How do I talk about my atheism to my family and friends?

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Answered by: Krystal, An Expert in the Life as an Atheist Category
It is never easy to tell someone you are an atheist. This is especially true if the people you need to tell are your family and friends. This task becomes even more difficult if any of those people are deeply religious. Coming out as an atheist presents a unique challenge for those who grew up in a religious household. You may ask, "how do I talk about my atheism with people I love, who might not understand my position?" The short answer is calmly.

For many people, it takes a long time to come out to their family and friends about their atheism. The biggest reason is fear. They fear being rejected or being verbally abused. In some cases, there is a fear of physical abuse as well. If you are lucky enough not to be in the minority that must deal with those possibilities, keep in mind that your loved ones may still have a lot of questions. You should be ready to answer their questions thoughtfully and thoroughly.

The first question you are likely to encounter is "why you have become an atheist?" Each person will have their own individual reasons for it. Avoid sounding like you blame your family, even if they are the indirect cause for your change in beliefs. Tell them about any research or interesting reading you have done and invite them to look at them as well. Explain that you are not trying to change their minds, but to help them understand yours.

Another common question is why you hate god. This will be a very difficult question to answer for many. Many atheists do, in fact, hate the concept of god. If this is not the case for you, do not mention it. However, if you do fall into this group you should be prepared to explain that you cannot hate something that you do not believe exists. This will likely be the most difficult part of your conversation as your family and friends will be trying to help bring you back into their religion. Stay firm with them, but keep your anger in check.

You may also be asked who hurt you in the church to make you hate your religion. For some people, being hurt by a religious leader may have caused them to question their beliefs. For the vast majority, however, this is not the case. Despite this, your loved ones may believe that this is the only explanation for why would turn your back on the beliefs you were raised with. Reassuring them that you were not abused or otherwise hurt will be difficult, but make sure you let them know the truth so that innocent people do not become the target of any anger from your family.

Be prepared to have this discussion many times, especially if your family cannot be together at the same time. Your family may also bring it up at a later date in an attempt to convert you back to their religion. It is best to politely decline to continue the discussion at that point. While it may be tempting to further explain yourself, It may cause more tension than it is worth. Instead, invite them to learn more about atheism from atheist authors and speakers.

When you have gotten through the difficult task of discussing your atheism, you may face a time of being shunned or otherwise made to feel like an outsider by your loved ones. This is normal. They have to take some time to process the new information you have given them. Be patient. Do not start questioning yourself, asking, "why did I talk about my atheism?" At the end of the day, it was necessary for you to open up and be your most authentic self.

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