Coming Out

Question from George:
How should i tell my parents i am an atheist? They’re not religious but they believe. Help please.

Answer:
You know your parents better than I do, but you’re probably better off than the many young atheists out there who are living with extremely religious parents. Over at Ask the AtheistS, many have told their stories and asked for advice. Some of them are afraid of being disowned, sent to evangelical camps or otherwise severely punished. Advising these people is always difficult; sometimes it seems like the only good option is to wait for adulthood and independence.

Your probably don’t have as much to fear from your folks, though they might still get upset. Faith comes to the forefront of any believer’s mind when it’s threatened. It’s really very similar to telling one’s parents that one is gay; nobody really knows how homophobic they are until they’re confronted with real homosexuality.

If it’s important for you to be truthful with them, there’s no substitute for coming right out and saying it. Be prepared to answer any questions they come back with. You may immediately get the chance to dispel any misconceptions of atheism they might have.

Two other things you might have to deal with:
– They’re not religious and they’ve never had to convert anyone before. If they try their hand at apologetics to win you back, they might not be very good at it. The arguments or questions they use could offend you, or else sound really stupid. That’s when you need to be at your most patient and understanding, and talk them through things.
– Beyond being upset with you, they may be upset with themselves for giving you the kind of upbringing that could produce an atheist. In this case you need to reassure them that they’ve simply raised a boy who knows how to think things through and draw your own conclusions, which will serve you well in life. It’s just that you’ve come to a different conclusion to theirs.

Good luck, and if you go through with it, let us know how it goes. If anyone else has a story of their own “coming out” moment, comment and share it here.

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