General Question

Fred931's avatar

How do I explain my atheism and existentialism to my parents?

Asked by Fred931 (9371 points ) October 24th, 2012

It seems that, over the course of however my parents, sane and highly intelligent, have raised me, I have learned to distrust them. It might be the way they have punished me in the past or something much more complex. I do not like their role as having dictatorial control over me. It is not that I do bad things, other than the occasional issues everyone has, like telling a lie, not doing a homework assignment, etc.

As a result, I do not trust them with my own personal life. I never talk to them, and when a confrontation is required, say for the purpose of discipline, I have no clue what to say or how to behave in their presence. I identify this situation as unfortunate and even pathetic.

If you are following this question, you might know a little about this bit: It was months ago, around January maybe,and I didn’t really experience anything out of the ordinary to trigger it, but I just decided that religion did not make sense. It was largely on the ground that there are so many religions out there, and each one proclaims itself as true. If Y cannot equal X, then how can they both equal 1? If there were any other reasons, it was probably the general ideas around the plurality of religion. I can’t remember the specifics.

So then I just sorta had to come up with purpose now. So I just decided, you know, it doesn’t really matter; after all, I’ve heard so many times “Be whoever you want to be.” I didn’t have a fucking. clue. what kind of deep shit I was getting into! I’m laughing at the event now, from this present POV.

So months passed, and nothing in particular happened that was relevant. I didn’t really change who I was. I was sincerely waiting for college for me to truly decide my own meaning.

That is how bad the connection is between me and my parents. I’d rather go the entire remainder of my “childhood” without explaining to them what is going on with me. I don’t want to explain now, I don’t want to explain then, I just want them to be out of the picture. I think that is sickening. But how am I going to talk to them now?! after at least 3 years of bullshitting my way around interacting with them, even hating the way they say things instantly drives me up the wall.

So I’m at a loss and on the verge of tears over this. I’m freshly read up on the subject, but I know I don’t completely understand what I’m going through. I need to talk to them, finally.

My train of thought is all over the place right now. I just have no clue how to handle this. Part of me is still saying to wait until I am gone, but why? Why don’t I trust them with me? They raised me.

Suddenly, I am laughing, because I just realized the two massive walls of text I created in the last couple hours.

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54 Answers

bookish1's avatar

Hey man, I’m sorry to hear you’re so upset over this. I can relate in an abstract way to not being able to talk to your parents, feeling like you have been bullshitting them. My parents are very narrow minded and socially conservative, and not at all willing to accept the fact that their offspring is transgendered and gay. I waited until I left the house and was financially independent to tell them these things. I had told my mother that I was atheist when I was in middle school (I’m not anymore, for full disclosure), and she told me it was the worst thing I could have ever told her. She didn’t know what the future had in store!

I guess I don’t have answers for you, but questions. Are you still in high school, waiting to go away to college? Why do you still talk about your “childhood”? Why is it necessary to explain to your parents your philosophical beliefs?

Do you have any friends in meatspace that you can hang out with? Or trusted teachers you can talk with? I’ve certainly spilled my guts to a number of teachers in high school and college. It sounds like you are going through some intense thoughts and emotions, and maybe just being around people who know and accept you can be stabilizing and comforting.

Judi's avatar

I don’t think any of us can help you until you tell us more about their belief system. Maybe I should read the other thread.

Fred931's avatar

@bookish1 In respective order:

Yes. I just got accepted with a full tuition scholarship to Auburn University.

I consider my “childhood” the period where I saw my parents as parents, rather than other people with their own complex personalities beyond, “No, I’m not buying you a chocolate bar.”

I’m more worried about my sudden outburst in terms of the existentialism. I could not stop crying in my last class of the day over the course of events that have just transcended. I am worried for my own safety, and part of bringing this up with them is to get professional help as well, with someone I used to meet for a different personality issue that has been gone for years now and to me is not worth bringing up.

I don’t understand what you mean by “meatspace,” but, no, I can’t really think of anyone I know who I could have this discussion with other than the school counselor. I’m not sure why, but I feel she won’t exactly be competent on the situation I am in. Then again, hardly anyone I would know would, so she is probably my best bet. Again, other than that… There really isn’t anybody. I’m repeating this over and over to myself and I still can’t really process it.

@Judi Read into this. I feel it is precisely what I am experiencing.

JLeslie's avatar

I’m assuming your parents are very religious and might be distraught over your atheism? Otherwise, what’s the big deal? Are you going to church and faking it right now or something? Are they going to punish you because you don’t believe in God? My opinion is if they are going to be horrible about it amd send you away to religious school, don’t tell them.

You speak of looking for meaning in your life. Most teenagers have no clue what they want to do with their lives. The best is to do your very best at school so you have your options open as you begin to figure it out. Take a variety of elective classes, join a club, or take a dance class or do a sport. Or, get a job if you don’t have one. Work can be great when you are young. Earn some money, meet new people, feel a sense of accomplishment. Meaning is much more easier to see as we get older. Don’t worry that you feel confused.

If you are depressed, that is very common during adolescence. Usually it stems from loneliness I believe, but there can be other reasons. I do think you should let your parents know if you feel depressed. Let them get you some help. Maybe you could see a therapist and talk some of these things through. You don’t have to share everythig with your parents if you feel you will be very misunderstood. But, I will say that typically children assume parents will be angry, when really the parents is just afraid and concerned. It is hard for you to understand how intensely your parents love you most likely. Parents a lot of times react harshly out of their own fears and anxieties of their child getting harmed. However, there are of course some parents who trully are very angry, very punitive, and abusive, so it is impossible to generalize.

I can’t empathasize with being so out of sorts about being atheist. I was raised an atheist, and am one. But, I can really empathasize with being depressed and feeling like nothing matters. I promise it gets better. What year of school are you in? Plan on going away to college, get away, meet new people. Go to a biggish school with a variety of opportunities and people from many places. Getting a job got me out of my first depression when I was a young teen, and going away to school got me out when I was an older teen.

Fred931's avatar

@JLeslie Of all the horrible things I have read or seen about “In the name of X,” from what I understand of them, they are among the most level-headed Christians I may ever know. As is the entire church we attend; their mission and what they do on a daily basis is always something I can get behind. It’s just the theism that I reject.

And yes, I still go to church with them for the time being.

JLeslie's avatar

I just read you are goin to Auburn. That’s fantastic. My nephew has a friend who goes there, I think he really likes it. Since it is in Alabama I don’t know how atheist the students on campus will be, but universities in general are good places to discuss these sorts of things. Maybe take a philosophy class, or ethics. Something that gives you some outlet to thoughts about life. Even comparative religion. Or, maybe once you get there all your upset over this will have passed.

I think you are in mourning. Grieving the loss of how you used to view the world. Our world construct can be very important to us, especially to the very religious I think. They have a sense of right and wring as dictated to them by their religious belief. Once you let go of that, it’s like everything falls apart maybe? You also might feel like you are rejecting your family by rejecting their religious beliefs. You aren’t. You can have different beliefs and still not reject your family’s culture, traditions, and more. Showing respect for their beliefs is important, and hopefully they will do the same for you.

Also, you might be nervous about leaving home in general, and are misplacing some of your fears on this atheist thing. Talking it all through with a therapist could really help. Everyone talks about how great college is, I do, but initially it can be very scary. A new place, being on your own, being away from home, figuring out the campus, living with a new roomate, it can be very nerve racking.

JLeslie's avatar

@Fred931 I once read there are a lot of atheists in church. They go because of community peer pressure, or because it is a social network, or because they are involved in the work the church does. I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. Jewish synagogues have bunches of atheists in them. Especially reformed synagogues.

Edit: a lot is probably an overstatement, but let’s just say there are some atheists in churches.

Fred931's avatar

@JLeslie Of the third paragraph, the exact opposite; I am more than ready to start physically managing myself outside of my family.

But on the church thing, I do have a reservation with it. I am surrounded by a group (mostly true Christians, according to your statement) that believes in God, and I am always finding myself feeling that I should not be among them. I am not gaining anything from the lessons (I’m discussing a high school Sunday school me and my siblings regularly attend) and it seems disrespectful to just sit there, letting my mind wander, every single time.

Again, everyone I know there is perfectly sane and reasonable and would more than welcome me even if I admitted my condition to them. That feeling of uselessness/purposelessness, though, would remain.

Fred931's avatar

So, really, I am not asking whether or not I should tell them anymore. I have already decided I should because I think I need to. Unless anyone can come up with another reason not to…

What I need help with is how to tell them. I really do think this will shake them up, particularly my mother.

bookish1's avatar

@Fred931 : BIG congratulations on the scholarship, man! What a deal you got yourself there. As @JLeslie said, that is your big ticket. I was depressed out of my gourd as an adolescent and put all my energy into schooling because I knew in some vague way that it was my “way out” of a rough family situation.

Thinking about the absurdity of life at the age of a high schooler means you are way ahead of the game, and you will probably take to college like a fish to water. I felt really disconnected in high school because I used to have mystical experiences and stuff and I didn’t know how to connect with other humans. Not the same as an existential crisis, but just as trying on your emotions and cognitive processes, I think.

Sorry to use jargon. By meatspace, I meant “in real life.” So you really don’t have any friends with whom you could talk through this crisis you’re having? Even if you don’t think that anyone could really understand you, it sounds like you know you need to reach out to someone, for your own safety. I’ve gone to talk to psychological counselors at my university when I was in a really bad way. Just having someone who is paid to listen and to help you think through solutions helps SO MUCH! Of course they couldn’t completely “understand” where I was coming from, because they were not transgendered and suicidal. But they wanted to help, and they accepted me as I was, and that was all that mattered.

Please do find help for yourself, if not through your school counselor, then online. You can get connected to a local suicide prevention center through http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ There are 24/7 hotlines you can call, and even online chats. I was actually hanging out on there over the weekend…

Please try to believe this once terminally depressed and suicidal fellow who is telling you that the future can be better.

JLeslie's avatar

@Fred931 I never even thought of purpose when I was your age. I think maybe you get that from your Christianity? Correct me if I am wrong. I do think of Christians as talking about how God has a purpose for each of us.

That’s great you are looking forward to school. I think it will be very freeing for you. The majority of students are not going to attend church while in college, so that whole bit will be gone for the most part. Kind of out of sight out of mind. Get season football tickets, do school activities, focus on your studies, utilize what is available to learn about the majors available at the school. You will be amazed what exists that you are not aware of yet.

About telling your parents…can you just tell them you are questioning your faith? Have an open discussion with them?

Nullo's avatar

If Y cannot equal X, then how can they both equal 1? If there were any other reasons, it was probably the general ideas around the plurality of religion. I can’t remember the specifics.
That’s just it; only one of them can be true.

Perhaps you could start by explaining your atheism and existentialism to yourself.

Maybe you could talk things over with somebody else’s pastor.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
Fred931's avatar

I have to go to bed and will read the newer responses in the morning. Thank you all for your time and caring.

wundayatta's avatar

When I was 15, I wrote a paper about existentialism, and in the process of writing that paper, I decided to come out as an atheist at the end of the paper. My teacher loved the paper, and this was at a top school in a nation that has a national religion, but didn’t think I was old enough to be an atheist, yet. Whatever.

My parents, I do not believe, ever saw the paper. We never discussed religion, in terms of personal beliefs, in my family. So I don’t know if my parents knew I was an atheist. I surely did not know they were. We just didn’t talk about it. Until, oh, maybe a year or two ago. Far past the time it mattered.

But that wasn’t the only thing we didn’t talk about. I got pretty depressed my last year or so in high school, but I never, not for a second, thought that I could talk to my parents about it. I was certain they wouldn’t understand. I still stand behind that decision. Later on in life, I became clinically depressed. Suicidal, even. In conversations about a relative of mine who shared my diagnosis, I found out they really looked down on her for not being able to pull herself together. I realized that, had I shared my problems with my parents, I would probably have been worse off. There would have been no understanding there. To this day (and I am now 56), they have no clue. But it’s my problem now, so there is no need to share with them.

I was intensely lonely in high school. I think that related to my intuitive understand of existentialism. I have had many times of loneliness since then, but I have also managed to make some incredible connections with lovers and managed to stay married to the same woman for over 20 years over that same period of time. There’s good and bad.

I can not tell you how much sympathy I have for you. The age you are was the worst time of my life. A time I first started thinking about suicide. I made it through, obviously, but I hate to see anyone else suffer the same pain. I don’t want my kids to have to suffer the way I did. I’m not sure it is possible to open the lines of communication, but I am doing all I can to make my kids feel comfortable that they can talk about anything. I won’t judge them.

Ironically, they think I am highly judgmental. But that’s about things like school work. I have very high expectations. But that doesn’t mean I love them any less if they don’t do as well as I think they can. It’s a narrow path to tread and obviously, I’m not where I want to be, but to some degree, I feel this just may be part of the process.

That is to say, it is part of the process for parents and children to not understand each other. And that is ok. You will be ok. You don’t have to be understood by your parents. It is ok to wait until you go to Auburn and make your own friends who will, I hope, understand you, although I’m not sure if Auburn will be the right place. You’ll need to find people like you, and there is an awful lot of religion going around in Alabama. It’s hard for me to imagine a safe place for an atheist in the state. But if there is one, it should be at an institution of higher education. Still, you’re going to have to look hard to find your people, I bet.

Maybe if you talk to your parents, they will understand. I don’t know. Is it worth the risk? I don’t think so. I think it is the job of the parents to reach out. It’s not the child’s responsibility. If they don’t reach out, then that’s a sign they don’t want to know.

You’re on your own. But that’s ok, because you can handle it. It’s not even really say. It’s an opportunity to find people you really like. I found good friends for almost life at college. More importantly, I found my first lover, who, although she later destroyed my world for a while, made it possible for me to see and be all that I could be. Through love, I discovered what life meant for me. I discovered the incredibly deep intensity and meaning of that kind of love relationship, and it is what has sustained me, in several other iterations, since.

I was 20 when I met her. Far too late, given all the pain I had been in up until then. But I survived. I found what I wanted, eventually. I don’t know if it was any sweeter for having had to wait so long, because it is hard to imagine that anything could be sweeter than that. Love is my meat and potatoes. It keeps me from killing myself. It makes me creative. It gives me everything of value.

That’s just me. Others are different. You are different. You will find your own answer. All you have to do is keep on keeping on. Trite, I know, but still, the truth.

_Whitetigress's avatar

This may come off as brash but I really don’t mean it in that manner. I would say, you don’t have to explain it to them. I would just respect their beliefs. Your parents seem like stern people and are sticking to their guns. You don’t have to disprove their beliefs or approve of it, just love them as people is my suggestion.

BhacSsylan's avatar

@_Whitetigress Then they don’t both equal one…

Anyway, math questions aside, I don’t have much, but one thing i can certainly offer you is this: Auburn Atheists and Agnostics, the Secular Student Alliance affiliate at Auburn. I don’t have any knowledge of them, personally, but I know the SSA is a great organization, and there will probably be lots of people at the student group who will have experiences very much like yours. Especially coming from such a religious area.

Depending on how you’re feeling in that direction, I can also suggest you contact JT of What Would JT Do, who was previously an administrator of the SSA and still has very strong ties, and from what I have seen would be willing to give you advice about the Auburn society from his perspective. I can’t garuntee he’ll respond if you email, but he certainly seems to try and be happy to help. He’s also a survivor of mental illness and strong advocate for mental health, and so if you are worried, he may be a great person to talk to and to suggest others for that, as well.

ninjacolin's avatar

Yo, fred. I don’t know if I really have the time to begin this but here goes..

Religion doesn’t ever go away. Never. Not ever. It will never never never disappear. You will always have to deal with it for the rest of your life no matter what. No matter what…. No matter what.

You’re either going to deal with religion with your parents or you’ll deal with it with complete strangers. You’ll either debate with strangers and share your intimate thoughts with them or you will share those thoughts, or at least some of them, with your parents. Either way, religious conversations will be had, contradictions will be faced, and life will continue on and on.. until the next religious discussion surfaces.

So, if you’ve been dreaming of one day being free of religion in some utopian existence where religion and its people are no where to be found, starting with your parents.. your dream is over. Sorry. Get over it. Because one thing that certainly will never be over.. is religion and all of its many various people.

I’ve decided to cut this short.

Ta ta for now.

Sincerely,

An atheist.

tinyfaery's avatar

The idea that you have to tell your parents about your beliefs, or lack there of, tells me that you want a reaction from them. What is it that you are you looking to gain from a confrontation with your parents?

Your parents don’t have to know everything about you. That’s part of growing up.

BhacSsylan's avatar

@tinyfaery Acceptance is a powerful thing.

Unbroken's avatar

@Fred931 OK It sounds to me as if your worried their response. That you want the power not only to be condemned for making your first and most important adult decision but wish possibly change their minds about their personal view.

This will most likely never happen. It is essential you learn to express yourself as your own individual and through their eyes. I am certain this could be explained much more succintly but possibly a rite of passage.

However having gone through a similar stage, actually much earlier, and having watched people with established views since find that scenario to be highly improbable.

What you can do is establish clear boundaries. Such as I will no longer go to church with you, you may pray for me if that makes you feel better, but it is unnecessary for you to tell me, or I do not wish to have my personal views aired in the form of a prayer request. Or seen as a mission by others to convince the errors of my ways. If you want to have a discussion on the rationale of my argument then you must be able to hear my side as I have spent more time then I have ever cared to, without interruption and if you are offended please do not take it personally. I respect you, but do not agree with you etc. So on and so forth.

You should choose to do this when you are in private and toward evening when you have no social engagements to constrain you. You should also be prepared to walk away with an idea that you can readdress this later. It may be a bombshell if they are unobservant or view you as compliant on the subject. You should also consider whether or not physical, emotional, or some other form of abuse will come from this. Where you draw the line and what you should do if it does degrade into that. (You know your parents pretty well to have some basic idea of their typical response.)

I realize this is not exactly encouraging. You will feel better about yourself after you do it and it is worth it.

Good luck.

Unbroken's avatar

Oh I should have added it might be benefical to approach this as a positive thing.

For example I am still the brilliant person who earned a full scholarship. You have raised me to be able to make decisions on my own and so forth.

Sunny2's avatar

One of the tasks of growing up is to separate from your parents. You are doing it while you are still at home. (some people do it after leaving home; some never do it at all. They are still phoning home every day or 4 times a day.) You do not need to tell your parents until you are really ready to. Depending on their personalities, parents can take it in stride or be extremely disappointed even to the point of disowning their child.
After being away at college for a year or two might be easier on them, in that they will think your new point of view is due to your new experience and not think that some how they had failed you. In 2 years you will feel more like you’re an adult talking to other adults rather then confronting your parents. It might be more more comfortable for you too.

augustlan's avatar

Congrats on the scholarship, @Fred931! I always knew you were a smarty. :)

I just answered your other question, and I see now that my cautions about existentialism possibly leading to depression are a little late. You are already there. It’s very common at your age, for the same reasons I mentioned in the other thread. I don’t think you necessarily have to tell your parents all the details in order for them to send you back to your therapist. So if you don’t want to, then don’t. Just let them know you’re depressed, and really would like to see your therapist again. They obviously care about you, and will want to see you feeling better.

That said, if you do want to tell them, because you want them to know the “real” you or you want to feel connected to them again, you could write them a letter. It might be easier to get your thoughts down on paper, and leave the letter where they’ll find it while you’re not home. That gives you a buffer… they’ll have time to read and absorb the info before you have to talk to them about it face to face.

In the meantime, please remember that it will get better. I promise.

cheebdragon's avatar

“The Bible is full of shit, and even if it weren’t I just don’t think I want to be associated with a god who is that much of an asshole.” That’s what I would say, more or less.

Fred931's avatar

@BhacSsylan Thanks for the links.

@ninjacolin My thinking about religion and non-religion is what’s driving this period in my life. I know something doesn’t just go away if I don’t think about it for awhile.

@tinyfaery Maybe you are right. I write, also, in a persuasive manner sometimes, and once I’m done reading what I have rambled about, I sometimes find my writing to be a bunch of excitement and hype, and it comes across as brash and unpleasant.

But I am more worried about managing myself. What if I do, just as out-of-the-blue as yesterday’s event started, become suicidal? etc. etc.

@rosehips I really have no idea what they will think when they hear about my philosophy. These are two extremely smart people; one is a pediatrician, and the other is a former CPA and lawyer who still retains his bar license, though he simply manages the house now. He can virtually win every single game show on television. Really, I wouldn’t be surprised if he knew more about existentialism than I do now. I don’t know about my mother, though.

@augustlan I suppose I could just say I want to see my therapist again. Hopefully they will respect that without forcing me to fuss up. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do.

Thank you all.

CWOTUS's avatar

When I was younger, one of the mottoes I tried to live by was

Never complain; never explain.

It’s probably impossible for nearly anyone, and most of all for me (the way I explain everything? right), but it was an attractive goal sometimes. Still is.

Just live your life. You don’t even need to explain it to yourself. Just the living can help you to come to understanding (explanations of our feelings – anything beyond pure mechanics, in fact – are more often flawed beyond true understanding, anyway). Just live your life. Bonus points if you can enjoy it. Extra bonus and style points if your living your own life leads to other people also enjoying your life or enjoying their own lives more because of you.

Ralph Waldo Emerson also said something in his excellent essay “Self Reliance” (and if you haven’t read it then do it now!): A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. If you feel that it’s a good time to talk to your parents, then… just… talk to them. You don’t have to explain everything that has gone on in your life up to now, or every negative feeling that you’ve had toward them (they probably already got that; they’d probably prefer not to have it aired if it’s in the past). Just do it.

The paragraph continues: With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.

That’s just one paragraph of one of the greatest essays ever written. Here it is in full. It’s long, yes, but worth your time.

LostInParadise's avatar

I became an existentialist in college and it became a game changer for me. I understand how it can seem burdensome, but I think of it as liberating. You are not born with any fixed way of being. You get to choose how you wish to define yourself. How do you do that? Open your mind to everything and go for what grabs you. There is beauty everywhere. You just have to narrow your focus on where you want to pursue it.

Have you read any of the works on existentialism? Start by reading Sartre’s essay Existentialism is a Humanism You might even have your parents read it. It could be a way of introducing them to how you feel.

You should read also Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. That is how I got hooked. Two warnings I have to give. Be prepared to skim. Sartre was a great writer, but unfortunately his most important work is in serious need of editing. Secondly, ignore the pessimism. This is also uncharacteristic of his other works. Lines like “life is a useless passion” are not needed. Do read through the interpretation of Descartes. It is good stuff.

hearkat's avatar

I have nothing substantial to add, as far more brilliant jellies have already given you some wonderful responses.

I, too, have been through similar crises after having been raised in a strictly religious household. On the eve of my 12th birthday, I prayed to “die before I wake.” I guess when I woke up the next day was when I stopped believing in a “god”.

Having a 21-year-old son who is struggling to find a sense of direction, I know that it is a journey one must make on their own. We each must find our own answers in order to become true independents with our own sense of integrity.

As others have said, it will get better. I recognize a resilience in you, where you do have a sense that there will come a time when you are looking back at this time in your life. I hope you take comfort in knowing that many can relate to your experience, and that this community will be here with encouragement any time you reach out.

•••••••••••
As an aside, I saw this not too long ago, and your recent posts brought it to my mind.

ninjacolin's avatar

@Fred931 said: “I know something doesn’t just go away if I don’t think about it for awhile.”

Well, (ahem, lol) philosophically, i would argue that it does go away if you don’t think about it. The problem is you won’t be able to stop thinking about religion for the rest of your life. And there’s the rub.

Now, I just watched this. Made me reason on the value of family a bit. Thought of you.

I guess my view is that your family isn’t to blame for getting caught up in religion. Don’t hold religion against them as if they’re somehow the beginning and end of it all. I’m very much in a similar circumstance with my family and their religion. Your story feels quite familiar. I’ve been dealing with it for almost a decade and a half as an adult.

Myself, I spent lots of time avoiding the subject with them and holding on to everything else. After all, I’ve come to conclude that they aren’t to blame for coming to a different conclusion than me on what is and isn’t real in the universe. Something about numbers. There’s just so many different opinions people could possibly come to in this world but only so many paths that history actually took to coerce those possible opinions. It seems clear to me that statistically of course they had to come to their wild and ridiculous conclusions! Someone had to. And if you happen to be their kid, then you’re subject to their shitty ideas of what makes a good punishment and/or sunday morning activity. That’s diversity for you.

The way I see it, someone close to you who is in a really shitty religion (by your standards) is like having someone close to you with a drug or gambling addiction. It’s inaccurate to anthropomorphize the addiction with the person who’s afflicted with it. Inaccurate, unfair, ignorant, and wasteful of an opportunity to have a good relationship with the person otherwise.

I’m sure you’ve heard it before: Your family is the only REAL family you will have for the rest of your life. You’ll meet other people like them in the years to come and you’re already going to be able to relate better to those people when you have to because of the experience you’ve gained with your family. More than that, you’ll find that you’ll be able to more easily understand, get along with, function and/or manipulate (ha!) people who you can sympathize with at those deep levels.

Anyway, in making your decisions just remember religion isn’t a good enough reason to banish someone from your life. You may have better reasons than this, and that’s fine, but religion isn’t a good one.

JLeslie's avatar

I guess it is sort of like a mini identitiy crisis. When I read @tinyfaery‘s answer I thought the same as her. And then I read @BhacSsylan response to her, and thought, that must be what it is. @Fred931 is hoping for approval and acceptance.

tinyfaery's avatar

Read Sartre and De Beauvoir and that will kick your ass out of a depression. Existentialism is freedom. What’s there to be depressed about?

Fred931's avatar

@JLeslie It must be the case. Like I first said, I really have nobody to talk to. I know there are others out there, but who and where? I don’t feel like I can trust anyone I know right now with this.

@tinyfaery I will. Thanks.

JLeslie's avatar

@Fred931 It’s because of where you live. I assume you are in the bible belt, since you are going to go to Auburn. I plan events for a club I belong to, and I like to do Sunday events, but people always tell me, “but Sunday people have church.” Where I come we did not even think about that. I live in the bible belt now, it is so different here. Last time this came up was last week, and I went on to say, “I don’t think most of our members go to church, so I don’t think it is a big deal, most have grown children and don’t bother anymore.” The person I was talking to said, “yeah, we are so bad, we never go.” I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that here, ”...we are so bad..we don’t go to church…” there are tons of people who don’t think that all over the country, but not in your community, not in your world. But, your world is about to get bigger when you go away to school. Even bigger still if you moved out of the bible belt, but I am not saying you have to do that to find other athiests, you don’t. Being an adult is much different than being a kid in your parents home. When you are an adult it will be very very different, trust me. Just being at college will be different, because most kids don’t go to church when they are at college. You will be hanging out on Sundays doing the football thing or sleeping late, finally making your way back home after crashing somewhere saturday night, or whatever, like all your other dormmates. Religion will be for the most part a nonissue, unless you make it one.

As an adult, assuming you are going to date and maybe one day marry, you will be with someone who thinks like you, or at minimum respects your religious beliefs, and the family you create will be your own world, not your parents.

If you forced me to make a decision for you, which I can’t of course, I would say don’t bother saying anything until after you go away to school. See how you feel after a few months there.

janbb's avatar

@Fred931 It sounds like you are going through the very normal process of late adolescence of trying to establish who you are, what you believe in and how you want to live. It is your choice whether you want to let your parents in on what is going on with you. It sounds like part of your sadness is that you would like to have more connection with understanding people. Do you love your folks and think you will feel less alone if they begin to know you? If so, it would be worth scheduling a time to talk to them seriously about your feelings and beginning beliefs. If you anticipate only that it will make you feel more alienated, then now might not be the right time. But in any case, I think that talking to a therapist or counselor would be great for you right now. You sound like you feel very alone and you are really going through something that is very normal.

Nullo's avatar

@rosehips His parents are going to be devastated no matter what, if they’re not Sunday Christians. Announcing disbelief is on par with attempting suicide. Heck, I’m a bit upset and I’m a stranger.

wundayatta's avatar

But you’re a special case, @Nullo. And we have no idea what sort of Christians his parents are. I wonder what percent of Christians are “Sunday Christians.” You say that as if it was a bad thing.

Fred931's avatar

I talked with the school’s social worker. She recommended I go back to my previous psychologist, one who had been helping me with anger issues years ago. That means going through my parents to make an appointment since I don’t even remember the man’s name, though I remember him very well.

I think that would solve the problem I think I have with finding someone just for acceptance. Talking about this to the woman at school made the rest of my day so much easier, and talking with him will help more. Also blasting lots of bass music is helping right now. :)

BhacSsylan's avatar

Excellent, that sounds great. And as others have mentioned, you don’t have to open up right now to your parents if you don’t want to, especially if you’re worried about their response (like if you think they’d react like @Nullo expects. Good old Christianity, religion of love and acceptance [/sarcasm]). You can just tell them you’ve been having troubles and need to speak with him again, hopefully they’ll understand.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I moved out when I was 17 because I was feeling much like you describe. It really helps to get away from all influences, spend some time being ‘free’ and exploring feelings, ideas and concepts and seeing what is right for YOU.

I also converted religions around that time as well, against my family’s wishes, and tbh it wasn’t as bad as I thought, and it made me feel very liberated and free, one of the best feelings I’ve EVER had.

And like WhiteTigress said, acceptance is key in life. As you grow and mature, you’ll realize what you’re really about, you don’t always know in your 20’s or even your 30’s…it takes time and life experiences to really see what you are inside when nobody’s around or watching or listening. Just be good to others and be loving and accepting, no matter what religion you are and I’m sure they’ll be proud of the person you are and that you become.

I am a Christian btw, but I try to be a nice one, to everybody. Peace.

BhacSsylan's avatar

as a quick aside, to clear up possible misunderstandings, especially in light of @KNOWITALL‘s post, don’t take my post above to mean all Christians are intolerant. This is certainly not the case (as it is likewise not the case that all atheists are tolerant). My first coming out to my parents was rather… harried, shall we say, but they’ve come to accept me just fine as well. My mom is also a supporter of gay rights, etc etc. But there are those, including those high in the church, that use their religion to oppress others, and that gets my bile up.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@BhacSsylan I certainly didn’t take offense, no worries. I have had and still have many friends who are of different faiths or no faith at all, it’s all personal choice and I respect that 100%.

Nullo's avatar

@wundayatta “Sunday Christians” refers to people who go to church on Sunday but live the rest of the week like agnostics. Can overlap with cultural Christians. Similar to but distinct from the Creasters, who only go to church on the holidays.
Thing is, Christianity isn’t a thing that you do on Sunday. It’s a community. Relationships. A mindset. A lifestyle. If Christianity were a party, the Sunday Christian would be the guy who sits by himself and plays with his phone.
It is impossible to know how many professing Christians are Sunday Christians; all that is certain is that there are too many. Many churches have programs to help them join in, but a lot of them don’t really want to.

@BhacSsylan Acceptance (at least as a synonym of tolerance,, the way that you’re using it) is not one of the core Christian doctrines, never was. Love, yes, but love =/= acceptance. Love pushes for improvement, which is why parents show their children what is right, and correct them when they are wrong. Love raises you up to the standards, acceptance lowers the bar.
Try imagining this from their perspective. All of a sudden, your son comes up to you and says, ‘Guys, I don’t think I’ll be going to Heaven with you; I’d rather rot in Hell.”

BhacSsylan's avatar

@Nullo It depends on the sect, for sure, but many do claim that love and tolerance is a tenet of Christianity while stripping others’ rights and happiness. That you are out about your disgust for those different then you only makes you more honest. However, this is off topic, and we both know we won’t convince each other.

Fred931's avatar

Went to bed last night upset and stupid again, but early. My mother took notice when she got home from work, and she being her, started probing me with any idea which could be wrong with me… “Why are you in bed early?”
“Mmmrph.”
“Is something wrong?”
“No.”
“Something must be wrong.”
“No.”
“Was it something at school?”
No.
“Did you get hurt?”
No…
....
”...Something is wrong with you. How was your blood sugar?”
“Mmmrph.”

I still had to check my BG (newly diabetic) and take my basal insulin, and I was 53. I sure looked nutso, crawling into a ball on the floor back downstairs after having something to drink. I pushed through with the “No”‘s enough that I finally got back to bed.

So I decided I was pretty much stuck with telling them at this point. Next morning, my mom “offers” to take me to breakfast before school starts. Without realizing this, I had already quickly decided it would be a good time and place to talk with her. So we do go, and it wasn’t terrible. I didn’t get into a lot of detail with her. I just told her I was having serious philosophical issues with myself, and not much else. I knew that if either of the two parents were to overreact, I thought it would be her.

Rather than go straight to school, both she and I thought it would be best to go back home and talk with my father first. Speaking with mother first reassured me that nothing terrible was about to happen. I spell out everything to him at home, about the loss of faith and what I thought of purpose. Really, he might have seemed more concerned about my midterm report card, the way he prioritized how letting this situation get to me would ruin my chances of getting into Auburn…◔_◔ Though it was a completely reasonable concern, this whole thing was really an overreaction. He said it was all “fascinating” to know what and how I was thinking right now.

So… Hope you enjoyed the narrative? I feel better than I have the last couple days right now, just kind of forgetting the thoughts for now.

ninjacolin's avatar

Not sure what to tell you about that. I’m happy though. If you’re an alright dude, chances are you got it from your parents I guess. :P

really, glad this worked out so far.

bookish1's avatar

Eep, 53! Wait, having super low blood sugar made you realize that you had to tell your parents about what you’ve been experiencing? Did I understand that correctly?
“Fascinating,” huh? I’m very glad to hear that it ended up going this way. Well you faced your fears, and I am happy that they were not justified. Thank you for giving us the update.

BhacSsylan's avatar

Hey, nice. Letting things out can help. I’m sorry this was affecting you so much, but it’s good you could get it out to your parents and not have them have a problem. And it’s pretty normal as a teenager to starting questioning lots of things, and I’m sure that’s part of the reason they were cool about it.

I would still suggest going to that therapist, because he’ll be even easier to talk to, and having more people to talk to is also never a bad thing. But yay for things working out so far!

Fred931's avatar

@bookish1 No, it wasn’t the BG, it was the fact that my mother was now upset and alarmed to the fact there was an anomaly within me. Note how she tried to take me out to breakfast, it was one of her sneaky plans. They pulled crap like that to get bloodwork out of me before!

I think it’s worth hearing it from me that I understand that I am very, very lucky to have such reasonable people as my parents. Less the tricky mother trying to stab me.

Edit: First thing my mother says when she walks in the door from work:

“Hey, honey… So what are you working on tomorrow for physics?... Gotta bring that C up.” Walks out.

janbb's avatar

Sounds like you have parents, especially a Mom, who loves you and cares about you. Glad it sorta worked out.

LostInParadise's avatar

Glad it worked out. I just hope that your parents are not condescending, thinking that you are having weird ideas because you are under stress, and that you will eventually snap out of it. I also hope that you see existentialism as liberating, as a way of taking charge of your life, and not as an excuse for withdrawing from it.

augustlan's avatar

I’m so glad you had the chance to talk it out with your parents, and it went pretty well! Must be a huge relief. Do consider going to the therapist anyway, so you can continue to sort through all of these feelings.

Nullo's avatar

@Fred931 Bit of a surprising outcome.

@BhacSsylan I’ll thank you for not putting words into my mouth – I am not disgusted by those different from myself. Saddened or frustrated, in some cases, but not disgusted. I’m on Fluther, for Pete’s sake; if I were disgusted by our bunch here, I’d leave. You’re trying to wedge me into an unhealthy stereotype; you might want to work on that.
Loving someone doesn’t mean letting them do whatever. A person who loves his friend won’t sit by while he commits suicide, would he? He’s trying to hamper the friend’s presumed rights and hinder the pursuit of (presumed) happiness because he wants what is best for them.

JLeslie's avatar

Yay! I am so glad they were cool about it. A lot of times kids work themselves up to think parents will be angry when they wind up being understanding (I might have mentioned something similar to that above). Mostly parents are concerned not angry, and it sounds to me like your parents have a lot of love for you and confidence in you and believe you will find your own way.

Very nice.

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