Suggestions for coming out to your wife, family and friends.

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Maynard Round's picture
Suggestions for coming out to your wife, family and friends.

Greetings future friends. This is my first post on this site and the first time I'm admitting to someone other than myself that I'm an Atheist. I'm 65 and have been married for over 40 years. Have 3 sons and 3 grandchildren. I was raised in a small village in a conservative, evangelical home. Taken to church a couple times a week plus Vacation Bible School, church youth events and other activities as they came up. Since my earliest memories, I was always questioning and taking the other side of arguments. Everyone around me was a Christian, and I was expected to be one too. I didn't know there were other options. So I kept questioning and debating.

At 18 I joined a Jesus People Group in Vancouver in 1969, and in 1971, that group became a "colony" of a more radical, more "sold out" group called the Children of God.One of my big questions at the time was, "Why don't so-called Christians act like Jesus, the person they say they are following. I thought if I could live like Jesus every day like I thought the COG were doing, then everything would become clear. As a disciple in the "Revolution for Jesus," I was sent to Montreal, New Orleans, Miami, Puerto Rico and Venezuela over the next two years. As things got very crazy with the COG (a story for another time), I decided that I needed to head home, and leave my life as a "missionary," which I guess was technically true.

Let me jump ahead. I ended up going to and graduating from Bible College, University and then Seminary. The questions and doubts only got worse as I realized there were different interpretations of the Bible. Not everyone saw it as a Holy, supernatural book, without error, containing God's message for Humankind. By this time I was married and had three young sons. I had to care for my family and it seemed that my only answer was following through with my education and becoming a Pastor. So, for 10 years I did my best as a Pastor, in 4 different churches, but I was always out of sync with the church members. After the 4th church closed, I was not able to find another church so I took a much better paying job at a large Christian Ministry and was focused on helping families be stronger and better Christians. I was a part of that ministry for 26 years. Still hard to believe. While there, I continued to research Atheist literature and realized that so much of what I was taught as a child was BS. There was no evidence whatsoever of the existence of god. It was all a sham. So, about 15 years ago I told myself I was an Atheist. I kept trying to find a way to leave this organization and still pay the bills. No one knew. But I still looked like a good Christian at work and at home.

Then just over 2 years ago I went through a forced termination after following correct whistleblower procedure regarding a new manager who lied about my work performance in order to fire me, "one of the old guys." At that time I decided to come out since I had saved all I could and built up my IRA as much as possible. But my question for the past 2 years has been, how to tell my wife, sons, other relatives and friends. I know clearly why I don't believe and can explain that, but how can I tell those who truly believe that I will be tortured in Hell for eternity if I deny the existence of God.

Sorry this became so long, and thanks for listening. I'll probably check back tomorrow sometime.

Maynard.

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CyberLN's picture
Hi Maynard. Welcome to AR.

Hi Maynard. Welcome to AR. Pick up a book be Greta Christina called, “Coming Out Atheist.” It might help.

Maynard Round's picture
Thanks for the suggestion.

Thanks for the suggestion. Much appreciated. It's now in my cart on Amazon.

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chimp3's picture
Welcome Maynard! Check out

Welcome Maynard! Check out The Clergy Project. On line community for clergy who are closeted atheists. Can not link right now but they are easy to find.

Maynard Round's picture
Thanks. I'll check it out.

Thanks. I'll check it out. Interestingly, during my years in christian ministry, I think that one of our programs to help pastors be better husbands, wives, fathers or mothers was called the Clergy Project or something very close to that. I also took counseling calls from pastors or their family members who were struggling for one reason or another. Much like a hotline. Did get a few suicide calls over the years. Discovered that pastors have all the same problems and temptations that everyone else has.

ZeffD's picture
http://clergyproject.org/
ZeffD's picture
"..but how can I tell those

"..but how can I tell those who truly believe that I will be tortured in Hell for eternity if I deny the existence of God."

Mine is the voice of inexperience speaking, although I did have one parent who cried when I told him I didn't believe there's a god. I suggest people consider if it is necessary to make a big deal out of something that's only a big deal to others. It is one thing to understand the family's concern for a subject's "immortal soul". It is quite another for the subject to treat their concerns with deep respect. I empathised with my parent but emphasised to him that I had no worries or concerns whatsoever and hadn't had any for a couple of years or more.

Some religionists see disbelief in god as "atheism", which they see as a decision; or "another path"; or a different belief system or 'set of beliefs'. I would explain to them it isn't like that. Most non-believers I know don't decide not to believe something. They simply see no grounds to believe it true - that's all. If someone (however close to me) wants me to believe anything it has to be substantiated with reason and evidence. If they think this belief or opinion should be very important to me, it is all the more essential to provide incontrovertible evidence. If they cannot, it isn't a choice between belief and disbelief, I simply have no grounds supporting their belief or opinion and it cannot be my own.

All this may sound obvious, but it is important to note that their perception of the problem isn't the same as that of a non-believer. They attribute labels like "atheist" and "apostate". It is their religion and god. It is their conviction regarding the behaviour of their god towards non-believers that is all the concern. None of that comes from non-believers and Christians are atheist about other gods, arguably including Allah.

Cognostic's picture
Interestingly enough, we have

Interestingly enough, we have a good life story but what you actually failed to mention is a good reason for telling them? Obviously you do not have a good reason for wanting to tell everyone you are an atheist. If you had a good reason, it would already be done. This should be as obvious to you as it is to me. Anyone who can stand on his or her principles and become a whistle blower when something is obviously wrong most certainly has the self confidence and moral fortitude to stand for what they believe in. Now all you need is a good reason. Perhaps there isn't one. Perhaps there is. Only you can decide.

Your family is not exactly like your work situation. You are not being wronged or harmed by their belief systems. At most, you simply have to endure them, and even if you came out as an atheist, you would still be enduring them. What would change? What would be your reward? Does the reward outweigh the problems that will result. How important is it to you? When the reason is sufficient, the action will be natural.

Pitar's picture
You have no choice but to

You have no choice but to confront yourself with the truth and let it be known. What you're looking for is an out to the misery and sting of the task; a candy-coated version of the truth. Can't help you there. You know who you are. You lived a lie to further the fortune of your family and to that end you paid a big price in pride. You developed a survivable apathy needed to endure your circumstances. But, when will Maynard get a chance again to be Maynard if not now? You need to honestly show yourself. Ah, seems somewhere, some time I heard someone say the truth will set you free. You don't need books for that. Books are simply borrowing time to delay what you will end up saying simply, effectively and with no less remorse than if you stated it now. If they love you less for it then prepare yourself (buck up) and understand that those who matter don't care and those who care don't matter.

ZeffD's picture
Pitar: "..those who matter

Pitar: "..those who matter don't care and those who care don't matter"
Surely that's the wrong way around? Those who matter to us will care [that we can be truthful] and those who don't care, don't matter?

DarkkWolfe's picture
Hi Maynard,

Hi Maynard,

I've been wondering similar things. Not about my wife (she's mostly with me) or children, but about my parents, in-laws, and other extended family.

I grew up in church, my father was a pastor, and much of my family is involved in ministry.

I sometimes think that my desire to tell them amounts to simple selfishness (wanting to "be real"). It won't make any difference to my lack of belief in god, yet telling them will definitely cause them grief as though I'd died. In your case dealing with a spouse and children I definitely see the need to tell them even though it's painful. Those are relationships where continued intimacy is a vital part of who you are.

I guess the only thought I have that may be helpful would be to tell your wife first and acclimate her and then tell everyone else individually so you don't have to deal with so many shocked people at once. Beyond that I don't know. Knowing that your deconversion will cause them pain when they are informed makes it tempting to keep it to yourself. At least it does for me.

-Darkk

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