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.
"as an Atheist my life has been much more purposeful. "
I share your sentiment. Life is far sweeter and more meaningful for me as an atheist.
It's ironic how that works! I never gave much thought to atheism- signed up for a secular humanist newsletter over a decade ago, but that's about it. Until I married into the fundie family.
Now, I'm brushing up on science- evolution, astrophysics, philosophy, neuroscience, politics- just to better defend my position. I feel not just better informed, but enlightened and intellectually stimulated.
What is the worst that can happen? We are disowned and forbidden from contact with the kids (though I suspect the worst she can do is limit contact with the kids, not keep us from them.)
What is the best? That she thank me for showing her the light and the truth. LOL!! But the best I can realistically hope for, is that she stops pushing her agenda and understands our position. Still a stretch!
What will you gain when you honestly speak your mind to someone that opposes the idea? Confidence, integrity, respect.
What will it cost you? A sense of belonging. A reputation as "evil" or whatever.
What preferred outcome would you like to see? Acceptance and understanding, perhaps even curiosity. Open conversation.
Will this option get you what you want? Are there other options? Might not get me what I want, but there are no other options. I can't live dishonestly.
I am now trying to live the way you describe because a decade of strife eviscerated me emotionally. It isn't always easy to keep my mouth shut, but I do it for my own peace of mind.
But you can't bloody well get away from the fundies! They're fucking everywhere. I live in a very conservative area of California that is almost pure fundy. I have to travel a long way to get my medical marijuana license every year because my godly community chased away our only dispensary. Sad to say, the city I was in today was full of fundies, too. There was one guy standing up in a buffet restaurant, loudly proclaiming his right-wing stupidity to everyone in the general area. I glared at him a few times to see if it would shut him up. Nope. The stupider, the louder. Every so often during his political tirade, I heard the words "church" and "God bless." It made me want to move to another table, but I stuck it out and after awhile, he left. They can't blather on forever, but while they are moving their lips, it seems like an eternity. XD
While having a very nice dinner at a restaurant with my son, three fellows two or three booths from us talked so loud that we couldn't have a pleasant conversation. I got up from my seat, went to his booth, sat down beside one of the men and very quietly, so that they had to lean in to hear me, I said something to the effect that I am an atheist and I did not come to an expensive dining place to listen to a sermon about a god in which I do not believe. Then I quietly got up and returned to my meal. They quieted down, and they paid our dinner tab. I thanked them nicely as we left and they nodded with smiles on their faces.
The one time I asked a sermonizer to be quiet, he became more boisterous. Perhaps it had something to do with my delivery. Like I said, I had a hard time when I came out. There's still a lot of leftover anger, despite the fact I'm trying to be less angry. :)
It is amazing.
Is there anyone who could help me stay as calm as Joan?
I'm serious. There is still a lot of anger in me. I have a very hard time dealing with Christians in a positive way.
You have every right to be angry, but think about proving them wrong about atheists by example.
If you're unfortunate enough to be around Chick Tracts, you'll see how they portray atheists as angry all the time (among other things!) Which is normal, of course- we're angry being treated like dirt for no reason!
So I strive to counter that stereotype. It helps to realize that, in many cases, they simply don't know any better. My own mother used to use the word "atheist" as a derogatory term, so it took me a while to get used to it as a label for myself.
Fundies have been indoctrinated, and are surrounded by unchallenged ignorance, so they never hear a competing point of view. Think of them as needing some gentle exposure to the outside world.
Feel sorry for them! Have pity on those who go through life trying to make their egotistical taskmaster happy, which is impossible.
Remember- even those who are the most fundemental now, might change their minds later on. You might be the one who gets them thinking...... and often, the louder they are, or the more devout, the harder they're trying to convince themselves they're right. They might be the most likely to shift gears (moderates not so much.) Like homophobic men who are secretly fighting their own gay impulses.
The huge fight I had with my mother after coming out was partly fueled by my erroneous belief that she might listen to me and see I was right. Fat chance! People change, but usually they don't. They especially don't if they are older and have been devout Christians all their lives. The longer they have been bamboozled, the longer they will reject any evidence of having been bamboozled. (Yes, I paraphrased a quote from Carl Sagan.)
Had I played it differently, my mother might never have done the things that brought out so much anger in me in the first place. Yes, she thought I was demon-possessed and tried to have me committed. There were a number of other transgressions that were also very hard to forgive.
For a time prior to my coming out, I was not at all militant about my atheism. My boyfriend and I would giggle about the god that didn't exist, but neither of us intended to tell our saintly mothers. I really did think my mother was a saint at that time. Nothing would ever change our loving relationship...or so I thought.
Then 9-11 happened. On that day, I didn't know my life would be irrevocably changed. I didn't know anyone who died. I didn't even know anyone who knew anyone who died. But as events unfolded, I changed.
Muslim militants flying planes into buildings made me more militant. When the drumbeat of war began, I re-evaluated my politics. I realized George W. Bush was a horrible president, a vicious idiot who was going to send our nation down the toilet. Once my politics changed and I became a more militant atheist, it paved the way for a showdown with my mother. She sensed I no longer believed and that my politics had taken a hard left turn.
When she finally asked me, I told her the horrible truth and life was never the same for either of us. We did nothing but argue for the next several years, with some disastrous results.
As for arguing with fundies, no thank you. Those days are over. I tried really hard, but didn't change a single mind. Instead, I became a pariah in my family and community and what's worse, I probably won't ever be able to leave this bed I made. I'm trapped in a town that hates me because I'm not religious. They aren't going to let me forget. If you fight with your MIL, you may create a similar situation. You cannot reason with crazy. People who are professional advocates for atheism have a lot more financial options than I do. I should have realized that before I started a fight I could not win.
The best thing I can do is try very hard to dump the rest of this anger. I will do my best to live and let live, even if the fundies don't want to let me. Because many of them have hurt me in the past, this is an extremely difficult undertaking...and I don't have the emotional intelligence of someone like Nelson Mandela, who was able to forgive the most egregious actions. If I were gifted in that way, I certainly would have seen how arguing with my mother and community members was an exercise in futility. I did no good and probably did a lot of harm. Obviously, I'm not up to the task of changing anyone's mind.
If people on this forum want to engage in debate with Christians, that's their business. You might actually be successful. Maybe I just really sucked at it. But I also warn you to think carefully about the repercussions of doing so. So many things can go wrong. When I was younger, I was naive enough to think my mother would listen to me. I thought others would listen to me. I was wrong and things turned out horribly. Be prepared for some rather nasty events.
Peter Boghossian's book A Manual for Creating Atheists might give you a way of interacting with believers that works better for you.
It is not about debating with believers, or arguing with them, or reasoning with them.
It's about using the Socratic method with believers. This is an ancient tool for teaching the unreasonable to think more clearly.
And the point is not to convince believers that God does not exist. It's to get them to admit they don't know if God exists.
You are not alone in not wanting to get into arguments about religion. I don't want to either, and many people don't like such futile argumentation.
Atheist in FundyLand, I have a huge amount of anger residing in me. I try to figure out a way I can come out a winner without being a victim. In this case, if I had yelled, shouted, called them names, or cried, I would have been a victim. As it was, the situation called for calm, decisive, in control attitude. It worked.
Whatever happens, do not be a victim.
What do you think constitutes "being a victim"? If it means feeling negative emotions besides anger, I'm not entirely sure I can change that. For me, anger is inextricably tied to many other emotions including powerlessness, fear, guilt, sadness, shame, etc. If I feel anger, I immediately feel all those other emotions, too, and vice versa. It seem to be an automatic response. It's a bit crippling because the emotions that wash over me interfere with cognitive thought, which makes it difficult to deal with whatever situation set off the cascade of emotions.
Years of therapy failed to fix the problem. After six years sans counseling, I am going to try again. I don't want to talk about the past anymore. I just want to see if these automatic emotions can either be modified or weathered without so much pain. Simply deciding to be less angry has only helped a little. Listening to the right-wing Christians in the restaurant proved to me that I am nowhere near exorcising anger and all the emotions that tag along for the ride.