Coming out as a Non-Believer in a Fundamentalist family

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Coming out as a Non-Believer in a Fundamentalist family

Good day to all I am a new member of the RRS and I currently reside in South Africa, I sit with a small issue which I hope some can give me assistance in finding positive results in this delicate situation.

I have been atheist for about 10+ years now and I feel strongly that I cannot believe in something that can never be real to me but I have a very Christian family including my in-laws, my parents are very active with their church with my mother even having full time employment within their worship place.

I have no issue with them believing anything that they want as long as it isn't imposed on me, my main issue is I now have a daughter and as she grows the pressure is continuously put on me to take her to church and sunday school ect...

I have had to be in the dark as to my true beliefs for many years now and it has simply been a matter of maintaining the peace and preventing a situation where I might even possibly be disowned for being a free thinker I know it is a sad situation where one has to always remain quiet with the fears above always being a factor.
This does not take away from the love I feel for my family is there anyway that I can reasonably keep my daughter from being brainwashed without creating a perm ant divide within my family
I only ask with the hopes that someone has gone through the same situation and has had positive results.
I feel my daughters freedom of choice and ability to think for herself will be jeopardize as the "bible"says train up a child in the way he should go and he shall not depart from it.
Thanking you all in advance!

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This is never an easy

This is never an easy situation. Some have it easier than others. My mom thought my atheism was a phase when I first told her, but she didn't disown me.

Others have posted here that they were teens stuck in a fundie family and that when they found out they went ape shit.

I can say kudos to you for caring enough about your kids to raise them to think for themselves. But as far as interaction with your family, only you can judge that.

I don't know how your particular community would react to an open atheist, much less your family. But whatever you do, you do have the support of all of us here and whenever you need to talk, we will be here.


"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
Check out my poetry here on Rational Responders Like my poetry thread on Facebook under Brian James Rational Poet, @Brianrrs37 on Twitter and my blog at

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Hey Scavner


Welcome to the boards. My background is similar to yours - my whole family are fundies - mum missionary, Dad preacher, brother lay preacher, brother in law preacher and so on. What's worked for me is vigorous honesty and constant questioning of the moral inconsistencies of christianity and reviling the concept of ancestral sin. I have won no converts and my whole family think god is needling me as part of his plan to bring me back into the fold. Prayer meetings are held. Tears are shed.

Sadly for me, and of no help to you, I have no children, but I can say that all my 16 nieces and nephews were raised in christ and all are christians with perhaps one wobbler who will no doubt return to the lord after her first painful mistake.

The evidence of my family suggests to me it's the rare person who digs their way out of a fundamentalist christian upbringing. Personally, I think such people just have more sensitive bullshit meters than godly folk who by some quirk of neurology are better able to anthropomorphise the invisible.

In any case, I would resist. Your family will not disown you and lose their grand daughter. You can't hide forever. Nor can you allow your child to face christian dogma undefended. There are others here with more direct experience who may have specific advice. Where does your partner stand with all this?  Can you present a united front, or deflect some of the responsibility onto your partner with their consent? Or find a church in a town 30 miles away that happens to be a picnic spot beside a river?

"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck

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Atheistextremist wrote:Or

Atheistextremist wrote:

Or find a church in a town 30 miles away that happens to be a picnic spot beside a river?


I favor this idea.

While some here have mentioned a constant struggle to keep their children religion free, I never had that problem.  My children were all very logical except the youngest who is learning disabled.  (The youngest now attends a church, but he knows I don't and won't believe.  So we skip all the proselytizing.)   My grandson is 15 and a staunch atheist.

I don't know - point out science everywhere.  I always started with "kitchen" science -this is a mixture, this is a suspension, this is a solution.  The proteins in an egg denature when you cook it, that is why it turns white and solid.  This is how thermodynamics is expressed when cooking dinner.  Point out evolutionary adaptations and imperfections.  The age of geological formations in your area.  If you are a little short of knowledge in some areas, admit it, and go research together.  And most of all, don't dumb down what your child read, stretch their reading abilities with good, solid science.

Maybe it was reprehensible of me, but I also mentioned what a shame it was that some people were so delusional as to believe in religion and imaginary friends.  They were/are nice people.  Some are our relatives.  But I just couldn't/can't see how they can believe in such silly things.  Make sure your children are old enough before you say this so they don't blurt out something in front of the relatives that may upset everyone.

Welcome to the boards and best wishes for you and your family.


-- I feel so much better since I stopped trying to believe.

"We are entitled to our own opinions. We're not entitled to our own facts"- Al Franken

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Run Forrest, run!!Have you

Run Forrest, run!!

Have you considered moving away?

Seriously. Do you want to risk your daughter being infected and handicapped like them?




I keep asking myself " Are they just playin' stupid, or are they just plain stupid?..."

"To explain the unknown by the known is a logical procedure; to explain the known by the unknown is a form of theological lunacy" : David Brooks

" Only on the subject of God can smart people still imagine that they reap the fruits of human intelligence even as they plow them under." : Sam Harris

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Welcome to the forum,

Welcome to the forum, Scavner.

These are my suggestions. Take them with a grain of salt. 

Without your daughter as a factor, it is not very difficult to stay hidden indefinitely. In general, your family and community will assume you're a Christian, because they want to, unless they have overwhelming evidence that you're not. However, you can't be completely silent towards your daughter or she will grow up in a fundamentalist Christian community without any dissent; in that case, it is incredibly hard to break conformity and many people who would become skeptics in a more diverse environment will squash their own doubts out of practicality. And, once you begin influencing your daughter, I think people will know about it because she is a child and will say things. So, I don't think conflict can be avoided here, as long as your family decides to start a conflict once they realize that you are saying unChristian things to your daughter.    

If you want to keep yourself hidden for a little longer, it is okay to take your daughter to church or Sunday school occasionally, maybe even beneficial, as long as you are there to offer a second opinion when she has questions and comments. Just for her to know that you don't agree with the rest of the family, that you're a dissenting voice, that is what's important and extremely powerful.

Overall, try not to be confrontational, but be honest when your family starts becoming suspicious. If they are fundamentalists, I'm sure that they will be at least somewhat irrational and hypocritical when this issue comes up. I would try to remain passive; the goal is to have permission to influence your daughter and avoid conflict rather than win an argument (you'll never win. it doesn't matter if you're right and poke holes in everything they say.). After people know, you'll always be judged unfairly, so to make the best of it, you really have to be a sort of "model citizen." 

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare

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..I sit with a small issue which I hope..

Well if this is a "small issue" for issue I'm not sure I want to see what is a big issue for you... Shocked

Now I don't ask to be called 'prophet', but if there are children (and religion) in this matter then there will be conflict.
But if you are able to administer your thoughts to them in a slow way maybe you could transform this conflict in a cohabitation.
Probably what they would think when you tell them "I got no god" is that you're refuting their tradition, the family...
If you could tell us about your family maybe we can give suggestions.

I just wish you to be here with us one more time to talk...

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While it is fair to say

While it is fair to say advise will be given on a variety of points of view. I myself try not to give advise outside a situation I am not living myself.

I really only address teens stuck in fundie families to tell them they will get old enough someday to live on their own but until then they still need food and a roof over their heads. And as such would be better keeping the peace by avoiding the subject and taking their therapy with like minded people outside the earshot of their family. Stay in school, get good grades and stay out of trouble.

But other than that, just like for gays, although it helps the more people are open atheists, we do not know others day to day life or what complications or conflicts can happen. Bottom line, there is no blanket solution to an atheist's problems living in a hostile environment.

I can only address what I would do in a given situation, and even then, many times in reality, what we say we would want to do, doesn't always translate into what we actually do.

To the atheists who are silent with their families or in their communities, just know you always have websites like this when you need to talk. Only you can gauge best how to deal with a situation. But you will always have some sort of online atheist community a support.




"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers."Obama
Check out my poetry here on Rational Responders Like my poetry thread on Facebook under Brian James Rational Poet, @Brianrrs37 on Twitter and my blog at

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 I am living with the same problem, or close to it.  I don't have kids though, and am an older person, but I have had to hide my non-belief for some 20 years or be disowned.  It wouldn't be so bad, but I don't want to cause the people I love all that pain just to make a point.  Yes, I should be able to be who I am without reproach, but reality is often not what it should be.   Fortunately, I  live 50 miles away from them, so I don't have to deal with it on a daily basis.

I would just tell my daughter constantly that it is a fairy tale.  Tell her it has some good points, but she doesn't have to believe it or accept it.  Encourage critical thinking by showing her simple examples of how it doesn't make sense.  Show her how to think critically not referring to the bible at all also and she will figure out how to apply critical thinking to everything, including religion.  Just remind her that religion is not exempt from that critical process.  Never force the issue and let her make up her own mind, but present your case and let it lie.  Reason only needs to be considered openly to win.  She may even accept the religion for a time to please those she loves, but eventually she will not be able to ignore the questions.  Just see that the questions are planted.

Your family is another problem.   Remember, I am not there and I am not you, so it is ultimately up to you to decide what your risks are and what you are willing to live with.  I couldn't sit by and let my child be indoctrinated without at least showing them the other option, but I am in hiding myself so my advice is purely what I hope I would do in your situation, not the path I have chosen in mine.  All I can say, is that if it becomes important, I will stand up for my beliefs.  I have done so on issues, like being pro-choice and denouncing creationists and biblical codes for instance.

Be strong, but be wise as well.

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Welcome to the

Welcome to the forums.

Unfortunately, I don't know much about the current governmental or social situation in South Africa (or most places outside USA, really).

How about the community?  Would opening up as an atheist result only in being disowned by your family, or would it also result in substantial problems with the rest of the people where you live?

My mom's family has more or less disowned her over the years (it was kind of gradual), but she's made a lot of friends in the community that help fill the roles that family normally fills at her age.

Depending on the social environment and the particulars of your family's belief system, you could also consider setting up some type of disguise.  I used Unitarian Universalism when I was a teen.  I spent two years attending a Unitarian Universalist youth group, and form the day I started until my parents discovered I was an athiest some four or so years later they never bothered me with concerns for my "spiritual well-being."  They just saw me going to church every Sunday and they didn't seem to care what the religion was as long as I had some kind of religion.  That kind of thing is rather common here, but for all I know it may be unheard of in your location.  And if your family is fundamentalist, this won't work very well.

Questions for Theists:

I'm a bit of a lurker. Every now and then I will come out of my cave with a flurry of activity. Then the Ph.D. program calls and I must fall back to the shadows.

Recovering fund...
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I tend to see it a different

I tend to see it a different way. Personally I think that parents who choose to indoctrinate their kids into fundamentalist upbringing, full well knowing that it's all a lie and that the way they live is evil, are not real parents - IMO donating sperm does not a parent make, and I would rather have no family at all than stoop to pandering to people exploit children and live an evil lifestyle, just out of fear of being "ostracized". If it were me, I would outright confront them about their beliefs and lifestyle and demand that they de-convert, or be disowned. This is what I did with my "parents" (if you call them that) - I called them out on a regular basis, and explained to them why the Bible was all a lie, and why their beliefs and lifestyle were absurd - I basically went Jerry Falwel on them, except from an atheist perspective. To this day, I haven't had any contact with them since I left home and I'm not missing them at all. They're evil people who deserve no respect, and I'd never lower my morals out of fear of not having a "family", because I know full well that they were never a real family to begin with.

Optimism is reality, pessimism is the fantasy that you know enough to be cynical

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 This certainly is a tough

 This certainly is a tough situation and wish you all the best. I too want to be careful with advise since I know little of your circumstance (or even country) except what you have written above. Is there a wife in the picture? Does she think like you?

Here is some things for you to consider and but always take the course of action that is right for you. As they say in boxing "Protect yourself at all times" and that includes your daughter.

Teaching her science is a good idea. What is the scientific method? Teaching her how to think and not what to think seems to me it can only be beneficial. I find astronomy a wonderful subject that anyone can appreciate. It is a fact that the stars are millions of light years away. (You don't have to say why does the bible say the earth is only 6-10k years old).  Are there science  museums you can take her too? 

In my thinking I wouldn't want my young daughter to feel the wrath of any fundie because she asked an innocent question that might mean she doesn't believe their BS.

It might be good to teach how to handle and resolve conflict. She doesn't need to defend anything. Part of being mature is know there is not just one right opinion and it is OK to let it go when you see there is no point or even worse. Loving someone in my opinion is letting them be who they are, but I must stand up for myself when a line has been crossed.


Please do continue to tell us here how it goes. It can help you understand how you are feeling by writing it out and in return you might get some thought provoking questions or advise that will help you.


Religion Kills !!!

Numbers 31:17-18 - Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.