Handling an atheist in the family


#1

I’d like the focus of this thread to center around finding out that a family member has decided to be an atheist. If this applies to you, pls consider the following: How did everybody handle this? How much effort did you expend trying to turn them back to God vs. maintaining good relations with that family member and not pushing? Atheists can join in (if they can be civil and not turn this into a debate about God’s existance) and explain their family member’s reaction to their atheism announcement.

By own adult daughter recently told me she has adopted atheism. It felt like a “gutshot”. Both her mother (my wife) and I are very disturbed by this. She was raised in a catholic family, although we were not consistant church-goers. She had a catholic wedding 6 yrs ago because she wanted it. Her husband has never believed in anything and at one time she was concerned about that. She told me she had always had doubts. I think her husband helped her cross the line, plus one of her work friends is also an atheist. I’m sure this contributed to her decision.

I have a very good relationship with my older daughter and don’t want to ruin it. They say one should never talk religion or politics (she is a liberal, I’m a conservative) with friends or family members. I weigh that vs. trying to turn her back at the expense of our relationship. So far, except for an occasional email about it, I’ve kept silent, so has her Mom.

Opinions/Comments?


#2

My brother started going through this a couple of years ago. It was a gutshot also. At first, I admit, I was angry. I even blamed myself because he witnessed me go through so much stuff with my alcoholism and my own struggles to lead a good life. I figured I was the reason he turned his back on God, the Church and the Truth.

I talked with my priest and with people on this forum. I was guided to keep my relationship with him open and loving. I was reminded that the best witness to the Gospels and the Truth would be how I lived, and my prayers. I would be called to be more fully an obedient and faithful daughter of the Holy Mother Church and to begin to pray for his re-conversion.

It has been one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do. There are times I would like to just pop him one right in the nose, other times I want to put my arms around him and love him back into reality. However, the guidance I was given has proven to be the best for both of us because it has kept the lines of communication open between us, forced me to learn more about my faith and how to be an apologetic AND deepened my spiritual life.

I have found a best friend in St. Therese.

Today, his heart has begun to change…little bit by little bit…he is no longer an athiest. Today he is an admitted agnostic. That probably doesn’t seem like much, but to go from ‘there is no God and I can prove it’ to ‘well, maybe there is and maybe there isn’t, I just don’t know’ in a little over a year proves to me the power of prayer and the incredible power of that little French Nun…The Little Flower.

I hope my experience helps.

BTW - sometimes I still want to pop him one right in the nose. Whenever I do, I mark it in my journal so I don’t forget when I go to confession…:crying:


#3

LSK: Thanks for your comments. I hope your brother continues the road back. As for me, my wife and I will probably bide our time and wait for the appropriate opportunities to discuss with it her. Unfortunately, as I get older my patience level tends to get less and less, so I need to be careful. I have a fairly short fuse on certain subjects, this being one of them. One other thing I didn’t mention is that I take her atheism as a parental failure on my part. My wife doesn’t feel this way; she feels we did the best we could, and she is almost 30 yrs old and she has chosen this route. BTW, she is a good person and her husband is also a good guy. Both have good jobs. They are also doing a great job raising their daughter (20 months). Of course as our granddaughter gets older, her spiritual upbringing (or lack their of) presents another set of problems.

Just for FYI, our younger daughter (22) does believe in God, but is not crazy about organized religion. Oh well, you gotta take what you can get. :rolleyes:


#4

I know, I know…I am grateful that my brother has allowed me to teach his children what I can about our faith. I took the tact with him of “well, you want them to be well-rounded, right? How are they going to be able to make up their own minds if they don’t know about God?”. So Jillian, who is 4 goes to Mass with me when she can, watches the Holy Baby DVD(s) and says her prayers. Stephen is 10, reads the Catechism books at my house when I ask him to and asks me questions. Ryan is 16, asks questions and attends Mass with me occasionally…again, it is really tough and I will NOT pretend that it is not…but I love my brother…when I don’t want to pop him one right in the nose…oh, darn …there I go again…

YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE if your daughter is as you describe her…you are NOT a failure…and you have more power as a father than you think…but you are going to have to be willing to ask for help from a Power far greater than you.
Remember the words of St. Francis - preach the Gospel, and when necessary use words.


#5

[quote=LSK]I know, I know…I am grateful that my brother has allowed me to teach his children what I can about our faith. I took the tact with him of “well, you want them to be well-rounded, right? How are they going to be able to make up their own minds if they don’t know about God?”. So Jillian, who is 4 goes to Mass with me when she can, watches the Holy Baby DVD(s) and says her prayers. Stephen is 10, reads the Catechism books at my house when I ask him to and asks me questions. Ryan is 16, asks questions and attends Mass with me occasionally…again, it is really tough and I will NOT pretend that it is not…but I love my brother…when I don’t want to pop him one right in the nose…oh, darn …there I go again…

YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE if your daughter is as you describe her…you are NOT a failure…and you have more power as a father than you think…but you are going to have to be willing to ask for help from a Power far greater than you.
Remember the words of St. Francis - preach the Gospel, and when necessary use words.
[/quote]

Oh, we’ve both been asking for help, don’t worry about that. :thumbsup:


#6

Heh, this thread wasn’t what I expected. I come from a family of altheists & agnostics, which is just a lazy atheist in my book. I live 1200 miles away…So when they found out that I was had become a Catholic (a cousin saw me cross myself at a funeral) they were shocked and dismayed!


#7

So how do they handle you?

:thumbsup:


#8

[quote=caroljm36]Heh, this thread wasn’t what I expected. I come from a family of altheists & agnostics, which is just a lazy atheist in my book. I live 1200 miles away…So when they found out that I was had become a Catholic (a cousin saw me cross myself at a funeral) they were shocked and dismayed!
[/quote]

Ha!!


#9

This happened to me. I grew up Catholic (went to Catholic grade school and high school). and I questioned God especially after my mother died (when I was 13). Two years later, my father married an “atheist” (who was also a widow). While in high school and college she and her children (all older-- who I looked up to) would give their negative opinion about not only the Catholic faith, but religion in general. I was young and was wooed into their thinking for a LONG time.

It was not until I met my husband, who started to work with me into coming back to the Church. I was still hesitant. If it were not for my near death experience delivering our premature daughter (26 weeks) and the ordeal of her duration in the NICU, I would probably still question my faith. In fact, during that time I felt I became closer to God and the Church. I would keep saying to myself that “The Good Lord would not give me anything I could not handle”. I am happy to say she will be 5 on December 23rd. I thank God everyday for this blessing.

When my father passed 9 months later, instead of being bitter with God for what happened (losing my father), I found myself wanting to be closer to Our Lord.

I will pray for your daughter, as well as your family. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

PAX


#10

I’m in similar straits. My son, who was raised Catholic, went to Catholic schools, was an altar boy…married a woman who is an atheist. They married in a non demonational church and had a non demonational ceremony…I’m not even sure why she wanted to marry in any kind of church since she is an atheist but I guess it was to please her relatives. They don’t have any kids yet, but if they do I’m afraid the child(ren) will not be baptized. I’m not happy at all but I have no idea how to talk to my son about my displeasure without causing a big rift. I tried talking once about God but my dear DIL thinks its all a big myth that simple minded people believe (and I’m one of them) and that there is no proof Jesus existed, etc. I really don’t care what she believes but this has rubbed off on my son. I am terribly worried about his soul but what can I do except pray? :frowning:


#11

Celeste,

I believe there is hope. One of my older step sisters (never baptized and was considered “atheist”) married a Catholic. They have two children. I truly believe that her husband and their children are really making a difference in her attitude, based on a recent discussion we had. She is now believing that there is God and is learning the different ministries in their parish. I would not be surprised if she converts in the next 5 years.


#12

I’d go to the EWTN website and look up in the audio library past recordings from the program called, The Journey Home with Marcus Grodi. He interviews converts and reverts to the Catholic faith, including atheists. Check out the former atheist converts. It may give you some insight into atheism.

If someone doesn’t believe in God, he wouldn’t be an atheist. He’d be merely indifferent - sleep late on Sunday, go shopping, watch TV and the MSM, and do whatever people do when they are part of the popular culture of meaninglessness.

An atheist is something else. He identifies his entire being in terms of his relationship to God that he claims doesn’t exist. Why is that? Why bring God into the equation when you believe God doesn’t exist? Phoney science opens the door to atheism, the I believe we are no different than a cockroach, darwinian types.

These folks are angry and self-deluded, but probably closer to God than someone who is indifferent.


#13

I’m the only practicing (not very good at it, but someday!:smiley: ) Catholic in my bunch, but particularly my mother is espousing some pretty rabid hostility to the Church. She refuses to read/watch/listen to anything from a pro-Catholic or pro-Christian position & is going out of her way to read novels that are decidedly anti-Catholic and taking them as truth. Obviously I pray for her, but does anyone know of any non-religious sources that back our stand on social issues (yeah, she’s pro-gay & pro-abortion, too)?


#14

My husband always says that it takes an act of faith to be an atheist.

Unlike an agnostic who isn’t sure whether or not God exists, or worse yet, doesn’t care if God exists, the atheist has chosen to BELIEVE God doesn’t exist. There is usually a reason for this belief. I suspect that this reason is often tied to experiences in the atheists family in which case family members may have more difficulty than someone outside the family in helping change the atheist’s view. My guess is that family members are probably better off praying that someone outside the family comes along who is able to steer the atheist toward God.


#15

this applies to several family members, including one child, all of whom were baptized, raised Catholic by good strong parents who are still Catholic or remained so until death, all products of Catholic schools.

In all cases (we are talking 4 immediate relatives here) the reasons for their abandoning the faith are unresolved anger, in two cases you can trace the source (not the Church, just life events) and in 2 cases hard to say why. All 4 of these people are bitter, angry, resentful, even the two who can’t or won’t say why they are angry.

We had a discussion here some weeks ago on whether or not anger was a sin. I think its classification as on of the deadly sins is very apt.


#16

I know that this post is a bit old and it’s very likely no one will read this but if someone does I have a few things I would like to say(and to be clear I am an atheist). First off to the person who considers their child’s atheism to be a “failure” of parenting I would like to re-assure them that their child’s viewpoints are in no way their fault and that people come to certain conclusions on their own. Next I would like to point out a misconception I have seen in this thread about the difference between atheism and agnosticism, which is that they two are not mutually exclusive ie: I can be an agnostic atheist or an agnostic theist. Agnosticism isn’t itself a viewpoint it just says “I’m not 100% sure that there is or isn’t a God” and in fact most atheists are agnostics because you cannot disprove God. And getting back to the main point of the post I would just like to say I was raised in a catholic family but at around the time of middle school I started thinking more about the world and began transitioning into atheism and when I finally told my family they seemed less concerned with “fixing” me and more worried about not pushing me out of the family while still keeping God in their lives which I think is the best approach to take. That’s all I have to say and good luck to everybody out there struggling with these same issues.


#17

This is the opposite of the way I would handle it.


#18

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