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.

Maynard Round's picture
Thanks so much for your very

Thanks so much for your very helpful comments and suggestions. I really did look at cost vs reward and decided that I wanted to make sure my family understood what I believed and why before I died. There's nothing imminent except some slow-growing, non-aggressive cancers cells in the prostate. Very common for men in their 60s and 70s.

Since my last post over 4 months ago, I was able to come out to my wife, my three sons, and my 2 best friends. Two of my sons were not surprised and were happy about it. The other was surprised and not happy at all. He's doing better now and is starting to ask questions about how I came to the decision. My two friends were also not surprised. My wife said she was in shock originally but seems to be making the best of it. She also stopped going to church a few years ago, but still keeps her beliefs and reads the Bible daily, which may be a good thing. I just finished reading "Atheist Universe" by David Mills. One of the most helpful I have read so far. Well written and easy to understand.

I'll try to get on this site more often in the future.

Roger (Maynard)

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.

Maynard Round's picture
Pitar,

Pitar,

Thanks for your honest comments. It took me a while but I did come to that same understanding. Since my last post, our golden retriever of 16 years died, and my older brother died of pancreatic cancer. I made a trip to Ottawa to be with the family and go to the funeral. His wife wanted a "non-religious" service since my brother was not religious, and asked me to help arrange it and share some memories about my brother. I was happy to oblige. Service went well. Lots of laughter and some tears as well. No mention of heaven or hell. Didn't have to lie even one time. :)

I have come out to my wife, our three sons, and my two best friends. It went ok in each situation and my family is still intact and loving each other.

Take care,

Maynard (Roger)

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

Maynard Round's picture
Darkk,

Darkk,

Thanks for your very helpful suggestions. Yes, I did come out to my wife first, and then a couple weeks later I spoke with my three sons, each individually, and then my 2 best friends on the phone. My wife is still mulling things over, and two of our three sons were not surprised at all, and the other son is starting to ask more questions. In general, the process went well and we all love each other still.

Take care,

Maynard (Roger)

Tin-Man's picture
@Maynard

@Maynard

Glad to hear things are working out well for you. Congratulations.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ Maynard

@ Maynard

Well done mate. The journey begins!

Best luck.

Cognostic's picture
Do it or don't do it and then

Do it or don't do it and then live with the decision you make. Choosing to wait is the same thing as choosing not to do it. Life is all about making choices. Make the best choice for your life.

Stone Jade's picture
Roger, I'm so glad to hear

Roger, I'm so glad to hear that things have turned out pretty well. Though some others may not see the benefit of breaking the "bad" news to loved ones, in my experience, being "out" allows for far more emotional intimacy and an experience of being known. It also gives them the opportunity to accept you as you are. And it sounds like they're doing that. My best to you and your family.

Skeptikos's picture
I'm not sure what is the best

I'm not sure what is the best approach for you, but I have taken a more indirect route. I don't hide the fact that I'm an atheist, but I don't make it a point to explicitly tell people that I am either. I find it distasteful, like someone declaring they are a liberal, conservative, Christian, for the sake of making it known. I treat people like I want to be treated, and I would rather people not tell me what religion or politics they affiliate with directly because for one, I really don't care to know everyone's stance, and two, I can piece it together on my own anyways. But that is me. Decide whether you need to come out in any clear way or if you would rather be more subtle about it. Being clear would enlarge the circle of people who know. If that doesn't bother you, then go with that. If you are more cautious, go with subtle.

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