Friday, December 2, 2011

The Ultimatum

Note: This post has gotten really popular since someone posted it to Reddit and it hit the front page of r/atheism. I wasn't expecting such a massive response, but I really appreciate all the support. I should note up front that Neil has since apologized for the combative tone he took in this exchange, although he's still set on making me go through with this. Also, this should go without saying, but please don't post threats or anything that vein; that's not helpful. Thanks so much. (Edit: Follow-up post here.)

Warning: drama ahead.
Neil is a Christian who preaches at university campuses, including UCSD. By sheer coincidence, he's also an old friend of my parents—not a particularly close one, but he posts on my mom's Facebook wall now and then. Several months ago, while I was still in college, he happened to find out that I was an atheist. I asked him not to tell my parents—this is a very personal decision that is mine alone to make—and he agreed. He then began asking at regular intervals whether I had told my parents yet, and finally a couple of days ago he decided to take matters into his own hands. He told me that if I didn't tell my parents within the next week, he would call and tell them himself.

Now, let me first say that I take no pleasure in keeping my unbelief a secret from my parents. I do so only because although I have a wonderful relationship with them, I have no idea how they will react, and given that I live under the same roof with them, things could get hostile if those reactions are especially bad. I think Neil's concern is sincere, but heavily misguided. He apparently believes he is entitled to destroy my freedom to reveal my unbelief on my own terms—essentially, to force me into coming out as an atheist.

Here is the conversation I've been having with him over the past day or so, starting with his initial notice:
I have been bothered in my concious about not speaking to your mom and dad about your situation. I think you are really doing them a disservice. I am sure your parents love you and will listen to you with an open mind. To continue to live a lie is not a good thing for any of you.
I feel I must speak to them so I am giving you advanced notice of this. In about a week I will call them to discuss this situation with them because I care about them as my friends. We used to be close when I was in the R.E. business and I am very fond of both of them.
Please speak to them openly or I will have to. I hope you understand.
Is this you blog by the way?
Thanks, Neil
It was difficult to react calmly and politely in light of the friendly warning that he's about to potentially rip my life apart. Nonetheless, I think I managed it in my response:
I'm sympathetic to your situation. I get that you don't like having to keep a secret.
But I feel you need to fully understand my situation as well. I have a great relationship with my parents, unstrained by any sort of ill feelings, and even in the best-case scenario things would get very awkward between us.
It's not like I enjoy keeping this a secret. I think all the time about how I'm going to tell them. I've even made tentative plans a couple of times, which I've later backed out of, but I was still fully expecting to tell them in the not-too-distant future.
This is a deeply personal matter, and when and how I tell them should be my choice to make. I would ask that you stay out of it. If you can't bring yourself to do so, then I guess I don't have any choice but to tell them before you call. If that's really what you're going to force me to do, I understand that you'd be acting out of concern, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't resent you for it.
And yes, that is my blog.
Here's Neil's rather lengthy (and preachy) second message:
Your response convinces me that this is the right thing for me to do. Of course you won't agree with that, but I must do what I think is best for you and your parents.
It is one thing for a young person to go to "Christian" school and see no real Christianity among the students and then to start to doubt their faith. That is a normal outcome and is understandable considering their is very little real faith exhibited in these so-called "Christian" schools. Many kids, tolerate it for awhile, and will pretend they still believe in Christ so they can keep the peace at home and still enjoy the blessings of family fellowship and the monetary blessings that go along with it. For a person to ask questions, and to really struggle with their faith under these circumstances is quite normal.
However, you have crossed over and now have become an evangelist for the other side. Sad to say, but that is reality and I don't apologize for my bluntness. You see, now you are no longer questioning your faith but now you are being used to destroy other's faith in Christ or at least to plant seeds of doubt in their hearts. This is not harmless skepticism but outright declared war against God and His people.
You have obviously made your choice about your faith but you still want to maintain your shroud of secrecy and enjoy the benefits of a good relationship with your parents and not reap any of the consequences of becoming an atheist. This is very selfish Tim. You may think you are sparing your parents from being upset by not being truthful with them but is this how your dad and mom raised you? Gary was always honest in his real estate dealings as I remember and I know he would not want his only son to be living a lie and not being truthful with him and your mom.
I know you do not fully understand the consequences of making such a decision to become a mocker of God and of His followers, but the consequences are severe indeed. It is one thing to question and eventually abandon one's faith. But you have gone way past that now and are bent on hurting others with your writings. This is not only wrong, but evil. You think you will find relief from your inner guilt by bashing Christianity and God but you won't find lasting peace in this. The Bible is very clear about this:
Galations 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.
I don't blame you at all for having doubts about Christianity. As I said to you previously, you were never born again, or born from above if that is the term you prefer, so it is impossible for you to really know God personally. Because you do not know God personally, you went searching, but you end up reading all this atheist garbage and your think it stimulates you and makes you believe these people are "intelligent" and "free thinkers". God calls them fools.
Why so? Because in their heart they know God is real but they bypass their heart and rely on logic. Logic that is not based upon real truth but upon man's truth and therefore you become deceived into thinking they are correct with their assumptions and accusations.
So you may find some relief from your inner turmoil for a time by throwing God and His Word under the bus. You obviously spend a whole lot of time reading what these fools think is real knowledge and now you have joined their ranks and are helping to hurt others who may be struggling with their faith.
From your blog:"Relax. Let it go. Realize that your mental acrobatics are futile, and accept that the Bible is not a reliable record of Jesus' life—or of most other things, for that matter. It may be upsetting at first, but once you've unchained yourself from this ancient book for a while, you'll probably feel a lot better. At least, I do."
Tim, you couldn't be more wrong. Billions of people over thousands of years have trusted the Holy Scriptures and found true faith in Christ and have experienced the life changing power of the gospel. I was a lost atheist/agnostic who was only living for money and the things of this world and in a moment, I was changed forever by the power of God's Spirit. Ask your dad and mom and they will tell you how my life changed dramatically.
The sad fact is you have already made your choice to mock God, His Word and His followers. You are on a slippery slope that will lead you to hell and for this reason alone it is necessary that I share this with your parents. Resent me if you like, but I must do what I think is best for all of you. I have nothing to gain by doing this but I feel obligated because of my respect for your dad and mom.
Sincerely, Neil
Since I realized I probably wouldn't get him to change his mind, my second response was short:
That was quite a change in tone, Neil. In a blink of an eye, you went from polite and concerned to essentially calling me a selfish fool and my actions evil. I would have liked to be friends with you, but that will be extremely difficult now that you've berated my unbelief and forced yourself into a very personal family matter.
You said you would give me a week. That's fine. I'll break the news before then.
Here's his third message. Because I responded to some of his points individually, my response will be interlaced with his, in green.
Yes the change in tone is because after reading your secret blog, I can see that you are in no way questioning your faith, as you led me to believe, but are instead dead set against God and now delight in mocking Him and His people.
What do you mean by this? I never said I was "questioning my faith." I told you outright that I was an atheist; how can I be "questioning my faith" if I have no faith? If by this you mean that I'm not willing to consider believing given the evidence, you're mistaken. I may use a bit of levity on my blog now and then, but that doesn't preclude being willing to entertain opposing viewpoints.
You say " I wanted to be your friend" but since I have met you, you have never asked me a single question at all but instead you were only concerned in me keeping your secret.
I'm a shy person by nature, Neil. Combine that with the fact that you've done virtually nothing but tell me I'm lost and confused and a sinner and asking me when I'm going to talk to my parents, and I don't think it's too surprising that I didn't go out of my way to chat about the weather with you. I would have liked to be friends with you at some point, but that point would have been well after those comments had ceased.
Time to come out of the closet and face the music Tim. You want to mock Christians and yet allow your parents to believe all is well?
The truth is Tim your spiritual understanding is very immature and your writings reflect that.
Exodus 21:20-21, Neil. By all means, tell me all about how my spiritual understanding isn't "mature" enough to grasp God's wisdom in allowing the Israelites to beat their slaves to the point of death.
For example, you talk about a study where prayer is tested to see if it helps people who are sick. They come to the conclusion it doesn't help at all and instead of questioning the results you accept and promote it as truth.
You totally discount the fact that people pray to their own "god" in many different ways. That some may be true believers while others are merely religious people who do not know the One, True God at all. You think God is going to allow Himself to be put in a test tube for their study? Please, think a little Tim.
Do you really think I haven't considered this argument? It's an unparsimonious, unfalsifiable cop-out. You could pray to an inanimate object and get identical results. In fact, you could claim that God was the very embodiment of evil and still justify those results by saying that the evil god is simply laughing at the frustrations of theists trying to prove he exists. You can make your deity consistent with any state of affairs, but that doesn't make your explanations even remotely probable.
God is an awesome mighty God and He will not bow to man in any way. I am saddened that you so easily have been deceived and that you have last what faith you had.
I still think your intentions are good, Neil, but as they say, the road to hell was paved with those. I'd like to maintain a civil level of discourse, but your insulting and condescending attitude is making that increasingly difficult.
By the way, I just talked to my sister about this, and she's agreed to be there for me when I tell them if I want her to. Here are her exact words when I told her what you had chosen to do: 
"Isn't that blackmail or something?" 
I hope that gives you something to think about. 
His fourth message, in which he ignores all but a few words of my response:
Blackmail? Just what am I gaining in return? I have nothing to gain but to know that I am doing my best to help you and your family.
I know you don't see it this way but that is the truth.
Arrogant? Condescending? Isn't it rather your atheistic beliefs that are supremely arrogant?
You belittle people who have faith in Christ yet you can't even explain away the very first verse in the Bible?
Where did all the matter originate from Tim? What rational reason can you give for the existence of the universe ?
And my final response:
Neil, blackmail is defined as "the use of threats or the manipulation of someone's feelings to force them to do something"—no personal gain required.
Other than that, I'm not getting into this, tempting though it is. Your questions have been answered by various atheists a hundred times over—whether those answers are to your satisfaction is not my concern. Apparently nothing I say will change your opinion on anything we've discussed, so I see no reason to continue.
I'll let you know when I've told my parents. It will be within the next 7 days.
I'm still not sure how I'm going to tell them. There's a perfectly fair chance that not too much will come of it other than some initial distress and later awkwardness, but those more serious potential consequences are looming in the back of my mind. I called my sister last night, and she's agreed to be there to support me if I want her to. And yes, she really did call this blackmail right out of the gate. I always knew she was a smart one.

Edit: I'm hoping to sit them down and talk with them tomorrow afternoon. My sister will be there if I need her.

Edit 2: This morning Neil told me (in the comments below) that he wouldn't force me to go through with telling my parents. I haven't decided for sure, but I'm thinking about doing it anyway. I've come this far, and I don't feel like going through all this emotional turmoil again.

Edit 3: The follow-up to this post is here.


  1. This guy's a prick. Period.


    1. He's not just a prick, he's an arrogant prick. Typical of christians, when he has no rational argument to make, he immediately resorts to threats.

      I'd remind him how unchristian he is being and of the tolerance and understanding he is supposed to display, then remind him that his behavior can carry physical and moral consequences.

  2. Hey Tim. This sounds like you're in a really tough situation, and someone else is forcing your hand. Its not at all fair; while I'm a big supporter of things like the Out Campaign and the We Are Atheism campaign, I don't think anyone should be outed as an atheist against their will. I sincerely hope things go well with your parents; I was lucky enough to have parents who were only mildly disappointed, but others have certainly made it clear that things can be much more difficult.

    What's important is that you know you're a part of a community. You aren't alone in this. As you noted, all of Neil's questions have been readily answered many times, and even if you don't have an answer for how everything in the universe came to be, its certainly not arrogant to say "I don't know." If you haven't yet found the r/atheism community, you're welcome to join us there, where you'll find nearly 300,000 people ready to support you 100%. You're a smart, literate, perceptive person, and no one can take away how awesome you are.

  3. Thanks, Matt. That means a lot.

  4. I kinda have to agree with Lurker111: Neil is a prick.

    What can you do? Sit down with your parents and tell them that you don't believe. You don't think it's necessarily anyone's business but your own, except that Neil is blackmailing you into confessing it to them.

    From there, it's up to them.

    Bear in mind, if your parents had a good opinion of you before then this really shouldn't change anything. You're still the same person you were before you were forced to tell them. The only thing that's changed is one label that used to apply to you. If your parents are so focused on that label that they reject everything else about you, then that's unfortunate. Hopefully, it won't work out that way.

    Why you no longer believe is up to you. It's not something you chose, it's something you realized. You can no more start believing again than you can start believing in Santa Claus; you know it's not true and all the pleading and threats in the world will be able to force you to believe.

    This also has nothing to do with them, which is why you didn't tell them in the first place. You are now an adult, even if you're not wholly independent, and that means you are responsible for what you do. You're not imposing your atheism on them (that would be Neil), and you're not demanding that they arrive at the same conclusion you did.

    With luck, your parents will continue to accept you and love you for who you are rather than who they want you to be. We can certainly hope for the best. But in case the best doesn't happen, the r/atheism community is here for you.

  5. Ah, I see this post has been posted to Reddit here. I appreciate it. I'm quite familiar with r/atheism and glad to have some support there.

  6. WOW? Is that sufficient. When I was a small boy a bigger neighbor kid said if I did not do want he wanted then he would tell my parents that I was cursing. I refused to do as he said and sure enough he called my parents and ratted me out. Thing was though I had told my Dad already and he was expecting the call. Man did he rip that bully a new one. I did not get in to trouble at all. This guy is nothing more than a fucking bully who needs to have his ass kicked. hope your Pops is up for it. If you decide to tell your parents make damn sure you include this Blackmail. So that your parents can understand what a scumbag their "friend" is.

  7. That guy is dirtbag. Good luck telling your parents about your atheism. It's wrong that you have to tell them because of this guy. It's none of his business.

  8. I had a very challenging conversation not so dissimilar in many ways to the one you are describing. I found it very helpful to pre-mark Bible verses in an actual Bible, prepare myself for the inevitable barrage of accusations with rehearsed answers, smile, and never ever raise my voice or talk over anyone.

    If you don't fight them, they can't win. Take solace in the fact that your decision is as reasonable as theirs. It can be rough, but life persists even in its uncomfortable stages.

    Hope it goes well, look forward to reading how this story unfolds.

  9. Thanks so much for your support, guys. It means a lot.

    zeus, I haven't decided whether I'll tell them up front about Neil. They ought to view this as an unconscionable violation of my privacy, but they may be too upset, at least initially, to see it that way.

    Doug, I've actually been in the process of doing the Bible mark-up thing. I probably won't bring that up right away, though. I'm going to try to make this as non-confrontational as possible.

  10. I think it would be perfectly justified if you socked this guy right in the mouth. It is none of his business at all whether or not you tell your parents. If you continue to not say anything how is that going to effect him in the least? It won't.

  11. Give me a chance and I'll smack him for you...

    My father is a Southern Baptist preacher and I am a closeted atheist as well. Although I don't live with them (30, married, 2 kids) we live close by and we have a great relationship. Telling them would crush them and it's just not worth it for me to do so. I'll lie all f-ing day just to keep the peace.

    So if some ass-hat tried to do that to me I would have some very, very strong emotional reactions.

    If you really want this to go away. Find a hooker, send her over to the D-bags house and if she is any good she can get him naked. At that point just tell him hey go away or I'm telling everyone about Tina...

    Or a lead pipe works as well.

  12. Best of luck, Tim. It's unfortunate that your hand has been forced in such a manner, but luckily you are an articulate and level-headed individual - you do other atheists a great service in this, and for that, I thank you.

    <3 r/atheism

  13. Hey guys,

    I know you're generally joking about inflicting personal injury. Just make sure it doesn't get too out of hand. No threats or anything like that. Thanks.

  14. Oh so he is a real bible thumper huh? I would do this. I would agree to tell them if he would answer a challenge. Then ask him what the 10 commendments are. If he gets it right you tell your parents. If wrong. well then he shuts up and never bothers you again. Make sure he swears on something holy first just to make sure he keeps his work. You cant trust some of those "true christians" you know. ;3

  15. Good luck Tim. I fear the day I will have to tell my mother that I no longer believe. Keep us all posted on how it goes.

  16. Well done for keeping your cool and wits about you. This tiny excerpt of your life is testament to your character, values and moral code. I cannot believe that your parents are anything but proud, with or without faith in a supernatural power. Lots of love from Scandinavia.

  17. And christians wonder why the rest of the world hates them? this is why. And they say atheists are the pompous ones - there has never been a group of people more pompous than christians.

  18. Hey, Tim. I just found this on reddit, and I wanted to let you know that you aren't alone (though I'm sure you're aware). I finished my undergrad about a year ago, and now I'm back at home while I try to get into vet school. I find myself in many awkward, difficult situations, because my parents still think I'm a devout Christian, but I became an atheist about two years ago. I have no idea how they would react if I told them.

    I guess I just wanted to say that I understand your position (as far as telling your parents go, not so much with the blackmail), and I hope everything goes smoothly.

  19. You may want to tell your parents sooner rather than later, this guy sounds like he would take geeat pleasure in telling your parents before you have done it.

  20. If you know what church he goes to, head there and speak to the priest, elder whatever it is and tell them what he has decided to do. Two things can happen, he is made aware of his mistake and prickish-ness by others at his church or you learn they are all big cocks at this place of worship.

  21. That dude needs to mind his own beeswax. Why should he try and tear a family apart and turn father against son? He's just promoting hatred and bigotry. Turn the other cheek, neil! Keep your own house in order!

  22. Hey tim, I found you on Reddit and wanted to give you a bit of encouragement.

    You'll be fine man. I "came out" to my mom when I was 17 years old and she was very very distraught. She thought she failed as a parent, and failed as a worker of god. We spent most of our familial life going to a very right-wing fundamentalist church, and after a few years of self-study on atheism and buddhism, I worked up the courage to let her know I couldn't believe one word of the fairy tale anymore.

    I'm 22 now, and even though it sounds strange, I think my mom is actually more proud of me because of my convictions. For some religious people (I emphasize the word some), its very difficult to comprehend a person living or acting morally without god's help or advice. I may be the first person my mother has ever met who had the courage to call out the BS where I saw it, and then went on to live a good and moral life.

    I don't know your entire situation, and I'm sure it wont be the same as mine. In time though, these things will be small potatoes. They may get upset for a short time (or even a long time), but they'll get over it. Most parents know that they can't control their kids or how they think, and one day they may even be proud of you for this.

    Also, keep in mind that not every religious person is like Neil here. At the end of the day, he's just another one of 7 billion people who thinks they have the answer.

  23. Fuck this guy. Not because of his religion, or because I'm an atheist (I'm not) but because he is unable to keep out of business that absolutely does not concern him. I'm sorry you have to go through this man, everyone should be entitled to their privacy.

  24. Hi Tim

    I am very distressed to hear about this situation. As I am a crotchety old man with virtually no social skills, it saddens me that I have no good advice as to how to handle this.

    Neil is a perfect example of how religion poisons everything. Although Christianity has its message proclaimed via multitudinous media outlets, churches, blogs, athletes thanking God for victory etc, all of that is not war, but your having a blog expressing you thoughts is war. Pot meet kettle is not adequate to describe how pathetic that is. Neil cannot let you live your own life in your own way, instead his religion puts him at war with you, and he calls you the war maker. In his war fervor, he cannot conceive of the fact that he is not merely coercing you, he may be causing your parents pain also. Or if he has had that thought at all (which I doubt), he doesn't care a fig, he is securely wrapped up in his own righteousness. Makes me want to puke.

    You have the assets of a wonderful sister and a remarkably astute mind. I know you have been thinking for a while about how to undertake this task, and feel for sure you are up to it as well as anyone could be. One little idea, toss it if it doesn't seem to apply - if things get to where there is discussion, don't interrupt. See then if you can get them to agree also that they wont interrupt. Non interruption shows patience and respect. Also, with your sisters support, preface your disclosure with how much you love them and hope they can continue loving you. Oops, had a bit of advice after all!

    And let your friends here know how it went. We care.

  25. I really doubt your parents will care. If they throw a fit or try to disown you just throw out this. “Now if anyone does not provide for his own relatives, and especially for his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).
    If they even care, when I told my parents my mom said "that's sad" and I laughed and that was the end.

  26. Hey Tim I find myself in hypocritical situations every day because of my parents beliefs, my significant other also. She has somewhat accepted it but I still worry about my parents reactions, just know you are not alone!

  27. This is literally making me sick to my stomach. I cringed when I thought about what would happen if I was in your situation. Neil is the most arrogant person I've ever heard of. There is no getting through to him. What a shame that you have to deal with this. Good luck.

  28. HandMeMyThinkingPipeDecember 2, 2011 at 1:41 PM

    You should tell them and then just let the guy call your parents...that way it will be very clear how much of a inconsiderate douche bag he is

  29. What has this world come to when saying others that you don't believe in grown-up version of Santa or being nuts in general is considered as something out-of-norm?

  30. It amazes me that this guy pushed the matter at all after you said that you didn't want to tell your parents. Any reasonable person would have backed off immediately, realising that it really was none of their business.

  31. I'm sorry to hear about the pickle you are in. To offer some perspective, I thought I'd share how I see things: Neil is incredibly resentful of you and your belief or lack there of. This guy is disguising his attempt to do you harm as "what's good for you and your family", despite the fact that you've already informed him of the unnecessary tension and turmoil it would cause. His actions aren't aimed at the hope of bringing your family together, but instead at leveraging the pressure you feel to keep your parents happy. He knows that the added pressure from your loved ones is the perfect ace in the hole to sway your feelings and choices or inflict emotional damage. His ultimatum is disgusting display of dishonesty on his part. You shared with him a secret that he is now attempting to manipulate/ blackmail you with. He knows the pain you stand to suffer in sharing the news with your parents and will revel in your suffering for believing differently than he does. What he probably doesn't realize now is that he will have soured his credibility with your parents when they found out the manner in which he forced you to do something against your will...Good luck my friend.

  32. Clearly 'reason' is not a word that this person is familiar with as evidenced by their irrational belief in only one god out of hundreds throughout human history. I don't believe this situation can be relieved by merely responding and fueling this leeches emails. I know every situation is different, but your beliefs are your beliefs and your parents, as humans...should respect them. Be strong; you aren't the first to tell their parents you don't believe what they believe and you won't be the last.

  33. Neil, if you happen to read this:


  34. For whatever its worth after discussing this with my parents they have chosen to generally avoid the subject around me. I have other friends who have to go through the same old arguments from time to time, but otherwise still get along with their parents because they have a long standing good relationship.

  35. Neil, you had always seemed to me a decent human being. I'm surprised and incredibly disappointed in your behavior. I can't imagine what moral rule you think you're following, or what you think you'll accomplish by doing this.

    Forgive the analogy here, but imagine if you went to the doctor and he diagnosed you with cancer. "Please don't tell my family yet," you say, "I want to come to terms with this and tell them on my own time." It would be unambiguously immoral for him to badger you into telling your family. Suggest, encourage, fine. But threaten to out you? Outrageous. I can't believe how disappointing this is.

  36. Hey Tim,

    here from reddit too. I came out to my parents and nothing has really changed for us. They're even protestant ministers, so I was pretty nervous about it myself. Not everyone is as lucky as I, but I hope it goes well for you.

    Remember, I'm pulling for you, we're all in this together!

  37. I came out to my mother slowly over time, but still have not come out to my father. I got the opportunity to do it on my own time, but I needed my mom to understand why I choose to live my life the way I do and why my unborn child won't be raised in the church.

    I wish you had gotten the same opportunity as me but unfortunately this nosy man feels that it is his right to butt into your business. As a former Christian, I can't say that I'm surprised considering how much gossip there was at my home church whenever someone did something "wrong" like getting pregnant out of wedlock or "living in sin." Be patient with your parents. They may not be surprised and may have already figured it out, as my mother told me when I finally came out to her, and they maybe just be waiting for you to be comfortable telling them.

  38. He berates you for not respecting his belief, but refuses to do the same. It is entirely none of his business, yet he insists on blackmailing you. What a hateful little man. Then people like him can't seem to understand why atheists don't just want to "live and let live". It's because people like neil insist on doing EVIL THINGS in the name of their religion. What an arrogant ass! He refuses to see that he is doing an extremely evil thing. You were way too nice to him.

  39. I'm not an atheist, but a Christian and I think Neil is in the wrong. I just wanted to say you have my support (as much as that means from a random stranger on the internet). What Neil is doing is wrong, and I've hated when I've seen many Christians (or other religious fanatics) do the same as him. I hope, one day, people will realize that actions speak louder than words, and bullying will never convince someone to see your side of an argument (not that I think atheists need to convert, or whatever). I believe if you're a good person, and don't intentionally hurt others things will work out, regardless of what you believe or don't believe. Live and let live, y'know? I hope everything works out for the best for you :)

  40. Hey Tim,
    I've recently gone through a very similar situation with my own family. My dad is a baptist pastor and my sister in law emotionally black mailed me into telling my family about my personal unbelief. Things didn't go over very well at first, but I'm hoping that the passing of time will make things easier.

    It pisses me off that this happens so much with Christians. Whatever you choose to believe (or not believe) is nobody else's fucking business, especially someone who appears to not be very intimately connected with your family. That someone would do something like this; intentionally creating a family crisis of sorts, is disgusting to me. And they call this love.

    I'm sending you happy thoughts. I've been there. And the worst case scenario happened to me (I got kicked out of the house) and I survived. It wasn't a pleasant experience, but I'm a much better person for it. So I just want to give you hope that even if worse comes to worse, you can still succeed.

  41. Tim,

    Platothedog offers great advice. The only chance you may have of stopping this before it happens is taking the issue to Neils pastor. If the pastor agrees with you, he will reprimand Neil and he will either cow to authority or you still have to tell them. If the pastor agrees with Neil, well you have to tell them. Be sure to make it very clear to your parents how ridiculous Neil (and potentially his pastor) has been. Chances are this may open their eyes that this is not a light issue for you and it may win you brownie points for taking the high road when others could not.

    Reddit loves you!

  42. Tim, it's clear what you have to do here - ZEUS himself commented on your blog and supports you. If the God of all of the Gods is on your side, what have you got to fear??

    Neil should be very leery of incuring the wrath of Zeus. After all, Zeus comments on blogs (so is obviosuly aware and watching of silly humans), Neil's god, on the other hand, hasn't said squat for the last 2,000 years.

  43. I'll remember this guys name. Never will I do work for him or use any business this man uses. Blackmail is wrong and the very opposite of Christian ideals, anyone who can do the mental gymnastics to justify this situation is capable of doing worse things just as easily.

  44. Thanks again for this massive outpouring of support, guys. I especially appreciate the sentiments of the other people who are currently or formerly in the closet and have a good idea of what I'm going through.

    Platothelapdog and sixoverme, telling his pastor might be a good idea, except that I'm not sure he has one. He seems very critical of the mainstream church, so I doubt he would see a pastor as having any authority over him.

    PolarBZ, thanks for the laugh. I needed that.

  45. Tim,
    He is clearly judging you as being wrong or evil(Luke 6:37-38, Matthew 7:1-5), since it is not his place to judge, would he not be bearing false witness against you? It seems he should read Luke 18:9-14 and learn some humbleness. Surely he is sowing strife: Proverbs 16:28
    And Finally-
    Proverbs 11:12
    12A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue.

  46. Hey man, I found this from reddit, and I just wanted to say I've been there. Not the blackmail part, but I was raised by fundamentalist christians, had to move back in with them during the recession and had a coming out about my atheism. I'm not gonna lie, it's not easy. Things tend to get supremely uncomfortable, but I'll be thinking about you. Feel free to shoot me an email if you need some support. Good luck.


  47. It is people like Neil that constantly astound me. The fact that you are providing a well thought out argument as to why your rights as an individual are important to you, and that he was illogically stumbling through his way to "save" you.

    I've had this happen before, but it was in a chemistry class in High School. My teacher started talking about religion and how great and smart God is. It was making me extremely uncomfortable, as preaching any form of belief does. Not to mention I felt it was outside the context of the class. I spoke up in a respectful way stating that i was uncomfortable with this discussion and we got back on track with the lesson plan. Later that day when i got home, my mom was very upset with me that i caused a disruption in class (apparently my teacher called home). I told her that i was uncomfortable with the lecture and i knew that it was making a few other people uncomfortable as well. She didn't understand until i told her that i was an atheist and didn't believe. She was upset for the rest of the evening, but things smoothed out eventually. Ultimately it didn't matter at all. I was still her son, and she, my mother.

    Everything will be okay, and best of luck to you.

  48. What a jerk, nothing xtian in his actions. Your parents will still love you. Break it to them like this, 'at this point in my life I do not believe in a god as portrayed in any religious book, so you can call me an atheist.' which is a true statement, then let them respond. Go from there.

  49. Good luck, man. I hope all goes well for you and your relationship with your parents isn't affected. Personally, I think you shouldn't tell him when you tell them so he can call and look like a prying jackass and maybe your parents will see that you had n look choice but to tell them because you were blackmailed into it.

  50. Tim,
    I was raised in a Pentecostal family, my father was the pastor of our church. When I was much younger, age of 15 or so, I ended up telling them, what they never wanted to hear. That I did not believe in God. I avoided talking to them about it for years, since I decided at a very young age that I didn't believe in Christianity, but after I finally let them know I felt absolutely relieved. It was rough during the conversation: my mother in tears and my father repeatedly saying "I can't believe it..." and "Where did we go wrong?" As much as it broke my heart seeing it break theirs, they quickly got over it, and things seemed no different from before. (They forced me to still go to church until I was 18 years old.) Since turning 18 I have not went back to church, and they've tried on a few occasions to get me to attend a service, in which I've respectfully declined. I suppose the point I'm trying to make is that it will be rough to break the news, but as long as your parents are reasonable and loving parents things should quickly get better. My parents are the most religious people that I know, and are more strict with Christianity than any of the families of friends that I've known. Even in these circumstances things turned out well. I wish you well, and hopefully you have an experience that turns out well in the long run.

    (Also from Reddit)

  51. Tim, I also commented over on reddit, but I wanted to tell you that if your parents are decent people, and you've given every indication that they are, then they will be far more upset at their "friend" manipulating their son than that you kept something that you knew would upset them private.

    I told my mother several years ago that I no longer believed. She was upset, but we're as close as ever now. At the time, I think she thought it was a phase, and I think to some extent she still does, but she's a wonderful mom and would never let our theological differences get in the way of familial love. I sense that we'll have another confrontation when she realizes that my husband and I are serious about not raising our child in the church, but again, I can't imagine us loving us or it any less.

    Neil is a complete ass for forcing your hand, and is way out of line, but there is life on the other side of this family showdown. And it's much easier not to have to hide it. Good luck! I'll be thinking about you.

  52. Funny guy..
    When you do come out to your parents, perhaps tell them about this prick.

    Hopefully, your parents would say "With idiots like that, i don't want to be counted as an theist anymore":)

  53. " You see, now you are no longer questioning your faith but now you are being used to destroy other's faith in Christ or at least to plant seeds of doubt in their hearts. This is not harmless skepticism but outright declared war against God and His people."

    when did not believing sometime become war? jesus christ, sometimes I wish i was stuck in this weird situation so i could argue until my hearts content about how being forced to believe in something is immoral.

  54. Tim, I think the thing that I am most proud of you for is the fact that you didn't lose your cool while Neil was not only insulting you but being hypocritical about changing other beliefs. As an Atheist I felt more than a little upset about the way he chose to speak to. But as I said I am proud of the way that you dealt with him.

    As a second note I was fortunate enough to come from a family that accepted my beliefs no matter what they were. I could tell them that I wanted to be Muslim and know I would be supported. That being said I hope that you have underestimated your parents and how they will react to your news. This is definitely one of the hardest things to talk about and I hope that you are able to tell them and that they can understand why this is your choice.

    Best of luck, Ryan.

  55. I feel for you. I had a huge dilemma about my faith a few months ago and a number of my friends were all pressuring me in different directions. I feel for you and hope that everything turns out well for you.

    That guy is really a jerk. Having faith is your own choice and no one should be able to yell it in your face that your freedom of religion (or lack thereof)and the choice you made is wrong.

    I feel for your dilemma and hope that everything settles down!

  56. Good luck with this situation Tim.

    I told my parents I don't believe in god when I was 14 I think (seems so long ago, I'm 32 now) and they were pretty much ok with it, my mum was shaken a bit, but they know me, they know who I am and I hope the same will be with your parents. After all, you're still the same person.

  57. 300k Godless redditors support you in your endeavors

  58. Hey Tim,

    I hope it goes well. If they get confrontational, let it be a one-way road. Asking questions is the most peaceful way to make them see your point, rather than asserting it. My formula is that an insight raises a question, and a question raises an insight. You are more likely to help them see who you are by asking sincere questions and letting the insights come to them of their own accord. Not many people willingly concede to an assertion.

    I get in fights with my parents all the time about philosophical questions. In some cases, the relationship is only affected by 'how' you discuss this, not 'what' you discuss. My parents stomp and yell at me all the time when we disagree, but I think it's funny because I can see by the way they always come to me to interpret lighter subjects like movie or novel plots that they still respect my capacity to reason.

    My mom especially used to be physically violent with me when I was a young boy, as well as resorting to things like telling me I'm a piece of shit who could never be loved by anyone for thinking a certain way. Again, if you choose to be a man about it, their shortcomings in those areas are not your shortcomings. You can see that being 'you' does not mutually exclude them; roll with the punches. Once she even threw a plate of spaghetti in my face at dinner (which I'll admit I lost my cool over at first). I managed to control myself and amidst her yelling I said, "this is not how you help someone see your point".

    We still have a good relationship and I debate spirituality with my mom often. What I'm trying to say is that emotions really mess things up and the situation can seem like it's getting ugly because of all the chemicals that will inevitably course through everyone's veins that day. However, you seem like a reasonable and intelligent person, so there's no reason for you not to rise above that.

    I can tell you from experience that, in an instinctive sort of way, they will initially react to you having your own independent perspective (if they are the reactive type; how lucky are we to have parents who confront us, in a Darwinian sense?). Know that this is just them taking a hard emotional hit on the concept of being your 'guide' in life. If they choose to fight, they might create some sort of turf war, not against your opinion, but in terms of who the "mature" ones are in the house. I believe this is because people weigh maturity by your capacity to reason, and for them to admit that you are more reasonable than they are is to usurp their entire relationship with you for as long as you've been alive. They won't fight you because of the point itself, they will fight you because of that dynamic. Hence, even if they see they are wrong, they won't admit it until later when they can present it as their own reasoning.

    That being said, this is why you must be calm and demonstrate that you have self-confidence. They will have to initially push you away, then re-accept you not based on whether or not you can prove them wrong, but whether or not you can be mature about who you are and why you think this way.

    So if they take issue with it, part of being a man is making it work. I have faith in you. Just choose wisely 'how' you explain that atheism is what justifies who you are. They will need to readjust to the new dynamic in the house: where you have a differing, but mature stance on something that they do not. This does not end your family; it should make you a stronger figure in it.

    PS. You are also on the leading end of a new age of free-thinking people. This is not something to be ashamed of, or to hide, as long as you can do it with humility. Let the theism go gracefully, because it IS on its way out.

  59. My personal recommendation would be that when you tell your parents that you are an atheist, after gauging their response you may also want to tell them that you were not 100% ready to tell them yet but were blackmailed into doing so.

    If your parents don't take the news of your lack of faith unfavorably, they will likely react poorly to the blackmail that forced you to tell them.

  60. Hey Tim,

    You are not alone. You will get through this blackmailing prick.

    I left the Jehovah's Witnesses (JW) years ago. I legally divorced my JW wife at the same time. I moved to another city, found a lovely woman, and we began to live together. I told my parents, PLUS, I called my ex-wife and told her so that she could spiritually remarry (crazy).

    Long story short, that wasn't enough for the JW's. The elders contacted me and basically asked all sorts of personal questions about my life. I needed to 'confess' to them so that they could disfellowship (ex-communicate) me.

    These kind of people think they are doing God's will in an attempt to keep family bonds strong. In reality they are one of the most corrosive elements to healthy relationships.

  61. What a controlling asshole this Neil is.

  62. People will do as they want. If he wants to harass, threaten, blackmail you, he can back it up all he likes with whatever belief he chooses. But the context from which he draws most of his material, the Bible and Christian ethics, supposedly, makes me laugh so hard, my sides hurt.

    Jesus preferred the smaller flock over the larger one, and desired only the most dedicated. Meaning this prat is perfect for it, but has no business bullying you.

    Christianity is riddled with violent credo, but Jesus' main point was 'brotherhood.' Your friend can choose the Son or the people who twisted his divine messages in bloodlust and greed.

    I laughed so hard, though. These... these people... are so doom, doom, doom! about their points and the state and destination of your soul, but forget their and their religion's origins. And his grammar! I understand passion hurries anxious fingers, but this prick's resume wouldn't even reach desk. If he wants to be convincing, he should cut the crap, obtain some form of spellcheck and doublecheck his sources because... I'm, I'm sorry, I'm still laughing... XD

    You're always welcome in the Northwest, buddy. Atheists, Pagans, Muslims, Christians and Jews are pretty much equal. And the greatest part of living here is you can can always find a few of them or even whole groups perfectly willing and amiable, even jocular, in discussion of their faiths or lackthereof.

  63. *'reach my desk.' Urk. Irony or divine intervention? XD

  64. 'Can can' is perfectly acceptable. We also have a fair amount of Burlesque shows.

  65. Tim,

    It's regrettable that you're being forced to go through this, or that there should be any negative consequences for not sharing your family's beliefs. Unfortunately my religiousness isn't so far gone that I can't see Neil's thought process. After all, us darn atheists have been deceived by our father the devil and are now working to serve his purpose on earth whether we know it or not! That's the interesting thing about Christian dogma; you're always a slave to some one, you can never actually be free (oh sure, there's the whole "be free from sin" line, but you're still a servant of "God"). Thus, since you have obviously been led astray and are now committing the grievous sin of making people question the validity of their religion, your parents must be warned of your heathen ways so that they 'know what their dealing with' and won't covertly be turned to questioning their faith. Hopefully their added admonishment will turn you back to the flock so you can once again love Jesus! If not, then you deserve to be punished for choosing to "live your life in sin". It's an immoral and twisted worldview that Christianity causes. Truly, Jesus does "set a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
    and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law."

    Anyway, you'll be in my thoughts. I hope everything goes well, and if not, just know that you have a ton of support, from your sister and the internet community to me, Odin, father of the gods. This should bring you much comfort, seeing as I can clearly kick Jesus' ass, since I was willingly hung from the world tree by my own spear for nine days and nights in order to gain wisdom and LIVED.


    Ps. I can also kick that slut Zeus' ass.

  66. Avoid the word 'atheist' if you can. Many Christians associate the word 'atheist' with 'evil'. Just describe what you believe/think/feel instead. Good luck.

    1. Why avoid what you really are?

  67. Sorry, man. You've been put into an ugly position by - well, it's hard to say anything other than that Neil is a self-righteous prick. He's using all the best, most classic strategies of the modern religious hard-charger. Bereft of the right to imprison you or burn you at the stake, he's using emotional blackmail, and trying to set your own family against you.

    The fact that he sees this as the 'righteous path' really only confirms that his version of religion is something to be avoided at all costs. I can only wish you the best, and hope that the inevitable confrontation with your family goes as well as possible. Be sure to show them everything their "friend" Neil has done, so they can understand the sort of ugly person he is.

    Good luck.

  68. I think it's pretty evident what Neil is attempting to do. He knows just how poorly your parents are going to react to this news and he's hoping that their negative reaction will result in pulling you back under the fold, against your will. He isn't trying to appeal intellectually to you, because after 23 years of street preaching he knows his side doesn't have intellectual appeal, but he's hoping the prospect of homelessness and no familial support will force you to at least pretend for his and your family's sake. This is textbook blackmail and intimidation.

    If things go south when you tell them against your will, can often help find a place for atheists to crash until they get back on their feet. Best of luck to you man.

    Neil, you're trash and we both know it. I hope someone pepper sprays you at the next college you visit, you certainly deserve the karma.

  69. I wish that I could say that I find this surprising or unexpected, but I don't. This is precisely the kind of behavior you'd expect from them. Let's face it, this is a guy who has volunteered to be persecuted. He has chosen to spend his life on street corners preaching his religion, where he is either ignored or mocked by the very people that he thinks that he is coming to save. Doing that day after day is more than just demoralizing, it's insulting, and it's infuriating. This is a man (and a profession) that deep down inside is filled with little more than rage. And the problem that he has is that he can't act out against any of the people ignoring or mocking him, because he will reveal his true self and undermine his "evangelism".

    And then along comes a guy whose family he once knew. And he discovers that he's an atheist. And he discovers that his parents don't know. And now, finally, the street preacher has an outlet for all of his rage against the people who ignore and mock him. He finally has a way to take revenge against the atheists, and because he knows who your parents are and that you're "in the closest" he knows that he can spin it as "concern for your soul" or a "crisis of conscience". But the truth is more simple than that. He wants to hurt you and the other atheists, and this is the only way that he can find to do it. He has no intentions of letting you tell your parents in your own time. He wants to be the one to do it, because otherwise he won't get the satisfaction of striking back himself. Even if you do tell them yourself he will still call to rub it in. If your parents are loving and accepting of you he will rail against you even harder, and rail against your parents for providing for you and not cutting you off.

    But he's also overplayed his hand. He is blackmailing you, on some level. And depending on where you live what he is doing may meet the legal definition of harassment. Especially if he goes through with it. I would file a police report against him. He's clearly gone digging for information that he can use against you, and he's threatened you with something that could potentially leave you homeless and with no means of financially supporting yourself. I would take that threat very seriously.

  70. This is sad, and hopefully he'll have a change of mind or a stroke which renders him incapable of doing any more harm, but frankly both are just about as unlikely.

    What I found disturbing your thanking Matt Prorok supporting you in this case, but you did not point out that his blanket support for outing homosexual people is just a bad (I'd say evil, but that has religious connotations). It is wrong to expose anyone for any behavior which does not cause harm to a third person, and you should have called him out for it.

  71. I feel incredibly awful for the mess this horrible man has put you through. It seems very un-Christian-like to me. I hope that everything works out for the best and I hope you'll post updates about how the conversation with your parents goes. Best of luck!!! <3

  72. .... how come God hasn't already told them?

  73. I've had the misfortune of conversing with Neil several times. I knew he was irrational and close-minded, but I would have hoped he was above blackmail. Shame on him!

  74. Here's the letter I would send Neil:

    "I disagree with much of what you say, but one thing touched a chord: the need to be honest about ourselves. I have decided to come clean to my parents, to my friend, and most important to your friends, not only about atheism, but about the secret and forbidden love you and I have shared.

    "I feel free now that I can tell the world all about the nights of passions, the days of wanton abandon, the pleasure you and I have given each other.

    "I'm sure your family and parishioners and neighbors will be just as forgiving and open-minded about your homosexuality as they are about my atheism."

    Blackmail is a two-way street and payback is a bitch.

  75. where can we find this blackmailing bitch id like to meet him and "talk" some sense into him

  76. Remain confident, come clean quickly and with firmness, do not look shamed in anyway. This is YOUR belief and you should be proud of it. Just as "Christians" are prideful of their status as Christians, so too should Atheists be proud of their Atheism. We only humble ourselves for those we see as equal, not those we see as inferior.

  77. Tim,

    I can sympathize. My mom was a near-sociopathic bible-thumper. My dad was mentally vacant due to my mom. Coming out as an atheist was terrifying...

    Until I did it. Yes, my mom was horrified. She was a LOT more like Neil than I presume your parents are. But I gained a strength I didn't even suspect in me. I was not about belief or lack of belief. It was about being honest with myself and with my world. After I did this, it didn't matter a tinker's cuss what anyone thought. I could take or leave them with no looking back.

    I can sympathize with your fear, having been in a similar situation. The difference is your close relationship with your family; one I suspect won't really change despite their initial shock.

    To me, because of my experience, atheism is about bravery even in the total lack of support from anyone else. I think atheism is different for everyone, which is the point. We atheists sick apart.

    You were brave initially to accept reality rather than the cradle comfort of your upraising. You are brave now for standing up to Neil the psychopathic asshole. I suspect you will be brave in the future. We don't believe in a god, but we believe in ourselves. We are proud of you.

    TL;DR: you go, girl!

  78. Seriously good luck, my own parents took it better than I thought. Turns out my dad's an atheist too!

  79. Thanks again guys.

    Anon, you said,

    "What I found disturbing your thanking Matt Prorok supporting you in this case, but you did not point out that his blanket support for outing homosexual people is just a bad (I'd say evil, but that has religious connotations). It is wrong to expose anyone for any behavior which does not cause harm to a third person, and you should have called him out for it."

    I think you must have misinterpreted Matt Prorok's comment. Nowhere did he endorse outing gay people against their will. Maybe you mistook the "Out Campaign" as an organization that outs gay people, but if you click his link you'll see that's not at all the case.

  80. You're a smart guy; I get the feeling you know how to best deal with this. Wish you a good outcome.

    I can't understand how anyone can be certain of anything; matter itself is not solid (physics). It's not possible to say with certainty if God exists or not.
    It has been my experience that all points claiming certainty seem to end up requireing a degree of faith and trust along with logic and reason (some points more than others)

    One thing is certain, should God exist, He (or She) prefers not to be visible.

  81. Good luck. I actually found my parents response to be anticlimactic. My mom revealed that she was fed up with organized religion and she wasnt sure, and my dad acted like I just told him the sky was blue. My dads family found out when my grandpa tried to get me to condemn Islam (SINFUL!!!!) and I refused. He tried to kick me out of the christmas eve gathering (at my aunts house) and he was told to leave if he had a problem. My grandma refused to drive him home (she had the keys) so he downstairs to hide. They told me that while it was obvious I wasnt a big believer they appreciated that I didnt interrupt their prayers. I didnt bow my head or anything, I just kept my mouth shut. That night I found out more than 1/3 of my family was agnostic/dietist, another 1/3 was athiest and the rest christian. The believers were close to being the minority.......

    My moms side was less dramatic. My grandma made a joke about me not going to church, and I just laughed. She realized something was different and asked. Couple hours later (laid back, civil talk) we were having an argument about the latest Broncos coach like normal. The only time she has ever refused to talk to me at a gathering is when I brought a half black half mexican girl as my date.

    You never know... I expected the worst from both sides and it ended up being almost boring outside of finding out two thirds of my family was moving in the atheist direction. My dad showed more disappointment in my sister when he found out she was dating a hardcore Raiders fan.

  82. Oh so Neil probably reads this eh? Since he 'found your secret blog'?

    Neil, you are the epitome of ignorance in the world. A deceitful, arrogant, mockery of a man, who is the very reason that the so called 'militant-atheist' movement even exists. Though I would rather people call it by what it really is a movement toward rational thought, instead of being superstitious and mentally caged by the bonds of nonsense, that not only in itself is immoral, but creates people like yourself, who are immoral.

    Not only does it create immoral people like you, it allows them a justification in their immorality, which is simply one of the most vile things that exists in all of today's society.

  83. I liked anonymous comments - who startef with"good luck" and told his story -funny.

    I kind of feel sorry for Neil, who I think feels a sence of illogical push inside himself. He fears God, especially Gods rejection. That is a terrible and frightening outcome to him. The concept of God is his identity; his emotional stability
    (I'm also thinking that he'll comfort himself with verse... That the fear of God is beginning of wisdom)
    At this point Neil is brain washed ..and easily controlled through his religous beliefs.
    I wish Neil strength of will to eventually find his way to genuine emotional health and safety - with or without a belief in God. Both do exist. I've met these people.

  84. This human is disgusting. Religion is a cancer of society.

  85. well this guy isn't a childish cunt or anything. I can't believe you're even put into this situation, I would have definitely lost my tempter.

  86. Alot of times it has been and it will continue to be; but I have still met healthy and safe christians, buddhists, etc.

    I do not think that religion should be allowed to play a role on government.
    And you're far to easily disgusted. My point merly required disagreement.

  87. What a complete fucking asshole to interject into your personal life. Fuck this guy. I don't believe in Hell, but he'd be going there if there were such a place.

  88. While I'm a bit offended by this guys obvious talent for meddling, I still think that he thought he was doing the right thing. I believe that whatever religion or belief you have, you will be able to have that belief in whichever way you choose. I would never offend a christian because I in my heart think they're blind fools, and I wouldn't want to have bible citates thrown at me as soon as people understand what I believe in. I myself have great support from home for my beliefs (since most of them share them), but of course I receive strange looks, etc, in public. But as my dad said just a few minutes ago; "The world won't become the place we want it to be, before the whole world accepts atheism."

  89. "What I found disturbing your thanking Matt Prorok supporting you in this case, but you did not point out that his blanket support for outing homosexual people is just a bad (I'd say evil, but that has religious connotations). It is wrong to expose anyone for any behavior which does not cause harm to a third person, and you should have called him out for it."

    Just to clarify, I wasn't advocating this at all; while I know that some parts of the queer movement forcibly out people, I don't support that. The Out Campaign is an atheist campaign, not a homosexual one, and it also doesn't support forcibly outing people, it merely encourages those who are in the right situation and provides support for open atheists.

    Tim, I hope you don't mind the extra traffic to your blog; I'll fess up to posting this to Reddit. Your story just kind of hit me, and I wanted to let others know. I didn't expect it would get quite this much attention; sorry if I stole your karma. :)

  90. >I asked him not to tell my parents—this is a very personal decision that is mine alone to make—and he agreed.

    I guess the scumbag means to go ahead and sin against his own word given. What a total loser.

  91. Tim,

    I will answer you publicly here as you seem to like the attention this is getting.

    I have to admit I didn't think "coming out of the closet" was that big of a deal. I guess I underestimated this action. I still believe you would feel better about the whole thing if you were just honest with your parents about the whole thing.

    It saddens me that you do not have a relationship with your parents where you can be honest with them and I am quite surprised they haven't already detected that your faith is dead.

    As a parent, I am looking at it from my point of view. I met you at an on campus atheist outreach table and I was very surprised to see you there. If I wanted to be a jerk, I would have just picked up the phone and called your parents right away. I didn't do that because you asked me not to. I agreed, but you told me you would be telling your parents "soon", as I remember. I have kept my word to you and not said anything to them. You however did not keep your word, but that is debatable as how one would define the word "soon".

    Anyway, your fellow atheists / agnostics here seem to imply this is a very bad thing for me to do. Of course they are biased and I am biased toward a Christian perspective. In my eyes, you are committing your soul to hell. I know all of you don't agree with my assessment, but that is clearly how I see it. It is my desire not to FORCE you to recant your atheism as you have to make your own choice. No one can be FORCED to have faith in Christ. God has given us a free will.

    After seeing all of these complaints and from what you have stated I see you feel I am forcing you to make this move to tell your parents against your will. What I was hoping was that you would keep your word to me that you had previously stated and that you would have told your parents on your own.

    I can see now this is causing you much distress so I will agree to keep quiet the fact that I met you on campus and that I know your an atheist. I am not happy about this as your dad and mom I feel need to know this but I will let you make that decision.

    I am glad you were honest about disclosing the fact that you are still living at home, that your parents are supporting you financially, that you work for your dad and that you are worried about "getting the plug pulled" if the truth about your atheism came out. I can see now that is clearly part of your motivation to keep quiet about your atheism. If you can live with that, then so be it. - Neil

    John 8:32 "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

  92. Neil,

    Thank you for relenting. Just to respond to two points:

    "I will answer you publicly here as you seem to like the attention this is getting."

    This seems to imply that I enjoy basking in fame, while the truth is that I'm just happy to have an emotional safety net in a difficult time.

    "I agreed, but you told me you would be telling your parents "soon", as I remember. I have kept my word to you and not said anything to them. You however did not keep your word, but that is debatable as how one would define the word "soon"."

    What I said was that I planned on telling my parents soon, and that was the absolute truth. I wanted to tell them, and I still do. But as you finally realize, this is a very scary thing for me, and I just couldn't bring myself to do it when I had originally planned to.


  93. Also, Neil, I want you to know that although a lot of people thought you weren't being sincere, I can tell from talking to you that this whole affair stemmed from genuine concern on your part (even if I didn't like your way of showing it).

    And now, I have some thinking to do.

  94. "you are worried about "getting the plug pulled" if the truth about your atheism came out. I can see now that is clearly part of your motivation to keep quiet about your atheism. If you can live with that, then so be it."

    Tim could potentially be thrown out on the street. We see it -Every Week- on our forums. We literally had to set up a separate forum just to find a place to stay for these kids because it's such a prevalent problem. Tim shouldn't feel bad about fearing that at all and to think he should shows how callous your heart can be. Just let Tim tell his family on his own time. Coming at him like this certainly isn't going to make him like Christianity more so you're only doing yourself (and his soul, from your point of view) a disservice.

  95. "In my eyes, you are committing your soul to hell"

    Please take a look at this:
    The guy talking there was an evangelistic priest for 19 years.

    After seeing this one just has to ask who in their right mind would believe in that kind of stuff?

    I'd also suggest watching his full story here:

  96. Tim,

    Allow me to introduce myself, I am Neil Konitshek Jr, yes the son of the infamous Neil Konitshek. I get your dad's R.E. emails every week!

    I read through your blog post and wanted to say that although it may seem like my father was "blackmailing" you into telling your folks, please understand that he is thinking like a father.

    It may be hard to understand, but as a new dad myself, I would greatly appreciate it if someone told me something of great importance that my son was keeping from me...even if the news wasn't positive.

    Putting the existence of a God argument aside for a moment, if there really was a God that we should be accountable to, that would be the single most important decision any person could make. Christians may look fanatical, (there are many misguided ones out there), but a person who truly cares about another person would take the time to tell that person about God.

    Think of it this way: Hypothetically if you were driving towards a ditch in the middle of the road, hopefully a person would do anything they could to tell you about the danger ahead.

    The point of me telling you this is that I hope you realize that he really doesn't mean to harm you or has anything to gain. I think he did want to call you out on your claims of atheism which you and others see as blackmail.

    Anyway, please understand that a true Christian will never force anything on anyone. But we are all accountable for the decisions we make.

    1. Hi Neil,

      As a former Christian, I do understand where Neil Sr. was coming from. When you believe the stakes are that high, in many ways it makes sense to start taking actions like the ones that he did.

      However, that doesn't make doing what he almost did OK. People should be allowed to keep their personal beliefs private if they wish, particularly if there are potentially negative consequences for revealing them.

      Incidentally, you may be interested to know that some of the content in those weekly emails is written by me. =)


  97. Never negotiate with someone who is blackmailing you. As soon as he sent that first email you should have told your parents and told him to pound sand.