Image by Javã Társis via FlickrI recently returned from deep in the Bible Belt, having attended a nephew's wedding. ( one atheist amongst 300 fundamentalists ! ) My brother and sister-in-law, and my nieces and nephews are the only members of our family who live in the "Deep South."
Prior to moving there, my brother and sister-in-law ( known from now on as Ellie ) were bona fide hippies.
- they loved everyone
- they were super tolerant of everyone
- they were environmentalists
After the hippie era they became " back to the land people", organic farming, etc., but they still kept their hippie ( love everyone ) philosophies. Then the worst thing that can happen to any family, happened. Almost over-night they were indoctrinated into ultra conservative fundamentalism.
Almost suddenly :
- they only loved fellow believers
- they had zero tolerance for atheists & agnostics
- they viewed the earth / nature thru fundamentalists glasses ( why give it too much of a worry, we'll all be swept away soon anyway
My relationship with Ellie changed completely. For many years I felt like I was attending a funeral that never ends. She and I had even had a deeper friendship than my brother and I had had ( due to the fact that my brother was always on the "indifferent" side ). I felt like she had died, and in essence, she has.
A few years back I had a health crisis that for the first time in my life, propelled me to seek "god." I became a Christian. This , of course, was such good news to my brother and Ellie ! They welcomed me with open arms, suddenly I was one of them ( joining in with the delusion ).
After a while, I began to be very resentful of the entire situation.
HOW DARE THEY, I thought, use a belief in god as a requirement, as a measuring stick of how much love and respect they will dole out to me !
My value as a person increased a thousand-fold IN THEIR EYES, once I was a believer !
My journey to atheism was actually very quick. Many things contributed to it, but I give the most credit to good old common sense.
I am the only atheist in my family, with my children and their spouses, and grandchildren, and husband, all being at varying degrees of Christianity. If I came out to one, I'd be coming out to all, so I continue my academy award winning performance as a " Christian ".
There are two very important issues that drive this. The first, is that the son-in-law who is the biblical " ruler-of-the-roost ", would limit my access to my grandchildren. I have NO doubt about this.
My second reason, is that I want my fundie relatives to be there with love and support for my children & grandchildren when I die. I don't think there would be much comforting and support if it were found out that I was a HEATHEN ! ( guilt by association, you see )
In regards to my brother and Ellie, well I've given this a lot of thought since I became a non-believer. If I had ever tried to explain to them where I am, and how I've gotten there, it would be akin to talking to an iron door... and then that iron door would slam shut.
"for I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a mans' enemies will be the members of his household." Matthew 10:34-39
Yes. Family unity. Thank you Jesus. Unfortunately your words have helped to fuel family disjointedness for eons.
I would really appreciate hearing the experiences, etc. from my friends at ExChristian.Net, and others too, in regards to their feelings about "losing" friends or family to fundamentalism.