Since there is no Uncle'ing on StackExchange, I figured the Parenting site is the closest match to my dilemma.

First some backstory. My sister and I were raised in a mildly conservative (middle of the road) Jewish family. At an early age, I realized I was agnostic/atheistic. My parents always said it was a phase and I would grow out of it. However, over time, my opinion only solidified. This of course caused conflict between my parents and me. As the years past, they have come to live with my choice. My sister's participation dwindled to almost none, when she started her own life.

Now that she has kids, she is more participatory in religion again. She goes to synagogue and sends them to Hebrew and Sunday school. I asked her why, she said it was good for the kids to learn about the religion and culture. To be honest, I don't even know if she even believes in God or religion; she never talks about it. And I never ask, as it has zero importance to me.

My nephew is having his Bar-Mitzvah (the Jewish rite of manhood) later this year. I was asked to participate and I agreed. Naturally, I want to see my family, as I don't see them very often. However, as my sister's kids get older, sooner or later they will ask me about my beliefs and religion. Quite possibly at a religious event that is coming up in a few months.

I will not lie about my beliefs, or lack thereof. I am proud of the fact that I have turned away from theistic beliefs and religion. However, I can see potential conflict with my family. I am tired of hearing my parents say, why can't you respect our religion, when they have no respect for my lack of religion. I see this conflict more with my parents, but I am afraid to hurt my sister's feelings as well.

When the situation finally rears its head, how do I talk about my beliefs to my nephew and niece in a way that won't cause (or at least minimize) conflict with the rest of my family without compromising my own beliefs?

  • 3
    I think that a conversation with your sister is important. Without knowing her preferences and expectations, it's almost impossible for you to plan a response that both lets you be honest and respects her family's wishes. Also, she may be willing to simply forestall the issue by mentioning the differences in belief to her children ahead of time and/or asking them not to discuss it in front of your parents. Nobody wants the bar mitzvah party to turn into a religious debate between the grandparents and uncle :)
    – Acire
    Aug 18, 2015 at 1:01
  • Actually, you came to the right spot: Parenting Stack Exchange is for parents, grandparents, nannies and others who care for children. - Welcome!
    – Stephie
    Aug 18, 2015 at 20:21
  • 1
    Can I ask what you want to accomplish through talking about your own beliefs? I think the approach hinges a bit on that; it makes a big difference whether you just want them to know how you feel, want them to know that how you feel is an option, or want to nudge into feeling how you feel. Each has its own pitfalls.
    – Erik
    Aug 19, 2015 at 15:05

2 Answers 2


While you should not lie, you can tell half truths. So rather than telling them about your lack of religious belief, you could instead tell them you were raised Jewish just like them.

I would however suggest that you talk to your sister about it, tell her that you don't want to lie but want to respect her wishes, so if they do ask, how does she want you to answer. She may say that she doesn't want you to tell them you are not religious, but she might say you can tell them so long as you don't try to influence them.

I am not religious, but have been in the past and so I have the ability to appreciate both sides of the coin, just as I am sure you do. So you could tell them that you were raised Jewish and tell them some of the good parts of growing up Jewish that you remember and leave it at that. It will help to reinforce their beliefs without compromising yours.

  • 1
    Hi, Ajaypayne, and welcome to the site. Very nice first answer! Aug 18, 2015 at 2:00
  • Thanks @anongoodnurse don't know why I didn't check parenting out before been on SE for a couple of years now.
    – Ajaypayne
    Aug 18, 2015 at 20:39

Live and let live. While you will obviously want to go along with the show at the bar mitzvah, if the nephews ever ask about your beliefs, I see no reason to lie, even by omission. If your sister's feelings are hurt because you tell your nephews that you do not believe in God, then quite frankly that's your sister's problem, not yours.

Also, I'll disagree with Ajaypayne's answer: it is not your job to "reinforce their beliefs". If their belief is strong, it will withstand finding out that somebody they know is atheist. If their belief is not strong, or they've already independently come to the same conclusions as you did, they will appreciate finding an ally.

  • 3
    +1 Whether from you or elsewhere, these kids will find out that different people believe different things. Most likely (IMO), they already know this, considering one at least is already Bar-Mitzvah age. As long as you aren't the I-must-convert-the-believers type of atheist, I don't see any problem in simply telling them.
    – Geobits
    Aug 18, 2015 at 16:43
  • Chances are they have friends who are atheist. I was Mormon, I had friends who were Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Jewish, Atheist, etc. None of us cared. My uncle wasn't Mormon and he was still my favorite uncle. Just be the cool uncle and they won't care either. Also, there's a good chance they already know. If their Mom hasn't explained it to them they'll figure it out eventually. I doubt they will come out and ask you unless you are really close.
    – Bronco
    Sep 20, 2017 at 17:16

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