Soon to be father-in-law wants me to have a sit down with his pastor...
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07-03-2014, 05:41 AM
RE: Soon to be father-in-law wants me to have a sit down with his pastor...
(07-03-2014 12:04 AM)bl510 Wrote:  This is my first time posting to any forum and I hope I keep it brief enough.

My soon to be father-in-law recently found out that I am atheist, and also found out that his daughter is now an atheist. He has requested that we have a 3 hour sit down meeting with his pastor (Lutheran church) before our wedding day or he will not walk my wife to be down the aisle (which she wants very much).

I am more than willing to participate in this long discussion, but I was hoping some members of this community would have some words of advice. Both of us grew up in very religious homes and every member of the family is extremely religious. We have just recently come out as being atheist and most of the family doesn't know yet, only a few people.

While I am reasonably educated on science, religions of the world, and our family religion, I have little to no experience discussing this anyone.

I would really appreciate perhaps a few good conversation starters or tips on how to more clearly communicate with someone in that position. This man has been a pastor for like 40 years or more. Any advice that may be helpful in that situation would be sincerely appreciated. Thank you all in advance.
Please let us know how it went! We're all curious!

It's no problem if you talk to a pastor. But you have the right to demand that your father-in-law watches with you videos about atheism on Youtube, let's say 2-3 hours in length, or shorter plus discussion. Your father-in-law is physically stronger, but that is no virtue. If he wants to claim he's virtuous, then he can't invent rules and order you around without the same obligations for him. But you don't have to do that.

Fortunately, 40 years of preaching do not make Bible any more valid. Every good pastor knows there are glaring contradictions in the Bible and what pages to avoid. But you better let him start, let him put forward his case, clearly and without ambiguity. If he wants to sell you an invisible car, let him show it to you, don't go on the wild goose chase. Play it cool, don't attack what he doesn't have.

If he claims something obligatory, like that you can't be moral without god, ask for evidence.
I don't know if you can play that, but in your place I'd talk about goodness and morality out of the first principles and out of free will. I'd try to present my standard, in case the father-in-law talks to the pastor again how it went. In ideal case the pastor will tell him that you're good enough, on God's side even if you wouldn't put it that way.
I think if you show that you care about reason and goodness, you'll be fine. That means obeying moral rules does not mean being moral, only being obedient. Nazis claimed obedience to orders too. Morality is in your integrity, you can only be moral, if you are not under coercion, such as by your father-in-law. So nobody can force you to be good, not even God by threatening you by Hell or bribing you with Heaven.

The one thing I wouldn't want to encounter is something so dumb, that it can't be answered. I must learn not to think about it but answer quickly, do you have an evidence for that?
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07-03-2014, 06:51 AM
RE: Soon to be father-in-law wants me to have a sit down with his pastor...
If you were planning to get married in the church, your fiancee needs to accept that it probably won't happen. Once they find out you are both atheist, they won't allow it.

I called my Dad's bluff. He was throwing a temper tantrum about something on my wedding day and decided he wasn't going to do his part. He phoned to create drama and I simply told him that he could show up and do his part, or not. But I wasn't going to kiss his ass. I told him he needed be there at a certain time or we would start without him (my dad was always late). For me, it was one of the most freeing moments of my life. It had a calming effect on me, it was the day I walked away from all the drama, all the emotional blackmail, all the bullying. I was done with it and I was looking at a wonderful future about to begin. My Dad showed up, on time, walked me down the aisle with a smile and we both started on a better relationship. That day he realized that he couldn't bully me anymore. And it was the start of our friendship. But even if he hadn't, I don't think it would have mattered much. I had already walked away from the drama. Left it all behind.

So, your fiancee has some 'soul-searching' to do when it comes to her Dad. If he can bully you at your wedding, he will bully you thru your marriage. There comes a day when you make a stand and let the chips fall.

ITA with Mathilda's post, find out the result he is wanting. If its conversion-don't bother with the meeting. If you do end up in the meeting, I am not a person that debates and tries to prove my points.....I accept things for me....I don't need to prove myself to others... I would just tell the pastor exactly why you are there. Because your FIL asked you to. Here's the thing, if you ask many questions, he spends more time talking than you do, he's a pastor, he's had lots of practice at this and will likely go on and on. At the end of the meeting he feels like he's done a great job because he did all the talking. He says nice things to FIL, you don't have to defend yourself. Maybe its because I had 2 kids under 4 at one point in time....but I can listen sit in a room with people rambling and not hear a word they say. I have learned to tune out the babbling and listen to my own thoughts. I guess others do it at boring business meetings and you just zone out.

please post an update, I'm curious how this plays out for you.


"Life is a daring adventure or it is nothing"--Helen Keller
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07-03-2014, 07:23 AM
RE: Soon to be father-in-law wants me to have a sit down with his pastor...
Don't do it.

Your future father-in-law is setting you up by using his daughter. The meeting may be awkward for you, but it will turn into a nightmare for her--an internal conflict (daughter v father, daughter v pastor, daughter v God). The father and pastor are the power authorities in her family; it's not at all a fair match. And 2-3 hours in such a setting will be too emotionally exhausting for everyone; someone will blow.

Also, having spent years in church, I find it hard to believe a minister of so many years would agree to such a meeting.

You will be compelled to let the pastor pray, all linking hands and cozy, at the beginning, during the middle when conflict arises, and at the end--enduring the blessings if nothing else. Ugh!

If you decide to go with the meeting, choose neutral ground--no church, pastors home, or future father-in-law's place.

"If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story." Orson Welles
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07-03-2014, 08:24 AM
RE: Soon to be father-in-law wants me to have a sit down with his pastor...
Wow...that sucks. So is it that you sit and listen for 3 hours, and then your FIL is onboard, or sit and listen for 3 hours and accept his religion and then he's onboard?

Sorry to hear this man. Definitely unfair to you, even more so to your wife.

The religion of one age, is the literary entertainment of the next.
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07-03-2014, 08:40 AM
RE: Soon to be father-in-law wants me to have a sit down with his pastor...
(07-03-2014 07:23 AM)Dee Wrote:  Don't do it.

Your future father-in-law is setting you up by using his daughter. The meeting may be awkward for you, but it will turn into a nightmare for her--an internal conflict (daughter v father, daughter v pastor, daughter v God). The father and pastor are the power authorities in her family; it's not at all a fair match. And 2-3 hours in such a setting will be too emotionally exhausting for everyone; someone will blow.

Also, having spent years in church, I find it hard to believe a minister of so many years would agree to such a meeting.

You will be compelled to let the pastor pray, all linking hands and cozy, at the beginning, during the middle when conflict arises, and at the end--enduring the blessings if nothing else. Ugh!

If you decide to go with the meeting, choose neutral ground--no church, pastors home, or future father-in-law's place.

the part about it being emotionally exhausting..someone will blow-- it will probably be your fiancee--she is the one stuck being forced in the middle.

elope.


"Life is a daring adventure or it is nothing"--Helen Keller
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07-03-2014, 12:56 PM
RE: Soon to be father-in-law wants me to have a sit down with his pastor...
Thank you so much for everyone who has participated in the discussion so far, there have been a lot of really good thoughts and suggestions. I did not elaborate on many aspects of our situation in the original post in an attempt to be brief and to the point, but after reading many of your responses it seems some more detail is needed.

My fiancé and I have been friends for about 7 years, and intimately involved for over 3 years. She is 27 and I am 25. My lack of belief in a god is not new to me, I realized around the age of 14 that the entire cult life seemed a bit fishy to me, but without anyone to talk to about it I was essential silent and just played along until well after high school. It was only over the last few years that I began educating myself and really became comfortable with the lack of god. I couldn't be happier about it now, science and education has been so much more fulfilling than religion ever was.

When we first got together my fiancé was still quite religious. I never lied to her about my beliefs, but I tried to be respectful and not pressure her to dump the myths. Other than a few moments of weakness on my part I think I succeeded in letting her come to her own conclusions based on the evidence. About a year and half ago she told me she no longer believed in god either. (Pretty sure there was a mini celebration happening inside my head :-)

We are not getting married in a church and, as some of you pointed out, I doubt any pastor would be willing to marry a couple of atheists anyway. I am really proud she was able to tell her come out to her parents. At first there was some discussion of her waiting until after the wedding (about another 18 months from now) but I am glad she did it sooner than later, and I think she is too.

For being extremely conservative christians I am surprised at how well her parents took the news. My suspicion is that they think she is going through some sort of phase and will be coming back to the church. Her father doesn't seem to be "demanding" that we meet with the pastor exactly, but it does seem to be a strong suggestion. My fiancés sister is still devout christian but she is dating a man who is also an atheist. She has been trying to convert him, probably since they started dating a few years back. My soon to be FIL would like both of us couples to meet with the pastor. I am not exactly sure what he expects to gain from this conversation, suppose that would be a good thing to find out about ahead of time.

If in his mind he just wants us to hear "a good argument" to believe again, and he thinks that maybe we have been misinformed some how, then I suppose its not the worst thing. I enjoy conversation with people who disagree with me as much or more than I do with people of the same views. But, as some of you pointed out, if this is an attempt to convert us, or if he is not satisfied after the conversation and has more demands, I don't think there is much more I could do for him. I think that no matter what the outcome is, her dad will still love and care for her, but he may not be a fan of me anymore. I hope it doesn't come to that, but if that is the cost of being honest I don't see any other options.

We are both hoping that he wants the four of us to meet the pastor at the same time (My fiancé and I, her sister and her boyfriend). I think that if her sister, who is all about the jesus, can just hear some of our questions to the pastor and witness the terrible answers that you get when you ask some basic questions about the bible or possibility god, that maybe she could free herself from the mental slavery of religion as well. I don't think she has ever heard any of the arguments from a perspective that doesn’t already assume god is real. Maybe that is just a pipe dream, but I guess if we don't have the conversation we will never know.

On top of any other general advice you all may have, we would be particularly interested in some tips on perhaps really well worded questions to ask or specific discrepancies we could bring up that would do one or both of two things:

1) Show the pastor that my future wife and I did not simply dump our faith on a whim or the first sign of temptation, but rather that we have seriously and honestly considered all the evidence and made an extremely well informed decision, which is what happened.
2) Let her sister hear some of the arguments for not believing in god. I want her to hear how far a pastor or other man of faith has to stretch in order to answer what would seem like very basic, simple questions. The kind of questions that an intelligent adult would ask before selling their life into the church. Questions that someone who was indoctrinated since birth would never have thought to ask on her own. I do think the pastor doing more of the talking would be a good thing. I am hoping all it takes is a few well placed and worded questions to bring at least some doubt to her mind.

Thank you all again for the comments and support. Sorry if this was too long.

p.s. I plan on reading responses together with my fiancé, so feel free to address any comments, questions, or advice to either of us.
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07-03-2014, 01:17 PM
RE: Soon to be father-in-law wants me to have a sit down with his pastor...
(07-03-2014 12:56 PM)bl510 Wrote:  On top of any other general advice you all may have, we would be particularly interested in some tips on perhaps really well worded questions to ask or specific discrepancies we could bring up that would do one or both of two things:

1) Show the pastor that my future wife and I did not simply dump our faith on a whim or the first sign of temptation, but rather that we have seriously and honestly considered all the evidence and made an extremely well informed decision, which is what happened.
2) Let her sister hear some of the arguments for not believing in god. I want her to hear how far a pastor or other man of faith has to stretch in order to answer what would seem like very basic, simple questions. The kind of questions that an intelligent adult would ask before selling their life into the church. Questions that someone who was indoctrinated since birth would never have thought to ask on her own. I do think the pastor doing more of the talking would be a good thing. I am hoping all it takes is a few well placed and worded questions to bring at least some doubt to her mind.
1. What does it matter? You have nothing to prove to this pastor?
He has his job and his job has no importance to you. Does a vegetarian have to explain themselves to a KFC chef?
the point of your discussion with the pastor is to put a tick in a box thus get father inlaw's approval. The pastor's opinions on your reasons for disbelief are unimportant.
2. Is this a public debate or is it a private discussion?
If it is going to be a debate then you need to set the topic, the format and prepare some speeches. Debates are not an effective way of exploring ideas or two way discussion, they are a combative display of public speech, delivering reasoned research and they rarely change anybodies mind, the affirmatives at the beginning will cheer all the points by the affirmative team and the opposing audience will cheer all the points of the negative team.
I very much doubt any audience will appreciate the arguments of the team they oppose to begin with.
A debate is a no win situation and will be frustrating for all and will only work towards angering your inlaws, as they want to see you listening rather than arguing.

If I were you I would insist the 3 hour meeting be in private, just you two and the pastor.
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07-03-2014, 01:26 PM
RE: Soon to be father-in-law wants me to have a sit down with his pastor...
It is my understanding so far that it will be a discussion, not a debate. I don't know for sure who will be there, but it will be private either way. It will either be us 2 and the pastor, or us 2 and her sister and sister's boyfriend and pastor, or it will be all of the above with the inclusion of her parents. It will not be public and I don't think there are options for anyone else to be involved.

Neither of us care what the pastor thinks at all, but I would certainly like to see some points brought up that would have at least some impact on her sister who is still devoutly religious.
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07-03-2014, 01:35 PM
RE: Soon to be father-in-law wants me to have a sit down with his pastor...
(07-03-2014 01:26 PM)bl510 Wrote:  Neither of us care what the pastor thinks at all, but I would certainly like to see some points brought up that would have at least some impact on her sister who is still devoutly religious.

I suggest leave that for later? Just keep it straightforward, do what you came to do, which is fulfill your FIL's wish and find out what his deal is. Don't mix in the goal of religious education at the same time IMO - could easily backfire and antagonize the religious side of the family. You've got time, loads of time, after the wedding and so forth, to lay out reasons for unbelief, if you so desire.

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If you're perfect -- Alanis Morissette
(06-02-2014 03:47 PM)Momsurroundedbyboys Wrote:  And I'm giving myself a conclusion again from all the facepalming.
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07-03-2014, 01:54 PM
RE: Soon to be father-in-law wants me to have a sit down with his pastor...
That's a good point morondog, I had not really considered that. Perhaps I just have a years of pretending and lying bottled up inside and just really want to let some of that out. Maybe there would be more appropriate times to do that in the future. I will keep that in mind while preparing for the conversation.

On an unrelated point, how do you reply in a thread like this with the little excerpts from someone else's post inside your own post?
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