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Atheist Community of Austin
Breaking a faith...?

Hello all, Recently I have been having an ongoing debate in my mind. I guess I should give some background first so you might have a better idea of what I am considering. I am an atheist. I was born and raised in Texas and from the time I was about 4 years old till I was 19 and left home I was moderately to strongly involved in southern baptist churches. Early on I was I was a pretty strong believer, but I did have questions unanswered even then. When I was young my parents did not discourage my scientific curiosity which was a large source of my misgivings towards christianty. To get closer to the point of this, I skip years ahead to today. I have never quite outright told my parents that I am an atheist. They are strong believers, but to their credit, or more so my fathers, they are open to science more so than most christians I have come across. The reason for my original concern is that if and when I come to have that long overdue conversation that what if my objections and arguments against religion and god disrupts their faiths or worse yet, only one of them being alleviated of their beliefs. As much I would normally think that the liberation of a persons mind is a good thing, in this situation it possibly comes with a significant cost. My parents have put 40 years or more into their religion. They have had years to build up this expectation of getting a reward for their belief. I can see this as possibly being quit painful to loose. The other possible bad outcome is that if only one of them were to have their faith shaken it could create a schism in their marriage. I honestly could not imagine being in a close relationship with someone who was a theist, and the thought, although probably remote, of driving this between them, bothers me. My normal response to any situation is to speak my mind, and if I see things that don't seem logical or reasonable I wish to combat them, but in this situation I tend to feel like I might rather avoid this confrontation of ideas. I love my parents dearly and we are very close. Perhaps I over rate my ability to convince someone of the truth as I see it, but if not...

I ask those here, if anyone has gone through something like this. Either from a late life loss of religious belief or someone in position of breaking someone's faith that had been in long standing.

I guess in the end I see it in my mind as telling a 5 year old a few days before christmas that santa isn't real and that his parents are broke this year and he wont be getting any presents. Obviously its the truth, but that doesn't diminish the pain it might bring.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts, JW

JW- I didn't see any replies to your post, so I thought I would offer one. I would imagine that there isn't much about your parents that you could possibly change. So, do not worry that your atheist revelation is going to fundamentally alter their lives. The only thing that can change is the way they deal with you. Not the way they FEEL about you, that is pretty well set in stone.

Before you confront them with this news about yourself, decide ahead of time what your purpose in doing so really is. I would imagine you just want them to know you are an atheist and nothing really more. Perhaps you would also like them to stop asking if you have found a church to attend in your area, or have you met Reverend so-and-so. If these are your goals, then you only need answer the questions your parents ask. I think you will be surprised how little they want to know about it.

Trouble may arise in 2 areas. First,they may question when or how did this happen? Basically, did they fail in their duties as a christian parent? Simply answer that you came to your beliefs slowly, and after a great deal of studying. That you have considered all arguments, and made a decision FOR YOURSELF.

The goal of every parent is to raise an intelligent, caring adult capable of supporting themselves outside the family nest. Assure them that you are that person.

The second area that can cause problems is if they attempt to challenge your beliefs in order to bring you back to theirs. Do not engage in this type of argument. If they are asking questions out of curiosity fine, but if they are trying to challenge or present counter arguments, stop them. Your purpose is to inform them of your beliefs, as an FYI. Not to get into a debate. Assure them you will be more than happy to debate them on any topic at a later time. But keeping to your purpose in the initial sit-down will greatly improve your odds of having your parents accept this new information about you without emotional fireworks.

Your level of confidence will be noticed. It may be the only thing your parents notice, and they will take pride in it.

Hi JW:

Yes. This is a difficult decision and I was faced with the same dilemma with both of my religious-faith-believing parents. However, as with the case of my father, he told me that he is too old to change his mind (at age 72) before he died at age 73. Up until his death he continued to attend Catholic mass and spent many hours praying because he knew he was dying, and so did I know he was dying. So, instead of "insisting" that he believe what I believe, I knew that my days with my father were shortly numbered. Therefore, I decided that if I were to "expect" that he might have changed his belief's, then the least I could do is meet him half way... that being said, I chose to attend Catholic mass with him so he was not alone, even when I am an Atheist. In the last year that I spent with my father, it meant more to him that I spent time with him in "his world" than it ever would have had he changed his beliefs. I have absolutely no regrets of attending Catholic mass with my father over those final months of his life. It meant a lot to him. I got something out of it, too, although not on a superstitious spiritual level.

However, that is a rather unusual situation in that, he was 72/73 and was dying. I'm sure you understand.

Now, as for my mother, she has purchased me books such as, "The Purpose Driven Life" and enthusiastically encouraged me to read it. Well, I politely explained to her that it does not hold any value of purpose for me to read it in the same way it hold value, meaning and purpose for her. I still have the book sitting on my bookshelf... right beside my "The God Delusion" book, written by Richard Dawkins.

Had my father changed his mind, or my mother for that matter, there certainly would have been the chance that a schism would have occurred. Such a change can cause enough emotional instability to the point of shaking loose their fundamental identity to dangerous levels of depression or even suicidal ideation. The key is to replace the void with a new understanding so that is is liberating rather than threatening.

However, who is it that has the right to introduce them to this new insight?

No one.

Unless they ask or seek for that insight on their own, it then becomes a matter of teaching. But to proselytize any subject to anyone without their formal approval is unconscionable, UNLESS their beliefs have a direct effect on your health and well being, as in, causing you or anyone else harm. Then anyone has he right to address the cause of that harm... such as proselytizing, in and of itself, for example.

If the discussion of your Atheistic views ever comes up by the approach of either one of your parents, then you certainly have every right to begin the teaching process. I'm sure it is safe to assume that your parents already know that you are an Atheist. If not, then whenever they decide to approach you with something that is religiously slanted, you also have the right, then, to disclose your Atheist point of view as to why you no longer espouse their point of view, albeit your disclosure may come as a shock to them.

In closing, human's are usually motivated to do something in an effort to get their own needs met. In almost all instances, when we do something there is a personal self-motivated reason for it. In your case it might be that you would like to disclose to your parents your Atheistic views in an attempt to relieve yourself of your own fear of rejection, or to relieve yourself from possible future confrontations, or to get approval and acceptance from your parents, or to aleviate them from teir own ignorance and help them to achieve a higher level of rational thought... which would raise your self-esteem knowing that you are partially their "caregiver."

These are all normal human responses and needs. All humans have needs. However, what personal motivations drive us to meet our own needs can often be very obscure. I am "guilty" of it, too. But, that is what being human is all about. The key is to realize and understand what and why you are trying to get a specific need met, and to question weather there is a legitimate need there, or if it is something that can be met in another way, or by someone else... like baking cookies for your parents, instead. (That was not meant to be condescending. It was an example short of a better one to use).

I hope this response has helped you in some way. I am trying to get a need met by answereing your question. I need to my ego filled by having others believe that I am a know-it-all. It has nothing to do with actually helping you at all. ...just kidding. :) ...but do you see what I mean, I'm sure.

What made you an atheist? Doubt is healthy but it seems you now let doubt rule your life. Let's cut to the chase shall we? Abiogenesis has no objective evidence, nor does spontaneous generation. Evolution only explains a process from simple organisms to complex life, it does not explain our origins. Even then theistic evolution makes far more sense than just evolution by itself. The process of mutation is an obvious, organized, programmatic routine/process. As a computer programmer I say it's blatantly obvious.

Science can bring you closer to a belief in God as long as you don't have an ego problem.

Never forget, you didn't make yourself. Your parents didn't make themselves. We didn't make this earth. We didn't make this universe. Nothing belongs to us. We have no possession over anything in this universe because we didn't' make it. We are only allowed to interact in it (permissions). We don't even have the ability to destroy or create energy, only channel it from one form to another. God specifically put laws and rules in the universe to keep balance and order.

You're so lucky to have parents who fear the Lord. Why would you want to corrupt them with atheist views?

Mr. T.

This is the second time you made the claim that there is no objective evidence for abiogenesis. The first time you made the claim, I told you of a number of discoveries in that area. Which of the following is true:

1) You didn't read what I wrote because you're so sure of your beliefs that nothing could possibly convince you. If this is the case, then you suffer from the deadly sin of pride. In the future, please include a note on all of your correspondence to the effect that you won't be listening to any responses. Not doing this constitutes bearing false witness on your part. I know that lying for god is something of a hobby among Christians and advocated by Martin Luther, but it's not appreciated here.

2) You are a con artist like Ray Comfort, who just says the same thing over and over again, always being corrected, but never learning. There's always a fresh audience for garbage. Many of your posts seem to indicate this is the most likely case.

3) My response had too many big words which you couldn't understand. Please then ask for clarification, if you're not too lazy. If you're willing to learn something. I'm willing to teach.

4) You have scientific evidence that refutes all of the things I claimed, but your so "persecuted" it hasn't gotten published by that "biased" religion of science. You feel so persecuted that you even claim that your response on this forum was suppressed. Somehow I doubt this is the case.

5) You are so self deluded that you couldn't process the response I gave earlier. It didn't fit with your "world view", so your mind suppressed it like a childhood trauma.

Which is it, Mr. T? Not responding constitutes an affirmative answer for #2.

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