Saturday, August 07, 2010

Coming Out

I recently met a young woman online who is about to go off to college. She is a recent deconvert and made the decision to "out" herself in her home. As is common, the experience was less than stellar for her. And she recently linked me to an article she wrote describing what it's been like. I loved her story and asked if it would be all right to share it for the benefit of other young people in similar situations. Fortunately she agreed. So, without further delay, Emily's story:

Things That Must Be Said

With a mere twelve days left before I leave home for college, I’ve finally come to the frustrating, yet incredibly sad realization that I cannot express my beliefs without being attacked by members of my family, and some of my friends. I’ve realized that I cannot simply live without being quietly or not so quietly judged by the people who are meant to be my comforters and supporters. I am normally quiet and passive when it comes to my beliefs because I am afraid of conflict, and I feel outnumbered. But I can no longer sit back and be trampled. I can’t just cater to everyone around me. I have to be confident enough to defend myself to everyone around me, because I can’t pretend to be someone I’m not.

Tonight, as I sat quietly at the dinner table with my mother and younger brother David, my brother suddenly brought it to my mother’s attention that I was overheard talking on the phone about something with which she did not agree. I had been on the phone the day before with a friend of mine who happens to be atheist, and we were discussing our opinions on current world events. This triggered an onslaught of verbal abuse from my mother, who said that ever since I became an atheist, I am now selfish, “troubled”, coldhearted, and that I see the world from twisted perspective. David, at the wise and all-knowing age of fifteen, feels that my atheist friend Jordan is a bad influence on me, and, in a nazi-like manner, he feels that he must inform my mother at all times of any sort of liberal or atheist talk on my part. He informed my mother that my facebook page is filled with atheist propaganda, and at that, my mother flew off the handle, yelling, “Is that true, Emily? Do you really have atheist things all over your facebook?!” Ha, first of all, I don’t think I have ever posted anything particularly “atheist” or abrasive, because, like I said, I fear conflict, and a part of me has always been afraid to stir up trouble, or displease anyone. Until now. Second of all, even if I did have atheist posts all over my profile, is there supposed to be some sort of crime in that? When I told my mother this, her response was, “Well it just doesn’t look good, and that’s not all you are.” Of course that’s not all am. Being an atheist is only a tiny fraction of who I am as a person, and I find it sick and sad that my loved ones are willing to write me off and harshly judge me simply because I’m an atheist. My father, an abnormally quiet and passive man, who seriously never contributes to any conversation, decided tonight would be the night to jump in and tell me that even if I am an atheist, I don’t need to parade it around. Parade it around? I’m pretty sure 90% of people who read this have no idea that I’m an atheist. He said “I have plently of friends who don’t believe, but that doesn’t mean they tell anyone about it.” So apparently my dad feels that its okay if I’m an atheist, as long as I don’t make it known to anyone. My older brother has also attacked me numerous times, in front of guests as well as behind my back, about my choice in atheist friends, because he feels I am “easily manipluated.” Apparently everyone just thinks I’m stupid, when in reality, I’ve given this subject more thought and consideration than any of them combined.

Let me just say that even though my family claims to be catholic, they have not attended mass since I quit going to church a few months ago. I was the one who always encouraged my family to go to church. And when they didn’t, I would go alone. I was the one who believed it all. So if none of these people in my family truly know about or believe in catholicism, why are they so quick to pounce on me for being an atheist?

I was once very catholic. I graduated from a small, all- girls catholic high school. I attended weekly youth group, and mass. I went on countless retreats and ACTS retreats. I attended many candlelight ceremonies, rosaries, and “see you at the pole”’s. I was a eucharistic minister, I was in the liturgical choir, and attended Catholic HEART workcamp for three consecutive summers. I prayed the rosary in my car on the way to school. I was a group leader for middle school and high school kids. Most of my volunteer work was done through my church. I loved God. I did everything. You cannot say that I was a half baked catholic. And yet, somehow, I changed.

I took a world religions class, I had my first real open minded conversations with many different people about religion, and humanity, and life in general. I read new books, and I watched new videos and debates and documentaries. I spent many hours (and many sleepless nights) agonizing over what it was that I truly believed in. Most importantly, I used my own rationale, and my own original thoughts. And then one day I made a conscious decision to gradually leave my church. And it was very difficult to leave behind many people at church whom I knew loved me and wanted the best for me. But I couldn’t be a part of something I no longer believed in. And for some reason that blows people’s minds. People can’t fathom how or why a person would make such a 180 degree change.

The real problem is, my family can’t figure out why I don’t want to be around them. They don’t understand why I have no respect for them. They want to blame it on the fact that I’m an atheist now, and that it must be because my atheist friend is a bad influence on me, they assume he must be constantly whispering in my ear and telling me to hate my family. The truth is, I have real, personal reasons for disliking them, and being an atheist has nothing to do with it.

I was once told that atheists have "a certain anger in their hearts". Yes, I am angry. I’m fucking angry that being an atheist is somehow the equivalent to being a monster. I’m angry that something this trivial has to be blown way out of proportion. I’m sick and tired of having people talk about me behind my back, and make judgements about my choice of friends. I’m tired of being told that I’m “troubled” or “easily manipulated,” I’m angry that people think I should be ashamed of myself. As if I am somehow automatically set beneath other people because I am an atheist.

Apart from being angry, I’m simply disappointed in people. I thought I had stronger relationships than this. I thought my loved ones were more open minded than this. I thought people loved and cared more about me than to treat me like some kind of diseased person.

In case you were wondering, I'm not a monster at all. I'm a nineteen year old girl about to go to college. I'm sensitive and I'm shy. I like poetry and french movies. I'm a decent human being who cares about other human beings. And the truth is, even if I pretended otherwise, I would be hurt if anyone decided to cut me out of his or her life just for my religious preferences.


For an example of what Emily has been dealing with at home, I will share what some of her siblings offered in the comments section of her article. I can only assume this type of abuse is acceptable in her home, as her siblings seem to hold nothing back.

Her younger brother's first post read, in full: "All of y'all are fucking retarded."

Later when I commented, her other brother hurled back this misogynistic abuse defending the other brother: "Hes not stupid, anybody that knows him (Jordan and Emily included) will tell you that. What's stupid is insulting a 15 year old who you dont even know, you leathery old twat."

There was much more--and all quite ugly. I'm amazed Emily has come out of this able to think clearly, not reacting herself in an abusive fashion, and still loving and regarding her family despite how religion has torn them, so obviously as her brothers' demonstrate, apart.

Best of luck, young lady!


  1. Not all catholic families are created equal, I suppose. I met very little resistance when I made my position unequivocally known to my parents and extended relations. I certainly haven't met with anything as demeaning or insulting as this woman has.

    Emily has clearly spent a great deal of time considering her beliefs and their basis. Have her relations done so? They should be so lucky as to have a shred of her honesty, or her courage.

  2. It must be realllly frustrating to have every member of your immediate family treat you like this. If it were just her little shit-stain of a 15 year old brother I'd advise her to just sever ties. But both parents and both brothers? That's rough. Her family should be ashamed of themselves.

  3. "My father, an abnormally quiet and passive man, who seriously never contributes to any conversation,"

    I chuckled at that because it sounds like me. I'm just now coming out and I'm nearly 32. She's lucky to have such a good head start on some of us old geezers. It's really funny how people think that once you stop believing, you will immediately start finding people to maim and cannibalize. You will be devoid of any postive feelings and only see life as dark and grey. The exact opposite has happened to me.

  4. I get the impression that if Emily wasn't an atheist, her 'friends' and family would just find something else to pick on. There is a profound lack of respect for someone who as far as I can tell is intelligent, sincere, thoughtful, and courageous.

    Thanks for posting this, Tracie. The contemptible comments do help give a taste of what Emily has had to deal with.

    At least she's going away to university now. Emily, if you're reading this, University can be some of the greatest years in your life. Enjoy!

  5. I cannot know what Emily's family acted like before she decided to let them know she was an atheist, but their hostility is probably temporary. It's just something they're going to have to accept eventually.

    If anything, this hostility is most likely driven by fear. They are terrified that some who is obviously as thoughtful as Emily could give their beliefs thought and conclude that they were incorrect, even if they don't take their faith serious enough to go to church every week.

    That is why they are blaming her deconversion on her weak personality, her manipulative friends, and anything OTHER than the weakness of the religious position she rejected. It is simply not something they can accept. The hard thing they will have to cope with is that, if their position is true, it will not need to be bolstered by insults. It will be true because it is true.

    As for her brothers' behavior... I am sure they are ordinarily well behaved, but those comments are shameful. What low depths they have sunk to, to actually use the word "y'all" in written communication.

    Kidding aside, the 15 year old doesn't surprise me, but the older brother's behavior is pretty uncalled for, for someone who should be acting more mature than his younger sister. He, of all people, should be hanging his head now. And for the record, lots of very nice twats are leathery, so it's kind of misplaced, now isn't it?

    My advice to Emily, if she is reading this, is to keep calm. I am sure that it can make you want to scream, but keep acting polite and loving, and they will have to accept that your decisions are made out of thoughtfulness, not out of rebellion or manipulation. It is also hard to yell at someone who tells you that you love them, despite their rude behavior.

    Oh, and why not take a philosophy course while you're in college? I took a few low level ones, and they were mighty fun.

  6. Good luck to her! I hope she's going to a college with a better collection of sensible, kind people. Sometimes there's nothing you can do to redeem the family that's so cruel to you. You just have to find a new group to put your love and wonderful mind to work for, and hope that your family catches up to you.

  7. the link to her article would be nice...

  8. Coming out as atheist was way harder than coming out as gay for me.

    You have my sympathies.

  9. Mikko:

    Due to her family's response, I have not linked to the article--since the comments section of her post includes full names and contact capacity for posters. However, I have asked her permission to publicize this blog post elsewhere. I'd rather her family not be contacted or identified--since this is already very difficult for her.

  10. They are just demonstrating the "family values" of Jesus:

    "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters -- yes even his own life -- he cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:26 NIV.

  11. "All of y'all are fucking retarded."

    "What's stupid is insulting a 15 year old who you dont even know, you leathery old twat."

    Who wouldn't respect these two boys with the love of Christ in their hearts?~

  12. And exactly what benefit can other young people draw from this depressing story? Don't tell you're family you're an atheist; at least not until after you've left the house?

  13. Emily, I am going through a very similar situation.

    I am slightly older than you at 23 (I'm guessing). I was raised very Catholic and my mom is completely bonkers Catholic. I was also a very devoted Catholic until just the past couple of years - retreats, catechism teacher, WYD, rosary every day, monthly confession, etc, etc, etc.

    I made a conscious decision to leave the church, too.

    Now I am engaged to be married, and we plan to have a secular wedding. My mom is freaking out, she may not attend. She says that I used to know the difference between right and wrong, but now I don't. She looks for every single moment I am in a bad mood, and then pulls the subtle "see, atheists are always unhappy and angry card" (for the record, I am happier now than I have ever been in my life. And leaving the Catholic Church is a big part of that). She says that I am throwing God in the garbage, nailing Jesus to the cross, balls her eyes out, says that I am going to hell, disgustedly calls me a "scientific intellectualist" (she was obviously spoon fed that phrase because she couldn't even pronounce it properly.)

    Essentially, she thinks I am a failure. She hates that I have atheist on my fb status.

    So yeah, TOTALLY UNDERSTAND, and can't believe how similar your situation is to my. I support you like 110%. Maybe we can exchange emails somehow???

  14. Ah 'you've become cold hearted' I got that one from my mother, even though of course she had no idea when I had become an Atheist. Got a few uncomfortable emails from her when she found out (through facebook!), but for the most part things are ok now.

    Though she did just forward me that stupid marine punches 'atheist professor' email this morning which I thought was out of character for her.

  15. skepticmatt:

    Believe it or not, a lot of people derive benefit from just hearing they're not alone. Sadly we get letters with disturbing frequency from young people who say they thought there was something wrong with them--they couldn't understand why they couldn't believe what everyone else seemed to. It's hard to believe people are so isolated, but they truly can be.

    You're not kidding that someone might read her tale and think "I should stay in the closet for another year or two. That's good. It's good for them to know what they might face if they come out.

    Some kids come out and it's fine. But once it's done, it's done. And repercussions can follow. Just hearing someone else's story gives a person some insight into what they should be considering.

    I would love to encourage every atheist to be open and out. But I have heard too many stories where it either wasn't a good idea at the time, or might not be.

    Still, I agree, it's a sad story.

  16. I'm proud to call Emily my best friend.

  17. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  18. EmilyCaroline: Sorry to delete your post to Kat, Emily. But as this blog is read by literally thousands of people, I think it's unwise to let people post their private email addresses here, as some of our readers are in fact theists liable to be just as hostile and harassing as anything you've yet seen. (Note to whichever of my fellow admins approved this: I hope you see my reasoning and will be more careful in future.) If you'd like to talk to Kat privately, perhaps the two of you could each send an email to, and then we can put you two together.

  19. I wonder how much of "being a Catholic" is about Jesus and Christianity and how much of it is simple about "being a Catholic".

    My experience is that the latter is actually more the case - as if it's a special club rather than a worldview.

  20. That was a very moving post and a very moving article. I really feel for Emily, partially because I come from a Catholic background. I was lucky enough to have non-religious parents who were probably atheists years before I became one (I was the most devout Catholic member of my family as a child). To think that people's faith can dehumanise them enough to have the love for their siblings sucked out from them is simply revolting. How sterile and destructive can be a love for God.

    When I read the title, I thought it was about homosexuality and the recent developments over same sex marriages. I guess it was meant to be deceptive. It made me understand how it feels to be a stranger in his own community.

  21. Apologies, Martin. It was me who released the note. You're right, of course, and I will be more careful in the future. Thanks for the good call.

  22. This situation is simply sickening. I was almost outed several months ago and almost lost everything I hold dear. I had to quietly slip back into the closet and hope for the best.

    Screw religion and faith, I say. This world would be a much better place without bigots like this.

  23. Thank you for sharing this story Emily. I'm almost in the same situation: I'll go to university soon and my family is deeply religious. But as I am still dependent on them financially, I'm not sure I can come out before winter, my first exams...

  24. I am a 19 year old atheist as well. I can tell you that I would not come out to my family - not because I am afraid of hatred, but because I know how much it would hurt my mother. She would never hate me, but she would sink into depression (again)thinking that her baby boy was doomed to hell. It's sad what religion has done to her mind.

  25. Okay. Thanks Martin. And aw, Brixiom, you're the best. <3

  26. Wow that is just wow. I’m honesty just amazed that some people are so warped that they think it’s ok to behave in this manner especially to there own daughter/sister. The irony here being that they do this while decrying the fictitious assertions of her supposed failings for being an atheist only make it more idiotic.

    All I can say is that these people need to be slapped and that I’m glad that my immediate family is largely apathetic to these things.

    p.s. to Emily if you read this

    I know this must be hard for you but since you’re close to leaving for collage my advice is to just let your family’s remarks roll off you for now and keep looking forward to the new people you will meet and relationships you will have.

    best of luck.

  27. I don't think I've ever felt this supported for simply telling the truth, especially about this subject. Thank you all for the encouragement.
    It solidifies my decision not to remove anything I've posted, even though family members have ordered me to take it down. Today someone from church wrote me to tell me that I'm sinning, and that he was sinning by allowing me to be an atheist. He also apologized for lecturing me...
    A year ago I would have been deeply upset by this. Today I'm only upset by his desperate struggle to control me, and by the level of delusion in which he must live.

  28. The fear projected by these people through the story is disturbing, the mom, dad and siblings don't seem to understand what they are dealing with all, as is understandable from living in some kind of religious 'echo-chamber' most- if not all of their life.

    She became something foreign to them by leaving the fold, the unknown can frighten people to severe retardation.

    Hang in there!

  29. Reading that, I had the urge to punch that 15 year old in the face. For jesus.

    Isn't it ironic though, that this post comes after the one of email where the guy is complaining about us 'belittling' christians. He has no idea. Multiply that with a mob mentality, and it can get ugly for us.

    Focus on enduring it, getting on your feet, getting independent, and maybe in some years, you'll be able to mend relations.

  30. There's already a bunch of sympathetic and thoughtful comments here, but I thought I'd add mine. My mom has said many things over the years of a similar nature, about how I "went to a dark place" and "became cold" and that my best friend was "dragging me into the darkness." I just thought she was being crazy, but I guess it is typical fare with theistic family.

    Hopefully you go somewhere distant to college, so that you can escape their tendrils, and never look back. With luck, time will mollify their insanity, or at least make them tolerable to visit on holidays.

  31. EmilyCaroline said

    "Today someone from church wrote me to tell me that I'm sinning, and that he was sinning by allowing me to be an atheist."

    LOL. It's very big of this person to put their own mortal soul in danger by ALLOWING you to be an atheist.

    Maybe you should burn yourself at the stake or something to make sure this person stops sinning and gets a chance to go to happyland.:-)

  32. So if none of these people in my family truly know about or believe in catholicism, why are they so quick to pounce on me for being an atheist?

    I'd say, for exactly that reason.
    As long as you were a good catholic girl, they didn't have to be. They always had you to point to, to reassure themselves that they were good people. After all, if they weren't then how could you have turned out so well?

    Now that you've rejected the faith, it questions their standing. That makes them very unsure of themselves.
    It causes them to react strongly to you. It also causes the reactions that Tracie encountered. That this is now a public matter raises the stakes and they feel that they must react or their sincerity of faith will be questioned.

    They must prove themselves to be good christians or they risk being ostracized by all the other luke-warm believers.

    This is the same thing as when an anti-gay preacher is found with a rent-boy.
    The weakness of their faith is the very reason they're reacting so strongly.

  33. Just my two cents, of course :)

  34. A few others have pointed out what I said, in that get yourself going, then, down the road, mend relations.

    I think that deserves repeating.

    If it took you a long time to think about these issues, parse them, and change your mind, they probably need at least an equal amount of time. For them, this is likely the first time they've had to even confront the idea of not believing.

    That's the point of giving them time, and in the meantime, be consistent and understanding. I think not addressing these issues in the future, and just sweeping it under the rug is more likely to keep their ignorance/disrespect persistent.

    And with that, knowing that I shouldn't start sentences with conjunctions, I'll stop telling you what you likely already know.

  35. Emily:

    >It solidifies my decision not to remove anything I've posted, even though family members have ordered me to take it down.

    I have one family member I really do love who often is offended when I relate things he does publicly--although, as you know, I respect people's anonymity.

    My reply is always the same: How is it you're ashamed to have someone say what you did, but not ashamed when you're doing it?

    Frankly, I understand what he does is his business. However, when it's done in front of, or to, me, then it's MY life I'm talking about. And I have every right to discuss things that happen to me in my life.

    If they're ashamed of you, so what? Clearly they're on the side of delusion in their assessments. At the end of your life, will you be asking "Did I live the life my parents would be proud of?" Or would you rather be able to say, "I lived a life I am proud to have led." You don't tell them how to live their lives, or how to behave or what they can and can't say to other people. If you did--would they obey you? I doubt it. Your life is your life. They have their lives--they live them freely and have lived the lives they chose. Now they need to allow you that same respect and courtesy. You'll always be their daughter, but you're no longer a child.

    The judgment of another is only as good as the source. If they're ashamed for the descriptions of themselves in your article, the only question should be whether or not you've described it accurately. If so, then you've done nobody a disservice. If they're ashamed of how they appear to you--they can easily correct it by improving their behavior in the future. Telling you not to discuss reminds me of parents who abuse their kids, or husbands who abuse their wives. They never do it in front of anyone, and the expectation is that their dysfunctional behavior will be protected by those they disrespect via their complicit silence.

    If you don't like hearing about your behavior in public, don't do it. If you have already done it, and the revelation embarrasses you, man up and do the right thing--offer a public apology.

    Don't threaten or intimidate someone to hide it so you can go on being an ass behind closed doors and act self-righteous in public.

    And I agree with an earlier comment that it's simply remarkable that people behaving so horribly would claim some sort of high ground due to their religious beliefs. I judge people on their behavior, not on how they claim I ought to behave. It your parents have a sense of shame, it should be directed to your two obnoxious and vile brothers. I understand they aren't always so immature and ridiculous, but, again, I judge based on what I do not, not what I don't. If they talk this way to perfect strangers they've only just met--they simply have not impressed upon me that they understand respect or civil dialog.

  36. >"based on what I do not, not what I don't."

    Should have been "based on what I do _know_..."

  37. @EmilyCaroline-I think you are more intellectually sane than that relative who confuses, like many believers, worship and morality.

    Things will probably get easier when you go to college. It will broaden your horizons and emancipate you.

  38. I'm a nineteen year old atheist from a catholic family but fortunately I have never had to deal with anything like this my family has mostly been accepting of it (except for recently when a relative said he could understand me trying to murder him because I don't believe in god but he's crazy). Its a shame that religion can still have this effect on a family even when it seems like it isn't that important to them.

  39. "This triggered an onslaught of verbal abuse from my mother, who said that ever since I became an atheist, I am now selfish, “troubled”, coldhearted, and that I see the world from twisted perspective."

    One thing I noticed is the idiocy in insulting someone, yelling at someone, and more or less disowning someone... then complain that they are "troubled" and "coldhearted".

    No, really??? I wonder what might be troubling to them? What might make them act a little more distant?

    If anything, the passage I quoted is a straight example of projection.

    Oh, and if it is not too personal, might I ask what you are thinking of studying in college, Emily? Have you decided yet?

  40. Wow, her family reactions are pretty brutal. Amazes me sometimes how ones own family can react that way. I was lucky in a way I guess since I basically grew up in a secular setting. Although sometimes I wish I did group up in a religious setting because I often wonder if I would have had the same fortitude as people like Emily to stand up for yourself.

    Not that my family are non-believers, just religion wasn't a big deal. I remember when I off-handedly mentioned that I was an atheist my mothers reaction was. "No, you're not.". :)

    But that is one reason why I love the internet. It is the way it can offer support and validation to people who otherwise might feel all alone because of their minority views.

  41. I'm planning on studying Creative Writing/ English. I'm not sure which direction I'll end up going but I hope to get my doctorate and then maybe teach at a university.

  42. "Today someone from church wrote me to tell me that I'm sinning, and that he was sinning by allowing me to be an atheist. He also apologized for lecturing me..."

    And he didn't see the contradiction in this?

    Good luck Emily

  43. Certa bonum certamen, Emilia.

    "Reading that, I had the urge to punch that 15 year old in the face. For jesus."

    Wow, you too, JT?

  44. Emily,

    You're doing the right thing. Even though it is a very tough thing to do.

    I come from a Catholic upbringing, but that part of my life kind of faded away. With no pressure from my parents. It just wasn't a big deal. But I still haven't "come out" to my Dad, I'm sure he'd be non-plussed.

    If you haven't watched "The Atheist Experience" TV show, you might want to give it a shot (many clips are available on youtube, and full episodes on It seems the topic of "coming out" comes up quite a bit. And Matt, Martin, Tracie and Jen have all offered some great advice.

    If you're interested in any advice from this random internet stranger, then you can contact Martin, to see if he's OK with getting our email addresses in touch with each other. If that makes sense...

    Best of luck!

  45. Tracie:

    I was asking a rhetorical question, but you answered it and answered it well. Thank you for doing so. It has been so long since I left christianity that I forgot it can be a difficult and lonely process.

  46. ...poetry and French movies.... now that's a sin! ;-)

    I sincerely wish you the best, stick with your convictions, live your life to the fullest, and the naysayers will see (in time) that they have been wrong - or else they will just disappear from your life, either way you will be a better, happier, and more fulfilled person following the truth.

  47. Best of luck, Emily. Work hard and have fun in college, and show your family that you don't have to be a believer to be a successful, kind, and loving person.

    If you're going into the field of literature, you had better get used to tweed.

    You seem smart enough already, so I guess my only advice is to stick with it... even Matt D's fundamentalist parents warmed back up to him after time... I guarantee your family isn't going to act the way they've been acting now for the rest of your life.
    It's just too much work to care so much about what their daughter believes, especially when they don't seem to take their own faith seriously enough to eat those crackers every week.

    Take care. ;p

  48. I admire strength Emily. Stay strong.

  49. Emily, my family was similar. Incredible verbal/emotional abuse, plus physical. Everything I did, every choice I made, was judged, and frankly, every argument they made was just stupid. My parents and I no longer speak, and frankly, I'm far better off.

    I think this is likely the way things are going to go for you. You're better than your family.

    As Matt D. often says on the NP, "People ask what's the harm?" THIS IS THE FUCKING HARM. Unbelieveable how we've allowed this poisoning of minds to continue nearly unchallenged for so long. Really, your families' minds have been poisoned.

    I can absolutely empathize with your situation, and I can already tell that you will be just fine. You have a "good head on your shoulders" and I think you're going to prosper in life. In doing so, you may need to shed some unfortunate aspects of your life, family included.

    I do hope I am wrong and they see th error of their ways.....although the cynic in me is not particularly convinced that the chances of this are good.

    Good luck and feel free to hit me up on my blog if you wish to converse in private, as I had/have a similar situation. Just comment on any of my posts and I will comment back with my email address. Either way, good luck.

  50. At an average of 15% of the American population (in Europe it is much higher) you can expect to meet many new friends at college who share your disinterest in theistic superstition and prefer to spend their time on real things, like their studies, the world, music, art, science, sport, chess, fashion, etc.

    When your father attempts to get you to rejoin the church, try and resist saying "Gee dad, even if you are a theist, you don’t need to parade it around". Or at least, wait until you have graduated.

  51. I was talking to a loved one the other day and they were talking to me about those people who she chooses to associate will criticize her if she does not act a certain way. She is embarrased to keep talking or explaining herself to these people. The people she speaks about are christian. These people include family, friends, and other people she will be in contact.

  52. @EmilyCaroline - Wow. I just stumbled across this website and read the preceding article. I am a christian and have to say I'm sorry for the way you have been treated by your family and by some of the members of your church. It's just flat out wrong. Jesus said the greatest of all commandments is love. It doesn't sound like you were greeted with much love. Your family should treat you with love no matter what you believe. They don't have to agree with you but at the same time you shouldn't have been made to feel so rejected just for disagreeing with them. It sounds like you agonized over your decision and didn't take it lightly. As a christian I am saddened to hear that you no longer believe in God, but that doesn't make you any less of a person in my eyes. So once again, I'm sorry for the way you were treated and for the bad taste my fellow "christians" left in your mouth. I'm glad that you took the time to thoughtfully and actively pursue what you feel to be the truth. That should be something that anyone of any worldview can admire.

    By the way, since this is a website dedicated to the atheistic experience, I'm curious - how many people on here would say they had a really bad experience with a "christian" or something done in the name of religion that helped push them away from belief in God? I would venture to say that a large majority of you have had an experience like this - even I have. Personally this makes me very sad. I would just challenge you to read through the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John & Acts in the Bible. Then judge for yourself and compare Jesus actions to those of the "christians" or those done in the name of religion that turned you off to faith in God. Do the "christians" actions mirror Jesus actions? If not than please don't let the actions of a person or the actions of a church cause you to give up on belief in Jesus Christ. Seek the source.

  53. @ Johnathan

    You are a prick.

    You do that whole "oh what bad christians ignoreing Jesus's love" and say that her persuit of truth is one everyone can respect and then in the same breath say "Then judge for yourself and compare Jesus actions to those of the "christians" or those done in the name of religion that turned you off to faith in God. Do the "christians" actions mirror Jesus actions? If not than please don't let the actions of a person or the actions of a church cause you to give up on belief in Jesus Christ. Seek the source."

    You hear her story and go "ah you're not an atheist because you REALLY disbelieve you just are mad at Christians" Fuck you. You don't get to go and throw salt on someone. You don't get to go and insult us by calling us petty and insisting we're all jilted lovers. I have NEVER had a bad personal experience with my church. I had only GREAT EXCEPTIONAL ONES. I don't' believe because there's no evidence. And you are a fucking vulture and a contemptible ghoul to go and trying to guilt her back into your little cult.

    Sorry if I lost my temper but here's new for you Johnathan. You are no better than her smart ass brother or irrational family. You're just as big a bully and nasty intolerant dick who sneers down at people for disbelieving. You don't respect our point of view, you think that we are all going to be tortured forever under the authority of your god and that that is a good thing.

    Here's a hint, the next time someone, a gay or a deconvert or atheist expresses distress at how their religious parents or friends are treating them, don't preach at them about the WUV OF JESUS and call them petty cry babies. Instead keep your damn mouth shut. You don't know what she was going through, you've never been in her place, so butt out and take your god with you.

  54. Personally, all the theists I have ever been in contact with (face to face) have been kind, friendly people.

    It's only after I became an atheist that I met theists who were assholes and those were mostly on the internet.

    I recently ran into a muslim and we spoke several times as I tried to get a better understanding of islam.
    He was very friendly, neither aggressive nor condescending.

    I can't help but interpret your focus on "bad christians" as a way of dodging the possibility that people have rejected your religion simply because they don't think it makes any sense.

    I have read the gospels. What made the biggest impression is that they all disagree with each other.
    In many places they show clear signs of having been folk-tales, essentially no different than the stories of the Grimm brothers.

  55. @ Jonathan

    Nope, never had any bad experiences with Christians. I became an atheist because I realized there was no evidence for a god or any gods. The actions of anybody who professes a belief (or lack thereof) in any deities have no bearing on whether or not I believe in gods. It's completely irrelevant.

  56. Jonathan I can't speak for the majority of atheists but I can honestly say I have never had a bad experience that pushed me away from belief in God. I have had a hard time with a relative who is very religious because I am an atheist but while I still believed my experiences with christians and christianity in general were all good. From what I have heard and read from others about why they are atheists I doubt that a bad experience with christans is as important a contributor to atheism and you seem to think it is. If you are interested in why people become atheists I suggest you watch The Atheist Experience show also try the series why I am no longer a christian by Evid3nc3 on youtube it provides quite an in depth description of how he went from a very devout christian to an atheist. In regards to your challenge unfrotunately I have to decline as I have already read one of the gospels and I am not willing to repeat such a painfully boring experience.

  57. Emily and others on this blog (including several presenters of the show) clearly were believers before they became atheists. But I think you are overlooking the fact that quite a few atheists including myself never were believers in the first place. I grew up in a secular household, I was exposed to several religions in my upbringing in a very open way, but I never felt drawn to any of them. I've had a view negative experiences with theists (of different religions) but generally I found most of them to be very nice people. For a long time I was never really all that interested in the subject of belief. when I got interested I was a 'thingist' (I believed there was something, even though I had no clear definition of what it was) for a long time until I started to ask myself real hard questions. Eventually it became clear to me that the things I believed in had nothing to do with any God and I became an outspoken atheist, which I am till this day.

    I'm telling you this story because I think you are making an assumption that is wrong. that assumption being that atheists are all former believers. I certainly am not and within my country (the netherlands) there are plenty of people who were never religious to begin with and are still atheists. Oh and by the way cery happy and fulfilled people.

  58. "Seek the source". - Jonathan

    She did, Jonathan - and she rejected it, just as I and hundreds of thousands (millions?) of atheists have done.
    Having some marital discord with my Catholic wife - my own mother called the Jehovah's Witnesses in to "bring God into my life", and help our situation. They asked me to share "Bible readings". I seriously read the Bible from top to bottom... I did research. I made wall charts about who begat whom.. then I began to read other religious books.. expanding the knowledge; and then came Erich Von Daniken's book - "Chariots of the Gods". I had always doubted as long as I can remember and this one book confirmed my skepticism as being correct.
    The light came on!!
    I was 27 at the time, and am now 65 and about to retire: I've been married (2nd wife) to another atheist for 28 years: we have both enjoyed the happiest of lives ever since, and thanks to the Atheist internet sites, forums and YouTube
    we know that "We are not alone".
    We feel your pain, EmilyCaroline - but life will get better; you will grow and we are sure you will find the happiness that we have found.

  59. Johnathan you are committing what is known as the "no true scotsman fallacy".

    It boils down to "Those nasty behaving christians over there are not real christians".

  60. @Jonathan:

    I can't tell you how many times I've been accused of basing my disbelief on my treatment at the hands of the "untrue" believers, and I also can't begin to express how insulting that is. It assumes that we have no idea what we are disbelieving and that our views are made in complete ignorance, based solely on a knee-jerk emotional reaction, and that if we'd only "give the Bible a chance" that we'd see how totally correct it really is. Just the fact that you "challenge" us to read what most atheists have already read and found lacking reveals this assumption.

    My own mother accused me of basing my atheism on the mistreatment I had received in Catholic school, and refused to believe that I was basing it on anything else, because to consider that for even a second might lead to her reassessing her own beliefs--and that would be dire. As far as she was concerned, I had rejected God because of a knee-jerk emotional reaction and if I actually knew the "truth" about God, I'd come back.

    At the same time, when she started getting into an argument with a fundamentalist at work, she kept asking me for stuff from the Bible to counter him. Somehow, the atheist she believes can't possibly have read the Bible is the person she turns to for information about the Bible. She has some interesting cognitive dissonance.

    Let me tell you what I told her--which took her years to finally absorb and accept. It would not matter if everyone at Catholic school had been sweet as sugar to me all the time, I would still find the claims of Christianity to be implausible, contradictory with itself and with reality, and ultimately absurd. I felt that way as a small child (at one point, she said "I don't know what happened to you, you used to love Jesus", and was surprised when I told her I never believed, and that when you are an enthusiastic supporter of corporal punishment and tell your kid to sing praise to Jesus, it's rather absurd to assume that praise is geniune.) I do not base my understanding of what is true on emotionalism or on how "nice" the adherents of a view happen to be. It is completely possible for a religion to be true even as every adherent is a complete douchebag, and it is possible for a religion to be a total crock even as every adherent is a delightful and wonderful person. The truth of a claim does not rest on the social appeal of the claimant.

    The fact that the adherents of any religion are no nicer than anyone else is evidence that religious faith does not make you a better person by default, and it could easily be the catalyst that causes a person to examine their beliefs in the first place, but it is rare for this to be the basis of an atheist's disbelief.

  61. @ Jonathon:

    Do you think a negative experience with an atheist would push said atheist into god belief?

    @ Ing:

    I usually love most of your comments. Not this time. You overreacted, imo.

  62. @Jonothan

    Nope. No bad experiences. The ones I know are actually fairly reasonable.

    Not "mad" at god, either.

    I deconverted because it stopped making sense to me, I thought about it, and realized it's bull.

  63. @Jonathan
    Ah, yes, clearly they didn't treat her how the bible said...because Jesus and God are all about love and shit, no matter what you believe.

    The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. ( Psalms 14:1-7 )

    Anyone arrogant enough to reject the verdict of the judge or of the priest who represents the LORD your God must be put to death. Such evil must be purged from Israel. ( Deuteronomy 17:12 )

    They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. ( 2 Chronicles 15:12-13 )

    Sounds like they're treating her just as the Bible says they should (they're even being generous by letting her live, see how Christ-like they are).

    Could go on for a while, you can say that the bible is full of love and joy, and we could provide just as many if not a huge amount more examples of the bible being horrendous and flat out stupid (yes, even in the New Testament, and yes, even in the red text.)

    Christians don't follow the bible, christians don't follow jesus, which is good, they swallow whatever their pastors tell them about God and Jesus (and forget most of that even anyway) and form their own version of their religion.

    Their god agrees with pretty everything they think (surprise! of course they say its the other way around), and since most people are generally good, so their version of god is "good".

    Its the big book of multiple choice. Of course, you don't have to worry about that, you're a True Christian™

  64. "@ Ing:

    I usually love most of your comments. Not this time. You overreacted, imo. "

    That's a possibility, But I see Johnathan as doing what basically seeing someone in distress, from his POV, and jumping in with "You know JESUS can help!" It's hidden behind 'niceness' but I think its pretty much the same as Roberston calling on Haiti to turn to god. I think John's comments are self serving tripe.

  65. @Ithionic furry

    you forgot the part about Jesus saying he will turn brother against brother and divide families and all that.

  66. As I have heard many times, it's OK not to believe, but to be an ATHEIST, that's a different matter. In any case, I realized that I was an atheist around 5th-6th grade, and was proud of it. I am comparatively vocal about atheism, and feel sorry for those who have to "come out." My mother insists that atheism is some sort of a "phase" and that I'm "questioning" when I'm pretty set. Just as a tip, is a pretty decent site (I have no affiliation with the site and am not being paid, etc. to say that.)

  67. "That's a possibility, But I see Johnathan as doing what basically seeing someone in distress, from his POV, and jumping in with "You know JESUS can help!" It's hidden behind 'niceness' but I think its pretty much the same as Roberston calling on Haiti to turn to god. I think John's comments are self serving tripe."

    Perhaps, but what may be seen as such may also be simple misunderstanding and genuine concern.

    I know...I have a bridge to sell me ;)

  68. @KJ95

    The "phase" argument! I HATE that! Yet another way to try and protect their faith from the possibility of self-criticism, by essentially dismissing your unbelief as some kind of temporary insanity or something along those lines.

    My parents finally came to terms with the idea that this is not a phase. It took a long time, but at some point they had to admit that I was an "adult" in all ways except that one area. At that point, they had to admit that this is not some kind of temporary insanity and that maybe I really do mean it.

    Of course, I was lucky. Some people will hold onto that idea forever, convinced that you will outgrow the "phase" on your deathbed. Anything to avoid self-scrutiny, I guess.

  69. I see John as being as much an opportunist and as rude as an atheist who would use the event of a funeral to remind all the Christians that hte loved one is dead dead dead. Or Fred Phelps mentioning how people are in hell at their funerals.

    He's commenting on something he doesn't get, and sees it as an opportunity to plug jebus. It may not be intentional but since the subject is "my family is not handling the fact that I don't believe in JEsus well" it's really freaking rude.

    His lack of tact and empathy to see "not the time or place to open my craw" is why I'm harsh on him.

  70. To be fair, I don't have great memories of Catholic School...the threats, guilt trips and the nuns. It wasn't all bad though. I didn't really start to question things until well after I left the school anyway. I think it all started with meeting lots of Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim and non-Catholic Christian kids.

  71. "I see John as being as much an opportunist and as rude as an atheist who would use the event of a funeral to remind all the Christians that hte loved one is dead dead dead. Or Fred Phelps mentioning how people are in hell at their funerals.

    He's commenting on something he doesn't get, and sees it as an opportunity to plug jebus. It may not be intentional but since the subject is "my family is not handling the fact that I don't believe in JEsus well" it's really freaking rude.

    His lack of tact and empathy to see "not the time or place to open my craw" is why I'm harsh on him."

    Tactless? Yes. Deliberately so? I don't think so. Then again....perhaps....

    So, point taken and mostly conceded :)

  72. If it was unintentional, my response was to get him to realize that such actions are offensive. Hence, I took offense. I see the problem as being that people like John, think it's perfectly fine to go anywhere at anytime and talk about their god belief. It is not. There are times when it's rude and prickish. There are times when it's rude and prickish to argue for atheism. I remember one video on youtube that had a BEST a tangential connection to religion (the subject matter was titled "Act of God". and people criticized the events as not matching what "god" would do). One atheist dick hole used that opportunity to harangue the people with bible quotes about God's nature. I took offense. I don't want religion talk to be spewn over my comedy geek entertainment making everyone pissy. People were there to enjoy the video and have a lark, it wasn't the time or the place. Likewise Johnathan, if he can't realize on his own, needs to be informed of the rudeness of his actions.

    If he barges into a topic with his little jesus hanging out people are going to take offense and he's being rude.

  73. Fair enough.

    Bilateral rage is better than unilateral rage after all ;)

  74. @KJ95

    I think even worse than that is the "you have to believe in SOMETHING". My mom wathced the show Saving Grace, where an angel does an intervention on an atheist cop to get her to accept some religious belief, any kind...literally they said it could even be Zen. Because the worst damn thing you can be apparently is an atheist.

    And the goddamn stupidity of expecting anyone to pick Zen, or Hinduism, or even judism etc when AN ANGEL FROM CHRISTIAN MYTHOLOGY DESCENDS UPON HIGH WITH A MESSAGE FROM A GOD (SINGULAR).

    It's like if Gandolf visited me and encouraged me to believe, and anything is ok even say in Darth Vader.

  75. Ing, I wonder which would "hardcore Christinas" choose as worse: atheism, or satanism (deistic).
    I bet on satanism + a very twisted logic as a reason. Something like: "at least they see that there is the spiritual world" crap, from which they can convert and stuff.

  76. Whoops, sorry for writing "Christinas" :) at least it's funny. but you get the point

  77. I applaud you, Emily, for having the courage to write this post. I went through a similar feeling of isolation when I left born-again Christianity when I was in college. I have a friend who is 30 years old and he still hasn't told his family he is atheist. He's afraid it would hurt his mother too much. But for all of his adulthood his lying to his family has really hurt his relationship with them. Sometimes honesty is very painful at first but better in the long run. My parents are just fine with my atheism now that I'm older, and I think this is mainly because we went through all the fighting about it when I was younger. I've written about my experiences leaving Christianity here:

  78. I'd think Christians would want to believe that true satanists don't exist (despite the fact that they seem to do the opposite) because that means there are people out there, who have bought into the bible, believe in heaven and hell, believe in the authority of the 10 commandments and the divinity of Jesus...and choose SATAN as the good guy.

  79. I feel for this girl. It is very difficult to go against your own family and take the first step toward being true to yourself. I have just recently posted some things that I knew would be controversial or offensive to many on my fb page, but I decided I have to be who I am and take the criticism as it comes. I hope this girl finds more people who will accept her for who she is, it's important to have a good support system, I think she is very brave for telling the truth.

  80. how many people on here would say they had a really bad experience with a "christian" or something done in the name of religion that helped push them away from belief in God? I would venture to say that a large majority of you have had an experience like this

    And you would be wrong. You are getting cause and effect in the wrong order. You are saying that a person has a bad experience like Emilys and that turned them away from god, but if you read her story she left god first for her own reasons and then the bad experiences started up because sometimes family or friends are not accepting of atheists. The blow up can't be the cause of the atheism if it was the fact that she was an atheist that caused the blowup.

    I would just challenge you to read through the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John & Acts in the Bible. Then judge for yourself and compare Jesus actions to those of the "christians"

    Luke 19:27 (Jesus speaking)
    "But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me."

    And that happens moments before he sends a couple guys to steal somebodies horse because "The Lord hath need of him"

    The idea that, sure the old testament was bad but the teachings of Jesus overrides it and he is all rainbows and puppy dog tails is simply a false meme. Like when people say you only use 10% of your brain, it is just accepted without people investigating if it is actually true or not.

  81. @Jeremiah

    Your post qualifies as one of those, as while one is reading it, one's like:





  82. @Jeremiah
    Not to be nit-picky, but:

    Luke 19:27 - To be fair, that was one of Jesus' rambling pointless parables.

    Of course, from what I've read of "explanations" of it, its basically just saying that enemies of God will be "punished" (always pretty non-specific, and used pretty weaselly like its not a threat but *wry smile, pinky to mouth* maybe it is), but the simple fact that it's jesus telling a story (even though he's relating it to how he would kinda like his enemies to die at least a little) is their token get out of criticism free card (even though that doesn't really address the point).

    Also, I think he sends his posse to steal a donkey, not a horse (something about fulfilling a prophecy that isn't really a prophecy and done for the express purpose of fulfilling that non-prophecy prophecy) but it could be just a translation thing (you can't really expect an ALL POWERFUL AND ALL KNOWING GOD to be involved in the proofreading of the book he specifically wants the people of earth the have...)

  83. In regards to Luke 19:27, yeah I have heard the explanation, such as a few verses earlier Jesus mentions a parable so that supposedly means he is just relating a story, of course I don't know how that excuses the so called moral of this story and the NT is filled with parables. Like so many other parts of the bible people will find ways to rationalize it and make it square with their particular world view.

    And even if somehow someone could divine it's 'true' meaning as just being that the enemies of god will be punished, to me that is just a matter of semantics. Slaying sounds too brutal, lets just say they will be punished. Kinda like, it isn't torture, it's enhanced interrogation techniques.

    In my KJV bible app on my phone it is referred to as a colt. Not that taking somebodies donkey would be much better. :)

  84. >how many people on here would say they had a really bad experience with a "christian" or something done in the name of religion that helped push them away from belief in God?

    I know I didn't. And I know Matt D didn't either. Not liking religion has zero to do with whether or not a god exists.

    Do you believe in Zeus? If not, did you have a bad experience with ancient Greeks?

    How reasonable does that sound to you? That's how your question sounds to me.


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