From the back of the book:
“This essential guide to coming-out as a non-believer has been written to make it easier for atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, and non-believers of all ages and backgrounds to be open about their non-religiosity while minimizing the negative interactions in familial, social, and professional circles.
As a survival guide for non-believers who wish to come out, this book provides advice and resources for those interested in publically rejecting religious dogma as well as real stories from non-believers who have experienced coming-out to less-than-supportive family or friends.
Whether you’re new to disbelief and looking for the cleanest possible break from your former faith or you’re a lifelong atheist who wants to establish a sense of community with like-minded people, this guide provides useful resources including: tips for handling potential conflicts with believers, the author’s answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on behalf of believers, and numerous references to support groups, services, and advocacy organizations dedicated to non-theists.
From dealing with grief from a secular perspective to handling potential clashes in religious worldviews between significant others, this book offers multiple perspectives from non-religious individuals who have generously shared their experiences to help those atheists who may find themselves in similar situations.”
In this review of “Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist: The Guide to Coming Out as a Non-believer” by David G. McAfee, I should start with what brought this book to my attention in the first place.
On December 28, 2012 we received the following distraught message in the inbox of the Better Off Damned facebook page:
This message was troubling, to say the least. In addition to a personal response, we forwarded this to our community via the screen-capture above, which lead to an overwhelming outpouring of support for this girl. It was with these comforting and supportive comments and messages that several people recommended to Michelle a new book aimed at helping people in coming out as an atheist.
It was this which prompted me to contact the author and check out this book for myself, in the hopes that it could be a valuable resource I could suggest to others struggling with the difficulties of being open about their non-belief.
The very first thing I can attribute to it’s author, David G. McAfee, before having read a single page of his work, is his absolute sincerity in making a genuine attempt to help guide fellow non-believers through this process. I mentioned Michelle and what she was going through, and without hesitation he reached out to her by generously allowing us to send her a free copy of his book, which she was overjoyed and very appreciative to receive. David also shared Michelle’s ordeal on his own pages, bringing even more community support in her direction. This sense of community is one of the notions stressed in the book.
Though numerous op-ed pieces, blogs, articles, videos, and podcasts have been dedicated to the topic, a singular definitive work aimed solely at this issue has long been needed. “Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist” sets out to fill that void.
The book is well articulated and concise, yet written in plain and simple language, making its ideas comprehendible and accessible to anyone, including those to whom this information is newest. As well as a guide to help atheists be more understood, it also acts to help the atheist to better understand the religious, making a compelling case that both are necessary in order to navigate the coming out process.
The first several chapters are a mixture of “atheism 101” and an examination of religious mindsets and misconceptions about atheism, versus what atheism actually entails.
The work is written in diplomatic fashion, but without any religious pandering. Much of this book may even serve as a more useful guide for religious friends and family members of the atheist than for the atheists themselves. I wouldn’t be surprised if many who read this book decide to pass it off to the very people they are coming out to. And it very well could be helpful to do so.
In fact, I would like to suggest to David G. McAfee the possibility of writing a follow up to this, specifically aimed at believers (particularly parents). Perhaps it could be called “Help! My kid is an Atheist: A guide to Understanding Your Non-believing Loved Ones“.
Specific advice in how to deal with the various aspects of being open about one’s disbelief mostly begin with the sixth chapter, “Timing is everything“. The chapters “Confrontation” and “Preparation” are perhaps most useful. The book doesn’t suggest specific approaches for dealing potential confrontations, but rather helps to give a deeper understanding of why they occur, and from there offers some very useful insights as well as some very practical, yet often overlooked, advice.
Some of the gathered testimonials, written for the book by fellow atheists, are very compelling. They cover what I imagine to be most of the different scenarios a newly “out” atheist might find themselves in, and at least one or two should personally resonate with any reader.
Issues I have with the book are minimal, and in the end fairly trivial. I think the organization of some of the chapters are awkward. And the third chapter, while compelling, feels almost entirely out of place within the flow of the book as a whole.
What I find to be one of the best aspects of the book is how it never fails to stress, with all due caution, the importance of coming out as an atheist.
Now, this isn’t the be-all-end-all piece on this topic, but is very comprehensive and will undoubtedly serve to aid many non-believers trying to find their way in being honest and open about who they are in a theist-centric landscape.
In the “Conclusion” chapter, McAfee states,
“While this book may not be all one needs to successfully come out as an atheist, I hope that it helps guide non-believers young and old throughout that ongoing process“.
In this regard, I believe the book absolutely succeeds in its endeavor.
“Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist“, more so than being an excellent work in its own right, is a vital one in the larger scheme of things. Hopefully this book will serve as a fore-bearer in a new archetype of secular writing. Whereas most deal with refuting claims, challenging historicity, or delving into the psychology and philosophy of religious beliefs, more books of this kind (social navigation?) are direly needed.
To add an additional example of why this book and more like it are necessary in our present theistic culture, please refer to this recent tragic facebook status posted by Seth Andrews of The Thinking Atheist:
We need ever more community, resources, education, and voices to be heard so that these sort of incidents are rare. David G. McAfee’s book is one step in that direction.