Married to a Theist?
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05-09-2012, 07:45 AM
RE: Married to a Theist?
I am married to a believer. We had some discussions before we got married about our lives but mainly the direction for any of our kids. We came to a lot of the same conclusions.

Church is fine for the kids as long as
A) it isn't some bat-shit crazy place that teaches them fundamentalist brain-washing
B) they go only if they want to
C) if they ask daddy any questions related to it, I can give them my honest opinion
D) they not have any rituals forced upon them (like circumcision)

Believing or not believing is fine as long as
A) it doesn't interfere with their education (especially science)
B) they be allowed to do what they want with their lives and not feel judged by either of us

We also have family members (mainly hers) that are much more religious-crazy (aka fundamentalist evangelical, like her mom who believes in speaking in tongues). Our agreement also meant some understanding about what the grandparents would and would not be allowed to say or push on our kids. (Mainly any of the above points)

Our agreement also included ensuring that we instill an open-minded questioning atmosphere for our children. Meaning several things
A) discrimination of any kind is wrong
B) questioning is good (even mom and dad)
C) Golden-Rule moral philosophy

For us the basic premise was live and let live. I don't tell our son mom is crazy for believing in a sky-daddy and mommy doesn't convert to some fundamentalist nutjob cult that teaches daddy is going to suffer a fate worse than death.


As for advice on what to do with your current situation, it is similar to mine when I first started dating my wife. I was a "believer" in some capacity and that I realized I was an atheist a few years later, but we weren't married yet. Having said that, she wasn't a fundamentalist when we started dating either. So, that may make things a bit more difficult. It is rather unfortunate but you are the one that has changed and she is going to have to accept that. It will probably mean more concessions on her end in order for it to work, and that means she has to be open-minded. Either an agreement must be reached, or someone will have to give-in. I have a friend who did the latter in order to maintain the family atmosphere for his daughters, I respect him for that but I also know that it cannot have been an easy decision for him. And he made some pretty big concessions that included agreeing to go to church with her and the kids, and this is the guy who opened my eyes to reality and helped me realize I was an atheist. We have grown apart over the last couple of years, mainly because I moved 1,000 miles away, but I think it is working still, and that is a good sign.

“Science is simply common sense at its best, that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.”
—Thomas Henry Huxley
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05-09-2012, 11:18 AM
RE: Married to a Theist?
(05-09-2012 07:31 AM)TheDoctorPhil Wrote:  
(04-09-2012 10:58 AM)Impulse Wrote:  A Unitarian Universalist Church might be something to consider. People can believe whatever they want and attend that church and be accepted - including atheists. The main reason I think it is worth considering is it can give your kids exposure to people from different backgrounds - Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, or whatever happens to be in the population at your local church. From you wife's perspective, it has the advantage of not dismissing religion outright. From your perspective, it has the advantage of not pushing a particular viewpoint and leaving your children in a position to make up their own minds. And an added benefit is they do teach good moral values. It is, however, a liberal church accepting of gays, abortion, etc. so you would have to consider how that will sit with your wife's and your own personal values.

Is it weird that the thought of going to a building labeled "Church" almost scares me? I don't know if that would even be good. How are the services like?

I am very liberal my wife, not so much. I just can't believe that a "Church" could be accepting. Huh
I have been to services there a few times in the past and they were very generic. They talked more about ways of living and not so much about a deity. It was more about promoting love and acceptance, personal growth, contributing to the community at large, etc. I think they do bring a deity into the service somewhat around the major religious holidays, but they do so for each major religion, not one specific one. The people I met there tended to be very warm, friendly, accepting people. I understand your resistance to the term "church", but it isn't as bad as it sounds. You can try it and leave it if you don't like what you see. If your wife is not very liberal, this may not be a workable solution though.

"Religion has caused more misery to all of mankind in every stage of human history than any other single idea." --Madalyn Murray O'Hair
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06-09-2012, 04:54 AM (This post was last modified: 06-09-2012 05:11 AM by Gaff.)
RE: Married to a Theist?
My wife is Catholic, and we got married in the Catholic church 15 years ago, kids on confirmation track and all that. I was raised evangelical christian, but converted to Cotholicism (via RCIA classes, etc) for marriage. We are "lazy catholic" enough to barely go to church, but my wife thinks "having faith" is very important and she is heavily in to prayer and reading about & identifying with the sufferings of the saints and martyrs, but would rather sleep than actually attend church.

I only just came out (like, literally yesterday) as an atheist to her, and she said she was very upset, but we have not really had much of a chance to talk about it. I have been vocally skeptical all along, as I have been struggling with my own faith or rounding the proverbial square peg ....for years. All she has said is "So you have no faith at all??" like how can one not have no faith and not be a hollow meaningless life-shell, like that is the major character flaw. I was kind of stumped because I couldn't think of an answer that did not confirm that I had this alleged character flaw. I can't think of a way to say I think it's all superstitious bullshit, without coming across as a huge asshole with a chip on my shoulder towards religion because of some perceived childhood trauma.

I think she/her family, while not devout church goers, all think that one must have faith in order to remain grounded, and keep a focus on what is really important in this crazy mixed up world - sort of a chicken soup for the soul approach to spirituality. I on the other hand am looking for a more self-reliant approach that does not involve shaming for being human. I am just not a good salesperson I guess.

So...still new .... mere hours....at being a mixed couple.
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06-09-2012, 10:44 AM
RE: Married to a Theist?
(06-09-2012 04:54 AM)Gaff Wrote:  My wife is Catholic, and we got married in the Catholic church 15 years ago, kids on confirmation track and all that. I was raised evangelical christian, but converted to Cotholicism (via RCIA classes, etc) for marriage. We are "lazy catholic" enough to barely go to church, but my wife thinks "having faith" is very important and she is heavily in to prayer and reading about & identifying with the sufferings of the saints and martyrs, but would rather sleep than actually attend church.

I only just came out (like, literally yesterday) as an atheist to her, and she said she was very upset, but we have not really had much of a chance to talk about it. I have been vocally skeptical all along, as I have been struggling with my own faith or rounding the proverbial square peg ....for years. All she has said is "So you have no faith at all??" like how can one not have no faith and not be a hollow meaningless life-shell, like that is the major character flaw. I was kind of stumped because I couldn't think of an answer that did not confirm that I had this alleged character flaw. I can't think of a way to say I think it's all superstitious bullshit, without coming across as a huge asshole with a chip on my shoulder towards religion because of some perceived childhood trauma.

I think she/her family, while not devout church goers, all think that one must have faith in order to remain grounded, and keep a focus on what is really important in this crazy mixed up world - sort of a chicken soup for the soul approach to spirituality. I on the other hand am looking for a more self-reliant approach that does not involve shaming for being human. I am just not a good salesperson I guess.

So...still new .... mere hours....at being a mixed couple.
Gaff,
First, congratulations on your "out". It isn't easy especially in a marriage.

It's difficult to say what the best approach is going forward because every situation is different. But here are some suggestions to ponder. You will have to decide for yourself though if you think they will help things or hurt them more. I would avoid being the aggressor in the disagreement over religion. By that, I mean I wouldn't attack your wife any any form for her beliefs. I also would avoid bringing the subject up for the most part. If she brings it up, it's probably more likely to be productive because she will feel more ready to talk about it. However, lack of communication in a marriage is not good either so, if she doesn't bring it up at all, sooner or later you should do so. But maybe rather than focusing on defending your position if you don't think you can do so without sounding antagonistic, you could ask her to discuss/defend hers. Do so in an earnest, interested way as though maybe you would reconsider if you heard a good reason to do so. That will enable discussion in which she will see potential good in it and maybe she will also try to avoid antagonism. In that discussion, you can maybe help her to see how many things don't have a good answer and maybe at least bring her to understand your views even if she won't agree.

You might even gently question her own views. For example, it is a mortal sin in the Catholic faith not to attend church every Sunday (unless there is a really good reason - sleeping is not one of those). So, if her faith is really that important to her, why doesn't she abide by it? The Catholic faith teaches that a person will go to hell if they have mortal sins on their soul when they die. You would need to genuinely ask her about things like this ("I'm just curious, since you believe in the Catholic faith and they teach that you can go to hell for not attending church regularly, why don't you go to church more often?") and not use it as a put down ("Well you're not one to talk! You don't even go to church every week like you're supposed to!") I suspect she may not really believe that particular teaching and getting her to recognize her own lack of faith in certain aspects might make her more open to accepting your complete lack of faith.

"Religion has caused more misery to all of mankind in every stage of human history than any other single idea." --Madalyn Murray O'Hair
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06-09-2012, 11:50 AM
RE: Married to a Theist?
Doc,

For many years following the death of my first son I considered myself a bare bones Christian - I didn't believe in prayer any longer, didn't have a "relationship" with god yaddah, yaddah, but I held on to, by what little fingernails I had, the idea of the Christ-myth (dying for my sins and all that...).

To put it simply, I was irreligious, never really thought about.

When I met the woman that would be my wife, I knew she was a good Christian woman - church-going, strong believer (more of a liberal (politically) than a right-wing evangelical). When we got engaged, it was a foregone conclusion we would be married in a church, and we were...

About 10 years ago, or when the Davinci Code came out, I read it (ok, I know it was a poorly written book), but it sparked my interests in the origins of the Knights Templar and Christian history -- I read everything I could get my hands on. Crossan, Pagels, the Gnostic Gospels, even Strobel (yuck!), and I became convinced that the entire Christian story was a myth.

I may have actually dreaded to share my new found disbelief with my wife - but I did. Thankfully, she accepted it better than I could have hoped for, then she started to read the same things I was and came to the same conclusions. I should point out that I read Strobel at her recommendation, just to get a view from the other side...

I became more "active" in my atheism over time - she is still rather quiet about hers. Even last night we were talking and she mentioned she still likes "agnostic" over "atheist," even though immediately after saying that she said "I don't know why I keep saying that, I know I'm an atheist..."

I'm not big on atheist conversion -- we don't get brownie points in the afterlife for "saving" souls, but your life mate is a big one...Not sure how long our marriage would have lasted if she held firm in her Christianity - one thing is certain, I would not have had the "freedom" to be as vocal on atheist issues as I am today if she hadn't made the leap with me...

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06-09-2012, 11:05 PM
RE: Married to a Theist?
I married a theist. We have been married for a year and a few weeks so far. We don't yet have kids, however we both want to. She wants to raise our kids in church. I have to say I agree, as long as I can answer them truthfully when they ask me questions. I treat religion like drugs. If you don't teach your kids about them, someone else will. If I hide it, it will seem as if I am afraid of it. That will make my kids think that they have been lied to by me. My wife is a reformed christian, so the church is very open minded about atheists. The pastor of the church married us, even though he knows and at the time knew I am an atheist. I attend church to poke holes in what is said. As far as morals, they say that I am very close to their values even though they don't seem to come from the same place. I know they get their morals from the same place I do, however I don't see a need to argue that point.
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07-09-2012, 04:16 AM
RE: Married to a Theist?
(06-09-2012 10:44 AM)Impulse Wrote:  [....]It's difficult to say what the best approach is going forward because every situation is different. But here are some suggestions to ponder. You will have to decide for yourself though if you think they will help things or hurt them more. I would avoid being the aggressor in the disagreement over religion. By that, I mean I wouldn't attack your wife any any form for her beliefs. I also would avoid bringing the subject up for the most part. If she brings it up, it's probably more likely to be productive because she will feel more ready to talk about it. However, lack of communication in a marriage is not good either so, if she doesn't bring it up at all, sooner or later you should do so. But maybe rather than focusing on defending your position if you don't think you can do so without sounding antagonistic, you could ask her to discuss/defend hers. Do so in an earnest, interested way as though maybe you would reconsider if you heard a good reason to do so. That will enable discussion in which she will see potential good in it and maybe she will also try to avoid antagonism. In that discussion, you can maybe help her to see how many things don't have a good answer and maybe at least bring her to understand your views even if she won't agree.

You might even gently question her own views. For example, it is a mortal sin in the Catholic faith not to attend church every Sunday (unless there is a really good reason - sleeping is not one of those). So, if her faith is really that important to her, why doesn't she abide by it? The Catholic faith teaches that a person will go to hell if they have mortal sins on their soul when they die. You would need to genuinely ask her about things like this ("I'm just curious, since you believe in the Catholic faith and they teach that you can go to hell for not attending church regularly, why don't you go to church more often?") and not use it as a put down ("Well you're not one to talk! You don't even go to church every week like you're supposed to!") I suspect she may not really believe that particular teaching and getting her to recognize her own lack of faith in certain aspects might make her more open to accepting your complete lack of faith.

In my experience so far, Catholic teaching has gotten a lot more progressive with regard to labeling things "mortal sin", according to some of the priests who taught the RCIA classes I took. At worst, your sins will buy you more "atonement in purgatory" but a true loving forgiving God would not send any well-intended person to hell - even if they are non-catholic. Of course that depends on who you ask - I think I happen to get one of the cool priests. My father in law is not shy about graphically reminding us all about mortal sins on a regular basis - he's very old-school that way.

My wife's faith is less about sticking to Catholic dogma, she just happens to be Catholic, thus is most familiar with it's traditions (communion of the saints, etc.). I would say she's "cultural catholic", and she has even self-professed to be "shopping-cart catholic" i.e. pick the parts you like and leave the weird/nutty/uncomfortable stuff on the shelf. Yet she places a huge importance on "faith" generically speaking, as giving meaning to life, believes prayer works, and conversations with god (i.e. your inner monolog is being eavesdropped) are a necessary part of a spiritual life, gives you direction, and helps with the difficult/important decisions & anxieties in life. More important than following stuffy old rules about attending church, anyway. Etc.

Right now she is writing my deconversion off as a phase, that it's normal to question one's beliefs (as long as you come back to them, unsaid). I do on a regular basis challenge, (& always have) but not attack. Well, maybe I do start to sound attackey when I point out hidden & ubiquitous anti-sex messages in any church literature. It's so easy to spot. Usually she agrees with me when I point out discrepancies from a position of reason, but ultimately she makes choices on a precept that decisons of a deeper nature are ones made from emotion. Whether that emotion is guilt or shame of fear or deeper understanding or what, I don't know. But for her, emotion counts more than reason, in the end.
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07-09-2012, 09:45 AM
RE: Married to a Theist?
(06-09-2012 11:05 PM)Birdguy1979 Wrote:  I married a theist. We have been married for a year and a few weeks so far. We don't yet have kids, however we both want to. She wants to raise our kids in church. I have to say I agree, as long as I can answer them truthfully when they ask me questions. I treat religion like drugs. If you don't teach your kids about them, someone else will. If I hide it, it will seem as if I am afraid of it. That will make my kids think that they have been lied to by me. My wife is a reformed christian, so the church is very open minded about atheists. The pastor of the church married us, even though he knows and at the time knew I am an atheist. I attend church to poke holes in what is said. As far as morals, they say that I am very close to their values even though they don't seem to come from the same place. I know they get their morals from the same place I do, however I don't see a need to argue that point.

I agree that religion is like drug use to some extent (e.g. your analogy) but why would you be ok with you kids being indoctrinated to believe one drug (one of the most dangerous ones based on history) is somehow a higher priority than all the others?

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