Hey there everyone at Living After Faith!
My name is ____. I am 17 years old.
Something happened just recently in my family that I really want to share with you as well as other atheist communities. I could really use some advice- this problem has been present for as long as I've come out as an atheist and seems to be deteriorating my family the longer I remain an atheist. I desperately need some feedback because, at this point, I don't know what else I can do.
Last night I was watching television, and completely unannounced to me, the entire youth group of the church I used to attend came to my house- my little brother being the driving force. Needless to say, I was extremely nervous, but I knew what they were here for and decided to just push through it. Of course, it was about an hour of preaching directly to me under the watch of my previous Christian peers, Christian friends, and Christian family. I'm not going to try to be noble and say I fared well- I don't think I've ever been shaken up so badly. I cannot ever accurately portray the guilt I felt when my brother, unable to speak and overcome with tears, confesses to me how much he loves me and looks up to me followed by how my entire family and the church thinks my life has become "dead" for not having Christianity the driving force of my existence.
What I find interesting is that I've just recently been able to cope with numerous anxiety problems I've been having due to leaving religion. Although I wouldn't say it is post-religion PTSD, (although I've learned a lot from you both about the problem and I do seem to exhibit the majority of symptoms) I've always known I have not necessarily been as stable since I've had to deal with these issues. Obviously, I've never been able to meet with a physician due to the nature of the problem, and my family's dismissal. It is, of course, a "non-existent" problem that can only be cured by their religion. This past year, I've finally been able to gain control of my anxiety. And although episodes can still be triggered by church services or late-night surprise preaching, I finally came to a point where I felt like I could be a normal kid again. Christianity is what made me "dead."
I was really shaken and scared last night but I understood their good intentions. I simply responded after the hour "Thank for guys for coming. I think it's very sweet that you're concerned about me. But I've grown up in the same upbringing as all of you, and I've made my decision." I was careful to be very polite, although there were a few choice words I would have liked to say. Regardless, there is no point in arguing with them.
Afterward, I was ranting to a good friend who is also an atheist and understands when I need to vent. He actually brought something up that I can hardly force myself to consider, but I fear it may be my only option. He suggested that I just tell my family I'm a Christian. Go along with it. Not to be neutral or even passive, but just to pretend I buy it. Maybe it'll make things easier while I'm still living here. Although saying I'm a Christian may be easy enough (if we aren't considering my flaming pride-fullness), pulling off such an act would require me to completely dive into my Christian life before I came out- events, services, friendships, worship, praying, and all. (At least while my family is looking.) Like I said earlier, the thought of this is enraging to me because I want so badly just to be myself and for that to be okay. But I'm afraid it will never be okay until I finally leave.
Of course I'd still be an atheist, but this idea has really been bothering me. I want to be proud of who I am as a non-believer, but if it is tearing my family apart, is it selfish for me to even acknowledge my beliefs? Part of me says they are selfish and playing the victims, but the other part of my is just exhausted of all this and wants to just breathe freely again. The only thing I'm truly worried about is if giving in to this idea and throwing my alter-ego into Christianity will once again trigger the anxiety issues I've worked so hard to overcome.
I understand this is a lot to process, but I really need some help.
Is it worth it to tell my family I'm an atheist if it only causes chaos? Should I just pretend I believe for their sake, and continue my life as an avid non-believer under-cover?
Please let me know what you think and feel free to have members give feedback- I want as many points of view as I can get.
Thanks so much for all you do. You make this bearable for me and I can never thank you enough,