How do i tell my family I’m an atheist?

Aug 19, 2013

Discussion by: YouCantFly

Hi, im Tom and I'm a 16 yr old "Roman Catholic". I've been a middle-of-the-road catholic for a while, being very interested in science. I'm happy to go to a public school because like i dont know what id do in a catholic school, science is just so important. It's hard to say how long i've been a true athiest, probably less than a year, although it is of my understand that richard has a scale from 1-7 in The God Delusion (i dont think i should read that in my house). I think i want to tell them after i finish reading the bible, everyones favorite violent fairy tale, which at 5 pages a day will be nov. 29th, but i could tell them sooner. Neither my parents nor grandparents have read the eintire bible, so i dont understand you you accept without reading all the terms and conditions. I dont know how they will take it, i guess ill have to tell you about them. My moms and her mom are roman catholic and i my dad was lutheran but my mom made him convert so her kids would be raised catholic. We go to church every sunday, although we all do many forms of work on sunday, which according to the bible is punishable by death. Other than in church religion doesnt come up too much, my parents arent the crazy, brainwashed type. My biggest concern is i really dont know of any athiests in my family (i dont know my extended family that well anyways). Another thing that scares me is that my dad's parents and his sister got in some disagrement with my mom about 11 yrs ago and even though we live a few minutes away from them, parents almost never spoke of them and i rarely saw them for several years, we made amends with my dads parents about 5 years and it took the death of my dad's mom in october of 2012 to get the 2 familys back together and now its like nothing happened. But cutting off close family for 10 yrs over what i thnk had to do with money, come on. 


I think my dad would accept me because even though he doesnt believe in evolution (i tried to explain how we evolved from a common ancestor of gorillas not from gorillas at the zoo today) he travels a lot for business and he tells me how he embraces people of other cultures and doesnt care what race you are. Im more scared of my mom , shes more religous and im afraid she would keep pushing her religon onto me. And i my mom's mom lives with us… the most religous one of all. So is it best to wait to tell them when i leave for college in 2 yrs or suffer through it and fake it, or should i tell them, because i dont know what to to. Sorry for the long read, do you need to know anything else? Thanks for your help!

25 comments on “How do i tell my family I’m an atheist?

  • 2
    AlGarnier says:

    They are your parents and even religion won’t change that, regardless of their reaction. It’s our animal instincts that force us to protect our young, regardless of your father’s denial of evolution. Be honest and discuss your concerns with them as you have discussed them in this forum. Do not expect understanding but, accept their love. Forgive them if they respond harshly. They are suffering from the illness of induced psychosis. (Brainwashing)

    Report abuse

  • 3
    Reckless Monkey says:

    Hi Tom and Welcome,

    I hope you’re not using your real name or your parents are but a google search away from finding out anyway. Things you may want to consider.

    a) None of us know your family, so we’ll tell you what we’d do but you need to weigh that against how you think they will react.
    b) This stuff can tear some families apart.
    c) Do you have a plan (somewhere to stay etc.) if it does all turns to crap?

    If you can answer those questions then I can say better out than in (for you). Living a lie is never easy. Perhaps you could soften the blow by expressing doubts and giving them a chance to answer your concerns. They won’t be able to.

    Most family issues in relation to this usually aren’t so much about you being the athiest rather you comming out makes it harder for them to sustain their belief inspite of how unbelievable it all really is. This is why there is so much repittion and praying, sitting down standing up etc. etc. make you suffer enough and you are emotionally committed to it being right even if there is no good reason to believe it.

    You’re reading the bible you say, Good for you. I’m re-reading now also, I read it a couple of times before once when religious another time as a teenage athiest like you and again now. I am currently doing so again in my Kindle so I’m able to highlight and save sections that are particularly obnoxious (its a pretty big document already). I will refer back to this then on finishing. It would be useful when you have the arguements to have them justify problematic scriptures if they can. You should also do some reading about different Popes and horrors they have committed (and continue to).

    Their agruements will come back eventually to faith. You can counter this handily as you are Catholic and therefore have very specific dogmas they will be attached to or should be if they are truely Catholic. So you don’t need faith to question these doctrine they are spelled out. Likewise with the Bible.


    Report abuse

  • 4
    papa lazaru says:

    If it’s no big deal, don’t make a big deal out of it. You don’t have to go all guns blazing, and you don’t even have to go at all. And you may know more atheists than you think, they just don’t wear the badge.

    I doubt it will impact your college prospects (disowned, or some stupid backlash), but you would know better. Is it a bit hypocritical to wait until they pay up? Yeah maybe, but then if they cut you off, the rejection would be on their part, and not from you.

    Report abuse

  • Your just 16 , and there is so much information and knowledge out their. Is it fair to say that you are making your decision just because of one book? There are many more books you can read , your still young and there is so much knowledge out their , do you really need this distraction and agro at this stage? You’ll be an adult soon and will eventually leave home , there is plenty time up ahead if you want to reveal to you parents,etc that you are an atheist. Good Luck

    Report abuse

  • 6
    VanYoungman says:

    Don’t say anything. Maybe drop a few hints by expressing doubt about a few of the more inane beliefs. They will probably think you’re just going through a stage. After several years of this, they will come to accept your beliefs because by that time half the country will be with you.

    Report abuse

  • 7
    SelfAwarePatterns says:

    You know your family best. If you are concerned, wait until you have moved out and are financially independent. That may seem unacceptably far off right now, but it will pass before you know it.

    In the meantime, talking with trusted friends will help. Participating in forums like this will help also; just be careful not to use your real name until you’re comfortable being public about it.

    Report abuse

  • 8
    Chris Squire says:

    I recommend that you defer coming out as atheist until you go to college. Two years of participation in something boring but harmless is not a large price to pay for the continuing love and support of your family at a crucial time in your life. It will also spare you having to endure their well meaning efforts to win you back to the faith and save you from hell.

    Many people in the past have conformed with a religion they didn’t believe in. Consider the example of Henri of Navarre, who ‘ . . Although baptised as a Roman Catholic, Henry was raised as a Protestant by his mother, . . On 25 July 1593, with the encouragement of the great love of his life, Gabrielle d’Estrées, Henry permanently renounced Protestantism, thus earning the resentment of the Huguenots and his former ally Queen Elizabeth I of England. He was said to have declared that Paris vaut bien une messe (“Paris is well worth a mass”) . . ’

    Report abuse

  • Parents will have imaginings you have taken up sacrificing babies on satanic altars. You have to primarily convince them these imaginings are nonsense. You have rejected the corruption of the church, child rape, suppression of women, conning the poor in the third world, persecuting gays, denial of scientific truth. You are going for a higher morality than the church offers.

    If would also help to bring some friends home to meet the parents without telling them they are atheist. Later explain that they are. Parents will have already decided they are nice polite boys.

    Report abuse

  • Hi Tom

    As others have said, you have to weigh up what you are hoping to achieve from this if you think it will cause upset. I don’t see anything that you have written indicating that your father will understand any better. If anything, the reverse might be true. After all, he converted precisely to ensure a happy family life according to your post. Furthermore, embracing people of other cultures and races is hardly at odds with being a Catholic – almost by definition.

    The best reason to broach the subject, and also perhaps the best way of introducing it as well, is to tell your family that you feel that you have doubts over your faith and that you feel it might be best for you to not go to communion for a while even though you will still attend mass as part of the family. Apart from letting your parents know that there is an issue, it also shows that you mean no disrespect and that in fact you are taking the Catholic religion seriously – if anybody argues with you then you can point out that you are behaving exactly as a Catholic should in your situation as explained in both the catechism and within the bible itself.

    Of course the problem with this approach is that your family might probe you further and even get other Catholics to talk to you. And I suspect that this could lead to difficulties for you based on what I can work out from what you have written. For example, firstly you seem to be preparing to argue against your family’s Catholicism as though they are Protestants. Catholics don’t treat the Bible in the way protestants do (hence why they haven’t read the entire bible) and so your biblical arguments will carry less weight than you think. Secondly, you seem to have a fairly shaky understanding of both the bible and Catholicism e.g. your comments on science in catholic schools (they are often excellent for science teaching so a science v’s religion approach is going to be weak), working on Sunday etc ( example of Jesus, new covenant etc) suggest that you need to read more widely before you can be anywhere convincing on this.

    Report abuse

  • 13
    hamad baloch says:

    dont worry mate… as far as i’m concerned . they cant do anythng to bring u back in the delusion. but as for the sake of convincing them. u should probably tell them when you are 18. at that time. they really cannot force you

    Report abuse

  • 14
    Dublin-atheist says:

    Heigh Tom and Wellcome. Try a book by R.D called The magic of reality, if you haven’t read id recommend it highly and maybe ask your father to read it too if he is still as ardent a non believer of evolution its possible he will never change his mind but he needs to agree to disagree with you regardless. Becoming an atheist is a wonderful uplifting liberating breakthrough what’s more incredible is you figured it out whilst having two very religious parents. Fair play to you and best if luck.

    Report abuse

  • Tom, I suggest that you don’t tell them anything, but rather, start asking them questions about their own religions beliefs, and about the nature of religious belief itself. If you do this carefully, and respectfully, without taking a position on what is right v. wrong, you will get them thinking about the subject. Catholicism does not directly follow the Bible (a major complaint of Martin Luther). Explore with them what they know about the history of their Church, the history of the life of Jesus, and the history of the Jewish people before him. Ask them why they don’t follow the other religions of the world. You don’t have to do it all at once, but if you keep a steady stream of questions going for the next two years, you are going to cause them to run into things they can’t justify, even if they don’t admit that to you. When you are 18 you will be able to tell them that after this time of looking deeply into the matter, religion just does not make sense to you. It is honest, and after not being able to answer your questions, they will understand.

    Report abuse

  • 16
    Johnson Edakulathur says:

    Hi Tom,

    I just bought a book by title The Victory of Reason by Rodney Stark. Catholic Church has many centuries of investment in reason, philiosphy and education and enterprise. You will read in the Letter of St Paul in new testament of Bible, how racism , slavery were boldly countered first by Catholicism in the 1st Century. The monasteries were rural enterprises and schools and universities were built and promoted more by catholic church much before the State and other secular institutions entered the market. Jesuit centres of higher learning, Salesian schools, convent schools etc. were primary institutions of reason and science .

    The Book of Wisdom in Bible is a good read for commencing intellectual reason. Jesus said, “I am the Truth”. And he said, when the Holy Spirit comes, he will reveal all the truth. Since then the world and science has progressed to freedom, capitalism and democracy.

    Hope you will understand rationally and factually, what you give away and what you take on. Make a good reasearch , experience the truth. I am also pursuing truth in a fair and balanced manner.

    I do not want to say no or yes just because it is fashionable and popular in this forum to say so. I believe in reason and science. I want to discover and experience truth. I want to be rational. I am a Catholic too. And do not find enough reason to leave Catholicism. The more I research, the more I am understanding Jesus and the work of Holy Spirit in enhancing wisdom, reason, truth and logic.


    Report abuse

  • 17
    Pauly01 says:

    You will read in the Letter of St Paul in new testament of Bible….
    The more I research, the more I am understanding Jesus and the work of Holy Spirit in enhancing wisdom, reason, truth and logic

    This is also by St Paul

    ‘Corinthians 6:19-20
    New International Version (NIV)
    19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.’

    ‘You are not your own’. Don’t see how this is consistent with logic or rationality.

    In reply to #17 by Johnson Edakulathur:

    Hi Tom,

    I just bought a book by title The Victory of Reason by Rodney Stark. Catholic Church has many centuries of investment in reason, philiosphy and education and enterprise. You will read in the Letter of St Paul in new testament of Bible, how racism , slavery were boldly countered first by Ca…

    Report abuse

  • 18
    Moderator says:

    Moderators’ message

    Our terms of use prohibit preaching on this site. Members of this site are not required to be atheist, and are welcome to argue the case for their beliefs on threads where it is on topic to do so, but merely promoting or encouraging religion, or simply repeating religious claims, is not permitted.

    The mods

    Report abuse

  • Families can be hard on each other. I also was raised in the Catholic faith, You, and remember my folks reaction when I was 17 and said I wanted to enter the priesthood. (I never did). Without being blatant about it, could you maybe say to your mom you’d like to have a private talk with her and gently suggest to her that you really don’t believe any more? Your beliefs are important to you, but so are your mom’s feelings. Go gently.

    Report abuse

  • 20
    Yllena says:

    I really understand your problem. Although my family has always been atheist, I have seen the rejection from friends when they find out that I am an atheist. How much more difficult it must be when it is your own family whom you love and do not want to alienate. You have two choices — tell them and possibly lose all or part of your family, or — tell them gradually. Maybe bring in arguments for doubt in some conversations, discuss evolution, etc., without actually telling them that you are now an atheist. Gradually, they may come to accept some of these ideas from you and when you do tell them that you may have doubts about god and religion, it will not come as a complete surprise. Gradually, they may come to accept the fact that you no longer believe. Remember, you do not have to rush into telling them. You have your own beliefs and do not need the approval (or disapproval) of your family. I don’t think of this as lying to them or to yourself, just protecting them from a truth that they will have trouble accepting and will hurt them. Prepare them. Do not rush.

    Report abuse

  • 21
    SPOONER says:

    Bring home THE BOOK OF MORMON or DIANETICS then perhaps your parents will pray that you do not believe in silly things and will be more accepting of your skeptism.

    Report abuse

  • I was thoroughly indoctrinated by my atheist mother to realise: As a parent I’m obliged to take care of my children till they can manage on their own, I don’t own them and I have to let them think for themselves right from the start of their lives, because I cannot predict the future. Let them discuss freely and be honest about your opinions, if they have better arguments – admit it.

    If you think this is OK with you but not your parents you have to wait till you have your own children to realise it. Don’t discuss it with your parents now, you have already reached a state where you think for yourself and you don’t have to expose it overtly. But I think it is a good strategy to make them come out and explain to you what parts of the bible they endorse and what made them chose their religion when there is so much to chose from. Would be interesting to listen to your father’s arguments. I don’t think they have thought a lot about it. Listen and learn more about your parents. Sometimes children know their parents better than parents know themselves (I learnt that from my children – sometimes painful).
    I think you have been given very good advices here by many who may even have been in similar situations. Look upon yourself as an eager student of all you are interested in, get more to read, try to find others interested in the same subjects. Be factual, you don’t have to discuss in religious terms if no one else does. Make your time in church a time for contemplation on what you have read. Take an oblate to honour wheat and a sip of wine to honour the grapes . Your parents must have done something right, now that you have your head to yourself and they still have your love.

    Report abuse

  • 23
    Martyns says:

    I think you should give religion and belief a low profile for now. There’s no point in making your life difficult over principle, especially as you’re under their roof still.

    Report abuse

  • Hi Tom,
    I may be an atheist, to be honest at your age my thoughts where agnostic as I found leaving the chance of the faith I had tried to believe in being true more palatable.
    I’m 20 years older now and still learning the language to convey my beliefs, possibly because taking away something as fundamental as god to theological positions leaves a large language gap. Anyway I digress, whatever my belief it includes and abscence of god and a difference of belief to my family.

    However family is so much more than faith and is not worth losing over. Being in a position of non belief is something that can be raised carefully and slowly and with due respect for an engrained belief that by its construt is not open to reason. My parents slowly learnt my views and tolerate, if not accept, them and in return I grew to accept the cultural and community role of the church even when the matter of faith abhors me.

    Report abuse

  • 25
    Vaquero says:

    I went to Catholic school from grades K through 10. went to public HS for grades 11-12 as we moved to a better neighborhood in the burbs.
    The people who did the most to turn me into an Atheist (or agnostic….I mean who the frig really knows what makes strings and membranes vibrate….rhetorical, as no one does), were the Marist Brothers and Jesuit priests who were my science teachers in Catholic HS. they did not tell me to be an atheist, they taught me science and were not afraid to discuss evolution as being a fact. Which is why I prefer to discuss things like evolution with RC folks rather than, oh let say southern evangelicals (I discuss things like how the fishing is in their neck of the woods)

    Now the Catholic church would consider me excommunicated. I consider myself an Atheist Roman Catholic and I will tell you why. We are being surrounded by dangerous people like radical Islamicists who will take over everything if we show them weekness. As the Judeo/Christian folks in the West, leave their once powerful religions as silly holdovers from the dark ages, we are leaving the door open for the structure of Islam. Nature, abhors a vacuum, and people, especially simple folk, need the kind structure that they get from this type of sect.

    I will continue to attend certain religious functions (mostly wedding, funerals and first communions and confirmations) as a sign of respect for the people in my family who are having these ‘sacraments’ performed and to stand with decent honorable people, to paraphrase Obama,”….should the political winds shift in an ugly direction”. which it has, as present in the news on a daily basis.

    call me a racist…I do not care.

    Report abuse

Leave a Reply

View our comment policy.