The Sound of Silence

Earlier this week I wrote a short blip about the Excruciating Silence that happens when a loved one fails to communicate. As I mentioned in that post, I am a communicator, sometimes an over-communicator. It drives me insane to feel like I have discord with a loved one. I have always been in favor of mediation, conflict resolution, and the pursuit of harmony. When silence lingers for too long (especially when personal and relational challenges are being faced) it’s easy to make assumptions or perhaps let resentments linger. One such instance of an uncomfortable and ongoing silence in my life happened when I started sharing with loved ones about my new-found atheism.

“Coming Out” Atheist: Eventual Silence

About two years ago, my husband and I shared some important information with our close family (specifically, our parents and siblings). We “came out” of our atheist closets and said:

  • We are not Christians anymore
  • We don’t have sufficient evidence for any gods and therefore don’t believe
  • We are at peace with our realization
  • We are still the same caring, fun-loving, and happy people that we were before 

Every single family member was surprised at this change of heart… I don’t blame them since we were seriously devoted to our faith for so long. Some family members had pretty mild reactions. Oh, but some of our family members…their response was not so tame. Raised voices. Heated arguments. Hurt feelings. Unusual behavior. Aggression. Blaming. All of these things erupted in the first few months after sharing our news.

Soon, the raging fire sizzled out and the rumblings ceased…

Silence.

Share faith? Feel free. Lack belief? Mums the word.

Share faith? Feel free. Lack belief? Mums the word.

Awkward, uncomfortable silence.

Excruciatingly painful yucky silence.

When it came to our lack of belief, our families cries went from passionate and vocal… to silent. In desperation I felt like shouting, “But, we used to talk so openly about so many things! Can’t we be real with each other without taking things so personally? Or at the very least, can we agree to disagree, choose to love each other, and THEN not talk about it?” I used to share my deepest emotions and thoughts with my family. Now that we disagree about our core beliefs, sharing in this way has become incredibly difficult, and for now, impossible.

I can hear some of you saying, “Why do you even need to talk about god?” Truly, I would be happy to avoid the god topic under the following conditions: religion isn’t being pushed on my family and we’re not looked down upon for our disbelief. For now, that is not the case.

Unfortunately, because some family members are so devoted to their god, I fear there will be strife, passive aggression, and awkward, painful silence indefinitely. I have rejected their core beliefs, somehow that hurts them. I have to remember, I am the one who changed gradually over time, and then suddenly, I dumped this shocking information on my family.

Perhaps, gradually over time, my family will embrace me with open arms once again, with a willingness to share and be real about who we are. 

But I’m not getting my hopes up.

In the mean time, I will attempt to be inspired by the words of actor and playwright, Harvey Fierstein:

Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.

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15 thoughts on “The Sound of Silence

  1. That must have been hard to tell your family. I’m hoping they come around and realize that just because you have different beliefs doesn’t mean everything else is lost as well. I grew up in a Christian family, was extremely involved in church growing up, and I even went to a Christian university and became a youth pastor at my church for 5 years. These last few years I’ve really been questioning everything I believe, and I’m coming to realize that I don’t believe most of what I was taught to believe. It’s a fairly painful and scary process, but I can’t lie to myself or ignore it, so through it I must go. While I don’t completely reject the idea of God, Jesus, Christianity, and will probably always believe in God, my ideas and acceptance of other religions and their importance is growing, and I’m really excited about that. I’m rambling, but anyway, I enjoyed reading this post 🙂

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    • Thanks so much for your comment Laura, I appreciate your positive feedback. I used to be judgmental of other religions and definitely of atheists. It’s refreshing to have a different perspective now. I have freed my mind and can accept a much wider range of individuals and their beliefs. For some reason I had such a hard time reconciling my personal beliefs with what other people believed. So glad that’s not the case for me anymore 🙂

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  2. I think it’d be OK to get your hopes up that the lines of communication between you and your family will some day ring clear again. I am sure they miss such a wonderful person.

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  3. If they are Christians, I would hope and dare to expect that they will love you for no reason other than that they just love you. Possibly they are a bit confused over what exactly you are rejecting and are nervous in case it is them? Just be yourself and they will get used to it…..

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