A Solitary Atheist

An anonymous poster asks:

I am a new atheist, but I am having a hard time feeling isolated because all my family and friends are fundamental christians. My partner was “concerned” about my belief in Jesus and told me that if I don’t believe in Jesus I will be going to hell. I don’t want to have my children keep being indocrinated but I know I don’t have any support to stop that. I feel enlighted in my understanding about life now but so alone otherwise.

13 Responses to A Solitary Atheist

  1. The Atheist says:

    Before I get to your questions, let me start by saying that I admire your chutzpah! You somehow were able to reason your way out of “the faith”, even though your family and friends, virtually your entire social network, are fundamentalist Christians. If you don’t mind my asking, how did you manage to do it? What got you to thinking in the first place?

    Other than the friction your atheism causes when the topic of religion comes up, are you otherwise able to maintain normal relationships with these people? If so, then the issue is simply finding other atheists you can relate to. The web (blogs like this and other) might fill the bill, or you might be lucky enough to live in a place that has local atheist groups or “meetups” that you could join.

    On the other hand, if religious dialog dominates the relationships entirely, you have a much bigger problem. It puts you into the position of no longer being able to relate to your closest friends and family. The only choices I can think of are finding new friends, or to being very candid about your beliefs with your partner and your current friends and family, to the point of reaching a genuine understanding. They may not believe what you believe, but they have to understand your beliefs well enough to respect you for believing what you do.

    I wouldn’t try to shield your children from religion. On the contrary! Teach them about religions and about philosophy in general. Your goals is to raise them to be well educated adults who can make informed decisions on their own.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for the reply, I began to become enlighted when I started reading lots and lots… from books and the internet. I wanted to discover what was outside the christian opinion/world. I began to find out contradictions in the Bible and horrible stories in the Old Testament that I simply didn’t like that I never realised were there. I began to investigate other religions and cults and recognise the world’s history of so many gods… surely that can’t all be real!! No, of course. I began to understand nature through the scientists eyes and everything made sense. My family and friends actually don’t know I am no longer a Christian, I haven’t admitted it because of conversations with my partner , he has suspected “doubts” and he has given threats of hell. I don’t mind my children knowing about all the religions, I just don’t want them thinking that they are in the official right one and everyone else will go to hell. I don’t like that way of thinking. I don’t believe that my immediate family/extended family and social network will emotionally support my “lack of faith” they will continue to convince me otherwise.

  3. The Atheist says:

    I agree. At a certain point, frightening a child with hell is just abusive.

    An announcement that you are atheist, especially in fundamentalist circles, is bound to stir up the bee’s nest. If you are to have real relationships vs. superficial ones, you have to let them know at some point. But it doesn’t have to be all at once and it doesn’t have to be confrontational. It might be as subtle as asking questions when others bring religion into the conversation. I would avoid being the one to bring it up, at least at first. And when you ask questions, ask them as the genuine questions they should be, vs merely some rhetorical device:

    Q: “Why do you believe I’m going to hell?” A: “Because the Bible says so.” Q: “How do you know the Bible is right?” A: “Because it’s the Word of God.” A: “Why do you believe the Bible is the Word of God?”

    You’ll find that once you get to “Why do you believe the Bible is the Word of God?”, you’ll have broken through most of the “pat answers” and will start to begin a real conversation. Of course every conversation will be different but they usually run a similar course. At this point you can start talking about why they really believe what they believe. Rather than telling them what they believe is wrong, ask them why you should believe those things too. Then give your honest, thoughtful feedback about the reasons. Honest feedback is not looking for a reason to say they are wrong, honest feedback is reflecting to see if it makes sense, and if it does, agree with them! If it doesn’t, try to articulate what doesn’t make sense and let them respond.

    To get to the “real” conversations, you have to get past the Bible as Word of God claim. One thing that will help is to know more about the history of how the BIble was canonized. Wikipedia has a good overview here. “Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews: A History” by James Caroll Is a good book on the subject and goes into detail about how politics, deceit, power struggles among the various Christian sects, and even dumb luck played a predominate roll in deciding which books were included in the Bible and destined to much later be revered as “The Word of God”, and which were excluded and deemed heresy.

  4. Solitary Atheist says:

    Thank you for your reply, you have given me a lot a food for thought in how to converse about religion with others. I think at the right time, to the various people I know I will become open about my atheism. One of the difficulties I have noticed already in discussions with them is that they end up concluding their reasoning with the fact that they have FAITH, and for them faith is a sufficient explanation and then they want to end the conversation. I think my friends will be in general more accepting of my beliefs (despite their world view) rather than my family members who are obviously the ones I have the most to do with. I have already had several controversal conversations and they are always ready to apply “apologetic excuses” rather than being prepared to think outside their world view. They are strongly opinionated and everything I say to them that differs to their thinking is like talking to a brick wall. I feel I need to be careful of my position as I have already be threaten with divorce if I no longer a Christian. Whether that is an actual genuine threat I don’t know. But that is the last thing I want for myself and my immediate family. I do not want my new belief system to have a negative impact on my family life.

    p.s. christian apologetics = professional liars (that’s my defination).

  5. vegas710 says:

    Hey Solitary, I am in a very, very similar situation, luckily my husband is a little more liberal in his faith so he doesn’t tell me I’ll be going to hell!
    I was raised in a fundamentalist, Pentacostal family. My family was (and my parents still are) the quintessential Fox News base. I was homeschooled and went on to a Bible College where I earned my bachelor degree. That college is where my husband and I met, we now have three children and I “deconverted” about a year ago. I identify as agnostic. There is a website for progressive moms that I’ve been visiting for about 5 years and the socializing I get there saves my sanity some days. I am also lucky enough to have two sisters who also left the faith.
    I just wanted to say that you are not alone and I know it’s difficult. My husband and I are in therapy and I highly recommend it as it is new waters for all of us when a partner changes his or her belief system.
    I hope you find people who will support you.

  6. I was fortunate enough to deconvert with my husband so we actually have a stronger relationship now because of our journey away from religion. I will however admit that I do feel alone in the world at large at work and out with friends and etc. Its hard meet other atheists I probably know several but we seem to be a close mouthed bunch, not exactly forthcoming about our lack of belief. I can only suggest searching meetups in your area and seeing when any freethought conventions are coming to your area and going there to make local connections you might be surprised to find that someone you know shares the same lack of belief.

  7. Melody says:

    Do you live in or near a university town? If so, all of them have Skeptics groups that are a great place to socialize.

  8. Solitary Atheist,

    I admire your bravery to rely on logic and reason rather than religion despite the environment from which you come. I am also in that situation. Know that you are not alone! My breakthrough in beliefs has caused many hurt feelings among friends and family and it just boggles my mind that their beliefs in a God would dare to be put before the morale obligations that they feel yet deny. It is quite sad and pathetic actually.

  9. The Atheist says:

    Thanks, Frank.

    What moral obligations do you mean?

    As the famous physicist, Steven Weinberg said at the Conference on Cosmic Design:

    Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

    • Anonymous says:

      Moral obligations that they feel such as a family would normally feel for one another because they are family!… but not communicating with family members because their religion forbids them from associating with family members who are a bad influence now due to their blasphemy towards God….religion is a cancer to our moral development and to evolution.

  10. Solitary atheist says:

    Hi All, it is me again – The Solitary Atheist. My Journey has been hard. My husband and my kids now know. But I have asked them not to tell our other family members, friends and of course the church community. I know that my kids are upset that I am no longer a christian and my husband is convinced that I am going to hell. It does put a strain on our relationship and he says he hates keeping it a secret. I know that my parents would be devasted if they knew. To tell you truth at this point – I not sure if I am an atheist. I know for sure I am no longer a christian and I have not adopted any other religion. Sometimes I think I may be a deist or just agnostic instead. But whatever the case not being a christian is not good enough with the people in my life. I feel completely and utterly trapped and my husband is not willing to listen to my point of view because he takes it as me attacking him. I have tried to look for freethinkers via the web near me but there is nothing. I am so scared to lose some precious friendships over this as well. But I know it is tearing me apart not telling the truth. But on the other hand I know my fragile surface world will definately become nasty if I totally open up. It has already had a bad impact on my marriage. So christians are taught to love their neighbour. But I assure you they have no true acceptance of people who think differently to them. I just wish they knew what I now know: That they are totally blind to the fact they are being lied to.

    • Paul S says:

      You are to your husband’s and children’s closest neighbor. If they profess to be christian, they should as christians still love you, if they believe in their god. And your children should still honor you as their parent. Just because you have come to your own conclusion, that what you had believed is not true, the universe is the same, it has not changed.

  11. Anonymous says:

    It’s amazing how grownups still belief in religion. if religion really is meant to change people for the better then why are so many crimes committed by theist. Religious folks frustrate me yet crack me up at the same time. i joined a religious website just to mess with them

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