Acceptance and other questions

Nov 5, 2013

Discussion by: Spektor-vox

i am a person who has recently come out as atheist to my religious family, when i say religious i mean that they follow christianity and/or mormanism (i never truely understood which one it was)

my faith died after years of verbal bullying (which is now resolved) and has-although not many around me may realise- left me a completely changed person.

i will not go into many of the other issues that i was going through that made the uncalled for bullying 'the straw that broke the camels back' and forced me to re-evaluate and change my life before i completely flew off the hande (something i knew i was slowly drfting towards after reading back into older diary entries)

either way, i came out to my family and around the fourth time i did so -yes fourth!- my mother (and the only parent i have ever known) let me decide whether i could go to church or not (but being a persistant woman she still asked)

i immediately felt better knowing that i was fianlly doing something for myself asfter spending years going along with what other people wanted, that led them to beleive i was somehow perfect (don't ask me how that happened), even though i lost a majority of my close religious friends (whom i valued above all else but now i'm not too sure thta they are much different from all the other people i can call 'friends'…or at least i hoped so)

but a few weeks ago i was having casual conversation with my mother on a sunday and she said the words

"you are lost but soon you will come home…"

and that leads me to beleive that she is in denial about my conversion.

i can undertand why my mother beleives in god considering where my family migrated from and how hard the entire process was but this once comment was said i once again felt that feeling again

that feeling that i needed to do something,

how can i get my mother to fully accept my conversion?

she is a very superstitious and headstong person who i do not want to infuriate or sadden because (as stated earlier) she is the only parent i have ever known.

Is there a way to get someone to accept the fact you just can't bring yourself to beleive in a god anymore?

my other questions are:

is there a time where you just stop beleiving completely?

i'm not sure i phrased that question right (forgive me i am only 14) but what i am trying to say is, is there a time where you don't randomly get a sense tehre might be something?

not that there is something but that there might be something.

my childhood education (in a catholic primary school)left me quite traumatized fter your teacher casually explained all about hell and my classmates would talk about it filling my impressionable mind with very disturbing notions and i just want to know

will i be completely free of this?

of religion

of this fear i get when i see other people so intent on getting to an afterlife they so truely want to beleive is real that they try to shove their beleifs donw other peoples throats

does athism get better as you go along?

because i am still fairly new to it and so far all it has made me feel is sad.

not because i realise i will not be going anywhere after i die (i feel that's acctually a pretty good thing), but because now i see millions of people who would die for a person i don't even beleive deserves praise after reading and studying their holy book as i was trying to make the decision on whether to convert or not

and it's just. sad.

sorry, this was long and pretty sad itself (also i'm not sure if i'm using this fourm correctly…)

but thank you for your help in advance.

32 comments on “Acceptance and other questions

  • 1
    canadian_right says:

    It is normal to have doubts, and in my opinion healthy to have doubts. As you grow, mature, and live you will learn more about science, people, history, and the way the real world is. All of these things will almost certainly bolster your belief in a secular universe.You have embraced reality at a young age so it is very likely that one day you won’t have any real doubt that gods and religion are based on stories, and magical thinking and are not in any way real.

    Don’t try to rush your mother into accepting your loss of faith. It is very difficult to get people to give up a cherished belief they have held their whole life.It will take time, likely years, for her to accept this change in you. Years seem long when you are 14, but they will pass quicker than you think. At 14 it is important to maintain a relationship with your family. You are old enough to know your own mind, but be polite and patient with your mother. Being polite does not mean putting up with rudeness yourself. Be assertive if required, but try to do it politely.

    The real world is a wonderful place. The real world is full of wonders. There is no need to make up gods when the real universe is full of marvels. Read and learn about the real world. Read about science. Read about philosophy, and history. Giving up the narrow, constricting world of religion will open up your life and give you many opportunities to be a better person.

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  • 2
    Alan4discussion says:

    (forgive me i am only 14) but what i am trying to say is, is there a time where you don’t randomly get a sense tehre might be something?

    You are of an age when those who are going to reach a rational mental maturity are in the process of doing so. Most religious organisation make extraordinary efforts to retard the development of rational thinking and understanding of evidenced science, in order to preserve a child-like dependency on their church leaders who feed them with mythological pseudo-knowledge.

    There is an example of catholic anti-science and anti-logic here:-

    Catholicism, now claims to accept biological and astronomical science, but their insertions of miracles, and god-did-it bits, mean that this is a pose to appear more credible to the educated, rather than a genuine acceptance of the evidence.

    not that there is something but that there might be something.

    It takes a while to recognise all the deep-rooted indoctrination which has been implanted or picked up from those around you. Stick around this site and watch or join in the discussions.

    my childhood education (in a catholic primary school)left me quite traumatized after your teacher casually explained all about hell and my classmates would talk about it filling my impressionable mind with very disturbing notions and i just want to know

    There are relevant quotes in Wikipedia which explain the catholic double-talk position:

    Catholic Church and evolution – From Wikipedia, the “Infallible” Pope Pius IX

    “9 Hence all faithful Christians are forbidden to defend as the legitimate conclusions of science those opinions which are known to be contrary to the doctrine of faith, particularly if they have been condemned by the Church; and furthermore they are absolutely bound to hold them to be errors which wear the deceptive appearance of truth.” (Vatican Council I)

    “10 Not only can faith and reason never be at odds with one another but they mutually support each other, for on the one hand right reason established the foundations of the faith and, illuminated by its light, develops the science of divine things; on the other hand, faith delivers reason from errors and protects it and furnishes it with knowledge of many kinds.” (Vatican Council I)

    Section 9, claims that Catholics should hold scientific evidence to be false if it contradicts and disproves RCC dogma.

    Section 10, pretends that logic cannot contradict faith based dogma, and that some irrational mental contortion labelled as “right-reason”, can over-ride logical reasoning.

    In other words they teach:- that if scientific evidence and logical reasoning show dogmas to be wrong, it is the science and reasoning which is “wrong” because unevidenced “faith-thinking rules OK” – the “infallible” Vatican made that up!

    {In modern times} – The Church has deferred to scientists on matters such as the age of the earth and the authenticity of the fossil record. Papal pronouncements, along with commentaries by cardinals, have accepted the findings of scientists on the gradual appearance of life. In fact, the International Theological Commission in a July 2004 statement endorsed by Cardinal Ratzinger, then president of the Commission and head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, later Pope Benedict XVI, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, includes this paragraph:

    According to the widely accepted scientific account, the universe erupted 15 billion years ago in an explosion called the ‘Big Bang’ and has been expanding and cooling ever since. Later there gradually emerged the conditions necessary for the formation of atoms, still later the condensation of galaxies and stars, and about 10 billion years later the formation of planets. In our own solar system and on earth (formed about 4.5 billion years ago), the conditions have been favorable to the emergence of life. While there is little consensus among scientists about how the origin of this first microscopic life is to be explained, there is general agreement among them that the first organism dwelt on this planet about 3.5–4 billion years ago. Since it has been demonstrated that all living organisms on earth are genetically related, it is virtually certain that all living organisms have descended from this first organism. Converging evidence from many studies in the physical and biological sciences furnishes mounting support for some theory of evolution to account for the development and diversification of life on earth, while controversy continues over the pace and mechanisms of evolution.[6]

    The Church’s stance is that any such gradual appearance must have been guided in some way by God, but the Church has thus far declined to define in what way that may be. Commentators tend to interpret the Church’s position in the way most favorable to their own arguments

    So basically they claim “god-did-it”, but have no suggestions or ideas as to how their supernatural claims could be possible! Their commentators just make it up as they go along!

    your teacher casually explained all about hell and my classmates would talk about it filling my impressionable mind with very disturbing notions and i just want to know

    Hell is a fictitious threat which has been used to bully people into beliefs for centuries.

    will i be completely free of this?

    Many on this site, like myself have been free of such superstitious nonsense for decades.

    As you gain a real understanding of the world and the universe, the supernatural superstitions will appear more and more ridiculous.

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  • 3
    Alan4discussion says:

    In reply to #2 by JuliusBA:

    What happens with what religious people refers to as the sole after you die,

    This is very near to being conclusively answered by neuroscientists and physicists as detection systems improve for examining matter and energy at atomic and at quantum level.
    There is no evidence whatever for the existence of “souls”, The various claims of when organisms are “ensouled” are unevidenced and utterly incoherent – unless you believe that single cells without brains have “undetectable souls” and can produce some evidence to support this claim. They are pure mythology from dark-age ignorance. Science can already track matter, energy, and forces – and the absence of these.

    is not a question that is, or ever will be, answered by science.

    This is just a claim of personal incredulity and personal ignorance. You have no basis for such a claim as to what can be answered by science.

    (God-fearing people may be wise, and are quite often exemplary in the way they treat other people.)

    ..and can also be fanatically irrational, dangerous, mean, and murderous in their treatment of other people, as jihadists, inquisitors and centuries of battles between differing religious and sectarian groups show!

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  • 4
    muttley says:

    how can i get my mother to fully accept my conversion?

    It may be a long time before your mother accepts your view, or she might never accept it. Sometimes the best we can hope for is an agreement (often unspoken) to not push each others buttons. The only person who needs to accept your atheism is you.

    will i be completely free of this?

    There’s an old saying “give time time”. I’m a recovering alcoholic and in the early days I used to feel the same way about drink. I wondered if there would ever be a day when I didn’t think about taking a drink, or think about not taking a drink, or even trying to think about not thinking about drink. There will come a time when the past doesn’t play such a big part in your everyday life.

    i see millions of people who would die for a person i don’t even beleive deserves praise

    You aren’t responsible for other people. At the moment, just look after yourself, you’ve got enough on your plate without worrying about others.

    does athism get better as you go along?

    You will get better.

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  • 5
    Red Dog says:

    In reply to #5 by JuliusBA:

    I believe that this whole universe, in total can be summed up as a huge equation and a collection of numbers to put into it.

    What does that mean? You can’t have an equation without defining what the variables are. What are the units of measure? What are the variables supposed to represent and how do you determine what values to plug in? There are a lot of important equations that help us understand the universe: E = mc² or rB > C but the idea that you could have just one equation that would give you the ultimate answer to life the universe and everything makes about as much sense as saying the answer is 42.

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  • 6
    godzillatemple says:

    Does athism get better as you go along?

    As somebody who was raised in the Mormon church (my parents converted when I was 3 years old, so I didn’t have any say in the matter) and who went along with the teachings (despite not actually having any strong belief in the existence of God) until I finally just couldn’t bear the hypocrisy of pretending to believe something I didn’t when I reached my 30s, let me just say that yes, it does get better.

    Once I finally told my immediate family and friends that I just didn’t believe any of it, a huge weight lifted from my metaphorical soul. The burden of pretending to be something I wasn’t was gone, along with a great deal of depression that had been caused as a result. I was free! I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life, but at least I finally felt that I was free to make my own choices.

    That was about 15 years ago. Life has not been perfect, but I’ve never felt as depressed as I did back then. I have found meaning in my life based on the choices I have made and continue to make. I went from believing that I was was too sinful to ever have true happiness in life to meeting a wonderful woman whom I married and with whom I have a wonderful son. I live each day of my life trying to be a good person because I choose to be a good person, not because I feel compelled to be one. I find joy in the world’s beauty and take comfort knowing that the evils in nature are the product of random forces instead of acts of divine punishment (or, to be more precise, acts of God withholding his blessings because I didn’t pray hard enough with enough faith).

    I have lost some friends who I only knew through the church, which is sad. But I have made many more friends who accept me for who I am, which is wonderful beyond description.

    So, yes. It does get better.

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  • 7
    phil rimmer says:

    In reply to #5 by JuliusBA:

    Why does the color green, as I see it in my head, exist? It should just be as numbers going through a calculator

    Why shouldn’t numbers appear as green…and red and….?

    Well for some people they do. Synaesthesia is the phenomenon of mapping of stimuli to unusual or unexpected experience.

    You will find these pages stuffed with discussion of such things. Its really worth a trawl through the site using some google search help.

    There are many philosopher/scientists tackling these issues now and quite a few will be able to explain why-

    I see it from the perspective of the body I am currently in.

    is an understood illusion that conceals the more fascinating likelihoods of embodied and situated cognition.

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  • 8
    Alan4discussion says:

    In reply to #5 by JuliusBA:

    In reply to #4 by Alan4discussion:

    I’m going to have to disagree on you about this one, or it might also be a matter of different definitions. I believe that this whole universe, in total can be summed up as a huge equation and a collection of numbers to put into it. The presence of a soul that has any effects on the our universe would be contradictory to that, so that is not my belief either. My statement about the “soul” is philosophical.

    I’m not sure what use this is to 14 year-old looking for basic answers. The Catholic claim of “ensoulment” exclusively for modern humans at conception, is incoherent rubbish!

    I would be avoiding obscure comments in this discussion.

    You are 100 % correct when you say that I have no basis for claiming that science never will find an answer to the question about what happens after death. Hope you understand why I said it after reading what I have written above. I will removed it now 😉 Oobs. Can’t edit the comment, and don’t want to remove it completely. Should I? I take that one sentence back in any case.

    I would suggest the note further on, saying you retract it would do. Or- as I do:

    (If I spot a goof in one of my comments where the “edit” has timed-out, I sometimes copy/paste it into a new window and delete the original – adding an explanatory note in the new pasting if need be.)

    Why does the perception color green, as I see it in my head, exist?

    With a slight modification, I think this earlier comment elsewhere covered that question:

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  • 9
    crookedshoes says:


    You are struggling; it is apparent to see. Atheism isn’t something that “gets better”. It just is. But, life can get better. When you put some distance between yourself and these truly epic events in your life, you will garner some perspective that you perhaps do not have right this moment. I do not know if you will ever stop thinking about what “might” be out there (I know I have gotten more and more convinced and have gotten closer and closer to total disbelief). But, closing the door to possibility is probably a bad strategy. I view my situation as closing the door to probability but leaving the door open to possibility.

    I am sorry that you are sad. I can tell you that after 45 years of my own trials and tribulations, sad cycles to happy then back to sad sometimes, then back to happy…. But, please hear this, if you are depressed, that is different from sad and it is critical that you distinguish between the two and please do not be ashamed to get help.

    A phrase that has helped me through some issues:
    “sad moments, not sad minutes. Sad minutes, not sad hours. Sad hours, not sad days. Sad days, not sad weeks.” We all have weight to carry. Yours is heavy right now. Understand that if it gets too heavy, there are people who will help. Family, friends, even strangers. Just ask.

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  • Hi Spektor,

    Nice going. You’ve come to the right place for some reassurance and help. Reading between the lines, you’ve had quite a turbulent time over the last few years, and now you are questioning the existence of god which is one of the major underpinnings that society has invented to get through these bad times. As you know, most of us on this site are atheists which means we don’t see evidence for any supernatural phenomena – including the many and various gods that have come and gone over the years. But having said that, none of us would say definitely there is no god, because you can never be sure that all the evidence is in. So having said that, I think 14 is about the right time for you to begin exercising your critical thinking. I wouldn’t be too hasty about telling people you are an atheist at this stage because adults, like your mum, will still be seeing you as green, inexperienced and ignorant about the world – and let’s face it, that’s not too unreasonable. So my first piece of advice is, take a lowish profile for the moment. I’m not saying, go back to church or anything like that, but resist the temptation to get into heavy arguments especially as you won’t yet be much good at it!

    The second thing I’d say is this: if at all possible, try not to fall out with your mum or anyone else in your family. Families are not replaceable and you will be hard pressed to find a substitute where you can get the sort of unconditional love that a parent can give you.

    Finally: you asked “does atheism get better?” Answer YES! When I finally made the break and stopped praying, I was a bit lost for a few weeks and really had to force myself not to pray when I needed a good mark at school. Soon I realised, I was getting ok marks, just like I always did before, and praying – or not praying – had made no difference. So after a few months, the loss of god worried me less. But you will find that for quite a while, prayer will be tempting especially at times of stress. Tough it out – praying doesn’t work anyway – if it did we’d all be doing it, as Ludovic Kennedy so aptly put it.

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  • As many others have said. Keep a low profile, be nice to your mother but continue to enjoy your Sundays.
    Time is on your side and as your knowledge increases your doubts will decrease.
    Good luck with your wise choice. Keep in touch.

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  • 12
    ThisIsMe says:

    I’m afraid I can’t help you very much in regards to your coming out to your family. I was raised in an atheistic family so I can’t empathize with how difficult it is to feel like the people closest to you can’t accept something about you, but you have my deepest sympathies and I’ll offer what advice I can.
    First, try to find some fellow atheists. Talking to like minded people face to face can work wonders on frayed nerves. Chatting to fellow atheists online can be helpful, too. Some people can’t deal with the concept of atheism; I was shocked to find out that a few of my classmates are like that. But not everyone is that closed-minded. I have some friends and classmates that come from very religious families. When the people in my English class a few years ago found out that I was an atheist during a group discussion, there were mixed reactions. Some people who used to enjoy talking and debating the finer points of literature with me suddenly didn’t know what to say to me other than “You’re going to Hell.” Some didn’t care either way. But I was very surprised (pleasantly), when two siblings who I knew came from a religious family said, “You’re an atheist? But you’re so nice!”
    My first thought? Dear God, not this again.
    It must have showed on my face because they immediately started apologizing, saying “Oh, my God, I’m sorry! Was that bad?” After this went on for a bit one of them asked, “Why are you an atheist?”
    It wasn’t mean, wasn’t condescending. She was genuinely curious. After talking with them for a little while, I learned quite a bit about atheist stereotypes and the misconceptions people can have. Educating people about atheism is an important step to them accepting you, which is what these two and a great many of my friends and classmates did. It took a while for some of them to come to grips with it, and some of them still haven’t. Don’t burn your old bridges, but try to build some new ones.
    As far as never being free of religion goes, I know it is possible to become free of religion. Many of my atheist friends, as well as several prominent Internet atheists, were once very devoutly religious. My advice? I never was really introduced to the concept of God until I was almost halfway through elementary school. I remember being interested in the concept, thinking something along the lines of ‘oh, God is like an imaginary friend?’ (I look back on that and laugh now, because that’s exactly what I think.) My advice is read the Bible or another holy book not through the eyes of a believer, but through the eyes of a writer. Pay attention to the craft, to the details. I guarantee you that you will find several glaringly obvious contradictions as well as some that become apparent when you think about them.(If God is perfectly good, doesn’t that mean he can’t know what sin is like? But isn’t he also supposed to be all-knowing? Which one is it?) Do some background research; where did Christianity come from? How did it become what it is today? You can find links about several Christian holidays to important holidays in old Paganism. There are even some Platonic concepts that can be found in the Bible. Knowing where these ideas come from makes them seem significantly less ‘holy’. At least in my experience.

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  • 13
    justinesaracen says:

    When I was 14 I read Bertrand Russell’s book “Why I am not a Christian,” and it liberated me. I am sure it’s in your town library, and because it’s a famous book, parts of it are probably available online.
    Then treat yourself to a copy of The God Delusion.

    In general, you can develop your atheism AND your self confidence by educating yourself. Work hard in school and READ READ READ. The more you are educated, the more you will have the opportunity to meet smart secular people and the more you will find religious dogma to be pathetic. Yes, life gets better, much better.

    (But be nice to your mum. Nobody loves you like she does.)

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  • What are friends for? Mainly they are people you talk to about common interests. Likely your original friends were bonded by a common interest in religion. You have new interests. So you need to find new friends. Think of all the people on earth you have never met whom you would find fascinating companions. For some reason, you are refusing to get on with introductions.

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  • not that there is something but that there might be something.

    When I was a kid, I jumped onto my bed to make it difficult for any monster under the bed to grab my leg and pull me under.
    I would check under the bed with the light on, and see no monsters. But the fear of “might” still was powerful.
    The very act of checking reinforced the irrational fear. To get rid of the fear I had to force myself not to check and not to jump.

    There was no evidence of any kind for a monster. I knew of no other kids so attacked. This was purely my imagination. Monsters under the bed are however, a common childhood fear, just as invisible cruel bearded men hiding on clouds is an irrational common adult fear. There is no more evidence for such a bogey man than there is for a foot-grabbing monster.

    If you wanted to get rid of your fear of non-venomous snakes and spiders, you would not hang out with folk with phobias. You would ask someone without any fear to help you get over yours. Mainly you learn by observing his relaxed lack of fear.

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  • You are only 14. To mom, you are still a baby. She will assume anything you do she disapproves of is just a phase. She will also presume you are not yet capable to decide anything she disapproves of.

    The key thing is be firm and consistent. Don’t humour her or it will undo all your previous work.

    Mom will likely forever hope you will return to the religious fold. She figures that is in your best interest.

    I had a similar situation when I came out to my Mom when I was 21 as gay. My mom was extremely anti gay. So I set out proving that everything she knew about gays was not true. To my astonishment within a month or two she became rapidly pro-gay and started campaigning. You might consider shattering some of the nonsense you mom believes.

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  • will i be completely free of this?

    I read the Qur’an cover to cover. I had terrible nightmares for months. Eventually it went away.

    You are in a worse situation. The abuse happened when you were younger. There are ways of dealing with such trauma such as EMDR and RRT.

    One thing that helps is a trusted person pooh poohing your trauma.

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  • 20
    SaganTheCat says:

    how can i get my mother to fully accept my conversion?

    I never did. instead I learned to accept that fact. sometimes you have to let go of part of a relationship. you’ll have to be the adult

    will i be completely free of this?

    free yes, completely probably not. you don’t get to go back and relive your childhood without the trauma but you learn how to recognise its effect

    does athism get better as you go along?

    yes, because you keep learning stuff

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  • You mom has been ensnared in a very sophisticated, very polished ancient con. Understanding this will not free her, but it will help you understand her behaviour:

    Why are cons so successful? Why don’t people back out when they begin to get suspicious?

    • Wishful thinking. Even if they think the odds are slim that the con is legit, wishful thinking makes victims hang in there.
    • Deadbeat thinking. Cons always appear that you will get something for nothing or or almost nothing. Getting something for nothing has huge appeal to many people, even when it is almost surely a con. People will kids themselves it must be legit if they can’t work out exactly how the con works.
    • Peer pressure. Friends reassure them the con is legit, because they too hope it is, and are actually just reassuring themselves.
    • Flattery. Recall the Emperor’s New Clothes where the con men flattered the emperor convincing him that people taken in by the con were cleverer than others.
    • Fear of being rude. What if they confront the con artists, and they are legit? How embarrassing!
    • Cutting your losses. You cut your loses, you must confront how stupid you were, and you must take your loss now. If you postpone, you can hope all will turn out ok.
    • Lack of proof. You can’t definitely prove this is a con, so you can’t very well confront the con artists.
    • Pride. Even when you are sure you have been had, you are ashamed to publicly admit it.
    • Gullibility. So long as the con man is smarter than the mark, he can feed them a line that holds them for a while.

    A church is an ancient con. The con men promise eternal bliss and threaten eternal torment to extort money. The con is so old and so successful it is never prosecuted, and even atheists generally do not recognise it as such. It is a privileged criminal class.
    The church scam has promise of huge reward like a pyramid scheme and promise of magical dire calamity on defection like a chain letter.

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  • 22
    Len Walsh says:

    “Conversion” left me a completely changed person.

    i’m absolutely certain you will feel much better by the end of summer (assuming that’s next) because at your age you will very soon become more interested other things i think. you will feel like a completely changed person again by next year

    will i be completely free of this?
    of religion
    of this fear i get when i see other people so intent…

    yes in a few weeks i reckon (if..) you can remain a little patient . it isn’t long to wait although it feels like forever at your age doesn’t it?

    as i was trying to make the decision on whether to convert or not and it’s just. sad.sorry,

    don’t be sad or sorry because very soon another interest or passion will replace this one (which) will likely evaporate (fade) as this one becomes a more natural feeling

    she is in denial about my conversion…how can i get my mother to fully accept my conversion?…

    all mums are the same more or less (a little) and they understand. all kids your age become passionate about different things (more or less) most parents anticipate their kids going through conversions (football teams, politics etc) and must calculate for possible re-conversions. even grandparents consider this when pretending to agree with grandkids, because they can remember when our mum was 14. but you’re right. adults can be very superstitious and usually hold many (different) ridiculous beliefs. i think that’s because they don’t listen to their kids enough.

    filling my impressionable mind with very disturbing notions…

    that’s why this feels so urgent to you i think. passion does that. my kids Converted (intently) to animal activism, skateboarding and R/C helicopters respectively at age 14.

    “Converting” to atheism is like forgetting where you left your stamp album.

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  • does atheism get better as you go along?

    I can’t speak from experience here, since I have always been atheist, though I am now much more convinced that religion is a con rather than something that has a tiny possibility of being right.

    I would think the fear of hellfire will go away. The Christian notion of heaven/hell is nightmarish. I much prefer death as I have already experienced, before I was born and during anaesthesia. Christians terrify themselves with death. They even try to make 90 year olds suffer in exquisite pain just to postpone it a few months.

    The thing I fear most is falling into the hands of Christian health care providers near my life end to keep me alive so I can suffer and make Jesus happy.

    The late Ken Keyes wrote a number of books about how to take conscious control of your beliefs. You convince yourself intellectually first, then you grind the changes in through repetition.

    Perhaps you are concerned with friction from family. Pretty much the best you can hope for is avoiding the topic and keeping your interactions to a minimum. The older someone is, the less likely to change their mind about anything. Find yourself new friends.

    I don’t think I have ever heard of anyone who either persuaded their parents to accept their new status, or whose parents gave up religion too.

    It is certainly more difficult to come out to parents when you are still living at home that after you are on your own. Be careful. Many religious parents expel their “rebellious” children. Then you have become homeless without a skill other than prostitution. Not a pleasant life.

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  • 24
    Red Dog says:

    When I told my parents I was an atheist they literally didn’t believe me. They thought I was just saying it to get a reaction and even after I explained it they insisted that I was still Catholic. People don’t reason about religion using the rational part of their brain. I think it’s very unlikely you will get your mother to accept your atheism any time soon. Based on my experience at least my advice is to not even try. They will eventually — hopefully — accept you for what you are. At least my parents did. But you can’t force it and putting too much effort into it will most likely just generate drama and conflict and not do anyone any good. BTW, I’m not saying you should lie or hide your beliefs, just not put a lot of effort into explaining them or trying to change the minds of your family. Show them with deeds that an atheist can be as or more moral as any person of faith and focus on your education and living a worthwhile life.

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  • “Is there a way to get someone to accept the fact you just can’t bring yourself to believe in a god anymore?”
    Acceptance takes time, you can’t force her to accept your beliefs, just like she couldn’t force you to accept hers. No ones belief is actually right, or everyone’s is wrong. So acceptance has very little to do with accepting the other person’s choice, than accepting that another person could make such a choice so opposite their own, and also balancing having continued respect for the person. If the right balance is achieved then your mom will grow, and that’s the opportunity your atheism gives you mom. Just like her religiousness gave u the opportunity to grow as well.

    “is there a time where you just stop beleiving completely?”

    I think there comes a point when you realize it isnt about belief, and its more about how beliefs themselves are not real. There is no way to dispute beliefs that require you to die to verify the veracity of said beliefs. The truth is anything you believe in that you are unable to verify is a pointless thought. You just have to let it go because there are always two sides to every coin and if you gave attention to a belief you will never let go of it, there will always be a part of you that can defend it, while a part that can deny it. Atheism is a belief in itself. I would say you can just believe in atheism more, and that would destroy your christian beliefs. But I feel all belief is wrong, except in the truest belief in the fact that…You Don’t Know.

    Drop all beliefs about god and no god, on second thought, drop ALL beliefs about yourself. Find yourself.

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  • 26
    Alan4discussion says:

    In reply to #29 by Hence:

    The truth is anything you believe in that you are unable to verify is a pointless thought.

    Anything unverified cannot be honestly described as “truth”!

    You just have to let it go because there are always two sides to every coin

    This is just specifying a false dichotomy. There are frequently many more than two points to issues, and many more than two viewpoints.

    and if you gave attention to a belief you will never let go of it, there will always be a part of you that can defend it, while a part that can deny it.

    Beliefs should be critically examined to see if there is supporting justification.

    Atheism is a belief in itself.

    This is nonsense! Atheism is an absence of belief! Atheism is as much a “belief” as non-stamp-collecting is a hobby!

    I would say you can just believe in atheism more,

    This is also nonsense. Atheism is about considering the credibility of god-claims and the improbability of gods. It is misleading to present it falsely as equivalent to the blind-faith which believes without evidence. Pre-indoctrination, we are all born atheists.

    and that would destroy your christian beliefs.

    This is backwards. It is the lack of credibility of these beliefs which leads Xtians to atheism.

    But I feel all belief is wrong,

    Belief without evidence has been consistently shown to produce a preponderance of wrong answers.

    except in the truest belief in the fact that…You Don’t Know.

    There are many things which are unknown to humans in general, and to individuals in particular, but we do not need to have “belief in facts” when we have evidence, Scientific laws and theories, as as near as anyone gets to facts. Many people do know these and have supporting evidence to very high levels of probability. It is wrong to claim there is no scientifically established knowledge which is very unlikely to be refuted. .

    Drop all beliefs about god and no god, on second thought, drop ALL beliefs about yourself.

    This is a very confused suggestion! It is the sort of stuff which comes from the “born-again” brain addled!
    Drop all beliefs about fairies and no fairies! Drop all beliefs about magic-dragons and no magic-dragons!
    These are not equivalent viewpoints!

    Find yourself.

    Anyone who forgets all they know and understand , has just lost themselves!

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  • 27
    Paleophyte says:

    Hi Spektor,

    It sounds like you’ve had a rough time of it. My experiences are different and may not be entirely helpful. My “conversion”, if you can call it that, was relatively uneventful. I attended a liberal church and had a good time there. I sang in the choir, attended church camp and the church youth group. The latter two were focused heavily on the youth and light on the church. I simply never really believed. My belief in God never matured much beyond my belief in Santa Claus. About the time that I was expected to undergo my Confirmation I decided that it would be too much hypocrisy on my part and left. I continued to go to youth group. My mother, the only religious member of the family, wasn’t happy but didn’t make a huge scene. She’s made a few oblique references to it over he years but nothing more than a mild irritant.

    but a few weeks ago i was having casual conversation with my mother on a sunday and she said the words “you are lost but soon you will come home…” and that leads me to beleive that she is in denial about my conversion.

    I’ve heard this one too. My interpretation is that she isn’t in denial about your conversion. The first part, “You are lost…” suggests that she understands that at some level. She simply expects you to return to the fold eventually. It isn’t uncommon and I wouldn’t let it worry you. On a more visceral level she may never be able to accept your conversion. Many theists simply can’t understand how an atheist can not believe. If they could they likely wouldn’t be atheists.

    how can i get my mother to fully accept my conversion?

    Most likely you can’t. Especially not at this stage when the change is so new and the wounds, yours and hers, are still so fresh. Any conversation you try to have with her is bound to be emotionally charged and will likely degenerate rapidly into a counter-productive fight. Give it a few years for things to quiet down and you might have a shot at explaining yourself. In the mean time be a good son and show her that you haven’t turned into a ravening monster just because you stopped believing. If you ever try and talk to her about it be careful to keep a cool head and be prepared to end the conversation if she doesn’t take it well.

    is there a time where you just stop beleiving completely?

    No. It fades with time but never vanishes entirely. Don’t worry about it though. God isn’t your problem, the church is. From the sounds of your post you’ve stopped believing in them pretty thoroughly.

    will i be completely free of this? of religion

    Yes and no. In most of the important ways it sounds like you’re already free of it. You’ve recognized the church for what it is. On the other hand, your experiences are part of who you are. You can never be “free” of this and should not try. You’ll only be fighting yourself, setting up further internal conflicts. Instead you need to own this. You need to control it rather than having it control you. This will take time and work and, given the abusive and traumatic experiences you’ve been through, a good therapist would likely be beneficial.

    does athism get better as you go along?

    That depends entirely on what you do next. In many ways atheism is cold comfort. It doesn’t tell you who you are, what your purpose is or what’s good or evil. It just tells you what you aren’t. You aren’t a dupe shackled by the church and now you are free to discover who you really are, what you want your purpose to be and what is right and wrong. It’s work and it’ll take time and thought but all in all it’s been pretty rewarding for me.

    One particular trap that you might want to try and avoid is becoming a zealous atheist. I’ve seen this happen more commonly amongst people who convert from bad religious backgrounds. With your experiences it’s easy to fall into a mindset of despising the church and all believers in general. You end up a “fire-and-brimstone” atheist, little different from a believer except for the title.

    because i am still fairly new to it and so far all it has made me feel is sad.

    That’s pretty common. It’s a turbulent time in your life and this just added a metric shit-tonne more difficulty. Try and find a good support group. It doesn’t have to be atheists, just people who can get along with you and help when you’re feeling like crap. I’ve had excellent relations with groups ranging from liberal theists through secular organizations to atheist communities like this.

    Don’t worry about others. It is sad but there’s little you can do for them. You need to help yourself before you can help anybody else. After that the best thing you can do is lead by example. It shows the believers the lie that atheists are all immoral, hell-bound sinners. I get a kick out of replying to people who tell me “You’re such a good Christian!” It’s very revealing that they can’t tell believers from non-believers based on how we act.

    If you need any further help feel free to drop me a line. My disposable e-mail is seantemp2 at

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  • 30
    Zeuglodon says:

    I can’t say I’m the best person to ask, since I was never an ex-believer and so can’t provide the nuance and insight that comes from experience. The closest I ever got to such an experience was to moving from an implicit atheist (i.e. not believing but not really paying any attention to it) to an explicit one after reading Dawkins’ work and realizing how much sense it made.

    The most I can say is that, intellectually, it’s worth pursuing science and philosophy to answer questions about what we know, how we know it, and about sceptical inquiry and speculation. Ethically, I think the biggest deal is just making it clear and reassuring people that you still intend to be a good person, theist or not. Let other people make up their own minds. I think you’ll find the beliefs, while fundamental to a religion, are also part of a package for accepting easy but insubstantial answers to difficult questions about how to live one’s life and what morality is. After all, one of the most prominent things you notice about religion is its (often unspoken) claim to moral superiority and/or respect, and accepting the beliefs that make sense of the ethics, in its turn, makes its possible to adopt a moral system that might otherwise have been discarded long ago in the face of contradictory evidence.

    I hope this helps.

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  • 31
    Timothy McNamara says:

    I guess some of us of more years should take heart. Whilst we absorbed childhood indoctrination and gained ammunition for adult protest, today’s youth know the word ‘atheism’. They have a term ‘coming out’, courtesy of homosexual liberation, this term used to describe their revealing disbelief to their family. Oh how the tide of humanism rises. Might our species, regardless of its rank on my list of deserving sentient earthlings, succeed in discarding superstition and all the divisive notions of religion.

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  • 32
    titania says:

    In reply to #35 by Timothy McNamara:
    “Might our species, regardless of its rank on my list of deserving sentient earthlings, succeed in discarding superstition and all the divisive notions of religion.”

    I doubt. the religious impulse would last as long as there would be a desire to create fantasies,For as long as people are capable of imagining things that are not real, there would be some who would take that a step further, and believe that they ARE a part of reality ( outside their heads). This would mean that time at which we can be assured that religion would disappear completely would be time when novels and other fictional works cease to be written.

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