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Ask the Patriarch 216
How can I convert without my mom getting mad at me?

from: April

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I currently am in a religion that I dislike. The idea of agnosticism really goes with what I believe. I have tried to talk to my mom about it but she doesn't understand. How can I convert without my mom getting mad at me? I really want to change, but I'm a little lost.

Thank you!

The Patriarch replies:

April:

Thank you for writing. I must admit that I have no direct experience of your problem and by publishing this, I hope some of those who visit the site regularly will be able to provide some knowledgeable advice from personal experience. I also suggest you look through the Agnostic Testimony section of the site to see if anyone there has experience that you can relate to.

But I will provide some thoughts (or as someone suggested in another comment published this week ramble on without providing a direct answer.)

First of all - you do not have to convert. If you know what agnosticism is and you think you are an agnostic, then you are one. That's it! There's no ceremony or public declaration you have to make.

So, the issue is not one of converting to agnosticism - you already are an agnostic. The problem is how do you deal with your mom. Unfortunately, on religious matters often you cannot. On matters of religion, a genuine two-way dialogue about differences of opinion is rare. More often, people just talk past each other without listening. After over 50 years in my life, my stepmother still cannot comprehend that I am an agnostic. She will not accept the idea that anyone can not believe in God. Fortunately, I'm at an age where I can just tune out and ignore her. You can't do that yet.

One of the things about growing up most of us find hard to take is that while we live in our parent's home, we pretty well have to live by their rules. If this involves going to church on Sunday and attending bible study, then in the interest of family harmony, I think you have to go along until you are prepared to go out on your own. And you should not rush that decision solely for religious reasons. But, in going to church, there is nothing wrong with occasionally telling your mom something like "I'm doing this only because it is your wish and I respect you, but I don't believe in any of it, and I think there are better things I could use my time for..." such as homework, for example.

But if something more than simple lip-service is involved such as a requirement to make a formal commitment to your mother's religion - perhaps a religious ceremony such as confirmation or adult baptism - then it's time to talk seriously to your mother, and if she doesn't listen, to the minister of your church. Tell her (or him) "Look, I genuinely don't believe in this and I don't want to go through this ceremony because it would be fundamentally dishonest. You don't want me to lie on such an important occasion, do you?"

Not a particularly satisfying answer, is it? Do check back over the next few weeks to see if anyone has provided better advice from their own experience - or write again with more detail about the issues with your mom so that a more specific answer can be provided rather than what I've written above.