Why can't I get past this?
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22-03-2015, 11:16 AM
Why can't I get past this?
I've been on here as an official member for nearly two years and I've never begun a thread in the Personal Issues forum so be gentle with me, I'm a virgin. It's fairly long so I apologize for that.

Those who know me on here know I'm generally a very patient poster. I may make jokes on threads that call for it, but when we are engaged in debate or serious topics, I tend to keep a level head. There was a period when I got away from the forum and from writing in my atheist blog; I like to refer to this time as my acceptance period, but that period is over and I'm back to being active.

While I never have been religious, my deconversion really didn't come until about two years ago. That process began when my family (mother, SIL) started going off the deep end with their recommitment to Catholicism. Their overzealous attitude and claims of daily miracles started to become too much for me to swallow. So I ratcheted up my investigative journalism training and dived deep into the questions of religion.

As most of you know, I came out clean on the other side (just like Andy Dufresne in Shawshank) as a full-blown atheist. In the past two years, I've had some debates with them, mostly via email with my SIL (those have been well-documented on here and on my blog), and we got to a point where we calmed down and didn't talk about it anymore.

But every once in a while my mother will bring up something peripheral about religion or morality and we end up debating. And this is the crux of my post here: Why can't I just let it go?

And I tend to lose my patience when we discuss this stuff. I'm so patient on here with virtual strangers, yet when I'm with my mother, who is 74 and not exactly the healthiest person, religion always works its way into our conversation and I always end up losing my patience with her until she taps out. Whenever she hears something completely rational from me and it makes her think for just a split second against her dogma, she runs (metaphorically of course).

I think I'm impatient because I'm let down by their ignorance. In most parental-child relationships, you grow up idolizing your parents, thinking they are basically superheroes. But as you get older, you start to realize your parents are only human. And with my parents, they are starting to succumb to irrational behavior, and I'm not just talking about religion. As an atheist, I am very aware that this is the only life I have and the only life I'll have with them.

So why can't I just let this go? Why don't I just bite my tongue and listen to the bullshit? Why can't I ignore the "Praise Jesus" exults and the "GOD bless you" wishes (petty I know)? Even when we're having a non-religious normal conversation and I mention something that seems remarkable, my mom will say, "Swear to god!" She is so engrained in her ways that I just can't help myself when I get the chance to give her some info to which I know she isn't privy.

My mother and I have always butted heads about mundane bullshit and it has never affected our relationship. It's almost how we communicate. If it's not an argument then it's not important enough to discuss. But when it's religion, all the wheels fall off of the vehicle.

Finally, I think my urge to always want to discuss this with my family is because I grew up in a household where my parents wanted to know what was going on in my life, what I learned in school or at work, etc. Secularism is very important to me and I hate seeing so many people succumb to these lies and practices. So when I'm at my parents' home, I want to tell them everything that I've studied/learned because I know they have no idea these things exist.

But shouldn't I be able to to just let it go? It's been more than two years since I "came out" and yet the resentment and need to be right is not fading at all.

Thanks for reading.

Check out my now-defunct atheism blog. It's just a blog, no ads, no revenue, no gods.
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24-03-2015, 06:32 AM
RE: Why can't I get past this?
Hello Willhop,

I enjoyed reading your post, I don't know anyone whose parents (or other family members) don't frustrate the hell out of them sometimes, so I wouldn't feel too bad about that.

Couple of things occurred to me while I was reading through, I take it that you do want to stop these debates with your mother as it sounds like they're leaving you both feeling somewhat unhappy.

You say you can be really patient with total strangers - it's easy, there's no emotional investment there. You obviously love your mother very much, the fact that you're now seeing religion as a con or a lie means that you want to protect her from being misled or being taken advantage of. Especially if there's some financial or emotional coercion there - 10% tithes when she's short of cash for example.

You said your family always wanted to know how you were doing, what your interests were etc. when you were growing up, so your mum will have seen you get into all sorts of new ideas over the years. Your interest in secularism & atheism might look to your mum like the latest in a long line of learning experiences which started with "look mum, I can tie my own shoes now!".
I love to read and learn new things about the world and when you come from a family where this is supported and nurtured then sharing your newfound knowledge is a hard habit to break - my mother frequently looks at me like she's no idea where she found me... "very nice pet, can I watch Coronation Street now?".

You say that you always butted heads, yeah, I get that - my relationship with my dad was/is the same. Learning to argue about why he was wrong and I was right taught me to refine why I think like I do. We still disagree on loads of stuff but have fallen into a pattern of good natured disagreement and acceptance - he introduces me as his "lefty daughter" and tells people not to talk to me about politics or religion. Life's too short to really fall out if the other parts of the relationship are functioning OK.

You say you're disappointed in your parents ignorance, and of course it's normal to go through the transition where you see your parents failings because they're human instead of idolising them - I would suggest you flip this to their perspective - you've gone from being their precious clever baby / child to someone who by your own admission can't let the religious arguing go and argues although you know it upsets you all - you're spoiling your time together with this, you need to try to not get into it with them (easier said that done I know) .

You mention that there's increasing non-religious irrationality - are you talking about general woo like not having flu-shots or stuff which might suggest a medical cause? Maybe suggest a check up or a visit to the memory clinic if you think there are real problems - also, is their house safe - no risk of carbon monoxide leaks which can cause confusion?

You maybe need to accept that you're not going to change your mothers mind, or take her out of her faith - it's why she backs out of your arguments. You say she's 74 and her health isn't good, trust me, she'll be a lot more aware of this than you are and it's scary. At this point in her life she maybe needs some reassurance to reduce her fear of her own mortality and to some extent it might be cruel to try and force her out of this - does she need an existential crisis on top of her other health problems? The other side of her faith is that she may draw reassurance that there's someone around to keep a look out for her family when her time is over - she wants you to be protected. Just a thought.

The verbal affirmations of faith - unless she's trying to reconvert you or evangelise at you I'd just let them go - they're likely just verbal habits that she's fallen into. Don't jump to argue every point - e.g. "mrs X's cancer has gone, it's a miracle" don't start on the "well actually its medical science and there's no evidence of miracles" trip, just say "I know you were worried, you must be very relieved". She probably doesn't realise she's "god bless"-ing you all over the place, and if she does it just means she wants you to be happy because she loves you.

Seriously, life is about the quality of the relationships you have with other people here and now. You only get one set of parents and there's no point losing them over this.

The corollary to this is obviously, if she's locking you in the basement and trying to get you exorcised, threatening you with hell every 5 minutes and throwing holy water at you, then that's grossly dysfunctional and you need to back away slowly..

Best of luck.
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24-03-2015, 07:13 AM
RE: Why can't I get past this?
Thanks, monkeygirl, for that very kind response. I'll take a lot from it and I appreciate the thought behind it. I think one of the reasons we (my mom and I) have always had spirited debates is because our visits would be quite mundane without them. When I visit, within the first 30 minutes or so, we've recapped our entire week or whatever and have pretty much nothing else to talk about. And to be fair, she has been the one questioning me. I let the verbal affirmations of faith go, but they are merely building my frustration as the visit wears on, so by the time she eventually slips up and asks something or refers to something that requires me to respond, I have a day's worth of frustration behind my response. At that point I should take the high road, and so I guess I'm going to make the effort again.

As for the irrational behavior, it is leaking into just about every one of their thoughts, such as on safety (every car that drives by the house is a threat), money (everyone is stealing their identity or overcharging them), politics and everyday things. It's just old age and fear, but it's difficult to watch. They live in my brother's huge mansion and they have everything they could ask for, so they want for nothing.

I'm just going to have to revert back to biting my tongue and diverting the conversation back to the mundane. I would never want to change her faith or deconvert her, I just wanted to defend myself and show her there's more to the story.

Thanks again, monkeygirl.

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24-03-2015, 10:19 AM
RE: Why can't I get past this?
you could also just drop the debate and go for humor, over the top and in unexpected ways.

when she says "swear to god!" reply with a " fuck you jesus" when she looks shocked, fake innocence. "oh, you mean thats not what you meant?" and give a grin.


whats the definition of insanity? doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result.


you could also, just refuse to be brought into those conversations, a simple "I'm not going there, Mom" might take awhile to sink in, but if she hears it repeated frequently will get there eventually.


"Life is a daring adventure or it is nothing"--Helen Keller
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24-03-2015, 11:20 AM
RE: Why can't I get past this?
Quote:Why can't I just let it go?

Because you are angry. Sometimes anger is good. It let's her know that you are not putting up with her bullshit.

Atheism is NOT a Religion. It's A Personal Relationship With Reality!
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24-03-2015, 12:39 PM
RE: Why can't I get past this?
Parents are just people with faults. Why do children always blame their parents for the ills of the world and expect them to be perfect? They screw up. They come from a different world, especially nowadays. If your mom is in her mid 70s, you have no idea how things were when she was young. Maybe you need to ask questions about that and just listen to the stories to understand better.

If a person has been brainwashed for over 70 years, do you really expect them to be able to shed all that in an hour or a week or a year of talking to you?

And, what would happen if she did shed it? Think about it, you would have pulled the carpet out from under her, she would feel more grief and loss than you can imagine.

Leave the old woman alone and concentrate on the YOUNG! They are the future. That is what matters. If your mom needs a security blanket in her old age, it doesn't matter one bit to anyone but her.

End of rant.

Now get off my lawn! Tongue

[Image: dobie.png]Science is the process we've designed to be responsible for generating our best guess as to what the fuck is going on. Girly Man
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24-03-2015, 01:59 PM
RE: Why can't I get past this?
(24-03-2015 12:39 PM)Dom Wrote:  Parents are just people with faults. Why do children always blame their parents for the ills of the world and expect them to be perfect? They screw up. They come from a different world, especially nowadays. If your mom is in her mid 70s, you have no idea how things were when she was young.

Thanks, Dom. Just to be clear, I'm not blaming anyone for anything. It just saddens me to hear some of the things they say. I always reassure her that I wouldn't have any other parents and am grateful for the fantastic childhood I had. It's just not easy sometimes realizing your parents are just people.

Bows, you crack me up, and thanks Min.

I appreciate y'all reading it and chiming in.

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24-03-2015, 04:58 PM
RE: Why can't I get past this?
Will,
She is 74 and her health isn't good. This is the time when you need to learn and exhibit patience. You aren't going to change her at this late date. If a conversation turns to religion, change the topic.

Also, if you don't show such reaction it may no longer fill whatever need she has to get a rise out of you.

Take a breath and know this isn't a fight either of you will win.

Heart

See here they are the bruises some were self-inflicted and some showed up along the way. - JF

We're all mad here. The Cheshire Cat
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24-03-2015, 06:30 PM
RE: Why can't I get past this?
Thanks Anj. I think the next time we get together I am going to chat with her about it and tell her it really needs to either be off the table or we need to have an agreement about how we discuss these things. Ultimately, I just want to spend time with them and have neither of us bring anything up ever.

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24-03-2015, 07:55 PM
RE: Why can't I get past this?
(24-03-2015 06:30 PM)WillHopp Wrote:  Ultimately, I just want to spend time with them and have neither of us bring anything up ever.

Keep it simple and just tell her that. Agree to disagree.

[Image: dobie.png]Science is the process we've designed to be responsible for generating our best guess as to what the fuck is going on. Girly Man
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