September 2007

I have just become an atheist.

I eventually realized all the gaps in Christianity, and faith in general. I feel very free now as a result of not living in fear of being punished for “thought crimes” such as not buying into things which have no logical proof. A theologist professor said “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” Oh yeah? Where’s your evidence?

That my friend, is called full circle logic. A=B because I said so. aka, the bible is right because it says its right.

So, my question, how do I go about telling my devoutly christian parents, friends, and church about my new worldview?

Although I appreciate what you are saying, your theology professor was actually correct that, in a logical sense, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Or, in a nutshell, you (in general) can’t prove a negative.

For example, right now we don’t have proof that any of the variant string theories of physics is true, but that doesn’t mean that none of them are true (although that might be the case). Or, more ridiculously, if you have no evidence that your great, great, great, great maternal grandfather existed, that doesn’t imply that he didn’t exist.

Where theologists get in trouble is when they treat absence of evidence as evidence of existence. For example, a theist must argue that we don’t know what was there before the Big Bang, therefore God was there. That’s a spurious argument.

Theologists also are on shaky ground if they are using the “absence of evidence” line to argue that you can’t prove God doesn’t exist, therefore God might exist. While this is true in a logical sense, it doesn’t say anything about the likelihood that God exists. I won’t say it’s impossible that there is a Christian-type God out there, but I consider the likelihood to be incredibly small.

I’m glad you started out with a subject I’m comfortable with so that I had something constructive to say before I tackled your second question. I’ve heard that Richard Dawkins’ Out Campaign (outcampaign.org) will have resources for people in your situation, but at present these have not been made available.

How you reveal your change in philosophy to your parents is going to depend quite a bit on your parent’s feelings and your relationship with them. Many people feel that just sitting down with them and having a heart-to-heart is the way to go. I, on the other hand, feel that some parents might see what appears to be a sudden change in your attitude as a sudden change in your beliefs, as opposed to a change that has developed within you over time. They might assume that there was a single incident that lead you to reject their beliefs or that you are being influenced an anti-religious source (as someone who joined a cult might be).

I don’t know your parents so I don’t know what will work with them. I think that it’s generally better for them to see your beliefs developing than to see a “sudden” change. This could be done by talking with them about specific theological topics, expressing your doubts, and seeing how they react. Then again, if you think your parents might find out about your atheism from other sources, it might be better to break it to them now so that they don’t end up feeling you’ve been hiding a “dark secret” from them.

I suppose this hasn’t been all that helpful. What it boils down to is that every situation is unique and there is no one way to handle telling your parents you’re an atheist. There is also no way to guarantee that they will not take it badly, but I think that if you reassure them that you are still the moral, ethical, thoughtful, loving child they brought up, they will be less likely to worry that you have become an “evil atheist” (if they are prone to such thinking).

I am going to ask my blog readers who have gone through an experience like this to please share it with the rest of us. We could use some real-life examples!

Posted on September 16, 2007 at 12:53 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Atheists' problems, Reasoning

One Response

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  1. Written by Akane
    on May 14, 2011 at 8:55 am
    Reply · Permalink

    I had a similar kind of thing…. I was brought up in a CoE school, and when I was little I was really devoutly Christian. I am ashamed of that now, and have never been able to look back at Christianity without feeling furious, because they brainwashed me and stuff. And also because when I finally realised God didn’t exist, I got bullied for it by Christians. I am never, ever going to be able to forgive religion for that, and this makes me sad, because I would prefer to be able to be friends with Christians, rather than having all this emotional hurt that makes it hard to be friends with anybody.
    So anyway, I never bothered really telling anybody. My parents hadn’t really contributed to the whole being brought up Christian kind of thing, they didn’t encourage or discourage me, that was mostly the school.
    So I kind of like didn’t bother telling them. I got rid of all the Christian stuff around me and started just raising an eyebrow when people starting going on about religious stuff rather than agreeing, and I think they just gradually realised I was an atheist.
    Well, I’m not an atheist as such, I’m actually a Falrian, but yeah…. same logic.

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