Letting someone know you're an atheist.

About 2 weeks ago my sister phoned me to ask if it is true that I am a non believer? “I replied yes.”
Her first conclusion is: “Are you angry at god?”

Don’t you just hate it when someone comes up with that conclusion?
Why do people come up with explanations like this? Does my sister know me so little that she would think that i would hold a grudge?

Well I decided to not get angry and tell sister that: "Yes, I do believe that there is no god. Don’t try to convert me.
Accept me for who I am. I accept you for who you are.

I thought it was going to be the end of that conversation. Think again!

This week she phoned me and told me about a book i should read. It is about someone that was in a coma that experienced heaven and hell. I think its called seven days in heaven. “I will burn in hell because i do not believe in god. The fruits on the trees are made of fire. There are demons that are telling me not to believe in god.” Oh, yeah by the way on the book it says true story.

This is where i decided “Ok, this is just too much for me.”

My answer: “No I don’t believe in heaven and hell. I have never seen a demon telling me to believe in nothing. And no i will not believe someone just because they say its a true story. How do we know they are not lying? Where is the proof that there is demons, angels, heaven and hell? I will not go to hell because i do not believe in hell.”

My conclusion: This will probably not be the end of this. She won’t let me. I did not want to get into this fight. Why can’t everyone just get along? Why does there have to be an issue about religion? I am not making it an issue? Me thinks seeing as this is not the end of this I will have to do alot of reading up for any question she might come up with. So that I can be left in peace. I will probably not have my sister any more before long, because some people just can’t accept anything different. Funny thing is she was never religious, her inlaws converted her.

Scare tactics. Oh please! Come up with something different. I am not afraid of hell because there is no hell!

Few believers seem able to comprehend the rather simple fact that it would be utterly absurd to be angry at something whose existence you strongly doubt — or, for that matter, to feel any emotion towards it besides perhaps a mild, speculative curiosity. Usually, they want to find reasons why you don’t believe in what to them is a cardinally important thing. They want these reasons so that they can attempt to “cure” you but they are again apparently unable to understand that the main reason you don’t believe is because you can see no good reason to believe. In other words, they tend to put the cart before the horse in assuming that there must be something more that actively turned you away from belief than just a lack of reason for the belief.

Sadly, having to explain this gets tiresome quite quickly.


Yes the world is invariable in two halfs- those that believe there is a man in the sky to be afraid of … (or who want or choose to) and those who don’t. Which makes it maybe thirds or more but you get me… I digress.

The kids in school are well aware of my beliefs or lack there of and they frequently ask me am I " illuminati"?? which when you ask them what they think that is they have no idea what it means apart from “something to do with the devil” because they’ve watched The Arrivals and other documentaries with no critical skills whatsoever- they also use it as an adjective for anything they don’t understand but that’s a different matter.

I was asked a question the other day which really gave me an insight into the “other half” so to speak…
Me - “Yes”
John - “What’s it like not believing in God?”
Me -“I don’t know any different John so I’m not sure how I could compare it to anything - but I guess it feels free- I’m not scared of being judged or going to heaven or hell if that’s what you mean”
John - " So Miss do you just go wild on the weekends?!"
By wild I asked him whether he meant running naked down the street off my face terrorizing Muizenberg- he looked at me blankly and just said -
“well I would if I wasn’t scared of God - you could do anything”
I tried to point out the “good without god” idea and pointed out the ridiculous fallacy in the lack of responsibility and self control without fear of a deity. But to no avail.I think this is what many believers find very difficult to comprehend.

I FIND THIS ABSOLUTELY TERRIFYING!! If people are actually put in control of their own lives- really in the driving seat they would go bos??!!

“Don’t worry god’s in control” is something I frequently hear. If that is the case take over cos he’s making a right fucking mess of things at the moment…

You should tell them that, yes, you are of the Illuminati, and if they don’t sit down and shut up you’ll turn into a giant lizard and eat them.

No one will notice if you run naked down the street in Muizenberg.

i think the best response would be ‘none of your business’. and if they press, ask them ‘so how many times a week do you have sex, and in what positions. and what does your partner’s bits taste like…’ and they get offended, remind them, that every time they want to bug you about your non-religion, you are going to bug them about their sexlife.

My personal approach is to answer all their questions honestly. This leads to more discomfort for them than it does for me, at some point they should feel so uncomfortable that they’ll stop.

If they decide to “leave” you, however painful it may be, unfortunately they’ve then proven they don’t deserve your time any more.

You seem to be dealing well, your sister has some strange (if common) caricatures of what a non-believer is and it is going to take some time to resolve that. Dan Savage has some a great advice about for gays coming out to Evangelical families (video here: ew.exchristian.net/2010/05/dan-savage-on-how-to-come-out-to-your.html) which (although much much harder) I think is analogues:

Be the grown up for a year, let your sister be the child; throw fits, be angry, say anything, ask anything. At the end of the year if she is still being a child, tell her that if she wants you in her life she has to respect your beliefs and let it go. Hope she gets over it, it is her problem not yours.

Wow, it sounds like a cool idea. :smiley:

My own sister posed that same question to me a few years ago. I sat down with her and had a very long conversation in which she, obviously, tried to ‘‘re-convert’’ me - her words (as if I was originally converted?).

Now, the bedrock of the conversation’s conclusion consisted out of me telling her that I promise not to try and sway her from her own beliefs, ideals and opinions, as long as she did the same for me. Perhaps this tactic will work for you - doubtful, though, considering that she suggested that ludicrous book.

Good luck though, and just try to remember that it’s her ‘‘duty’’ to try and ‘‘save’’ you - don’t be too harsh…

Good luck… I’m fortunate that my brother eventually just accepted my choices and let it be, ditto my parents, and I dont associate with the extended family so they dont bother me at all. My S/O’s mother is a different story though, she also believes that we’re “angry at god” and whatnot. She also prays for us extensively and this gets tedious beyond description. She’s a lovely lady, but simply cannot understand nor accept our non-belief.

My advice Majin, get the fight out of the way, dont allow it to build up into years of frustration. She will continue to hammer you unless you draw the line and insist on the same respect for your choices and opinions as to what you grant hers. It will either force her to love you for who you are or break ties with you. Good luck.

I can relate Majin. I’ve been pretty much disowned because of my lack of belief. The only family member that even speaks to me anymore is my mom. But I prefer that to spending the rest of my life pretending to be something I’m not. Hopefully your sister will learn to accept it.

What worries me though is how she came to the conclusion that you don’t believe in the first place. If her in-laws are anything like my family it could be that they’re pressuring her into trying to convert you or judging her because of your choices, which means she’s not necessarily the one you should be fighting with.

Hi there LJG. Mind if I point you here? (no pressure)

;D Lol, thanks Boogie. Sorted… (And now I remember why I don’t like public speaking. The attention scares me!:P)

Tricky one. How to deal with an otherwise pleasant god-pusher without alienating him or her.

Well, possibly the crappiest piece of advice so far, but here goes nevertheless, if only as a thought experiment:

Everyone loves a project, give or take. So here is the scheme. Tell the concerned party that you have somehow, possibly due to making reason your unholy bed-mate, lost your faith. So much so that you are now unable to speak to God, and your attempted heavenward utterings sound unbearably hollow and meaningless. Tell her that if there is a God, you would need help to know him. The long and the short is that you think you need someone to please ask God on your behalf to have mercy and (re-)enter your heart. At this point, every Christian I know will jostle to be of service: when I was a Christian, I loved praying for stuff. (Of course then I lost my milk teeth, and things started to change). Then, as the time goes by, don’t be afraid to report back if you haven’t found God yet, wearing a suitably ill-concealed look of disappointment, and (possibly) even mentioning the need to redouble the praying efforts. That should buy you a few extra decades of family equilibrium.

Honest? No, not really. But the ethical thing is not always the right thing … :confused:



Rigil I dunno if that is pure genius or if I should report you as a psychopath.

(In other words, I kinda like it!)

The only problem with that Rigil, is that they would insist on (at least) a weekly session where they sit and hold your hands and pray for you, and the more fundy of them would want to lay their grubby germ-filled hands on your head in an attempt to evict any latent demons from you. You’ll be inundated by sms, email and other forms with spam messages proclaiming that god loves you and whatnot. I’m not sure whether I’d be able to stomach that.

oh hell no. i still find that people who know im atheist, and seemingly kosher with it, accidently adds me to there huggy-huggy touchy-feely remails.
i use to have fun trolling them, now i simple ignore them.
maybe a bit of plain and simple ‘no’ must suffice.
can we pray for you? no.
do you hate god? no.
why did you stray? none of your business.
did your lover turn you from god? no.
god loves you. super.

they will get sick of it soon enough. ooh ooh, or even better!! when the questions start, answer: ask god. tehee! >:D

Sherbet yes… I didn’t consider those repercussions! And besides, putting up a religio-envious front like that is unlikely to sit well with most atheists. Oh well, back to defense by declaration: I’m sorry, but my brain just doesn’t work that way.


I’m sure many would reply: “Well I asked Jebus and he revealed to me that you hate him”.

and when you burst out in tears (or throw a temper tantrum) out of sheer frustration at their idiocy, they exclaim: “See, its gawd touching your heart!!” headdesk