It is difficult sometimes for me since I am an atheist and my wife is a devout evangelical Christian. We met 7 years ago Sunday, and she asked me when we first met if I was “saved.” I told her I had been, thinking I was. As it turns out I wasn’t. What happened was one day I went to church with a friend of mine’s mom. At the time I was pretty much homeless and her and her husband were letting me stay with them temporarily. I went to church with my friend’s mom, and at the end of the service the preacher asked if there was “anyone here who has not accepted Jesus as their personal lord and savior.” I raised my hand, not realizing that I would be asked to come down and ask Jesus to be my lord and savior in front of the whole church! Well, out of fear I did, thinking I had no choice. Later when I met my wife and she asked me if I was saved I told her yes because I thought I had been saved since I had went through the ritual of it, not knowing that what she considered saved was “accepting Jesus into your heart.” Now I realize that I should have clarified things when I first met my wife, but that’s in the past and I can’t change that now. Thus, when we got married I agreed to go to church with her and I have.

Eventually, out of fear again and pressure from my wife I got baptized. Being the coward that I am sometimes, in order to get baptized I got high on dextromethorphan, the drug that is in Robitussin. My wife didn’t know this, but eventually I told her. So to counter the intoxicated blasphemous baptism, I got baptized again sober. I got saved again, but this time also I feel it was out of ritual. The pastor asked everyone to come down and recite a prayer and I did, and then got baptized. I went to church and studied my Bible and became to believe, if not on just a superstitious level. But in time I heard a sermon over gematria, which is just numerology and superstition. So what little faith I had began to crumble at that point.

I quit going to church, but a couple of years later, after a separation from my wife, and after telling her I am an atheist, I went back to church. This was about four months ago. Since then I read a book, a couple of books that is, by Dr. Bart D. Ehrman. He is an evangelical preacher Biblical scholar turned atheist. He explains how the Bible is not “the inerrant word of God,” but a human book with human errors. The Bible comes from an oral tradition and wasn’t even written down until 30-40 years after Jesus, and the Gospels weren’t even written by the authors attached to the books (the disciples Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Biblical scholars know this, most of whom are Christian; and the preachers learn this in seminary school, but the evangelical Christian preachers like the one’s at the church my wife and I attend know this, though they don't "believe it.". So I took it upon myself to email the pastor and his brother who also preaches and tell them that they are incorrect in telling people the Bible is the inerrant word of God, that it has errors, and that they should know this. Also I told them that their telling my wife this was causing her and I problems. I feel my wife is coming around, but there is probably no hope for the pastors. I have received a response and anticipate that I will talk to them about this in person soon. I wonder what they think knowing now that they have an atheist in their church.

Anyway, that’s my story for now, will update you as things develop. 

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Comment by Compelledunbeliever on July 17, 2017 at 8:50pm

Richard, a commend your bravery, and forgetfulness in admitting mental illness. I would like to address this very uncomfortable subject. My natural mother was severely mentally ill. It only took about 20 seconds of contact with her for anyone to realize it. So I am very sensitive about this subject. I would like to list a few things I have learned as a family member.

1) identify the problem..This is very difficult but you have made the best and most important step recognizing that there is a issue to be addressed.

2) no matter what clergy says God evidently hates the mentally ill as much as amputees.  Prayers don't work

3) if it is possible that medications can help get a good doctor and take them, always take them. It is very common for those who need medications, I'm thinking most commonly for depression to feel better and stop taking them...often it ends up in crisis

I am very happy for you that you and your wife can support each other. People who don't have experience with mental illness can often only empathize as they don't really understand what is going on. My biggest concern is that your wife does realize that preachers can temporarily comfort, doctors in most cases can offer real help.

 I am no expert, only a son of a mother that loved me very much and was very mentally ill. I speak as a person who has experienced it as a family member.  I wish you both the best and think you have built a great foundation. 

Comment by John Dumaker on July 16, 2017 at 11:47pm

Why do you bother going to the church since you are an atheist? Most preachers are aware that the closest gospel to the time of Jesus was about 40 yrs postmortem. Your attempts to argue with them about human word vs God's word will be in vain. They will claim that God spoke through the gospel authors. That is one of the logic fallacies of religion. Anyone can claim God spoke through them. You can point out that there are several other gospels, such as the Gnostic gospels, that are very different from the new testament. They will fallaciously claim that those are false gospels. It sounds like you need to direct your efforts toward your wife. Explain to her how illogical, irrational and controlling religious dogma is. She will be incapable of rationally defending her views that she imposes on you. I commend you for being able to maintain a marriage with someone who believes you are destined for hell fire and brimstone if you do not accept JC.

Comment by Richard M. Thomas on July 16, 2017 at 9:06pm

You are welcome Laila:)

Comment by Richard M. Thomas on July 16, 2017 at 2:47pm

 I am 41 and bought Bertrand Russell's Why I Am Not A Christian when I was 14 at a mall in Texarkana, TX.It was an 1 and 1/2 hour drive south of my home in Broken Bow, OK, which is a little Podunk USA town, as it is called where I come from; a hole on the wall; small town USA, etc. A town of about 4,000 people. There was nothing there as far as atheism went. The only book I read from my high school library that was considered controversial was The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, and that was just because it was a correspondence between two devils and most people didn't realize the allegory or even know what allegory and figurative and a host of literary terms even meant. Or even the extent to which C.S. Lewis was a devout Christian so to speak. I actually enjoy reading C.S. Lewis, his more philosophical works like Christian Reflections. I think it is important to understand "the other side" so to speak. Anyway, I came from an atheist family, though, which made it easy to believe what I believe as an atheist, and what I do not believe, I suppose, which is most important and brings up the most conflict and controversy I guess you could say. But I assume you know what it's like in such a small town in America, full of nice and discriminatory not even reading the Bible or not understanding it even if they did read a few verses, God fearing bigoted Christians.

Somehow I left and went to college for 10 years but was diagnosed and became severely mentally ill, and was place in a mental institution by the State, good old Adult Protective Services. I met my wife there. It was and still is called an RCF, a Residential Care Facility, the modern day sanitarium where families put there mentally ill family members. Anyhow, just before I went to the RCF, I went back to Broken Bow, OK for a few months but was homeless, my parents were tired of dealing with because I wouldn't take the psychiatric meds I needed and was abusing the narcotic ones I was prescribed. After I met my wife at the RCF, she asked me if I was saved, that she didn't want to be with me if I wasn't.

I thought because when I was homeless in Broken Bow, a friend's mom and husband let me stay with them for a month or so. During that time I went to a non-denominational church with them, and one Sunday at the end of service, the pastor asked if there was anyone there who had not been saved and asked Jesus into their heart as their Lord and Savior. I raised my hand, and was the only one to raise a hand. I went down to the front of the church; I being the idiot that I was during that ill period of my life, thought I needed to somehow become a Christian, which I know was and is and will forever be impossible knowing what I know as an atheist. But I was led to the back of the church by one of the pastor's assistants and he had me recite some Bible verses; then he had me repeat after him that Jesus was Lord and Savior and that I ask him into my heart and ask him to forgive me of all my sins, and that basically I was worthless and needed him and so on and what not. I realize I am beating a dead horse to death, but that's what they had me do. So I thought, again in my idiocy, that I was “saved” just because I had been through the ritual that one Sunday.

 I at first didn’t tell my future wife that I was saved, because I was for some time ashamed of this, and I thought of it as something that would live with me for the rest of my life. Eventually, my wife asked me again if I was saved and I simply said I was and that was all that was said about it. One has to remember this is at an RCF and we were both severely mentally ill and had a poor worthless doctor there who wasn’t even a psychiatrist. he was there because of nepotism which landed him his job. He was the owner of the RCF’s son-in-law, a regular medical doctor with “an emphasis in psychiatry” the administrator would tell us. My wife and I checked and searched and I could find no such thing as a doctor with an emphasis in psychiatry; but even if there is such a thing, we needed a psychiatrist skilled and competent in Addiction psychiatry, Geriatric psychiatry, Psychotherapy, etc. There were a variety of severely mentally ill residents that were getting substandard medical attention; it is criminal I think. I have thought of trying to volunteer as an Ombudsman going to the RCFs and advocating for the residents to the staff and to the State.

Anyway, I know this is long, but this is how I ended up with a Christian wife. Later as I recovered from my mental illness during 2 years of three days a week, 3 hours a day plus going to IOP, both at the local psychiatric hospital. I found the best psychiatrist. And I recovered and realized after going to church for 6 years with my wife and getting “saved” again. Baptized high on dextromethorphan, then baptized again to counteract the superstition of getting baptized intoxicated.

Oh well, none of it bothers me now. I left my wife for a year, we separated that is. She wanted to get back together and I told her in a letter all the above and more about me being an atheist and why I thought I was saved, etc. She said she could accept me being an atheist and we moved back in together. We argued and fought verbally for sometime but we got it all cleared up and are doing well now. I still go to church with her and I meet with one of the pastors; he’s a pastor, but he is the lead pastor’s older brother. I send him and his younger brother emails about how the Bible IS NOT “the inerrant word of God”, and I watch the recorded sermons online and write them critiques of their sermons, basically telling them the error in their logic and facts and what not. They take it well, at least the older brother pastor does. The lead pastor won’t even be my friend on Facebook.

I live in a small city in Arkansas, but it is a lot better than the small town I am from. I understand why you can’t reveal your atheism. I was open about mine in college, but not many people knew about it where I was from. I didn’t even tell my childhood friends, who would have understood. I am shy, but when it comes to defending my atheism I have always been aggressive; whenever I am open about it. Once had told my wife about me being an atheist, I emailed both of the pastors at "our church" and told them my wife and mines story. The lead pastor didn’t say much, but his older brother arranged a meeting with me at a coffee shop. I met with him and we exchanged ideas and all. But as we were about to leave when we were standing up to leave and walk out he said this: “You can’t have morality without the Bible and God.” I simple replied. “Oh yes, you can.” He didn’t look to happy and I didn’t give a shit if he didn’t agree or was upset about this little comment he slipped in at the end. Either way, I understand what you are going through and if you ever need someone to chat with, I check my Atheist Nexus pretty regularly. But when I get a comment or message on Atheist Nexus it notifies my email, and I check it throughout the day. I wish you luck, and just remember; there are a numerous atheists that are on your side. 

Comment by kathy: ky on July 16, 2017 at 11:55am
Unless we are fortunate enough to be born into an atheist family most of us have been through this struggle. I could never make myself believe in religion but I tried for years. A lot has to do with the area you are raised in. In ky being atheist is a rare thing. That is changing thanks in large part to the internet. You can now find the answer to any questions you have. Before that it was the library. I'm a big reader. I was reading Bertrand Russell before I knew he was an atheist. I always read years above my grade level.
About twenty five years ago I had enough and just came out about it to my family and friends. I lost some free over it but those people I didn't need anyway. My family continue to pray that I'll change. That will never happen. I more at peace with myself since I came out then I've ever been.
Comment by Richard M. Thomas on July 16, 2017 at 9:15am

Laila, thank you for the feedback and comment. I apologize that it took me so long to reply.

You said that:

"The only thing I found was constant judgment, self righteousness, narrow mindedness, and lots of 'ism's'. Meaning classism, racism, sexism, etc...    I never even realized that religion gave me a lot of fear about death"

I totally agree: pastors themselves, the two that i am dealing with at wife wife's church are certainly self-righteous, point their finger with judgment, and I agree that they are narrow mined, and this preacher, Pastor Marty Sloan at Harvest Time church in Fort Smith, Ar, so that I am clear who I am criticizing... Pastor Marty and the church are homophobic, and oppressive to the women of the church as far as administration goes the woman leader is April and all she is in charge of is the singing, or Worship group as they call it. Either way I agree and thank you, and encourage you to share the message of yours that I quoted with the world. 

Last, the Christian church is responsible for this fear of death, especially the fear of eternal judgment and the fact that the way the pastors preach it: we are al going to hell (unless you get saved and baptized simultaneously with the Second Coming of Christ. Whatever, I am going to die, and return toi nothing fro which I came. And I know that there is no way of telling what will happen after death, except that for all I can deduce, nothing happens, life simple ends and we no longer exist any way. The energy in our bodies goes dead just like a battery, and the energy, according to the Law of Conservation of Energy, returns to the universe in nature, as energy can neither be created nor destroyed. But our consciousness is destroyed totally, for good and forever, and that is fine with me. 

Comment by Joan Denoo on July 16, 2017 at 12:22am

Laila, thanks for sharing your story! We share so many of the things you describe and feel as though we are members of a very special group.

I have a bias, and that is atheism, and secularism, and humanism will be able to guide our culture back from the edge of disaster. We are not victims, we are capable of identifying the problems facing us, we can imagine a preferred future that will serve future generations, we can explore ideas from all different points of view, and we can develop action plans to tackle the really hard challenges. 

Welcome to the positive group, building up what some are killing.

Comment by Joan Denoo on June 3, 2017 at 2:17pm

Randy, thanks for telling your story. I am amazed you could do all those activities with the religious community and not believe in their values. I, too, was very active in religious things and bought the stories, even the apologetics. It was in my late 30s that I began to question the validity of what they taught and I learned. I was a good teacher and organizer and had many benefits for my efforts in our religious communities. Forty-three years ago, on July 1, I ran from my husband, my family, my church community, and created a mentally healthy home for my three children. OH! I am so glad I did!

Comment by Gwen on June 2, 2017 at 1:58pm
That makes me realize how lucky I have been by never getting sucked into this typ of mess.
Comment by Michael Penn on June 2, 2017 at 6:29am

Being an atheist isn't so bad. It's that A word that gets all the heat. People will go out of their way to tell you that "you are not an atheist." Apparently they know this because their holy book tells them everyone believes in god. Yes, the book and people that cherry pick it have it all figured out.

Best of luck with this. Let us know what happens.

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