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How to tell religious family and friends: One Person's Solution

By Amy ~

I haven’t been on this website since the early days of my de-conversion in 2010. But I remember clearly the anguish and anxiety I felt during that time. In particular, I agonized on how/what/when to tell my very religious family that I no longer believed. My own husband de-converted at the same time, so that wasn’t an issue. But I worried about my parents, my siblings and my own children. With my parents and siblings I worried about the grief I would cause, and I was torn between being an honest version of myself and breaking their hearts. With my children I worried about overly influencing a decision I feel is a very personal one. I worried about the confusion it would cause. And I worried about tension that might be felt between them and their grandparents, aunt and uncle. This anxiety consumed my waking thoughts for months. My husband and I spoke long into the night about it many times. The solution we came to over time was simple, kind and not dishonest. I’ll break it down into two guiding ideas:

1. We do not lie about our life. We do not pretend to go to church. We do not take part in faith based conversations as if we believed. We respectfully and as graciously as possible avoid these topics. Sometimes this is not possible, which leads me to the next point:

2. When asked directly about our spiritual status, we answer truthfully. This is based on the assumption that if the loved one is asking, they are ready to hear it. If they don’t want to know, or don’t want to know for sure, they won’t ask. So far:

- My brother asked me directly if I still believed. I told him no, not at all, and he responded with absolute grace. We had a long conversation and then we put it behind us and carried on our relationship with no pain or awkwardness. He was ready to hear it. I also explained my method of disclosure and asked him to not tell my other family members, but to let them come to me if they wanted to know. He has respected this.

- My oldest son, now 16, asked outright, as he had come to the decision he does not believe and wanted to know for sure where we stood. My daughter, now 14, still believes and has many friends who believe. As she gets older, I am quite confident she will outgrow this, as there is no weekly brainwashing occurring and without the constant brainwashing I think kids naturally outgrow it without angst or heartache. But either way, this is her decision to make and I know she will ask me about it as well when the natural doubts arrive.

- I know the rest of my family is aware of a change in our spiritual life, but they have never asked directly about our belief and I am happy to leave it that way. I have no desire to shatter any illusion they might have of us just simply “back-sliding” in our faith. Why would I? To what purpose? To break their hearts for my own sense of self-righteous honesty? Not enough of a reason for me.

Of course, this may not work for everyone or for everyone’s circumstances- but it has worked very well for our family. It has struck a balance between being honest yet not being needlessly hurtful. I hope this helps someone else who is going though this difficult, life changing time- and that this example can help ease the journey just a little.