After her failed attempts during our last visit to drag us to church with most of the rest of the family (FIL didn't go), my mother-in-law had me on the phone for half an hour one day during work, trying to talk me into the church life, soon after we returned from the visit. I told her that I'd be happy to continue the discussion but I couldn't do so at work!

Got a letter from her on Friday- John opened it, handed it over asking if I'd like him to shred it for me. Told him no- I said I'd continue the discussion, and so I will. Maybe- just maybe- I can find a teeny crack in her armor and expand it a bit. I did this with her favorite xtian charity already, which gave me some hope that she's actually listening. I could be wrong, but it's part of our responsibility as atheists not to remain silent.

The letter began with how my life cannot possibly have purpose and meaning without God. Well! I beg to differ. Of course it went on about how she came to accept JC etc. even with her own doubts at first. She took issue with my recent e-mail that included a Hitchens video and my comment that "faith can be a dangerous thing" (she was talking about Islam at first, and so was Hitchens, but toward the end, I believe he included a dig at xtianity.)

I just spent some time writing a reply to her, explaining how religion can get good people to do bad things, and how faith, by definition, means belief without evidence, and how it's impossible for skeptics to take things on faith alone. "We have to live the examined life, and no subject is too sacred, especially not one like religion since people base their lives on it."

Told her that I gave up going to mass and saying prayers in exchange for doing volunteer work at the local cat shelter when I was a teenager. I went on a bit and then told her that there's a book on its way that would better explain my feelings about the bible and religion.

I had ordered "50 Questions for Every Christian," which seems a lot more gentle than the books by the "horsemen." I can't scare her off with the likes of Hitchens and the rest. This will be enough! Anyway, she should get that by Thursday, and my note should arrive by Tues/Wed.

She's retired and has built her life around religion, so I have no delusions of converting her. I simply need to defend my position. My husband is cringing- he always simply shut her down, and does not want to get an "earful" from her. I told him to direct any and all angry calls to me.

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There's a book 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God by the same author, that I liked.

Without god your life cannot possibly have any purpose or meaning. That always cracks me up, and I never heard it said while I was a christian. If I did, then maybe I just didn't pay attention.

Imagine a family right now just hanging around home and bored to death. There's nothing to do, no place to go, and the kids act too bored to even kick a can. Finally one of the idiots suggests that they will have purpose and meaning in their lives if they allow god to be a part of it.

Let me suggest that you create your own purpose and meaning in life. God has about as much to do with it as he does with the weather, bad storms and tornadoes, and children dying every day of cancer. That's why I hate it when theists use that phrase about purpose and meaning.

Good luck with MIL in this battle.

Once I outed myself as an atheist, my life did have less meaning because of the ostracism. The area where I live is so infected with religion that I have completely struck out in the "friends" department. I know for a fact that people discriminate against atheists, but I also know for a fact that I am flawed. This little development has made it difficult for me to discern how much fault is mine and how much fault lies with religious sentiment. 

I tried being friends with Christians, but discovered they see me in one of two ways: 1) someone to be avoided because I am influenced by Satan or 2) someone to convert. I've never had a Christian simply accept the fact I don't believe in god.

Even when we both agree to disagree and never bring up religion, Christians eventually break their promises. What was that line from Game of Thrones? I think it was this: "Nothing done in service to the Lord of Light can possibly be a sin." That's how the Christians view their inability to keep promises. 

I've found Christians almost never own up to their own faults, which makes it difficult to have a relationship of give and take. When I say, "I'm sorry," it tends to make them smug and perhaps even less likely to take a look at their own behavior. 

Patricia- that gives me some hope, thanks! The fact that MIL is so rabidly devout actually makes me think she could go the other way......reminds me of the rabidly homophobic, who are generally in the closet themselves and fighting that inner battle that they're so close to losing! :-p

The moderates of the family.....they'll always be cruising along at that moderate pace, little effort required.

Michael- I did tell her that "I would never presume that somebody who, for example, never spent a year in Paris or did volunteer work has no purpose or meaning." Those are just a couple of things I've done that have given me tremendous joy and a sense of accomplishment.

Luara- I read the reviews of "Reasons," at first fearing that the same author was in fact religious himself! But was relieved to see he wasn't! Whew.

We received a package from MIL today. John's still working intensely from home; I had a rough day at work. Can't bring myself to open the package just yet- maybe she received the book and sent it back to me ASAP? It doesn't look like the book.

Oh well, if she responds to the book by ignoring it, then I will tell her that unless she can have an actual conversation, this topic shall remain off-limits.

Or, I could first ask her more specific questions about why she believes all the Jesus stuff, and why she feels the bible has so much credibility. Practice the Socratic method. But she might be too far off the deep end.

This is a difficult position for anyone. May you get through this relatively peacefully. There isn't any need to question why your mother-in-law believes the things she does. We all have some degree of erroneous logic. I think at this point, you have conveyed your defense. Unless she's ready to convert, I'd suggest inviting her to coffee, and a discussion about patching your differences.


I was fortunate not to lose my biological mother over this issue. I've been there. I know it's not easy.  No matter how difficult this is, you can make the best out of this situation.

The package just has some photos from the summer visit and a gift for my husband. Sigh of relief, but she has yet to react to the book and my letter.

My own mother doesn't seem to be bothered at all, her faith is her faith and that's all that matters. If we're happy, she doesn't care about anything else. I give her loads of credit for that.

MIL is the one who pushes it, and if she doesn't like when I push back, too bad. She will probably play the "hurt and offended" card, but again- I'm not criticizing her personally, but her religion, and her need to convert us. God can fight his own battles.

Thanks! I do feel it's important not to be silent. Think of all the closet atheists out there......if MIL talks about me to others, who might be secretly atheists themselves, maybe they'll feel encouraged.

Maybe someday the kids will appreciate what my husband and I must endure- the more atheists that kids meet, the better off they'll be later in life, knowing that it's not so strange after all.

MIL has to quit treating us like children and must learn to respect our boundaries. I've already been there/done that when it comes to religion, so it's her turn to learn about secular life.

I got nowhere with my own mother and the fallout was horrible. It destroyed our relationship to the point where we will never be able to fully trust each other again. There's no way I would fight that battle again and I sometimes even regret telling her I no longer believe in god. My brother doesn't believe either. He just humors her. Things worked out much better for him.

If I had it to do over again, I would probably come clean, but only because I can't live a lie. I'm not sure how I would handle the fallout. She came completely unhinged. Example: She told my counselor I was demon-possessed and tried to have me committed to a mental institution. She has never apologized for her behavior and to this day maintains she did all the right things. There is no arguing with crazy.

Wow AinFL, that goes beyond religion and into the realm of certifiable. I suspect this is how it'll end up in my case, just b/c MIL is controlling and accustomed to everybody falling into step. But like you, I can't pretend. That's no way to live life.

You're right. I can't live that way. No one should have to live that way.

I used to get angry at closet atheists, but after being honest with myself that it was unbearable to come out of hiding, I understand their reticence. I wish our culture was more inclusive, but it isn't. I only hope that by coming out I made it easier for someone else. Even if my altercations didn't win anyone over to my side, perhaps they made a few people realize there are others living among them who do not think as they do.

Unfortunately, I was very, very, very angry and this may have undermined any good I did by coming out. I had good reasons to be angry, but Christians rarely take that into consideration due to their all-consuming self-righteousness.

Just because I had a really bad experience with my mother and friends when I came out doesn't mean it has to be that way every time for everyone. I only chimed in to remind people to be careful. If you decide to argue with Christians, there's a very good chance Humpty Dumpty will fall off that wall.

My mother and I repaired our relationship as best we could, but it will never be the same. The only way I would ever completely trust her again involves events that will never happen. I would have to apologize for things I'm not sorry for and to return to the Christian lifestyle. Or, alternatively, my mother would have to apologize for things she is not sorry for. She can keep her religion as long as she doesn't use it to hurt me again.

Please keep us informed on that encounter. It might be a doozie!

What is the worst that can happen? 

What is the best? 

What will yu gain when you honestly speak your mind to someone that opposes the idea? 

What will it cost you? 

What preferred outcome would you like to see? 

Will this option get you what you want? 

Are there other options?

These questions are not to be answered for me, but some things you might think about in the process of working up the courage or the stamina to make your statement of fact. 




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