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Advice needed please

I have been born and raised (and subsequently am currently raising my 3 children) in a very strict religious environment. I have, over an extended period of time, had my eyes opened to exactly what nonsense I had come to believe as reality. I would walk away today in a heartbeat but the problem is that every family member, every coworker (I work for minimum wage for the church-yes literally minimum wage-while the pastor and all his family live in million dollar homes), every friend, are all wrapped in this religion and my children are 100% in it to win it at this point (15, 13, and 11). How in the world do I explain to them all of a sudden that everything they know- everything they’ve been taught in christian school, everyone they know, everything I’ve ever told them is all a lie???? I have contacted a secular therapist to try to schedule an appointment (very hard to find deep in the Bible Belt) but I could you some immediate advice from the atheistic masses please and thank you

By CoCoCatina
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41 comments

9

If you are indoctrinated for 10+ years the damage can't be undone so fast. Just think about how long it took you to realize your irrational believes. I would just try to plant some seeds of doubt. Ask them questions, tell them to be curious about the world. Show them the positive things science has brought to the world. Ask them how they know things that are unrelated to religion and let them compare how they go about it. Ask them why religion is the only thing where knowledge requires a different method. Would they believe other things on faith too?
Those kind of questions.
Show them the bads part of the bible, where slavery is supported, where there's unjustified violence, rape, genocide. Show the the stupid rules nobody adheres to. Ask them why they think the preachers today ignore them.
There is s much you can say, but don't say you lied to them, because you didn't. You believed those things yourself. Lying is done on purpose. You could tell your children that you thought about it more, that you have doubts now and that that's okay. It's okay to have doubts, it's good to have doubts. There are things you can't know no matter what anybody else says and becoming a grown up person means dealing with that fact.

Dietl Level 6 Sep 1, 2018
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7

Hi CoCo! I did just this 15 years ago. I knew going in that it would end in divorce for me. Hopefully for you it will not end that way. I lived in the Deep South for 25 years and have been out on the west coast for 6. All the advice given is right on the money. Keep severing your ties and moving away from the extremism. I was in the Duggar Cult so I understand where you are coming from. It is a process not a race, so I just ate that elephant in the room one bite at a time.

SaucyCheryl Level 7 Sep 1, 2018
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7

Thank you so much for all the wonderful support! I am not financially tied to the church, in fact I have already turned in my notice. My husband makes more than enough to support us while we go through this. I have opened up and talked to him about this. He’s confused but supportive of leaving our particular religion (it’s very controlling) but he can’t grasp the agnostic/atheist thing just yet. I’m thinking a gradual step down may be in order. I may have to “fake it til I make it” and go to another church (that lets me wear pants, shorts, makeup, jewelry, cut my hair, etc) for a while until we can figure out step two. We live over an hour from my husbands job right now because our home is close to the church/school. I have told the kids they won’t be going to christian school this year (that was met with a guilt trip like you wouldn’t believe from my pastor who IMMEDIATELY preached, from the pulpit the same night after I told them, that if you take your kids out of this christian school environment they will basically be doomed). We are starting the process of selling our home and moving closer to my husbands work which gives me an excuse as to why all the changes are happening. I told my daughter last night that I don’t believe you would go to hell if you wear pants 🤯. I also told her they may teach evolution at public school because it’s fact and she should be open to learning new things and making new friends. I think slow is the way to go but I’m eager to speak to the therapist as well. Thanks again for all the awesome advice everyone!

CoCoCatina Level 4 Sep 1, 2018
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Wow you're doing well making those tough decisions. It took me years to fully get out from the manipulation, guilt, and emotional blackmail. And it was just me, without a spouse and kids - that would be magnitudes harder.

There's been great advice given here. Remember that everyone takes their own time to leave and grieve (your life and people in your life is all changing). Go easy on yourself.

Also, reading the Bible (all of it, without cherry picking) is a great way to become an atheist.

Good luck and keep us updated.

Please do all the truth telling both parents through a united front to 3 children a family ongoing convocation of scientific Atheism use good Atheist books & role models to replace the pornographic misogynistic genocidal anti-science King James bible ....

It sounds like you are well on your way to making the practical changes in living environment that will support a reality-based lifestyle. My main concern is How to talk with your kids. They have spent their lives being told what to think. Your job now it to teach them How to think. That doesn't come from giving answers, but rather, from asking questions that make them think about what they believe to be true.

This website shows how to engage believers in a way that encourages Them to think about what they believe, and how likely it is to be true. [streetepistemology.com]

And here is one of his instructional videos

Just telling people their beliefs are wrong will pretty much always be met with resistance, and then they stop listening. Inquiry into truth is the path that many of us took to escape religious indoctrination.

Edited
7

It sounds like you are somewhat in crisis-mode right now facing a possible break with something that has been such a big part of your life for so long. Unless you are part of a cult, I would take slow but gradual steps to move away from the church. Find a new job, join a group/interest that is not affiliated with the church, take some classes at a local community college, etc. You need to get over this hump, establish an existence for yourself where you feel strong in yourself as a non-believer, before you upset the apple-cart for your children. If you're kids see you making some changes, and also see that these are happy and healthy changes, they perhaps might be more accepting of changes in their own beliefs.

I think the mistake we sometimes make is that we want others to follow and come along with us at every step of our life path. And, sometimes that just can't and won't happen. To keep relationships intact, at least initially, and I'm thinking primarily of your children, I wouldn't try to force on them a change in their beliefs. Work on your own transition first.

I applaud you for finding a therapist. Let this person be the strength you need in your life right now.

linxminx Level 5 Sep 1, 2018
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6

This is a difficult situation. I found myself in a similar situation about 30 years ago. When I stopped believing in Moronism (oops, Mormonism), the church excommunicated me and took my wife's side, encouraging her to leave me. She took the children and disappeared. It was heartbreaking, and I often wondered if I would have been better off pretending to be a good Moron (oops, Mormon) for the sake of keeping my family intact. It was so painful, that I almost killed myself. However, I moved on, and was happy that I at least had my integrity intact.

So, I would suggest you use a great deal of tact and an increase in love toward your family before breaking the news that you are no longer a believer. You may want to test your spouse (and children) first, asking them hypothetical questions about which is more important -- family togetherness, even when beliefs differ, or destroying a family for the sake of religious unity.

Good luck, friend.

BestWithoutGods Level 5 Sep 1, 2018
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6

Take care of your family first before you try to share. It is important to keep your family safe and with a roof over your head. Work on getting a better job. The rest will work its way out.

CK-One Level 6 Sep 1, 2018
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My husband makes a very good living so we will be fine. I’ve actually put in my notice at “work” which was met with a huge guilt trip of course and unenrolling my children from the christian school was met with an even bigger guilt trip straight from the pulpit. I am supposed to go to church tomorrow and I’m dreading it so very much. I feel like a completely different person now with brand new eyes to see clearly and yet I have to continue this charade (I’m heavily involved in ministry at the church in several departments) until we can move. I have no idea if I should just stay home- it’s basically forbidden to miss any of the three services per week- or continue to go until we move. There is no easy way around this but there has to be a BEST way to handle it.

@CoCoCatina I am just so impressed with your bravery!

6

My heart aches for you. I have had such a similar experience.

Move cautiously. Your children are old enough to understand reason. Start by asking them questions about science with provable facts. Not in a directly challenging way, but in a way that starts them thinking.

Get them videos and books that will assist them in forming more questions. Direct them to ask anything they need to to you or anyone at the church. Unless you get out of there immediately.

Getting them to start having questions of their own and giving them the freedom to ask is essential. They need to not be afraid to develop their own ideas, hopefully based on facts. They must learn how to tell fact from fiction and overcome indoctrination and fear.
They need to develop critical thinking skills to replace blind faith.

If I can help in any way with the formulation of questions or the like, please let me know. I empathize completely.

Donotbelieve Level 8 Sep 1, 2018
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6

Darrel Ray started a database of secular therapists. You can search it from this page [seculartherapy.org] There is also a link to Recovering from Religion [recoveringfromreligion.org] Take your time and do your research and keep us informed as to how we can help.

Brunostic Level 5 Sep 1, 2018
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Thank you. That is helpful information for me, as well.

6

Don't be in a hurry. You know what you believe but you can keep it to yourself while you find a new job. Meanwhile, you could emphasise the humanistic elements of Christianity, such as poverty, non-judgement and compassion. Since that's the language that's spoken around you, people can hardly object when you remind people not to judge lest they be judged, that the rich cannot enter the kingdom of heaven, that it's the PEACEmakers that are blessed, that doubt is an essential part of faith etc. There's a fringe of Christianity that's hardly distinguishable from secular humanism, so if you feel comfortable with it sit in that area until you are free from financial dependence on the church and try to school your kids in being decent human beings independent of church doctrine. You can hardly point out the hypocrisy of your own employer, so I would start with the job and I think the rest can follow.
Good luck, and keep in touch.

Gareth Level 7 Sep 1, 2018
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Very sound advice imo.

6

Have you considered the implications of coming out as an atheist? I lost my wife, my children, friends, my home and life as I knew it when I came out. I'm obviously not happy being shunned by my children but that's the way it goes with indoctrinated people. I don't know to what extent it will affect you and it may not be what I experienced. I came out of the cult that is Jehovah Witnesses so perhaps your situation may be different. I wish you the very best in your decision.

Happyheretic Level 6 Sep 1, 2018
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6

I feel for you. That's a difficult situation to navigate. The first step is to prepare your personal knowledge system. I recommend reading Peter Boghossian's "A Manual for Creating Atheists". It is a framework for developing a personal style of asking quality questions. Questions which make the listener really think about their beliefs, unlocking doubts about those beliefs.
You can win this battle.

Danny_e Level 4 Sep 1, 2018
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5

I'm not certain how to proceed but a secular therapist is really the only therapist. All others eventually come back to the magic man in the sky.

DenoPenno Level 8 Sep 1, 2018
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5

I think that you might be best to look for a new job first. What about the other parent(s) of your children? Be careful. You don't know how others will react and you don't want to put yourself and your children into a financially precarious position. There are ministers who have gone through this and there is a private group (theclergyproject.org) to help them. It definitely doable. I have heard an interview with scientologists, and mormans, etc. who have done the same, and wrote books. I would start some searching. There might be some facebook group or something that could offer support and advice. Congratulations on waking up. Best wishes on your journey.

Stephanie99 Level 6 Sep 1, 2018
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I agree with @Stephanie99 - getting out of the job is the necessary first step to remove yourself from the potential of disastrous economic consequences that may befall you for "coming out". From the safer platform of another job, you can start the conversation with your kids. I'd suggest first letting them know you are not attending, and giving them the option not to participate if they would rather not. I guarantee this will start the kind of questions that will lead to a healthy discussion.

4

"Go for the cognitive jugular." @irascible nailed it (as usual).
My sentiments exactly!
I can't handle a timid approach to anything.

Be bold. Barrel ahead, and bring your children with you.
It's going to be a process for all of you, best to begin it.
Don't tell them, or anyone else, what your plans are until the
moment you are ready to put them into motion.
Put them in the car, under whatever pretenses you have to, leave
everything behind, and get all of you as far from the crazy people as possible.

Have your therapist recommend someone your kids can
talk to, as well.

This community is an excellent resource. Please avail yourself of the
knowledge and support of it's members.

Good luck to all of you.

KKGator Level 9 Sep 1, 2018
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4

Try asking how they feel about religion and let them know your feelings. Make it a journey of self discovery for all of you together. Freethinkers think for themselves. They will have to do it on their own but with your help

minhmeister Level 8 Sep 1, 2018
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4

I would start introducing them more scientific views, rather than creationist. Be subtle at first. They are old enough now that they will be able recognize the logic. Let them see the hateful side of religion as well. How the lgtbq community is treated so horribly, how women are treated as inferior. These are the things that opened my eyes and brought me away from a crazy evangelical upbringing. The hardest part overcome with children is going be the fear. I was raised be terrified of offending god. Was told on a daily basis that if I didn’t live my life the way the pastor said was holy, that I would “burn in hell for all eternity”. That’s a terrifying thing for children to believe. And honestly, that’s the fear that kept me tied to the church for so long. You will have a difficult road ahead of you, but I honestly believe that if you start showing them other viewpoints and reasons the church isn’t what they thought, they will come around. Good luck with this. I want it to work out for you.

HDY4 Level 4 Sep 1, 2018
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4

Go for the cognitive jugular: How do they know that the Hindu gods are false gods, and why do the Hindus know that the Christian god is a false god?

Tip: the logical fallacy of special pleading for any particular god or gods is exactly that: a logical fallacy.

irascible Level 8 Sep 1, 2018
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Or there's the rip off the band-aid approach.

3

First of all, I understand your situation. I was raised Pentecostal/Charismatic. I went to CFNI Dallas on my own dime to earn my theology degree under my father's pressure. It's a non accredited school, so, toilet paper holds more value than that go'damn piece of paper. All the while, I had my heart set on going to art school, which was WAY cheaper and much more relevant in 1990 than what it is now. My parents are still overtly religious. My father was physically, mentally and verbally abusive and my mother was severly neglectful and emotionally disconnected to all seven of us girls. I never handled snakes or hung from chandeliers, but I wasn't too far removed from any of that. I was incredibly devout most of my time from three to 39 years old as a Christian.

Currently, I live in the Memphis area. We moved here from just 30 miles away this year. We were stuck seven and a half miserable years in the SBC theocracy that is Atoka. We left a beautiful house on almost an acre lot. Our time there was full of bullying, grief and our deconversion process. My process actually began 20 years prior at CFNI.

I have had extensive PTSD from childhood, physical/medical drama and RTS (religious trauma syndrome). I deconverted in 2012. In 2013 I began a three year search for a secular therapist. I've been seeing Jennifer Phillips now since May of 2016. We have used conversation and EMDR to deal with my triggers. Child indoctrination is no joke. And as you know, everywhere you go is Jesus bull shit.

I think you need to take your time in breaking yourself free from religiosity. That's just my personal opinion though. I say take your time because the extent of your indoctrination did not happen over night. It grew and build for many, many years. Taking it's grip off of your life and the lives of your children will take time. Start small. What is something that, after much of your consideration, won't be to heavily affected for you to withdrawal from, or it to withdrawal from you? What can you do without or what can do without you? Take each day carefully as it comes. Sometimes you can't bring yourself to do something, then one day you wake up and just know "today's the day".

I know that there are atheists who believe that we all should come clean and be blatantly out of the closet. I tend to not agree and I'm a pretty militant atheist. It's taken me more than six years to get where I am now. That includes a move, and my pressing divorce and an upcoming, lengthy time of schooling. You have to do what you have to do. Start with your children. Be carefully honest with them first. They matter more than your bull shit town or church. You love them with all of your heart. I know you will delicately handle the situation.

If you are anywhere in western Tennessee, please message me and we'll connect. Even if you're in middle or eastern Tennessee, there's not much I can do, but I'll do what I can if you contact me. No matter how alone you feel right now, you have all of us. We're here for you. Many of us know the heartache, disappointment and sacrifices you have made and will continue to make. You are having to tear down a house and build a brand new foundation before you can build again. I wish you love, hope and peace in this process. GOOD speed to you and yours.

Charity Level 7 Sep 1, 2018
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3

You could ask questions, a few a day, which they would need to think about the answers, such as why do es Gawd allow🐺 such suffering...you can use any of todays headlines so they feel relevant. Then you could go on to discuss parts of the Babble from an historical standpoint....for example, the peaceful canaanites being slaughtered so "gawd's chosen" could get their lands....kids that age usually have a strong sense of right & wrong...just get them thinking, soon they will have questions for you! Good luck!

AnneWimsey Level 8 Sep 1, 2018
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3

Perhaps you can start by teaching not only tolerance but acceptance of those who experience life and spirituality differently. The best way to do that is by getting to know people directly. Someone else suggested joining interest groups, which is a good idea. Introduce your kids to a more diverse network of progressive people—maybe thru volunteer work for an environmental or social justice cause where people tend to be more diverse

UUNJ Level 7 Sep 1, 2018
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2

In a nutshell; you have to separate from the church. Do no work for them, draw no income from them, don't rely on them to "educate" your children, nothing. Break from them as much as possible until you can break from them entirely.

Sgt_Spanky Level 6 Sep 6, 2018
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2

With people outside your family, maybe there is nothing you can do, especially as you work for a church. with your family... you can be subversive. ask little questions designed to make them think, without coming out and saying "this is untrue." for example, you could ask "who created god?" or "find me six different translations of the bible and tell me something that is very different in each translation." someone should ask you "why are they so different? which one is right?" this will lead to a discussion of who wrote the bible. it may take a long time to chip away at the brainwashing but trying to do it fast will just bring up the defensive walls and it'll be harder to get through.

g

genessa Level 7 Sep 2, 2018
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2

Lots of advice here, I can only go with what happened to me. Honesty is the best policy with your kids. Dad was an atheist mum was not. He told me of his non-belief but added "This is what I think. Its not necessarily what you should think. You have to make up your own mind on such things and not let anyone else tell how you should think". I guess you know how that turned out.

273kelvin Level 7 Sep 1, 2018
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2

I would like to suggest that you go slowly...review regularly, in your own mind, what you need and want for you and your family. This will most likely not be easy, as you have 5 different personalities in your own family...the word persuade and not control, comes to mind! And even that must be given with the freedom to come up with their truth...for themselves! Let your daily living define you...not your idealogy of any kind. Idealogy evolves out of study and living and I see that it is never finite...it keeps on evolving! Best of luck on this new journey!

Freedompath Level 8 Sep 1, 2018
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Excellent advice!. I would add that you need to find secular employment.

@PBuck0145 good point! And thanks...

2

Does, not believing in GOD make you a bad MOM or PERSON?
DOES, not believing in GOD keep you from making sure your children are fed, clothed, safe and protected from harm?
Does, not believing in GOD cause you to treat your fiends and family differently?
There is no proof that there is a GOD, and you cannot prove there is not a GOD because it is impossible to prove a negative.
Why is there only one GOD but so many different RELIGIONS teaching their way to worship a nonexistent DEITY.
Research the reasons why you have doubts, so you can explain your doubts and your position on RELIGION.
Your children have access to smart phones and computers. Tell them to look up any thing they have been told, avoiding the BIBLE. Because the BIBLE has been proven to be UNBELIEVABLE because of the way the BIBLE was translated.
RESEARCH with an open mind because there are too many odd people on the internet with unproven beliefs and advice.
TRUST your instincts.
TRUST your children.
Just make sure you have a believable answer for their questions.

Hatcher Level 1 Sep 1, 2018
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The bible is one of the cruel books ever written as it has imprisoned people for centuries and been the cause of thousands perhaps millions of deaths.The knights that were supposed to be so good murdered thousands of people for their money not any better than todays priests. Just tell them the truth.

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