Dealing with family that believes

MattShizzle
Posts: 7966
Joined: 2006-03-31
User is offlineOffline
Dealing with family that believes

I'd like to hear more from people here who are atheists, but their family believes. My parents are believers, but not to the point of going to church. Still, my mom gives me a hard time about my non-belief sometimes. Last year I wrote a letter to my local paper because of all the anti-evolution letters they were getting: http://www.readingeagle.com/blog/letters/archives/2005/08/no_basis_in_sci.html#comments

About a week later I got a letter where "THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION IS NOT A FACT" was scrawled, and 2 theist pamphlets were included. I'm sure it was my theist aunt that sent it. :roll:

Matt Shizzle has been banned from the Rational Response Squad website. This event shall provide an atmosphere more conducive to social growth. - Majority of the mod team


Sapient
High Level DonorRRS CO-FOUNDERRRS Core MemberWebsite Admin
Sapient's picture
Posts: 7522
Joined: 2006-04-18
User is offlineOffline
Re: Dealing with family that believes

You have to take it all one instance at a time. I would've told your aunt that the theory of gravity is just a theory and thrown an apple up in the air in hopes that it wouldn't have come down to hit her in the head. Afterall, it's just a theory. :roll:

- Brian Sapient


Buy popular atheist books and support the Rational Response Squad at the same time on Amazon.


MattShizzle
Posts: 7966
Joined: 2006-03-31
User is offlineOffline
Dealing with family that believes

Read some of the idiocy that was posted in the forum after my letter! I got some online friends to respond on my behalf! (that was before I wa on this site!)

Matt Shizzle has been banned from the Rational Response Squad website. This event shall provide an atmosphere more conducive to social growth. - Majority of the mod team


CynageN
Posts: 101
Joined: 2006-02-14
User is offlineOffline
Dealing with family that believes

My parents were raised religious, but are not really religious themselves. They never forced me to go to church, but they still believe in god and other super natural stupidity like ghosts. They call themselves "spiritualists" but when I told them that I was an atheist, they reacted like christians. They assumed that I hate god, jesus, that I loved the devil etc.. so as you can see, they are theists though they won't admit it. My mother has sort of accepted it as time went on, but she still says things like "God must have been by my side" and "God is with us" specificly infront of me as to either irritate me or try to convert me.

The way I deal with her is I just apply the same critical thinking process in conversation, telling her to show evidence of her claims and she usually just laughs it off or shuts up about it. My grandparents are pretty religious though, and ever since I told them they do their best to avoid me even at family gatherings.


GrimJesta
GrimJesta's picture
Posts: 152
Joined: 2006-06-21
User is offlineOffline
Dealing with family that believes

Yea Cyn, I had a similiar response. My parents were totally cool with my decision (it was they that laid the foundation) to reject irrational religion, but some of my family members reacted like I told them that "I LUV TEH DEVUL!!1!" or some other such idiocy. They equated my rejection of Judeo-Christianity with rejection of "good" things, like love, charity, honesty, and things along those lines. They just didn't get it when I explained that my desire to be good is now stronger since rejecting the idea of an afterlife, since I know that this is all I got and a better world is one where such things are practiced.

I'm sorry to hear about your trials Matt, but it happens. Those who cry about early Christians being persecuted usually have no problem doing their own persecution.

Still, don't take it to heart. A lot of these people genuinely believe that they're doing you good by sending you these theistic pamphlets. They believe that you're damned, and usually it's out of familial love that they try to bring you back into the fold. So whatever you do, don't resent them. Just treat them with the same love, and try to save them from their religion out of such love like they try to save you from your philosophies out of the same devotion.

And hope you can save a few more. :twisted:

-=Grim=-

No Nyarlathotep, Know Peace.
Know Nyarlathotep, No Peace.


floatingegg
Posts: 73
Joined: 2006-06-01
User is offlineOffline
Dealing with family that believes

Due in some small part to my influence--particularly the questions that I asked as a child--my mother has slowly moved away from religion. The rest of the family is made up of moderates. Religion doesn't enter the conversation as often as it did when I was a child, but I'm still exposed to woo-woo beliefs regularly.

Though I practice conversational intolerance, I pick my battles carefully. While I care about argumentation, other people don't, so rigorous inquiry has become the most powerful weapon in my repertoire. In my experience, asking questions is the most effective way to get other people to be more introspective.

I will occasionally make the switch from inquiry to argumentation. This usually follows a demand for evidence. Since evidence is rarely supplied, I may engage my opponent more aggressively, but I usually reserve this for special occasions. I have little tolerance for religious propaganda, so I will respond to proselytizing e-mails accordingly.

Few atheists are willing to come out of the closet if it means sacrificing something that they hold dear, like the acceptance of their family and friends. While I try to preserve social bonds, I will not censor myself to appease my family. If this causes unrest, then I?m willing to accept the consequences, even if that means exclusion.


applesforadam
Posts: 151
Joined: 2006-06-27
User is offlineOffline
Dealing with family that believes

I have been openly atheist with my mother since I was 16. I am now 23. A great deal of ignorance in my reasons for my disbelief at 16 have left me now, through study and careful practice of rational thought. My mother was raised to be devoutly catholic, but was forced to attend a protestant church after marrying my father who was a baptist. I was brought to church as a child, but my father was a piss-poor christian and religion sort of silently left the family. We began only going to church on holidays, and religion was never talked about much in my home. So when I told my mother about my lack of faith at 16, she didn't say much to convince me otherwise.
She is a very intelligent woman, so as of late I've been discussing openly my reasons for being an atheist and providing her with literature and media on atheistic ideas. Because she has never abandoned her ability to use logic and reason, she is open to any discussion or idea I present to her. I don't push her to believe in anything, and I always approach her with these things with the understanding that it is not intended to change her mind, merely just challenge her to apply reason to the realm of religion. She still has close ties with her still deeply devout catholic family, but I find her more and more coming to me to discuss these things with me. Years of enduring bible-beaters has taught me that trying to push ideals on any intelligent person usually just insults them and does nothing positive for your cause.
I recently purchased "The God Who Wasn't There" and sat down and watched it with her, along with all the extras, and she was very receptive to it. However, I don't think if I had done such a thing at 16 she would have received it as well. The process of educating someone with a strong religious background is not a short one, or one that you can take any shortcuts in. Even people who are seemingly very rational people are very tied emotionally to their beliefs. The most effective tool, however, is to simply carry these beliefs yourself openly, but not in a manner that flaunts it, and to show them that people who do not believe are not heretics or criminals or lunatics. They need to see that these are indeed rational, well thought out positions, and not have any reason to believe they are just born out of some kind of payback for being forced to go to church or an emotional response to some of the terrible things the church has done, such as covering up for child molesting priests. One of the best things you have going for you when approaching family with these beliefs is their love for you. If you handle it carefully, show them that you reciprocate that love, and don't take bigger steps than they can handle, you'd be surprised how willing people are to listen to reason. After all, reason and logic are the only things that have allowed our species to survive for the past 100,000 years.

"It's not so much staying alive. It's staying human that's important." - 1984
www.myspace.com/applesforadam
applesforadam.blogspot.com