2008-12-14

My Mother Thinks I'm Going to Hell

Since my deconversion over four years ago, my Catholic family has never given me any trouble about my atheism. Outside of one occasion a long time ago during which my mother asked me a few simple, polite questions about what I believe now, they never even raise the topic of religion with me. They do talk about church activities around me, but it has nothing to do with my presence. They also pray before meals, but they've done that forever and I've never considered objecting, especially since it's quick and they're giving me free food! They never give me any flack whatsoever and never treat me any differently than they ever have, so the following episode surprised and hurt me.

A few weeks ago, my mother told me a story about my niece. My older sister regularly babysits two children of her neighbors who happen to be Buddhist. One day one of the neighbor kids heard something about Jesus and asked, "Who's Jesus?" My four-year-old niece told her, "You'd better know who Jesus is or you're not going to heaven!" My mother told me this story somehow thinking I would be amused, but I didn't laugh at all. I struggled to tell her I found it disturbing a little child has been taught to divide the world up into us versus them and tell people they're going to hell. She didn't seem to understand my viewpoint as she just thought it was funny a child would say something so adult-like. We talked and my mother expressed the (heretical from a Catholic perspective) opinion that it doesn't matter what religion you believed since they all lead to God. I asked her about the rest of the people and reminded her about me. She didn't say anything at first and said my beliefs are my own business.

So in the end, my mother who loves me very much and would do absolutely anything for me thinks I'll be damned to hell by her god who is supposedly all-loving for simply disbelieving in extraordinary claims without any evidence. In her view, it apparently doesn't matter what religious belief you have or why you believe it, you're still better than someone who looks at religion critically and decides it's simply not true. The dissonance between her belief and actions is remarkable. I thought about writing her a letter to express my thoughts, but I haven't done so. I see no need to risk adversely affecting our relationship over this evil belief which she doesn't talk about or act upon. It just bothers me that my family could possibly think I truly deserve to be roasted alive for all eternity. It makes me even more grateful for my new godfree wife whose love for me isn't obscured by systematic irrationality.

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8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have not been sure how to discuss these type of matters with my parents either.

L8bloomer said...

I once saw an eastern film soon after my de-conversion, which starred a "Kung-Fu" Jesus actor. Man, I pissed myself laughing at that guy, because the producers were not trying to mock christianity, it was just the icon/ emblem of this Jesus guy that could Kick Ass that fitted in with their script!

Anonymous said...

I simply don't mention my beliefs around my parents. This is mainly because I know it would upset them terribly to think that I'm 'going to hell'

I think they think I will eventually come back to the fold. They've probably got the fatted calf ready and waiting!

vjack said...

Have you asked her directly whether she thinks that you are going to hell? From the post, it sounds like you might be inferring it. I wonder what she'd say if asked directly.

Zatarra said...

Have you asked her directly whether she thinks that you are going to hell? From the post, it sounds like you might be inferring it. I wonder what she'd say if asked directly.

That's a good question. You're right that she didn't directly say that I'm going to hell; she just wouldn't say that I'm going to heaven. I'm not sure what other option exists in her personal theology. Maybe I should ask, but I'm not sure. I'll probably post her response if I ever do ask.

setUpon said...

I have the same situation with my mother - she thinks because I don't believe in God that I am doomed. Last night I dreamt that SHE went to hell and was in a place with lots of fat people and drunks = the 2 things she HATES in this world and never stops going on about. Perhaps that is how it works - we end up in our own Hell?!

Anonymous said...

If anyone has any comments on how to deal with family that truly believes you are going to hell, I'd love to hear it. I know my sister loves me very much and she's been very understanding when I told her that I'm an atheist. But a few days ago when we were having a discussion about it, she couldn't help herself and started crying because she's so scared that I'll go to hell. I got so sad when she started crying, because I'm causing her pain and I seem to not be able to help it! Advice anyone?

Secular Planet said...

Anon: "…I'm causing her pain…"

Whatever you do, don't ever, ever blame yourself for your sister's sadness! Her mistaken belief in the evil doctrine of hell is what's causing her pain. You should feel absolutely no guilt whatsoever for disbelieving!