Religious Inlaws
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03-03-2016, 01:26 PM
Religious Inlaws
I'm atheist. My husband is also atheist and has been since we met, although he was brought up by a Christian family. My husband has never openly admitted his lack of faith with his family but they have an idea... for example: when we moved away they sent a bible to him and wrote in it how they pray everyday for him to find God again.

I have only addressed my differing beliefs with his mother, after my Grandma passed away. His mother sent me a video about a boy who had to put down a cow and it being so sad but ok because it was part of God's plan (or something along those lines). She captioned the video 'so true'... My grief was very raw and this struck a nerve, I found it incredibly insulting that she could compare my enormous loss to someone having to put down a cow. So I sent her a message to say that I did not share her beliefs and I asked that she would respect that at this difficult time. She gave a passive aggressive response but said sorry and that she wouldn't share her beliefs with me again. That was fine.

Prior to this she used to send me youtube videos about how amazing I was because God loved me, blurgh. I never responded to them but she would send me them at least once every couple of weeks.

My husband is afraid of their reaction when he comes out, and I don't want to ever be to blame for any potential fall out so I will never pressure him to have that conversation - that must happen on his own terms.

However, we have a child. He's 14 months old. Me and my husband are totally on the same page about raising our son to be free thinking, outside the inlaws faith. Should our son decide to follow a religion when he is older then he is of course free to make his own choices, but of course my inlaws want to save him. I think they've figured my husband and I are lost causes but our son is their new pet project.

Several things really ticked me off over the Christmas period that have made me realise our silence on the matter is sending them the message that they can carry on trying to indoctrinate our child. I want to enforce a boundary but because my husband is not 'out' it is quite frustrating.

Any advice how to handle this, any help with wording or the conversation that I need to have with them. Just to help you understand the situation these are the Christmas incidents.

1. For the first time ever, his father starting saying grace when we hosted them at our house for dinner. Not cool with me on my turf. I would never ask them not to say grace in their own home because their home, their rules... but likewise, my home, my rules... When our son is older I don't want him witnessing this in our home.

2. His sister gave our son a CD called 'Psaltys Praise Party Collection' with songs such as 'I'm a little praiser' and 'I have decided to follow Jesus' for Christmas. My husband unwrapped this as we were all together (us and the inlaws) opening gifts. I only discovered it later, hidden under wrapping paper. My husband said he freaked out and didn't know what to do so to avoid having a shit storm on Christmas Day with all the family he hid it and neither of us acknowledged her gift. I know this wasn't the best way to handle the situation.

3. Me finding a religious story book for our son in their holiday house with some horrible guilt laden messages about us all living in sin. (I threw this out - they visit again March so we'll see if they notice...)

Additionally, his father, mother and sister are all going to Israel on a pilgrimage later this year, I'm truly terrified about how they'll ramp up the crusade on their return. Thankfully we only see them once every couple of months but I really would like to nip all this behaviour in the bud. So yes, any advice is much appreciated! Thank you!
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03-03-2016, 01:43 PM
RE: Religious Inlaws
I suppose "please keep your bullshit away from our kid" is out of the question?

Atheism is NOT a Religion. It's A Personal Relationship With Reality!
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03-03-2016, 01:50 PM
RE: Religious Inlaws
(03-03-2016 01:43 PM)Minimalist Wrote:  I suppose "please keep your bullshit away from our kid" is out of the question?

Haha, I'd like to try politely set the boundary first Wink

However, if they don't respect said boundary...
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03-03-2016, 01:54 PM
RE: Religious Inlaws
My wife and I are in a similar situation. I've been openly atheist for years but she hasn't explicitly told anyone in her family (except her other sister who recently identified as an atheist) that she is agnostic/atheist (I don't know exactly what title she'd use, but she has explicitly said she doesn't believe a god exists).

Her family (my in-laws) are super-religious. Like, talking in tongues (M in Law) and conservative evangelicals (F in Law) and a spattering of catholics. My son (4) even goes to a preschool 2 days a week at a catholic church (our daycare will pick him up from there and it's convenient. Although he probably won't be going there next year).

They send religious-themed shit to my son (they used to send more of it when he was younger). What do we do with the religious story books? They go with all the other fiction (unless they were particularly bad, then they were just tossed out). The in-laws don't really come to visit, nor do we care if they see the religious shit they got my son isn't there.

Basically, none of it has mattered in the remotest way to my 4 year old. He goes to a Catholic preschool and has never said anything even remotely religious to me. He doesn't ask about praying or god or jesus or church (he calls all churches "castles" because he doesn't even know what a church is). He tells us what his chore was at school (giving out napkins or cleaning up or weatherman, etc) or what he painted or what animal he got to touch when the children's museum paid them a visit or how red the fire truck was when the firemen came.

Sure, they can send him all the shit they want. I don't care how my in-laws waste their money. They can want to indoctrinate him, and even try (which is particularly hard from a 1,000 miles away). In the end, he trusts my wife and I far more than his grandparents and various aunts and uncles. He doesn't see us talking about religion, nor do we pray, or celebrate any religious mumbo on religious holidays. And in the end, that is what will have the bigger impact, the home life.

So, I wouldn't overly worry about the influence you think the in-laws will have on your kid. They won't have anywhere near the influence you're afraid they will, nor the influence they believe they have.

As for your husband and "coming out" to them, that is far trickier. My mother and I had a very rocky relationship after she discovered I was an atheist (it has since been mended at least a little), but my relationship with my aunts and uncles has never been the same. My sister-in-law recently told her mother (my M in law) that she was an atheist, and she of course gets all the guilt-shaming bullshit that one might expect from an overly religious mother. It is impossible to predict how people will take the news. On the one hand, some of my family took it way better than I expected (my dad still believes in god, but has also started reading some Hitchens), but some reacted poorly.

One thing that might make it more obvious to the in-laws that they are crossing into territory they should be politely NOT crossing, is if your husband tells them he is an atheist. But if he doesn't and they keep treading on your space, just remember that they don't have the power they think they do.

Being nice is something stupid people do to hedge their bets
-Rick
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03-03-2016, 02:05 PM
RE: Religious Inlaws
Take control of the situation. When your father (or in law) is in your home, undermine the prayer bit by saying a somewhat lengthy toast followed by a cheerful let's eat and start passing around food.

It could be something thoughtful or whatever...thanking them for joining you in your home, a funny rememberence or story about the "family dinner"

Then the "salute" "Cheers" whatever followed by a very cheerful "Let's eat" timing is everything in situations like that.

If he tries to bully you into accepting his prayer, then it's time to speak candidly but privately. A little, seriously there's nothing wrong with politely holding your ground and saying, "do you mind if we speak in the other room?" I'm sure he'll be shocked somewhat or caught off guard, which is what you want.

Don't go into the whole disbelief thing, but tell him this is your house and this is your new family tradition. If he wants to make an issue then he looks like an ass. Again, take control of situation by returning to the table and start passing around the food, and engaging in conversation and eating.

Unwanted gifts can be simply given away, but should be acknowledged. I found, thank you notes to be incredibly valuable.

When my grandmother gave one of my children a children's bible, I thanked her and said ___ is a little young to appreciate it, so I'll put it away and keep it safe for him until he can read.


But as if to knock me down, reality came around
And without so much as a mere touch, cut me into little pieces

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03-03-2016, 02:16 PM
RE: Religious Inlaws
I say "thank you" for the religious presents and then throw them in the garbage (have been doing this for 18 years now).

Boundaries can be difficult and painful to draw. It's a good idea for you and your husband to have some kind of conversation about this and come to a consensus about the "rules" for his parents in terms of proselytizing and enforcing their religious rituals on your turf. Then it's appropriate for him to convey your household's wishes to the in-laws.

They'll be angry and hurt and try to use emotional blackmail to get their way, but your son's welfare is more important.
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03-03-2016, 02:17 PM
RE: Religious Inlaws
(03-03-2016 01:26 PM)doggers Wrote:  I'm atheist. My husband is also atheist and has been since we met, although he was brought up by a Christian family. My husband has never openly admitted his lack of faith with his family but they have an idea... for example: when we moved away they sent a bible to him and wrote in it how they pray everyday for him to find God again.

I have only addressed my differing beliefs with his mother, after my Grandma passed away. His mother sent me a video about a boy who had to put down a cow and it being so sad but ok because it was part of God's plan (or something along those lines). She captioned the video 'so true'... My grief was very raw and this struck a nerve, I found it incredibly insulting that she could compare my enormous loss to someone having to put down a cow. So I sent her a message to say that I did not share her beliefs and I asked that she would respect that at this difficult time. She gave a passive aggressive response but said sorry and that she wouldn't share her beliefs with me again. That was fine.

Prior to this she used to send me youtube videos about how amazing I was because God loved me, blurgh. I never responded to them but she would send me them at least once every couple of weeks.

My husband is afraid of their reaction when he comes out, and I don't want to ever be to blame for any potential fall out so I will never pressure him to have that conversation - that must happen on his own terms.

However, we have a child. He's 14 months old. Me and my husband are totally on the same page about raising our son to be free thinking, outside the inlaws faith. Should our son decide to follow a religion when he is older then he is of course free to make his own choices, but of course my inlaws want to save him. I think they've figured my husband and I are lost causes but our son is their new pet project.

Several things really ticked me off over the Christmas period that have made me realise our silence on the matter is sending them the message that they can carry on trying to indoctrinate our child. I want to enforce a boundary but because my husband is not 'out' it is quite frustrating.

Any advice how to handle this, any help with wording or the conversation that I need to have with them. Just to help you understand the situation these are the Christmas incidents.

1. For the first time ever, his father starting saying grace when we hosted them at our house for dinner. Not cool with me on my turf. I would never ask them not to say grace in their own home because their home, their rules... but likewise, my home, my rules... When our son is older I don't want him witnessing this in our home.

2. His sister gave our son a CD called 'Psaltys Praise Party Collection' with songs such as 'I'm a little praiser' and 'I have decided to follow Jesus' for Christmas. My husband unwrapped this as we were all together (us and the inlaws) opening gifts. I only discovered it later, hidden under wrapping paper. My husband said he freaked out and didn't know what to do so to avoid having a shit storm on Christmas Day with all the family he hid it and neither of us acknowledged her gift. I know this wasn't the best way to handle the situation.

3. Me finding a religious story book for our son in their holiday house with some horrible guilt laden messages about us all living in sin. (I threw this out - they visit again March so we'll see if they notice...)

Additionally, his father, mother and sister are all going to Israel on a pilgrimage later this year, I'm truly terrified about how they'll ramp up the crusade on their return. Thankfully we only see them once every couple of months but I really would like to nip all this behaviour in the bud. So yes, any advice is much appreciated! Thank you!

Set some time aside when your child is in bed to talk it through with your husband and agree some lines that his parents shouldn't cross. There's no need to rush and you needn't do it in one session. Give yourselves plenty of time to think the consequences through and decide what you are going to do if they cross the line. That way, any action taken by you will be calm, measured and appropriate and will be agreed between the two of you. There's nothing worse than taking action in a stressful situation. Talk it through as many times as you need so that you are both agreed.

Then, you meet with his parents, preferably at your home. You tell them what you have decided and, just as importantly, why. You then explain what your boundaries are, where they are and why they are being asked to respect them.

Most reasonable people will accept it, even if it isn't at first and even if it is reluctantly. They won't push things too far because they won't risk denial of access to their grandchild.

Also, don't worry if things get a little heated. It's only natural and, after all, people have a right to get upset.

Best of luck.

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03-03-2016, 03:11 PM
RE: Religious Inlaws
Have that conversation with your husband and find out what he is agreeable to as far as boundaries and who will handle them. He may be okay with setting them but might not want to confront them himself. Are you prepared to do it? Make sure if he wants you to, that he will also back you up if they appeal to his authority.

My MIL used to give the kids gifts I found inappropriate and in fact had even told her they couldn't have them in advance. When this happened I simply said thanks and then got rid of them later. It wasn't a religious thing but same type of control situation.

My opinion about the family meal prayer and other boundaries is different than the others posting here. I would cut them off as the pass. Speak to them ahead of time. Let them know you have every respect for their feelings on their beliefs but that acts of religious servitude are not a part of your family traditions and you expect them to give you and your family the same secular respect you give them and their religious traditions when you visit them.

Make it clear if they are unwilling to compromise on this issue you will take that into consideration when planning the future visits. You can be gentle and firm at the same time BUT you must be supported in your effort by your husband or it will mean nothing.

Good luck!

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03-03-2016, 06:15 PM
RE: Religious Inlaws
(03-03-2016 01:26 PM)doggers Wrote:  1. For the first time ever, his father starting saying grace when we hosted them at our house for dinner. Not cool with me on my turf. I would never ask them not to say grace in their own home because their home, their rules... but likewise, my home, my rules... When our son is older I don't want him witnessing this in our home.
Yip, that would be annoying. I'd just tuck in and start eating straight away, not worry about it if someone is in mid-gracing. I mean, it's not often you put rules at the dinner table that certain sentences can't be said. But then again, you don't need to bow your head or say amen or wait patiently while someone says a few "magic" words. Just eat. If they complain, tell them you are hungry, if they tell you that you are being disrespectful then let them know what the house rules are, that they are free to say grace but participation from others is voluntary rather than mandatory. That you'll respect grace in their house, by their rules but in your house grace is optional for whomever wants to participate.

(03-03-2016 01:26 PM)doggers Wrote:  2. His sister gave our son a CD called 'Psaltys Praise Party Collection' with songs such as 'I'm a little praiser' and 'I have decided to follow Jesus' for Christmas.
Oh, good grief. Happy times Blink

If you told them you are not Christian then it would be clear this is a wasted gift. Like giving Dame Kiri Te Kanawa a Slayer CD.

Anyways, hope you guys gave her a pair of un-holy sox for Christmas, or perhaps maybe a book on Yoga or Transcendental Meditation, or something new age and spiritual (but not Christian spiritual)
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03-03-2016, 11:16 PM
RE: Religious Inlaws
Thank you all for your comments. Their next visit is in March so I think it's clear I need to speak to my husband before then.

One more question about the gift giving... A lot of you said to throw inappropriate gifts away, which is what I have been doing but at this age my son isn't aware of what he's received. My concern is if I don't stop the Christian themed gifts now then when he's 3 or 4 and opening their gifts they'll use that moment as a platform to preach. He'll also be more aware when I've thrown his gift away and I have no doubt they'll ask him how he is enjoying it in future.

They also always want to babysit when they visit and I already feel uncomfortable about leaving him alone with them after finding that Jesus story book in their house. Our son is the only grandchild so it was only intended for him. I don't want them scaring him with stories of hell or alienating him from his parents (his mother is quite vocal about her mindset that non-believers are immoral). By not being 'out' or more vocal about our beliefs I feel we may be teaching our son that there is something shameful about being atheist. That is not the message I want to portray.

My husband's family are extremely conservative and use religion to justify their bigoted opinions, this also worries me because my extended family is the opposite - I have a gay brother, cousins and nephews of different races and two of my siblings have children outside of marriage. My side of the family is very liberal and accepting but unfortunately they live on the opposite side of the world and we'll only see them once a year.
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