Hi everyone. Thanks for welcoming me to your community. It's nice to see that I'm not alone.
I knew I was an atheist when I was six-years-old or so, only I didn't know that was the term then. My mother was (and still is) the organist at the United Methodist Church I went to. I can remember vividly deciding to read the Bible for the first time during one of the services, to see what it was about. Being the reader I was, I started at the beginning. It didn't take me long to realize that none of it made sense. It sounded like pure nonsense. I didn't have much of an understanding of science at that point, but the very beginning of Genesis contradicted everything that I knew about up to that point.
But, being the good kid I was, I tolerated church. For a few years. As I moved into the third and fourth grade, I resented Sunday mornings and Sunday School. My parents forced me to go. Making matters worse, my father never went. I never felt it was fair that he didn't have to go, yet I had to (along with my brother). This was my life every Sunday, September through early June, every year until I graduated from high school at 17.
From that point forward, I basically only showed up to church on Christmas Eve and whenever my mother had some big production going on (to support her and the work she put into it).
After graduate school, I left my hometown, and have only set foot in a church for a wedding, funeral or other similar events. Even when I return home, I never go, unless I'm there on Christmas Eve.
I met my wife just over five years ago, and religion had zero place in our relationship. I knew that she was raised Southern Baptist, but she never brought up religion at all. I never did, because it just wasn't something that was important in my life. I rarely feel the need to discuss it with anyone, because I just feel that it is all nonsense. We have probably set foot in a church less than a dozen times in these five years.
Well, during this time, I've had an increase feeling that I should just tell her that I'm an atheist. Nothing has really changed in the sense of religion discussion in our relationship. It's continued to be next to zero. But I was feeling as though I was hiding who I was.
So, on Wednesday, I told her. Admittedly, I blindsided her a bit, since there wasn't any 'honey, we need to talk,' type thing said. She flew off the handle. I was shocked by her reaction, yet not surprised. She cried, yelled, repeatedly asked if I wanted a divorce, accused me of lying and all sorts of things. I just let her rant. Towards the end, I finally got in a 'this is who I am.' She then stormed off the bed and it was myself and the cat on the couch for the night.
I asked her Thursday night if she wanted to talk about it, and she gave me the 'look of death,' and refused to talk. I dealt with the silence for the remainder of the evening (she made some small talk before bed), but it was another night on the couch for me.
No, I don't know what to do. Is my marriage over? Is there a chance of saving it? Do I just continue to go on, not acknowledging anything and pretending this never happened? Something else? I've never told anyone else that I am an atheist, but given the reaction my wife had, her family and extended family (which they all think I'm the greatest thing since sliced bread), will probably be just as bad, if not worse.
I feel all alone. We moved to our present location 18 months ago and I have no friends here. My family up north has no idea any of this is happening and I just don't know what to do at this point. Does anyone have any suggestions? Thank you.
Oh My GOD. This is bad, dude. Not that i need to tell you that. I wouldn't call you dude if you knew your name. I'll call you COA, or Cal, for short, I guess. So, Cal. I am an atheist, and became one after i was married. My wife is actually very christian though, and i used to be the same way. It was a gradual process for me, but i did admit it to myself and to her, explicitly. She was really with me through the whole process though. We actually met in Bible College, and it was partly my qualms with nonsensical religous doctrine, along with a new understanding of scientific ideas like evolution that led me away from theism. That being said, i am really sorry that you handled this the way that you did. My wife is still a christian though, so we share that in common. One thing we did was see a counselor, to help us work through some of the trauma associated with a big change like that. One thing i recommend (and i am going to use caps here, because i am very serious about this: MAKE SURE YOU FIND A SECULAR COUNSELOR! If you don't, it won't be fair. I made that mistake, and although i'd still say it was worthwhile, i would not recommend it in your more dicey situation (not judging, just what it sounds like). Good luck Cal, i wish you the best success in working this out with your wife, and you have my full emotional support.
Rob, Sorry for calling you Cal. Also sorry for being in an odd mood when i posted my last comment.
Rob, welcome and feel free to post as often as needed! We ALL feel your pain.
Once the dust settles and she has time to process the cognitive dissonance (she was brought up hearing "atheist" as a synonym for "evil", and now she's married to one!) perhaps she'll come to her senses. Obviously, religion is not an important part of her life, and her husband is. She still has her husband.
My guess is the idea that someday, her family will learn that's she's "married to an atheist!!" and she doesn't want to deal with it.
I was raised Irish Catholic; my husband's entire family is rabidly Born Again. We had a secular wedding, with my cousin as officiant. We didn't give a hoot what anybody thought. I had let go of the "God" concept gradually, but only got interested in learning more about atheism ironically after marrying into the rabid fundie family.
Perhaps keep a few books around the house- the Skeptic's Annotated Bible, Letter to a Christian Nation, or anything by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, or Christopher Hitchens to name the most popular ones.
My own husband, though an atheist, has avoided the topic all these years with his family, and even with me was resistant to any sort of discussions. But I'm slowly showing him that the nieces/nephews are starting to ask us questions about what we believe, and we need to be ready.
Because he's an engineer, and not one for philosophical discussion, I remind my husband how fundies are teaching kids junk science to further their agenda, and that they need to be corrected on certain points (such as laws of thermodynamics and other stuff they twist around.) So if the kids start parrotting the crap they're taught as "science," their uncle will set them straight. He seems to be getting more interested now as he reads the fantastic claims made by fundies.
Sorry I'm going off on a tangent! Anyway, quietly indulge your intellect, search YouTube for the three names mentioned above (for moral support and excellent debates/lectures), and be ready for her questions. Perhaps ask her what it is about your atheism that she finds so horrific, perhaps tell her you thought SHE was one too!
I am so sorry that you are having to go through this, Rob. Ouch. My suggestion is little different from many others so far. Rather than trying to work hard to present your case or show your wife why she might be wrong, it might be best to focus on emotions - at least for now.
I've found that it's irrational to try to be rational with irrational people. I'm not suggesting your wife is irrational in any other way - just about this, and hopefully temporarily. But religious beliefs, especially those accepted in childhood, run so deep! They bypass our reasoning skills and are all wound up with our identities. They make us have knee-jerk reactions concerning what is "good" and what is "bad." It doesn't matter that she's ignored her faith so long. You've just challenged a foundational part of her that she did not arrive at rationally. So it's normal that her reaction is emotional and not measured. It probably feels like an earthquake to her, and most likely she feels out of control and insecure.
So for right now, I suggest talking only about emotions and feelings. I know this is hard, because atheists in general are more interested in facts and objective evidence. Tell her how sorry you are if any of this brings her pain. Tell her you would like to believe in a loving God if you could (if that's true). Say how much you admire her, and if Christianity helped make her what she is, you are very grateful to it. Reassure her that you love everything about her, and that you are not asking her to change. Tell her that you admire many of the teachings of the Bible. Share your desire to be a good person and a good husband. Tell her you don't want to lose her. Be honest with her, but lay it on thick. This will make it hard for her to see you as the enemy.
I have a believing spouse, too. When I shared my lack of faith with him, instead of asking questions about what I actually believe now, he was worried that I might want to leave him. I was totally shocked, because we have a very happy relationship. Again, he was reacting emotionally - not rationally.
We've taken some good advice from Marlene Winell, a psychologist who deals with "mixed couples." She suggests setting aside a time each week, for example a half an hour each Saturday, when you both agree to sit and discuss beliefs. Other than that - it's off the table. It sounds hard to do but it works well. Otherwise it comes up at really bad times and the emotions fly.
I hope for the best for you. Glad you found this site. I've found it full of very wise and supportive people!
Personally the only advice I can offer is that you try to reason with her and try to make her understand why it is that you have no belief in God. Tell her your reasons, give her your best arguments as to why you think God belief is pointless. Chances are, though, if I know Christians, which I do in most cases, it probably won't impress her much. Not knocking your wife mind you, but Christians are not generally open to logic and reason. In fact they have an antipathy to both science and reason (unless they perceive the particular science somehow directly benefits them). I've talked to many Christians who really spew vitriol against science, yet they sure do love that computer they use that science created, and when a Christian is cured of cancer by medical science they usually thank God or Christ with no mention of thanks to the doctor or the science that made the cure possible.
The point here is not to convince her that she's wrong or turn her into an atheist. It is simply to explain why you personally do not believe.
I can understand what you're going through. Women tend to be more religious, and I hope she finally sees that marriage and love are far more important than some wrathful, manipulative deity/church. Don't assume that the rest of the families will take it as bad as she has; they might be more laid back, and she might come around if they are. How does your family feel generally? Can you tell them without having a similar reaction from them? Maybe you could allude to the problem to feel them out? Most importantly, don't blame yourself for any of this. Your wife has been brainwashed so it's not really her fault either, but don't allow her to make you feel guilty for "hurting" her or God. You have been honest, something few of us are when it comes to such things, and I commend you for it. It's going to be hard, but don't give up. We're here to listen and try to help. I've been there, too. Keep in touch.