My parents are forcing their religion on me, what can I do?

I have a question, I am 15 years old, when I was 12 I considered myself a atheist and kept it mostly to myself.

My parents have taken me to church every Sunday for most of my life. My parents forced me to be confirmed when I was 13 (My parents are methodists).

Recently (easter Sunday) I told my parents that I did not believe in God and that I was a atheist, they didn’t take it so well. They have talked to church officials about me, and they are now talking about sending me to a church camp for 2 weeks.

I watched the God Delusion when I was 12 and that was the video that convinced me that there was no god.

The only reason that I go to church every Sunday is that my parents wont let me stay home and I try to avoid conflict with them.

Is there anyway that I can tell them that they are just going to have to accept it? I live in the United States and I thought that suppression of religion (or lack of religion) was illegal, isn’t that true? I love my parents very much, but with this issue they don’t seem very understanding.

Posted: April 1st 2008

flagellant www

First of all, I offer my sympathy in your plight. I remember something similar myself with my Methodist parents many, many years ago.

Let’s look at the positive bits: your parents have brought you up in a way such that you are not totally indoctrinated God-fodder. For that, you should be grateful. You may even be able to compliment them for having given you an open-minded attitude. (My son is a free-thinker but, if he had turned out to be a god-botherer, I’d have been disappointed and I certainly would have discussed the matter, but I would not have seen fit to sanction him in any way.)

It’s important that your parents should realise that having children is a responsibility and that it’s quite likely that kids will come to different conclusions from those arrived at by the parents. Children are not identical clones of their parents – that’s one of the things that makes life so interesting – and it’s something that you’ll perhaps remember when you have kids of your own.

This church camp idea doesn’t sound like a good idea – you would find it frustrating and I would guess that, when the chips are down, your parents wouldn’t force you to go. Instead, if you like going to camps, you might suggest that they send you to something more secular, such as a sports camp or a music camp, or something where your interests lie.

I wonder why your parents don’t want to leave you at home while they go to church. Many things cross my mind: they don’t trust you, they’d feel ashamed if you didn’t go with them to church, or even that they think that constant going would get you into the habit and you’d drop 'the silly atheist thing’. If I remember rightly, I was always delighted when my son wanted to do his own thing whenever my wife and I were going out. See if you can (delicately) get to the bottom of this. Try not to become aggressive; keep your parents calm (if you can) and talk about it as though it were, for example, a maths problem.

It’s always difficult if you start to lay down the law or the Constitution to your parents. The atmosphere is likely to become antagonistic and no-one, really, wants that.

Finally, just to help you with the humourous side of the matter, have a look at this video clip of parents being told their kid’s an atheist. Your parents may even be able to laugh at “this one”: …

Posted: April 3rd 2008

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SmartLX www

You’re well ahead of me, mate. Age 12 is when I had my moment of disconnection from faith, but I only got as far as agnostic. Atheism took another 15 years.

You’re also quite brave to have announced your atheism at Easter, just when Jesus is foremost in your parents’ minds. I do hope that was intentional.

Have you explained your reasons to your parents? Declaring atheism without saying why isn’t much better than holding a faith “on faith”.

I know you want to avoid conflict with your parents, so why not start a proper dialogue with them? Ask them why they believe, and point out exactly what your problem is with each reason. Don’t criticise believers, criticise the beliefs. It doesn’t have to get personal.

You might be the first openly atheist person your parents have had to deal with. Encourage them to ask questions about your position, rather than simply assume Satan’s got a hold of you. Flip the script and give your folks an education; it may soothe their fears.

If they don’t want to listen, you’re a bit stuck. It’s illegal not to tolerate a religion, but since atheism isn’t a religion there’s a grey area. Your parents can justify their efforts to “win you back to the flock” as being for your own good, especially to their friends.

One thing it would be easier to convince them of is that this church camp wouldn’t do much good. The arguments you’ll get there are much the same as those which appear in the questions here. You’ll know why each one is unsound, and come back with plenty of answers but no more faith.

Why not send your parents to some of the friendlier atheist websites? Sites like this one are ideal; they deal with the issues directly. (If you’re afraid of them reading your own question, send them to this similar site instead.) If you’re worried they might cut you off from the Web, point out that there are plenty of evangelical websites too, which fight against atheism as earnestly as we fight for it.

Whatever happens, remember that atheism is your own conclusion, and even if you’re forced to play at being a Methodist, you will still be an atheist until you’re truly convinced otherwise. That might be worth telling your parents, actually: if there’s a God, He can tell when someone worships without meaning it. They can’t force you to believe.

Posted: April 2nd 2008

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