Skip to main content

How to come out to your parents as non-religious

By Marlene Winell ~ 

After going through your own deconstruction of religious belief, it can feel like a challenge to reveal your change to your religious parents. You might have a lot of fear about their reaction – anger, hurt, disappointment in you, and so on. You might fear being disowned. This is a common concern because our families mean a lot to us. It’s natural to want approval from your parents. When you were young, you depended on them for your life; you absolutely needed their love, care, and approval. So, even in adulthood, we long for our parents to love us unconditionally. 
However, in terms of human development over the life span, it is necessary for everyone to outgrow their parents. Growing up to maturity involves becoming the authority in your own life and taking on the job of self-care and self-love. This is true even if you aren’t recovering from religion. Personal health and well-being, in other words, means that your inner “Adult” is taking responsibility and caring for your inner “Child.”
Religious families are a little more complicated. The religion promotes black and white thinking about what is right and wrong. Parents feel compelled morally to raise their children as believers, or they aren’t doing their primary job as parents. Consequently, if their children leave the faith, they feel like failures. This is in addition to feeling sorrow and panic about the future destiny of their children, or the ultimate separation of family members. 
Personal responsibility is very confused in a religious family. Not only are the parents taught to have inordinate responsibility for the fate of their children, but children are taught to “Honor thy father and mother.” Many religious groups teach a hierarchical system of obedience and control in which the children are obligated to live in obedience to parents. (Usually this is also patriarchal where the wife is subject to the husband.) This results in feelings of responsibility for parents’ feelings. Small children can think, “If I was good, my parents would be happy.” For all these reasons, the boundaries between family members can be blurred.

In working with reclaimers coming out to family members over the years, I have come up with the following guidelines:

1. Recognize that you and your parents are separate people. They have their own lives, beliefs, attitudes, career, family roles, pastimes, and passions. They are responsible for their own choices and the consequences of those choices. One of those choices is to belong to a religious system which condemns those that are different. So when they are faced with a significant difference in their own family, they are the ones who need to adapt, and you need to let it be their task.

2. Remember that your only obligation is to be authentically who you are. You have a right to be who you really are and the desire to be seen that way can only be fulfilled if you present your true self. There is no apology for so doing.

3. At the same time, you can have compassion and empathy. Your parents will have feelings and you can be understanding. In fact, it helps to begin the conversation with empathy, e.g. “I know this means a lot and it’s hard for you. . ."

4. As you approach talking with your parents, be aware of your Inner Adult and your Inner Child. Let your Adult take the lead in doing the talking. Your Adult can be rational, emotionally calm, understand the issues, speak clearly, maintain boundaries, and make reasonable requests. Speak in your adult voice.

5. Before you address your parents, take time to talk to your Child, having empathy for their feelings, assuring them of safety, and promising to handle the situation.

6. Be sure to express your positive feelings toward your parents, and reassure them that you want to maintain a good relationship. State your intention clearly.

7. Realize that there are no guarantees. Your parents may or may not ever accept the changes in your worldview. Most likely they will adapt in some way.

8. Be careful about wanting an apology. While you may think that your parents have done things that hurt you, realize that from their perspective, they have not done anything wrong. Getting an apology is unlikely and asking for one will only be frustrating.

9. Going through this process will take time and it will include grief over what your parents can’t give. The relationship will change and that can be uncomfortable. Allow yourself to grieve.
Wherever you are in your recovery process, we invite you to join us for our online support groups or book an individual coaching session. We’re here to support you.


Popular posts from this blog


By David Andrew Dugle ~ O ctober. Halloween. It's time to visit the haunted house I used to live in. When I was five my dad was able to build a big modern house. Moving in before it was complete, my younger brother and I were sleeping in a large unfinished area directly under the living room. It should have been too new to be a haunted house, but now and then I would wake up in the tiny, dark hours and see the blurry image of a face, or at least what I took to be a face, glowing, faintly yellow, high up on the wall near the ceiling. I'm not kidding! Most nights it didn’t appear at all. But when it did show itself, at first I thought it was a ghost and it scared me like nothing else I’d ever seen. But the face never did anything; unmoving, it just stayed in that one spot. Turning on the lights would make it disappear, making my fears difficult to explain, so I never told anyone. My Sunday School teachers had always told me to be good because God was just behind m

The Blame Game or Shit Happens

By Webmdave ~ A relative suffering from Type 1 diabetes was recently hospitalized for an emergency amputation. The physicians hoped to halt the spread of septic gangrene seeping from an incurable foot wound. Naturally, family and friends were very concerned. His wife was especially concerned. She bemoaned, “I just don’t want this (the advanced sepsis and the resultant amputation) to be my fault.” It may be that this couple didn’t fully comprehend the seriousness of the situation. It may be that their choice of treatment was less than ideal. Perhaps their home diabetes maintenance was inconsistent. Some Christians I know might say the culprit was a lack of spiritual faith. Others would credit it all to God’s mysterious will. Surely there is someone or something to blame. Someone to whom to ascribe credit. Isn’t there? A few days after the operation, I was talking to a man who had family members who had suffered similar diabetic experiences. Some of those also suffered ea

Reasons for my disbelief

By Rebekah ~ T here are many layers to the reasons for my disbelief, most of which I haven't even touched on here... When I think of Evangelical Christianity, two concepts come to mind: intense psychological traps, and the danger of glossing over and missing a true appreciation for the one life we know that we have. I am actually agnostic when it comes to a being who set creation in motion and remains separated from us in a different realm. If there is a deistic God, then he/she doesn't particularly care if I believe in them, so I won't force belief and instead I will focus on this one life that I know I have, with the people I can see and feel. But I do have a lot of experience with the ideas of God put forth by Evangelical Christianity, and am confident it isn't true. If it's the case god has indeed created both a physical and a heavenly spiritual realm, then why did God even need to create a physical realm? If the point of its existence is to evolve to pas

Are You an Atheist Success Story?

By Avangelism Project ~ F acts don’t spread. Stories do. It’s how (good) marketing works, it’s how elections (unfortunately) are won and lost, and it’s how (all) religion spreads. Proselytization isn’t accomplished with better arguments. It’s accomplished with better stories and it’s time we atheists catch up. It’s not like atheists don’t love a good story. Head over to the atheist reddit and take a look if you don’t believe me. We’re all over stories painting religion in a bad light. Nothing wrong with that, but we ignore the value of a story or a testimonial when we’re dealing with Christians. We can’t be so proud to argue the semantics of whether atheism is a belief or deconversion is actually proselytization. When we become more interested in defining our terms than in affecting people, we’ve relegated ourselves to irrelevance preferring to be smug in our minority, but semantically correct, nonbelief. Results Determine Reality The thing is when we opt to bury our

Christian TV presenter reads out Star Wars plot as story of salvation

An email prankster tricked the host of a Christian TV show into reading out the plots of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Star Wars in the belief they were stories of personal salvation. The unsuspecting host read out most of the opening rap to The Fresh Prince, a 1990s US sitcom starring Will Smith , apparently unaware that it was not a genuine testimony of faith. The prankster had slightly adapted the lyrics but the references to a misspent youth playing basketball in West Philadelphia would have been instantly familiar to most viewers. The lines read out by the DJ included: "One day a couple of guys who were up to no good starting making trouble in my living area. I ended up getting into a fight, which terrified my mother." The presenter on Genesis TV , a British Christian channel, eventually realised that he was being pranked and cut the story short – only to move on to another spoof email based on the plot of the Star Wars films. It began: &quo

Why I left the Canadian Reformed Church

By Chuck Eelhart ~ I was born into a believing family. The denomination is called Canadian Reformed Church . It is a Dutch Calvinistic Christian Church. My parents were Dutch immigrants to Canada in 1951. They had come from two slightly differing factions of the same Reformed faith in the Netherlands . Arriving unmarried in Canada they joined the slightly more conservative of the factions. It was a small group at first. Being far from Holland and strangers in a new country these young families found a strong bonding point in their church. Deutsch: Heidelberger Katechismus, Druck 1563 (Photo credit: Wikipedia ) I was born in 1955 the third of eventually 9 children. We lived in a small southern Ontario farming community of Fergus. Being young conservative and industrious the community of immigrants prospered. While they did mix and work in the community almost all of the social bonding was within the church group. Being of the first generation born here we had a foot in two