The Deconversion Guide: Telling People

Welcome to part two of the deconversion guide. Click here for the last entry. 

The map on the left shows the percentage of religious believers in North America. The darker the state or province, the higher the percentage. (Picture by Some Thing.)

Today’s topic: How do you decide when (or whether!) to tell others about your deconversion?

Only you can decide what is best for your life but here is some food for thought along the way.

Is it safe to tell? Sometimes it’s a very bad idea to reveal what you actually believe. There are communities where non-theists lose jobs, marriages, homes, custody of their children or friendships because of prejudice against us. The best thing to do may very well be to keep it quiet for now (or forever).

If this is what you need to do, build friendships with other non-theists if at all possible. The Internet is a wonderful tool for connecting with people who know exactly what you’re going through.

Who needs to know? This doesn’t have to be an either/or decision. You might be comfortable telling close friends but not your extended family or vice versa. There are still a few people in my life who don’t know I’m agnostic, believe it or not!

 Be careful about assumptions.  As you’re deciding whom to tell remember to give people the benefit of the doubt. A Christian friend of mine was hurt when she discovered my deconversion through other sources. I had assumed she would have a problem with it (she didn’t) and never got around to telling her the truth.

That was a mistake.

History repeats.  Generally people who are critical or accepting of you in one area (politics, religion, favourite flavour of ice cream…) will carry that behaviour over to other areas. The friend I mentioned earlier has always been gracious about our differences, large and small. I should have trusted her more.

This isn’t a perfect test, of course, but it can give you a good indication of how someone might respond to your deconversion.

Relationships can change opinions. It’s easy to hate or misunderstand an idea. It’s harder, although certainly not impossible, to carry those feelings over to a flesh and blood person especially when he or she also happens to be your good friend, cousin, neighbour, coworker, child.

No, this doesn’t mean that everyone is guaranteed to be ok with your deconversion. There will always be people who reject friends or family members who don’t share their beliefs.

But sometimes knowing and loving someone whom is part of a misunderstood group softens even the most deeply-held prejudices.


Non-theists, how do you decide when and who to tell about your beliefs?

Theists, do you have any friends or family members who don’t share your beliefs? How did you find out about what they really think?

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0 Responses to The Deconversion Guide: Telling People

  1. I wouldn’t call myself a non-theist (maybe an open-theist?  or a seeking-theist?) but my beliefs oftentimes fall far from what would be considered traditional Christian doctrine.  I also didn’t have a “deconversion experience”, my beliefs just grew and expanded naturally overtime.

    Still, I’ve never felt the need to “tell someone” about my beliefs per se, like I’m coming out of the closet or something and need people to know.  It comes up when religious discussions come up which is almost always with people I’m close to… people like most of my extended family, coworkers, etc. don’t know, not because I hide it, but because we don’t have the kind of relationship where real conversations about those sorts of things crop up. 

    Similarly (with the exception of the few Bible thumpers I know) I recognize that I don’t necessarily know what they believe either.  I might know that they grew up this way or that they attend that church currently and they might know those same things about me but belief is such a deeper field for many people that just “I’m (insert denomination here)” so I try not to assume anything because I know the assumption they would probably make about me is not only way off base but also only the very surface of what belief really is.

    That infographic is fantastic by the way… and really surprising too (I would have expected California to be substantially lighter than Kansas for example).   

    • It’s fascinating to see the differences in how issues like this are approached in various parts of North America.

      In some of my social circles it’s completely a non-issue. People rarely if ever ask about what you believe and only bring up their beliefs in the context of “my religious leader had something really interesting to say about topic X recently.”

      In others you are (unfortunately) assumed to be Christian until or unless you say otherwise. 

      I’m sure this has a big impact on how likely we all are to talk or not to talk about these things! 🙂

      • We have two social circles we frequent that are (with the exception of the occasional party at our house) completely seperate from one another.  In one we are assumed to be Christian and in the other we are assumed to be Jewish.  🙂

  2. I generally don’t run around sharing my non-theist beliefs UNLESS someone makes it a point to tell me about their religion and/or religious views, then I usually tell them that I’m an atheist and I really don’t care what the bible or Pastor Bob thinks about this or that. 

  3. Pingback: The Deconversion Guide: Prayer | On The Other Hand

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