My husband and I have been atheists for almost a decade now. We have two little girls and currently another on the way. We both work full time, pay our bills, are responsible adults. We go to all of our family get togethers (his parents and my parents), and everyone is aware that we are atheists....and it has never been an issue, never seemed to matter. Until now.

I suffered some complications from my pregnancy and was out of work for two weeks, which was pretty debilitating to our finances. So, we turned to our parents to borrow some money until next pay day for groceries. His mother, after waiting a while, responded with the rebuttal that if we would pray and ask god for forgiveness then he would more than likely bless us with everything we needed. I tried to remain calm and explain that I was asking her to ‘bless us’, and not even that, just loan us a bit of money till next pay day, we’ve never asked before.... even helped fund her road trip to Kentucky to see her other grandchildren a few years ago. The answer was still a repent or NO.

So I turned to my parents and was met with basically the same thing.... keep in mind, my christian pill addicted brother constantly gets money from them, that is never repaid... but he’s a christian so they can keep funding his habit, but not help their daughter’s family eat for two weeks.

I can’t say I’m not ridiculously angry, because I am... and hurt. Hurt mostly because of their illogical way of dealing with things... hurt because we have always been self sufficient and they speak love and kindness but won’t help their pregnant daughter and her family in her time of need. If we make it to next pay day we will be fine...I only asked for 200 dollars from them, because we know how to be thrifty... We don’t qualify for any assistance and yesterday I went to three food banks (which are churches, I didn’t want to, but I’m running out of options) and was turned away because we work- or make to much, they require you bring your pay stubs- with no never mind to the fact we have bills to make sure get paid, we even put some off until next pay day so we would have SOMETHING to buy a tiny bit of food with.Today I ended up setting up a account to try to raise a bit for some groceries... which was way embarrassing... I don’t like asking for help as we have always found a way to be self sufficient.

I’m sort of still in shock that our families won’t help us simply because we won’t bow to some unseen deity that makes no sense. Just because of that. Not because of something we did, but because of something we refuse to believe. I almost can’t wrap my mind around it.

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You are lucky to have retentive parents as you describe.

My catholic parents were actively malevolent toward me both in my childhood and adult life. They were vindictive confidence tricksters who wanted to control and dominate other people. On reflection they were truly evil people with a profound fear of death.

I got rid of them completely. They were unbelievable low life.

That’s unfortunate. =( 

I feel like it would be easier to swallow if they had been hostile or ever acted vindictive before, ever. My mother and I were always very close, she’s always talked about how she loves how we have such a close relationship. And, boom, out of nowhere, this. 

I don’t feel anything like entitled to them helping us, it’s money, and it’s theirs to do with what they want, obviously.....I just can’t believe their reasons for not helping us, I guess. 

So ... because you don't believe as they do, you're not worth their assistance?  Whatever happened to that old business about: "Judge not that ye not be judged?"

They want to guilt-trip you?  TWO can play that game...

That is vile behavior!  I've had some shit from, say, my aunt because of my atheism (she supports my brother in a recent bit of drama, but not because she thinks he's right--and he's not right, BTW, he betrayed me and my family pretty severely--but entirely because she found out I'm an atheist and she thinks he's a "good christian boy"--little does she know), but she's not even in the state and I only heard about it second hand.  My mom is a believer and has never liked the fact that I'm an atheist, but she's never gotten right in my face about it or denied me something I need or favored my siblings because of it, and if she knew your parents or parents-in-law, she would ream them for their ugly behavior.  Especially since they're okay with funding a drug habit so long as someone is a believer, but won't help the responsible kid entirely based on their atheism.  My sister's a believer (not sure how deeply though) with a religious boyfriend, and she has outright told him off when he's confronted her with how I'm going to "poison" their kids' minds.  She was over recently, screaming and yelling about it, and said she told him that if he keeps attacking her sister he's through (she has actually said she would want me to take care of her kid more than anyone else if anything happened to her, because she knows I'm a good person).  My dad...well, sort of a pantheist deist "something" ist, virtually an atheist in every other outlook.

Well, okay, to be fair, once I disagreed with her on some religio-political point a decade ago, and she told me she wanted me out of the house (this was in the early days of my atheism).  I LAUGHED in her face, and when she started getting infuriated I told her that my sister (at that time--she's grown up a lot since then and we're very close now) takes off for hours or even days on end, trashes this house on a regular basis (clothes, dishes, general debris, you name it), doesn't lift a finger to clean even her own messes much less do any general chores, and treats Mom like an inferior, talking down to her like she's trash, and you want me--the one who treats you with respect, helps you clean, is always either saving money for college or attending college rather than partying, but had the temerity to disagree politely in a calm conversation between adults--to find a new place to live?  Okay, fine, then good luck keeping up with my sister's mess--because I'm the only other person helping her clean up, no one else lifts a finger.  She'd be buried in a week--it took the two of us working together on a regular basis to keep the house barely liveable!  And I don't want to hear ever again how you treat your kids the same or that your kids are allowed to have their own points of view either, because this just shows that you do not, if my sister can behave the way she does with impunity and you want me out of the house on the street because I don't agree with you on something.

She pouted and didn't officially take anything back (she never does), but she stopped telling me to get out, and she never pulled that again.  And she denies to this day that it ever happened, but I'm not making it up.  It's just not something you forget, when your mom shocks you like that.  So I guess I have a modicum of an idea of how you feel, except my mom was not deaf to reason and fairness.

It's always a shock to realize how lucky I am with that.  I don't know what I'd do in your position.  It's too bad they don't know my mom, because she would really shame the hell out of them, hammering them with how Jesus behaved towards others, and that whole "pill popping brother" thing would just be one more weapon for her to use.  No one is ever the same when she goes off on them!  I would so pay to see that!  In fact, if I told my parents this story my mom would be fuming for hours at such un-Christian behavior towards one's own children.  I think your damned parents need one hell of a reality check!  It's too bad there aren't more somewhat-freethinking people like my mom among the religious, that there isn't anyone else who can tell them off from a Christian perspective (the only one I guess they'd be inclined to consider).

Seriously, I don't believe Jesus ever had any special caveats, such as "blessed art thou, for when I was hungry you forced me to repent and convert to the "correct" faith, and then you fed me"  In fact, wasn't that from a story he was telling about the people who get to go to heaven no less?  So often, when talking about going to heaven, Jesus was always talking about giving to the poor, feeding the hungry, through works and not faith are you saved and by works he specified that if you see someone hungry and fail to feed them your faith is just dead, just lipservice that has no value to God.  I have never understood how charity turned into a weapon, because I don't recall Jesus requiring you establish a hungry person's "saved" status before feeding them.

Lousy, ugly, hypocrites, all of them.

I wonder how yours and your husband's family would feel if you barred them from seeing their grand-kids because of their screwed up concepts of "charity." 

It sounds like, "when you needed me, I was there, regardless of your beliefs. When I needed you, you shunned me because you cannot accept the fact that I see existence from a different angle. You would rather see your grand-kids go without than to forget your own beliefs and help them. Such 'christian behavior'."

It would be difficult for me to help them again in their time of need.

There's two different attitudes to take as it comes to that, Larry.  Jennifer could treat her family as she is being treated: cut them off, deny access, the whole schmeer.  I wouldn't fault her for one second if she did.  OR ... she could treat them as though nothing had happened ... and in so doing, be considerably more charitable than her family has been, at least to this point.  Of course, if they attempt to introduce their faith where it isn't welcome and especially to the kids, I'd drop the hammer and I wouldn't blink.

My problem (if it is one) is that I believe in Heinleinian diplomacy, to wit:

... in dealing with certain types you must step on their toes until they apologize.
-- Robert A. Heinlein

I don't forgive and I don't forget ... but I'm not Jennifer, either.  Jen, about all I can tell you as regards this lousy business is, as Bob would say, do as you grok ... and if someone doesn't like it, that's THEIR problem, NOT YOURS.

I’m not the type of person to retaliate.... I’ve just kind of withdrawn. I don’t have anything to say to them as of yet, don’t know what to say, really. 

They’ve always behaved so logically, understanding when we deny family dinners when money is tight and even commending us on how responsible we are with our money....

It was a slap in the face. I’m not sure how to handle the situation, as I don’t feel like my children shouldn’t have access to their grandparents because of this.... But I also don’t want my children around people who would persecute someone, or put stipulations on helping someone because of their faith.

It’s extremely confusing. I’m not sure where to go from here.

Jennifer, about 10 years ago, I underwent something of a personal epiphany which took me from a person who, while he wasn't withdrawn, hadn't the emotional strength to confront people who were either taking advantage of him or otherwise playing him to their own ends to someone who was willing to stand up to such crap.  Long story short, I grew a backbone and over time a rather studied intolerance to those who seem to think I was theirs to command.  This was something I KNEW I needed, but the proverbial "camel's back" had to be broken first.

You may be in much the same position.  Your life and that of your husband and children are YOURS, yours to live as you choose.  Your parents seem to think they have a right to presume on your familial autonomy.  They don't.  Whether they have a right to access to their grandchildren is for you and your husband to determine.  Certainly, they can make aid or assistance conditional on anything they want ... and you can take those conditions and interpret them as you please in response.

This reminds me a bit of the old moral quandary: is something good because it benefits another or is it good solely because some deity says it is?  By the same token, are you good because your raise your kids in a nurturing, supportive, loving environment ... or can you be good only if you profess a belief in some unseen super-being?  Your parents have clearly made their support and indeed their love conditional on your emulating their faith.  Apparently they've decided that whatever goodness your parenting has is only superficial compared with subscription to a 2000-year-old myth.

I mentioned "Judge not, that ye not be judged" before.  Allow me to add to that: "By their fruits shall you know them."  If you have a healthy, happy, dynamic family, your parents can see that, and evidence carries weight, regardless of their religiously jaundiced point of view.  You may not have to get in their faces about it, but you can point out the obvious to them, both the vibrancy of your family and the artificial requirements they are projecting onto you.

If it were me, I'd play hardball, but then, I'm old enough now that I don't care what someone else thinks.  You may not be willing to afford such an attitude, but at the same time, you also have the right not to be bulldozed.  Do please remember that.

That is weird.  But it may not be their real reason.  Very often people give a fake reason. 

Wow, I wonder if they are noticing how un-christian they are being by denying you some basic needs. They don't even give you slack because you have been responsible, unlike your brother. You need support right now, and neither your parents nor your husbands parents are helping. You can't wrap your head around it, because this is extreme. It won't be easy but its important that you seek support elsewhere and that even though your family doesn't accept you, don't let it discourage you. Being isolated, shunned, and overlooked by the very people who before loved you shows their 'hypocrisy'. Like you said at one point your mother 'loved' how close a relationship she had with you, but it was a 'faith' based relationship not an unconditional maternal one. I really am so sorry you have to go through this. I hope it works out. 

I don't think you should feel embarrassed about raising money just for food. If anything that is evidence that you are going through a difficult time and shows that you are being resourceful. Hopefully you will get the help you need soon. How can your parents and in laws rather let you and your family starve instead of help out with what they can, and all because of their 'faith'. This is just too extreme and they are trying manipulate to get you back in to the 'fold'. 

Hi, Jennifer! I would like to help, as I can see no better way to show your parents what charity is than a group of atheists coming to your rescue in your time of need. What is your go fund me website address? I can’t give much, but if like me, everyone gave just a bit, you would have enough money for food in no time.

Oh, wow thanks! I really appreciate it! That brought tears to my eyes. It’s really hard to ask/accept things as we are so used to making it work when times are tough. 

This is the link to my gofundme account.

Again, Thanks so much, I wish I could express how much your expression of charity means to me.




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