It’s Not Just LGBTI+ People Who Come Out

Question from Kayleigh:

Hi I’m Kayleigh and I’m trying to come out to my Christian parents as atheist. Most of my school already knows I’m atheist due to an untrustworthy friend….I want my family to hear from me that I’m atheist but I’m scared of being kicked out of my house and being shunned by my whole family…

Answer by SmartLX:

Hi Kayleigh. I’m sorry that you feel that your true opinions and beliefs (or lack thereof) are such a potential threat to you. It’s not my fault, but you deserve an apology from somewhere. A lot of people do.

Every family is different and there’s no one way to do this right. If you’re genuinely concerned about being ostracised or even kicked out, though, I’m gonna say your family is pretty devout, so let’s take care.

The A-word is frightening all by itself to certain religious types. It doesn’t just say, “I don’t share your beliefs.” It says to them, “I am the ENEMY and I want to DESTROY your way of life, or I’ve been brainwashed by those who do.” This is what all the religious scaremongering has told them since before Dawkins came along. So be direct but don’t open with “atheist” and don’t get drawn into an argument over what you are as opposed to what you think. The latter is much more important.

A good approach, I think, is to simply say to your parents in private that you don’t (or no longer) believe in God, or any other gods. This might still be a shock, but instead of declaring yourself the “other” you are stating a fact about something you don’t really have a choice over. You’re just not convinced.

What’s good about this is that it will open a discussion. Heated, perhaps, but it’s something that can be worked through. If they ask you why you don’t believe, you tell them. If they tell you why you should believe, you tell them why that’s not convincing to you. (Don’t be afraid to say, “Let me look into that and get back to you.” If they order you to believe, you tell them you can’t without actually being persuaded, otherwise you’re just pretending and no god would accept that. They should realise that shunning you won’t change how you feel, and they need to engage you intellectually to try to win you back. This carries a risk that their own beliefs will be challenged, and many will back down from this prospect alone.

It’s important to keep the fact of your disbelief separate from the question of what to do about it. In terms of negotiation, everything is potentially on the table from total concession to absolute estrangement. If you simply want to be honest with your family, you could agree to keep it a secret (from anyone who doesn’t already know). If you want to stop going to church, that’s a tougher sell because your family’s friends in the congregation will notice; you can use the angle of not wanting to be there without conviction, or the implied threat that your disbelief could spread.

Another important distinction to make, to them and to yourself, is between your differences of opinion and your bonds as a family. You still love your Christian parents (I hope); why would they not love their apostate daughter? (“Love the sinner, hate the sin” and all that.) You haven’t become the enemy, you’ve honestly applied your brain to the subject and now disagree, as all young adults do in one way or another.

I know you’re scared, but if you’re here asking how to do this then you have a need to work this out with your parents and that will only grow if left unaddressed. As soon as it’s out in the open, you’ll know where you stand and you can start building a new kind of relationship from there. Be gentle and respectful with them and they will hopefully be the same to you. And keep us posted in the comments. Good luck, we’ll be thinking of you.

4 thoughts on “It’s Not Just LGBTI+ People Who Come Out”

  1. Do you love your parents? Have they been good parents to you? If yes is the answer then you shouldn’t be worried or afraid. Let them know your what you are thinking.
    But please ask them why they believe. Talk to others that you trust who believe and find out why they believe.
    And spend some time for yourself studying and reading God’s Word. I’m pretty sure you don’t think your parents are bonkers believing in someone they can’t see. So ask yourself why do they believe. You have probably heard the other side as to why should we believe. And to actually find out why you should may take some time. If you are at home then you aren’t that old. And your associations may be influencing your thinking. It has been known to happen that our friends can be our best friends or our worst enemies. Don’t just give up without taking the time to see if God is really there.
    Read about God. Here is a book many have found very helpful.

    1. Kayleigh, Gerald’s response to you is typical of believers. Notice he doesn’t answer your question. Instead he tries to get you to be a believer again. In my opinion any believer that does this is not taking your feelings seriously. They are not listening to what you have to say. Instead, they have decided you are wrong and think you need to be fixed.

      Believers don’t seem to understand that people that become atheists have ALREADY done a lot of thinking about gods and organized religions and what they’ve been taught. As someone raised to believe in a god, I’m quite confident that you’ve had a lot of conversations with a lot of people, trying to figure out your questions and concerns. You’ve already done what he wants you to do.

      Gerald doesn’t respect your decision, he hasn’t listened to you, and he isn’t answering your question. That isn’t someone you should take advice from.

      As for your question above, I echo what LX wrote to you. I think being honest with people is the best way to be. Sometime that can cause pain or anger or sadness in the short term, but in the long term it will be worth it. I can’t begin to tell you how it felt when I told my wife that I had become an atheist. A huge weight was lifted off me. And even though my wife was hurt by it, and it took her a while to understand, we became closer because of the honesty that we know had between us. I can’t promise that will happen with your parents, but you deserve that weight to be lifted off of you. Whatever you decide to do, please remember you can always talk to people here about it. We’d love to listen to what you have to say.

  2. “The A-word is frightening all by itself to certain religious types. It doesn’t just say, “I don’t share your beliefs.” It says to them, “I am the ENEMY and I want to DESTROY your way of life, or I’ve been brainwashed by those who do.”

    This is quite a stretch to assume that “all” react or think as you describe here. Most parents are not threatened by atheists. What does bring out concern is that there is a possibility that their loved one may end up lost to them forever.
    You can understand this can’t you. A mother doesn’t allow their child to cross the street by themselves. So parents, truly loving parents are always worried about the wrong decisions their loved ones may make.
    And since most people today are not always what they seem like, it is easy for someone to be fooled and led astray.
    Will those who end up refusing to believe in Christ become the enemy? One day, sad to say, yes. But for now until that time, true Christians only want to let everyone see that God exists and that He is the answer.
    You have just given up too soon.

  3. Go for it Kayleigh! I am a father, a capitalist, an atheist and sent both of my kids to a catholic high school so they can make their own decision on religion! I would say that even an atheist can change their mind as they head down the road of life. So the best way to handle those who are shocked with your beliefs is to say you haven’t closed your mind but you’ll need more concrete facts to sway you back to western religion. Take the time to read The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross by John Marco Allegro. Good luck!

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