What I did on my summer vacation  

Monday, May 19, 2008

I almost titled this post "I went to South Carolina and I all I got was a lousy red neck", but that's another story.

So if you read my Aliens, Mummies, and The Visit post I promised an update on my visit to my parents. Did I come out as a raging atheist to my family? Well... no. But let's look at it a little closer.

The night before I left my sister called to talk to me about the visit. She's the only one in my family that knew I was coming. I wanted to surprise my mom on Mother's Day and the only way to keep a secret is not to tell the men in my family.

We were talking about my mom and her cat, Sissy, who died recently. In fact talking to my mom after Sissy died is why I decided to surprise her initially. I wasn't able to be there to console her, but I thought a visit might cheer her up a little bit even if it was a few weeks later.

Then my sister said, "I just told her that April needed a pet so she took Sissy." April was my sister's daughter who died nine years ago at the age of 14. It's a very difficult thing for us all to deal with still. And I thought, "Oh, shit." I was planning to come out to my sister first. But how do I tell her I don't believe in a god or heaven when she's counting on heaven to see her daughter again. So I scrapped that idea before I even started on the trip.

So I quickly re-examined my strategy. Well, I have two brothers. My oldest brother would probably be the best. He can't keep anything to himself and it'd almost be like he was breaking the news instead of me. Besides, my other brother's wife has recently been diagnosed with liver cancer, after surviving just about every other type of cancer. I'm not sure how he feels about religion, but I don't want to rock what could be a fragile boat.

So that was the plan anyway.

I spent Saturday afternoon with encephalophone, who kindly called me an intellectual. It was flattering even if it's not true. I do like to write about a lot of things here, but I don't consider myself very knowledgeable. But if an old friend can think I'm smart then I must be doing something right.

Then I drove up to my sister's house where I planned to stay for a couple of days. We spent time chatting over dinner and went shopping for a few things before heading home and settling in for the night. I slept well.

The next morning my mom called and I thought it would be fun to call her while she was on the phone with my sister. She had no idea that I was sitting in the next room. I was pretty sure she would be surprised.

When we arrived we parked around to the side so they couldn't see us. My sister entered first and told my parents she brought the surprise she had promised them and then I came into the room. Both of my parents cried. My mom told me she almost wished she'd said she wanted me there when she talked to me on the phone, but she didn't want me to feel guilty about not being there. She just kept saying that she was so happy her whole family was together for one day.

My brothers came and their families and I got to surprise them as well. And the rest of the day was a normal family gathering spent catching up on what everyone was doing.

The rest of the trip was uneventful except for three things.

1. I didn't see my older brother again to tell him candidly about my atheism. He's supposed to visit in August though with my parents and his son.

2. Several conversations I had with my parents where I played the part of "skeptic".

At one point my mom pointed to the natural disasters and wars taking place in the world as signs of the end times. I told her that's what they said in the 40's with World War II. Seriously, the end times has been predicted again and again and it has never happened.

At breakfast one morning I was talking about oil prices with my mom and she said they needed to use the resources in Alaska or increase fuel standards. I said it would make much more sense if we worked on developing a solution to use something other than gasoline for transportation, since oil would inevitably run out someday. She said that she thought the end times would come before oil reserves ran out. I argued with her saying that that's why we're in the predicament we're in today. Years ago we could have worked harder on a solution, but no one thought we'd reach the predicament we're in today. That sort of short-sited view of the world really pisses me off. "I believe the Lord is coming and if not, screw the next generation." I was happy to stand my ground on that argument at least.

My dad asked me what I thought of chelation. I was glad that I'd read some posts at The Rogues Gallery about it because I was able to tell him what it was and why I didn't think it would work for him. My dad has high blood pressure after a heart bypass a few years ago suffered a cluster or strokes. Not only would chelation be dangerous for him, but I am convinced that it would do nothing to help him feel better. The fact that some company is marketing pills that "mimic" chelation pisses me off. My dad doesn't have $100 a month to spend on them, regardless of how he hopes they'll work. I did feel a little guilty though for trying to destroy his hope, but goddamn it, I don't want my parents to be cheated!

The last conversation with my dad was about cursing in movies and violence in video games. He said he couldn't stand cursing in movies. I said I never really noticed it. He also thought that violent video games led to violent crimes, which has never been proven. I argued that children could act out from their imagination, whether or not they played video games or watched violent movies. While it's true I probably wouldn't let my kids see violence at a young age, it isn't because I think it'd turn them into homicidal maniacs. Most people can tell the difference between imagination and reality. Those that can't, we usually diagnose as having mental problems and will not need video games to make them do things we consider abnormal.

3. A visit to Heritage USA, which will be featured in a future post.

So yeah, I didn't come out, but I was able to disagree with my parents which is a huge step, coming from a very authoritarian background (sometimes I feel like a teenager around my parents.. like I can't have my own opinion as an adult) and there's still hope for the future. Yeah, it's still a cop out, but I'm making progress. I'm happier with the person I am while there. I'm an atheist, just without explicitly stating it.

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9 comments: to “ What I did on my summer vacation

  • Spanish Inquisitor
    Monday, May 19, 2008 at 9:00:00 AM CDT  

    But how do I tell her I don't believe in a god or heaven when she's counting on heaven to see her daughter again.

    One way of looking at your trepidation at "coming out" is to realize that you are not going to insist that they agree with you, while they probably insist on the opposite. Why their beliefs are more important than yours, so that yours must be hidden, while theirs are assumed, is hard to understand. (Not that I don't do the same thing). She's free to keep on counting on seeing her daughter in heaven, despite what you believe. If she's right, she'll see you too, so why should she care if you don't believe it?

    Yes, it might cause hard feelings. Christians just hate to be told their strongly held beliefs have been rejected by someone, especially a family member. Personally, I think it's because deep down, they don't have a base of dead certainty, since there is nothing to reinforce their beliefs other than the say so of someone else. When someone leaves the base, then there's less security that the beliefs are true.

  • Mamacita Chilena
    Monday, May 19, 2008 at 10:43:00 AM CDT  

    Wow, that's rough. One thing I can say is that my family is pretty tolerant of all beliefs. They might not agree but they are accepting even if they don't like it. I, on the other hand, am the one who struggles with being like that. My brother is a born again Christian and I have trouble being accepting of him.

    Anyways, I feel for you, not feeling like you can fully express who you are.

  • the chaplain
    Monday, May 19, 2008 at 7:00:00 PM CDT  

    Thanks for sharing so honestly. My family will be getting together this weekend for my mother's 80th birthday. I don't anticipate that we will have any earth-shattering conversations, as there will be too many people around to get into anything very deeply.

  • Venjanz
    Tuesday, May 20, 2008 at 12:02:00 AM CDT  

    I enjoyed that, nice post.

  • Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D.
    Tuesday, May 20, 2008 at 9:16:00 PM CDT  


    I think its better some times to be a good human than try and be a "true to yourself atheist".

    This time it wasn't the right time, but as you say,, you gained some ground with being able to disagree with your parents

  • John Evo
    Tuesday, May 20, 2008 at 10:03:00 PM CDT  

    Sounds like you did fine, to me. If you were being YOU, who cares whether you specifically said you are an atheist or not? At some point I'd definitely talk to brothers and sis, but parents? Why? Good enough that you correct them on religious beliefs and woo that leads to harm than whether or not they KNOW you are an atheist.

    I think you are an intellectual. You might not be Christopher Hitchens or Daniel Dennett, but how many are?

  • Ordinary Girl
    Thursday, May 22, 2008 at 12:55:00 PM CDT  

    SI: Yeah, I agree with you. It's just hard. I love my sister and we're still dealing with a very difficult issue there. There are a lot of things I want to ask her about my niece, but I'm always afraid of making her pain greater. I guess I should look at it more as getting to share memories. Anyway, I'll keep working on it.

    Mamacita: My parents can say some pretty crazy things and it's difficult to accept. And what's crazier is remembering when I said those crazy things. The best thing you can do is love your brother and show him that it doesn't take religion to make you a good person.

    Chappy: I hope she had a very happy 80th birthday. Wow, 80 years!

    Venjanz: Why thank you. Coming from you that's quite a compliment. :)

    Sean: I think I can be a good human and still be good to myself. I just have to work it out. I'll have plenty more chances in the future, I'm sure.

    Evo: Thanks. I think I made a few steps. I'll see how it goes next time.

  • The Exterminator
    Friday, May 23, 2008 at 7:57:00 PM CDT  

    But how do I tell her I don't believe in a god or heaven when she's counting on heaven to see her daughter again.

    This is like asking: How do you tell a child that you don't believe in Santa Claus when the kid is counting on him to bring presents?

    You wouldn't be urging, or even asking, your sister not to believe. You'd merely be telling her what your views are. Your sister can still see her daughter when she gets to heaven. Of course, you'll have other commitments, so they shouldn't bother planning on your attending the party. They can also take down the stocking they hung for you.

    Yes, that's kind of a blunt -- maybe even snide -- sentiment, but we all experience the loss of loved ones in our lives. To babble about the dead as if they've merely moved to another town cheapens our memories of them. The real "miracle" is that they continue to live vibrantly in our minds. We should be awed by the evolutionary system through which our brains have been developed to carry such vivid images.

  • PhillyChief
    Saturday, May 24, 2008 at 11:53:00 AM CDT  

    Once again, all I hear is you being yourself as being a great evil and hurtful offense to your family that you're protecting them from so you pretend you're someone else for their sake. That's bollocks.
    1. Being open about who you are and what you believe is not harmful to others
    2. You simply don't want to risk losing the love and attention of your family, so you make up this belief of protecting them as a way to not face the fact that you continue to sell yourself out, like perpetually paying dues for membership to a club.

    Such a membership is too rich for my blood.


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