to have a conversation.

 

What's most important right now is not proving yourself right or assigning blame, but trying to re-establish mutual love and respect. Let your parents know that you're still the same person you've always been. I assume that they love you and want what's best for you, and while that can make things harder in some ways, don't start seeing them as the enemy.

 

"We want you to go to Christian counseling, we'll even pay for it".

"No, thank you. I don't want to do that".

"But it's really important to us, the counselor can explain things better, blah, blah..."

"I'm sorry, but it's not something that I'm going to do. I'm not willing to talk about it any more right now". (Don't grovel , but it's ok to be sorry that you can't accommodate their wishes)

 

Same type thing with pressure to break up with your boyfriend.

 

When things have quieted down a bit, you can talk to your father or write him and other family members a letter explaining your position. I can almost guarantee that you'll be able to communicate more this way than if you try to get it all out when everyone's upset.

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Refuse to talk to them until they're more reasonable. It's your life, not theirs.

:whs: You may wish to be a bit more diplomatic about it, such as Clara suggested above, but they need to understand you're capable of making your own decisions. Their approval thereof may be valued, but it isn't strictly necessary.

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me attending the Godless [b]Pub[/b] Crawl, an event of the Atheist Community of Austin (ACA). http://atheist-community.org

 

I looked at the pictures....funny, didn't see anyone under the age of 21 whom any parent or parental authority had or could have any right whatsoever to tell any of them what to do....let alone tell them to go to counselling as if they had a problem...instead of belonging to a group that all believe there is an invisible sky daddy.

 

You said in your post, that they couldn't hold you financially...prepare to take those reins, so long as they support you in ANY context, they will feel they have some say regarding your life (they will anyway actually....this is just one less emotional manipulation leg they can stand on).

 

I didn't want MY folks griping about my grades anymore after HS....so I worked my ass off and paid for college myself. MY money, my grades. It was so peaceful!

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I might not share the most negitive things said about your boyfriend with him. Not so much keeping secrets, let him know what's going on and all, just don't go into every detail. If, then, your family does become more resonable as time goes on, there may be less anger adn hurt between them to get over. Just a thought.

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Well - I don't get into knock-down, drag-out arguments with my family anymore; moving out and putting some time and distance (emotional as well as physical) has helped with that tremendously. Plus I think everybody just kind of grew up and we all got into a fundamental isolationist streak or something... but we do still have intense controlling episodes now and again.

 

Last time we had one of those, I handled it by taking control of the method of communication. I cut off phone contact (because I'm not very good arguing with people on the phone) and I insisted on speaking only to my dad (who is also the more reasonable of my parents), and only via email. I found it much easier then to be able to ignore any family members who were flipping the hell out and being manipulative, guilt-tripping, what have you; and much easier to spell out my position and thoughts. It was also easier to assert my need to communicate that way: I kept emphasizing that I was using email because I wanted to think about my responses and stay calm. Dad didn't like it, but he got it, and eventually we worked shit out.

 

So drawing firm, reasonable boundaries and sticking to them helped me. So does letting family know that I understand they are upset. A little empathy can go a long way (though it does depend on the person you're offering it to - some are more open to it than others).

 

You don't have to talk to anybody just because they're family. You don't have to do anything they want you to either. Blood relationships don't entitle others to take control of your adult life and decisions. You can let family know that you're not willing to talk to anyone who's hysterical, and selectively choose how and when you're going to talk to anybody. If that means nobody gets to talk to you for a week, that's perfectly okay. If it means you use email only, that's fine too. Or phone with dad, and email with everybody else... or even nothing to nobody.

 

And keep in mind, too, that you don't have to justify your lack of belief to anybody. There might be some value in explaining your deconversion, but at the same time a lot of people will just take any explanations as an opportunity to argue you back into the fold. You don't have to go there.

 

It's up to you, really.

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That's exactly why I won't do Facebook, and why I haven't touched my MySpace page since before I deconverted. My parents don't give a shit; they raised me agnostic. But the last thing I need is my brother and the church crowd I left behind (I moved to another city) calling me fifty times a day.

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