So, as previously mentioned, I "came out" as an atheist to my sister, and by extension (i.e. family gossip), my parents. It was on Good Friday (tee hee.) Really, the timing was not intentional. Things just happened to come to a head that day; a passionate but civil exchange of emails between us led to her direct question of my beliefs, and I gave her a direct response.
It started with her email re the April 17 Day of Silence events; her forwarded message (from this place) encouraged parents to keep their children home from school that day to avoid "homosexual activists" interference with parental rights (whatever!). My response started a courteous email dialogue, which boiled down to this (grossly abbreviated, of course):
ME: [Channeling Kathy Griffin] I'm down with the gay. Duh. You know that, why do you send me this stuff, I'm bummed my family feels this way. Also bummed you want to hurt public schools, me being married to H.S. teacher and all. Luv U! J.
SC: [Ignores school teacher part] With love, I respond: Compelled to act against others' sin, and homosexuals are conflicted, in pain, "love the sinner not the sin," me and the Church are here to help them overcome temptation. BTW, do you believe in God or what? Luv U2! SC.
ME: Here's a brief explication of my 35 years of spiritual searching, which ultimately led me to NO; no gods nor superstitions nor ghosts. And astrology buffs just piss me off. Don't mean to ruin Easter for you & Mom & Dad. Luv U! J.
(I'm still waiting for some kind of response or feedback that addresses the "atheist question," either from her or my parents. She had to have told them - they live close to each other and visit multiple times a week, between grandkids' activities, appointments, babysitting, etc. Plus M&D practically command a prayer army, with all their church friends and ministry activities.)
Unfortunately, day or so after this exchange, my dad sent a note saying SC had an ultrasound that revealed her unborn baby had died. Made me feel like a creep. I offered my condolences, and heard mostly nothing for two weeks. But the other day, we had a good conversation via phone - no religious talk on my part, just concern for her, and over her oldest who was recently in Mexico. The nephew wasn't going " oink-oink-achoo," she was okay, and the fetus had "passed" a couple days before. She said she got her cry in when she first got the ultrasound results, and they let their kids know that night. Interestingly, her second oldest (a boy, age 14) was quite upset about it, and really questioned why "god" let the baby die. SC got to give him a "god works in mysterious ways" speech. Meanwhile, I'm thinking, "All RIGHT, dude's asking the right questions, maybe his mind is salvageable!!" I did NOT say this out loud or otherwise contradict her beliefs - I may be a social boob, but I've learned to have some sense of discretion when it comes to others coping with loss and grief!
Just for fun, I took screenshots of our exchange, so I could share her question and my response. They're below the post.
I like my response a lot. And I truly am relieved to have gotten her direct question so I could give her that direct answer. The other sibs, my co-workers, FB & twitter friends/acquaintances all know I'm an atheist. And if it comes up, I'm out there, as an advocate of rationality and skepticism. But my folks, SC and I have passively sidestepped the issue for over 10 years, so I am relieved that it is over. I would just like to know if they're going to respond in any way, besides praying for me. They may cut me off; my previous fear of that kept my mouth shut until now. My dad shunned me once before, at age 20, when I moved in with my then-boyfriend, later-first-husband. It lasted two or three months, then he heard the "Prodigal Son" sermon at church and loosened up (he's such an obedient little Catholic). We since have the understanding: he knows he's right; he's got god on his side; he doesn't approve of some things I've done, but I'm his daughter and he loves me. Well... me completely rejecting not just their religion but the deity, too, gets me sent to hell. SC already discourages contact between her kids and her gay bro-in-law; an atheist must be worse. But this last controversy just made me realize, hey, I'm up for it. I'm tired of suppressing my side of the story, or my feelings, or my valid political arguments in the name of family accord. They do not hesitate to attack my political stance or favored causes - I guess they do not consider my feelings, because they are, well, they're just right, 'cause they're on god's side. So, to borrow their argument, I have accepted them in spite of their unacceptable ideas. If they can't love *this* sinner while hating my sin, I give up!
On the other hand, they may just ignore the whole thing, like they've ignored all the hints and hems and haws over the years. If I'm not in their faces about it, I'm sure they'll happily ignore it. I'm just glad it's out there. I even put "atheist" on my facebook profile, the one where I'm friended to Dad. Um, but I must confess: I made up a 2nd "vanilla" facebook account for "vanilla" family contacts. I'm not ready to expose them to my openness about sex and sexual politics. Maybe I'll get inspired if I work up a post on how they reacted to me losing my virginity. That was fun. The reaction, I mean. Well, the losing the virginity was kinda fun (I was so proud!!), and a year later, the confrontation regarding the status of my hymen made for an exciting family moment. Now that I think of it, it was a relief when they found out about that, too. See, I just hate to hide things, even if the revelation gets me into trouble.
And hey, I just realized: SC narc'd on me that time, too! Now I'll have to blog it! Wow, history repeating itself - no wonder I still feel like I'm 17!
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