How to Tell Your Family That You Are An Atheist

It can be hard for people who don’t believe in God to speak out to their family and friends. However, there are some ways atheists may be able to discuss the controversial topic.

In many families, it’s actually considered Taboo To discuss religion and politics. But if you stay true to that rule, you’ll end up ignoring your family members’ positions on some of the most important topics in life. You also need to think about practical things like handling church invites, or asking questions about the baptisms of newly-born children. Either way, if you’re an atheist with believers in your family, the topic is bound to arise eventually.
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Studies from the Pew Research Center have highlighted a “rapidly growing” group dubbed the “nones,” because they don’t identify with a religion. Largely made up of young people who were raised in a faith but later left it, the “nones” are changing how religion is seen in the U.S. And while not every single “none” is an atheist, it’s clear that the younger generations are disregarding religion at rates never seen before, and that more Americans than ever are going to have to inform their families that they don’t share their faith. Some non-believers may find it difficult to overcome the stigma that atheists are often portrayed as Satan worshippers or worse.

But for many people who don’t believe, the time for delay is coming to an end. And if you are a non-believer hoping to live your life honestly, and you’re wondering what to do next, here are some tips:

PLAN OUT WHAT YOU’LL SAY AND WHEN YOU’LL SAY IT – If deciding to tell loved ones about your de-conversion is the first step, then timing and planning the delivery is the second. This area is where planning can be extremely helpful. An unplanned announcement, such as one made through an argument, can leave your loved ones and yourself vulnerable.

The more you talk up the sooner, the happier and better off your life. – It may seem like a cliché, but, in the context of speaking out to family about controversial subjects, time generally does heal all wounds. Religious family members may be upset to hear about your lack of faith in the tradition that they practice, but time will always help those who truly love you to understand and accept that you simply aren’t convinced by the claims made by any world religions.

EVEN IF YOU’RE JUST STARTING TO HAVE DOUBTS, EXPRESS THEM – Expressing your doubts in religious institutions as early as you begin having them can help you transition smoothly into an openly non-religious life while making sure your doubts aren’t misunderstood. This is not to say that the first time you question religion you should immediately tell your family that you’re an atheist, but openly expressing doubt may help plant the seeds with religious family members for a future revelation. What it does mean is that, if you are sure that you want to share your secularism with your family and friends, then the earlier you make the information known, the earlier they can solve their own issues with your deconversion and accept your choices, hopefully ensuring everyone’s happiness.

DON’T MAKE ANNOUNCEMENTS DURING A FAMILY FIGHT – As tempting as it may be to yell exactly how you feel when tempers start flaring, that’s probably the worst time to make an important disclosure. As you might expect, it is usually considered bad form to ‘come out’ in an argument about religion—and it is certainly in poor taste to purposefully belittle one’s beliefs. In a situation of tension or stress, this type of confrontational behaviour will make it clear to your family that you are trying to communicate your negative feelings. It will also cause your family to feel worse. This will only increase the difficulty of accepting your decision.

IT’S NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO CHANGE MINDS – When talking to family about something as controversial as a difference of opinion over faith, it’s important to keep in mind that it isn’t your job to convince them of anything. These beliefs have existed since childhood. They may be comforting or fortifying to those with fear, anxiety, or a general fear of being unfulfilled. You do not have to change your family’s beliefs. However, it is your responsibility to communicate your thoughts in a logic manner to educate family members about the reasons for your decision to separate from religion. After all, it is a person’s actions that define them—and not their belief system or lack thereof.

Every year the percentage of Americans dropping their faith increases, increasing your chances of getting it wrong. You aren’t questioning your faith, someone you love just might be. And wherever you are in your journey to answer the world’s most important questions, keeping these tips in mind will help you interact with family members about the contentious topics of religion and atheism without severing important familial connections.


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