The term “coming out” is usually associated with LGBTQ but is often used by apostates as many face similar issues around stigma, rejection and isolation.
When is the time right?
There may never be a perfect time to come out. Many apostates have never had to have a conversation as difficult as telling their family or friends they no longer believe. Some may have never opposed the power dynamics in their house at all.
A checklist to think about, if you’re reliant on your family, might look something like this:
- Am I financially dependent upon my parents?
- Will I be able to stay elsewhere, even if only for a while, if I need to leave?
- Do I have a support network around me that accept me?
- Am I at risk of physical violence by coming out?
People often talk about their need to live authentic lives, and coming out as an apostate can sometimes help you build a more honest relationship with your friends and family. It can also help you begin the process of healing from mental health trauma that many apostates build up through an unhealthy upbringing.
Is there a process?
Telling people, you are an apostate gets easier over time. The first few times may be daunting, especially if you are telling close family and friends. Tell people you feel you can trust first. For some, this may be a family member, a teacher, partner or doctor. By coming out to a few people that you trust will build a foundation of support.
How do I tell my family?
Some start with one parent and then the other, others tell their whole family at the same time. You may decide to come out in person, or it might be easier to write a letter. If possible speak to a friend you trust about your options and help them help you think them through.
Telling pious family members that you know longer believe in the God they raised you to follow is often tough. Many decide to start with a brief description of their journey of losing their faith. It may be appropriate to talk about the values that have guided your decision, for example, a love for knowledge or an inquisitive mind.
What will happen?
Be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster; this could be anger, disappointment, sadness, shock, outrage or all at different times.
Arguing with family members and demanding that they accept you rarely works. Instead, consider showing them you can be happy, healthy and moral without faith.
Parents and family may turn away from you for a time. For many, it takes time to come to terms with apostasy. Give the process time.
We have come across many examples of relatives and friends coming to terms with loved one’s apostasy.