Deconversion and Family

Dec 31, 2012

Discussion by: tardisride
Just this year a personally sad event caused me to acknowledge my absolute rejection of the fundamental Christianity of my parents, and to seek understanding and knowledge partly through forums like these. In the last eight months I have faced my unbelief, which I think was there all the time but I chose to ignore it out of discomfort or tradition or assimilation or all three. I am now very comfortable in this agnostic/atheistic place. My question to other deconverts is: have you told your still-religious family, not told them, tried to de-evangelize them? Is it best to say nothing and just go along to get along? Certainly each family is different, but opinions are welcome.

41 comments on “Deconversion and Family

  • Well I know people who are atheist who still get along with their family. I, however am not one of those. Since I told my mother at the age of 19 that I was a non-believer we haven’t spoken much. As an ex nun and devout catholic she cannot grasp, accept, or forgive me for what she considers a mortal sin. I’m now 43 and we haven’t spoken for decades. I’m a lost soul to my family. However all is not bad. I have an awesome girlfriend and a granddaughter that I love more than anything. My girlfriend is a theist but we make it work. She doesn’t try to change me nor I her. I hope everything ends well for you and your family. Twitter has been extremely helpful to me as it has put me in contract with like minded people who act as a support group.

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  • 2
    intuitionella says:

    I have lived as a non Christian all my life and been approached many times by Christians to tell me I should believe, I should celebrate Christmas and so on, so this is the usual for me, to be in a minority.  Although my family are not Christians, so I don’t know exactly how that feels and can only try to empathise with you as I realise that must be difficult, to reason with people who don’t want to change or see things differently. Although it must be said, you can’t change anyone except yourself, people don’t change unless they want to or feel ready to, so it’s about negotiating an adult relationship somehow, I am sure all families have their differences and discussion is healthy so if that is possible, discuss with them.  I don’t think anybody has all the answers,. Sometimes it’s just a case of listening to them and being listened to, and not expecting anything else.

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  • 3
    CentralFire says:

    You need to study sciences at least at pop level and create positive things. The more you do this, the more power your ideas get. Soon those, who disturb you, will not only stop telling you what to do, but will be hesitant to tell what they think of reality and will start to listen to you. My personal recommendations are: video films by Richard Dawkins, “Emotional Intelligence” by Daliel Goleman, probably something on sales techniques (these guys now logic tricks and NLP) and crowd psychology.

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  • 4
    Nodhimmi says:

    No-one’s business but your own; tell others if they ask, otherwise keep it to yourself. De-evangelize them? Just about impossible, as the deeply religious mind is the closed mind.

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  • tardisride (brilliant moniker, BTW), My own apostasy took place long before my parents passed away, but wasn’t public until after, when I was sure all would be in denial of it (very arrogant of me, I do not suggest it as a valid warrant for others). I consider myself a heterodox (neither agnostic, nor atheist) in that I understand that any deity cannot be an objective reality, but deities exist as a memetic reality, nonetheless. This qualification of what a deity is and isn’t tends to keep the JCIs (Judeo-Christian-Islam followers) from being overly dogmatic (Unless, of course, an individual’s faith is weak. Then you may expect some vehement condemnation). 

    My incredibly understanding and respectful middle sister and I have had a serious discussion about the issue. We’ve agreed to not bring our differences of faith into each other’s homes and to be respectful of our respective beliefs (or lack thereof, in my case). Hence, we do not say a prayer over meals in my house and she does not make a scene about it and I willingly hold hands (as is their custom) for their prayer at their house. My sister has told me that when her christian friends ask her about her “atheist brother” in a gossipy manner, she tells them that he exudes more of what she believes is just and moral than many of her “christian friends.” I don’t mean to boast, but I am proud that she makes this distinction and I share it with you as proof that a happy-medium can be maintained.

    I do not try to “de-evangelize” anyone unless they ask why I hold the views I hold. Even then, I make them listen to a disclaimer about the travails of such a philosophical journey before they agree to listen. In some cases, I refuse to be the guide, because I do not see enough evidence that the individual is mentally prepared for a Copernican Revolution.   BTW, the JCIs really don’t like their deity referred to as the imaginary friend of goat-herders (the origin is El of the Habiru tribes from ancient southwestern Arabia).

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  • I was brought up as a Catholic in a family that actually took it seriously. I became an atheist at around 12 and told my parents I was a few years later when I was around15 or so.  At first they literally didn’t believe me, they thought it was just one more example of me saying what they considered outrageous things as a result of spending too much of my time reading books.

    I never tried to re-evangelize anyone though.  The thing is, I think each case is so unique to the individual you can’t generalize much from any one person’s experience. My parents eventually came to accept that I was an atheist and at the same time at least as moral and good as most other people which was the important thing. I think my mom concocted rationalizations for why I was still not going to hell even though her Catholic faith said I should.  As a Catholic she had experience with that since her faith told her that using birth control was a sin but the doctors told her one more pregnancy would certainly result in another dead baby and probably result in her death as well. 

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  • 8
    Stephen of Wimbledon says:

    Hi Tardisride,

    I like the creative Username by the way.

    My Mother is a priest (officially retired now, but like all retired priests she does a little here and there).

    Telling my Mother I’m an atheist has been hard.  I still haven’t said it out loud in her presence.  But given the many heavy-handed hints that I have dropped she is in no doubt.  She may, however, still harbour some hope – and this is a reason for me to still worry about this subject.

    Even telling my Father – an atheist for most of his adult life – that I was a convert to the Church of the Invisible Pink Unicorn – felt like a brave thing to do.  He too had to struggle with this problem – he was brought up in large part by his fundamentalist Grandfather.  My Father’s de-conversion was probably a factor in the very poor relationship he had with his Mother (my Grandmother).  He doesn’t like to talk about it.  Even twenty years after the death of my Grandmother, my Father will change the subject rather than talk about this.

    I am reminded of the famous poem by Philip Larkin (Title: This Be the Verse).  The first verse is:

    “They fuck you up, your Mum and Dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
    They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.”

    There is no one-size-fits-all solution to telling family that you are no longer a faith-based believer.  Saying it out loud – bluntly – is a great way to drive a wedge between you and people you love, and who love you.

    Diplomacy is key.

    I never bring up the subject of religion with my family.  It seems to me that this is natural, no-one is defined by the things they don’t believe.  I used the Pink Unicorn line when my Daughter and Father were talking about my Mother (the priest) and my Daughter let slip that I was not a believer (kids are great at cutting through the crap).

    My Daughter’s presence helped, so I would advise having a group that includes people who are neutral around if you think the subject of religion might come up with your parents.  If they also happen to know your position, they can say it for you.  If all this sounds a bit highly-strung, that will be because my Father was a very different person when he was younger – there is a lot of history being missed for brevity.

    Also, I have retained a strong and loving relationship with my Mother by only answering her questions – and never attempting to challenge her beliefs.  De-conversion happens from within.  Pushing for de-conversion will only put a faith-based believer on the defensive and make them resentful – you will simply stoke the fire of conflict.

    In addition, it is important to remember that the older a faith-head is, the more likely they are to have invested personally in their faith.

    People who join churches will also see de-conversion as losing a large part of their network of friends.  My Mother would lose a huge part of her social circle, her support network in her old age and all her hobbies and interests.  The costs of de-conversion to the old are a significant barrier.  Why would you want to take that away?

    I speak as one who’s Mother belongs to one of the most mild-mannered religions.  That helps.

    Far better, in my view, to let them live their own lives.  That doesn’t prevent you from standing firm when the subject of  your beliefs comes up.

    My Wife is also religious.  I have done far less well with her, so far.  I have ducked her questions, rather than answer them.  This is the same problem as the notional de-conversion of my Mother in reverse.  The love I have invested in our relationship makes me too hesitant to challenge my Wife’s assertions.  She is in the same boat, of course, and therefore only asks questions when she is really excited by something.

    We’re getting there.


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  • 9
    QuestioningKat says:

    If you are self-supporting, live on your own and have a network of friends then it would be safe for you to come out. Personally, I don’t believe anyone should try to deconvert anyone unless the person first “attacks” you.

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  • 10
    tardisride says:

    What a tremendously productive response, thank you. The reasons I wrestle with this are A) it is the very faith of my parents that caused my dad’s death this year because of a lack of medical treatment for a highly treatable condition and B) I am still dragged into conversations about revelations, prophecy, the end times, blah blah blah on occasion. It is my own grief and annoyance–and desire to put a halt to further destructive behavior–that is making me want to start a dialogue, which is probably unwise. Thanks again for your insight.

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  • 11
    jimbobjim says:

    As a Christian, I have two questions about this (well really about the terminology):

    First, “Deconversion” – what does that mean?  To change from one thing to another is conversion.  If you were a Theist and now an Atheist – that is a “Conversion”, not a “Deconverion”

    Secondly, I know it isn;t in this thread but related.  A person can’t be “debaptised” – if they don’t believe their baptism is not valid anyway.  Baptism and belief have to go hand in hand.

    Just saying!

    God bless you all in 2013!

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  • 12
    tardisride says:

    My post was conversational and I think everyone reading understands what I meant, you included. In case you genuinely don’t: my parents became “born again” in the 1970s. Depending upon how tedious you want to be we could say they were converted then and rejecting Christianity now would be a de-conversion from Christianity and a subsequent conversion to an alternative belief or non-belief. I don’t believe I mentioned de-baptism. Happy New Year.

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  • 13
    tardisride says:

    I think I need to have that Philip Larkin poem tattooed on my arm 🙂 Thank you very much for your thoughts, they are very helpful.

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  • 15
    This Is Not A Meme says:

    I became an atheist prior to starting kindergarten, due to Carl Sagan’s show Cosmos. My atheism rubbed off my Catholic mom when we’d have frank discussions on those things. She was curious about what I thought rather than sure of her own beliefs. I was just that entity in her life that demonstrated comfort without superstition. My dad was not so curious so stayed a kind of Christian deist.

    At a certain age, maybe 12 or so, I started to care about what others thought on this topic. I sought to kill superstition in the minds of my cousins, but always saw grandparents as off limits. No need to break their heart, and I could never understand what their religion was to them. I guess this is where I have a deference to elders. I’ll still lie to a grandparent, and I don’t like that but she thinks Obama is a Kenyan Muslim Socialist, and where does one start with such a naive worldview? She would just suffer if she thought I was going to Hell, and I do study the Bible so I can discuss it honestly. Another grandparent was a logical, intellectual, autodidact, and just before he died he lost faith and demonstrated some angst over the matter. I resented his religion for meddling in his preparedness for death. For this reason I don’t think pandering to the older generation is a universal policy, and I don’t know what’s best. The example of my logical grandparent does compel me, by compassion, to kill superstition in my loved ones.

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  • 16
    TyroneAByrne says:

    I think it depends upon your family. Fortunately my mother is not a strict Catholic and so never tried to impress her views onto me. I think she finds it hard to accept deep down, but I would say its always better to tell them, it will be a load off of your mind if and when you do, I think. If they are really devout, however, and you think there is a chance that they would disown you as a result of your choice then naturally it may be better to go along with it.
    The most important thing to remember is if they are very devout and you tell then, they will genuinely think that you are goin to go to hell, and that’s a scary prospect for them. I say honesty is the best policy, most parents will get over it, if they put their religion above you then you were always playing second fiddle to god anyway, thats no life to lead.
    Just my two cents, hope it helped. Tyrone. 17. UK.

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  • 17
    TyroneAByrne says:

    I would say honesty is the best policy on this one. If you tell them it will be a load off your mind (or at least that’s how I found it). You do have to consider your own situation though, I mean my mother is not an ultra serious Christian and so, even though she would rather that I did believe in God, the fact that I don’t hasn’t affected my relationship with her. Your situation might be different.
    As I say, I think honesty is the best policy on this. You have to go with what you feel is right, but remember this: if they dont want to have anything to do with you afterwards, you were playing second fiddle to god all along. That’s no life to lead in my opinion. Just my two cents. I hope it works out okay for you. Tyrone. 17. UK. (if you don’t act like its a big deal there’s a better chafe that they won’t either I reckon 🙂 )

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  • 18
    Alan4discussion says:

    @jimbobjim  A person can’t be “debaptised” – if they don’t believe their baptism is not valid anyway.  Baptism and belief have to go hand in hand.

    I don’t quite see how babies under 12 months, when baptised, fit into that!

    First, “Deconversion” – what does that mean? 

    I would think having been converted to a dogmatic religious belief, deconversion is escaping that belief and resuming a free thinking alternative philosophy.

    It’s a bit like being converted to an enthusiastic stamp collector, and then becoming a non-stamp collector if the hobby seems too limiting!

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  • 20
    ArmchairCat says:

    Sorry to hear about your father, Tardisride. Coming to terms with the natural death of a loved one is tough enough a task, nevermind deaths that were easily preventable.

    The wisest advice you’ll find here comes from those comments averring deconversion attempts and describing not-faith as one’s own business. One of the worst things about religion is its eagerness to preach, and if the atheist/agnostic movement is to be any kind of counter-example to the religions we wish would leave us alone, we need to be wise enough to know when not to do it ourselves.

    The way I perform is to refrain from disparaging my loved ones’ faiths, but to be honest should they ask me about my own. By simply explaining my position and my reasons for holding it without taking the adversarial stance of “I’m right – you’re wrong,” I give them the means to do the thinking and deciding for themselves. I hope by my actions to achieve what Nviktor has with his sister: to exemplify in the eyes of the religious the best of those moral and ethical ideals we all share, perhaps even moreso than some of their own adherents. Please know that I hope the same positive eventual situation for you.

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  • 22
    Mee Peestevone says:

    Tardisride, I’m sorry to hear about your father and sadness.

    I haven’t come outright telling my parents that I’m an
    atheist, but they know of it indirectly by reading my letters to the editor in
    the local paper. One of my parents is a member of the clergy and the other an
    agnostic. Both my parents do not take anything literally in the bible and the
    one in the clergy believes the story of Jesus is allegorical so them suspecting
    me of being an atheist earlier on wasn’t an issue. We never talk about religion. I’ve never tried nor am I
    interested in “de-evangelizing” them. 
    I live in a community in Canada where over 40% hold no religious
    affiliation and about a third of the population do not believe in a god.  I think it is a good and positive start
    that you are in a comfortable place now. I’m assuming your young and I hope
    this is to your benefit in regards to making new friends with similar
    unbelief’s as you and perhaps someday a partner if wanted. I’m fortunate enough
    to have a wife who is an atheist thanks to her hanging around Lutherans trying
    to save her before I met her. Wishing you a better New Year.

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  • 23
    juwakali says:

    As a human that just wants everyone to know just how amazing
    I am I have two questions too. Really I don’t care what the answers to my
    questions are, I am amazing and that’s only because I can’t find a better word.
    Let’s just say I’m better then amazing for now.

    First: Not sure what you mean by god, Krishna, Zeus, Ah Chuy Kak etc…. I’m going to guess
    you mean one of the Christian gods, but which one as they are so many Christian sects.

    Second: And I
    know this was definitely in your comment. How does your god dispenses of
    blessing, who gets one and who does not? Has your god every bless everyone all
    at ones in your life time, or does he let some people die every day in all
    kinds of vile ways (to name a few lately, rape, executions, disease, bombings). So who, why and when exactly is
    your god or any god blessing.

    Just saying!

    May you all win
    the lottery in 2013!

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  • Hi Tardisride

    You are not a deconvert
    That would me you had to believe and than reject. Your parents and the “born again” church tried to plant ideas and thoughts into your head. Ideas and thoughts that you decided not to accept. You might like I have been in conflict of deciding what to do with all those ideas or whatever the beliefs these people preach or believe, but you decided to reject, ignore or whatever.

    Solution is difficult
    You can’t De-evangelize your family. You’re not on a crusade, and you’re not here to propose an alternative. I think it’s best to say nothing. You’re family will go on talking about their beliefs and ideas when you are there, my parents didn’t stop, they only went on to say more. In the end you stop talking at all, they do all the talking. They talk so much that in the end they don’t even realize that you haven’t said anything. The real problem will be that you will at some point in time find it very difficult to be in their presence, you’re own life will move on, theirs stays where it is, in their own little world.

    I brought facts and evidence to my parents that proved that nothing that they believed in was true. It was to no avail, they have faith, you don’t. You only get more frustrated, and in the end it often causes more problems. Then again, whatever I did was never right in the first place. Your always going to loose the argument.

    Fighting an illusion, or I would say taking the magic out of the illusion is like taking candy away from a child, they will hate you for it. Your family will either decide one day that they would rather move on and escape the clutches of their church, or they will remain till they die. I think the “Born again” group are still very strong, therefore will survive a few more generations. The group my parents joined split up after their leader who would save them died. Their church doesn’t exist, but they still believe, deny that they where wrong, and only see the good, never the bad that was. They cover everything with candy coating.

    You family isn’t ready to accept that they are been mislead, abused and then left out to dry. That takes guts to accept if you’ve been involved for so long. That would mean you where wrong in the first place, that means loosing you face. When you preach that you are the only ones that are right and judge so many others, it’s very difficult to turn around and then admit you where wrong.

    Remember whatever they are telling you is parroted from their preacher, it’s not them anymore speaking, they have been brainwashed to some extent.

    Therefore it will be a mission almost impossible.

    I find it really important the more people like you and I talk about this, but in general the only people that really understand what we’ve been through are us. We’ve seen the dark side, and it’s not very pleasant.

    Chin up, you are going a path decide by you.

    Nobody is going to influence you, live life to the fullest!!!

    You can, they can’t.


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  • 25
    Nviktor says:

    tardisride, My deepest sympathies for your loss. I only wish there was something to console you in a loss due to senselessness.

    RE; revelations, prophecy, & the end times – I have several tools to combat this malarkey. Some involve outright debate using their own scriptures to show them the error of their ways. But, I really prefer the passive-aggressive nature of Solomon (and any man who can successfully navigate 700 wives and 300 concubines has got passive-aggressive down to a fine art!), Heap loving coals of kindness upon their heads. I once just hugged a girl who was screaming at me (in a coffee shop full of people) about the possibility of my soul being rent to pieces in fire for eternity. I told her, “It’s okay, dear. You don’t have to be afraid of such things.” She broke down in tears on my shoulder. Today, she is a brilliant geneticist (and a longtime friend) who has had several experiments on NASA space shuttles that fights the same battles you and I do with her family.

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  • 26
    GlenNeuro says:

    I have always been an atheist so a deconversion wasn’t needed, however, my father’s family is Catholic. My father was brought up Catholic, taught by nuns and all the rest and once he pursued his education outside of the Catholic school he became an atheist. He is now a mathematician, engineer and astronomer so I think that might have had something to do with it. You would think that his deconversion would be hard for my grandparents to accept but it has never been an issue since my father dismissed their belief. That I believe is the point, it was their belief not his and all it takes is to respect a family members autonomy and love them as a person instead of getting bogged down in their deviation from what the other members of the family might see as the “right” way to live.

    So in his case it was best to tell and not try to de-evangelize them because he knew that he was more important to his family than their beliefs were. I am greatful to my father for giving me the early intellectual start in life as an atheist, teaching me about reality via astronomy on cold winters nights, nature, history and how to read before I even went to school. I am convinced I would never have had this positive and rational outlook on life and reality if I had been brought up a Catholic.

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  • 27
    tardisride says:

    Oh boy, the last thing I want to do is encourage a stop-me-from-being-forever-damned intervention. Very good points you make, thank you!

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  • 28
    tardisride says:

    That is an amazing story! How sad that we raise children to live in fear of lakes of fire and bogeymen. The consensus advice here seems to be don’t lie, but don’t go on the offensive. My mom is almost 66, and her faith is part of her identity. My deconversion has me wanting to shout from the rooftops 🙂

    I am very glad I put the matter out for objective feedback; so many kind and wise responses.

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  • 29
    Chico2004 says:

    I am very sorry to hear of your problem. There is absolutely no way you will ever change your familys religion, so don,t try. Too much waste of your time and energy and also the possibility of rejection. Not sur what age you are lass but remember this……you do not have to tell anyone of your thoughts, they are private to you. It gets easier when you get older and wiser. What you have to do is free your own mind from the dogma. They are still your family, but it makes it easier if when you are forced to go to social gatherings by your parents, you sit and look, think and feel you are a step ahead. Dont rant and rave when you disagree it makes you look stupid and parents say i told you so.keep your own council….no point hating your mum and dad over something as fictional as “god”. Just means you are free to think…..welcome to the millions of us who feel the same.

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  • 30
    CdnMacAtheist says:

    Hi jimbobjim.

    People are born with evolved instincts to listen to parents, kin & wise elders, who have knowledge good for our survival, and these instincts (driven by several known brain chemicals, in specific brain areas) were high-jacked by leaders who claimed knowledge of gods which could explain natural phenomena – or even create / alter reality in our favor, but no human is born religious.

    There are many experiments & studies which demonstrate this clearly, especially recently with the huge advances in sophisticated study methods & brain imaging made possible through computers & other scientific tools.

    When we are indoctrinated with the particular religious beliefs of our family and / or society, that is the first ‘conversion’, from our natural non-theism, so if we are able to throw off our viral infection, that is the ‘deconversion’ being discussed here.

    If you think you were born with the Christan beliefs you claim, then you are showing how pervasive the multitude of Faith Virus techniques are, and how uneducated you are in – or blinded to – science, evolution, neurophysics & psychology.

    “Just saying!”

    And, please keep your disrespectful, ego-stroking god blessings to yourself, since I (among most others here) have grown past such outpourings of mind slavery …. 

    Lastly – everyone have a great 2013, per the naturally secular Golden Rule. 😎

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  • Personally I think that, as an atheist, I have no “creed” to preach. If I try to devote to convince believers to abandon their beliefs, it would be a … Atheist Evangelist, which is a contradiction. Everyone is responsible for his mind, and if choose to believe in nonsense, it is their problem, not mine.

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  • 32
    Pauly01 says:

    I haven’t told my family yet. My mother is deeply religious, she is involved in community councils with the clergy and knows all the priests quite well. My father also is religious. Out of my siblings one goes to church , the rest dont. It has being spoken of here before , my family could deal with me not being religious but an ‘Atheist!’ , now that’s a different story. I empathise with your situation.

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  • 34
    jimbobjim says:

    Sorry, I seemed to have had problem logging back in.

    My point about “Deconversion” was that conversion means to change.  If you change from being a Theist to Atheist, IMO it is a conversion.  If you convert an object and then change back we generally don’t use “deconversion” when usually just say “Convert back”.

    Re “Debaptise” (I did state that I know this wasn’t in the original post – I just saw it as related to me comment).  Alan you asked.commented…”I don’t quite see how babies under 12 months, when baptised, fit into that!”.  That’s a big discussion and varies among Christians in terms of opinions, but generally most churches (who practice infant baptism) would argue that the child is not a Christian until they have come to a point of belief when older at confirmation (at baptism, it is the parents belief that counts).  The RCC has a slightly different view in that they believe the child becomes a Christian.  Personally, I am a baptist, so I don’t believe in baptising Children but rather those how believe first. 

    re juwakali & CdnMacAtheist, I have the right to wish God’s Blessing on anyone I wish, whether people want to accept that or not – that’s up to them/you.  I still have the right to wish people God’s blessing,

    PS – I will be offline for a week – so won’t be quick to reply,

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  • 35
    Pauly01 says:

    Of course you have the right, but this site is predominately non theist in nature. People have thought through their position, and their conclusion is that that there is no supernatural element at play in this world. These people have not made their decision impulsively or even instinctively, it is based on reason, rational and education. God is a supernatural identity and as such runs against the natural world and all we know and understand. You should know that wishing people a God’s blessing in what is essentially a non theist site is going to be met with some rancor.

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  • 36
    The Jersey Devil says:

    Meh.  I don’t bring it up to my father because he is old, has poor health and it just upsets him.  I don’t see the point. 

    My niece and nephew are fair game though.

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  • Hi tardisride

    I used to call my parents belief in their teachings as a form of crutch to support their weakness in not understanding why they exist and a whole lot of other things. That was many years ago. In the mean time I still think it to be this way, but what has changed is that even though their sect (cult) has disappeared the most difficult (cult) part of this crash is they cannot admit that what they believed was wrong. That  would mean having to admit to having made a tragic mistake with respect to who they followed and what they believe.

    The more they preach the end of times and other beliefs about how the world should be, the harder it is to escape the noose that they’ve placed around their necks. The noose of having to loose face.

    Loosing face is in my opinion one of the biggest problems with followers of a sect or cult. You’ve been fooled for so long that it’s hard to accept that you’ve been fooled.

    So when you are in a discussion with your family and you know better then they do,  there are a lot of reasons why reason just doesn’t seem to work with trying to explain you views and experiences with respect to their beliefs. Remember they are facing the idea that if they are wrong then their whole house of cards is about to fall.

    I call cults diffi-cult, they really do reflect the difficulties in dealing with them. They are impossible to penetrate with any reason or intelligence.

    We are in the same boat, a boat that is sailing away from people lost on an island of belief in ignorance.

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  • 38
    BanJoIvie says:


    First of all, neither of your “questions” was a question, they were both attempts to “correct” us uninformed atheists. Not too shocking that some folks here took your comment poorly.

    Then you said this:

    I have the right to wish God’s Blessing on anyone I wish, whether people want to accept that or not – that’s up to them/you. I still have the right to wish people God’s blessing

    I think if you look carefully, you’ll note that no one challenged your “right” to say anything you please. They simply exercised their right to criticize the self-important, passive-agressive thing you chose to say. Forgive me if my tone is harsh, but you have struck one of my pet peeves. Whenever I hear someone respond to a critic by asserting their “right” to speak, I instantly recognize it for what it is – a backhanded attempt to silence others and evade criticism by claiming the moral high ground.

    You have the right to come into a forum comprised mostly of atheists and spout “God bless you all.” Of course you do! But only a very naive or foolish person would fail to realize that this is an agressive act, bound to provoke a response. Every other commenter has the same right as you do, and you don’t have the “right” to control the responses to your oh-so-subtle attack. Yes, I said attack. Think I’m overstating? Think again.

    I have the “right” to walk up to any random stranger and say “Fuck you.” But I usually try to consider how a person is likely to receive my words before I utter them. I recognize that I bear some responsibility for the reaction to my words when such reaction was reasonably forseeable. In theory, yes it would be “up to” this random stranger whether or not to “accept” my “Fuck you” but that doesn’t excuse me from saying something I knew was very likely to be unwelcome to the hearer. Realizing this, I might choose to say “Fuck you” anyway, but I would be fully prepared to engage with their reaction.

    I have the “right” so say any vile thing I might wish about the stupidity of faith-based thinking and the woeful ignorance of believers. but I usually try to exercise restraint unless I am provoked. I also tend to consider the forum when determining how appropriate my words may be. If I went onto a Christian site and – without provocation – made a declaration that Christianity is wrong and my way of thinking is superior, I’d hardly be surprised if I took heat for it. I’d be pretty foolish to claim innocence if some posters took me to task.

    Perhaps you really think that “God bless you all” is an unambiguously kind thing to say, no matter the context. If so, I encourage you to consider the feelings of others a bit more fully. Or perhaps you honestly feel that “blessing” others who are extremely likely to reject the very basis for your statement is completely innocuous, and hardly worth making a fuss. In that case, why would you bother saying it? An ulterior motive for you “blessing” is very strongly implied, and you can’t seriously be surprised that some here inferred it.

    Also, you are simply wrong in your semantic quibbling over “de-conversion.” “Conversion” implies change from one thing TO another thing. Atheism – technically speaking – is not a thing to which one may become converted. It is merely the absence of theism. It implies no positive acceptance of any specific claim or idea, merely the rejection of specific theistic claims. One may be converted INTO theism or any particular brand thereof – or into any mode or school of thought for that matter – but atheism alone holds no positive content to “embrace” as would a “convert.” Atheism may sometimes be coupled with other positive assertions – such as humanism, but that is a separate matter.

    The shedding of a “thing” to which one has previously been “converted” without specifying a new “thing” is not necessarily “conversion” only the reversal of a previous acceptance. Because of this, many non-believers, in seeking to describe OUR OWN EXPERIENCE of shedding a previously acquired faith, do not feel comfortable with the word “convertion.” Deconversion, or de-conversion, is a coinage I have seen many people use to try to capture what they have personally gone through. As someone who has personally experienced convertion to faith AND the subsequent rejection of it, I can assure you that the two experiences are of a VERY different character. Those of us who seek to capture that difference in our use of language will probably not be impressed by your somewhat uncharitable attempt to “correct” our language.

    Oh, and for the record (since you brought it up out of the blue), to a no- believer, a “debaptism” would be exactly as “valid” or meaningful as a baptism, or any other ritual or personal milestone – i.e. it has precisely as much “validity” as the participants chose to give it. From YOUR perspective “A person can’t be “debaptised”” but from MY perspective, a person can do anything they bloody well please when it comes to marking passages on their personal journey. Understand that most of us are unlikely to accept your version of what makes a baptism “valid” so we probably won’t accept your assertion that one “can’t” be debaptised. Lots of “Christian” authorities have claimed lots of different criteria for “valid” baptism (most “christians” for example would be unlikely to recognize my Mormon baptism, and I assure you that the Mormons will almost recertainly baptize you by proxy after you are dead, since they don’t consider your baptism “valid.”) I for one am not particularly interested in what you “as a christian” or any other sectarian may have to say about the validity of ceremonies or rights. We don’t recognize the authorities you do nor the criteria you use. My own baptism was very valid indeed TO ME at the time, and I’ll thank you not to say it wasn’t. I didn’t chose to be “debaptized” (I formally marked my departure from my church by writing a letter demanding an official change of records) but some atheists do create such a ritual for themselves, and it isn’t up to you to tell them they “can’t.” If I walked into a church and, without being asked, volunteered my opinion that “a person CAN’T BE BAPTIZED” would you think I had done something wrong?


    Sorry for the detour from your topic.

    I’m thrilled to read that you have come to an acceptance of your unbelief. I hope that the process was liberating for you and did not involve too much pain. I am also very sorry to learn about the tragic and avoidable loss of your father. What a terrible experience for you and for your loved ones. Especially those – such as yourself – who bear the added pain of knowing it needn’t have happened. My deep sympathies.

    Others here have already offered a lot of good advice for your situation. I would only add this. I don’t fully agree with the sentiment that everybody is just responsible for their own thoughts and we should never try to “devangelize.” We all do have at least some basic responsibility to our fellow human beings – to educate one another where we can, recognizing the limits of our own knowledge. That said, personal beliefs are very tricky things and we instinctively defend them as part of our identities. Even mild disagreement or criticism can easily feel like an attack and cause rifts. For me, it is a matter of respect. Great care and discretion are needed in deciding when or how to offer disagreement.

    I’m not generally looking to challenge other people’s beliefs so long as they are resonably benign and not imposed on others (I’m looking at you jimbobjim.) I consider that basic respect. I afford that respect to others BUT I ALSO EXPECT IT FOR MYSELF. Love, peace and good relations with your family are more important than winning them free of their beliefs, but you needn’t always bite your tongue while they belittle things that are of value to you. It may be a long process, but if there is love, it should be possible for your family to come to respect your choices at least as much as you are willing to respect theirs. Pick your battles. The “closet” may be the safest or easiest place, especially in the near term. Never feel compelled to “come out” merely for it’s own sake, especially if your well-being or your relationships may be threatened. but if a time comes when you feel that your silence may endanger others or passively encourage de-humanization, either of yourself or your fellow unbelievers, you might look for loving ways to stand up and be counted. When those times come, conflict is probably inevitable, but hopefully need not be unresolvable.

    Welcome! and Good Luck!

    Sorry all for the marathon post.

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  • 39
    Glenn_Swart says:

    I would try to resolve it as non-confrontationally as possible now, without being defensive.  The reason being that so many issues with bring the subject up in future and if you avoid the issues you will in essence be avoiding your family….

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  • 40
    HarrieM says:

    Born and raised Catholic,
    I started to doubt religion before I was 10 years of age. Started to
    be an altar boy at 12, to see if it could help my belief, but it only
    made things worse. At 18 I stopped to be an altar boy and knew for
    sure there was no god. I almost never saw a church from the inside
    since. Admitting this to my family, took many years more. They only
    reacted with disbelief. Living in an other city, since I’m married,
    they could not say anything about me not visiting church, because
    they could not see or know. When on a family meeting and asked I
    would say I did not believe anymore and I did not visit church
    anymore. This subject is avoided most of the time. And this works OK.
    with me and my wife. It is my wife who keeps me reminding, try to
    avoid any discussion when we are with family or when we are with
    friends.  Now the question, how to tell your family?What
    is it you want to achieve?

    If you want respect for
    your decision? You won’t find this within circles of believers.

    You have my respect and I
    think the whole community here, because it is not easy to make a step
    to thinking free. Special not, when indoctrinated from the day you
    were born.

    Do you want to change the
    rest of your family? I think you have little chance. As soon as they
    know what you think, they will try to bring you back to their church.
    They could be very nasty in doing so.

    Do you want to keep peace
    in your family? You better don’t confront them in public with what
    you think and feel.

    Just try to be a role
    model in doing the right things in the real world. Just to avoid they
    ever could say you chose to be an atheist because you are bad.

    I wish you wisdom and
    strength in the coming time.

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  • Hi HarrieM

    I find your explanation as the best way to go about dealing with members of a family that are involved with a sect or in any way fanatic about their beliefs. Bravo!!!!! You summed it up perfectly and with a great deal of respect!

    However on another topic.

    You mention the “real world” and I find it very difficult when terms like this get used buy us (Atheists or non believers). It would mean in some kind of way that their world is really a different world. I would say that looking from the outside we all live on the same planet, and that anyone trying to say we live in a different world is in an illusion.

    The cult that my family was involved with kept using this word to threaten me with the idea I wouldn’t survive in any other world but theirs. They used lines like “You have no idea how it’s like in the real world”. Whatever life we live it’s all part of this world, and nobody can say their world is different than my world. It’s an illusion to think that you can live in any other world, we are all part of the whole as a race, and you cannot escape in any way into any other world. The actions of the sect or religious group will be influenced by the surround social, economic etc. system. No matter how they try to isolate themselves they still have to work with the entire environment. I realized this very early on in my life having been forced by my parents to go along with their beliefs, which go me into problems with my school friends and the whole community, even though I wasn’t responsible for my actions at the time. You cannot escape the world we live in.

    We have to learn to stay away from using the labels these groups create, and find more sensible ways of defending ourselves. Religions and sect/cults use their own terms to give credit for what they say, and in using their terms we only credit them more.

    For what it’s worth we all live in the same world, a world filded with biodiversity and individual ideas and beliefs, they are all part of this real world.


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