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Blame it on my parents.  They always told me to "think for yourself”.  I doubt they ever considered what would happen if I really did that. 

Now, I suspect what they meant was, "Think what we tell you but do it in your own words."  Too late.  When I was 13, I began to question everything and soon the total absurdity of religion became apparent. 

Because I have been “encouraged” (forced) to read the bible several times, it was easy for me to see the contradictions in the book, what christians professed to believe, and how they really lived.

When I refused to go with them to their church, they said they would "Make me go." 

I asked them, “How are you going to make me? How will forcing me to attend church change my mind?”  Already, their attitude was starting to harden me against everything else they would tell me.

Their next idea was to have their minister talk to me.  I told them it was a waste of everyone's time.  They persisted and had him come to the house to “Talk some sense into me.”  (as if they ever works for anyone)  After about 15 minutes of him quoting the bible to me and me pointing out that he was either wrong in his quotes or showing him how it said something else in another place, he became very angry and told me I was going to hell.  I suspect it was because I knew the bible better than he did and was, at age 13, able to prove how ridiculous his arguments were.

I told him, “If there is a Hell I'll see you there.  Save me a nice place, OK?"  He said I was an impertinent, disrespectful child.  By then, I was angry myself and for the first time, I told a christian that he was a hypocrite, a liar, and a fool.  My parents insisted that I apologize.  I refused and left the room to a lot of yelling and threats.

For the next four years, I heard about this at least once a week.  So the night I graduated high school, I left my parent's home and didn't see them again for well over a year.  By then, with the credits I had accumulated in high school and summer school,  I had completed a couple of years of college.  Fortunately, I was able to pay for this myself.  I was entering the army and wanted to try to make peace with them, but had to listen to the same old recriminations and arguments again. 

The next time I saw them was two years later when I was getting married.  After several years of an on-again, off-again relationship they finally agreed to just not discuss it any more.  I'd like to say that worked, but  subtle hints slowly became outright condemnation.  Then I took a job transfer from Ohio to Arizona, so family meetings were rare enough to become occasions for something other than contention.

I do have to say that I appreciate the other things they did for me, like encouraging my education and equipping me with the work ethic and attitudes I needed to survive and thrive at that early age.  In those areas, they were excellent parents and I am grateful for those things.

What did I learn?  Even your family can turn against you if you refuse to share in their illusions.  There are times, if you are to become your own person, you must stand firm in what you know to be true.

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Comment was by Michel on December 21, 2012 at 4:07pm

@Kami - We're talking worst-case scenario here. And very hypothetical as both sons are currently atheist. I'm thinking here that as they are both adults, if they were to 'find god' at their age, they'd probably be the ones to bring the subject up to me, and that I'd be the annoyed one.

Comment was by Kami on December 21, 2012 at 3:31pm

@James- you said your parents wouldn't leave it alone- I understand your point completely. Michel on the other hand said in a previous comment that he didn't think he would let it go- so he would be the antagonist here. I could certainly see the son being the one who would end the relationship.  I just think it is sad a parent would rather not let something like this go & drive them away from their own child. Lots of families have *something* they avoid rather than argue constantly.  To each their own I guess. Carry on.

Comment was by Michel on December 21, 2012 at 2:56pm

@Kami - I would not stop loving him, fatherhood is too ingrained in me. But as a constant source of sadness? I could certainly grow into disliking his person and avoiding his presence. I'm not made of steel =/

Comment was by James Smith on December 21, 2012 at 2:46pm

@Kami  I feel that I could.  I never doubted my parent's love and do appreciate all the other things they did for me.  After all, thy are the ones that helped equip me with the skills and attitude that allowed me to survive and thrive at a very early age.

Unfortunately, they could not leave the religion part alone.  That caused me to keep a distance between us for years.  You would think that after 20 or more years, they would have understood that nothing they were saying was having any effect but to make me stay far away as much as possible.  But nothing worked after I was around them for a few days.  This was very sad because I know I missed what should have been some of the best days of our lives.

Comment was by Kami on December 21, 2012 at 2:16pm
You could "not like" your own son just becsuse he refused to share your view? Couldn't you just enjoy other things about him and leave the theological discussions alone?
Comment was by Michel on December 21, 2012 at 12:16pm

@James - I don't think I'd use the doomed argument, nor would I claim their stupidity is done 'to me.' But I certainly brush up on my 'opportunity-spotting' skills =)

But I don't think I'd let go, if only for fear of winding up not liking that son.

Comment was by Adriana on December 21, 2012 at 11:54am

I agree with Kami, the relationship with close family is more important than ideology and it is best to let go and keep the relationship, even if there are major disagreements, like religious versus atheist, etc. Of course in the case of parents and kids, it is our duty as parents to talk to our children to explain why we may disagree strongly with a belief or behavior. 

Comment was by Kami on December 21, 2012 at 10:44am
I can definitely see the goal of convincing someone they are wrong, but, if otherwise you want to maintain a relationship with someone, you have to let it go. Say what you have to say, then move past it. Otherwise you too, may lose that relationship.
Comment was by James Smith on December 21, 2012 at 10:05am

@Michel  I see your point.  Yes, they might think that if you refused to stop after you had been asked many times to please let it go.  Then you continued to remind them that they were "doomed" and "how could you do this to me?" 

Somehow, I can't see most atheists taking that approach.  But atheists are a diverse group and there are probably some who would.  Fortunately, I have not had that situation arise with my own children or grandchildren. 

Comment was by Michel on December 21, 2012 at 9:54am

This experience begs the question: would I turn against my sons if they ever picked up a religion? I would certainly give them a piece of my mind. And I would be on constant alert for opportunities to highlight the 'errors of their way.' Would they then feel I have turned against them?

Perhaps.

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