|Warning: drama ahead.|
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? http://othersidereflections.blogspot.com/
Thanks, NeilIt 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.
—TimHere'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, NeilSince 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.