I’m not going to be able to have this conversation with you until two years from now, but every day I wish I could tell you now. Whenever I see people and their parents, I’m jealous that they aren’t separated by a secret that if one of them knew, the other wouldn’t even know how to look at them anymore. You don’t know it, but every time I look at you, I feel guilt wash over me. You pay for me to go to college. You love me. You pray for me. And I feel as though I deserve none of it, because I don’t believe that you would love me in the same way if you knew who I really was.
I genuinely believe that I am a good person. I don’t keep this secret to hurt you. In fact, I have kept this secret all these years because I love you. If I didn’t, I could have come out and told you when the time wasn’t right because it didn’t matter. But you’re my mother, and you love me very much, and I didn’t want to risk telling you something that could potentially destroy our relationship until it was absolutely necessary.
I want you to know that this isn’t your fault. It isn’t my boyfriend’s fault, or my school’s fault. It was by my own doing that I discovered that this is what I believe and who I am. It’s also not a phase. I have been this way since childhood, and unless my adulthood brings some surprising and highly unlikely discoveries and a complete change of heart, it’s not going to change.
I know that you have always worried about me not having a close personal relationship with God. You are worried that I don’t regularly attend church, and you bring me with you every time that you can. You thought that sending me to this school would help, only to find that it teaches old earth creationism and defines naturalist philosophy. You were overjoyed to see me reading the bible, only to find out that I was perusing the distasteful laws of Leviticus. You constantly pray for my faith and that I may one day gain the personal relationship with your God that you have. You want so badly for me to see the world the way that you do, but I don’t.
Mommy, I am an atheist.
I don’t believe in God, and I never truly have. I haven’t prayed since I was a child. I’m not going to raise my children as Christians. I don’t want to get married in a church.
I know that this information will create a whole new rift in our relationship, but I believe that it is necessary and infinitely better than the wall that has always been there that you haven’t even known about. Whatever this truth brings, it is better than a shallow relationship where we can’t be completely honest with each other.
Ideally, I will be married and living on my own when I tell you this, but I will still need you. The fact that I won’t be relying on you for a home to sleep in or for college tuition will keep me safe from losing everything in case you want nothing to do with me, but my being an adult won’t mean that I don’t need you. I’m going to need you as my mother for as long as you are alive. I may not be your perfect Christian daughter, but I’ll always be your little girl.
The (Closet) Atheist