Sunday, November 14, 2004

on being an atheist in a christian family

I was raised in a evangelical Christian home. But when I finally decided that the disconnect between religious truth and scientific truth was intolerable, what could I do? Why, in the relatively liberal tradition in which I was raised (I'll just say liberal Evangelical--which just means very lenient as Evangelicals go, though not "nominal" by any definition), are they willing to give ground to any scientific theory as long as they can somehow leave open the slightest possibility that God has something to do with it? And how is it that religion always gives ground to science, and never the other way around? I'm thinking here of the idea of theistic evolution--the idea that God used evolution to create life. If I believed in god I would think that was blasphamous. (see my post entitled "the devil's chaplain") Even as a Christian, before I knew anything about evolution, I thought the idea was fishy.

But the point of this post is not to explain why I'm an atheist. If you want to know, go to

Anyway, in a liberal Evangelical tradition, what are the options? If they totally reject the findings of science in favor of religious dogma, they run the risk of being labled backwards ignorant and prescientific--though it would greatly simplify their faith. Where science contradicts scripture, they could just say it's a trick of the devil and ignore it.
On the other hand, if they were to truely accept whatever science finds they would run a serious risk of atheism--unless they are very good at truely believing two mutually exclusive propositions at the same time (a skill Orwell called "doublethink"). If you want to take me on about what I mean about this, leave a comment. Now to get back to the subject of this post.

How do you have a discussion about atheism with a person who basically agrees with all your arguments but can't stomach your conclusion? You can't. Of all the times I've talked to my mother about it, the only thing she has to offer is "you should believe it because it's true."
Excuse my language, but WTF?
Actually this has had the effect of making my life a lot easier. Since she knows she has no arguments that will persuade me, and she doesn't believe in threatening hellfire (back the the liberal Evangelical thing), she has fallen back on the tactic of letting me know that the doors are open when I decide to come back. And beside the occasional invite to church functions, she mainly leaves me alone about it. And Dad has never brought it up in the first place.

Now not all atheists in Christian families face the same easy situation as I do, unfortunately. Just a lookover of a few of the posts at make it abundantly clear. Though it looks like I'll get my chance to deal with the less-than-tolerant, hellfire threatening, fundamentalist type of Christians sooner or later. That's the type of family situation my boyfriend has found himself in--and yes, he is also an atheist. This could get interesting . . . Just thinking about meeting his folks brings back all the fear I once had about my folks finding out that I was an atheist.

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