I get rattled really easily. I am a musician, but I hate recitals. I can play all day long in the corner of a restaurant, or busk on a street where no one is paying much attention to me. As soon as you get me up on a stage where eyes and ears are trained on me, I just completely fall apart. What tends to help in situations like this is over-preparation. So that’s what this article is about—over-preparation. If I get a good opportunity to tell my parents about my atheism, I’ll have my thoughts gathered.
I have a previous post titled, “Why I Won’t Come Out as an Atheist“. I discussed my reasons for not coming out in an official capacity. So this post might be seen in direct contradiction. But it’s not. You know why?
- It’s my blog; I do whatever I want.
- This blog is rarely published anywhere in my social media. As far as I know, my non-atheist friends & family don’t know it exists, so it’s really not a “coming out” post.
Background/Setting the Stage
I mention my parents from time to time throughout my blog, and you will only read positive things about them. We are close, and I really enjoy spending time with them. They are wonderful people, and they have been a cornerstone in my life, shaping me into the person I am. I don’t think I will get a strong negative reaction from them about my atheism—to think that they would “banish” me from the family or “disown” me! Haha, what a ridiculous notion. I am secure in knowing that they love me more than that. “If that’s so,” you ask, “what you waiting for?”
Well, mostly just the right moment.
I would point out that I’m at a time and place in my life where I am very secure. I’m a grown adult, with a husband and family of my own. I have a stable career and feel financially comfortable. I am not financially reliant on my parents or anyone that I have yet to “come out” to. I have my own opinions and feel good about how I arrived at those ideas. I am not afraid of opinions that differ from mine. I also haven’t been a regular attendee of church in years, a fact that almost everyone knows. I also have myself labeled as “Humanist” on my Facebook profile. Not exactly a secret, you know?
I have five people that I need to come out to. I’ll probably tell my parents first so that they don’t have to find out from someone else. I am prepared for the possibility that they could learn about it elsewhere, and that might force the issue. That’d be nice, actually, because it saves me the hassle of finding “just the right moment”. Once my parents know, I’m fairly certain that my mom will probably tell my brother, and then my brother will tell his wife, and then the issue will be out in the open, and those curious to learn more can feel free to ask me more about it. They are also free to completely ignore the issue. I’m happy either way.
Back to the “the right moment”. You see, it’s not exactly something you just blurt out in the middle of eating your mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving dinner. It’s not something you tell them in a text message or chat (I chat with my mom a lot on Google hangouts). I grant you that telling my mom or dad via text might be easier because I don’t have to see the initial reaction, but I kind of DO want to see their reaction. Maybe it will be like “oh, no big deal”, or they might have a concerned look on their face. Seeing a reaction helps me gauge how much it might matter to them, and respond to their concerns in kind.
The Right Moment
My parents and I enjoy sitting around with some drinks and cigars talking about stuff. Usually the topic falls on politics, as my dad is a retired finance guy and is currently running for a local office. But occasionally, we do talk about religion too. It is entirely conceivable that I could find myself in just the right, intimate and contemplative environment to break the news to them. It’s non-confrontational and they’re usually in the right frame of mind to process it also.
Second, my mom might make some off-hand comment about religion. Surprisingly, now that I am grown, my parents seem fairly private on the topic of religion. Seems like they assume I’m still Christian, but maybe they have their suspicions. Maybe this is my mom’s way of politely dropping hints to gather some information. So, she’ll comment on religion in some way, and then it’s up to me to press her, “Tell me more about that, Mom”. Problem is, I’m just not sure if I even want to rock that boat, because that puts me on the offensive. You can see how that is a difficult position; defense always has the upper hand, mhmm.
Cat’s Out of the Bag–First Response
No matter how it goes down, let’s think about ways my parents might respond.
First of all, I would tell them before they even ask me any questions, that 1) I am not looking to change THEIR minds, and 2) when they ask me a question I might not have an eloquent answer at my fingertips because I’m not a very quick-thinker, and I’m also woefully short of the entire sum of human knowledge.
Why don’t you believe in god anymore?
It’s a bit of a complicated answer, but I should start with my religious upbringing in the Churches of Christ. I was taught that the bible was literally true–from Genesis to Revelation. Being a little kid, I of course took that as truth. But the older I got, the more I started to see inconsistencies in the bible, and the first place I saw them was in Genesis. That is, i was brought up to believe that the age of the earth was only (max) 8,000 years old based on the biblical record. I’ve learned enough about biology and astronomy to know that this can NOT possibly be true. The earth is old. Let me restate–THE EARTH IS OLD. Far older than any of us can comprehend. It is most certainly NOT 8,000 years old.
- One counterpoint that I’ve been told is “Well god could have simply made the earth to look old.” Maybe. Maybe he did! If that’s the case, why?
- Another counterpoint I’ve heard is, “Well the Old Testament is just an allegory anyway.”
Well, seems that I’ll probably find out how they will respond soon….
Image source: Andrea Voci