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…
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.