Grandparents' Theism
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31-07-2012, 01:20 PM
Grandparents' Theism
I'm new to this website, but not Seth's youtube channel. Consequently, I'm not entirely sure if this is the right place to post this. If not, please forgive me and send me to where I should be.

I communicate with my grandparents primarily through email. It seems to me that almost no matter what we talk about they bring up God in some way. Sometimes it's just an, "I'll pray for you," or, "May God help you down the road," but sometimes I get multiple paragraphs committed to how I fit into God's plan and how I should accept him and all that good stuff (I'm sure you are all familiar). I politely thank them for the kind words and try to hide that I'm a nonbeliever. They know that I'm a skeptic, but not to what extent. I really value what communication I can have with them before I wont be able to anymore, but reading email upon email about God, to me, deteriorates that, and I'm sure they're not as happy as they could be when I reply without mentioning God even once. On the rare occasion that I do get to see them, God is brought up whenever they get the chance to bring him up and I just try to find a way to carry along without getting too into it. Has anyone else been in a similar boat? I wish they would stop bringing God up so much, but I don't want to tell them I'm a nonbeliever because I don't want their last thoughts of me to be that I'm going to burn in hell forever (yes, they're the fire and brimstone believers, but still nice people). Should I bite the bullet and just go with it to make them happy, or take a stand even though it might tarnish their last thoughts of me and our communications? Or carry on avoiding it altogether? Perhaps one of you have done something else? Thoughts?

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31-07-2012, 02:00 PM
RE: Grandparents' Theism
Not much springs to mind (it's nearly 4am here and my mind has already gone to sleep) but I think I would adopt a technique of showing interest, questioning, asking about why they believe what they believe.

You might want to do it in a way that demonstrates a desire for knowledge (about them personally and also in general) with the occasional "that's fascinating" and "oh, really?" scattered amongst open questions (i.e. questions that require more than yes/no answers).

In other words, it's deflection. Keep them taking about their lives, fears, loves, hates, experiences and not about yours.
Oldies love to pontificate so ease them away from providing advice and towards providing data / information. And if they enquire about you, explain you are seeking knowledge and wisdom and there is plenty of time for research before deciding about who you are and who you want to be.

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01-08-2012, 07:28 AM
RE: Grandparents' Theism
I agree. This happens all the time, I have a similar relationship with my aunt, whom I love dearly but she is a devout catholic and keeps bringing it up.

One thing a lot of older people enjoy is questions about their childhood. Grandma may enjoy writing you a recipe book of the families favorite old recipes. You may enjoy having it too, if not now, you probably will years down the road when your grandparents have passed.

Likewise, ask all the questions about their parents and their grandparents - you may grow more interested in your heritage later and may not be able to ask them anymore.

If they have hobbies, ask about those. It can never hurt to pick up a little extra knowledge about this and that odd subject.

Make a list of things they enjoy and that will give you inspiration when you need to avoid a religious sermon.

If you do these things there may be so many things to talk about soon that have nothing to do with religion that it will fall by the wayside.

I don't know how old you or they are, but probably there is little chance that they will change their beliefs ever. So the best thing is to establish a long list of topics they like to talk about that have nothing to do with religion. And like said, you will likely be glad you did this later in life.

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02-08-2012, 05:54 AM
RE: Grandparents' Theism
I don't think it would be a good idea to explain you views to your grandparents. They are not one, but two generations away from you and that makes a huge gap between you and the understanding of your worlds.

The older a person gets, the harder it is to change their basic beliefs. You have to go back to the time when they had 10, then 20 years... What did they have back then? Church and a priest. Radio, TV, computers, games, movies ... nothing. There was no Internet, there was only God.

There is exactly 0% chance that you will change their views, but there is a huge chance that your relationship will become pretty intense and complicated.

I suggest you let them talk the way they talk and do not contradict them. You can always talk about the bad things a Church (as an institution) makes and how some priest are bad, but do not go against their God. I tend to quote the Bible with my grandmother when we are bashing the Catholic church, but I never say anything against God himself. My grandmother is a devoted 90+ year old Catholic, but in the last 10 years she started to hate what the Church became. Actually, the Church was always like that, it only took her "awhile" to figure that out, but she still believes in God, Jesus and all the saints. It's just that she hates the greedy bastards that like little kids and drive around in expensive cars, while people are starving.

So bash the Church, but do it gently and use the Bible and Jesus to contradict the teachings of the Church and to show their wrong ways and how they go against the Word of Jesus.

I simply love to use Jesus and his own words against the Church.

Don't bash the Lord, they will not understand that, their world is made by God, you can not destroy God, without destroying their world.

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02-08-2012, 06:21 AM
RE: Grandparents' Theism
Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?

When I deal with religious relatives (yeah, I've got 'em, too - even friggin' Baptists Sadcryface ) I deflect the religious stuff by just saying I'm not very religious and then move on.

I try not to hurt my relatives' feelings, but I let them know that I don't share their views.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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02-08-2012, 08:38 AM (This post was last modified: 02-08-2012 08:53 AM by Jeff.)
RE: Grandparents' Theism
Hmmmm. The god schtick is getting annoying but you don't want to out yourself as a reasoner. Here's what you do - call up Granny and excitedly tell her that Jeeeeezus spoke to you in a dream last night, and said that your grandparents need to buy you a new car (with insurance and gas card) and a Ski-Doo, and Jeeeeeeezus said not to question why these are needed, but that it's all part of the plan, and it's a test of faith, which will reveal itself in time, despite being incomprehensible to us humans, and he loves your grandparents, and has a special place waiting for them in heaven, but also fear god, and don't disobey god or some bad shit will happen, praise god-d. Then ask Granny, solemnly, what she thinks this dream means? "What do you think it means, grandma?"

From now on, bring up the dream every time she mentions god, tell her you keep having the same dream (except that Jeeeeeeeeeezus seems a little angrier in each successive dream), and asking what it means. Wash, rinse, repeat for other needed items until their death.

God bless you real good.
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02-08-2012, 09:22 AM
RE: Grandparents' Theism
(02-08-2012 08:38 AM)Jeff Wrote:  Hmmmm. The god schtick is getting annoying but you don't want to out yourself as a reasoner. Here's what you do - call up Granny and excitedly tell her that Jeeeeezus spoke to you in a dream last night, and said that your grandparents need to buy you a new car (with insurance and gas card) and a Ski-Doo, and Jeeeeeeezus said not to question why these are needed, but that it's all part of the plan, and it's a test of faith, which will reveal itself in time, despite being incomprehensible to us humans, and he loves your grandparents, and has a special place waiting for them in heaven, but also fear god, and don't disobey god or some bad shit will happen, praise god-d. Then ask Granny, solemnly, what she thinks this dream means? "What do you think it means, grandma?"

From now on, bring up the dream every time she mentions god, tell her you keep having the same dream (except that Jeeeeeeeeeezus seems a little angrier in each successive dream), and asking what it means. Wash, rinse, repeat for other needed items until their death.

God bless you real good.

I wanted to "like" twice after just the second line.
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02-08-2012, 09:24 AM
RE: Grandparents' Theism
Jeff brings up an excellent point. How loaded are your grandparents? Are they old and close to death? You don't want to get written out of the will.

I have a little bit of a similar situation with my mom. She tells me she prays daily for me to have peace. Man, as messed up as I am in my head, I can't imagine how fucked up I'd be if she wasn't praying for me! But I haven't yet been convinced there is any reason for me to tell her just how far down the road of non-belief I've gone. Also she's up in age and probably not long for this world. Things would be different if we both were younger.

Enough about me...my thought is if their time in earth is short, why stir up the pot? If they're going to be here for sometime, then why blow up your relationship with them?

As others have suggested, you might consider the path of subtlety and find ways to express your skepticism in bite sized pieces instead of making bold proclamations that may end up ostracizing yourself from them.

Ultimately, you know yourself and them the best. Perhaps being up front and in their face will better suit you and your relationship with your grandparents. I suspect you already have an inkling about the best way to proceed with them.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of Calvinism is that good Atheists do nothing." ~Eric Oh My
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02-08-2012, 10:24 AM
RE: Grandparents' Theism
(02-08-2012 09:24 AM)Erxomai Wrote:  Man, as messed up as I am in my head, I can't imagine how fucked up I'd be if she wasn't praying for me!

You know and I know and we all know exactly how much more / less that would be, to a very degree of accuracy.

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02-08-2012, 12:45 PM
RE: Grandparents' Theism
Thanks for all the replies, y'all bring up some good points. My grandparents wont be around too much longer so I don't want the last of my relationship with them to be negative in any way. I'm biting the bullet and just going to let them say what they have to say about God, maybe talk with them about it a little without expressing my atheism, while primarily trying to strengthen my relationship with them in other topics. This is my first post and I already love the community here, thanks again

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