Secrets, lies and what do you tell your mother?

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Secrets, lies and what do you tell your mother?

Post  stuffandwhatnot on Thu Jul 08, 2010 6:44 pm

A little background for you.

I grew up in the Christian tradition (middle of the road Baptist), went to church 2 times a week, church camp every summer, and to Bible College for 3.5 years. My Dad is the president of a Baptist seminary. My Mother constantly tells me to seek God's guidance for almost everything I do. I've been questioning my beliefs for a long time and have recently been reading Paine, Hitchens, Hume, Sagan, Kurtz and others trying to get a deeper understanding of what I have come to believe based on reason rather than faith. I have also found Reasonable Doubts to be an excellent and insightful podcast along with Point of Inquiry, The Rational Factor, The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, and Skepticality.

About 2 months ago, I talked with my wife (a Christian) about what I believe, what I felt this meant regarding our marriage, raising out children, etc. I said that I would continue going to church with her if that is what she wants and that I'm always open to discussion. It took her a while to come to terms with the talk we had. We've been married 10 years and don't feel like this has been a detriment to our marriage. So....

Question 1: How long do you think before she quits saying "It is just a 'thing' that you're going through"

Question 2: When do I have a similar talk with my family?

I'm just a lonely Humanist in South Dakota and would love to get some input from the interwebs about similar experiences.

Thanks, Joel
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Re: Secrets, lies and what do you tell your mother?

Post  LenLen on Fri Jul 16, 2010 2:50 am

Hi Joel,

I don't like to speculate, there are too many unknown variables and assumptions I'd have to make, however I can give 2 cents. Smile

Question 1: Are you assuming her view is that you are going through a 'thing' or has she verbally said this? I've been married to my wife for 6 years, finished Catholic confirmation while we were friends, before dating, and I am in a similar position of not outwardly, extensively expressing my position to everyone. Unlike you, though, I couldn't continue to attend church which brought a more abrupt confrontation. Which brings me to the point of relevant information, I don't think it is likely contingent on a time period rather than a series of conversations. If our situations are similar in this manner, your wife isn't interested in your current beliefs enough to question what that means to inter-related subjects of how it has affected your morality, behavior, view of community, etc.

My attempts to express what I thought by dissemination of what I used to think were completely ineffective, despite intention or variable approaches. She has, however, accepted how I feel.

Question 2: I thought that if there was anyone who would truly understand, it would be my wife. Since I realized I could be failing in how I was trying to explain things to her, I've made no attempt to explain things to my biological family. So I'm no help there. Smile

I noticed when studying philosophy that the Christian 'way' was a single philosophy among many that were more internally coherent, and when confronted with my feeling of choosing faith when confronted with my own logical inconsistencies, I consciously chose to continue a pursuit of knowledge and truth, despite discomfort. I'm assuming most people here went through that. I had feelings of alienation with my family, largely due to my apprehension to share things I was enjoying learning or thinking for fear of rejection. The feelings continued after I began opening up, because nobody could relate or was interested. I realize I was looking for validation by peer interest, and seeking to share something I enjoyed. Sadly, nobody has shown interest as yet in philosophy, neurology, cosmology, etc, though I have been given gifts of my interests! My devoutly Catholic sister in law gave me The Brain: A User's Guide for a Christmas gift.

So again, to make a point relevant to you (possibly) that things are very slow moving for me in the area of progress or interest, but better news is that large progress has been made with respect, time, and appropriate situations to address things.

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Re: Secrets, lies and what do you tell your mother?

Post  2buckchuck on Wed Sep 15, 2010 11:42 am

Given your situation ... you may have a more serious problem than just discussing it with your wife. A key issue for catholics is "propagation of the faith" through your children. Do you have children? Have they been baptized catholics? How are you going to feel about your children being indocrinated with catholic dogma? Is that what you want for them? How is your wife going to respond when you tell your children that you don't actually buy into the catholic doctrine?

I think this might become a very divisive issue and there will be no way to get around it if she's a devout catholic. I predict some big challenges ahead for you. Just going through the motions of being in church is going to seem more and more hypocritical to you with time, if you don't really believe in it. The christian view is that you're either with them or against them ... middle ground is simply not permitted.

You have my most sincere good wishes for the future, but I anticipate troubled times ahead ...
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Headway

Post  stuffandwhatnot on Wed Sep 15, 2010 1:03 pm

I have continued having discussions with my wife and feel that I'm making headway. She has accepted that I'm finally and firmly a non-believer and is becoming more open to discussion and questioning her own long held beliefs. While I still don't know when would be a good time to talk with my parents about it, (or if I even should) I've had several discussions with one of my brothers and have found that he is also an atheist. It has been great getting to know him in a different light and to have somebody in my family to talk with. I've also been able to find a local freethinker group as well and I'm finding that very edifying.
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Re: Secrets, lies and what do you tell your mother?

Post  Rweav on Thu Oct 07, 2010 8:58 pm

As to your first question. I have found that in situations like this family and friends typically assume that your conversion is no more than experimentation (or a mistaken change of heart) and you will soon come to your senses and go back to life as usual. This way of thinking can persist for months or even years sometimes. In situations like this there is not much that can be done. I would suggest that you calmly continue to speak to your wife about your beliefs and make sure that she understands that this is not an experiment and that you are not going to change your mind.

As to your second question. I would have many discussions with the rest of your family and slowly and rationally begin to suggest that you may have questions about your "ex-faith.". Eventually, tell them that you
no longer believe.

Good luck

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Christian Wife

Post  trnc.mtthws on Wed Oct 20, 2010 3:53 pm

Hey Joel. Nice to see I have some company out there. Over the past 2-3 years, I have been slowly disclosing my beliefs (or lack thereof) to my lovely Christian wife. It isn't easy hurting someone you love, but it's best to be honest. So far, I've gone from attending an evangelical bible church with her, to now attending a UU church by myself. She knows I don't buy the son of god bit, and recently, when she flat out asked "do you believe in God", I told her I don't believe in the mainstream Christian image of god that she does. She pretty much knew this, but I think it was hard for her to hear it definitively. I have not been able to totally pull the rug out from under her yet so I continue to be open to a first mover kind of god that does not interact with the physical world in which we live. She seems to be ok with this, for now. She says she accepts my beliefs, and things are generally ok between us. I'm sure she prays for me to come around and silently believes her god will make that happen. If that gives her comfort, that's fine. As long as she continues to be a reasonable and logical person in real life, I have no problem with what she believes. Raising the kids is a little touchy on Sunday mornings. So far, she is ok with me giving my point of view, talking about science, and letting them know that there are many many religions out there. And she only takes them to church occationally. She's gotten away from the fundies, and is currently looking for a new, less exclusive church. Anyway, to your first question, it is taking much longer to make progress on this situation than I thought it would. Stick with it, and don't give in to the temptation to go backwards just to make things more comfortable. Good luck to you!

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Re: Secrets, lies and what do you tell your mother?

Post  Lausten on Wed Oct 20, 2010 4:19 pm

Question 1: How long do you think before she quits saying "It is just a 'thing' that you're going through"
Sorry, I'm kinda new to this myself. I would suggest preparing for the long haul, but I'm a pessimist

Question 2: When do I have a similar talk with my family?
For me, my wife is more important than my familiy, so I'm concentrating on that relationship. Careful not to overload yourself with too many conversations to handle.

I'm just a lonely Humanist in South Dakota and would love to get some input from the interwebs about similar experiences.

I have met a few Native Americans from South Dakota, they tend to be more understanding of other religions, I guess because they know full well the consequences of forcing religion on others. They also know plenty about Christianity and they acknowledge what is good about it, but draw a line and say it is not the religion they choose.

My current approach is to do something similar. I still love the narratives of the Bible and enjoy reading about the history and culture, so I can talk about religion. I can get a lot of respect from Christians simply by knowing the order of the four gospels. It helps to put people at ease, and avoids the argument of me not knowing what I'm talking about. If I start talking about not believing with someone, I first ask them what they do believe.

If they believe in a 6,000 year old earth, there isn't much point in arguing. If they believe in the virgin birth, that is still somewhat problematic. That Jesus was a real person, a little easier to deal with. Sometimes you get to discussing if the resurrection was real and they find out that they are less of a believer than they said, they just hadn't given it much thought. Anyway, it is a more comfortable discussion that opens the door to understanding that there are a variety of things that can be believed or disbelieved. It is a better place to start than challenging them if they believe in fairies or Zeus.

Have you looked into Spong, Marcus Borg or Dominic Crossan? These are ex-Bishops who challenge many faith questions and the historicity of Biblical accounts, but still talk about their love for a living Christ. Very palatable for believers. Spong's latest makes a pretty strong statement about God not existing, but try some earlier works, like "Jesus for the Non-Religious" or Borg's "Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time." I read that one in a United Methodist adult Bible study, maybe you can find a church that will agree to doing that.
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Re: Secrets, lies and what do you tell your mother?

Post  Brad on Fri Oct 22, 2010 12:54 pm

Joel,
First, I think you've found wonderful resources so far! A brother, a free-thinker group, the RD and Free Inquiry podcasts - what a great start!

In addition, I'd very, very, highly recommend for this sort of situation the online stuff available from Dale McGowan. His primary emphasis is on parenting. I'd think his blog and some of the discussions on his forum might be especially useful for you.

One more thing. On another forum, that associated with the "A Christian and an Atheist" podcast (a program I also recommend highly), in the "Atheist" section in particular you can find posts by a fellow in New Zealand known as "Kiwi" who has been dealing with very similar issues. You might find getting in touch with him via that forum to be encouraging and helpful. He doesn't always post regularly, though.

Last, FWIW, my family is strongly fundamentalist / evangelical, too. I've found over the years that being extremely precise and careful with the words I use when talking about religion and avoiding almost at all costs discussion of the matter at moments of emotional stress (for anyone) are real keys. Also, you probably have to accept that this is a life-long process for you all, not a one-time "here's what I/we think, so there" kind of deal.
You'll have to have thick skin, because chances are some very insulting and obnoxious things will be said to you though the speakers, engrossed in their belief bubbles, may even think they're being "loving." Many believers can't accept non-belief as a potentially valid concept, nor even have a non-believer in their presence, without feeling threatened existentially. Of course, that tells us a lot right there about the value of deity beliefs.
And if your family is like mine, there will be some self-righteous zealots you just have to take pains to avoid being around or speaking with altogether in order to prevent all sorts of hurt and suffering in your family.

Best of luck!
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I've hovered my finger over the send button several times.

Post  stuffandwhatnot on Tue Jan 11, 2011 6:10 pm

This is still a letter in development. I've almost pushed the send button a couple times, but feel like some of the harsh bits could be taken out. Let me know what your thoughts are.

Joel

"My loss of belief has been a gradual process that I've finally and firmly accepted. The amount of indoctrination I received at church became apparent to me when I was attending bible college. I initially put this off as merely being the fact that the church was made up of people and people are errant, but god isn't. When I moved back to South Dakota I became more aware that church for most of the people, including myself, seemed to be a social event with little to no influence in daily life. As I went back to school I finally was able to study History and Science objectively and came to the conclusion that christianity is an iron age mythology that co-opted the earlier beliefs of Judaism to lend it credibility.
I went through the new testament and looked back at the "prophecies" and saw that they were clearly cherry picked after the fact by the writers and were so vague that they could mean almost anything. Then I started looking at the specific attributes of who god is because this is something that is continually talked about in church. In the old testament he is vengeful, angry, jealous, genocidal, malicious, uncaring. Jesus clearly states that he is a continuation of old testament law and did not come to change it "one jot or tittle".(which kind of sounds dirty) So you can talk about love and grace all you want, but in the end he is the same god that told Moses in the book of Exodus to kill every Amalekite (except the virgin women) and destroy every crop and animal they have. I am no longer able to delude myself into having faith in a god that clearly deserves no respect and at the time took to calling myself "spiritual". I just was no longer able to associate myself with something that is so patriarchal, bigoted and generally small minded.
About 6 months ago I finally was able to talk with K about what I've been going through and my thoughts on religion. While she doesn't yet share my skepticism she is open to debate and I can see that it is opening questions in her mind that she may not have thought of before. I've been reading books by Michael Shermer, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Victor Stenger, Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, Bertrand Russell, and others to try and understand the science of life and physics and find it fascinating.
I guess the thing that gets me the most is that I want to talk about how amazing it all really is when you actually stop denying reason/logic and stop blindly accepting absurdities. I'm definitely rambling now and probably sounding mad, but I feel like I've wasted a lot of my life believing something that, when viewed from the outside, is cultish and asinine. While I still have respect for you as human beings, I don't understand how somebody who is seemingly so intelligent can truly believe what you do. I think Mom relates most of her beliefs to personal experience/feelings and not too deeply in the particulars. While I would hate to discount emotion, I think it would be more likely to account for that side of things on a physical/neurological level than to believe that there is a being in the clouds personally talking to individuals.

In summary: 1. If there is a god, (which I deny due to lack of evidence) he is a dick.
2. I was a christian by the merest fact that I was born in a predominately christian society to christian parents.
3. The universe, world and everything in it looks exactly like it should if it was created through biological processes over billions of years.
4. The bible is at most a mythological history with some truth in it. The truth found in it isn't true because god says so, but the writers attribute the truth to god because it's true (free of any alleged overseer) and the god they want to believe in has to be true.
5. Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful. ~Seneca the Younger

Enough for now. I love you all dearly and would love to have further conversation with you.

Thanks for listening, Joel"
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Re: Secrets, lies and what do you tell your mother?

Post  Brad on Tue Jan 11, 2011 6:48 pm

Joel,
I'm sure you'll find basic agreement from folks here about the points you make in your letter.

However, I'd recommend holding off on sending it to anyone for the moment.

Before making any specific recommendations from my corner, I'd be interested to know exactly who you plan to send it to and what you hope to achieve in so doing.

If your purpose is to simply blow off accumulated steam, that's one thing. But if you really want to make a genuine effort to maintain relationships with the believers to whom you might send the letter and to forestall as much as possible receiving absurd replies, I think you can probably make some changes.

I'd guess if your missive is primarily intended for your father, as it is now it will be misunderstood, poorly received, and will make further communications more, rather than less, difficult. That would be in part because of its language and tone, and in part because it will be too much information about you and not enough about him or them and your relationship and where you see it going.

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Re: Secrets, lies and what do you tell your mother?

Post  Lausten on Thu Jan 20, 2011 11:37 am

Joel;
I'm going to agree with Brad on this.

A piece of advice (on writing of any kind) that I once received was "shorten it". It is a very general statement, but something you might want to try, even if just as an exercise.

In the case of discussing religion, I find there needs to be a lot of back and forth, not one way communication. Everyone has a unique position on the subject, so it needs to be explored. In the case of family members or close friends, I watch out for the "circuit breakers", those points in the conversation where someone says something like, "well, we can't really know" or "God reveals himself over time". Those tell me that the person is getting uncomfortable and doesn't want to be pushed any further. It can also mean that you have given them something to think about, and you need to give them some time to absorb it.

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