My mother is still deeply religious. I would never try to free her of her beliefs because I know that she is not capable of dealing without them. It would be an equivalent shock to her system if my father died than if she no longer believed in god. The comfort she derives from it, trumps my desire that she open her eyes. I am lucky that she gives me the space I deserve to believe what I want, though I know it disappoints her and concerns her. I know that others have relationships with their believer loved ones that are much less civil.

I'm making this post to get a sense of how others deal with their fundamentalist loved ones and share the experiences involved. Are relations tense? How do you interact and communicate about the issues on which you disagree with them? How do you go about trying to pierce through their deluding beliefs? What do you do to keep the disagreement from getting out of hand? Any interesting stories to share in dealing with your loved ones who refuse to not believe?

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Replies to This Discussion

It's easy. Be civil when discussing the subject, but don't back down. And do avoid the subject if you can.
At first I was very shy about being an atheist. I was only shy because I was afraid of rejection, hurting the feelings of the ones I love, and just having to fight.

Eventually, I began to see things in a different way. Why should I have to be silent to spare the fragile feelings of others? I have feelings too. What should I care if they are offended that I don't believe in a god? I am offended by religion. Why should I tiptoe around something that I feel tangled my mind and rocked me to the core? I would think that is something worth talking about.

Here's the thing... I don't scowl at anyone for wearing a cross, or other religious emblem. However, when someone steps outside of their own personal space to invade mine with their religious poison I am very quick to smile and tell them I am an atheist. If they want to walk away from that, then they have respected me. I won't say anything else about it if they don't. If they want to force me into a fight they cannot win, no problem. My goal at that point is to send them away asking themselves a whole lot of questions. I won't get loud. I won't yell at them. I will state the facts. I will tell them exactly what offends me and why. When a flimsy excuse comes my way, I question their logic, evidence, and anything else applicable. Do they get angry? Yes. At me? Maybe at first. But I think the real anger lies in the fact that they cannot answer for the relgion they are pushing. Religion is intellectually and emotionally dishonest. It is very easy to highlight the obvious flaws. The anger hopefully becomes something positive in the sense that they will begin to unravel the lies they were either force fed or allowed themselves to be fed.
AA is a hugely successful program, but it is not the only road to recovery. I've noticed that many in recovery seem to just switch their addiction to to AA and/or religion. AA guys can be really cultish. Speaking critically of AA can be tantamount to blasphemy.

Giving it up to your higher power is really just a cognitive mechanism for removing the issue from the thought (rationalization) process. I don't like it. I think it makes much more sense to encourage people to take responsibility for their lives and their behaviors. I think the social support aspect of AA is the biggest positive in the program.
An interesting study is out that demonstrates AA has no better results then any other program, or non-program, in causing long term change in an alcoholic. But it works for some and some is better then none.

Sorry for the detour from the subject topic.
Yes Nathan. There are studies that AA does not have better results than a person just quitting on their own or more secular programs such as SMART. There is evidence that AA may even be harmful to those trying to quit drinking.
The site linked to below has the relevant studies and a scathing criticism of AA:

Sorry, to continue the diversion from the topic of this thread. But, I think it is important to mention this information - because AA is basically a state supported religion ... i.e.. courts send DUI offenders to AA and the nature of AA is definitely religious despite their hand waving to the contrary.

Also my former involvement in AA contributed to my conversion to a fundy cult a many years ago.

I am still deprogramming from my involvement in AA and the fundamentalist cult I was in which was a branch the United Churches of Christ.
My mother-in-law. She too is a fundamentalist xtian. My partner left the faith and a bad marriage 6 years ago and the insanity has never let up since. She sends him horrible emails, sometimes more than half a dozen at a time. she has warned him of the torture he will endure when god returns (ie told him he will be beheaded), she has implied that god might harm our daughter because my partner hasn't 'protected' her by 'giving her over to god', oh, the list goes on. One year his parents called on his birthday to tell him he should change his name, since it is biblical and he is no longer deserving of it. she has cancer (so she says - i am a true skeptic) and has told him that the reason she isn't getting well is because her "entire family" isn't praying for her health. The behavior is so outrageous and abusive, sometimes i want to call her up and scream at her. my partner, being the nicest, most patient man that ever existed (besides jesus?lol), has tried to reason with her a million times. oh, and because i studied evolutionary biology in college and work in ecology, one of her favorite topics is ID. she sends videos, books, articles, etc non-stop, no matter how many times she's been told they are unwelcome and get 'recycled'.
finally he cut off contact, but she still send emails (she sent one to me telling me i am trying to keep them away from him, because once my partner returns to his "true self" i will lose him!). she calls his phone with her number blocked. i call her the crazy stalker ex-girlfriend MIL. while my first years as an atheist were spent in benign acceptance of theism of others, she (and george w!) have gone a long way to turn me to seething anger against xtians. its hard for me to retain balance and try to be philosophical. i try not to engage with her on any topic, no matter what (this can be very hard). she is manipulative and has a victim mentality. if anyone has any advice -not on how to communicate with her, which is impossible, but on how to help my partner, who is still devastated by the rejection by his family- i'd love to hear it!
I spent (spend) years trying to resolve the loss of family for my choices. The only advice I can give is to let time pass and learn ways to pull yourself out of the emotional morass when it descends on you. Today I can say that it's not so much the loss of my family that hurts, as it is the loss of the idea of a family.

I certainly get the "seething anger" comment. I can quickly fall into that especially when I am exposed to another one of their seriously retarded arguments. We are all subject to irrational, bizarre, beliefs when we build them on false assumptions. Christianity (indeed all religions) is just one big fat false assumption so we can't be surprised by the twisted conclusions that come from it. This is THE issue I have with religion.
My whole family is still fundy. I guess I am lucky that they love me unconditionally. I know their beliefs are deluded, but overall they are good people. The only serious issues I have with them are their bigotry towards homosexuals (which they'll say is "hating the sin but loving the sinner" - what a crock!) and thinking that everyone who doesn't believe like them is going to burn for eternity. They would never be unkind in person to gays, especially as my dad's dearly loved youngest brother is gay, yet they do not see the hate in voting against their civil rights. They truly believe that they must "save" these people and that gays can be "deprogrammed" into being straight. They really believe creationism is valid scientifically. I have learned that, sadly, logic cannot win them. I have tried and it is futile; religion is their life and they would be lost (no pun intended, haha!) without it. Generally we avoid the subject. I am happy to report that my youngest sister is also faithless, though. She became so in high school; it took me until college to begin to question, and even longer to completely lose faith. Unfortunately my other two sisters are entrenched in the rubbish.
Wow...I love everything about that letter. Comprehensive and polite.
My parents and sister are all Fundamentalists. From childhood until age 26, so was I. But by the time some really trying circumstances led me to question those beliefs, I had already married a Fundamentalist woman and had a daughter. On an internal personal level, the day I left the faith was the happiest of my life. But I remember the heartache of being in the faith and seeing some brother or sister leave the faith: I know full well the pain my leaving caused family and friends, and it makes me sad.

My parents still love me, no matter what I believe. I talk with them occasionally about religious issues in a non-lengthy kind of way: they worry for my soul, so such discussion is difficult for them. I know I'm hurting them with every word, so such discussion is difficult for me too. We tend to focus on interests we still have in common.

My wife still loves me too, but marriage has not been the same. We have difficulty relating, beyond the small-talk and the ins and outs of everyday life. So much of our relationship was built on Christianity. I feel very lonely. I think she feels lonely too.

And yes, there is tension. Am I content with my partner despite our religious differences? Is my partner content with me? Will my four year old daughter eventually decide to become a Christian under my partner's influence? Would she be happy as a Christian, or would she be unhappy as I was? Is staying married worthwhile? Will these tensions only increase as we age? How will my partner react when I start sharing my views on Christianity with our daughter?

Timo and others, thank you for posting. I feel less alone knowing you're out there, and that other people are dealing with a lot of the same stuff I am.
this is almost my situation verbatim. I connected with your statement about "On an internal personal level, the day I left the faith was the happiest of my life." Yes, I felt so free, now I just feel alone. I have a non religious buddhist friend that i can talk to but its never enough. Not like being about to talk theology with a Christian brother. The marriage thing is sticky. I want to stay married but is it worth fighting for if the other doesn't want to be with an unbeliever? Logic is probably not going to do anything, so why fight? That's my question to myself. And I have mixed feelings about my child. part of me doesn't mind her being a believer as long as she isn't a fundamentalist biggot. I'd prefer her to be a good liberal with her faith being private if she chooses to be a believer. Anyway, thanks for posting.
Are relations tense?- For me, yes. I haven't spoken to my mother in a few months now. We live two states apart and she is a re-fellowshipped Jehovah's Witness. How do you interact and communicate about the issues on which you disagree with them? -I have asked her in particular to leave me alone about my beliefs. I specifically told her that if she wanted to have a relationship with me, she would have to understand I don't want her sending me literature, sending people to my house, or trying to convert me. I am holding her to it. How do you go about trying to pierce through their deluding beliefs? Honestly, Timo, I don't even try. I gave up long ago at trying to change people's beliefs, for the reason that they aren't formed by logical processes and therefore don't respond to rational discussion. They are from an emotional, usually fear driven center in my opinion. To pick apart someone's psychology to explain to them their own emotional reactions is something I have no desire to do although it's painfully obvious to me at the same time. Also, if there is some part left in me that believes in fate or destiny, it may well be their path to learn what they must learn and I can't and shouldn't interfere. So some relations are estranged but I love them from a distance and that may be all I can expect.



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