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Are You an Atheist in a Religious Family?

(26 Posts)
deepbluetr Mon 16-Jun-14 07:52:06

My family are deeply religious, I am atheist. Wondering how things work in other families. Does it cause conflict? Do you discuss faith or lack of? Is the whole subject ignored?

Xcountry Mon 16-Jun-14 07:59:54

I don't really have 'family' left but I was raised roman catholic and I don't believe in ay religion, but there aren't any family members left to question it or cause conflict. I was once described by a family friend as having 'lost my faith' but I don't think I ever really had it.

I remember as a young girl thinking "you want me to believe that this man fed 500 people with 2 fish and 5 loaves but we can feed ourselves (7 of us)with this one deer?" and I got kicked out of the childrens liturgy for asking too many questions.

Xcountry Mon 16-Jun-14 08:00:52

*cant feed ourselves... bloody auto correct.

Kundry Mon 16-Jun-14 18:23:30

DH and I are atheists, both our families our Christian.

It works with my DM as she doesn't care what I believe, just that I am happy.

It works with PILs in a number of ways, mainly not pointing it out to them. So we live quite far away, subject doesn't get talked about when we meet. When we got married we did it in a hotel because we did not want a religious service - they assumed we did it because we liked the venue, we didn't change their minds. We said we couldn't have anything religious because of the registrar, not because actually we didn't want it. DMIL suggested we could have a blessing later, we just said 'it wasn't really our thing' and left it at that.

If we had DCs and didn't have them christened I can see that would cause more upset but it would work out.

However PILs are quite talented at not noticing things that might upset them. We wondered how we would take to our wedding photographers who were a same sex couple - it turned out they decided they were mother and daughter hmm

DioneTheDiabolist Fri 20-Jun-14 17:59:44

I used to be an atheist in a believing family. The only time it came close to causing conflict was when my DSis signed my name on an Anti Abortion Petition, but all that happened was she was made to apologise and my DM drove her back to church to take my name off it.

I'm now a believer and roughly half of my family have become atheists (Inc. the DSis above). We can discuss religion, philosophy and politics easily and without losing respect for one another. We accept that we are adults who can decide for ourselves and we all love each other.

What's it like with your family OP?

headinhands Sat 21-Jun-14 09:16:17

Both my dsis's are into woo and go and see psychics. One of them is also a Christian but that seems largely a 'side belief' grin Their beliefs sometimes comes up but the chat usually dries up quickly because I just can't share their enthusiasm for the latest psychic etc. I think sometimes they genuinely forget I don't believe in anything woo because it's so mainstream. But no it doesn't cause problems. Regardless of our differing beliefs we're all very liberal and easy going.

deepbluetr Sun 22-Jun-14 13:08:07

My family despair of my atheist views. My sister particularly is distraught that I am in Satan's clutches. She prays for me, keeps telling me to ask god for forgiveness, sends me emails, links, subscribes me to christian publications, posts cards and messages to me.

She blesses my house when she visits and walks around casting out evil spirits.

expatinscotland Sun 22-Jun-14 13:09:45

We ignore the topic entirely. That's how we respect each other's beliefs.

deepbluetr Sun 22-Jun-14 13:13:28

That sounds a good solution, my family are members of an evangelical church however. As the family atheist I am a prime target for their proselytizing.

expatinscotland Sun 22-Jun-14 13:15:54

I would find that hard. We have firm boundaries. No politics, no religion. I cannot and will not change their minds, and they won't change mine.

deepbluetr Sun 22-Jun-14 13:20:15

I wish it was like that in my family.

The thing is my family know they are right and I am wrong.

Pennastucky Sun 22-Jun-14 13:21:29

My parents left the Catholic church before I was born, but both come from big Irish Catholic families. I am atheist.

DH is vaguely Christian (believes in God, but doesnt practice religion). Was raised a Catholic, but his mother has joined an evangelical church in later life. Most of his family are religious - Catholics or evangelical - and quite full on about it all.

I dont discuss my views with either side of the family, although they know we dont follow religion or bring our children up to. It has never caused any issues, really. I am happy to join in DH's family's Christian rituals (saying Grace at meals etc), but they know not to try any of the 'I'll pray for you' stiff with me. Its unspoken, but understood.

expatinscotland Sun 22-Jun-14 13:22:14

I would have to minimise contact with them, sadly, particularly if I had my kids involved.

beccajoh Sun 22-Jun-14 13:31:50

DH's family (with the exception of him and his siblings) are all Christians - mix of Catholic and Anglican - and one of his cousins is even a missionary in a particularly deprived part of India where there's high levels of drug addiction. God is mentioned frequently and the level of conversation assumes you believe God is some kind of living, breathing human being. It's not all conversations about religion, but more the assumption that religion is the answer to all life's problems, I.e: "you need to find a good, Catholic man" (Grandma to DH's sister when she moaned she kept meeting men who were idiots). "God has a plan for us all." (DH's cousin's response to his newborn daughter dying from a rare chromosome disorder sad). Regarding the latter example, it gives them a great deal of comfort to think that and for all the money in the world I wouldn't challenge their viewpoint on the matter.

I've mentioned before that I don't believe in the existence of a god, but DH's grandma just looks very confused, an aunty will say "we'll pray for you" and then the whole thing is swept under the carpet and everyone seems to forget that I have an alternative viewpoint. It doesn't really bother me to be honest. I don't have to spend a huge amount of time with them and the people I do see regularly don't talk about it incessantly.

My family isn't religious at all but my mum goes to church at Christmas 'just in case' grin

beccajoh Sun 22-Jun-14 13:33:36

I am going to have to speak to them about it at some point though as my children get older. We're not raising them with any religion, although they're free to choose as they get older of course. I can see that might become an issue.

DioneTheDiabolist Sun 22-Jun-14 14:45:13

The thing is my family know they are right and I am wrong

Are they only like this when it comes to religion or does this attitude extend to your other choices and beliefs?

deepbluetr Sun 22-Jun-14 14:55:45

Only religion- they are quite reasonable people otherwise.

DioneTheDiabolist Sun 22-Jun-14 15:00:54

How does it make you feel when they preach at you?

deepbluetr Sun 22-Jun-14 15:10:38

I feel sorry for them.

DioneTheDiabolist Sun 22-Jun-14 15:15:51

Do you get the impression that they feel sorry for you too?

sorry about all the questions, I'm trying to understand where you are all at and operating on the assumption that you would like help on how to make things better between you all. If I am wrong about this, let me know.

deepbluetr Sun 22-Jun-14 15:29:19

I appreciate your help. Yes they do feel sorry for me. I feel resigned to the situation, it has been going on for 30 years. I did feel angry, indignant, upste. But not any longer. I don't waste emotional energy on the situation. I do feel sorry for the little children in my family who are being raised with radical views though.

headinhands Sun 22-Jun-14 15:58:58

Deep, when I was a Christian I used to try and get my dad to say the sinners prayer because I just couldn't bear the thought of him going to hell. My dad didn't play along obviously and didn't pretend to believe in god. It's quite sad actually isn't it, threat of pain is quite a powerful motivator. I'm not sure what my dad could have said. If an adult family member was proselytising to me I would probably explain why I logically reject it (now).

deepbluetr Sun 22-Jun-14 16:05:09

head- oh yes I totally get that. My sister is pushing me hard because she cares, but so blinkered that she can't understand a point of view outside of her situation.
The fact that she is bothered so much to try to "save" me is so touching,
insulting in some ways, but some part of her ( misguided) motivation does have love at its heart.

headinhands Sun 22-Jun-14 18:00:04

Maybe you could turn that round and so say 'look, you're just human right and look how much you love me and would do anything to see me safe, if god is anywhere near as lovely as you he won't punish me for not being a Christian and he would have nothing to do with a system that saw people being punished non belief." Or maybe not. It depends how the dynamic of the relationship is? Do you feel able to challenge or is their a power imbalance?

DioneTheDiabolist Sun 22-Jun-14 22:13:40

If I were in your shoes Deep, I would tell your family that while you understand their concern for you, you feel that they are not treating you as the adult you are. Ask that they stop sending you stuff (if that bothers you) and trying to convert you and tell them that if you change your mind about god, you will let them know.

Or something like that. I would avoid talking about the nature of god as they may see this as an invitation to talk at you more about what "god wants" and it sounds as though you've had enough of that stuff.

I wish you well, these conversations are never easy.

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