How to tell your family you are an atheist.

Discussions for education, teaching & parenting.

Moderators: Blip, The_Metatron, Matt8819, Ironclad

How to tell your family you are an atheist.

#1  Postby CJ » Jun 15, 2010 5:22 pm

WARNING! This may not work!

Right, now the disclaimer is out of the way and expectation levels set I'll proceed :D

I have decades of business experience in communications and negotiation I have worked in sales, marketing ( :sigh: ), buying, product management and project management. To succeed in these areas one has to know how to negotiate. Telling your family or friends you are an atheist is a type of negotiation in that you want them to accept your world view as your world view.

The principles behind negotiation are to bring the other person to a point where they feel changing their mind, or accepting your view, is the right thing to do. I'll make no bones about it this is about hard nosed self interest. The most important negotiation tool is emotion followed by logic. Nobody ever agrees with an enemy, they may acquiesce but they will not agree. You'll never bully your family or friend into really agreeing with your world view, they'll just stop arguing. What we want is true agreement.

So in no particular order these are the things you need to consider.

Choose one person. Rome wasn't built in a day, don't expect to come out quickly to everybody. Who is the person least likely to freak out or possibly even support your position? You absolutly must not blurt out your new found atheism in front of an audience potentially hostile to your world view. Select one person, preferably the one who you are best friends with or you know for a fact loves you e.g. your Mum.

Do this at a time and place of your choosing. Choose your battle ground. Make sure you will have the full attention of the person you are going to disclose to and enough time to have a discussion, and also for the other person to cool down and assimilate what you have told them. Sometimes a car journey is a good place to do this, or a long dog walk or a fishing trip. Somewhere where the other person can't immediately call on reinforcements (You wait while I get your Father!) or shut down the conversation. You'll need at least a couple of hours of quality time to get this done.

Do not challenge their world view. This is critical, as you wish them to accept your world view, that you have to accept their world view in return. If you set your world view up as somehow superior to theirs you're done for. Sides will be taken and war will break out. Saying things like 'While I respect your world view I don't feel comfortable with it, I need to find my own way.' is the way to go. This does not put the other party in the position of having to fight for their view. It also leaves the door open 'I need to find my own way.' This is giving them a place where they can accept your current position as it could well not be your final position. A number of religious figures have spent time on their own finding their own way. I seem to recall Jesus is supposed to have spent 40 days and 40 nights doing exactly this. So you're in good company. Do not take the line 'I'm an ATHEIST FU!'

Ask for help. There is nothing less hostile than asking for help, it is the ultimate submission and puts you in a very non-threatening light. The person you ask will immediately feel sympathy and worry and will wish to help you. Don't say you want help with your atheism (that's not up for negotiation). Ask the person if they love you. This will set off huge alarm bells and the person will immediately jump to the worst possible scenario from their perspective e.g. you're gay or pregnant (from a Fathers perspective :) ). This usually sets their expectation level very low so if you then go onto something less terrible they will immediately feel relief. If atheism is their worst fear then you have lost nothing doing this. Tell them you need help telling the rest of your family/friends about your world view. Don't make atheism the issue, that's not negotiable, what you're looking for here is a comrade and ally in telling people about your new world view, whether they agree with that world view or not. Tell the person you are anxious about telling the others and you need their help.

Leave some slack in your argument. This is difficult but again crucial to successful negotiation, nobody likes to feel cornered or that they have somehow lost. Leave the other person some neutral place to stand. Say things like 'I'm not set on this but this is how I feel I must go on for the time being.' This allows the other person to stand near your position. The critical thing is that you've got the subject out into the open in a non-aggressive and non-adversarial manner.

You have a spokesperson. Once you have one person onside then get them to do the work with the others. Let them become your spokesperson, your defender. If your Dad is likely to explode get your Mum on side. She'll know how to deal with him and the reverse if it's your Dad you've 'come out' to.

I've never had to do this myself but years of professional negotiation have helped me hone my skills in this area of human interaction so I hope some of the above is of help.
What star sign are you? Please tick you star sign in a tiny bit of ongoing research. :)
User avatar
CJ
THREAD STARTER
 
Name: Chris(topher)
Posts: 2642
Age: 54
Male

England (eng)
Print view this post

Ads by Google


Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.

#2  Postby Viraldi » Jun 15, 2010 7:33 pm

Warning, this may also not work for everyone, I am just saying how I came out.

Unlike CJ, I don`t have any experience in communications and negotiations, etc. unless you would consider having taken a course in communication applications i.e. speech class as an exception. This was my procedure at the time and it may appear synonymous with the above. I wrote my final composition about religious intolerance within my background and how I had dealt the grossing torment thereof, so I suppose this is a summary. I don`t believe that being straightforward is a copacetic consideration in most hostile and religious environments such as my case, e.g. Texas, but if you have an apathetic family, if not fortunately an understanding one then don`t hesitate to reveal your beliefs and or lack thereof. I managed to sway my parent`s view appreciably to the point that with the awareness of my non-religious nature, they would politely ask me if I would want to attend Church instead of intolerably refusing the idea of me oversleeping or something else. I changed, however, from straightforward to discursive almost immediately with regards to the coming out session. My experience, as mentioned, showed that my straightforwardness did not help my parents to understand.

As typical as it sounds, they sadly held deep collective prejudices that influenced their unreasonable responses. The refusal of participating in religious activities, ceremonies, etc. had struck a nerve, because for them their undying indoctrination led them to believe that without this your reputation and your accepted morality would go rock-bottom and disappear respectively. What`s worse is the rejection of subscribing to the cornucopia of traditional religious beliefs that have been spoon-fed to them as ignorant innocent children. Once they knew that I did not buy into the jargon, they immediately approached and treated me as some lost cause, rebellious in nature, etc. and without the time to explain or justify it, they endlessly questioned me one creationist canard after another.

[1] If this happens, what I did was raise my stentorian voice to stop them from interrupting one another and most importantly to keep tranquility and steadiness among the discussion. I could not care any less whether they thought I was being disrespectful for hushing them, they were too overstimulated by the rarity of having an atheist, doubting child.

[2] I told them respectfully to please take turns asking questions and to wait for my explanation or justification for having those supposedly out of the ordinary doubts and thoughts.*

*Since it was Sunday, they were interminably determined to make me attend Church. This is when the situation with respect to [1] happened. My initiative maneuver was to be straightforward, in which I immediately refused. They didn`t stop bickering and quibbling on and on until I raised my voice and told them to take turns, which was quite awhile. My mother finally calmly asked why I did not want to dress up and go and the first thing that came across my mind was Bill Gate`s response, "Just in terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient. There`s a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning." and I quoted it verbatim. Be prepared, needless to say, CJ`s considerations.

[3] It was always important that you don`t leave them the impression that this atheistic thing is just a common phase among teenagers, otherwise I don`t think you have succeeded in allowing them to accept you as you are. I read this out of my father`s cousin`s son`s book in his bookshelf for good parenting and I was dumbfounded how they treated doubts or skepticism with regards to religion as some sort of phase teenagers experience from time to time, so instead of outright scolding them, they should flippantly neglect it and expect them to be religious in a few days.*

*One of the alternatives were to press them on into really vivacious activities that teenagers enjoy, but revolved entirely upon theistic concepts and Jesus Christ. Apparently this is what happened to the more gullible and frivolous children in my neighborhood, including my sister. I can only faintly remember the time where everyone enjoyed celebrating for the sake of brightening everyone`s day with contagious smiles and whatnot. Now they`re being sent off into religious conferences for evangelism and practise thereof. It`s ridiculous.

[4] Well, this is my confession, I never directly told them that I was an atheist. I was ambiguous enough to lead them on that I would never subscribe to any faiths whatsoever, not even if there was available evidence. My point being was that if there was empirical substantive evidence, I would go beyond the more often than not equivocated term faith and resort with critical acceptance as distinguished by the rigorous help of Calilasseia. Their facial expressions did lead me on that they were holding my position in contempt, however. I tried and refrained from being aggressive with any of my viewpoints, so they could easily understand why I was not susceptible to their dis-positional beliefs. I think it was more or less a bit of failure here and there, because they kept asking me what I believed and what religion I adhered to.

[5] They finally brought me into a state of mind that led to me realize that they would not fully accept my atheistic skepticism. And so, I unfortunately told them how it is with references to available statistics about correlations and causation(s) about religion and intelligence, prison populations with respect to believers and nonbelievers, etc. just so they could stop viewing me as some sort of outcast psychopath. Sometime later, I revealed significant similar dislikes that led them to realize I was ethical and moral, whereas I inevitably showed their biblical references condoned the contrary. I began to think that they were finally catching on to something about said jargon, but in the end, they only felt guilty for having prejudices and thankfully accepted me as an intelligible and moral human being. We tolerated one another since then, never bothered them to affiliate or participate in any activity and I received less demands, but just more invitations to religious activities on occasion.

Again, this is just a summary, I left many things out, some relevant.
AE wrote:“The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can change this.”
User avatar
Viraldi
 
Posts: 722
Age: 21

Country: USA
Philippines (ph)
Print view this post

Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.

#3  Postby Ubjon » Jun 15, 2010 7:51 pm

When my mum realised that I was a lost cause (From childhood I've never bought the whole religious thing) we just agreed to disagree.
Ubjon wrote:Your God is just a pair of lucky underpants.


http://www.rationalskepticism.org/post6 ... 3b#p675825
User avatar
Ubjon
 
Posts: 2569

United Kingdom (uk)
Print view this post

Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.

#4  Postby Sityl » Jun 15, 2010 8:37 pm

My fundamentalist christian mom accepted it when I told her that I believed that if god does exist he'll judge me by the good deeds I do instead of my inability to believe.
Stephen Colbert wrote:Now, like all great theologies, Bill [O'Reilly]'s can be boiled down to one sentence - 'There must be a god, because I don't know how things work.'


Image
User avatar
Sityl
 
Name: Ser Sityllan Payne
Posts: 5101
Age: 33
Male

United States (us)
Print view this post

Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.

#5  Postby hotshoe » Jun 15, 2010 8:47 pm

CJ wrote:WARNING! This may not work!

Right, now the disclaimer is out of the way and expectation levels set I'll proceed :D

I have decades of business experience in communications and negotiation I have worked in sales, marketing ( :sigh: ), buying, product management and project management. To succeed in these areas one has to know how to negotiate. Telling your family or friends you are an atheist is a type of negotiation in that you want them to accept your world view as your world view.

The principles behind negotiation are to bring the other person to a point where they feel changing their mind, or accepting your view, is the right thing to do. I'll make no bones about it this is about hard nosed self interest. The most important negotiation tool is emotion followed by logic. Nobody ever agrees with an enemy, they may acquiesce but they will not agree. You'll never bully your family or friend into really agreeing with your world view, they'll just stop arguing. What we want is true agreement.

So in no particular order these are the things you need to consider.

Choose one person. Rome wasn't built in a day, don't expect to come out quickly to everybody. Who is the person least likely to freak out or possibly even support your position? You absolutly must not blurt out your new found atheism in front of an audience potentially hostile to your world view. Select one person, preferably the one who you are best friends with or you know for a fact loves you e.g. your Mum.

Do this at a time and place of your choosing. Choose your battle ground. Make sure you will have the full attention of the person you are going to disclose to and enough time to have a discussion, and also for the other person to cool down and assimilate what you have told them. Sometimes a car journey is a good place to do this, or a long dog walk or a fishing trip. Somewhere where the other person can't immediately call on reinforcements (You wait while I get your Father!) or shut down the conversation. You'll need at least a couple of hours of quality time to get this done.

Do not challenge their world view. This is critical, as you wish them to accept your world view, that you have to accept their world view in return. If you set your world view up as somehow superior to theirs you're done for. Sides will be taken and war will break out. Saying things like 'While I respect your world view I don't feel comfortable with it, I need to find my own way.' is the way to go. This does not put the other party in the position of having to fight for their view. It also leaves the door open 'I need to find my own way.' This is giving them a place where they can accept your current position as it could well not be your final position. A number of religious figures have spent time on their own finding their own way. I seem to recall Jesus is supposed to have spent 40 days and 40 nights doing exactly this. So you're in good company. Do not take the line 'I'm an ATHEIST FU!'

Ask for help. There is nothing less hostile than asking for help, it is the ultimate submission and puts you in a very non-threatening light. The person you ask will immediately feel sympathy and worry and will wish to help you. Don't say you want help with your atheism (that's not up for negotiation). Ask the person if they love you. This will set off huge alarm bells and the person will immediately jump to the worst possible scenario from their perspective e.g. you're gay or pregnant (from a Fathers perspective :) ). This usually sets their expectation level very low so if you then go onto something less terrible they will immediately feel relief. If atheism is their worst fear then you have lost nothing doing this. Tell them you need help telling the rest of your family/friends about your world view. Don't make atheism the issue, that's not negotiable, what you're looking for here is a comrade and ally in telling people about your new world view, whether they agree with that world view or not. Tell the person you are anxious about telling the others and you need their help.

Leave some slack in your argument. This is difficult but again crucial to successful negotiation, nobody likes to feel cornered or that they have somehow lost. Leave the other person some neutral place to stand. Say things like 'I'm not set on this but this is how I feel I must go on for the time being.' This allows the other person to stand near your position. The critical thing is that you've got the subject out into the open in a non-aggressive and non-adversarial manner.

You have a spokesperson. Once you have one person onside then get them to do the work with the others. Let them become your spokesperson, your defender. If your Dad is likely to explode get your Mum on side. She'll know how to deal with him and the reverse if it's your Dad you've 'come out' to.

I've never had to do this myself but years of professional negotiation have helped me hone my skills in this area of human interaction so I hope some of the above is of help.


I love this whole post :hugs:

Fortunately, I never had to do this either (have the big "atheism coming out" talk) because I have never demonstrated competence in negotiating and I would no doubt have made a horrible battle of it.

But I think the principles and examples in this post are so well-phrased that this post should be stickied in the "Welcome" section of the forum. It could make a great tool for new forum members, some of whom are likely new atheists still struggling with how to tell the family.

Nice job, CJ.
Now, when I talked to God I knew he'd understand
He said, "Stick by my side and I'll be your guiding hand
But don't ask me what I think of you
I might not give the answer that you want me to"
hotshoe
 
Posts: 3177

United States (us)
Print view this post

Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.

#6  Postby CJ » Jun 15, 2010 9:02 pm

Thanks hotshoe :thumbup:
What star sign are you? Please tick you star sign in a tiny bit of ongoing research. :)
User avatar
CJ
THREAD STARTER
 
Name: Chris(topher)
Posts: 2642
Age: 54
Male

England (eng)
Print view this post

Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.

#7  Postby reddix » Jun 15, 2010 10:54 pm

I think this would work for most people. :cheers:

Unfortunately, I don't think it would have helped in my case, but I'm starting to think that my case wasn't/isn't exactly normal.
User avatar
reddix
RS Donator
 
Posts: 5705
Age: 4

Canada (ca)
Print view this post

Ads by Google


Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.

#8  Postby MacIver » Jun 16, 2010 12:42 am

:popcorn:
Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men's happiness.

- Charlie Chaplin
User avatar
MacIver
 
Name: Mr MacIver
Posts: 8808
Age: 29
Male

Country: Earth
Scotland (ss)
Print view this post

Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.

#9  Postby Bud's Brain » Jun 22, 2010 9:11 pm

I wish I'd had your Idiot's Guide to...
My 'coming out' party was a debacle and well over a year later, I'm still feeling the shockwaves.
Fucking god botherers.
'A sophistical rhetorician, inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity, and gifted with an egotistical imagination that can at all times command an interminable and inconsistent series of arguments to malign an opponent and to glorify himself.'
User avatar
Bud's Brain
 
Posts: 305
Age: 41
Female

Country: United Kingdom
United Kingdom (uk)
Print view this post

Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.

#10  Postby Gawdzilla » Jun 22, 2010 9:23 pm

I asked a bunch of them at once what they thought of me.

"Nice guy, always willing to help, good to have around in an emergency."

"Okay, now I'm not going to change one damn thing about me, except to tell you I have been an atheist my entire life."
Chief Engineer on the Derail Express.

Geoff wrote:Not that I've anything against paedophilia, but it does leave one open to accusations of catholicism...


This space for rent.
User avatar
Gawdzilla
 
Posts: 3217
Age: 63
Male

Mongolia (mn)
Print view this post

Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.

#11  Postby Horwood Beer-Master » Jun 23, 2010 2:32 pm

[SarcasticUnderstatement] I suspect my family might know already. [/SarcasticUnderstatement]
Last edited by Horwood Beer-Master on Jun 23, 2010 3:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Also available on Rationalia

Image
User avatar
Horwood Beer-Master
 
Name: Ian
Posts: 1939
Age: 33

Country: England
England (eng)
Print view this post

Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.

#12  Postby rainbow » Jun 23, 2010 2:36 pm

Why not say your beliefs are personal, and none of their business?
Kill the Wise One!
http://www.southparkstudios.com/clips/155419

"Það er ekki til betri tími en núna til að fresta"
User avatar
rainbow
Banned User
 
Name: Señor Moderato
Posts: 6903

Mozambique (mz)
Print view this post

Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.

#13  Postby CJ » Jun 23, 2010 3:28 pm

rainbow wrote:Why not say your beliefs are personal, and none of their business?

Because in some families that would result in the person being kicked out and disinherited.
What star sign are you? Please tick you star sign in a tiny bit of ongoing research. :)
User avatar
CJ
THREAD STARTER
 
Name: Chris(topher)
Posts: 2642
Age: 54
Male

England (eng)
Print view this post

Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.

#14  Postby rainbow » Jun 24, 2010 7:01 am

CJ wrote:
rainbow wrote:Why not say your beliefs are personal, and none of their business?

Because in some families that would result in the person being kicked out and disinherited.

Then lie.
There is a good chance that no Higher Being will strike you down and smite you.
Kill the Wise One!
http://www.southparkstudios.com/clips/155419

"Það er ekki til betri tími en núna til að fresta"
User avatar
rainbow
Banned User
 
Name: Señor Moderato
Posts: 6903

Mozambique (mz)
Print view this post

Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.

#15  Postby Mazille » Jun 24, 2010 7:20 am

rainbow wrote:
CJ wrote:
rainbow wrote:Why not say your beliefs are personal, and none of their business?

Because in some families that would result in the person being kicked out and disinherited.

Then lie.
There is a good chance that no Higher Being will strike you down and smite you.

Which - in turn - is everyone's personal decision and none of your business, simply because it's their lie they'd have to live with.
Fallible wrote:Oh no, I can't live without my bollocks.


Animavore wrote:I like dick too.
User avatar
Mazille
RS Donator
 
Posts: 15083
Age: 28
Male

Austria (at)
Print view this post

Ads by Google



Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.

#17  Postby rainbow » Jun 24, 2010 7:58 am

Mazille wrote:
rainbow wrote:
CJ wrote:
rainbow wrote:Why not say your beliefs are personal, and none of their business?

Because in some families that would result in the person being kicked out and disinherited.

Then lie.
There is a good chance that no Higher Being will strike you down and smite you.

Which - in turn - is everyone's personal decision and none of your business, simply because it's their lie they'd have to live with.

You're absolutely right.
It is no more my business than it is your's.
:scratch:
Kill the Wise One!
http://www.southparkstudios.com/clips/155419

"Það er ekki til betri tími en núna til að fresta"
User avatar
rainbow
Banned User
 
Name: Señor Moderato
Posts: 6903

Mozambique (mz)
Print view this post

Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.

#18  Postby Mazille » Jun 24, 2010 8:00 am

rainbow wrote:
Mazille wrote:
rainbow wrote:
CJ wrote:
rainbow wrote:Why not say your beliefs are personal, and none of their business?

Because in some families that would result in the person being kicked out and disinherited.

Then lie.
There is a good chance that no Higher Being will strike you down and smite you.

Which - in turn - is everyone's personal decision and none of your business, simply because it's their lie they'd have to live with.

You're absolutely right.
It is no more my business than it is your's.
:scratch:

Of course it isn't mine either. I was just pointing out that they'd have to live with that lie.
Fallible wrote:Oh no, I can't live without my bollocks.


Animavore wrote:I like dick too.
User avatar
Mazille
RS Donator
 
Posts: 15083
Age: 28
Male

Austria (at)
Print view this post

Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.

#19  Postby rainbow » Jun 24, 2010 8:05 am

Mazille wrote:Of course it isn't mine either. I was just pointing out that they'd have to live with that lie.

I expect it is a real dilemma for some.
...but if Granny is going to leave you out of her will, if you don't pretend to be God-fearing - then the choice is rather clear.
Lie :shhh: or be Poor but Sanctimonious :pray: .
Kill the Wise One!
http://www.southparkstudios.com/clips/155419

"Það er ekki til betri tími en núna til að fresta"
User avatar
rainbow
Banned User
 
Name: Señor Moderato
Posts: 6903

Mozambique (mz)
Print view this post

Re: How to tell your family you are an atheist.

#20  Postby Mazille » Jun 24, 2010 8:06 am

rainbow wrote:
Mazille wrote:Of course it isn't mine either. I was just pointing out that they'd have to live with that lie.

I expect it is a real dilemma for some.
...but if Granny is going to leave you out of her will, if you don't pretend to be God-fearing - then the choice is rather clear.
Lie :shhh: or be Poor but Sanctimonious :pray: .

Very true.
Alternatively you could just strangle Granny, inherit and then come out. :coffee: :mrgreen:
Fallible wrote:Oh no, I can't live without my bollocks.


Animavore wrote:I like dick too.
User avatar
Mazille
RS Donator
 
Posts: 15083
Age: 28
Male

Austria (at)
Print view this post

Next

Return to Parenting & Education

Who is online

Users viewing this topic: No registered users and 1 guest