Every summer, we visit my husband's family down south. While at lunch with my MIL and SILs on Friday, the topic of religion came up (surprise surprise.) My MIL said that she was soooo upset when I told her about her favorite charity’s CEO committing suicide over allegations that he did stuff with a little girl.
SIL 1 said, “We still give, you can’t go by what one person did,” and my MIL said “I did more investigations and even wrote to them- I gave them a huge chunk of the money I inherited from mom- and they never responded!” I was secretly proud of her for going even further and asking questions- devout religious people usually don’t.
I told them how disgusted I am with the Catholic church, and how I can’t even tell my Irish family how I feel, it’s such a part of the culture, but someday I will. MIL was like, “OH so you understand how we feel!” and I said sure, I can appreciate that Born Agains are about prayer outside of a church, and that it’s a more personal thing. Of course they all seemed encouraged by that, thinking I was considering it.
MIL went into her spiel about how all you have to do is accept Jesus by saying blahblahblah and that’s your ticket in. I explained that really I want to just do good things, and she said “The bible says that good deeds….” And I finished her sentence, “Like dirty rags, I know, but…..too bad!” How silly that all the good deeds in the world don’t get you into heaven unless you say the magic words.
Explained that there’s a church in my area that’s really nice, and I’d love to go in and get to know my community and help people out, but it’s catholic. SIL 2 said, “There are many paths to God, if you want to get to Him you just choose the right one.”
I said “Yeah, but my goal isn’t God. My goal is to do good deeds, and there’s this middleman in the way. Religion gets in the way of my good deeds. I can’t go into that church with the pretense of belief, I just don’t believe! Do you know how HARD it is to come down south and say that!”
SIL 1 patted my leg and said, “We love you anyway,” but I didn’t sound condescending the way it would if MIL had said it. So it’s a big relief to get that off my chest.
But yesterday, everybody had to be ready to leave for church early in the morning. Which my husband and I knew we’d be skipping. I noticed him and his mom talking intensely in the guest room that morning, and I asked him last night what that was about. “OH, the usual, she’s trying to get me to go to church, and I told her no way, it’s a bunch of gossipy hypocrites and I want no part of it."
I was like, "Tell her that atheists don't GO to church and leave it at that." He replied, "It doesn't work. She’s been trying to do this for 20 years, and she wonders why I don’t visit more often!”
So we spent the morning with his dad (who seems less intent on church-going), did some shopping and errands, and it was great. He just seems to go along with the whole religion thing to keep the peace, so my husband thinks.
I'd love to have a discussion about religion with him, though he's getting up there and he tends to dominate any conversation. Hoping someday to at least breach (sp?) the topic with him, I'm told he's got a copy of the Koran in his library......
Wow, going south to family, especially if they believe in a superhuman energy, would be a challenge for me. I don't envy you. So, you kept your cool, your husband kept his, and the calliope plays its tune for the merry-go-round!
Wouldn't it be nice to just sit down at the picnic table with a pitcher of iced tea, and talk about the diversity of beliefs, the role of community in building a healthy family, and celebrating our differences?!
At least you get along with them better than I do. Just this morning I was talking to my theist friend on the phone. I've known the man since we were both 12 or 13. We used to go to church together as kids. Now he is like the Inqusition with me because him and my former theist employers (his friends) suspect that I am atheist. This year they did not call me back as a security guard for a campground at a very large show cave here in Missouri. The questioning was so intense you would think I was on trial for murder. Then I switched the tables and mentioned my job because I knew he knew something. He came clean with it all saying he knew last year why they would not call me back. It's a seasonal job and nobody ever told me anything til today. The hypocritical christians cannot even face you, call you on the phone to dismiss you, or write you a letter. They just hope that you will go away.
My friend suddenly decided he had told me too much. He shut up about it but got carried away with god and Jesus, and how he "had a personal relationship with them," and how he was "a friend of theirs" and how he had "personal favor with them." How delusional can you get? All that would have to happen here is change the names to Bob and Charlie. If he was to go around and talk like that he might be locked up for observation. But it's all OK because this is religion and the aftermath or it.
Meanwhile, I have been lied to and silently thrown under the bus.
So much for christians and the magic words you have to say, and the favor they have with god.
It is heartbreaking to hear these stories. However, this is the first time I stated my position clearly. My fear is that this will be the first domino to fall, and all civility will eventually fall away. Maybe not- my FIL seems to be just playing along, but he's 80+ and not exactly in a position to defend us easily.
I did notice that they didn't make anything vegetarian for the BBQ this time around. I was polite and said nothing, just picked out the chicken bits from the pasta salad and put them on my husband's plate. Made lunch when it was my turn to do so, tuna salad (I do eat fish so technically I'm a pescetarian (sp??) but nobody knows what that means.) Don't think that was intentional on their part. Next year I'll bring a box of veggie burgers- now that I'm family, I'll take some more initiative.
My only hope is that all further discussions and interactions are equally civil. In fact, I would not mind if they tried to bring me into their fold, since I listen to the Four Horsemen all day at work, along with other atheist lectures on YouTube, and feel armed/ready to defend our cause, which is important.
Noticed my younger nephew reading the Chick Tract about evolution. When I asked what he was reading, and he showed me, I kinda grunted "ugh" and went about my business. Interesting that among all the tracts piled up in the guest room (where we sleep of course) he chose the one about evolution- the same one he was reading last year when he and the other nephew started discussing science. He started reading that after Grandma hid his science book.
The older nephew did say how he'd like to visit us next time his family's in town, and I mentioned the cool playground next to the local science museum. "I'd love to visit that," he said, and it wasn't until later that I realized the implications of a "science" museum with these kids. I wasn't even thinking about it at the moment- it's just a fun, interactive, kid-friendly place that's nearby.
FIL keeps a real mastedon bone fragment on the coffee table, front and center, that he purchased for $20 many years ago before such things became illegal. That could be why my younger nephew ponders the Chick Tract so quietly......I don't know.
Anyway, I'm rambling. Michael, I'm so frustrated and angry for you. Ask him why your non-belief is such a threat. It's just a label. You should be judged by your actions.
Or perhaps mention to him how he sounds, maybe tell him that your friends Bob and Charlie told YOU that Jesus is not alive anymore. When he asks who they are, say, "MY friends who are right about EVERYthing."
Meanwhile, can you contact the Freedom From Religion Foundation? The Secular Student Alliance fights for students in similar situations, but I forget which group is the non-student equivalent.....
Joan, my relatives do have some redeeming qualities, and are very generous. The problem with MIL is that she's a control freak, and according to my husband, gets angry when she doesn't get her way. It's got more to do with that than any real concern for our souls.
It could also be OCD of some kind, as she's apparently obsessed in a way.....her office/our guest room has a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf and it is stuffed with religious books. I have to bring my own reading material unless I want to read a dictionary or the other non-religious reference book she's got in there, whatever it is!
One problem here is the ever changing world. Everything was fine in 1950 until we found out life was not like in "Leave It To Beaver." In those days the theist could be so very concerned about your "soul" because of the slowness of technology and information. Life everywhere was supposed to be just like it was here for us. God was in his heaven and all were happy. Let me pray for you. This is about your precious soul. Oh, I went to Iran and converted 250 there, praise Thor!
But now it's 2014. Dammit, why can't everything be like it used to be? I'm angry, but I have TV Land and Antenna TV to take me back. I'm pretending that it's all about your "soul" but if I went to Iran to convert anyone I might be killed. Jebus where are you?
This is Future Shock revisited.
Maybe not. He would claim I have to do my own praying for it to work. He did tell me that when he needs a job the first thing he does is talk to Jesus. I asked him if Jesus was going to hire him.
Somehow, I knew that "coming out" would lead to more intense recruiting attempts. Like when you register as an "independent," you get both Republicans AND Democrats trying to win you over to their side.
MIL had been calling my phone and as usual I was ignoring it, but sent her an e-mail. This morning, around 8am while I was at work, she's calling again. Waited until I finished what I was doing and called her back.
We chatted for a while about the weekend, and I could sense that it was deceptively innocuous. Every time she tried to say goodbye, she'd keep going. Then she said that it would be nice if we would come to church with her.
"It would be hypocritical of us to attend church," I explained. "OH but the church is full of imperfect people," she said, explaining how there's even a gay man there etc. "I'm a Pentecostal and I go to a Baptist church," she added.
"Yes, but that's different. You still have a belief. For us to go, it would be disrespectful." I was trying not to go as far as "We are anti-religion and especially hate christianity!"
Then it was on to how we really should visit more as FIL is getting up there in years, and would love to see his son more. "While you were all at church, we had a great time with him," I reminded her.
She didn't give up. It turned into some talk about the bible itself and the gay parishoner, and she said how he and their group discussed Romans last time. I said, "Oh yeah, Romans 1:26," as a way to remind her that being gay is God's thing, not a choice. She seemed impressed that I tossed out a quote like that, but I'm sure it went over her head.
I finally had to cut her off b/c it was pushing half an hour of personal phone time while at work. She left me shaken. Spoke to my husband later and said, "In an Irish family, you learn quickly that you cannot reason with a drunk. That's how I feel about your mother now." He wasn't pleased that she was now working on me, but he explained that this is why he never bothered with discussion. "There IS no discussion! It's just her trying to get her way."
But I'm still looking forward to expressing my feelings. I'm a sucker for an argument, but I do have to carefully consider my approach with her. The socratic method should work- ask her "what about Quote X? That contradicts Quote Y." Hoping to have the Skeptic's Bible site open for future conversations. Would make me sound well-versed!
Christine, your narrative is a real page turner; what will MIL do or say next and will you have the wits to stay decent. I am not so civilized! I like your idea of having the Skeptic Bible ready to help with future conversations.
This reminds me of raising my kids. We had a rule, if they asked for something during a grocery shopping trip they would get nothing. If they waited until check out time and told me what they decided they wanted, and if it wasn't full of sugar or empty calories, they would get their wish. If I gave in even once, it took weeks to get them to stop begging and whining. One little slip up on my part and I had a price to pay in unacceptable behavior from them.
I also involved them in creating the shopping list, so they had some say in what we brought home.
I wonder, if you set some boundaries and stuck to them, and if she were involved in setting those boundaries, perhaps some of her unacceptable behavior would be curbed? Not getting a call at work would be the first barrier to establish.
I like the Socratic method, however, I am not quick enough to use it effectively. Hopefully, you are more clever than I.
Oh I have no trouble keeping my boundaries. Usually I don't pick up the phone when she calls, but after a certain point it feels rude. It is weird that she doesn't seem the least bit concerned about calling me at work though (on my cell phone I should point out- at my old job, she would call my work phone, and when I ignored that, my cell phone would ring, so I'd usually ignore that, too!)
The socratic method is one I still need to practice- in the Manual for Creating Atheists, it says not to debate the existance of god, but to question the reasons people give for having faith to begin with. I just toss some questions their way about biblical contradictions, so they start questioning the book (I mean, THE Book) that they use to validate everything in life. When you can chip away at that, it's a start.
I love the idea of using the bible against itself. And as I become armed with information, I gain confidence, and defend my position more easily. Born Agains are very quick to respond to criticism, but not so quick to notice how they contradict themselves from one sentence to the next. I'm also noticing how they don't always have answers ready when confronted with the most basic discrepencies.
Today I had ANOTHER long discussion with a Born Again, AGAIN at work (WTF is with these people), this time with a co-worker (not the cube neighbor who equated "atheist" with "murderer and rapist.") She started by discussing a book about the brain and consciousness, and I just knew religion would come up. And it did, when she said that the topic fascinates her, yet she doesn't feel like it's a threat to her faith.
I said why should it, the bible is a spiritual thing, and science is what it is. The two are separate entities. She mentioned something about how religious people dismiss intellectualism or something, and I explained the meaning of "theory" and how it's been twisted around by creationists. "You wash your hands, right? Then you subscribe to the germ theory of disease. A theory is the highest level a concept can acheive in science- it's a fact. Like gravitational theory. I don't understand why evolution is so quickly dismissed on account of it being 'just' a theory."
I don't recall the exact trajectory of the conversation, but caught her trying to dismiss the OT while saying that christians take the bible as a whole. I said, "Well, which IS it?? I thought BA's were all about the New Testament." I then pointed out that if everybody decides which parts of the book they want to believe, or which denominations they prefer to follow, they're making moral judgements independent of the bible, so they're clearly not getting their morals FROM the bible. This also seemed to throw her off a bit.
Told her about MIL and she said that browbeating a person to go to church isn't going to work. I told her it's obvious that we're always invited, and if we ever change our minds we'll go. But we have no need for it. "Besides," I added, "apostasy is the unforgivable sin. There's no going back- that's what 'unforgivable' MEANS! Why does she even try?" At that point my husband called and blissfully I was SAVED...........from the remainder of that conversation!!! :-p
The unpardonable sin or unforgivable sin has been debated often in christiandom. Some even say it was to claim that Christ was mad. LOL Others aren't sure what it is today. I would think that if it was "against the holy goat" and this was the power that convicts you of "sin," that you were in denial of sin. (Really convenient here for the christians.) It's sort of like the cops getting you to confess to a crime and you never admit guilt.
Similar to this is the apostate, but mostly apostates are to be shunned. However, in some countries even today apostasy is punishable by imprisonment and even death. No wonder those pesty believers are so damned afraid to see anything like logic and reason.
It's funny how they're all about those poor "martyrs" being imprisoned in other countries where it's illegal to be christian, but 1) those countries aren't America and 2) at least they're taking THEIR holy books seriously!
We atheists WOULD be put to death if this were indeed a christian nation.
My husband said tonight that his mother would call the pastor over and have him give us his sales pitch if she ever managed to get us to go to her church. Yeah, she's no "true christian," she's mentally ill. Though they are essentially the same thing.