Tougher on the Family?

I have had someone close to me concerned that when I become public with my identity it will be tougher on my family than me. They are concerned that people will be critical and possibly mean to my wife and offspring. I know many people will not be understanding and I am prepared for backlash. We, as a family, have also discussed things and are preparing for people’s reaction.

Have any of you had or seen nightmare experiences for your or others wife? sons? daughters? What should we prepare for that we do not understand yet?

33 comments

  1. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ · October 16, 2015

    Everybody’s experiences are different, and yet there are similarities. I think it also depends on where you live. I’m curious in know whether the person telling you this is a believer or nonbeliever. Just being an atheist will cause hardships on your family if you’re living in a very religious community. Here in Mississippi, just recently, an atheist child was bullied in school by a Christian teacher at a public school. Just be prepared for your whole family to experience possible fallout.

    I was thinking about your situation the other day. I realize you may not be in a position to move, but it might not hurt to think about moving out of state and to a state that is more inclusive and diverse. When I left Christianity and my church, which I was very involved in, I ended up moving out of state. Leaving my church caused a lot of problems within the church. I was a charter member. I wrote a letter to my pastor sharing why I was leaving Christianity. It was several pages long, type-written. This was after meetings lasting hours with him and elders asking questions, to which they had no answers, except pat ones, e.g., “do not lean on your own understanding”, and the one out of Isiah 55:8. Anyway, I gave my best friend a copy of that letter because I knew she’d be freaked out that I was leaving, and I wanted her to understand why. Her husband found the letter, and without her knowledge, made copies of it, passing it around to other members of the church.

    People were stunned, and it caused such chaos that they had to call in the regional director, and sent out invitations to all the members for a special service, because about a 3rd of the congregation stopped coming to church after my departure. It was never my intentions to cause discord. I never talked to any one else about why I was leaving except my pastor and my best friend. Even though I was a woman, I still held some leadership roles in the church, and was also on the church board. So my parting caused a lot of confusion. There were some people in the church, mostly older folks who tried to drag my name through the mud, and destroy my character. So, in answering your question, it certainly is possible that your family will experience problems, too.

    Liked by 3 people

    • adisillusionist · October 16, 2015

      Wow! (your story). I am not currently in position to move. The person I spoke with is probably best defined as a deist, but aligned to particular deity.

      Like

    • Clay · October 18, 2015

      Wow. It’s very interesting and emotional to read some of your back story here. Many of us have been through pain as part of leaving the church.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. MP · October 16, 2015

    Disillusionist, how dependent is your family on church as a social network? Do they have friends/relatives outside the church (or maybe even at churches that are more tolerant of skeptics)? Is it possible that the traveling nature of your ministry means they are not as locked into a long-term relationship with a single church as many ministers are?

    Most ministers I know who have left the church totally, or even just opened up to universalism, have lost a majority of their friends and even family relationships almost immediately, and often with harsh repercussions–rejection, accusations, even threats if their community is particularly fundamentalist. The spouses are especially hard hit, even if they are still believers, because their believer friends assume they will be influenced by the non-believing spouse. Most believer friends really don’t know how to deal with it.

    For this reason, it really makes sense for the family to start integrating into secular communities and building non-church-based friendships *before* their entire religious social network is cut off, so that they aren’t blitzed so badly with the sudden loss. Are they ready for this? Can your kids handle it?

    Liked by 2 people

    • adisillusionist · October 16, 2015

      i have been preparing everyone for the change. I would say stepping away from a church would not be too much to handle. I think we are prepared but cannot fully know until we do.

      Like

  3. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ · October 16, 2015

    I should also mention that my daughter had been attending a private Christian school, and I transferred her to a public school and in another city when I left the church. This was before we moved out of state. Because you are a nationally-known public figure within evangelical Christianity, it’s certainly possible that your family will experience more fallout.

    Like

  4. Christopher Schneider · October 16, 2015

    “I’m curious in know whether the person telling you this is a believer or nonbeliever.”
    -Likewise

    Like

  5. john zande · October 16, 2015

    As an Australian, a country that doesn’t take religion very seriously, there is no backlash at all with someone saying they’re an atheist. We recently had an atheist PM. What is considered odd in Australia is someone talking publicly about religion. So, no, I’m afraid I have no horror stories, but I do you wish you safe passage. I’m sure true friends will be true, and those who were only close for some other reasons will spin-off into some other orbit.

    Liked by 3 people

    • adisillusionist · October 16, 2015

      Sounds like we should move to Australia. You hiring?

      Liked by 1 person

    • N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ · October 16, 2015

      “What is considered odd in Australia is someone talking publicly about religion.”

      John, Carmen told me the same thing. She lives in Canada. It’s hard to imagine living in a country where religion (personal faith) is never talked about in public, but it would be sheer heaven to me. My best friend, who’s from Denmark, said that if you ever talked about religion (personal faith) in public, people would look at you as though you were off your rocker. I can’t go anywhere where religion isn’t brought up in some form or fashion. In a blog post, Neil Carter (Godless in Dixie) wrote that living in the South is like going to church every day. So true.

      Liked by 3 people

      • adisillusionist · October 16, 2015

        I have seen people in the South act that way for sure. I would not say every in the South but there certainly are places like that!

        Like

  6. Brent · October 16, 2015

    I can’t remember who knows who, but if you haven’t seen it: “John Jameson” (pseudonym), on his “Pastor No Faith” blog, has talked about the awful way his former church treated his wife when he came out as atheist. A lot of his posts are password-protected so you may need an introduction (let me know if I can help–I have his email address); I’m sure he would be happy to make your acquaintance and share his experience with you. Like you he’s about to go from pseudonymous to public because he’s out of his church now and has secured a new job.

    It’s too early in my process (I came out as a non-Christian not quite a month ago) for me to be able to say how things are going to go, long-term, for my wife and kids. But I have read a lot of accounts from people who say that even if there isn’t outright hostility or offensive things said (like the implication that somehow the believing spouse is at fault), there often develops a “distance” in the believing spouse’s relationships in the faith community. For some people it’s because the whole thing is awkward and they don’t know what to say, for others it’s that once you were a couple with the same faith and your relationships were joint, and now you’re not any more — relationships get strained the same way they would if you were divorcing.

    In the brand of Christianity I was part of, married with kids was the “normal baseline” and everyone else suffered from various degrees of being treated as “other”.

    None of this is fair, and really none of it is Christian either — the believing spouse’s friends from church should be the ones who provide the MOST support. But I’ve read enough to know it happens.

    Like

  7. nowamfoundatlast · October 16, 2015

    christians can be sooooo judgey!!!! maybe that’s why christ said we should not judge. well, they [like all humans’] can’t follow 10 demandments how can they be expected not to judge? particularly when they are so good at it. I think you will quickly learn who your friends are and who is someone you used to know. personally i wonder what the motives of that “friend” are. do they wish you to just shut up and keep pretending so all the christians will feel better?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Shane Fletcher · October 16, 2015

    Australian also, so my stories are all second hand, and they have been touched on above. Essentially you are about to find out who your real friends are and it is almost certainly going to be less people than you think. I don’t think you can prepare for it all, except to maybe not trust people as much, and that’s no way to live your life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • adisillusionist · October 17, 2015

      I will like people anyway even if I don’t trust them. I am a pretty positive person. I am pretty sure that will serve me well in the future.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Shane Fletcher · October 17, 2015

        It’s a good way to be. It seems I didn’t touch on my main point in my reply, which is not how people will treat you, but your wife and children. It’s easy enough to turn the other cheek when you are being attacked. So much harder when it’s members of your family. So much harder to like someone you thought was an friend when their actions, or lack of action, is hurtful to your loved ones.

        Shane

        Liked by 1 person

      • adisillusionist · October 18, 2015

        very true

        Like

  9. Violet · October 17, 2015

    Hmmmmm…I wonder if you aren’t underestimating the seriousness of this situation a little bit. Or perhaps you live in a more religiously liberal area, and have lots of friends and family who aren’t religious? Having your wife onboard will be a huge benefit to you.

    How long has it been since you lost your faith? The further out you are, the easier it will be to cope.

    PS Most deconverts are positive people too…but the road can be brutal if you stand alone in your atheism.

    Like

    • adisillusionist · October 18, 2015

      I may be underestimating it. We do not have lots of friends who are not religious. I haven’t lost my faith a terribly long time, but the process took a long time and I was very realistic about everything along the way so I am very comfortable in my non-belief.

      Like

  10. Alan · October 17, 2015

    Pastor No Faith (https://pastornofaith.wordpress.com/) wrote a bunch about the effects on his family of his resigning from his church. Nearly all the posts are password-protected, and I will not reveal the password here. However, he’s a member of TCP, and I imagine that if you ask him, he’ll give you the password (if he hasn’t done so already).

    Liked by 1 person

  11. kelpie98 · October 17, 2015

    You are about to become the little kid shouting “he’s buck naked” in a community built around manufacturing the emperor’s invisible blue brocade.

    Blasphemy is a death penalty offense in many cultures. Shunning apostates is common in numerous religious traditions. Non mormons can attend Brigham Young Univ. Ex mormons cannot.

    It doesn’t matter how much people like you, you are about to threaten their entire belief system. The severity of the expulsion will be commensurate with the threat you pose to the status quo. Given how you’ve described your job and name recognition, it could be rough.

    As you saw if you followed Pastor No Faith, your family is just as tainted, just as threatening, even if they still believe.

    Do your child(ren) agree with your religious change? Think about whether they need a source of non religious friends. It will be easier if they no longer believe. If they still believe, I ache for them. You may might want to make sure they have some people they can talk to safely, without risk that they will out you prematurely. It won’t help til next summer, but Camp Quest is a sleep away summer camp for secular kids. My kids had a blast.

    Good luck. Your situation may turn out better. Hope for the best, plan for the worst.

    Liked by 2 people

    • adisillusionist · October 18, 2015

      Yeah, I suppose I just won’t be able to understand until it all unfolds.

      Like

      • MP · October 18, 2015

        It may sound to you like all of these warnings and concerns are over the top. Possibly they are in your situation.

        The view from the outside (at least for me) is that the dynamics of your situation look like this could be a real powder keg for your family, based on your visibility, the number of other people your announcement will impact, and what I’ve seen happen in similar situations. I can’t get a sense of why you feel confident that your family is ready to handle it. Maybe it’s due to things you can’t discuss here, so we just can’t see the whole picture. Or maybe you’ve already experienced how your church community reacts to a member rejecting the faith, and you’ve seen more disappointment from them than the outrage and fear other skeptical ministers have experienced.

        Whatever it is, you know your family and social network better than anyone else.

        Liked by 1 person

      • adisillusionist · October 18, 2015

        I would say there are things I am not discussing, but more so the way my family has handled adversity in the past.

        Like

      • kelpie98 · October 18, 2015

        Read the story of Jessica Ahlquist who just wanted a prayer banner in her HS taken down. She got rape and death threats and an elected representative called her “an evil little thing” during a radio broadcast.

        On the othet hand, if you aren’t a big deal in your local community and your kids social life doesn’t center on the church they may be invisible. It may not be a big deal. It may depend on how much you publicly threaten their reality.

        Liked by 1 person

      • adisillusionist · October 18, 2015

        Yeah I really don’t know how things will go. I think just because one community reacts crazy to something doesn’t mean another will. That being said my community could be one to react stronger on more passive. I cannot really tell.

        Like

  12. losingyourbff · October 18, 2015

    I’m Dutch, and I just came out publicly. So far, it is mostly a lot of “sadness” that I get back from friends, but no one explicitly dropped me or outright attacked me. They are all very concerned about my marriage, which brings a lot of exposure to my wife, but I haven’t seen anyone feeling uncomfortable around her yet or acting mean.

    But as the USA is a very different culture, that may be of little help to you right now. However the Netherlands might just be another option if you need to do some hiding 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • adisillusionist · October 18, 2015

      Im glad it is not too brutal for you. Netherlands sounds nice. I almost spoke at a big Christian conference there some years back, but it didn’t work out.

      Like

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