No atheism on Facebook

From the IAmAnAtheist feedback form:

I’ve emailed you before, I don’t know if you remember…but it shows how great the people around me are (at least about religion) when I’m asking for advice from people on the internet that o don’t even know the gender of.

The last email was probably better planned out, but writing this in the heat of the moment on an iPhone limits my dictation.

On to the main subject…my dad just got on me because I have comments acknowledging my atheism (agnostic atheism to be precise) on facebook. He basically said don’t talk about my atheism on fb of he’ll remove all internet access from my life. He’s worried about people getting hurt, and my grandmother or someone seeing that I’m not Christain and being really upset. He acted as if I hadn’t thought about that; but the honest answer? I know there are friends if mine and family that will be hurt, and I’ve been mainly going along with the whole ‘don’t mention atheism’ on FB (actively at least) because of my Grandma, an extremely sick and close to death individual that holds ‘god’closest to her heart. All my friends (the only people I’m friends with on fb – I’m not even ‘ friends’ with my grandma) know my atheistic tendencies. Just because I’m fifteen doesn’t mean I can’t think of all of these things.

But I’m not going to pray with the family I see once a year forever, and the fact that I want to be identified by something so …part of me, I guess, as my atheism (and my also ‘scorned upon’ bisexuality, but that’s a different issue) from now on instead of from three years from now (when I go to college) on, it should be my rright. What’s so bad about atheism? I was never fully Christian, at least from about 9+ I was a questioning individual that prayed at night only because I was afraid of eternal hellfire.

My dad went on to say that at fifteen, I shouldn’t think I knew everything. I said I didn’t, but the burden of the proof is on Christianity and thus far there has been no compelling evidence to ‘change my ways’ to fit a contradictory and outdated text (not exact words, obviously), and he blew up about saying there were many unexplainable things in the world. My answer: since there are many things humanity doesn’t have the answers to this doesn’t nevessarly equate to a deity, let alone the Christain one that was based off of what is regarded to be Greek and Roman *mythology*.

He also turned to the tact that colleges don’t like atheism. Why this is I have no idea, but I see mo reason to hide or change my beliefs because of this.

This has been a long, rambling, angry, po-Ed email, but I guess what I’m asking is …what would you do?

Oh nonexistent deity, don’t you love that my parents were ‘housemothers’ for group homes of pregnant teens? Oh, but at least we know that the oregano girls were at least somewhat straight, and probably a lot were Christain. Oh, but they weren’t *there* daughter were they?

I love my accepting and open minded parents.

Postscript: and since I seem to be using you to vent my anger (sorry), I’ll add that a reason my parents had for me to still pray with the family and drag ms to church was so that I wasn’t giving any negative influences to my 12 year old sister and my 9 year old brother.

Despite that last excuse being pitiful and sad already, here’s the cherry to that sundae; my 12 year old sister knew about my atheism and bisexuality a month before my parents did. Her response? ‘Mom and Dad must be so disappointed’.

Mom and Dad must be so proud.

Wow. Lots of points here; lots of problems.

Obviously you want things to be peaceful at home. Just as obviously, your parents aren’t exactly open to new ideas. I have a few suggestions.

First, in terms of Facebook, I’m assuming that you were being just as rational and reasonable on Facebook as you were in your e-mail. In other words, you weren’t posting things like “All Christians are morons” on your wall. If that’s the case, then your father is saying that he thinks your grandmother would be hurt not by nasty things you were saying about people like her, but by your honest description of what you believe and feel. He wants you to either be quiet about what you think about religion or to lie about it. In fact, it sounds like there may be many things he wants you to hide from the family.

I don’t know your father, but I suspect that at heart he’s less worried about you hurting people than he is about your embarrassing him.

Since you are living with your parents and your father has threatened to take away your Internet access if you discuss atheism on Facebook, you’re kind of stuck. I’d suggest that, for the moment, you resist discussing religion on Facebook. You can start it up again when you’ve convinced your father that he should lighten up, or when you move out of the house. (As an aside, my spouse moved out at age 15 — not that I’d recommend it.)

I agree that it should be your right not to have to hide your feelings and beliefs from your family. In fact, people who love you should want to love the real you, not some act you put on for family gatherings. I suggest that you calmly and politely be yourself. If religion comes up in a conversation, have a conversation but be factual and inquisitive, not confrontational (“Why is that?” or “What about…” instead of “Are you nuts?”) At a family gathering, if things are getting heated or someone seems like they are trying to pick a fight with you, take the high road and don’t let yourself be baited. You may find that the family respects you for knowing the place and time for such discussions.

If possible, I think you should have a talk with your dad. Ask him what he’s worried about. If he’s sincerely worried about your Grandma, you can promise not to bring the subject up with her, but not that you will keep your beliefs to yourself for fear that she might find out about them. If he is worried that your atheism is a rejection of the family, assure him that it is not. This is about what you believe, not about what they believe. If he is worried about your immortal soul, then assure him that you are constantly looking for evidence because you want to do and believe what is right. How can God reject you for searching for the truth? You can even invite your dad to join you in searching for truth, if you think that would be appropriate (and that there’s a chance he’d really do it).

And if your father is worried that your atheism will make him look bad, tell him that you are dedicating your mind and heart to becoming the best person you can be, and that he should be proud to be the father of someone with the desire to take on such a challenge. Did he bring you up to follow others and keep quiet for the sake of not making waves, or to stand on your own two feet, find your own way, and be proud of who you are?

Should you go to church and pray with your family? If they want you to (and the church’s pastor/priest doesn’t mind an atheist in the congregation), I see no harm in going to church. It’s an hour or two of boredom a week for the sake of family harmony.

You can sit quietly with the family during prayers, too. But if they want you to actually say a prayer, that’s a horse of a different color. From your family’s perspective, you saying a believer’s prayer would be you lying to God, wouldn’t it? Certainly they wouldn’t want that. So they’ll have to choose between you giving a little non-religious speech of thanks and you sitting quietly. If either of these options would be considered a “negative influence” on your siblings, then once again your family is asking you to pretend that you are someone other than who you are. In that case, the lesson to your siblings is that the family would rather have a facade of happiness than know what they are feeling and thinking. In my mind, such a lesson is an invitation to future disaster.

Regarding what your father said about colleges not liking atheism. He actually may be correct about this, assuming that you are intending to go to a college that is religiously affiliated. As for secular institutions, I would be very surprised if they cared. I attended UCLA and found no problem with having intense religious discussions with students or faculty. There were atheist groups on campus. And this was decades ago — I assume things have become even more liberal since that time.

Best of luck to you dealing with this situation. Please, write again and let me know how things are going.

Posted on December 29, 2010 at 7:36 am by ideclare · Permalink
In: Atheists' problems, Help

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