How to Tell Your Parents You’re An Atheist or Agnostic

Here’s some guidance on how to approach telling your parents you’re an atheist or agnostic.

It’s a sensitive subject and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, so adapt this to your specific situation.

Before the Conversation

  • Self-Reflection: Be sure of your own beliefs and why you’ve reached this point. This readiness will come through in the conversation.
  • Assess Your Reasons: Is it about intellectual disagreement, a negative experience with religion, or a simple lack of belief? Understanding your own motivations helps frame the discussion.
  • Anticipate Their Reaction: Consider your parents’ personalities and religiosity. Do you anticipate anger, sadness, or attempts to convert you back?
  • Timing and Location: Choose a calm time and private setting to avoid interruptions and emotional flare-ups.

During the Conversation

  • Start with Appreciation: “I love you and value our relationship, that’s why I want to be honest with you…
  • Be Clear But Respectful: “My beliefs about religion have changed. I don’t believe in God/a higher power.” Avoid mocking their beliefs.
  • Focus on Your Journey: “I’ve thought about this for a long time…” instead of directly critiquing their faith.
  • It’s Not About Them: Emphasize that your decision doesn’t reflect negatively on them, their parenting, or your relationship.
  • Listen Actively: Let them express emotions, even if you disagree. Show you’re genuinely hearing their side.
  • Boundaries: Be prepared to calmly say, “I respect your beliefs, please respect mine, even if you don’t understand.”

Possible Outcomes and After

  • They May Not Accept It: It could take time. Give them space if needed.
  • Don’t Expect Resolution: This might be the first of many conversations.
  • Your Relationship is Key: “I still love you, and want us to have a good relationship…” Reassure them, especially if shocked.
  • Resources: If they’re willing, offer resources about understanding atheism from secular organizations.

Additional Considerations

  • Your Age and Dependence: Living with heavily religious parents as a minor may require a more careful approach.
  • Safety: If you genuinely fear negative or harmful consequences, prioritize your safety. Consider involving a trusted adult or postponing the conversation.

Example Things to Say to Your Parents

Telling your parents that you’re an atheist or agnostic can be a challenging conversation, but it’s essential to approach it with honesty, respect, and understanding.

Here are 25 example things you might consider saying:

  1. “Mom, Dad, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and I need to share something important with you.”
  2. “I want to be honest with you about my beliefs, even though I know it might be difficult.”
  3. I’ve realized that I don’t believe in a higher power or deity.
  4. “My beliefs have evolved, and I no longer identify with our family’s religious tradition.”
  5. “I hope you can understand that this decision wasn’t made lightly.”
  6. “I still value our family’s traditions and culture, even though I don’t share the same beliefs.”
  7. “I respect your faith and hope you can respect my perspective as well.”
  8. “This doesn’t change who I am as a person or how much I love you.”
  9. “I’ve thought deeply about this, and I’m comfortable with my beliefs.”
  10. “I’m still the same son/daughter you’ve always known, just with different beliefs.”
  11. “I know this might be hard for you to hear, but I couldn’t keep it from you any longer.”
  12. “I’ve found comfort and meaning in other ways outside of religion.”
  13. “I’m open to discussing this further if you have questions or concerns.”
  14. “I hope we can continue to have a close relationship despite our differing beliefs.”
  15. “I want to be honest with myself and with you about what I believe.”
  16. “I understand if this is disappointing or surprising for you.”
  17. “I’ve come to this conclusion after a lot of soul-searching and reflection.”
  18. “I still hold onto our family values of kindness, compassion, and integrity.”
  19. “I didn’t come to this decision to hurt you or challenge your beliefs.”
  20. “I appreciate the religious upbringing you provided me and the values it instilled.”
  21. “I’m not trying to reject our family’s traditions, just following what feels right for me.”
  22. “I hope we can find common ground and respect each other’s beliefs.”
  23. “I’m still the same person you raised, with the same morals and principles.”
  24. “I want to be authentic with myself and live according to my own convictions.”
  25. “Above all, I hope our love and respect for each other can transcend any differences in belief.”

Every family dynamic is unique, so tailor your approach to suit your relationship with your parents. It’s important to communicate openly and respectfully, even if the conversation is challenging.

How to Tell Your Parents You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore

Here’s a guide for navigating this sensitive conversation with your parents, along with some points to consider:

Before the Conversation

  • Reflect on your reasons: Why don’t you want to attend? Is it a disagreement with the doctrine, a negative experience, or just a lack of personal connection? Understanding your ‘why’ will help you explain it.
  • Consider your approach: Do you want to completely stop going, or can you compromise (attending less frequently, only at holidays, etc.)?
  • Anticipate their reaction: How strongly religious are your parents? Prepare yourself for reactions ranging from disappointment to anger.

The Talk: Finding the Right Tone

  • Choose the right setting: Pick a calm time and a private place, free from interruptions.
  • Emphasize honesty and respect: Start with something like, “There’s something important I want to talk to you about. I respect you and our relationship, which is why I want to be honest about my feelings on church
  • Own your feelings: Use “I” statements: “I’m not feeling connected to the church anymore,” or “I struggle with some of the teachings.”
  • Be prepared for questions: They may ask why, try to change your mind, or express hurt. Be calm and try to explain your perspective.
  • Potential compromises: If open to options, perhaps you could suggest:
    • Attending on major holidays only.
    • Exploring different denominations or faith communities.
    • Finding alternatives, like volunteering or exploring spirituality in your own way.

Possible Outcomes

  • Acceptance (unlikely at first): They may need time to process.
  • Respectful disagreement: Even if they don’t agree, you can ask them to respect your choice, just as you respect theirs.
  • Continued pressure: Be prepared for them to try convincing you over time. Set firm boundaries: “I appreciate your concern, but my decision is made.”

Additional Tips

  • Enlist support (optional): If you have a trusted sibling, relative, or friend who can offer you support or be there during the conversation, it might help.
  • Focus on your relationship: Remind your parents that you love them and this doesn’t change your bond overall.

Important Considerations

  • Your safety: If you fear extreme negative consequences, prioritize your well-being. It might be wiser to wait until you are less dependent on them.
  • Your age: If you’re a minor, your parents likely have more say. Open dialogue is still valuable, but your options might be more limited.

Example Ways to Say You Don’t Want to Attend Church

Here are example ways you could express that you don’t want to attend church:

  1. “I appreciate the invitation, but I’ve decided that church isn’t where I find spiritual fulfillment.”
  2. “I’ve been doing some personal reflection, and I feel more connected to my beliefs outside of a church setting.”
  3. “I’ve realized that my beliefs don’t align with the teachings of the church, so I prefer not to attend.”
  4. “I’ve found other ways to nurture my spirituality that don’t involve going to church.”
  5. “I respect your commitment to attending church, but I’ve discovered that it’s not for me.”
  6. “I’ve been exploring different paths to spirituality, and attending church doesn’t feel right for me.”
  7. “I prefer to practice my beliefs in a more personal and private manner rather than attending church.”
  8. “I’ve found that I connect more with nature and mindfulness practices than with organized religion.”
  9. “I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve had at church, but I’ve realized it’s not where I find my sense of belonging.”
  10. “I’m taking some time to explore my beliefs independently and don’t feel comfortable attending church right now.”
  11. “I’ve found that I can live out my values and beliefs without the structure of organized religion.”
  12. “I’ve realized that I don’t resonate with the dogma or rituals of the church, so I’ve chosen not to attend.”
  13. “I feel more spiritually fulfilled when I engage in activities that align with my personal values outside of church.”
  14. “I’ve found that my spirituality is more about personal growth and reflection rather than attending church services.”
  15. “I’m still figuring out what I believe, and right now, attending church doesn’t feel like the right fit for me.”
  16. “I believe spirituality is a personal journey, and for me, attending church isn’t part of that journey.”
  17. I’ve found that I connect better with my beliefs through meditation and self-reflection rather than attending church services.
  18. “I’m choosing to prioritize my own spiritual exploration rather than attending church regularly.”
  19. “I prefer to express my beliefs through actions and values rather than attending religious services.”
  20. “I’ve realized that I can cultivate a sense of community and connection outside of the church setting.”
  21. “I’ve come to understand that attending church doesn’t resonate with me on a deep level, so I’ve opted not to go.”
  22. “I’ve found that I experience spirituality in everyday moments rather than within the walls of a church.”
  23. I’m focusing on living a life guided by my values rather than attending church services.
  24. “I feel more connected to my beliefs when I explore them independently rather than within a church community.”
  25. “I’ve decided to prioritize my personal journey of spiritual discovery over attending church services regularly.”

Approach the conversation with sensitivity and respect for the beliefs of others, particularly if your decision not to attend church may affect family members or close friends.


It’s okay to feel nervous. Focus on being honest, respectful, and focused on preserving your relationship long-term.


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