Skip to main content Skip to bottom nav

How do I deal with a religious family as an atheist?

211 Answers
Last Updated: 01/19/2022 at 10:01am
1 Tip to Feel Better
United States
Moderated by

Elena Morales, LMHC

Licensed Professional Counselor

I believe silence creates a cycle. With empathic and collaborative therapy, we break the cycle. I help clients feel validated and supported passed anger, shame, and anxiety.

Top Rated Answers
August 27th, 2016 9:20pm
Well,if your family is not understanding better to hide that and pretend you are still religious.Focus on having a good future now and be independent so one day you can live the life you want to live.
June 17th, 2016 10:06pm
Well i would respect their religious practices and wouldn't violate them. Even though I'm an atheist, I would support them in whatever they do in terms of religion. I wouldn't follow it from the inside but wouldn't ruin it for others from the outside.
July 14th, 2016 11:09am
An atheist can be a deeply spiritual individual who does not buy into simplistic supernatural myths but aims to attain a deeper view of himself/herself in this amazing universe as a fully conscious mind/soul. In this realization there is a search for an existential meaning of life . Spirituality is an ongoing search. An unfolding of discoveries. It is a dynamic spirituality and not a set of beliefs. A person attaining this kind of awareness, becomes sensitive to let others have their beliefs realizing that he/she has moved on beyond. An atheist is constantly searching for the paradigm that fits authentically with ones experience. In dealing with the family one should have compassion, ask intelligent questions and not put down their beliefs. He/she would also be aware that beliefs fulfil deep psychological needs that the believer is not fully aware of. The atheist should be the enlightened individual who can tolerate others having different belief systems. He/she would accept that each person's spirituality is their individual journey. That they too have inquiring minds
August 28th, 2016 1:35pm
I think one of the most important things is to be respectful of their right to believe what they believe (and hope that they respect your right to not believe). I find religion joins politics as the topics you don't want to spend time discussing if you know already you have divergent views. While avoidance seems perhaps too passive, realize in advance that each perspective is probably well-entrenched and won't change with the benefit of argument or debate. So take the high road, keep things smooth.
June 12th, 2016 12:55am
Hi. I grew up in a very religious catholic family, I was sent into catholic education where I developed a taste for biology and evolution (ironic), and though I wouldn't identify as completely atheist, more agnostic, I definitely do not hold the belief system that the rest of my family sticks by. Originally, honestly, I was too nervous to even breach the subject with my family, and just continued to put up with listening to them jabber about things I neither believed in or agreed with, but I decided to be brave and openly discussed what I thought with my family and quickly realised, with the exception of my extremely religious grandmother, that nobody cared that's how I felt, some of them even showed some agreement with my side of things, and that was essentially that. In essence, I agree with the other response, talk to you family, they might be more accepting than you think. The most important way to act is to let them know that you respect that that's how they feel and that's what they believe, and in return you ask them to do the same for you. Everyone is entitled to their own belief system. Stick by what you believe, and remember that your religion and how you feel about it does not make you as a person.
June 25th, 2016 10:49pm
Just try to understand that everyone has their own beliefs and as long as it makes them happy and isn't harming anyone else, they are fine! It's good to have an open dialogue about these things, though, because understanding each other helps so much more than you'd know.
July 1st, 2020 9:15pm
Sometimes it can be hard when people have different views, I completely understand that. The most important thing when talking about religious views or political views, is to respect the other person's beliefs. When I say this I don't mean that you have to agree with them you just need to let them believe what they would like to as long as it's not hurting you.Don't impose your beliefs on them and don't let them impose their beliefs on you. If it gets to really bad then you can just avoid the topic and if they bring it up say I'm not comfortable with talking about that or something along those lines. Hopefully that helps Best of luck
June 11th, 2016 6:20pm
Just talk to them. It's the best thing you can do! If they still don't accept you for who you are then you can just make excuses to skip events.
April 26th, 2018 8:15pm
Am respect their views and beliefs as it their choice to be religious as it my choice to be an atheist
May 20th, 2018 12:45am
Being in that situation can be tough. Try to keep your self respectful as people tend to not take ‘disrespectful people’ seriouly. Also understand that even if you follow your family’s religion for now it won’t invalidate your beliefs in the future.
February 7th, 2018 9:10am
Try to stay away from conversations involving religion, have a safety word if the conversation makes you uncomfortable. Include places that are okay and not okay to talk about religion. I.e.: no religion at the dinner table/on vacation
June 29th, 2018 11:57pm
Dealing with a religious family as an atheist is difficult. From early on, make it clear to your parents that you respect their beliefs however explain how yours are different and make them aware that they should also respect your beliefs. Most importantly, don't let the difference of opinions cause any conflict between you and your family.
March 1st, 2018 6:07pm
I, myself, am an Atheist but my parents and family are too. I think the right way as an atheist to deal with a religious family is, to let everyone their own beliefs. If their religion gives them comfort and motivation and makes them feel better, you should just accept it. Let everyone believe in what they want, if it isn’t hurting anyone.
April 4th, 2018 1:31pm
I would try at all times to be as respectful to them as I possibly can. Of course, dealing with people with completely different opinions can be really challenging, especially when it's your own family. But keep in mind that you can only controle your own behaviour and thoughts, s keep them as honest and pure as possible.
April 18th, 2018 1:54pm
As respectfully as possible. Regardless what beliefs people hold, from philosophical views to cultural and religious views. Most people will have different opinions from yours. You need to learn how to hear someone out and respectfully disagree without arguing. Respect goes both ways
May 20th, 2018 3:27am
Love each other as you are. Do not push your beliefs on them, even if they try to do it to you. Show them that no matter the religion, you can love each other and get along no matter your views.
June 13th, 2018 1:16am
Well, although experiences are highly different between individuals, I will say that I struggled with this for a while. I am agnostic living in a Catholic family. I found that even though we got off to a rocky start, compromise was a big part in avoiding things escalating into conflict. My parents acknowledged where I stood and accepted it so long as I'd attend church until I was out of the house.
June 28th, 2018 10:24pm
I think in both positions, whether as the family dealing with the atheist and vice versa, dare I say, there simply needs to be a certain respect of personal sovereignty. We all have the absolute right to follow what we deem is necessary to follow, in our hearts. Guilt, shame, worry, fear, these things are not, in my humble opinion, excuses or valid reasons to mangle someone else's mind with one's own belief of what they ought to be doing or believing. And I say "mangle" because most of the time, anyone who puts such qualifications over someone else is really only serving to confuse someone who is in the process of finding themselves, which I think is a very important milestone in someone'slife than not many complete or even begin... and, ultimately, we should ask ourselves what is it that anyone really needs or even wants? Love. Acceptance. That said, there's this great story, that although is, as you will see, specific to one side or another as far as point of view, it really goes for anyone who is thinking of trying to impose themselves onto someone else's life experience. It goes something like this: once there was a native on his land and a missionary visits him to spread his beliefs to the people. He is obviously doing so because he believes he must and finds that it is his duty. The missionary tells the native that what he and his people are up to is Satan work and that they'll all go to hell if they continue. The native, after a short ponder, asks... if you didn't tell us this word you speak of, would we still have gone to hell? The missionary replied that he supposes not, for they wouldn't have known any better. And the native tells the missionary "So, why did you come to tell us?" For me there is a lot that can be gleaned from this story. I will say that, personally, I believe there is a lot of value in self discovery and doing what you feel you should do as an autonamous Human being, an equal to all others. As an equal and as an individual, there is no real need to be the preacher or the preached to. All teaching one receives should be by choice and seeking and thus having a respect for those different than you and mind or any other way, should be looked upon with love. Feel no resentment towards them even if they have a resentment towards you. Their feelings ultimately should not change your own. You are autonomous. You are an individual. You are your own. In fact, to have broken away from any thought pattern is proof enough... now continue and continue with love. Smile when others cannot fathom your direction. Humor others only if you can or desire to. Hold your place lightly, see others lightly. Even if, while one is young, especially, and family requires that you be a part of something you wholly disagree with... you have many options to explore in that situation but if all you can see to do is participate, then go ahead. It cannot change you. No one can control your mind and nor can they truly control your action. Follow yourself happily into freedom, for only that, I think, can really take you to it. Happiness and acceptance will provide clarity. Be sure of yourself.
January 23rd, 2019 2:02am
It has been my experience that religion is a topic that most people prefer not to be pushed on. For some, we can take that a step further and say that they may become annoyed or even hostile when dealing with a differing opinion. I feel that when faced with these situations, it's best to remain calm and keep an open mind. It is important to remember that our families care for us. It may be that they try to push us toward their religion because they think it's what is best for us. Whenever we encounter someone who pushes extra hard, we have two choices. We can push back and meet force with force. This causes stress and strife for both sides. The other option is to keep our cool and show them with our actions and manners the type of people we want to be. Maybe, just maybe, they will see that we recognize their care and can respect their faith even though we don't share it. In this way we can begin to work toward a better relationship with our families as well as a better understanding of ourselves.
June 18th, 2020 12:38pm
Firstly, remember your beliefs, values and identity are yours and you are fully entitled to have them as your own, regardless of what family members have as their own beliefs. I think that is important to express this to your family. They might not agree with you being an atheist, and maybe vice versa, but remember that there are two circles in life: ones in which you have control and one's in which you do not have control. In your case think about what you can control in this situation (i.e expressing your own beliefs). Also think about the things you cannot control (i.e. how your family thinks and feels about you being atheist). What is in the latter bubble may cause you to feel uncomfortable emotions, but also keep in mind that accepting there are some things out of our control may make you feel more at ease. If there is tension, maybe have an open conversation with them and try to express how you feel to them and they can do the same back. You might not meet eye to eye, but you might have a better understand about each others life choices.
July 25th, 2020 11:01pm
Well, to be honest I'm in the same situation as you. I can't tell you how you should deal with them but I can share what I do. I try my best not to express many of my contradictory thoughts whenever there's a situation where I want to object. It avoids a lot of conflicts if I let them be and keep my opinion to myself. This doesn't mean I'm restricting myself, I'm just trying to maintain peace. Secondly, when they want me to participate in anything religious, I do it for them thinking that I'm doing this for my family because they feel it'll be good for me. Even though I don't believe in it but I program my brain into thinking that it's to reassure them and an added security for my life endeavours even though I don't think god exists. I understand it can be hard to bring about so many changes to yourself. You feel like you shouldn't be the only party compromising but it's the best way to avoid your family becoming distant only because of faith. I hope you introspect on this. Good luck!
September 16th, 2020 12:54am
I understand the problem. It is a big deal to religious families if their loved ones choose atheism. My family members did not support it at all when I first told them. But with time everything improved. You can give yourself some time so that they can understand the situation. And if you are closer to any of them you can tell him /her why did you choose to be an atheist. You can share the problem frankly. That person can help you by supporting. And I think dont let them understand that you have been transformed to a complete different human being. You can hang out with them or do anything, but whenever it comes to God and religion you can keep boundaries.
December 3rd, 2020 10:31am
Generally speaking, respect is always the way to go. The extent of this largely depends on whether or not your family knows you are atheist and whether they respect your choice. Regardless, it's okay that you're atheist, so long as you're respectful of your family's religion, just as you would anyone's religion. Keep the peace as much as possible until you're able to leave them. If your family insists on trying to convert you or demand that you participate in religious activities, and you can't say no, then try to tolerate it until you can be financially independent and have a place of your own. If it means they'll loosen their grip on you, go ahead and pretend to be religious until you're free from them. If it is a matter of you supporting a different cause from your family (eg. regarding abortion or LGBTQ+), then try to respectfully debate objectively about the subject. If they can't be persuaded, let it go. Their beliefs are not your responsibility, and if disputing it will only make things worse for you, then feel free to focus on people whose mindsets you can change. It could be friends who have adopted certain mindsets you disagree with from their families, or teachers who are exploring various perspectives. Either way, just life your life, and let go of the things you can't change
March 19th, 2021 6:28am
Hii , being an atheist and having to be around a religious family is so not easy, there can be alot of conflicts and clashes in beliefs and opinions and these can be very deterring. I feel, while we do have our own opinions and should have the freedom to practice what we feel and make our own beliefs, it's difficult when people around us are not accepting of it . Do you feel maybe talking to them about your views could be helpful? Sharing how you feel and what you feel , maybe if needed , explaining why you don't feel comfortable being religious and reassuring that you dont have anything against their beliefs, just that these are somethings you dont really agree on and that should be okay. We can always try and foster a comfortable space in the family , where even if we don't agree with someone's beliefs we can assure them that we do respect their personal choice and lowkey expect the same. It's all a matter of how we look at the world, it can be different for all, but as long as there's good communication and respect for each other's beliefs, I feel it should be fine to create a healthy atmosphere.
June 15th, 2016 4:23am
You can't easily break a cultural and religious bringing up especially if they have been into it for many many years. The idea is to understand and respect as they have their own believe and culture and it might not be what you agree with, but still its their way to peace.
June 15th, 2016 11:17pm
Try to explain how different point of view everyone has. The same way they choose their lifestyle, is how you choose your lifestyle
June 18th, 2016 12:56am
I think the most important step is to be clear that you don't share their beliefs anymore, but despite that, you can still be a loving family member. Regardless of religion or lack thereof, family should still respect and support you. Letting the difference in thought divide you might only make it worse.
June 20th, 2016 7:24am
Be yourself, religion is a choice and we have the right to choose what to believe and if you don't believe in that then you have that right too :)
June 23rd, 2016 1:24pm
It depends on how open minded they are about religion. If you think they can accept you for being atheist, you could try talk about it with them and see their reactions on it. If they react too badly I would suggest not tell them that you are atheist. I'm not saying that you should lie, but in some situations, like this one, lying is the only way you can prevent chaos and conflict. Just talk about it with them indirectly, for example, "hew dad/mom/sister/etc, what do you think about atheism?" And if they start being too strict on you merely because you mentioned this subject, it would imply that this is not something you can open up to them. Whatever you choose to do, I'm sure you'll do the right thing. No onw knows your family like you do, therefore you're the one who has most knowledge on what to do here.
June 29th, 2016 1:43am
With respect. I come from a religious family and grew up that way however I do not hold those beliefs myself. The key is to not put down or question their stance but simply respect it and if prompted kindly without putting down the other explain yours. otherwise I generally avoid the topic of religion all together so as to avoid any conflict.