The Ethical Dilemma: I’m Afraid to Come Out to My Parents!

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Afraid to Come Out to Parents: This is probably a silly question and I doubt that you haven’t seen this before but anyway here we go:

I’ve recently decided to become an agnostic after analyzing my Catholic faith. I realized that I don’t have a steadfast belief in the religion. I’m basically agnostic by all the basics of the meaning, as well as a secular humanist for as long as I can imagine. I’ve come out to my friends recently, which wasn’t that hard since two of them are atheists and the other three are unknown, but I’d assume that they’re irreligious as well; there’s only one known religious person—a Catholic—in my group.

My problem here is that I haven’t come out to my parents. My parents are lapsed Catholics in that they don’t practice their faith that often, and they don’t really go to church with the only exception being Christmas mass. I have no problems with Christianity or even religion as a whole (for the most part at least) and neither do my parents, and they aren’t even remotely religious. They’re by far the most secular people you’ve ever seen, and I expect them to accept me even though I’m agnostic. But I’m afraid of coming out nonetheless. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal considering my uber-secular parents, but I can’t suppress the feeling that eventually, it’ll build up and I’ll have to confess.

So what should I do? I know this is cheesy at best but I need a little help here.

—Tell Me What To Do

Dear Tell Me,

You are right that there have been many letters from people afraid to come out as nonbelievers—but this is the first one from someone who seems to have nothing to fear. Usually I am very cautious about encouraging anyone to come out unless they have carefully assessed all the possible risks and repercussions, particularly if they are still living with and dependent on family emotionally and/or financially, or at risk of jeopardizing their livelihood or marriage.

You don’t give your age, but I suspect you are young and perhaps residing with your parents. From what you describe, your parents are probably (a) oblivious or indifferent to your religious views; (b) assuming you are as distant as they are from their former faith; or (c) patiently wondering—and in all likelihood hoping—if and when you’ll declare yourself a nonbeliever. Maybe they are so committed to letting you make your own choices that they are trying not to steer you in any direction. This reminds me of friends who everyone always suspected were LGBT but never brought it up, and then when the person finally made an emotional confession—“I have something to tell you”—everyone said, “Yeah, we knew.”

I’m curious why you feel so apprehensive. Unless there’s something you’re not mentioning here, or not facing yourself, I say just tell your parents. You’ll feel immensely relieved once you’ve done the deed. And please let us know how they reacted. I predict they’ll pat you on the back and assure you they expected no less.