Coming Out to My Mother: Part 2

I didn’t plan to come out on January 4th, 2018. It was supposed to happen a year from now. I’d be married and living in my own house with my husband; the wedding would be out of the way after I patiently waited until arriving at adulthood unscathed. There would be a gradual and logical buildup: first I tell my younger sister, then my older sisters and their husbands, and finally my mother. I would take my husband to my mother’s house, we would tell her together, and we would leave her to process the news without us there.

I didn’t come out because of emotions, but it was a means to an end, and it was definitely not planned. I’m on my winter break from college, living at my mom’s house with a lot of restrictions. Her discovery last summer that I’d been having premarital sex was coming up again and starting numerous concerned conversations and even arguments. I didn’t know if coming out now would solve anything, but I couldn’t see hiding my atheism as making anything better, only worse. As someone once commented on one of my posts, coming out is unexpected. It isn’t always something you’ve planned out, but sometimes it is something that needs to be said in order to defend your integrity in the moment.

The moment was when we were fighting about my lack of freedom to stay alone at our house for one night in the case that I would invite over my fiance and there was the chance that we could be together unsupervised. I was furious about how unfair it was, but I knew there was no way I would win, so instead of saying anything I would regret, I bit my tongue and went upstairs to my room for about two hours. I went back and forth the entire time, writing in an empty journal, reading what I’d planned to say a year ago, and talking to my fiance about whether tonight would be the night I came out. It was an absolutely outrageous thought. I was making one of the biggest decisions of my life at the spur of the moment.

The problems we were all having may or may not be solved by me confessing my atheism, but there was the off chance that if I came out, then she wouldn’t care what I did because she would want nothing to do with me. And if she did continue to love me, house me for the next year, and pay for half of my wedding, it was only right that she did that knowing the truth about who I am. So after planning out what to say, in an attempt to end our earlier argument on a clear note and be up front and open, I finally left my room and asked her if we could talk.

In a conversation the day before, she had voiced a concern that I had changed since I started to date my fiance–that I was becoming less religious. Her worry that he was a non-Christian influence was actually the first thing I addressed. I explained that the “bad” influence was actually me–that I had never believed in God, and the reason that my religious apathy appeared to become so much more salient throughout my romantic relationship was because it almost exactly overlapped with my time at the overwhelmingly Christian college that made faking belief wane from difficult to impossible.

Our conversation went on for over two hours, so I won’t tell you every detail about it. But I’ve always predicted my mother’s reaction as going one of two ways: letting a difference in faith destroy our relationship or loving me unconditionally.

She chose the second one.

I knew somewhat that she would react that way because in the conversation I mentioned from the previous day, she had made sure I knew she loved me unconditionally even though she didn’t approve of what’s been happening in my relationship. I figured that coming out as an unbeliever (that was the word I used, when I had to use a label to describe it at all) would put that love to the test. She was mortally confused, but her love was not phased once.

The biggest thing that I explained was my journey away from the faith through college, and otherwise I gave her the floor to do whatever she wanted, which ranged from asking questions to lecturing me, but primarily she couldn’t really grasp how one could not believe in God. Once I initially said I don’t believe, the first thing she asked was “When you say ‘don’t believe,’ what do you mean?” It was that foreign of a concept. I hadn’t considered that this conversation was, in addition to coming out myself, the first step in me introducing a completely alien concept to her. It’s okay with me that she doesn’t understand what I mean, so long as I said it.

Anyways, she elaborated: “Do you not have a personal relationship with God, or do you mean you don’t…believe, like at all?” The flabbergast in her question didn’t stem from hurt, it stemmed from incomprehensibility. Neither you nor I have any clue as to just how real God is to her. God is real. If you don’t believe, you’re wrong. And you’re missing out.

I’m not making that up; actually, it’s a direct quote, and it’s one she said a lot. She also have her reasons why unbelief is complete and utter lunacy, such as:

  • “He answers prayers all the time, every single day.”
  • “Where do you think you came from?” (to which I thought that she, as my mother, would know better than anyone else, so I didn’t know how to answer that question without being either snarky or gross)
  • “Have you looked around you at the beauty of life and nature and the world?”
  • “What about the Word of God?” (I bit my tongue when I really wanted to say, “What about the Quran?”)

When I told my fiance about this afterwards, he was surprised that I didn’t stand up for my beliefs or lack thereof. Of course I have reasons to back up what I believe, but I knew they would have been a waste, and I wasn’t here for philosophical arguments on origins or the argument from beauty or whether or not unbelievers have any life purpose. I didn’t know what she wanted me to say, though, when she would ask, “You know that just because you don’t believe in God doesn’t mean he’s not real, right?” I would just nod or say okay as she struggled through the shock.

I was actually surprised that she was so curious, then, as to what I do believe. It makes sense that she would have no clue what’s out there outside of God. And that’s okay because I don’t expect her to. I mentioned that I’m not trying to change her mind, because that would never, ever happen, but she made known that I have a long time yet to live, and I will encounter many hardships, and I will come to faith sometime. I didn’t argue with that either; not because I agree or that she is right and I’m wrong, but I recognized that I wouldn’t be able to change the other person’s beliefs while she was and is still positive that she can, or at least she’ll never stop trying.

It was hard for her to see my unbelief as anything but struggling in and seeking faith in God, which again, I accepted, given that I just broke my mother’s heart and I didn’t want to rub salt in the wound that I had just created. I’d explained that I like to read books on the existence of God because it genuinely interests me. She suggested that instead of those, what I really needed to read was (surprise) some bible passages. I should also try praying, as she said, to a God even that I don’t believe in, that he might reveal himself to me. She explained that ultimately I wouldn’t find my answers in the science books or in rationality. In the end, believing is a matter not of the mind, but of the heart. Allowing myself to see how God is at work in my life is what will ultimately bring me to him.

There was a lot more to the conversation than this, such as:

  • If I really love my future children, I should raise them religious
  • The fact that you chose your college partially because the people there were so nice isn’t a coincidence; they’re Christian and it shows. You’re not going to find people like that outside of Christian circles.
  • You’re really not going to go to church and bible study when you’re married?
  • Not believing in God is close-minded
  • She’s not mad at me, but she is sad for me, that I am missing out on the greatest part of life
  • She’s not going to let Satan win this battle (the battle for my soul, I guess)

One thing I predicted is that she said she’s failed me as a mother. I don’t know how she could have tried any harder to raise a Christian daughter, especially sending me to the most Christian college I can fathom. I reminded her that one of her daughters practically leads a church, and the other two are Christians; we were all raised the same way, but I turned out differently than the rest.

As we were wrapping up (it was 12:30 a.m. and she had to get up early), I told her that the conversation didn’t have to be over. She was welcome to read the paper I wrote that lead me to atheism and I would love to tell her sometime what it is I do believe, which she won’t understand or agree with, but she wants to at least know. I don’t think this has changed the situation of no-premarital-privacy, but somehow I feel like it was necessary for her to know the truth before the rift got even deeper.


A bit of an update on these two coming out posts and the situation I described in Part 1: my fiance and I weighed our three viable options of how to plan our marriage as follows:

1) We get married in January 2019 when we have the funds and I just suck it up and live with my mom from my May graduation till then.

2) As soon as I graduate, we get married at a courthouse and I move into his apartment. Later when we have the money and the time to prepare, we throw the wedding celebration.

3) When I graduate we move in together and plan a wedding for whenever we are ready.

We chose option 2 (and so did you, according to a lot of the comments on Part 1), so the next step is to tell my family our plans, which starts with coming out as an atheist/unbeliever to my sisters and their husbands so that they have the whole story.


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55 Replies to “Coming Out to My Mother: Part 2”

  1. I know you get a lot of comments so you may not see this. You’re an amazing writer! out of curiosity when did you realize you didn’t believe in God? & if always what are your reasons? I was wondering because I’ve talked to atheists in the past but not really anyone who came from a home of believers. I love comparing different believes & learning. You probably already have a blog on this & if you do I’ll read it

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Hayden!

      Thanks so much for the compliment! So my realization that I didn’t believe, or deconversion, was kind of a long process that spanned from middle school to college. To answer your questions more in-depth, I would point you towards these posts:

      https://theclosetatheist.blog/2016/12/04/journey-to-atheism-part-1/
      https://theclosetatheist.blog/2016/12/11/journey-to-atheism-part-2/
      https://theclosetatheist.blog/2017/07/09/4-reasons-why-i-dont-believe-in-god/

      I hope that helps and I’m really glad to be helping you explore other people’s belief stories!

      Also, this is really random, but I noticed that your username lead me to haydenhopper.com, and it seems like your blog is at hayhopp.wordpress.com. You don’t want a miss a chance to get people to click on your great blog! 🙂

      Like

  2. Good luck to you. But my fingers are crossed. It’s how she responds to upcoming situations over the years which will cement if it’s 1 or 2. I’ll hope it’s 2.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Congratulations – sounds like you handled it really well. As for the marriage options, I can recommend option 3. Mrs Literarylad and I lived together for four years before getting married. We celebrate our 30th anniversary next year, so it appears to have worked out fine!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We both personally like option 3 the best: the “pros” that we wrote for them were: it’s what any normal, logical person would do. The reason we’re leaning away from it is that it would probably drive both of our families away (his is religious too but doesn’t know about all of this drama). It’s super unfair but I don’t think I have it in me to fight for cohabitation when we might as well just have a judge sign a paper if it really matters that much to them.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I can appreciate that. You have to do what’s right for you. Neither of our families are/were very religious. If they minded our co-habiting, they kept it to themselves. Funnily enough, it was only once we decided to get married that my father-in-law expressed some discontent – I think he’d accepted the co-habiting, but thought that if I was going to ‘make an honest woman’ of his daughter, I should have done it upfront!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m glad things went fairly well for you! One thing that helped my mom to understand where I was coming from a little better when I came out was the book “Why I Left, Why I Stayed” by Bart and Tony Campolo. You may check it out and see if it may help for you too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for sharing this. I am glad your mother chose the second one as well. I think most parents do, in the end, but sometimes it takes a little time. You are right that you probably won’t be able to change her mind with any arguments, but having a loving and intelligent daughter who doesn’t believe in God might be the better answer to letting loose some of her seemingly crystallized beliefs. Perhaps not, but when you said her reaction was just shock that someone could not believe in God, I think this is true for many religious people. They literally don’t know anybody well who doesn’t believe in God so it’s much easier to think it’s not possible when you spend your life in a bubble. You are now a daughter outside of that bubble and at the very least she has to reconcile your beliefs with her own and see that goodness and kindness is not only an outcome promised by religion. I think it makes a difference.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I think you made a good call telling your mother when you did and I hope the positive affirmations create a good foundation for you. I hope it goes even better with your siblings. Is there a risk your mother will tell them in advance? I guess you instructed her not to.

    She’ll probably be praying for you and you both need to work out how to deal with that and the inevitable conversion attempts.

    Re the marriage, I’m going to take a different line and suggest option 1 is better. My reasoning is that the time spent with your mum at home gives you both a chance to engage with the coming wedding in an exciting mother/daughter way. It also gives her a chance to see that your relationship with your fiancé is healthy and not what she thinks it is all about. My concern about option 2 is she might think that she’s been robbed of something and it could be the cause of some bitterness. You know her better than me (of course) so my guesses could well be off the mark.

    Which ever way things go, I hope it goes the best way possible. I think you’ve given reason to think that there is hope for that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All three options have their negative aspects… option 1 was what I was thinking all along, but I don’t think she will be able to see past the “sin” at all. She has been witnessing our relationships for the past 4 1/2 years, and knows how much we love each other and how good we are together, but last summer when she found out what we had been doing, it was all turned on its head.

      Another reason that I haven’t mentioned is that option 2 was actually originally proposed by my oldest sister, so even if my mom hates it, I can say “well your perfect daughter suggested it!” (I’m only half kidding)

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I’ll admit I was hanging on the edge of my seat through both of these entries! I’ve heard so many sad stories about families ejecting their children from the home once they come out as atheists, that I was worried this would be the end of your story too. I’m very glad that didn’t happen.

    I don’t have children and have never been religious, so I can’t imagine what your mother must have been going through. But I think if I did have children, I would have a vested interest in their well-being no matter what they said or did, so it makes sense that she would choose to engage with you, talk to you, and continue to support you.

    I also hope the worst is over, but I wonder if it isn’t… What happens once word spreads to pastor, friends, or even the college? I can’t wait to read the next installment.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Well written and captivating. Your future as a writer (I assume that’s part of this) is established. I notice, and this may come with the territory, a certain detachment from the event; almost like a reporter. Intentional or accidental?

    Are you going to change your blog name now?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Actually, writing or blogging professionally is something I’m really interested in. What an enormous compliment. It means a lot.

      I don’t really intend for a detached or reporter-like tone, but I suppose it’s my writing style. It was a really emotional conversation but I don’t let emotions get in the way of my written account of it, for the sake of accuracy if nothing else. Plus I feel like it can be a hard situation to face, so engaged readers will probably feel some emotion just based on the events as they are. And I did get teary-eyed when writing this, definitely when typing the line “she chose the second one.”

      Anyways, sorry for rambling. I’m not changing the name yet. It’s become a part of my identity, plus I still have friends and family that don’t know. I think that instead of changing the name, I would possibly start a different blog that includes my name and face!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was being facetious about the name. Of course you shouldn’t change it. The concept has too much meaning (not just religion) out in the world. We’re all closet____ something. I’m actually a closet asshole (no, not really, I’m a public asshole, and maybe a closet considerate).

        If you intent to write fiction — a reporter’s tone, I’m afraid, won’t get you far. But I may have been inconsiderate (see, told ya) calling this writing as such.

        Here’s a thought, go back through this and interlace italicized “this is me and my emotional response at this point.” Play with the idea — it might work.
        Luck, AM

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow, an amazing accounting, congratulations to you on your handling of this, and nice of you to let the wordpress audience in on your world.
    Not that this sounds easy or warm – to have a mother make accusations of the Dark Evil Overlord being your master and of your being “close-minded” sounds hideous. Christianity, giving voice to anti-humanism for thousands of years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sometimes I can feel kind of filthy, talking about my conversations with my mom to such a big audience when she has no idea. But it is my experience too, which is what this blog is all about. Thanks for reading and for your comment!

      Like

      1. I understand your conflicted reaction to your blogging, but you are always to be commended for your fortitude and character in this remarkable situation, which is heavily weighted to the other side.
        Perhaps the blogging gives you a good chance to sort out how you are doing with this religious extremism surrounding you.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I am so happy for you. I think you did the right thing by taking a measured approach with your mother. Letting her know you’re a non-believer is a great starting point. Over time I’m sure the WHY of your non-belief will be discussed. no one is looking for a fight. I have many friends and family that are like your mom. They see the tree in front of them very clearly but they have never seen the forest. It’s like they never thought to take a step back and look around. It’s truly a foreign concept to them because they have always been told it made you a bad person. It seems to have gone very well with your mom and for that I am so happy for you.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. It really is and when we recognize that it’s hard for them we don’t become angry with them. I always feel sorry for them. When I think of how many people in the world are under the spell of religion it makes me feel sad and helpless.

        Like

  11. Wow. I’m so proud of you!! I chose to spend years trying to convince myself that Christianity worked, rather than take that brave step of being true to myself and honest with those around me. I’m lucky that my immediate family is nonreligious (in a traditional sense anyway). I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to do what you just did. My mom holds a lot of unconventional beliefs (rooted in her Catholic indoctrination, I’m afraid.) So while she’s openminded at least, she struggles a lot with the fact that I have taken this atheistic-rationalist approach, rather than just ditching organized religion and believing in fairies or aliens instead. And even conversing with her about it is uncomfortable and hard. So GO YOU!
    Side note, I have been studying pantheism lately and plan to blog a lot about it in the upcoming weeks. It’s perfectly compatible with science and reason, and leaves a little wiggle room for a spiritual sense of life and purpose. It’s what I find myself leaning toward lately…or maybe that’s always who I’ve been, and just didn’t have a name for it. I wish you continued luck on your journey! And congrats to you and your fiance. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t know why but I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be. I was emotional anyways but I didn’t have the resistance to “just say it” that I usually do when telling people. I mean, when I told various friends I just said “I’m an atheist,” but in this case I slowly and logically lead up to saying I don’t, and never have, believed in God, so for some reason it came out easier.

      And congratulations on learning what you believe in! I’ll be sure to check out your blog and your writings on pantheism. Thanks for reading.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. She chose the second one.

    I’m glad to hear that. And I think your choice 2 (about marriage) was the right one.

    I’m finding this a very interesting post, mostly because of your mother’s reaction. I often hear Christians saying strange (i.e. bad) things about atheists. And your mother’s reaction helps put that in perspective. I had thought that when they say those things about atheists, they are being nasty. But, based on your post, it now seems more that they find it difficult to comprehend the idea that someone could be a skeptic about gods.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Yeah a lot of my Christian friends just think that atheists really believe deep down but are in denial. It’s ignorance, for sure, but growing up in a religious environment I don’t feel so mad at these people, even though some of their ideas (in particular conservative Christians) are destructive.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. You’re right. I don’t know what exactly I expected, possibly sadness, anger, and disappointment. But what I received was more like confusion, surprise, and almost a feeling of her thinking I’m stupid and blind. It’s okay though, because I believe that I know the truth, and that at the end of the day she’s the one with the wrong idea.

      Anyways, thanks for reading and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Really happy for you. One, that you came out to some one as important to you as your mother. The honesty can only better your relationship with her. Two, that it went that well. I tend to avoid the topic altogether when I am with religious people I care about because I am not ready to fall out with them. I am also happy that you chose option two regarding the wedding because if honesty is an option then it’s much preferred. Wish you all the best as you come out of the closet 😉

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I get that. It is the same with my mother. I have only told her mildly (like I no longer go to church or doubt the validity of some bible stories) but not that I renounce Jesus and all belief in God. And when she tells me to pray about stuff, I don’t remind her then that I don’t believe in prayer cos I don’t want her to suffer the pain of knowing that I am hell bound.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. oh that is so amazing. you must be truly relieved. At least even if you don’t have her understanding, you have her acceptance of you still as her daughter. She’s a very cool woman.
    My next concern is when you tell the rest of the family. Do you gather them together or let them know bit by bit? It might be a struggle if your sibs all start at once, and Im thinking of your older sister who has a minister for a husband.

    My own inclination would be to move out after graduation (and it ain’t called living in sin these days) to live with your fiance, maybe get married when you’ve both got some space in your lives. Sometimes being married can be more stressful than just cohabiting, and extremely confining.

    I’m so proud of the way you handled it, and the way your mother reacted. Be sure, she’ll have about a zillion textbook questions the next time. =)

    Hugs, CA.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Telling my sisters will be kind of hard. My younger sister already knows more or less, my oldest sister and her pastor husband live about three hours away, although as of right now I don’t know the next time I’ll be visiting. It feels like the kind of information that should be delivered in person, but my other older sister lives 8 hours away so I’m not sure how to approach that–I guess a phone call will do.

      Thanks, Judy. Your continued support means a lot to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Hmm I was on the mark on some points and off in others, but anyways I feel that you made real inroads in your relationship with your mother.

    I want to say a couple of things. First your mother is an amazing woman, like I mean that genuinely. She’s very spiritual and she’s also wise. I love your mother’s piety and love her because of it.
    I also agree with everything she said except for one point about not finding “nice people” outside of Christian circles. I got to a “retreat” every summer which is a gathering of the various European sufi muslims and these are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and I’m talking about hundreds of people. That’s a large concentration of kindness and pleasantness in one place, I always feel refreshed afterwards. I even took my agnostic friend twice to this summer gathering and he was amazed at the welcome and love that the people showed him.
    Nevertheless your mother is a great woman I pray that she finds solace about having an atheist daughter which must be very heavy on her heart. Also please don’t take her faith away from her or plant doubts. Leave her faith as it stands because it is a beautiful faith which I wish more people had.

    Also could you refer me to that paper you wrote that led you to atheism? Is it published somewhere on this blog?

    And finally, I wish you the best with your marriage and I admire your manners and politeness with your mother even though it was very difficult for you. That’s a feather in your cap in my book.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh wow, the God Delusion >.> I’ve read most of that book. I was not impressed with Dawkin’s scholarship. He even said all the religions and gods are the same.🤣
        Like yeah there are congruent messages but no, they are very different with their own histories.

        Anyways ima read dat paper and see what it’s about.^^

        Liked by 1 person

  16. Sounds like you handled that very well and have established a tone and mutual respect that will be a valuable precedent moving forward. Well done.
    Isn’t it an incredible sense of relief to feel like you’re not deceiving those you love about a fundamental aspect of your life anymore?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It is pretty freeing. I’m just in the beginning though, and I’m still hiding lots of things such as this blog, and avoiding topics (for now) that, even though they wouldn’t come as a surprise, like all the anti-God books I have and such. It’s a slow process but at least I got it started moving! Thanks for reading.

      Like

  17. Awesome article! I know it’s rough but being honest is really the best way to stay true to yourself .

    It’s funny though because reading through your story here I began to wonder if we had the same mother. Mine reacted in the same fashion, tossed out the same arguments and then cried for several days over the fact that I was going to hell.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. That went about as well as it could’ve gone. I’m really happy that you seemingly did your best not to turn it into a argument and expressed your beliefs. I’m proud of you CA. Of course natrually she’s always going to be trying to convert you, and possibly indoctrinate your future kids… I hope that everyone else in your family will take it as well. Though a suggestion is they’ll probably make arguments and such trying you convert you back on the spot, and this is something more I personally would do so just my thoughts for if I were in your situation.

    I would’ve for actually coming out to a person as important in your life as your mother did exactlywhat you did. Though if she were to present any argument or ask a question based off that, personally I wouldn’t be afraid to answer them honestly. If she were to present a argument to me, I would give my response to it respectfully and to the best of my ability. If she asks me a question I can’t answer on the spot, i’ll say something like “Good question, i’ll have to get back to you on that when I have a answer” or perhaps if it’s a really simple question perhaps suggest she do her own research on the matter? Google can be used by anyone with a internet connection after all. 😉

    That’s what I personally would do though in your shoes, and everyone’s different. Roll with it how you feel appropriate, perhaps ready your mind for any possible questions they mught have you would want to answer?

    You’re in control of your own life, and getting a big secret like this off your chest is a amazing feeling when received well. It’s probably going to be a uphill battle from here on the matter but it’s always helpful to just take it one day at a time. Awesome two parts, I enjoyed reading them.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. This conversation was really more me informing her of my unbelief, so I wasn’t really prepared to defend my position, but I know that there will be follow-up conversations with more questions for me to answer. I know I can do it, but I just feel like there’s no point because she wouldn’t accept any explanation I could give. I know I have to try anyways!

      Thank you so much for reading and supporting my blog!

      Liked by 1 person

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