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My family thinks I'm a ticking time-bomb

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I'm having a problem with several important relationships in my life and I wonder if anyone has dealt with this, or has any suggestions for dealing with it.

The problem is that my entire family (parents, brothers, extended relatives) as well as almost every friend I've had for longer than 5 years is a committed evangelical Christian. Yeah, every single freakin one. Many of them are really important and valuable to me - they are all good, healthy, people who I learn a lot from (for example, my dad runs a small business and has taught me a lot about it) and generally rational except for one shared and mistaken premises: God exists. Since they believe that and, as part of the package, that even entertaining any doubt about it is a sin with some pretty dire consequences, for me to even suggest the topic is treated pretty much as though I were brandishing a knife at them or something. Seriously - I'm intentionally putting them in physical danger by daring to suggest such a thing - God is "unknowable" which is why they can't prove his existence, but he "speaks personally to them" which is why they don't have to consider whether it's true. The fact that I'm not a Christian, to them, is clear evidence that I'm self-destructive and unstable. They don't treat me any differently as long as I don't bring it up and go quietly to church with them when I'm at home, but it's clear enough that I can't really be trusted around impressionable children, etc. I think my parents have some kind of savings account set up for when I inevitably come home knocked up and coked out (not really ... but I'm sure it wouldn't surprise them).

In reality, however, I'm a great example of a responsible citizen. I have a university degree, a good job (where I've been able to climb the ladder quickly because I actually *am* responsible, dependable and sensible), a part-time business that will soon be a full-time business, perfect credit, solid friendships with good people ... I mean, what more could they ask for? I have relatives who are doing much worse but are still "better" just because they are "seeking God". So they still insist on worrying about me, treating my opinions as though they come from some deeply hurtful experience that caused me to hate God (I had a coffee with a friend over Christmas and the next thing I know, he's preaching a sermon at his church about how I turned my back on God because of all the hurt I've experienced in my life ... which apparently happened sometime when I wasn't paying attention, I've had a pretty normal life), and generally don't trust me to take care of myself.

What can I do?? I don't want to cut them all out of my life, other than this issue I love them and think they're great people. I also value having people in my life who have known me for more than a few years, I mean it's my family and people I grew up with. They just honestly think that I'm volatile and "spiritually" suicidal and will always refuse to believe otherwise, no matter what I do. Besides, anything I did would just make me the villian and they would see it as some sort of admission of guilt (like I just can't handle being around the "truth", God is convicting my soul or something). Anything I could do would be interpreted as an act of aggression. It's not that they're doing anything to me - I'm the one who changed, not them - it's just that the whole "black sheep" routine is getting really, really old. I'm tired of hearing about people praying for me ... when the only really difficult problem in my life is the fact that people won't stop freakin praying for me :lol:

That's a long explanation but I'm really stumped as to what to do here. Hopefully people here will have some suggestions and I appreciate (in advance) any replies.

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This might be hard to hear but by allowing them to treat you like this you are giving them all the sanction they need to continue to do it.

I'd tell them all to... mind their own business and add that if they can not do that then you will have nothing more to do with them.

Yes, they will say that you have self-destructed or whatever, but you will know the truth.

You go to church just to keep them happy? What about keeping YOU happy?

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Do they know you don't like being treated this way?

Do they know enough about your position?

And do you have a reason besides appeasement to go to Church?

If you don't I'd say you're sacrificing your time for the sake of hearing more of this.

If you want them to take you serious you don't have to cut them of but you shouldn't bend over.

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Bluey, What is the essence of the problem? You mention that they make comments about people praying for you. So, I'm guessing that the nature of the problem might be that they continue to bring up the religion thing. With the typical family, you aren't going to get them to change what they think about you -- not considerably. However, you might get them to change the way they behave toward you, so that you can have the relationship you wish, based on values shared, and not focus on disputes. Is that your intent? If it is more than that -- for instance if you think "they're unfair to think that way about me, and should stop" -- then you're taking on something huge.

If it's about how they act toward you, rather than about how they think about you, the starting point is to tell them to stop it. However, you hint that you're the one who "brings it up"' if so, you'll have to stop it too.

Edited by softwareNerd
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This might be hard to hear but by allowing them to treat you like this you are giving them all the sanction they need to continue to do it.

I'd tell them all to... mind their own business and add that if they can not do that then you will have nothing more to do with them.

Yes, they will say that you have self-destructed or whatever, but you will know the truth.

You go to church just to keep them happy? What about keeping YOU happy?

But the problem is that they're not actually *doing* much, just going about their business and I'd have to make a fuss in order to disagree ... for example, the next time I'm at home for a weekend and don't want to go to church, what do I do, just sleep in? That's being more rude/childish than reasonable I would think, it would be like refusing to eat with them just because I don't like what they're having. I don't sleep in until 11. I have no reason to sit in their living room and stare out the window until they get back. If I'm at home visiting them, isn't it just respectful to go along with their routine, so long as I'm not being asked to participate?

It just seems like my choices are: be a jerk to them for just doing what they think they should do; or go out of my way to ignore all the ways that they ignore the fact that I'm clearly uncomfortable. I mean I'm not interested in debating everyone every time I go home, I just want to visit and chill out, but my family is a very "discuss religion around the dinner table" kind of family and I usually just sit there as opposed to taking it on myself to change the whole tone of the conversation. Should I change that policy? Or just suck it up when I'm there but go home less often? I feel like they've earned the right to enjoy my company or something, as they did raise me the best they could and I turned out pretty good, and I'd be denying them that if I did anything different ... and we all get along in other activities. It would make me unhappy to do something hurtful to my family if I don't absolutely need to.

Bluey, What is the essence of the problem? You mention that they make comments about people praying for you. So, I'm guessing that the nature of the problem might be that they continue to bring up the religion thing. With the typical family, you aren't going to get them to change what they think about you -- not considerably. However, you might get them to change the way they behave toward you, so that you can have the relationship you wish, based on values shared, and not focus on disputes. Is that your intent? If it is more than that -- for instance if you think "they're unfair to think that way about me, and should stop" -- then you're taking on something huge.

If it's about how they act toward you, rather than about how they think about you, the starting point is to tell them to stop it. However, you hint that you're the one who "brings it up"' if so, you'll have to stop it too.

Well I guess it's just a matter of how I should handle the subject. If I'm eating dinner and suddenly a conversation on religion breaks out, do I just sit there in silence (which is what I do now)? That's awkward because I'm not really the silent type and they know I have opinions on the subject ... just opinions that offend them. It's not a matter of changing how they think about it, I know that's not going to happen (not for all of them anyway, maybe when my younger brothers are a little older they'll understand that I'm a fully functional human).

Why do you want to keep these people in your life in spite of all this? I assure you, they aren't the only people that can be of value to you.

They do provide value that I can't really replace, though ... I think ...

And do you have a reason besides appeasement to go to Church?

If you don't I'd say you're sacrificing your time for the sake of hearing more of this.

They already have my time though, I mean I'm there, they live in a little town and there's really nothing better to do with that hour or two.

I can see how I'm sanctioning it by going along, I just can't see what other options there are that aren't just as bad.

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Well I guess it's just a matter of how I should handle the subject. If I'm eating dinner and suddenly a conversation on religion breaks out, do I just sit there in silence (which is what I do now)? That's awkward because I'm not really the silent type and they know I have opinions on the subject ... just opinions that offend them. It's not a matter of changing how they think about it, I know that's not going to happen (not for all of them anyway, maybe when my younger brothers are a little older they'll understand that I'm a fully functional human).
Maybe you can repeat "I'm biting my tongue! I'm biting my tongue!" until they change the subject! :lol:

Seriously, other than having them change the subject, there are only two options: be quiet or get involved.

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for example, the next time I'm at home for a weekend and don't want to go to church, what do I do, just sleep in? That's being more rude/childish than reasonable I would think, it would be like refusing to eat with them just because I don't like what they're having. I don't sleep in until 11. I have no reason to sit in their living room and stare out the window until they get back. If I'm at home visiting them, isn't it just respectful to go along with their routine, so long as I'm not being asked to participate?

A house guest should try not to disrupt his hosts' routine too much. He should not, for instance, ask they skip activities they'd usually do. So as long as you don't keep them from going to church, you're not being impolite or disrespectful. As for what you can do instead, that's up to you. Sleep in, or watch TV, or go for a walk, or visit friends, or something.

Another option is to stay elsewhere. A hotel, some firend's home, a rooming house, whatever. That way you can visit your family but are not tied to their daily routine. You can, for instance, take them out to dinner, or to after-dinner coffe and desert (if they do that sort fo thing), rather than eat dinner at home.

Finally, a polite host does not purposefully make his guest unconfortable. While the guest should do the most accomodating overall, the host has to accomodate the guest somewhat as well. You can talk to your family about it, ask them not to discuss religion while you're there.

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What can I do?? I don't want to cut them all out of my life, other than this issue I love them and think they're great people.

Unfortunately this is a rather significant issue, and it seems that they're not content with leaving well enough alone. This seems to me to be a very deep incompatibility that can't really be healed with good intentions: They know what your stance is, and the tenets of their religion brand you as someone who either must be converted or watched at all times because he is a danger to the faith. It is obvious that you are not happy with these relationships, otherwise it wouldn't be a problem in the first place.

Considering that the stance is question is a metaphysical stance, and that you are a student of philosophy and take ideas seriously, what kind of relationship can you have with these people who disagree almost violently with you upon the metaphysical nature of the universe, and who treat you as if you might be a danger to yourself and others because of those ideas? Personally if I were in that kind of a relationship I wouldn't be able to have a meaningful connection to anyone in that group because all I would be capable of addressing would be 'small talk', non-essential casual conversation. Every time a conversation edged closer to matters of substance or depth, it is very likely that their beliefs would play a center role--- not only that, but the fact of how they treated me because of their beliefs.

You may be uncomfortable with the idea of severing ties with your past friends and relatives, which may not let you fully consider the inequality of the relationship. There is nothing that says that you can't keep a cordial relationship with your parents. But it seems to me that the cons of maintaining a close relationship with them and your old friends outweigh whatever benefits you may be deriving from them at this moment--- I certainly wouldn't want to stay in or frequent a household that treated me the way you have related, regardless of how I may like them otherwise.

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A house guest should try not to disrupt his hosts' routine too much. He should not, for instance, ask they skip activities they'd usually do. So as long as you don't keep them from going to church, you're not being impolite or disrespectful. As for what you can do instead, that's up to you. Sleep in, or watch TV, or go for a walk, or visit friends, or something.

Another option is to stay elsewhere. A hotel, some firend's home, a rooming house, whatever. That way you can visit your family but are not tied to their daily routine. You can, for instance, take them out to dinner, or to after-dinner coffe and desert (if they do that sort fo thing), rather than eat dinner at home.

Finally, a polite host does not purposefully make his guest unconfortable. While the guest should do the most accomodating overall, the host has to accomodate the guest somewhat as well. You can talk to your family about it, ask them not to discuss religion while you're there.

Hmm, good points. I guess if I'm sure I'm not being the rude one I could just refuse to go, find something else to do, and deal with it if they want to make a fuss. It's not that I have a problem with confrontation, it's just that I want to make sure I'm within my bounds if I'm going to do something that will force them to do something they don't want to ... I know they do the same thing to me but I also know that they are sure they're right (of course they happen to be wrong, but is it really my place to point that out to them? I know from experience that it's a really hard reality to face).

Actually now that I put it like that I can kind of see what the problem is. It's not my responsibility to help them keep up whatever evasions they've chosen, although I feel like it is because that's the way they were before I came into the picture - but it will never be as though I was never there, I guess, even though I'm not out to cause trouble.

Considering that the stance is question is a metaphysical stance, and that you are a student of philosophy and take ideas seriously, what kind of relationship can you have with these people who disagree almost violently with you upon the metaphysical nature of the universe, and who treat you as if you might be a danger to yourself and others because of those ideas? Personally if I were in that kind of a relationship I wouldn't be able to have a meaningful connection to anyone in that group because all I would be capable of addressing would be 'small talk', non-essential casual conversation. Every time a conversation edged closer to matters of substance or depth, it is very likely that their beliefs would play a center role--- not only that, but the fact of how they treated me because of their beliefs.

That's pretty much how it is. When I'm around I try to focus on doing things ... I'll go four wheeling or to my brother's band practice, do something around the house with my mom, etc. I'm partly kind of "placeholding" in the hopes that when my brothers leave home they'll come around and things will change. But I guess they're old enough now that they could maintain contact with me if they wanted to, so maybe that's not a good reason anymore.

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for example, the next time I'm at home for a weekend and don't want to go to church, what do I do, just sleep in? That's being more rude/childish than reasonable I would think, it would be like refusing to eat with them just because I don't like what they're having.

You're not going to church because you don't like going to church. If they respect you then they will not force you to go to something you dislike as an adult.

I feel like they've earned the right to enjoy my company or something, as they did raise me the best they could and I turned out pretty good, and I'd be denying them that if I did anything different ... and we all get along in other activities. It would make me unhappy to do something hurtful to my family if I don't absolutely need to.

Is the fact that they raised you what has earned them the right to also be disrespectful to you?

If they will not trust you, if they treat you worse than they treat other people who are doing worse things than yourself -- the very fact that you can't be trusted around small children speaks to this fact. That's not respect, and that's not trust. You can't have a relationship and lack both.

The way you are painting it, it is as if they are waiting for you to destroy yourself at any moment and come running back into their arms-- what kind of relationship is that?

Is this out of respect on your part, or is it out of guilt?

I can see how I'm sanctioning it by going along, I just can't see what other options there are that aren't just as bad.

Read. Surf the internet. Take out an old Olivia Newton-John exercise tape and get physical. The options are limitless.

Why don't you tell them this: I am as uncomfortable going to church as you are listening to arguments or reading books that deny the existence of God. Why should I be made uncomfortable while you must remain immune to being made uncomfortable? You either agree that we can both make each other uncomfortable, or respect my boundaries and I'll respect yours.

You can also tell them re:Church, "This is not going to happen, this is not who I am, this is not how you can treat me, and it's not something I'm going to turn around on." Because every time you go to church with them you are giving them the hope that you will get struck by a divine bolt of lighting (200 megawatts), see the light and convert.

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The way you are painting it, it is as if they are waiting for you to destroy yourself at any moment and come running back into their arms-- what kind of relationship is that?

Is this out of respect on your part, or is it out of guilt?

Yeah, that's basically what it's like. They don't push the subject but they have and will reacted strongly if I begin to. I think as time goes on they're starting to realize that it's not likely to happen ... or maybe they just think that if I'm still doing well and not obviously rebelling against anything I'll eventually see the light, I don't know. It's been 7 years since I left Bible college and I explained my position at the time and have done the same since, so any day now ...

It's my friend's sermon that really brought this on, because I know that the things he said are the things my family thinks even though they're pretty obviously untrue. I'm not too worried about him, he lives pretty far away and I don't see him often, plus I know that he must have been pretty bothered by the things I said if he had to work it into a totally unrelated sermon three days later (which I only heard because his mom posted the video to Facebook and tagged him, haha), and to misrepresent me so blatantly. He's pretty reasonable overall, he's even stopped believing in hell because he can see that it doesn't make sense. But he's a pastor - I know that he knows better, and I also know that my family takes in and agrees with every other pastor who preaches the same stuff and they really do believe everything he said (i.e. they think I must have some sort of grudge against god ... evangelicals don't believe in atheists).

Edit: And I think I can pretty honestly say that at least a big part of it is respect. My dad has the kind of story that Rand would love - he grew up in terrible circumstances, decided that his life would be different, and followed Christianity as the only path he'd ever seen out of it. If only he'd take it a step further now that he's accomplished that goal ..

Read. Surf the internet. Take out an old Olivia Newton-John exercise tape and get physical. The options are limitless.

I don't mean better than spending two hours at crummy church, haha. I mean better than spending three hours defending myself afterwards, every single time ...

Edited by bluey
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But the problem is that they're not actually *doing* much, just going about their business and I'd have to make a fuss in order to disagree ... for example, the next time I'm at home for a weekend and don't want to go to church, what do I do, just sleep in? That's being more rude/childish than reasonable I would think, it would be like refusing to eat with them just because I don't like what they're having. I don't sleep in until 11. I have no reason to sit in their living room and stare out the window until they get back. If I'm at home visiting them, isn't it just respectful to go along with their routine, so long as I'm not being asked to participate?

But you are participating. I understand that in your mind, by going along with their beliefs/routine you are saying that you respect them and tolerate their beliefs. Okay, I see your point...

Now what are they saying to you when they turn around and create a sermon about you and your wicked ways and deliver it to a congregation with you in attendance?

I'll tell you what they are saying in not so many words... "Fuck You and your beliefs. "

It just seems like my choices are: be a jerk to them for just doing what they think they should do; or go out of my way to ignore all the ways that they ignore the fact that I'm clearly uncomfortable.

Check your premises. Your choice is to stand up for yourself or be a doormat for people who obviously don't think of you outside of their beliefs anyway.

I mean I'm not interested in debating everyone every time I go home,
nor should you feel you have to.

I just want to visit and chill out, but my family is a very "discuss religion around the dinner table" kind of family and I usually just sit there as opposed to taking it on myself to change the whole tone of the conversation. Should I change that policy? Or just suck it up when I'm there but go home less often?

Only you can answer that question

I feel like they've earned the right to enjoy my company or something, as they did raise me the best they could and I turned out pretty good, and I'd be denying them that if I did anything different ... and we all get along in other activities. It would make me unhappy to do something hurtful to my family if I don't absolutely need to.

Is deriding you for your beliefs, or making you uncomfortable at every meal = to enjoying your company?

Don't forget that you are the other half of the equation --- "turned out pretty good"

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I hate to say it, bluey, but it may actually be irrational to adopt a "live and let live" policy here--because that sort of thing has to be voluntarily entered into by both participants in order for it to work. I read your complaint where you don't think that they're giving you credit for your life accomplishments--but real Christians don't fundamentally believe that life accomplishments amount to a hill of beans. It would be like me asking my environmentalist parents to love the 17 bedroom, 8 bathroom, 4 jacuzzi super-mansion I bought along with my 4 SUV's, 3 sports cars, and private jet--all bought with the money I got from strip-mining and logging. It ain't gonna happen.

The only thing you can really do is stand up for your values and let *them* decide whether they want to cut *you* off. Explain in a calm, firm, polite manner that you find the insinuations insulting and would like them to stop. If they don't stop, tell them you are leaving and do it. Insist that your right to make up your own mind be respected, just as YOU don't proselytize to THEM (I hope you don't) because it isn't your place to do so.

If the preacher decides to sermonize about you, stand up, right there, no matter how embarrassing it is, and say "I cannot believe you are so childish as to try this absurd tactic. I am leaving." After all, part of what they're counting on is your fear of public shame. If you make it obvious that no "shame" bothers you, they'll abandon it.

There's no guarantee that you'll be able to maintain friendly relations with these people, but you have to be willing to insist that the relationship be win/win--otherwise you *must* walk away, for your own sake. As others have said, there are plenty of other people out there who won't use your friendship as a lever to try and control you.

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bluey,

Have you considered participating in your own "spiritual" activity during church time? Aren't there some philosophy or self-improvement books you could catch up on?

If you do choose to debate with your family, keep in mind that Objectivism gives you some very powerful tools for understanding and responding to other's ideas. Being able to think in principles and question one's premises gives you a tremendous advantage in any abstract discussion. You may not be able to convince them, but you will challenge premises that they aren't willing to question. That will force them to question their premises or shut up. In my experience, that will permanently end any serious attempts at evangelism.

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My father is a pastor, so I can relate to your situation. So I'll tell you what works for me so that my parents and I can coexist peacefully.

Since they believe that and, as part of the package, that even entertaining any doubt about it is a sin with some pretty dire consequences, for me to even suggest the topic is treated pretty much as though I were brandishing a knife at them or something.

Don't raise the topic. There is no need.

They don't treat me any differently as long as I don't bring it up and go quietly to church with them when I'm at home, but it's clear enough that I can't really be trusted around impressionable children, etc.

Don't surrender your values. Don't go to church. Don't make an issue of it either if you can help it. Just say, "You know I don't share your beliefs, so you go on to church, but I won't be going." If they can respect that, great. Of course, *they* may make an issue of it. If they do, you have 2 choices as I see it. 1) Tell them you won't be forced and if they try then you will simply leave. 2) Go to placate them. That means you have to be willing to stand up for your beliefs, and it may mean they choose not to respect your right to be you. Which would you rather sacrifice? Your values or your relationship with people who don't respect your values?

What can I do?? I don't want to cut them all out of my life, other than this issue I love them and think they're great people. I also value having people in my life who have known me for more than a few years, I mean it's my family and people I grew up with. They just honestly think that I'm volatile and "spiritually" suicidal and will always refuse to believe otherwise, no matter what I do. Besides, anything I did would just make me the villian and they would see it as some sort of admission of guilt (like I just can't handle being around the "truth", God is convicting my soul or something). Anything I could do would be interpreted as an act of aggression. It's not that they're doing anything to me - I'm the one who changed, not them - it's just that the whole "black sheep" routine is getting really, really old. I'm tired of hearing about people praying for me ... when the only really difficult problem in my life is the fact that people won't stop freakin praying for me :)

Standing up for yourself is often called "aggression" by those who have no right to stop you from being whom you choose to be. They are trying to force you to change. You are resisting, and they're calling your resistance aggression. That's like the robber blaming you for making him shoot you when he has the gun and wants your wallet and you just say no.

Have you read Atlas Shrugged? If you have, reread the sections dealing with Reardon and his family. If not, read it and pay close attention. While Reardon's specifics are different (ie: they live off his wealth), the tool being used against you by them is the same. Guilt.

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But the problem is that they're not actually *doing* much, just going about their business and I'd have to make a fuss in order to disagree ... for example, the next time I'm at home for a weekend and don't want to go to church, what do I do, just sleep in? That's being more rude/childish than reasonable I would think, it would be like refusing to eat with them just because I don't like what they're having.

Just tell them you won't be going to church, let them go, and say, "Hope you enjoy the service!" as they leave. Don't make an issue of it, just don't go. I face this situation every time I visit my folks. They've learned to accept it, and meanwhile, I read a good book or do something else I enjoy.

It just seems like my choices are: be a jerk to them for just doing what they think they should do; or go out of my way to ignore all the ways that they ignore the fact that I'm clearly uncomfortable.

Choosing not to go with them is not "being a jerk".

I mean I'm not interested in debating everyone every time I go home, I just want to visit and chill out, but my family is a very "discuss religion around the dinner table" kind of family and I usually just sit there as opposed to taking it on myself to change the whole tone of the conversation. Should I change that policy? Or just suck it up when I'm there but go home less often?

If they want to discuss it with you, and you don't want to discuss it, don't. It's their table, but its your mind. Just say, "You know we don't agree. Lets not make dinner unpleasant by arguing over something we won't ever agree on."

I feel like they've earned the right to enjoy my company or something, as they did raise me the best they could and I turned out pretty good, and I'd be denying them that if I did anything different ... and we all get along in other activities. It would make me unhappy to do something hurtful to my family if I don't absolutely need to.
So instead you're letting them do hurtful to you. You realize that, don't you?
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I feel like they've earned the right to enjoy my company or something, as they did raise me the best they could and I turned out pretty good, and I'd be denying them that if I did anything different ... and we all get along in other activities. It would make me unhappy to do something hurtful to my family if I don't absolutely need to.

Even though it seems to make them very happy that they do something hurtful to you without absolutely needing to?

If someone is a hard worker at his job but completely disrespects his co-workers and boss, he's probably going to get fired even if he pulls in the most sales. They are rescinding all the company of yours they've "earned" by treating you like garbage and making you miserable.

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I certainly don't think you ought to compromise your principles in order to please those who are only causing you misery. In your case, the conflict is either other people versus rationality or your emotional ties to your family versus rationality -- and if you take your life and your ideals seriously, then you ought to chose reason. If you give in to them now, then any time you have such a conflict in the future you will be moving closer and closer to being a Peter Keating.

I can't say my family is very religious, but my mom definitely wanted me to continue going to church because I used to be such a good Catholic alter boy when I was growing up. The transition to Objectivism wasn't easy, and even though I am 51 years old, my mom still tries to encourage me to go to church or find a good church woman to marry. She even wants me to go to church outings to find a girl. While I'm not saying I would necessarily turn down a woman who might go to church here and there, I would certainly be incompatible with someone who is seriously Catholic -- I think we'd wind up trying to convert one another; I would most certainly encourage her to do something else besides go to church ;)

The bottom line is that life can be full of difficult decisions, and if you don't learn how to make them when you are young, you won't be able to make them when you get older.

Given what you said, I would say your best choice is to back away from your family and live on your own by getting a good job and having your own place, and cut back on visiting them on Sundays. I certainly would not recommend faking it by going to church and doing something else while you are there, as some have suggested. For one thing, the sermon will not be able to be completely ignored and you want to be able to fight the church orientation of your family explicitly, whereas hearing a sermon every Sunday will tend to erode that ability -- i.e. you wouldn't want to confront anything that might contradict the sermon to your family, which will only make matters worse.

Independence is a virtue in Objectivism, exercise yours and live your own life to the most rational of your abilities -- starting today.

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Even though it seems to make them very happy that they do something hurtful to you without absolutely needing to?

They kind of do "need" to in a weird, twisted way ... yanno, to save my soul from eternal hellfire ;) Unfortunately it doesn't make any of us very happy, really.

Anyway it's true ... I probably do need to back off some, get a life and let them worry about how to take it. Thanks to everyone to replied - I think it's a little clearer to me now what my actual responsibilities are in this situation (to stand up for my own beliefs, not help anyone else keep up theirs) and what I'm not responsible for (anyone else's reaction to my decisions).

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It's really easy for someone online to tell you to leave everything you love. Don't we all wish we had that amount of willpower and conviction?

Let's be real.

Just don't go to church with them. When they ask why just say "I don't want to" and leave it at that. Let them go, and in the meantime cook them a nice brunch so when they get back they know you aren't mad and you still love them.

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It's really easy for someone online to tell you to leave everything you love. Don't we all wish we had that amount of willpower and conviction?

Let's be real.

Just don't go to church with them. When they ask why just say "I don't want to" and leave it at that. Let them go, and in the meantime cook them a nice brunch so when they get back they know you aren't mad and you still love them.

It's not really a matter of leaving everything I love ... it's a matter of shutting up & putting up or else there isn't going to be much love left to cook brunch for. There would be no fear of me being mad at them.

And I'm definitely not going to do anything because anyone online tells me to! I just needed a little perspective in sorting out the issues. I've got all the willpower and conviction I need to do what I have to do, once I decide I need to do it ... and that's not leaving everything I love, it's just being a little more upfront and a little less of a doormat to my family and a few of my friends (who happen to be all my oldest friends) and being ready to accept the consequences of that.

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