My wife, who’s Mormon, doesn’t like when I tell our three boys what I don’t believe. She wants me only to tell them what I do believe. So saying, “I don’t believe that intercessory prayer works,” for example, if off limits. She claims she doesn’t tells our kids anything bad about atheists or any other group, so I have no business telling the kids what I don’t believe about prayer, the holy ghost, the existence of God, the resurrection of Jesus, or any such thing.

I don’t say Christians are stupid for believing in these things, I just say that I don’t believe them myself. Whatever beliefs our kids end up embracing or rejecting will be up to them, but I want them to have a choice. What would you say to a spouse who wants you to be quiet regarding what you don’t believe?

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Since Atheism is defined by what Atheists don't believe - that is what you believe. I agree - you can't be honest about your atheism if you aren't able to say you don't believe in gods. I see nothing wrong with that. As long as you don't bad mouth her beliefs she should be ok with that - otherwise she is asking you to lie to your kids about what you believe - which is that you don't.

I tell my son I don't believe but it is fine if he does all the time. That is up to him. At the moment he thinks he is a Christian, a Jew and a Humanist. He told me today he thinks Jesus was a great guy. So - knowing that there are nonbelievers out there doesn't hurt a kid at all.

Perhaps you could rephrase for instance - I believe that intercessory prayer doesn't work. It's still a negative, but its phrased as a positive belief. I think though - for her needs the I don't believe is easier for the kids and less negative about belief since the onus of unbelief is on you and not on what it is you don't believe.

Regardless, you need to get this sorted out with her.
One way to deal with this is to ask her to help you come up with wording that is honest about your lack of belief but that is stated in a way she feels is positive. It may be something simple that you can do, regardless, engaging her in figuring out a solution you both can live with should go a long way towards easing any hurt feelings.
Telling your beleifs is not really bashing her religion, like it seems she is threatening to do to your beliefs. I raised my kids to have ALL the facts about both sides, not omitting what I think they should or should not know. Only in this way will they have all the information needed to form their own beliefs. They were allowed to go to church if they wanted, but I did not force them to. I told them my beliefs, but did not say they had to believe that way or they were wrong. They both ended up being atheists or at least agnostic, but not because of anything I did. They just had a chance to judge for themselves after seeing both sides, and ALL aspects of those sides.

It's as if she's come up with a technical reason to force you to keep quiet. It's the same old, atheists believe in nothing and so should remain quiet, canard. 


Providing as you say, you aren't insulting theists for their belief she doesn't have a valid position. In order for your partnership to be equal she must allow you to be free to discuss your beliefs as well as hers. You married each other so there must have been mutual respect in the first place. She has to understand that by trying to dictate what you can and can't say she is showing a lack of trust and disrespect of you. I'm sure you want to work this out peacefully, but what she is asking is unfair. It seems like barring some kind of understanding, you will either have to agree to her terms to keep the peace or refuse and have this as an open source of contention. 


Maybe there is some way to turn it around on her; how would she feel if she was unable to discuss something she doesn't believe. 

I don't see how your children can see the alternative to their mother's beliefs if you are not allowed to voice your own beliefs, or disbeliefs. Is that not in a sense...lying? If anyone is to make an informed decision about anything, they must first have all sides of the story. I understand your wife not wanting her views insulted, but I do not see how stating an opposing view is insulting. Good luck. This can't be an easy situation, nor one that will resolve without a "fight".
Just thought of another way to possibly resolve this. Perhaps you can phrase your disbelief in different terms that would be more acceptable.

So - if a kid asks about prayer - you can say, well, some people think that works, but I don't think so . And then make sure to ask you kid what he thinks to make it clear it is OK that he/she thinks differently from you That way you aren't stating a negative belief, just your thoughts and that might be enough to satisfy your wife.

Or - you could just say - you know - I'm not sure about that. That way you are again, stating your doubt without being firm about your disbelief. Definitely ask your wife what language she would prefer you to use. I don't like the option of not telling your kids your opinion though. I experienced that with a college philosophy professor and it was maddening to not know what his opinions were. Kids want to know what you think - so you need to tell them, but your wife may be more ok with you expressing doubt rather then outright disbelief. From a practical standpoint teaching it is ok to doubt is going to provide a powerful example for your kids either way.

Good luck.

This seems like an impossible contradiction to win.  By the Mormon faith, it is based on a set of principles (for lack of a better word) that they believe and by nature what they don't believe in.  By her argument if your sons asked if she believes in polygamy would she not set the record straight that 'mainstream' Mormons don't believe in that?


By the very virtue that you are an Atheist and your wife is Mormon, you are opposed to each other's beliefs. This doesn't mean opposed to each other, just in this area.  There is nothing wrong with stating what you or she believes, the reasons for it and it can be done in a respectful manner. Out of curiosity, have you asked her why you should suppress your beliefs and what Atheism is and she should not? That would lead to a lot of contention in this casa!  In our home religion is a dinner time discussion (when it comes up of course) with our girls. Luckily my husband and I are both Atheists, however, we arrived to the same conclusion via very different paths.  So when our girls ask we open it to a family discussion.  Do you think your wife would be open to a round table discussion with you and your sons? Perhaps taking turns with beliefs and disbeliefs? This may help your sons also see that you can be adamently opposed to another persons beliefs, while still respecting and loving the person holding the beliefs. 

they are your kids to and you can tell them what you like!

I would explain to her that an Atheist is most commonly define by not 'what"' they believe, but by what they 'don't'. You have to beliefs! and explaining that to you child in an age appropriate and respective manner should be acceptable.


Just keep saying that if it comes up, stick to that point and eventually she will see it as your truth.

Hi Kevin.  After reading this entire thread and some other discussions in this group, I think I may have a few potential solutions for you!  All it takes is a little critical thought mixed with creativity :-)  Feel free to cross out what you don't like and use what is useful:


I believe that God is an imaginary friend.

I believe the Bible is just like your other storybooks.

I believe God is a character/hero in a storybook called the Bible.

I believe Jesus is like a superhero in a comic book.

You know how you like (insert favorite TV show/film/etc. character here), well that's how much some people like God/Jesus/religion, etc.

Your mom believes that God created humans and I believe that humans created (the concept of) God.

I believe humans created religion/Christianity/Mormonism/etc.

I believe that Once Upon A Time, a very real human person created a really cool/fascinating story and they called it a religion/bible.

I believe there were many different human authors of the Bible.

I believe the Bible was only written by humans.  I believe the Bible was only inspired by the imagination of real humans.

I believe the Bible is a creative fantasy.

I believe in the research I've done.  My research tells me that...

I believe in using the scientific method to determine what I believe.

When somebody tells me something, I look for proof to see if it is real.

I believe that early humans didn't understand the world around them.  They didn't have science like we do to explain things.  We know that the sun is a (giant ball of fire/nuclear reactor) but ancient people thought the sun was a god because they didn't understand it.  They couldn't see germs because they didn't have microscopes so they didn't know why people got sick.  So I believe that they made up gods to explain it.

I believe that it's good to ask questions. 


Another line of logic:  Do you remember what you had for supper last night?  Do you remember what you had for supper last year?  (Keep going until you get a "no")  Well, historians have said that the story of Jesus was written many years after he died.  It must have been really hard for the writers to remember what Jesus had to eat at his supper.  I believe that we can't trust these stories as absolute fact because maybe they didn't remember everything right. 


Hope this helps!!



Thank you! I love the comparison of god to sonic the hedgehog - how cute :-) And that was so creative to just let them create their own gods! That's pretty cool. I think it's wonderful that your son feels so supportive of marriage equality and isn't afraid to debate it :-) I know, it would be great if we could all take our own advice of not caring what others think. So much easier said than done.




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