As for Me and My House, We Won’t Serve the Lord

Not a day goes by when I don’t worry about how I will live when I’m independent. I’m the third of four sisters; the two oldest are married and the youngest is still in school. My oldest sister teaches at a Lutheran elementary school and her husband is an LCMS pastor. My mother is the organist at our home church, so between coming home from school and visiting my sister, any time I go to church, I’m in for multiple services at a time. I can’t help but look forward to the future when I’m married, I have my own family, and I can choose to not set an alarm for Sunday mornings. A girl can dream, right?

Of course, it won’t be that simple. One of the biggest obstacles here is actually one I’ve been thinking of since the very beginning of my deconversion. The LCMS is very, very interested in the holy sacrament of baptism. Your baptism as an infant is one of the biggest days of your whole life, and you’d better not forget it (although no one actually remembers it because they were a baby when they got baptized). I would prefer not to baptize my children, but it doesn’t make a difference to me since I find it meaningless, and as long as it makes my family happy, I don’t mind. The thing is, most churches won’t baptize your child if you don’t regularly attend their services.

This is the nature of my catch-22. After putting up with such an overload of Christianity at home for eighteen years and at school for four years, I will not continue the facade indefinitely. I don’t want to regularly attend church, raise my children religiously, or have a religious wedding, but I know that until I come out, I probably won’t be so lucky.

Even before revealing myself as an atheist, I know that I am and will continue to grow as the black sheep of the family, since my religious apathy can’t help but peek through. As I am one of the youngest and the least religious, I think that my family is hoping that I’ll grow out of my religious disinterest; my mother worries that I don’t have a close personal relationship with God (oops–if only she knew) like the other adults in our family. Occasionally, I can’t help but point out their inconsistencies, and I think that they wonder why I can’t get behind LCMS doctrine and all the sense that it makes.

In some ways, my life would be a lot easier if I could be out in the open with my atheism and not have to sneak around (literally–I’m hiding in my sister’s study as I write this, hoping that no one asks what I’m doing) and go through the motions of being a Christian, but the alternative is almost worse. I can’t imagine how badly the reactions would be if I told my family; they would wonder where I had gone wrong and they would fear that I (and my unbaptized children) would burn in eternal hellfire. I don’t know what the future holds, but one thing is for sure–I won’t be praying about it.

P.S. Check out my artwork based off of the title of this post!


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I Am an Atheist (10)

25 Replies to “As for Me and My House, We Won’t Serve the Lord”

  1. I certainly understand your struggle and I may never be able to fully break free of the church though I recognize the flaws in the doctrine. My family will never fully know how I feel if I can help it though I’ve already left the evangelical church and joined a very far left liberal Episcopal church…. maybe someday I’ll be able to leave that behind too. Again, I admire your courage. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Do you fear being rejected by your family completely, like disowning you? If so, I feel for you. I cannot even imagine having to face that situation. My immediate family are at least agnostic. I am not sure if any are actually atheists. If not, you may be putting off something that maybe better to start the process. Do you have any trusted family members that you could reveal any of this to? Do you have any other support other than your boyfriend? You do have your blog, but online relations are no substitute for face to face interaction.

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    1. I believe that the worst case scenario is that my family cuts me off completely. If I were to come out before I’m independent, my mother could stop paying for my college and kick me out of the house when I’m not at school. One of my sisters is apathetic towards religion, but I don’t know if she is an atheist, an agnostic, or possibly a deist. We don’t really discuss it, but we share the annoyance of being forced to go to church. Since I came out to my roommates, I do have them to talk to, and they are supportive of me, but being Christians, they can’t totally relate to my views, and especially not to my situation. My boyfriend is my #1 supporter and confidant, but starting this blog has also proved to be very beneficial for my sanity.

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  3. My take:
    If you are living a life that is steeped in fear: fear of being ”found out” because of non- belief in a religion that is supposedly based on love, then one is simply living a lie, and so are everyone else around you.

    If you are going to be rejected, shunned or turned out by family, then you are, effectively, in a no-win situation.

    In such a case, it might be better to put emotion to one side for the time being and focus solely on the practicalities.
    For now, the term ”Grin and Bear it” comes to mind! 🙂

    Once you are in a position of independence then you really do not have to worry about how others think about you.
    Seriously, the rest is all in your mind.
    You have no reason to feel guilty or upset because of what YOU have done.
    You have made a decision to live your life the way you see fit.
    These are the terms others must engage with you.
    If people won’t then the loss s theirs.

    Oh, and from listening to such stories for quite some time now, Timothy’s advice about explaining all about goodness, truth, beauty etc…. Absolute crap! (Sorry, Tim!)
    Those steeped in religion really don’t care about such stuff. To such people, it’s all about following Doctrine. Toeing the line so you stay a good girl and don’t go to Hell!

    You tell your family at this point, and my guess is they will be all over you like bad rash!

    Consider: We only have one life.
    Other people have no right, no matter how sincere their misguided belief may be, to dictate the terms of how you should live yours.
    (providing you are not breaking the law, of course!)

    Bite your tongue and bide your time.
    Remember the old saying?

    ”Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

    Damn straight!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I wish you had more supportive people in your life. It must be terrible to have to sneak around with something like this on your chest. I know how you feel though. I’m sorry I don’t have any advice to offer you, all I can do is listen.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I can’t help thinking you’re looking too far ahead (and worrying unnecessarily). There are too many variables. You might decide not to get married. If you marry, what will your partner’s views be? By the time you have children (if you have children) you could have moved away from where you live now, and your family’s influence over you could be substantially weakened.
    Hopefully, by the time you have children, your family will know that you aren’t religious (even if the ‘A’ word hasn’t been mentioned!) You could suggest that the baptisms wait until your children have come of age, so that they can make their own decisions. If your family won’t accept that, then you could throw it back into their court (pardon the cliché). Tell them you agree to have your children baptised, so long as you don’t have to attend church regularly. You have at least one pastor in the family – if the family can’t (or won’t) arrange for your kids to be baptised, then it will become the family’s fault – not yours.

    I hope this helps. I know I’m lucky – I was brought up as a Christian, but most of my family aren’t religious. Although even I have to be careful what I say in front of my mother, who’s a lapsed Catholic. I know she gets upset about my lack of religion.

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    1. I apologize that I didn’t really specify in my post, but I’m hoping to get married within the next couple of years, and my boyfriend is also an atheist like me.

      I may be able to get out of attending church regularly for a child’s baptism if I could get my brother-in-law (the pastor) to do the baptism since we’re family. Thank you for your advice!

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      1. I would not use the term “devout atheist.” It smacks too much of religion. I like using the term firm atheist. By this I mean that I cannot imagine any evidence or reason that could come long and changed my belief set about atheism. Until that happens (not holding my breath), I consider these beliefs set.

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  6. oh what a pointy pin you stand on. No matter what you do, someone is going to be upset, hurt, damaged, possibly (and let’s hope not) devastated.

    Im a non-confrontalist, it terrifies me to tell anyone anything that is the least bit upsetting. Having grown up with a bipolar father probably had a lot to do with that. “Don’t upset Daddy. His heart, you know.”. However.

    My own suggestion would be to let it ride for awhile. See what happens. See how they respond to other people being atheists. You may very well have a sister or two that leans your way, but hides it as well as you have. A lot of “religious” people go through the motions from fear of what the family would say than anything else. So you may not be alone , here.

    If you do tell them, make sure you have something to fall back on (a job, a career, a husband, your own apartment…) so that you have a certain amount of independence.

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    1. I know. Both options would be hard to live with. And I do have a younger sister who seems to be mostly apathetic and disinterested in religion; more of a religious “none” than an atheist. My two older sisters seem thoroughly dedicated to their religion, but of course, no one truly knows but them. I’m hoping that once I have those amounts of independence, I will be able to tell them.

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  7. I’m not sure how I could encourage you or what I could say to help other than my act of commenting confirms that I’ve read your post and I empathise.

    Coming out atheist to a religious family is hard. For me it happened as an adult after I’d been married for many years. I never told my mother because she was in her final years of life and I didn’t want to upset her because I knew that news would. I’m fine with that decision.

    For me the pain was telling my wife and the hurt she felt at me not being open with her about my own journey. Though to be honest, I don’t think she’d have fully understood everything I was going through and thinking about. She still didn’t like the fact I kept it from her for those years and I didn’t tell her until we moved house and had to discuss being members of a new church and I had to tell her that I could not become a member because I could not agree the statement of faith. I knew that days was coming and I knew in advance the hurt it would cause, but I was still cowardly in not being honest beforehand.

    I don’t know if that helps you at all.

    I guess what I’m saying is, being honest about this to those you love is never easy and there is probably never a ‘right time’. There will always be a good reason to delay. Waiting until you have no choice, like I did, is probably the worst option. So being open sooner is probably better. I guess it depends on how they will react. Will it make your home life intolerable if you are honest? Will you get some form of financial or life benefit penalty if that happens?

    Knowing that you have to tell those you love something that will hurt and upset them is a heavy burden and I don’t think there is any way of changing that. I tried so hard to find one. You either have to tell them straight and or have you hide the truth as best you can, the latter becomes harder the longer it goes on. Is there a way you can drip feed them your doubts? I suspect not really because in these cases a trickle quickly becomes a river and it all comes out.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your story.

      I think that they might have some suspicion that I’m not quite as pious as they are, but I don’t think that they would imagine in their wildest dreams that I’m an atheist. I can’t tell them right now because my mother is paying to get me through college, but my hope is to come out to them once I am independent and living on my own, if I can muster up the courage.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for sharing your struggle. That takes courage.

    I don’t know if this will help, but here’s some thoughts I’ve been having lately:

    When it comes to belief, or lack of belief, in God, this is how I see it:

    Did you ever hear about the video game “Journey”? The goal of the game is simple: Climb the mountain.

    In life, we all want to find truth, see what is beautiful, and experience what is good — we all want to “Climb the mountain.”

    I see peoples’ worldviews (atheism, Christianity, Buddhism, to name three) like the mountain in “Journey”: On our journey through life, we are all seeing the mountain from a different perspective (a different worldview) but the important thing is: It’s the same mountain.

    To an atheist, what is “good” is not accepting something until the facts or logic line up.

    To a Christian, what is “true” is that the world is an imperfect place that is in need of being saved in more ways than one.

    To a Buddhist, what is “beautiful” is clearing one’s mind through meditation.

    My point is: No matter our worldview, we all want goodness, truth, and beauty. We just have different ideas of what goodness, truth, and beauty are.

    So: When it comes to telling your family that you’re an atheist, one thing that might help is explaining to your parents that your choice to become an atheist hasn’t diminished your desire for goodness, true, and beauty.

    Make it clear to your family that you want what they want — goodness, truth, and beauty — just not in the same way that they want it, and hopefully the conversation between you and them will be easier.

    Here’s another way to put it: “Family, on this car ride called life, I want to end up at the same destination that you do. It’s just, I will be taking a different route to get to that destination.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Timothy, I like your perspective. However, there are some (Fundamentalists, in particular) who would immediately tell the person they will NEVER end up at the same destination unless they return to Jesus.

      Nevertheless, I do think your approach has merit and if explained in the right way? Well, it just might work. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks.

        I just find it hard to believe that if God is love (1 John 4:8) and if God knows everything that did happen and can happen (Job 34:21), He would send The Closet Atheist to Hell for a choice she made (becoming an atheist) using the reasoning and free will that He gave her (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Doesn’t sound very loving.

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          1. Thank you so much for the compliment!

            And I’m glad you agree.

            If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s the importance of being open-minded.

            There are times where I’m not as open -minded as I should be, but I always want to do my best to see life from different perspectives.

            I’m doing my best to smash the “Religious people are close-minded” stereotype.

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            1. I’m glad to hear it. 🙂

              Thank you for your courage. It’s inspiring to see someone stick to their beliefs (atheism) in the face of pressure to abandon such beliefs — pressure to become a Christian again.

              I believe in God, but the way I see the subject of belief is: God knows why we do everything we do. If a person genuinely sees atheism as the path that they want to take in life — they’re not, for example, becoming an atheist out of sheer anger — than, as long as that person sees and treats themselves and others with respect and love, trying to be the best person that they can be, than at the end of their life there will be nothing to worry about.

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