Me - Atheist, Wife - Getting Back with the Church

MagicPrimeMagicPrime FiresideWizardRegistered User regular
edited May 2013 in Help / Advice Forum
I don't know how much of this is going to be actually asking for advice, and how much is just going to be a vent/release for me.

My wife and I have been together for more than 10 years. When we first started dating in High School she was pretty big into her church, and I was still riding the fence - having been raised catholic and having my doubts about it. After we both left for college, she had a blow up with some of the members of the church and more or less walked out. I figured that part of her life was over, and for the most part is was. For the next 7 years we lived our lives without it being much of an issue, in fact it wasn't an issue at all.

We went to college, graduted, got married, and now have a beautiful little girl (who just turned 3). Now not to go into to too much detail here, but when my wife was around 3-4 years old she suffered some abuse from a family member, and this has been something that has hanged over her, her entire life. And since my daughter has gotten around she been very tense and there has been kind of an odd feeling around the house. She has a religious friend at work who she talks to frequently, she seems like a nice lady - despite our philosophical differences, but for the past month or so my wife has started attending church with her, and has started really getting into it. Almost like when we first started dating.

As i said, i was raised catholic, so a 'service' to me is usually 1-hour and some change. But this is a more 'main stream' church, I guess, and their service lasts around 2-hours and change. So the first Wednesday my wife went to a 7 o'clock service and by the time 9:30 was rolling around I got angry that she wasn't home yet and had a bit of a blow up. We had a pretty big fight and quite a few issues were brought up - but we made up and found some common ground and realized that we both have some issues to deal with and we just have to deal with them in our own way. I would rather her find a way to deal with her issues without getting back into a church, but I am willing to be supportive of her.

So the big question/advice is how does this work? Does anyone have any experience with being married to a christian while yourself being atheist or agnostic?

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  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    How it works is how much you're both willing to discuss your problems while being rational.

    Is she going to get ultra defensive about church/church activities at the detriment of your family because you don't participate? Is she going to want to get the child in on this, possibly against your wishes? Are you going to be angry all the time if she decides to do mass 3 days a week (there are some that do this).

    I've never heard of 2 hours before (especially multiple times a week). That sounds like some weird pentecostal, super bible thumper branch that stands by itself. Well, I have, but like I said, they're usually the super fucked up branches.

    You and your wife need to sit down and talk about your goals as a couple and that they should come first before spirituality and salvation. My girlfriend has expressed interest before, but, being atheist, I find it hard to really relate. Especially with the defense of, "I just want to be prepared in case there is a heaven."

    If you get that line, basically, your only rational response should be, "God(s) probably don't care if you worship them, but if you're a good person, be a good person first."

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
    Essee
  • MagicPrimeMagicPrime FiresideWizard Registered User regular
    edited May 2013
    Yeah they call themselves a 'full gospel' church. And from the looks of it, it seems very Pentecostal (people laying in the floor, lots of lights, big projector screens.) And it's not surprising because it was a Pentecostal church she attended before. So I'm sure its very familiar to her.

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  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    I know those kinds of people get very defensive about it. My former boss was like this, he was also slime and used his religion as a shield to defend himself. The only real advice I can give you so far is be prepared for some of the most petty and inane shit you've had to deal with.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • ThundyrkatzThundyrkatz Registered User regular
    Like you said, it sounds like you guys have some other issues to work out that the church thing has just brought to light.

    What does your wife want to get out of church? Does she feel like she misses the sense of community that church can provide? or is she afraid that she will "go to hell" if she doesn't go? There s certainly a lot of ground in the middle there.

    What is your opposition to her going? Do you feel like this will create distance between you and her? will the church pull her and possibly your daughter away from you? Is that a part of her life that she won't or can't share with you? Is your atheism so strong that you don't just not believe in god, but oppose your wife doing so? I am not attacking you, just trying to get you to think of what has made you so uncomfortable with this.

    It sounds so cliche' but communication is the key. Open and honest. Don't create a situation where she has to hide this from you. So long as this is just church we are talking about, and not some type of crazy cult. Just because you don't share her belief in god does not mean that she can not have that belief. Also, its important that she understand that your choice not to believe is also perfectly fine. She does not need to "Save you" or convert you.

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  • ThundyrkatzThundyrkatz Registered User regular
    To Bowens point, you should be wary of anyone that blindly subscribes to a dogma and cant discuss it without getting defensive or angry. Be that religion, politics or their devotion to Apple products.

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  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    Key thing with christian religions, @thundyrkatz , is that "cult" describes about 98% of churches.

    If it's not a Catholic, Protestant, or Presbyterian church, chances are, it's fucking insane.

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  • a5ehrena5ehren AtlantaRegistered User regular
    edited May 2013
    I'm an atheist, and my wife is Catholic (no kids). Sometimes I go to mass with her, sometimes I don't.

    I haven't heard any convincing arguments from their side that would make me change my mind, but if nothing else having some exposure to what they believe and how the Church is structured has enabled me to have more rational discussions on the internet about it.

    It doesn't really have any major effects on our relationship because it has always been this way. It works for her and she finds it important, so I'm understanding about that. The key is to find something that works for both of you.

    Also, the church you're describing sounds kinda weird? I wouldn't consider any of Pentecostal branches I know of to be "mainstream Christianity", at least.

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    bowen
  • ThundyrkatzThundyrkatz Registered User regular
    I can't deny that there are a lot of people that use their religion as an excuse to be superior and consequently are unpleasant to be around. Only the OP can decide what camp this church falls into.

    At any rate, Sitting at home and being mad at his wife's absence is not helpful. Communication, and maybe even meeting these people and knowing whats going on would help.

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  • cabsycabsy the fattest rainbow unicorn Registered User regular
    Basically your wife has joined a social club that meets a few times a week. I mean, I know it's more than that, but words like "cult" shouldn't be thrown around because she spent 2 1/2 hours at church on a Wednesday night. Obviously you will need to discuss if you want your daughter involved, and how often you may or may not want to go, or how much time a week you guys can agree on her spending on church stuff... and it probably would be nice if you went with her on occasion, if nothing else you can meet her new friends/social support network and see how an average service goes. If she's gone two and a half hours you do have to keep in mind it isn't just service, it's service and then socializing afterwards and if she gets more involved it may be home visits to church members who can't make it to see how they're doing, or whatever kind of support network her church offers. If you guys have limited time together and this is severely cutting into what little time you get to spend as a family, that's a problem that you should talk about with her, but otherwise you treat it like a club that she's into that you aren't particularly interested in other than to show support for your spouse.

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  • JasconiusJasconius sword criminal mad onlineRegistered User regular
    pentacostal is... not mainstream.

    First step would be to work with your wife on finding something of a less weird sect of Christianity, something that you could stomach



    christianity comes in all shapes and sizes

    sometimes women are more interested in the communal aspects of church rather than the message itself, so she may be open to that kind of persuasion

  • chupamiubrechupamiubre Registered User regular
    bowen wrote: »
    Key thing with christian religions, @thundyrkatz , is that "cult" describes about 98% of churches.

    If it's not a Catholic, Protestant, or Presbyterian church, chances are, it's fucking insane.


    Care to back this up with proof or anything not just wild conjecture? I like how you think vast swaths of people are attending cults it's almost as if you have little to no clue what you are talking about.

    To OP well one talk with her and attend a service it's not like she has never done things she was not so keen on for you.

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  • KyouguKyougu Registered User regular
    One thing I'm confused about is why were you angry that she spent two hours at church instead of one.

    Was it that she was specfically at church?

    Lovely
  • PantshandshakePantshandshake Registered User regular
    Kyougu wrote: »
    One thing I'm confused about is why were you angry that she spent two hours at church instead of one.

    Was it that she was specfically at church?

    Seconded.

    Enc
  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    bowen wrote: »
    Key thing with christian religions, @thundyrkatz , is that "cult" describes about 98% of churches.

    If it's not a Catholic, Protestant, or Presbyterian church, chances are, it's fucking insane.


    Care to back this up with proof or anything not just wild conjecture? I like how you think vast swaths of people are attending cults it's almost as if you have little to no clue what you are talking about.

    To OP well one talk with her and attend a service it's not like she has never done things she was not so keen on for you.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_denominations

    Feel free to draw your own conclusions as to what constitutes cult or sect or denomination. I am not going to really elaborate on why a church that is part of an offshoot denomination (but isn't part of a "group") is considered cult-like.

    For instance, if someone mentions "Westboro Baptist Church" do you think they refer to baptists?

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • chupamiubrechupamiubre Registered User regular
    edited May 2013
    bowen wrote: »
    bowen wrote: »
    Key thing with christian religions, @thundyrkatz , is that "cult" describes about 98% of churches.

    If it's not a Catholic, Protestant, or Presbyterian church, chances are, it's fucking insane.


    Care to back this up with proof or anything not just wild conjecture? I like how you think vast swaths of people are attending cults it's almost as if you have little to no clue what you are talking about.

    To OP well one talk with her and attend a service it's not like she has never done things she was not so keen on for you.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_denominations

    Feel free to draw your own conclusions as to what constitutes cult or sect or denomination. I am not going to really elaborate on why a church that is part of an offshoot denomination (but isn't part of a "group") is considered cult-like.

    For instance, if someone mentions "Westboro Baptist Church" do you think they refer to baptists?


    Get called on saying something then you don't or cant back it up. Oh yes bring up WBC yes please do because it just shows how out of touch you are with well everything. If you don't care to backup your statement of saying billions of people are cult followers then how about you just don't say it next time?

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  • OrestusOrestus Registered User regular
    Is a 2 hour service that unusual? I'm Catholic so yeah I'm used to a pretty strict ~1 hour service, but my (admittedly uninformed) impression was that lots of large fairly mainstream churches in the US, particulary those you'd associate with southern Evangelical organizations, would have services that were 2 to 3 hours routinely. When I was a kid and it was totally boring I always thought I was getting off light being catholic in comparison to lots of friends who were at services that were much longer.

    Lovely
  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    edited May 2013
    bowen wrote: »
    bowen wrote: »
    Key thing with christian religions, @thundyrkatz , is that "cult" describes about 98% of churches.

    If it's not a Catholic, Protestant, or Presbyterian church, chances are, it's fucking insane.


    Care to back this up with proof or anything not just wild conjecture? I like how you think vast swaths of people are attending cults it's almost as if you have little to no clue what you are talking about.

    To OP well one talk with her and attend a service it's not like she has never done things she was not so keen on for you.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_denominations

    Feel free to draw your own conclusions as to what constitutes cult or sect or denomination. I am not going to really elaborate on why a church that is part of an offshoot denomination (but isn't part of a "group") is considered cult-like.

    For instance, if someone mentions "Westboro Baptist Church" do you think they refer to baptists?


    Get called on saying something then you don't or cant back it up. Oh yes bring up WBC yes please do because it just shows how out of touch you are with well everything. If you don't care to backup your statement of saying billions of people are cult followers then how about you just don't say it next time?

    Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_the_United_States#Christianity :
    According to the 2012 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, from which members in the United States are combined with Canadian members, and of the National Council of Churches, the five largest denominations are:[15]
    The Catholic Church, 68,202,492 members
    The Southern Baptist Convention, 16,136,044 members
    The United Methodist Church, 7,679,850 members
    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6,157,238 members
    The Church of God in Christ, 5,499,875 members

    Note: I was comparing US reformation churches and the one-off single church that isn't part of a larger body. Hence 98% of churches, and not 98% of religious followers.

    bowen on
    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • AManFromEarthAManFromEarth Let's get to twerk! The King in the SwampRegistered User regular
    edited May 2013
    WBC is hardly the mainstream among even Southern Baptists Bowen.

    98% is a stupidly high percentage to drop.

    Also Presbyterians ARE protestants.

    That said, it is good to be open and honest and keep communication lines strong. If you can do that and your wife doesn't go join a cult you'll be fine.

    AManFromEarth on
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  • MagicPrimeMagicPrime FiresideWizard Registered User regular
    Kyougu wrote: »
    One thing I'm confused about is why were you angry that she spent two hours at church instead of one.

    Was it that she was specfically at church?

    I think I was mad at a 'here we go again." scenario. I remember how things ended with her church in high school, and I thought it was one of those things that we had gotten past and wouldn't have to deal with again. Then out of the blue - now its back to being an issue.

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  • EddEdd Registered User regular
    Would you consider attending a service? You say "from the looks of it," but how do you know? I think going would address two problems at once. 1) You get to see precisely what she's letting into her life, for better or for worse (most likely for better, honestly), and 2) you get to offer an olive branch by taking a respectful interest in something important to her.

    Now, this really, really depends on your approach. Don't go to "spy." If you can be respectful and diplomatic, and demonstrate a genuine interest in something important to her (without making promises you won't keep, like that this will be a habit for you), then you could help to seal up this gap of what looks kind of like distrust.

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  • MagicPrimeMagicPrime FiresideWizard Registered User regular
    I am thinking about offering to attend one service. I looked them up on facebook/website and it looks very simliar to her old church. Lightshows, big stage, big projectors with videos and huge white text, people falling on the ground, etc.

    I did this once with her in high school and it was literally one of the most uncomfortable experiences of my life.

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  • EddEdd Registered User regular
    edited May 2013
    MagicPrime wrote: »
    I am thinking about offering to attend one service. I looked them up on facebook/website and it looks very simliar to her old church. Lightshows, big stage, big projectors with videos and huge white text, people falling on the ground, etc.

    I did this once with her in high school and it was literally one of the most uncomfortable experiences of my life.

    It does sound like a lot of time has passed since then, and it's unlikely that either of you are quite the same. I'd give it a shot as long as that discomfort isn't something that will turn into hostility.

    Edit: more important, maybe this is an experience that might help you to better articulate what makes you uncomfortable about this, which will help to make solutions more apparent.

    Edd on
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  • Sir LandsharkSir Landshark resting shark face Registered User regular
    MagicPrime wrote: »
    Kyougu wrote: »
    One thing I'm confused about is why were you angry that she spent two hours at church instead of one.

    Was it that she was specfically at church?

    I think I was mad at a 'here we go again." scenario. I remember how things ended with her church in high school, and I thought it was one of those things that we had gotten past and wouldn't have to deal with again. Then out of the blue - now its back to being an issue.

    What do you mean by "here we go again"? If you have a fundamental problem with your wife exploring religion, period, then you guys really need to have a serious talk and maybe think about couples counseling or something.

    If it's just that she is possibly getting involved with something you view as potentially harmful (fire and brimstone type churches) then maybe talk to her about going to a more progressive church? It's possible she is just looking for a community to bond with. Maybe this will require you compromising and agreeing to go to church with her, but the more progressive denominations like ELCA, UCC, etc. aren't all that bad, really. It's just words and silly rituals at any rate, right?

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  • DruhimDruhim Registered User, ClubPA regular
    MagicPrime wrote: »
    I am thinking about offering to attend one service. I looked them up on facebook/website and it looks very simliar to her old church. Lightshows, big stage, big projectors with videos and huge white text, people falling on the ground, etc.

    I did this once with her in high school and it was literally one of the most uncomfortable experiences of my life.

    As a former Christian who also went to a borderline Pentecostal (though technically non-denominational) church and an Assemblies of God college and later left the church, I totally get your discomfort. I would be uncomfortable as hell also.

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  • DruhimDruhim Registered User, ClubPA regular
    Also, I'll add that I think many of you are being dismissive of how difficult it can be for a couple that have different faiths. Yes, it can work. I'm absolutely not saying it can't. But if his wife's values become increasingly informed by her re-discovered faith, and his are not, then that could easily lead to major disagreements about pretty fundamental decisions including childcare/education/discipline. I hope things go smoothly, I really do. But I also absolutely understand where you're coming from.

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  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    Hey we're not arguing about church or religion in here.

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  • MagicPrimeMagicPrime FiresideWizard Registered User regular
    I don't see another confrontation like the first one happening. And we had a long conversation about values. She's still pro-choice, in favor of gay marriage, etc.

    I have enough trust in my wife that if they would start spouting things she 100% disagreed with she would leave. It's just leaves me with an awkward feeling in my gut.

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  • DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    Yeah, I agree with Dru. Especially when children are involved. If your wife becomes at all devout, she's going to want to save the soul of her child. What parent wouldn't? And if mommy says "come with me to church or you'll be punished forever" and daddy says "nah, mommy's just weird", troubles are a-brewin. Especially at age 3, no child is even remotely capable of making their own decisions, and won't be for years.

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  • DruhimDruhim Registered User, ClubPA regular
    And this isn't about who's right and who's wrong, as in it's her fault because she started going to church again. She has that right, of course. I'm simply pointing out that a significant difference in faith can absolutely cause major stress and disagreements in a relationship.

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  • DruhimDruhim Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited May 2013
    MagicPrime wrote: »
    I don't see another confrontation like the first one happening. And we had a long conversation about values. She's still pro-choice, in favor of gay marriage, etc.

    I have enough trust in my wife that if they would start spouting things she 100% disagreed with she would leave. It's just leaves me with an awkward feeling in my gut.

    It's good that you talked about values and it's good that you're still on the same page overall. It's ok to feel awkward about it. Feelings aren't rational and sometimes we feel threatened by things we shouldn't be threatened by. Just be honest with her about how you feel (and be clear that it's just how you feel) while trying to explore why you feel that way and what you can perhaps do to mitigate that feeling. Sounds like you two are doing a pretty good job of talking things out so far though. :^:

    Druhim on
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  • Twenty SidedTwenty Sided Registered User regular
    Yeesh.

    My first inclination is to get some sort of agreement on how your daughter is going to be raised. That seems like the contentious thing.

    Dhalphir
  • InfidelInfidel Heretic Registered User regular
    I grew up in a religious-mother-atheist-father household, my brother and I.

    My mom took us both to church through our earliest years until late teens. I attended Sunday School, was an altar server during my early teens, and went through Confirmation. I liked the community benefit and reinforcement, but I couldn't really buy into the divine as time went on. I just couldn't rationalize things as I got older, and I stopped attending.

    I have done a lot of thinking since then, and am an atheist in my adult years. I do not think I was harmed by being brought up in the church, and while I think I would have been a good person regardless I can't say I know for sure that I would be as community thoughtful as I am without it. If I hadn't been given the exposure to the church, I wouldn't have had any opportunity to decide if it was for me, so I don't regret it.

    All through this, my dad simply never brought it up. He sometimes attended, mainly for the larger events, but he never spoke of religion or views. He let us make up our own minds, and I think having that example of an atheist that "somehow" gets along fine with a religious partner was a great role model for us.

    I now think that if I happened to end up married to someone religious and church-going, that would be fine, our children would go with their mother, etc. I would just follow my father's example.

    The important things I think are acceptance and freedom. The parents need to be accepting of each other, or there will be worse problems than church attendance. I say if she wants to go to church with the kids, that is something you may want to be fine with, so long as there is nothing forced on them. The children should have the freedom to come to their own conclusions, and so I would watch out to just make sure there is no hardline indoctrination and brainwashing going on (like OMG DO THIS OR YOU'RE GOING TO HELL AND YOUR DADDY IS GOING TO HELL blah blah). I didn't experience anything like that, but for the record I was in an Anglican church which tends to be softer about things. :P

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  • IcyLiquidIcyLiquid Two Steaks Montreal, QuebecAdministrator, Vanilla Staff vanilla
    @Infidel One interesting thing to consider is that your mother accepted your father. Technically according to the bible she was sinning by being married to a non-christian. So yes, your father "somehow" got along with your mother, but she was also being flexible. Your point about both partners being tolerant is the crux of it.

    @MagicPrime So I guess it bears mentioning that if she seems willing to work on things, and reach a common ground, realize that she is already making a compromise, in terms of her religion, and take heart in that.

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  • InfidelInfidel Heretic Registered User regular
    Yeah, I have family and friends that are religious, and I am out as an atheist (I mean, look at my username! :P) but we get along fine. Acceptance is key, and you can't have that if someone is hell-bent on converting those around them, so that is something that needs to be watched out for.

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  • AManFromEarthAManFromEarth Let's get to twerk! The King in the SwampRegistered User regular
    I think suggesting alternatives to this church might be a good idea. Unitarian services could be something the whole family could enjoy.

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  • Disco11Disco11 Registered User regular
    Why are you even jumping to conclusions without attending a service? You went with her over a decade ago to a different church and did not like it. Maybe this one is a little lower key? Maybe they all chill and have coffee and pastries and talk about Jesus? Go and see and make an opinion after. Just remember that a preachy atheist is nearly as bad as a preachy christian.

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  • DruhimDruhim Registered User, ClubPA regular
    Being laid back and chill would kind of run counter to Pentacostal doctrine.

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  • KwoaruKwoaru Registered User regular
    also he said he looked it up online and it is presenting itself as having a lot of the things he found troubling about her old church

    but yeah possibly looking at alternate churches, attending a service yourself, and absolutely being open and honest with your wife is all good advice that I can't really add to

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  • chupamiubrechupamiubre Registered User regular
    edited May 2013
    bowen wrote: »
    bowen wrote: »
    bowen wrote: »
    Key thing with christian religions, @thundyrkatz , is that "cult" describes about 98% of churches.

    If it's not a Catholic, Protestant, or Presbyterian church, chances are, it's fucking insane.


    Care to back this up with proof or anything not just wild conjecture? I like how you think vast swaths of people are attending cults it's almost as if you have little to no clue what you are talking about.

    To OP well one talk with her and attend a service it's not like she has never done things she was not so keen on for you.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_denominations

    Feel free to draw your own conclusions as to what constitutes cult or sect or denomination. I am not going to really elaborate on why a church that is part of an offshoot denomination (but isn't part of a "group") is considered cult-like.

    For instance, if someone mentions "Westboro Baptist Church" do you think they refer to baptists?


    Get called on saying something then you don't or cant back it up. Oh yes bring up WBC yes please do because it just shows how out of touch you are with well everything. If you don't care to backup your statement of saying billions of people are cult followers then how about you just don't say it next time?

    Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_the_United_States#Christianity :
    According to the 2012 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, from which members in the United States are combined with Canadian members, and of the National Council of Churches, the five largest denominations are:[15]
    The Catholic Church, 68,202,492 members
    The Southern Baptist Convention, 16,136,044 members
    The United Methodist Church, 7,679,850 members
    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6,157,238 members
    The Church of God in Christ, 5,499,875 members

    Note: I was comparing US reformation churches and the one-off single church that isn't part of a larger body. Hence 98% of churches, and not 98% of religious followers.


    Yes let us all forget that you never said anything about being limited to the united states nor did you say limiting it to Christianity. So you what assume people know what you are thinking or what?

    You more or less listed off a narrow group of Christianity then proceeded to call ALL OTHER RELIGIONS CULTS. GG uninstall mate come back when you can make a coherent argument.

    chupamiubre on
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  • RoyceSraphimRoyceSraphim Registered User regular
    Sounds like she is less concerned about the church and more concerned about her childhood. As someone who had issues with members the church over their past stupidity, better to address that before rejoining the faith. That will always be in the back of her mind and will in turn force you to act upon it.

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