Mother disappointed with atheism

Hey Everyone,

I hope everyone doesn’t mind me posting here. I am just sincerely looking for advice.

My mother shows discontent with me for being atheist. I’m not expecting her to be in full support of it but part of me wishes I could find some way to meet her approval.

Is there any advice that anyone feels will be good for the relationship for the longterm?

Thanks in advance.

As a parent that is raising my children in the faith. One of the most disappointing things that could happen is if they abandoned the faith and in my eyes, ever lasting life in heaven. Many children lose the faith and eventually come back. So I would hold out hope for that. And if my children were atheists in the true sense, I would wonder at any sort of vocalization of it and the motives behind it. Because it is one thing to be agnostic, to have doubts, to even have unbelief but to have the opposite belief of something that is my innermost being, my faith, is disrespectful to me and my effort to raise my children. As a husband it is my job to get my wife to heaven, and as a married couple it is our job to get our children to heaven. God gave them to us to make saints. And since my father hood to my children is a domestic church and a mirror (albeit distorted) of what God our Father should be to all of his children. I could not help but take a vocal atheist child as a direct rebuke of me personally.

So here is my longterm advice.

  1. You do not know what the future holds and perhaps faith will return to you. Don’t make blanket statements to your mother, like “never” or “I cannot imagine”
  2. respect that her faith is probably the very definition of who she is as a person, and your rejection of that could very well be taken personally.
  3. Examine your motives as to why what is in your heart is public domain for your mother. Perhaps it is not an issue that you need to bring up/
  4. A lot depends on your age and your view on the future of your life. If you are still at home you would need to obey your parents in what they ask. If they want you to go to Church, you should, it is an hour a week and it cannot be too much to ask if they deem it important. If you are on your own, well keep in mind how the decisions you make now could affect your future. Choosing a spouse, having children, having a grandma for those children that would support their souls, having your mom support your marraige etc. A lot of those things should probably be thought about now and you should not do or say things that close doors spiritually or familially.

How old are you? I ask because my answer would depend on your age.

I’m a mom, and if one of my minor children told me they were atheist I would still expect them to come with me to Mass and behave as if they believed while we were there. At home I would encourage them to investigate their beliefs and be able to explain to me why they held those beliefs. I would continue to pray for them and I would love them just as always, and hope that they would eventual accept the gift of faith. Never would I turn my back or hold ill will towards them.

If one of my adult children told me the same thing, I would pray for them and love them. I would still ask them to explain their beliefs but all I would truly expect is for them to treat me and my beliefs with respect. As long as they lived a good life and treated others well I would be ok. Of course, just as St. Monica, I would never quit praying for their conversion.

If you are still living at home, perhaps you could go through the motions for now out of respect for her and her wishes. As time goes by, explore the basis of your beliefs and investigate the faith of others. Then perhaps you can fully explain your position to her and ask her to pray for you (even if you would rather she didn’t, it would mean a lot yo her to hear you ask that).

If you are on your own now, I still think you should explain yourself and ask for her prayers. It would show her that you do respect her and desire to be a good son/daughter to her.

Consider something you know to be both true and important. Now imagine that your mother went so far in renouncing that truth you hold to be important that she self-identifies with a label, so there will be no question. Would you be content? Well, no, you would not be content, not unless you didn’t care about her. To care about someone else is to want them to accept things that are both important and true, yes?

My guess is that your mom approves of you just fine. It is your loss of all grip on this important truth and your seeming loss of all wish to have it that upsets her. If you are going to live in peace with her, accept that she is not going to change in her wish that you will have a change of heart.

We all hope you’ll have a change of heart, but do not take it into your head that your mom doesn’t love you.

Sounds to me like you have a good mom. Showing discontent is a very minor thing. Some kids are down right rejected and your mom is not doing that

Having someone ones approval is not always a good thing. Your mom could disapprove of your spouse, career, or method of bringing up your kids, but if you know you are doing the right thing you must make your own decisions and live without the approval. As for the religion aspect, since you came to a catholic forum I will be so direct as to say 'If you want your mom’s approval on your religious lifestyle, start practicing the faith

Respect your mom’s opinion

You are probably not going to get your mom to approve of atheism anymore than you would get her to approve of working as a stripper, abandoning oral hygiene, or driving without car insurance. What you can do is agree to disagree and focus your conversation and time together on aspects of your life or personality that she does approve of.

Of course a parent would be disappointed when their child turns from truth. The stakes are huge.

Your mother is not supposed to approve your choices, she is supposed to love you unconditionally. True love also includes disapproving choices while still being available to share life. Do not ask your mother for approval just ask her for love.

Thanks for your replies everyone. They have definitely given me something to think about.

I think part of the issue is that I have certainly become more involved with atheism recently, and my attitude regarding some things has definitely changed. There is part of me that wants to believe but I just can’t logically justify it.

I would encourage you to learn more about the faith you are leaving, too. I dabbled in atheism for a brief period of my life and I can identify with the feeling bolded above.

There can be a very nasty streak in atheistic thinking (especially in “New Atheism”) that says all people of faith are stupid - it’s even the tiniest bit implied with this, saying that belief must somehow be at odds with logic. It may not fit with your understanding of logic, but there are some great thinkers out there who demonstrate, very rationally, how faith can be a part of one’s understanding of the world. Many great philosophers and scientists were and are people of faith, and their faith was relevant to their work - not just an oddity like “oh, wow, 75% of geneticists have brown hair.” :wink:

So make sure, even if you feel convicted in your beliefs, that you continue to read and learn, and not just the stuff that already confirms that you are right. :wink: Consider that there might be something out there that you have missed that would have been important for you to know. I’m not saying definitively that you would return to the Faith, but at least you would actually know what you left. I have found with most of my friends who turned away from religion, that they knew very little except the common stereotypes (and until I experienced conversion, that was about all I knew as well, and I’m considered by many a reasonably intelligent person! :p)

Thanks for the reply pensmamma87.

I certainly do not think people of faith are stupid and I didn’t mean for that to be implied if it was :P.

When I say that I feel I want to but my logic won’t allow it, I just mean in terms of evidence. I am happy to read any books you are happy to recommend of you feel it would provide a good perspective :slight_smile:

You might want to define your atheism. If you are stating a belief (there is no God) and your reason for that belief is lack of evidence (which I would argue) What is your evidence for your belief in NO God? If evidence is what you have to have to justify your beliefs, I would think a logical person would find the evidence for atheism lacking?

Fellow atheist here. I come from a Protestant family and my mother is very devout. My husband, also an atheist, was born and raised Catholic. His parents, siblings, and everyone else in his family are extremely committed Catholics.

Let’s just get this out of the way: your mom is going to be disappointed. She’s going to be scared, upset, hurt, and depending on her personality, she may take it as a personal slight against her. But admit it, if your grown children decided to join a religion that was completely at odds with your worldview and values, you’d feel the same. Such is the nature of being a parent.

Secondly, this post makes me think that you are young. When I was in my late teens/early 20’s, I was very angry with religion in general. I was outspoken and insulting about it too. (I think I lost maybe 25 facebook friends during this time period:blush:) I understand. It’s very easy to see the injustices of the world, the problems that various religions and religious people have caused, and all the hatred and violence in the world and be angry. I think it’s especially common when you are raised in a religious home but spend a lot of your childhood and teen years not believing. Then, once you’re finally an adult, all that resentment of forced religion comes out. But you know what? Young adults of every faith and non faith find something about the way they grew up to be angry about. It’s normal. The trick is to be able to say “I find XYZ beliefs to be morally repugnant”, or “I think XYZ is factually incorrect” without applying those feelings onto people who do hold those beliefs. I think that ability comes with time and maturity.

My husband came up with a good analogy. Many gay young adults are very over-the-top with their sexuality. They throw themselves into “gay culture”, surround themselves with like minded people, and make every effort to display their sexuality. It’s because often times as teenagers, when everyone else is being “flaming” heterosexuals (you know teens, it’s all about the opposite sex :D) they don’t get the same opportunity to wave their new found sexuality around. So when they finally can as adults, they go overboard until they come to terms with who they are and are able to comfortably incorporate it into the rest of their lives. That’s why most 30 year old gay men roll their eyes at the stereotypical 19 year old gay man. It’s been my experience that a lot of atheists kind of go through the same cycle.

It’s funny, almost all of the vocal, spiteful, angry atheists that I knew when I was going through that phase have calmed down over the last 5 years, just as I have. Marriage, kids, jobs, etc gave them perspective on people and life. Some of them are even married to very devout Christians, and one is married to a Catholic immigrant from Latin America! This was the man who didn’t even want to have religious friends! Don’t discount the possibility that this new perspective of yours will evolve further, to include more respect and open mindedness towards people of faith.

As for your mom, understand her fears and concerns, without patronizing them or belittling them. Unless you are a minor, you shouldn’t necessarily attend church with her. My husband did that with his mom for years when he would visit her, and it made it so much harder when she found out that he was an atheist, because even his very occasional mass attendance with her gave her a false hope. Of course, you know your mom better than I do and a different course of action may be better. Don’t be bullied into practicing or espousing things you don’t believe, but don’t subject her to your beliefs unless she presses. Don’t talk about religion unless you have to and be sure to treat each other with unconditional love and respect. My mom is the second closest person in the world to me, and we make it work despite our religious differences. Maybe in a few years when your attitude is a little more calm and she’s come to terms with your atheism, you can revisit the issue. But once again, only you know if that’s a good idea.

This post is very insightful. Thank you.

On second thought, what I said in my previous post is actually pretty universal. Many of the very hardcore, angry, “the world is evil”, intolerant religious people I knew when I was younger have softened too. They still believe wholeheartedly in their faith, it’s just that these days they’re just able to sit down and have dinner with nonbelievers/people of different religions/gay people/couples who live together/etc without it turning into a “knock-down drag-out”.

I guess young people will be young, regardless of who or what they are.:stuck_out_tongue:

Just to clarify, I don’t “believe in no god”. I have a lack of belief that a god exists. Basically, I have not yet been provided with sufficient evidence for a god and therefore do not believe until or if proven otherwise. Obviously I don’t want to get into a debate about it as I assume that it wouldn’t be welcomed here (which I understand), but just thought I would respond to this one to help understand my position.

I’ve often heard it explained like this:

Negative atheism=I don’t believe there is a god.
Positive atheism=I believe there is no god.

Agnosticism=I don’t know if there is a god.
Gnosticism=I know there is/is not a god.

You can be an agnostic atheist, a gnostic atheist, a gnostic theist, or an agnostic theist. Atheism/theism refers to belief, gnosticism/agnosticism refers to knowledge. (Gnostic comes from the Greek word gnosis,which means ‘knowledge’.) So they measure different things and are not mutually exclusive.

Personally, I’m an agnostic negative atheist. I don’t believe that there is a god, but I don’t claim to have the absolute knowledge that there is not.

You seem very open to this, and I am happy for that :slight_smile:

There is a new book out by Trent Horn called Answering Atheism.

I also recommend Peter Kreeft’s 20 Arguments for the Existence of God which isn’t a book and you can read it right now.

Also here is a talk by Fr. Robert Barron that I found very interesting

If you are truly interested in the truth keep searching in earnest. Do not fall for what appears to be a convenient idea. Test test test. Think it through. I believe that if you do you will soon abandon atheism for it is lacking. Intellectual atheism has been answered long ago. The new atheism has no substance.

Here is a potential cure:

The Irrational Atheist

Thanks for the information. I will read it when I have the time (its my exam period at university so been very busy). I’ll get back to everyone with what I think once I have read it :slight_smile:

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