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Coming out as an Atheist

NoMoreDelusionsNoMoreDelusions Registered User regular
So yeah, this is an Alt, for reasons that will be quickly become obvious.

I have come to the realization that I am an Atheist. This may not seem like a big deal to some people, but it is a big deal to me. A huge, life-altering, paradigm-changing deal. I was raised Southern Baptist, and participated (and more, actually believed!) in the theology taught in the church. My entire family Is religious. My wife and I have been quite faithful to the church for all the years we've been married, and we've raised our children the same way.

But over the last couple years, things have changed. It started when we felt our oldest was old enough to begin understanding what it meant to be saved (I'm going to be purposefully vague on gender here). As good Christian parents, we were concerned for our child's soul. We asked the very serious question... if they didn't accept Jesus and died that day, would they go to hell? This seems silly for people who didn't grow up in the church, but it was more serious than life or death to us at the time. This concerned their immortal soul. So naturally we did what we believed we should as good parents and led our child to salvation. All was well.

Except that the question began to nag at me, somehow for the first time in my life. Would God really allow our child to go to hell if they died before being saved? What if it were only one day before? Supposedly Jeffrey Dalmer accepted Christ in prison before he died. So I'm supposed to believe that he gets to spend an eternity in heavenly bliss, while my innocent child suffered for all eternity? And the only answer I found was... yes, that is exactly what I was supposed to accept.

It left a bitter taste in my mouth. I didn't say anything to my wife, because I assumed I was just missing something and needed to research and pray about it more. So I did. I started reading more theology, studying the bible more intently, and at the same time expanding my horizons to more secular authors like Hitchens and Dawkins to make sure I was getting the whole story. And I prayed. Constantly I prayed. And the more I studied, and the more I prayed, the more I realized that I was studying about and praying to a God who wasn't there. I moved from skepticism to deism to agnosticism, slowly over the last couple of years, and finally this year I've accepted that I am fully in the Atheist camp. And though my new world view keeps me open to more ideas than I ever was before, I doubt my views on God or Religion will ever regress again.

So now I have a problem. My wife and children and family have no idea. I still go to church, still pray before meals, still give the impression that I'm a good Christian husband and father. But I can't do it any more. I can't keep lying to the ones I love most and pretending to be someone I'm not. It's killing me inside.

But I'm also scared to death. I know I have to tell my wife first and foremost, but I'm terrified of how she'll react. I still love her, and I want to be married to her. But her faith is such a huge deal, I'm afraid that this is big enough to tear our marriage apart. And it will be my fault. After all, I'm the one who has changed, not her. I broke the contract, so to speak. I never intended to, but it happened, and I can't go back. How will we function? How will we raise the kids? Will our marriage turn into nothing but a string of uncomfortable silences and arguments, or worse, will she simply leave me altogether and take our children with her? I know that seems extreme, but for anyone who has been in a fundamentalist faith, you know... these aren't unfounded fears.

My question is, has anyone else ever been through anything like this? If so, how did you handle it? How did you "come out of the closet" so to speak, and what happened afterward? I'm just looking for some advice on how to go about this. I feel like I have to tell her soon, probably within the next week or two. If anyone can provide some advice on how to handle it, or just encouragement that it turned out okay for you, it would be most welcome.

TL;DR... I've recently become an atheist and my wife doesn't know. How do I tell her?

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Posts

  • The EnderThe Ender Registered User regular
    This may be tough.


    I would recommend simply telling your SO that you are no longer a believer. Don't necessarily go into the 'why' of it, unless she asks, because that may make her defensive. I wont pretend to know what will happen when you admit this; I know some people whom it basically didn't impact at all, and they had productive & healthy marriages long after one partner lost their faith, and I know some people with horror stories.


    Hopefully all of the other things you share in common with your SO, and the marriage you built together, will prove stronger than any turbulence caused by a difference in religious opinion.

    Good luck.

    With Love and Courage
  • The EnderThe Ender Registered User regular
    Oh, and as to where I'm coming from:

    I've had to acknowledge my lack of faith numerous times to different people, often in somewhat awkward circumstances - but I've never had any sort of reverse conversion experience (I've been an atheist so long as I've had the capacity to consider religious opinions).

    In my experience, rarely does anyone actually blow up (and those that do... well, they're the sort of person you know ahead of time is going to blow-up over something)

    With Love and Courage
  • NoMoreDelusionsNoMoreDelusions Registered User regular
    Yeah, that's a good point, just telling her that it has happened and avoiding the "why". I guess if she wants to know, I'll be ready to explain, but your right. Initially at least, the last thing I want is for both of us to start getting defensive about it.

    Thanks though. I'm hopeful that our marriage is strong enough to survive this. But I've seen firsthand the power that faith can have over a person, even someone otherwise completely rational. I'm hoping we can overcome that.

  • RendRend Registered User regular
    This may be unpopular, but you can still believe in god but not believe in most of the stuff the church tells you.

    It sounds like you've come to stop believing because you lost faith in the rules of the church. Did you really stop believing there was a god, or did you just stop believing in the god they told you about? It's possible that in your heart you still believe in a good and loving god, but not one that requires you to be christian to be saved, not one that plays by the rules you were taught while you were being raised, etc.

    I'm a believer, and I consider myself Catholic, but I differ in my views pretty significantly from the church. I share the belief that there is a god, I share the belief that divine things have happened, but I totally reject any idea that god interferes in the affairs of the world, I reject the idea that things like homosexuality or premarital sex are sins, I even reject the idea that you need to go to church to retain your faith and walk with god.

    What I'm saying is, you can have your cake and eat it too here. All the crap you've grown to distrust, you can keep (or, recover as it may be) your spirituality while still distrusting all of it. After all, god didn't teach you any of those rules, people did, and every person who has ever lived, even the ones who wrote the bible, even Jesus himself, were fallible. Which means the bible is fallible, and the rules you learned were fallible.

    To believe is all you need to be spiritual. You don't need to accept the things you have been told to, all you need to do is just believe, like you've always done, except without all the chains and manacles that come with it.

    Where I'm coming from: Not christian until I was just under high school age, then very christian, then I had a crisis of faith and went through a lot of doubt while I was in college. This is where I've ended up, and I think it's a pretty good place.

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  • spool32spool32 Contrary Library Registered User regular
    edited October 2015
    So often fundamentalists drive people from the faith :/

    I was an atheist for a long time after escaping the deep south evangelical scene as a teenager. I suggest, and this is going to be intensely unpopular around here I think, that you might want to look at some faith traditions that aren't as... militant and unbending as the Southern Baptists.

    I mean, if you don't believe then you don't. Far be it from me to try and change your mind.

    But I did, after like 16 years of nonbelief, and I found a church (Episcopalian) that embraces mystery and science in equal measure. It's not as binary as it maybe looks to you, from where you stood and stand now.

    Good luck with your wife... you're going to have to tell her why, but as you probably know you're not going to be able to argue it. Don't even try to convince her. Just keep your focus on how you feel about her and your kids and your marriage, and the hope that it won't ruin your marriage regardless of how you feel about the hereafter.

    spool32 on
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  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    You can be a secular believer. You don't have to go to church.

    As an atheist you have to reject some notions about how you think about the world and the afterlife. It seems like you don't necessarily agree that there isn't an afterlife, just the membership requirements to get in. I would say bring up the fact that the baptist faith makes you uneasy, especially with the whole Dalmer and your innocent kids, which, even as an atheist, bugs the fuck out of me that that kind of thing is kosher.

    I don't think you're Atheist, I think you are uneasy and have doubts about that one particular religion.

    But when I addressed this to my parents, it was just a "I don't believe in god" after they discussed some stuff regarding religion and having regretted not having me attend communion. They were a little upset, but moved on.

    This is tricky, you might hurt your marriage, but you have to be true to yourself. And like spool said, you don't need to convince her, that's not your place or job. I'm not sure about the kids, I would imagine you could find a church you do like and maybe switch, maybe even do both, every other weekend. No one was ever hurt by learning a different view, hell I've attended church a few times.

    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
  • ChopperDaveChopperDave Registered User regular
    edited October 2015
    Lifelong atheist here. My "coming out" story on that front wasn't too difficult--losing faith is fairly common in Reform Judaism. Explaining my belief system to my now-wife, who is a lapsed Catholic, was sometimes challenging but never vitriolic. But "coming out" as being sympathetic to the Palestinian cause to my militantly pro-Zionist mother... now that was apocalyptic. I nearly got disowned, and it took us years to repair the relationship. So in a way, I feel like I can understand your situation.

    First, if you haven't already, see if you can find some sort of a support group. If you don't have a local chapter of secular humanists or the like, then try to find an online group, or even check out a Unitarian Universalist congregation. It sounds like you are alone with your thoughts here, and it can be very helpful to have sympathetic minds to "practice" these discussions with before you leap into the deep end with your wife and family.

    Second, remember that you are, in many ways, a covert into a new religion. And like many converts, you may be tempted to be zealous, even somewhat aggressive in your new beliefs. You may feel a need to repudiate your old belief system. (The fact that you adopted the alt "NoMoreDelusions" hints at this.) Try to resist these impulses.

    Instead, try to see the continuity from your old beliefs into your new beliefs. For example, even though I no longer identify with the Jewish faith, I still appreciate how Judaism taught me to always ask questions, even of my elders, and to value the sanctity of each human life ("to save a life is to save the world"). These teachings are still an important part of my moral life, even as an atheist.

    This isn't just an intellectual exercise for your own benefit. Your wife will likely feel hurt, and perhaps even betrayed, by your conversion. She may accuse you of lying or misleading her deliberately. She may feel like your new beliefs are a repudiation of your old ones, and by extension, a repudiation of her. She may think that being an atheist means that you have no beliefs at all, and that you have become unmoored from the moral compass your religion once provided.

    Be prepared to listen to her, and to hold her hand through the process. Don't give into the temptation to treat her like a dummy, or assume that she follows her beliefs blindly and without thinking. (Who knows--maybe she's entertained the same thoughts herself.) Make a positive case for yourself. Try not to define your atheism by what you no longer believe, but what you DO believe. Be firm, and don't let her belittle or disparage you. But also try to be the bigger man, to validate her beliefs when she needs it, and look for points of commonality. Try to show her that while your beliefs have changed, you as a person have not. In fact, it's your unique experiences and mindset that, for better or for worse, led to this change of heart.

    Good luck. My mother and I had a few rough years due to the Israel thing, but things are a lot better for both of us now. Getting my thoughts out in the open was the right thing to do, and in the past few years my mom has even learned to moderate her views somewhat due to my influence. (She no longer seems to view the Palestinians as death worshippers and even agrees with me that the settlements are an impediment to peace, which is real progress for her). So, as intimidating a problem as this may be, it is possible to come out on the other side with your relationships sorely tested, but intact.

    ChopperDave on
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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
    Conservative Jew here. I am incredibly religious and have been pretty much my whole life, but have taken on wildly varying levels of observance at different points in it. I'm a scientist and I also love being Jewish and the fact that it teaches you to tear everything apart in search for answers.. that when you do they're there to be found in whatever form they may take. I'm a parent and knew long before that happened that I would want my kids to grow up in a Jewish household (to the best we're able to provide, which has meant different things at different times); our kid(s) can decide at bar mitzvah age if they would like to continue with it. My husband is late in the conversion process from Northern Baptism; Christianity has never really resonated with him but he did like the sound of Judaism, so he's been pretty eager about it.

    @ChopperDave as someone who is both pro-Israel AND sympathizes in any way with the Palestinians, I want to be in a room with literally no one when the issue is being discussed.

    As a partner, this may well be difficult for your wife to understand... but I can guarantee you that her fist thought is going to be your kids. Before "why" has even come out of her mouth she is probably going to want to know what you intend to tell them.

    That's something you really need to soulsearch and discuss with her, but you might want to have a plan to address the issue before it even comes up.

    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
    Orthanc
  • Eat it You Nasty Pig.Eat it You Nasty Pig. tell homeland security 'we are the bomb'Registered User regular
    edited October 2015
    most religions have rhetorical, if not doctrinal, answers to edge questions like the fate of dying, un-initiated children; if that's your main sticking point I would suggest talking to your minister.

    if your issue is the Dalmers of the world repenting and getting into heaven, you might have a bigger issue

    Eat it You Nasty Pig. on
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  • NoMoreDelusionsNoMoreDelusions Registered User regular
    Thanks everyone for the comments, I really do appreciate it. I'll try to go into more detail later when I have more time, but in a nutshell, I'm fairly well past the point of believing in anything at all. I did run the gamut of trying to believe in something with a less strict set of "rules", looked into other religions, and eventually settled on a sort of universal deism. But the fundamental question always nagged at me... Would this world be any different than it is now if God did not exist? To the best I could see, the world is pretty shitty already. If God could intervene and he wanted to, why doesn't he? And if he can't or won't, then what is the point of God in the first place?

    Of course there are a lot of other philosophical and practical reasons beyond just that, but I don't want to go too far down that road. Suffice it to say, I'm confident that not only is the Christian God not real, but that there is no God in any form whatsoever.

    Which is what is really going to be a hard pill for her to swallow.

    Lovely
  • ChopperDaveChopperDave Registered User regular
    edited October 2015
    Thanks everyone for the comments, I really do appreciate it. I'll try to go into more detail later when I have more time, but in a nutshell, I'm fairly well past the point of believing in anything at all. I did run the gamut of trying to believe in something with a less strict set of "rules", looked into other religions, and eventually settled on a sort of universal deism. But the fundamental question always nagged at me... Would this world be any different than it is now if God did not exist? To the best I could see, the world is pretty shitty already. If God could intervene and he wanted to, why doesn't he? And if he can't or won't, then what is the point of God in the first place?

    Of course there are a lot of other philosophical and practical reasons beyond just that, but I don't want to go too far down that road. Suffice it to say, I'm confident that not only is the Christian God not real, but that there is no God in any form whatsoever.

    Which is what is really going to be a hard pill for her to swallow.

    I hear you, man. Like I said, sliding into atheism is pretty common in the Jewish faith--so much so that there are actually entire congregations that practice Jewish traditions but without the God part. Quite a few of us have looked at the horrors of the Holocaust and come away hoping that there is no God, because if He exists then He seems to have really hated us back in the 1940s. You're not the first or the last atheist to be swayed by the problem of evil and the Euthyphro dilemma.

    These aren't a bad place to start, necessarily, because they are legitimate moral problems that theists have grappled with for centuries. As the mother of your children, surely your wife will understand how your faith was tested when you considered the hypothetical that one of your children might have gone to hell if she died before being saved.

    But again, I would recommend framing the discussion in terms of your positive beliefs. I remember when I had this discussion with my wife, the thing that comforted her the most was realizing that I still had a fully formed belief system and moral code--it just didn't involve a diety.

    What do you still believe in? You can be 100% an atheist and still believe in magic, unicorns, ghosts.... More seriously, you may believe in basic human rights, or freedom of speech, or justice for historically persecuted minorities. It can be helpful to show her that your atheism is not a rejection of everything that makes you who you are.

    I also agree with @ceres. You're going to want to do some soul searching as to what you want for your kids. Are you comfortable with them being brought up in the faith that you have left? If so, are you willing to support them in their religious life--to give money to the congregation, bow your head when they pray before meals, help them get to Sunday school, and so on? Will they be ostracized in any way if/when their religious community learns that Dad is an atheist, and if so, are you willing to keep your beliefs on the down-low and occasionally show face at services for their sake? These are the issues that really tend to drive wedges between spouses with different religious beliefs, particularly when one converts mid-marriage. This shouldn't discourage you from being honest with your family--I wouldn't recommend lying about your beliefs to your loved ones, as that can really eat away at you--but definitely think carefully about these predictable issues before you proceed with the coming out.

    ChopperDave on
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  • GizzyGizzy i am a cat PhoenixRegistered User regular
    I grew up strict southern baptist and I just wanted to echo some of the other thoughts that a real concern from her is probably going to be that you no longer have a moral code, just because it was something I myself assumed without questioning for a long time. I ended up dating a guy for a while whose parents were Buddhist, but he himself was atheist / not a practicing Buddhist .. but still with a Buddhist moral code. And it was surprising to me that he seemed way more grounded and "good" than other Christian men I had dated in the past. It really opened my eyes about religion and made me question some of the beliefs that had been engrained in me.

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  • SilverWindSilverWind Registered User regular
    Have you talked about any of this with your wife? If not, perhaps you should break it to her slowly--for instance, not just out and out stating you're an atheist and that's it now, but bringing up that you have been questioning your faith and struggling with some of the beliefs for a while, and discussing some of the issues you have encountered. Heck, she may bring up similar concerns she has been holding back. She may want to have you talk to other people to try and bolster up your faith--while you know it's unlikely, you might want to consider doing it for her.

    I do agree with ChopperDave and everyone else that you'll pretty much have to decide what to tell your children right away though, even with this gradual method. The great thing about atheism is that it doesn't require you to proselytize, and while I understand you don't feel true to yourself when you do it, you aren't offending anyone on the atheist side of things if you do a gradual back away.

    This was pretty much how Wyborn explained me to his Southern Baptist family--he told them I was agnostic but open to exploring Christianity. But then his family was not that militant about it, and he got to flee up to Canada, which doesn't exactly match up to your case.

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  • witch_iewitch_ie Registered User regular
    I grew up Catholic - was confirmed, and even taught Sunday school. However, after some additional soul searching in my later teen years, I became agnostic. My family is deeply Catholic and my grandmother in particular. As a teenager, I didn't take the time to figure out how to share my new position - I didn't yell it from the roof tops either though. Then on Christmas Eve, my grandmother came and asked me if I believed Jesus died for our sins and was the son of God. I didn't want to lie to her because I respected her and her beliefs so much - so I told her no. I learned through this process that I needed to make decisions about what my differing beliefs meant for my participation in the family. Understanding what to say when people ask for prayers or celebrate holidays.

    I think it's important to be honest with those closest to you and to continue to respect that their beliefs are important, meaningful, and real to them. This means finding compromise, while remaining true to yourself. I won't go to church even when asked of me for any religious ceremony other than a wedding or a funeral. It's hard at times because my family wants me to go with them so much. I celebrate most holidays all the same, but for different reasons. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday - and while I may not be thanking a god for all the good things in my life, I still am grateful.

    It will take some time for you to figure out what being an Atheist means to you. In the meantime, you need to find the right time to talk to your wife about it. It sounds like you agreed as a couple that you wanted to raise your children the way you were raised - with the church. I would suggest that you not make or suggest any drastic changes in your lives until you have had more time to think through how you want to handle church, holidays, prayers at meal time, or religious discussions as your kids get older. Your wife can help you through this and I would suggest letting her know your thoughts on the matter occasionally. The main changes I ended up making were that I stopped practicing any specific faith - no church and no praying with others. Other than that, my life is pretty similar - I still think that a lot of what I embraced in my life as a Catholic is with me.

    Just remember that having different beliefs from your family and loved ones doesn't mean you can't appreciate their faith and show respect for it. When my husband (an Atheist) and I visited Rome, we purchased some pendants of Mary and waited for several hours to have them blessed by the Pope as gifts for my Catholic grandmothers. Whether or not we believed, it was meaningful for them and therefore important to us.

    NightDragon
  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    Most Christian sects do have a good answer for "What if my child dies before being baptized?" since it's pretty much the first objection anyone could have. A quick google suggests that the Southern Baptist belief is that unbaptized children, and those incapable of understanding baptism (like the severely mentally handicapped) go straight to heaven. If your church damns them to hell, then your church is very extreme, and there are certain to be others in the area that have no such doctrine.

    As for depraved murderers accepting Christ, well, if they sincerely do so the idea is that they can be saved. But they have to sincerely repent and regret their actions, not just verbally repent in the hopes of getting out of hell. The idea is that most depraved serial killers are so far gone they genuinely wouldn't be capable of it. And if they are capable of it, then the world itself will be hell to them, as they will have all the guilt of willingly having murdered innocents for kicks.

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  • darkmayodarkmayo Registered User regular
    Atheist here as well, didnt really have a coming out story as my parents never forced any religion on me or my brother. My dad grew up around Jehovah Witness and that was enough for him to run from the church. I suppose they would have supported us if we decided to believe if life lead us that way but it never came up and never got ahold of us. I like the "idea" of a supreme being, and it makes for some great mythology and story telling but it just doesnt jive with my personal reality. I will admit I dont have a ton of people I know that are very religious ,or if they are they keep it to themselves which is fine by me as I do the same. I dont know if I could have a good relationship with people who are in your face religious (or even in your face athiest) cause that is just dickery.

    Respect your wife's beliefs and hopefully she will do the same, and dont stress too much about being an Athiest, if anything just look at it as one less god to worry about.

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  • etheleethele Registered User new member
    Where I'm coming from: I am a Catholic wife who is married to an agnostic leaning atheist. Unlike you, we held these beliefs before marriage and therefore were able to negotiate how we would handle religion before marriage.

    Unlike others here, I think it would be prudent for you to give your wife a "why". It doesn't have to be extensive, but many people in her situation would want to know a few things: Is it her fault? Have you really thought about this? Do you think less of her because she still has faith and you do not? Are you okay with her and your child practicing their faith, or do you want them to change? Knowing the "why" of your changing beliefs will help her grasp the answers to a lot of these questions, and these are questions with major ramifications for your relationship to her and your child.

    A short "why" and some politely requested boundaries (e.g., "I don't want to talk about this all of the time. If you need to talk more, can we set aside some time to discuss it? But the rest of the time, let's focus on building our marriage and family as we are now, even if the situation isn't what you wanted") can go a long way towards letting her know this isn't something you do lightly and isn't about her - and that you still want a future with her, regardless of where she is in terms of faith.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~
    I think you should also be prepared to offer some possible solutions for a couple of possible problems you can anticipate - here is my list, based on what my husband and I had to work out together, some of these will probably be trivial for you and I'm sure I'm missed others, but this could be a start to a bit of brainstorming. This might be over-preparing - but it could also smooth things along if you know what you want, so you can focus on helping your wife figure out what she wants and how her wants and yours now fit together. I'm a fan of erring on the side of over-communicating; YMMV.

    How can you fill the previous role of faith in your relationship with your wife without being dishonest? If prayer was a big part of your lives before, how do you fill that? If your family attended religious services together in the past, are you still comfortable attending, but modifying how you participate? How do you share values and seek to give back to the community with a religious split and the values differences that come from that?

    Do you feel comfortable supporting your child in this faith? What can you give here, so your wife doesn't feel alone? Where do you need to have boundaries? What requests do you need to make, in order to feel confident that your child is receiving a healthy religious education?

    What actions do you feel are appropriate for your wife to take to attempt "re-converting" you? Is *any* action of that sort inappropriate? What about praying for you privately? Publicly?

    Do you want to have theological discussions with her? Could that lead to greater mutual understanding? Do you think that would harm your relationship or be unpleasant? What does she think? Will you read some things that she wants you to read because she wants you to think this through? And the reverse - do you feel the need to ask her to ponder the correctness of her beliefs? Are you concerned for her well-being because of her faith, and if so, what boundaries does she need around you challenging her faith so that it doesn't feel like you are challenging *her*?

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    The more you can do to help your family live their faith without compromising your integrity or growing resentful, the easier this will be for everyone; after all, there was a reasonable expectation when you married that your marriage would be based in your shared love of Christ, and now you have changed in a way that makes this no longer true. It is (IMO) only fair for you to take some responsibility for easing the transition for your family (and yes, this is true of an atheist marriage where someone converts to Christianity - the converting party holds responsibility for easing the transition for their family, though I think that direction is often easier). At the same time, do NOT compromise your integrity, and do not try to give so much support to a faith you don't believe in that you end up feeling put-upon.

    Try and focus upon the valuable things you still share - love for each other, of course, but also any moral beliefs that you both hold. It might be helpful to invest some extra time into giving back to your community in ways that Christianity would support but which are also supported by a more secular understanding of morality - feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc. Basically, things that Christians seek to do and be that you also believe in. To a limited extent, you can still be Christ-like without being Christian. I know; my husband is the most Christ-like person I've ever had the honor of knowing. The more you can focus on what you still share, the more likely that things will work out. Also, be prepared to be patient. You may need to have a little "faith" that things will work out in the end, if you can keep focusing on the positive and stay open-minded and accepting of your wife - basically, be a good role-model for her :-)

    I hope your wife is reasonable, and that this ends up bringing the two of you closer in the long run. I also hope she can find a way to understand God and your atheism that allows her to see you as still being a good person, and recognizes the virtues underlying your honest atheism. As a religious person, I believe your honesty with yourself and those around you will bring you closer to God, not further, and I hope your wife can see this.

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  • DarkPrimusDarkPrimus Registered User regular
    I had to work the courage up to come out as a non-believer to my very religious mother a long time ago, and it worked out okay - she told me she still loved me, and we came to a kind of unspoken agreement to just not discuss religion with each other (obviously, we still talk about other topics). It really did feel like a great burden was lifted from me once I got it out.

    Love can exist between people of different beliefs, be those differing beliefs of religious, political, musical taste, whatever. The important thing is that the relationship between the two people is more important than the difference in belief between them.

    Operating on the assumption that your wife loves you as a complete person, and not simply because you are someone who practices the exact same religious tenants as they do... things should work out. You are more than just your religious convictions, and I'm sure that you are pretty much the same person as you've been for a while now, religion aside.

    Unlike my situation with my mother, you're probably not going to be able to get out of discussing your beliefs in detail. As far as your personal beliefs go, it sounds like they might still be getting sorted out a bit? If any questions about how/where you derive morality from come up, it's not wrong to say that you can't answer that right now if you don't know: after all, philosophers have been arguing about where morality comes from for ages. It should be enough to say that becoming an atheist doesn't somehow delete your existing moral framework, not that atheists are amoral anyhow.

    I definitely see that the children being raised in a mixed-faith (for lack of better term) household might be a contentious issue. I guess the best thing to do would be to make sure that your wife understands that you don't have a problem with her or your children being religious.

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  • NoMoreDelusionsNoMoreDelusions Registered User regular
    Alright, sorry guys for the lack of response, work kept me pretty busy the last couple of days. I've got a lot to catch up on here, so I'll try to read through everything and respond accordingly as soon as I can. But thank you all again for taking the time to offer your advice and comments, it really means a lot to me.

    CelestialBadgerSilverWindDarkPrimusAngelinaDisruptedCapitalistL Ron Howard
  • NoMoreDelusionsNoMoreDelusions Registered User regular
    Okay, I'm going to take a stab at responding a bit. It would take me forever to respond to all the excellent advice offered here, so I'm just going to try and give takes on some of the main comments and themes I've seen. If I don't respond to something you said, it's probably already covered in a different answer, or it's something I'm still thinking about and don't have an answer to yet.

    Rend wrote: »
    To believe is all you need to be spiritual. You don't need to accept the things you have been told to, all you need to do is just believe, like you've always done, except without all the chains and manacles that come with it.

    While I have no issue with people who believe things that haven't or can't be proven, I simply can't do that anymore. I guess what I believe in is science and evidence, and I only believe in that because it doesn't require me to believe in it at all. One doesn't have to believe in fact, it's fact whether you believe it or not. Again, I don't have a problem with others who believe things based on faith or whatever (assuming they don't try and push it onto me), but it's not where I am now.

    spool32 wrote: »
    Good luck with your wife... you're going to have to tell her why, but as you probably know you're not going to be able to argue it. Don't even try to convince her. Just keep your focus on how you feel about her and your kids and your marriage, and the hope that it won't ruin your marriage regardless of how you feel about the hereafter.

    Yeah, this is definitely a good point. I've considered whether I want to try and argue my stance, but I don't think it's something one person can convince of another person. Everyone has to come to their conclusions on their own. The kids are another topic I'll discuss in a moment.

    bowen wrote: »
    I don't think you're Atheist, I think you are uneasy and have doubts about that one particular religion.

    In the beginning this was the case, but after everything, I'm 100% sure I am a full blown atheist. There is no question in my mind that, at least with the current evidence that exists, there is no god in any form. I didn't come to this conclusion immediately, it took at least a couple of years of hard research and soul-searching (so to speak), but that's where I am.

    Second, remember that you are, in many ways, a covert into a new religion. And like many converts, you may be tempted to be zealous, even somewhat aggressive in your new beliefs. You may feel a need to repudiate your old belief system. (The fact that you adopted the alt "NoMoreDelusions" hints at this.) Try to resist these impulses.

    Instead, try to see the continuity from your old beliefs into your new beliefs. For example, even though I no longer identify with the Jewish faith, I still appreciate how Judaism taught me to always ask questions, even of my elders, and to value the sanctity of each human life ("to save a life is to save the world"). These teachings are still an important part of my moral life, even as an atheist.

    You nailed me pretty good on this one. You're right, I do feel pretty passionately about my de-conversion, which is a big part of why I feel like I need to tell her. I physically won't be able to keep this up much longer, pretending to be something I'm now entirely opposed to. But you're absolutely right, I don't need to be an asshole about it, as much as I want to be. I'm going to try hard to follow this advice.

    This isn't just an intellectual exercise for your own benefit. Your wife will likely feel hurt, and perhaps even betrayed, by your conversion. She may accuse you of lying or misleading her deliberately. She may feel like your new beliefs are a repudiation of your old ones, and by extension, a repudiation of her. She may think that being an atheist means that you have no beliefs at all, and that you have become unmoored from the moral compass your religion once provided.

    Be prepared to listen to her, and to hold her hand through the process. Don't give into the temptation to treat her like a dummy, or assume that she follows her beliefs blindly and without thinking. (Who knows--maybe she's entertained the same thoughts herself.) Make a positive case for yourself. Try not to define your atheism by what you no longer believe, but what you DO believe. Be firm, and don't let her belittle or disparage you. But also try to be the bigger man, to validate her beliefs when she needs it, and look for points of commonality. Try to show her that while your beliefs have changed, you as a person have not. In fact, it's your unique experiences and mindset that, for better or for worse, led to this change of heart.

    I don't really have anything else to add to this, other than to say it's exactly the kind of advice I was looking for. This helps me more than you know.

    ceres wrote: »
    As a partner, this may well be difficult for your wife to understand... but I can guarantee you that her fist thought is going to be your kids. Before "why" has even come out of her mouth she is probably going to want to know what you intend to tell them.

    That's something you really need to soulsearch and discuss with her, but you might want to have a plan to address the issue before it even comes up.

    This is something I've thought about at least as much as, if not more than, telling my wife. I still don't have a good answer for this yet. I think in the end, I'm going to have to be honest with them just like I will be honest with her. In all honestly, only my oldest one (that I mentioned in the OP) is old enough to really understand what I'm saying. The other two are still too young to even understand the concept of religion or God yet, so they'll more or less grow up knowing me for who I am. But the older one... yeah, that will be a tough conversation.

    I think how we end up raising them is going to be more dependent on her than me. I'm okay with her taking them to church and continuing to share her beliefs with them, but the only thing I'll want to change is that I be allowed to tell them what I believe, what I don't believe, and why. Essentially, I want to be given the latitude to tell them that they should think for themselves and not take everything that she (or I) tell them without question. I want them to make their own decisions about what they believe.

    Of course, the problem is that this flies in the face of fundamentalist Christianity. Christian parents are expected to indoctrinate their children and quash rational discussion if it doesn't match up with their doctrine. So if she'll allow me to offer them my perspective alongside her own, it should be relatively smooth. Whether she will allow that or not is the real question, and one of the things about which I'm most concerned.

    most religions have rhetorical, if not doctrinal, answers to edge questions like the fate of dying, un-initiated children; if that's your main sticking point I would suggest talking to your minister.

    if your issue is the Dalmers of the world repenting and getting into heaven, you might have a bigger issue

    Keep in mind, I was only presenting this as the catalyst that initially sent me down this road. I've since then read arguments and rebuttals on both sides that address these questions. The real issue was never about Dalmer repenting before he died, but more that anyone should deserve a fate of eternal torment. Even the worst, most repulsive human beings in the history of the world (including Dalmer) aren't deserving of an eternity of agony without any hope of salvation or even death. No matter how heinous a person's actions are in this world, they are still limited to a finite set of crimes. Eternal punishment, even for the worst offenders, is needlessly cruel. And of course, it goes without saying how cruel it is for a child who is perhaps just past the age of accountability.

    Which, by the way, is a concept that is not scriptural at all. The term "age of accountability" or anything like it is entirely absent from scripture. And even if it were, I don't know that that would make things better. If there were such a thing, wouldn't we all be better off just having died while we were children? At least we'd all be guaranteed to go to heaven then. One might say that abortion doctors are responsible for more souls going to heaven than any pastor or evangelist.

    But again, I would recommend framing the discussion in terms of your positive beliefs. I remember when I had this discussion with my wife, the thing that comforted her the most was realizing that I still had a fully formed belief system and moral code--it just didn't involve a diety.

    What do you still believe in? You can be 100% an atheist and still believe in magic, unicorns, ghosts.... More seriously, you may believe in basic human rights, or freedom of speech, or justice for historically persecuted minorities. It can be helpful to show her that your atheism is not a rejection of everything that makes you who you are.

    Another excellent point. I know my belief about atheists while I was still a believer was that they were pretty much all amoral heathens. Of course, now I know better, but she probably has - and still has - this same view. I certainly still have a code of morals and ethics, even if is now more based in an evolutionary "I will behave this way because it is in the best interest of my own survival and the survival of my offspring" way. I'll need to make it clear to her that, even though many individual stances on social issues especially have changed (abortion, homosexuality, etc), I am still a good and moral person and that I'm still essentially the same person she married.

    SilverWind wrote: »
    Have you talked about any of this with your wife? If not, perhaps you should break it to her slowly--for instance, not just out and out stating you're an atheist and that's it now, but bringing up that you have been questioning your faith and struggling with some of the beliefs for a while, and discussing some of the issues you have encountered. Heck, she may bring up similar concerns she has been holding back. She may want to have you talk to other people to try and bolster up your faith--while you know it's unlikely, you might want to consider doing it for her.

    I have not brought up my doubts at any point, no. Which, in hindsight, was probably not the best course of action. I guess my reasoning was that all Christians go through a crisis of faith at some point, usually multiple times. I've had doubts before on many occasions, but I've always pushed through them and came through it even more convicted of my beliefs. I initially thought this time would be no different. But as time went on, and I only slid further and further in the opposite direction, it became more clear to me that this time was different. There would be no going back. But of course, by that point it was already too much to tell her, and so I just kept holding it in and pretending that everything was okay. And now here I am.

    I've considered taking the "slow" tact, but in the end I'd still just be lying to her and dragging things out. I would rather simply come clean all at once and let the pieces fall where they will. At least then I can finally be honest with her, which I think is ultimately what she would want from me anyway.

    ethele wrote: »
    I think you should also be prepared to offer some possible solutions for a couple of possible problems you can anticipate - here is my list, based on what my husband and I had to work out together, some of these will probably be trivial for you and I'm sure I'm missed others, but this could be a start to a bit of brainstorming. This might be over-preparing - but it could also smooth things along if you know what you want, so you can focus on helping your wife figure out what she wants and how her wants and yours now fit together. I'm a fan of erring on the side of over-communicating; YMMV.

    [snipped for length]

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    The more you can do to help your family live their faith without compromising your integrity or growing resentful, the easier this will be for everyone; after all, there was a reasonable expectation when you married that your marriage would be based in your shared love of Christ, and now you have changed in a way that makes this no longer true. It is (IMO) only fair for you to take some responsibility for easing the transition for your family (and yes, this is true of an atheist marriage where someone converts to Christianity - the converting party holds responsibility for easing the transition for their family, though I think that direction is often easier). At the same time, do NOT compromise your integrity, and do not try to give so much support to a faith you don't believe in that you end up feeling put-upon.

    Try and focus upon the valuable things you still share - love for each other, of course, but also any moral beliefs that you both hold. It might be helpful to invest some extra time into giving back to your community in ways that Christianity would support but which are also supported by a more secular understanding of morality - feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc. Basically, things that Christians seek to do and be that you also believe in. To a limited extent, you can still be Christ-like without being Christian. I know; my husband is the most Christ-like person I've ever had the honor of knowing. The more you can focus on what you still share, the more likely that things will work out. Also, be prepared to be patient. You may need to have a little "faith" that things will work out in the end, if you can keep focusing on the positive and stay open-minded and accepting of your wife - basically, be a good role-model for her :-)

    I hope your wife is reasonable, and that this ends up bringing the two of you closer in the long run. I also hope she can find a way to understand God and your atheism that allows her to see you as still being a good person, and recognizes the virtues underlying your honest atheism. As a religious person, I believe your honesty with yourself and those around you will bring you closer to God, not further, and I hope your wife can see this.

    This was all excellent. The specific problems and topics especially will be really helpful... some of them I've thought about, some not. I will definitely take this advice.

    DarkPrimus wrote: »
    I definitely see that the children being raised in a mixed-faith (for lack of better term) household might be a contentious issue. I guess the best thing to do would be to make sure that your wife understands that you don't have a problem with her or your children being religious.

    Yeah, I don't so much have a problem with them being religious, but I do have a problem with them not being allowed to decide for themselves what they believe. All I want is to be allowed to offer them the flip side of the coin. If I can do that, I can deal with pretty much anything else. But again, that in itself is going to be a huge sticking point more than likely.

  • PowerpuppiesPowerpuppies Registered User regular
    Being allowed to tell them why you don't believe in God is going to be hard to separate from being allowed to tell them why they shouldn't believe in God, both for your wife and for them.

    If you can stomach it, maybe save the "why" discussions for when they're teenagers?

    Knowing you don't believe and you're not militant about it and you're pretty much the same as you used to be is probably enough to stop any indoctrination that concerns you.

    sig.gif
  • WordLustWordLust Registered User regular
    edited October 2015
    Wow, I'm sorry I didn't see this thread sooner, as this topic is very important to me. I was raised in a very evangelical home that went to a southern pentecostal type church, and I didn't fully deconvert until my early twenties. Having gone through another ten years of my life as a person who deconverted from high religiosity (and still knows or is related to a lot of highly religious people), here are some things I've learned and/or some advice I'd give.

    1. The reflex reaction of religious people to the news that you are an atheist will be to "help" you.

    I mean, you already see it from religious folks stopping by this thread. They mean well, so no reason to be upset about or point out that it's kinda insulting (even though it kinda is). They genuinely just care and want to "help", so try to focus on their kindness. They don't know they're being rude.

    However, there is absolutely nothing "wrong" with you for deconverting. You don't need help. You don't need to be fixed. You are not broken. But every religious person will instinctively approach you this way--especially as a deconvert. A person born atheist is just an atheist, but a deconvert is, in their eyes, a "broken christian". They'll tell you to talk to your pastor. They'll send you links to heartfelt articles or bible verses to help "heal your faith" and so on. A lot of them will assume this is just a phase or a crisis that you are going through and---with the right support---you will "get over it". Underlying that assumption is often their belief (no matter what you say) that your lack of belief is not a sensible, rational judgment you made based on the available information, but rather some kind of emotional reaction. You are mad at God because X. You are frustrated because X happened and God didn't help, etc.

    For a person who still has their faith, and is working hard to maintain it, and still believes that is a worthwhile thing to do, it can be difficult to understand or accept that a person can just completely rationally choose to stop believing. It is hard for them to not see it as there being something wrong with you that needs to be "helped".

    That can feel very frustrating and patronizing to an atheist, and you don't have to tolerate it from strangers, but when it's coming from religious friends and loved ones, try to focus on the part where they CARE ABOUT YOU. So don't fall into the trap of turning it into a debate with them or a snarky joke.

    2. What you have learned is exciting and liberating, and you'll want to share it, but resist the temptation to be a debate-mongering dickhead.

    Recent deconverts fall for this all the damn time. I know that I fell for it haaaard. When you finally realize that atheism actually makes total sense, and that faith makes the opposite of sense, and you start realizing all of the implications, and more and more dots keep connecting, it's a super exciting time! It's an eye opening and liberating experience. You've been trapped in this paradigm for so long, and now that you don't have to think within that paradigm anymore, the universe is like a whole new place all of a sudden. Like, the realization that there doesn't need to be a "why" at all---that everything could JUST BE, just because, and how interesting that is, and so so much more.

    Not to mention that learning all of the arguments is sort of like someone being like, "Hey, Emperor, you're not wearing any clothes" and you look down and see that you are naked, and you are ashamed (yes, Eden jokes intended). And now that you're wearing clothes and you see all of these naked people, all you want to do all the time is run up to them and shout DON'T YOU SEE THAT YOU ARE NAKED. LOOK. LOOK. LOOOOOOK. But don't fall for it. It doesn't work. They don't see it. And your enthusiastically pointing it out to them just makes them kinda instinctively opposed to even trying to see it.

    The rules I've developed are these:

    Rule 1: Don't debate friends or loved ones one-on-one. Definitely never initiate a debate. Ever.

    Rule 2: If friends or loved ones ask you to explain some atheist thing, then you can. NICELY. (The snarky jokes at christians are soooo juicy, but seriously, don't do it. As gratifying as it may feel for you, it undermines any hope of your being persuasive and loses you a lot of good will.)

    Rule 3: It is okay to debate a stranger in a public place, but bear in mind that it is not your religious opponent you are actually talking to (you won't convince them). Treat it like a presidential debate where you are "debating" your opponent, but who you are actually talking to is the audience. (Also important not to be a dick in this context, since audiences don't like dickheads.)

    3. Don't try to persuade religious people by appealing to logic, rationality, facts, science, etc.

    It doesn't work, because they will come right out and tell you that they also value those things. Yeah, sure, they are a christian, but they are a logical one. They are rational. They have also looked at the facts. They are a christian who believes god created the universe, but they also value science. Insisting that they are not rational or logical or don't care about science just makes them annoyed or angry.

    The truth is, while your decision to deconvert and become an atheist was mostly driven by logic, rationality, facts, science, etc, it has nothing to do with why they are a christian. Think about when you were a christian. Was it because of logic, rationality, and science? You probably thought you were getting straight A's in all of those as a christian as well.

    No, the reason they are a christian and continue to be is rational, but it's rational from a different frame of reference. Rather than try to explain it here, I'm just going to link to this excellent article. It's written by a guy who hates anti-vaxxers, and then he married an anti-vaxxer, and he had to solve the problem of he and his wife having to decide whether or not to vaccinate their child. He had to solve the problem of trying to persuade his wife to see the bullshit in the anti-vaxxer movement, but he had to do it without treating her like some dumb idiot, in a way that understood and respected why she believes it. In other words, the article is tecnically about being married to an anti-vaxxer, but I think you will find the similarities ALL TOO FAMILIAR. ;-)

    http://www.vox.com/2015/9/4/9252489/anti-vaxx-wife

    *edit*

    Almost forgot:

    4. Atheism is a GOOD thing.

    Atheism is not a bad thing. It is not a thing to be ashamed of. You are not a christian who got broken. Atheism is also not synonymous with negativity and nihilism. Contrary to what the average debate-mongering atheist dickhead on the internet would make people believe, most of the atheists I know keep it to themselves and are happy, upbeat, charitable people with strong morals and healthy values.

    Cuz here's the thing: The bible and Jesus say a lot of good things about morals and charity and being a good person. But you can do all of those things just because you're a good person. You don't have to do it because Jesus/God/whoever said so. You don't have to do it for reward or fear of punishment. You don't have to do it to "level up" as a christian. You can do it just because you are a good person. A good person who, as it happens, doesn't believe in the christian god.

    There is plenty that's positive about atheism, and you'll see it more and more as you go.

    5. Atheism is not a religion

    Don't let people say this. It's usually said by religious people or people who are not super religious but are afraid of being atheist. This essentially boils down to, "Whatever you just accused religion of, well atheist is a religion, too, so you too!"

    But no. Atheism is not a religion. THAT'S THE WHOLE REASON YOU DECONVERTED.

    See also: "You just have faith in atheism/science. It's not different than religious faith." Yes, it is. Don't let them get away with that shit either.

    But I triple underscore that atheism is a good thing. It's just difficult for people to comprehend that because it's not an ideology and people are always trying to attach you to an ideology. Like, if you don't have this ideology then you must have ANOTHER one, so atheism must therefore be one (it isn't). They will try to characterize it like a religion/ideology so that they can knock it down, but it's just not. "Atheism" is in the same category as "non-smokers". It's good to be an atheist, just like it's good to be a non-smoker, but neither of those things are ideologies. They just refer to a group of people who abstain from doing a thing that feels good but is harmful. Period.

    WordLust on
    NoMoreDelusionsRhesus PositiveDarkPrimusLovelyAngelinaDonovan PuppyfuckerJean Claude Van CalmInvectivusKristmas KthulhufurlionRhan9AegeriConnJacques L'HommeThegreatcowOrthanc
  • McVikingMcViking Registered User regular
    I can't help but chime in on this thread. I was raised fundamentalist evangelical Christian for 17 years and also made the split to Atheism, and it ruined my relationship with my family in ways over which I had little control. I think some of the folks in the thread raising concerns about moral compasses and mutual respect and such don't really get what the fundamentalist evangelical thing is all about. Specifically, a couple of things about which fundamentalists are fundamental -- i.e., they are indisputable truths and aren't things on which you compromise:
    1. Your duty to God is more important than your duty to anything else, including your family.
    2. You are saved by faith in Christ alone, and non-Christians go to hell, forever.
    3. Your duty as an evangelical is to convert the unsaved, most especially those people you see every day.

    As far as my family is concerned, I am a non-Christian, and therefore I am going to hell, forever. They realize and recognize that I'm a good person. That's less important than you might think. They would of course say that they still love me. But the fact that I'm going to hell forever is unbearable to them (precisely because they love me), and bringing me back to God is the single most important thing to them in this world. Because if they fail at that, and I die, I go to hell forever. And if the constant attempts at conversion ruin their relationship with me, that's worth it to them, because of point #1 above. There's no 'agree to disagree', because it's not a difference of opinion on politics or sports teams. That's kind of the essence of fundamentalism. There's nowhere for me to meet them halfway. It's hell or not-hell, and I've chosen hell.

    That said, it may be that your wife turns out not to be as fundamentalist as she thinks. If you guys are in a Southern Baptist church because you were raised Southern Baptist, it's possible that she's asked herself the same questions that you have, and has also been afraid to say it out loud. It could be that she finds out that her duty to her family actually is more important to her than her duty to God and the church. Since you haven't talked to her about it yet, you don't know and you may get surprised. It's possible that she'll be relieved to find that you think some of the fundamentalist church stuff is Crazyville, and be glad to embrace something more moderate.

    Or it may be that she gets there eventually through time and marriage counselling, and that your questions prompt her to ask some of her own. If I were you, I would be prepared to go that route. If your wife really is committed to the evangelical thing, she'll probably want that counselling to happen through the church. (She'll almost certainly seek her own counsel through the church, too.) You'll probably want a secular marriage counsellor. You may be able to win by splitting the difference and finding a Christian counsellor who is non-denominational and non-fundamental. Mixed-religion marriages work all the time, but only when there can be mutual respect for belief. Fundamentalism, as a defining trait, can't have that.

    Good luck. It's a hard thing you're doing.

    WordLustSiskaNoMoreDelusionsmysticjuicerAJRKristmas KthulhuJediabiwanThegreatcowSmrtnik
  • NoMoreDelusionsNoMoreDelusions Registered User regular
    WordLust wrote: »
    Wow, I'm sorry I didn't see this thread sooner, as this topic is very important to me. I was raised in a very evangelical home that went to a southern pentecostal type church, and I didn't fully deconvert until my early twenties. Having gone through another ten years of my life as a person who deconverted from high religiosity (and still knows or is related to a lot of highly religious people), here are some things I've learned and/or some advice I'd give.

    [a ton of really good stuff]

    This was really great, and lots of practical advice I can actually use (particularly the "rules" for discussing it with people). You've certainly echoed many of the sentiments I've come to accept, but it's good to hear them from someone else that's been through it. Applying all of this may not be so easy, but I'll do my best.

    McViking wrote: »
    1. Your duty to God is more important than your duty to anything else, including your family.
    2. You are saved by faith in Christ alone, and non-Christians go to hell, forever.
    3. Your duty as an evangelical is to convert the unsaved, most especially those people you see every day.

    As far as my family is concerned, I am a non-Christian, and therefore I am going to hell, forever. They realize and recognize that I'm a good person. That's less important than you might think. They would of course say that they still love me. But the fact that I'm going to hell forever is unbearable to them (precisely because they love me), and bringing me back to God is the single most important thing to them in this world. Because if they fail at that, and I die, I go to hell forever. And if the constant attempts at conversion ruin their relationship with me, that's worth it to them, because of point #1 above. There's no 'agree to disagree', because it's not a difference of opinion on politics or sports teams. That's kind of the essence of fundamentalism. There's nowhere for me to meet them halfway. It's hell or not-hell, and I've chosen hell.

    This is what I'm most worried about. Both from my wife, and from my family and friends at large. Which is a whole other issue of course. Telling my wife and kids are only the first step... telling everyone else is not going to be fun either. I hope you're right though, that maybe she'll be more open and accepting of it than I think and will surprise me. I don't think it'll happen that way, but I'm hopeful.

    I mainly am just struggling on when to do it. I know there's never a good time for something like this, and I've been putting it off for some time now. I feel like I need to do it very soon, because I don't want to wait until we're close to the holidays and ruin them. At least right now we're still some ways out and everyone can have some time to process things before then. It's just nerve-racking. I am terrified of what the fallout from this might be.

  • 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
    edited October 2015
    You have something important to tell them. So, tell them. You've likely thought about it enough at this point that you know approximately what you want to say, and unless you're okay with lying over the long term or think you might change your mind, it's really better to just get it out there. If you aren't 100% sure that telling them is the best thing that's a different story, but if you are then don't wait.

    Don't worry too much about Christmas.. not because it probably won't suck, but because if the holidays are going to be a huge issue then the end of October is already too late, with Thanksgiving coming up. You may have missed that train.

    Maybe aim for a Sunday afternoon, a few hours after church? To quote Lisa Simpson, "it's the longest possible time before more church!"

    edit: Sorry if that sounds a bit flippant. I tend to believe that, with a very few exceptions mainly involving birth, death, or severe illness, if you have something that is so important to who you are that you don't feel right about hiding it over the long term, you shouldn't hide it at all. To me, the "when" is just about always "now". If you think you might somehow lose your family, you absolutely should not say anything until you're pretty sure you can handle that, but if you are to the point where this is already bigger than that then you should tell them as soon as you can.

    Also, the Lisa Simpson thing.

    ceres on
    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
    The EnderNoMoreDelusionsElvenshae
  • The EnderThe Ender Registered User regular
    Yup; just tell your SO. Tomorrow night's as good a night as any, in my opinion. Trust that your relationship & her love for you goes far beyond a common religious experience.


    (And honestly, your kids are going to believe whatever they believe. I don't doubt what others have said about your wife likely having concerns over the matter, but the reality is that your kids are going to grow-up and believe whatever happens to float their boat. Phelps had an atheist son, Hitchens had a Quaker daughter. Don't fret too much about how your personal religious identity is going to impact them).

    With Love and Courage
  • WordLustWordLust Registered User regular
    Maybe a good way to approach it that might help a little bit is to keep some concessions you might be willing to make in mind. Christianity can be viewed as a package of a bunch of different beliefs and values that are lumped together as one big thing, so possibly when you say you're no longer a christian, it could help to clarify exactly what that does and does not mean. Like maybe being able to break it down something like:

    Christian ideas I definitely do not believe anymore:
    • The christian god is real
    • Angels, demons, the devil, hell, etc are real
    • It is good/virtuous to have faith

    Christian ideas I still believe (without any reference to god):
    • Many (but not all) of the moral lessons, e.g.:
    • Don't steal
    • Don't lie
    • Don't be an adulturer
    • Don't covet
    • The golden rule
    • Be charitable to the sick, weak, poor, etc
    • Be humble

    Maybe some of that seems kind of obvious to you, and it's hard to say how much it will help, but being able to give her some concessions could help. That way you're giving her something---that you still have beliefs that overlap with christianity just fine. It's just the faith/god part that you lost. A lot of important stuff is still there as much as ever.

    Also, I feel like atheism kinda puts christians on the defensive, because atheism essentially amounts to telling christians no, no, no, wrong, wrong, wrong. And they---believe it or not---do not care for that very much. Atheism isn't an ideology, so you can't exactly talk about the tenants of atheism with her, but is there anything else positive you can bring up? For example, a lot of atheists tend to gravitate toward secular humanism. In short, being able to concede some of her beliefs by pointing to some overlaps you still have could help. And being able to point to a positive you've found (embracing secular humanism = positive) could feel better than just focusing on the negative (not christianity = negative).

    A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down?

    Zilla360
  • JasconiusJasconius sword criminal mad onlineRegistered User regular
    a couple of basic thoughts... anecdotally I've seen this happen before in my extended family and it consistently ends in either divorce or a lot of strife

    the big X factor here is family. hyper religious people tend to have close knit hyper religious families and when they catch word that their baby girl is married to the devil now, they will get in her ear and massively inflame the situation. I've seen some people posting here saying that it CAN work, but there are many different flavors of religiosity and what it means to families. I'm positing a most serious situation here, literal bible truth types.

    my recommendation... you want to work this out with with your wife 100% and completely before family gets involved. However you can do that, it's worth trying. If she's a serious believer then she's going to take it hard and look for support, and rarely does that support offer up "you know what, maybe it's not so bad"

    Also it helps if you are beyond reproach as far as your own personal conduct is concerned. I've been close to many religious people who are actually pretty venomous toward "atheists" as a group, but when they find out I don't go to church, no harm no foul, because they view me as captain america or something. The kind of people who are so deeply religious that they would categorically reject someone who didn't accept their faith are often much more behavior and personality focused than they are about the specifics of their religion.

    Geth
  • McVikingMcViking Registered User regular
    A quick note about support systems: you need to have one. Based on what you've said, I get the impression that you don't have many (if any) friends or family outside the church. Which may mean that literally every person you trust is about to tell you that you're making the biggest mistake that a human can make. At best, they'll get together and pray for you and try to bring you back. At worst, they'll cut you off. Either way, that's going to feel incredibly isolating. It sent me into a skid of depression that lasted for years, because there wasn't a single person to say, "You know what? You're not crazy." You need that person.

    If you do have friends or family outside the church, you need those friends now. If you don't (or even if you do), I would seriously recommend visiting a therapist every month or so for a while. Not because you're crazy (you aren't), but because you need an objective outside perspective to remind you that you aren't. When you're in the process of completely rebuilding your own worldview, and when everyone around you is pushing you back with all their might, that outside perspective may be your only light in a dark place for a while. Don't try to do it alone. And Internet message boards are a help, but will only get you so far.

    CelestialBadgerNoMoreDelusionsPAX_SkeletorOrthanc
  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    I think there are more atheists in churches than are commonly supposed. Wives or husbands keeping the peace with their believing spouses. Grandsons taking Grandma to church. People who have lost faith but enjoy ritual or the social life. You don't have to leave your whole social circle just because you no longer believe. Even devout people have occasional periods when they don't believe. A good church will not throw you out simply because you have become an atheist. You don't even necessarily have to tell everybody, just close friends. Mrs Busybody who does the flowers does not need to know!

    davidsdurionsSiskaceresZilla360
  • WordLustWordLust Registered User regular
    edited October 2015
    I think there are more atheists in churches than are commonly supposed.

    This is most definitely true. I believe Dan Dennett's theory that most Christians don't actually, literally believe in God and Hell (you can tell by the disparity between how much they say they believe it and how little they actually appear to fear it) but instead they just believe that believing in those things is the right and moral and virtuous thing to do. Conversely, not believing in those things is morally questionable and shameful thing to do. It's more about community and being a good kind of person than anything.

    WordLust on
  • RecluseRecluse No place special Registered User regular
    edited October 2015
    So yeah, this is an Alt, for reasons that will be quickly become obvious.

    I have come to the realization that I am an Atheist. This may not seem like a big deal to some people, but it is a big deal to me. A huge, life-altering, paradigm-changing deal. I was raised Southern Baptist, and participated (and more, actually believed!) in the theology taught in the church. My entire family Is religious. My wife and I have been quite faithful to the church for all the years we've been married, and we've raised our children the same way.

    But over the last couple years, things have changed. It started when we felt our oldest was old enough to begin understanding what it meant to be saved (I'm going to be purposefully vague on gender here). As good Christian parents, we were concerned for our child's soul. We asked the very serious question... if they didn't accept Jesus and died that day, would they go to hell? This seems silly for people who didn't grow up in the church, but it was more serious than life or death to us at the time. This concerned their immortal soul. So naturally we did what we believed we should as good parents and led our child to salvation. All was well.

    Except that the question began to nag at me, somehow for the first time in my life. Would God really allow our child to go to hell if they died before being saved? What if it were only one day before? Supposedly Jeffrey Dalmer accepted Christ in prison before he died. So I'm supposed to believe that he gets to spend an eternity in heavenly bliss, while my innocent child suffered for all eternity? And the only answer I found was... yes, that is exactly what I was supposed to accept.

    It left a bitter taste in my mouth. I didn't say anything to my wife, because I assumed I was just missing something and needed to research and pray about it more. So I did. I started reading more theology, studying the bible more intently, and at the same time expanding my horizons to more secular authors like Hitchens and Dawkins to make sure I was getting the whole story. And I prayed. Constantly I prayed. And the more I studied, and the more I prayed, the more I realized that I was studying about and praying to a God who wasn't there. I moved from skepticism to deism to agnosticism, slowly over the last couple of years, and finally this year I've accepted that I am fully in the Atheist camp. And though my new world view keeps me open to more ideas than I ever was before, I doubt my views on God or Religion will ever regress again.

    So now I have a problem. My wife and children and family have no idea. I still go to church, still pray before meals, still give the impression that I'm a good Christian husband and father. But I can't do it any more. I can't keep lying to the ones I love most and pretending to be someone I'm not. It's killing me inside.

    But I'm also scared to death. I know I have to tell my wife first and foremost, but I'm terrified of how she'll react. I still love her, and I want to be married to her. But her faith is such a huge deal, I'm afraid that this is big enough to tear our marriage apart. And it will be my fault. After all, I'm the one who has changed, not her. I broke the contract, so to speak. I never intended to, but it happened, and I can't go back. How will we function? How will we raise the kids? Will our marriage turn into nothing but a string of uncomfortable silences and arguments, or worse, will she simply leave me altogether and take our children with her? I know that seems extreme, but for anyone who has been in a fundamentalist faith, you know... these aren't unfounded fears.

    My question is, has anyone else ever been through anything like this? If so, how did you handle it? How did you "come out of the closet" so to speak, and what happened afterward? I'm just looking for some advice on how to go about this. I feel like I have to tell her soon, probably within the next week or two. If anyone can provide some advice on how to handle it, or just encouragement that it turned out okay for you, it would be most welcome.

    TL;DR... I've recently become an atheist and my wife doesn't know. How do I tell her?

    It's understandable you care for your family and your kids, but to be honest, I'd find it quite hurtful if my significant other found my entire world view and way of thinking irrational or backward; and just pretended to support it for fear of splitting up. This isn't some kid in a Halloween costume, acting out some fantasy, it's your wife trying to live her life with you.
    You can't just play along like that. You owe them honesty, they're your family. It is an incredibly selfish and cruel thing to hide something like that. You need to be straight forward, not mean spirited or malicious, but make it clear what you think.
    I hope you can keep it together man, as someone who grew up without a dad, I'm still dealing with lessons and things I missed out on.

    Just to be clear, I'm not bashing you personally. I'm the opposite of you, someone who grew up with no structure, was abused and an atheist in my teens, until I got over myself and stopped looking at my life as the end all be all story of the universe. My suffering is irrelevant to the question of deity. I look at the idea of a clawless, fangless, pinkish-worm monkey, living on a dirtball that pulls 280KM per second through the galaxy, screaming at the cosmos that there's no greater intelligence than he as being infantile and pretentious. Same with whining "but that's not fair!!!" every time little Billy idiot falls down a well, or some Asian girl who probably prayed to a water-buffalo and would have been sold into prostitution or some other miserable third world way of living, gets washed out to sea by a tsunami. Everybody is awful, everybody is flawed.
    I think people make the mistake of thinking salvation is earned, Martin Luther kind of nailed it(figuratively and literally if you know history)it's only by grace you can be saved. The bible isn't a collection of feel good stories where everyone ends up well off, the world isn't like that either. The one thing that drew me toward non-denominational Christianity, is that there is no inward enlightenment, there is no praying to a particular direction, meditating or lifting your rear and putting your head to the ground. People are all inherently evil and hell worthy, no amount of deeds can make up for that. We all have selfish whims and desires, we all in a certain moment are capable of really awful things. That's also why I view secular humanism as a joke. Our humanity isn't in our empathy and good will, it's in our partiality and selfishness.

    I know a lot of people look at eastern spiritualism and see wisdom, I look at someone like Buddha and see an emotional cripple. I had a break down of my own after high school, I lied to my family, watched my health go down the toilet and even a couple of my teeth I'm sorry to say. The thing that occurs to me, the more we draw inward, the more introverted we become, the more we lie to ourselves. In Buddha's case, he was isolated from the outside world, then his mother kicked. The one constant strong point/rock he had, died. So what did he do? He withdrew from it all. He started a religion that holds the highest form of enlightenment as being nothingness. That is to say, the highest form of enlightenment he could think of, was to be a rind on a compost heap, eaten by bacteria. He told his followers to avoid attachment, because he himself could never handle it. I believe it is in our encounters with what is outside of ourselves, that enlightenment lies. Feelings are inescapable, but they alone are not reliable sources of truth.

    Sorry if I wrote entirely too much. Just have a lot of thoughts on the topic...

    Recluse on
  • MelksterMelkster Registered User regular
    So, can I just say that I really applaud you for wanting to be an honest and good person here? This is such a hard, hard situation. I really feel for you and really admire you.

    I think you're doing the right thing by wanting to come out to your wife in a reasonable, calm way. It's clear that this dishonesty is eating you up inside. If you let it go on, unresolved, for too long, it could blow up in a really bad way. You're doing the right thing by being honest, before that happens.

    I started to type so much more, but I'm at work and have to get back to it. Let me just state that, I've been in a similiar situation. I feel you, man. I know how hard this is; it sucks; and I really admire your courage.

    mellestad
  • mellestadmellestad Registered User regular
    Oh, man. Chopper and WordLust have brilliant advice and I don't have much to offer past that, except for solidarity. The thing I would stress the most is the issues with debating family--don't.

    There are some good websites you can go to and debate people to your hearts content, just be careful or it leaks out. I turned apostate maybe twelve years ago and the first three or four I was pretty riled up about it...I'm mellow now, but that passion is dangerous to real relationships. It's hard not to pick fights when things seem so clear to you.

    There's nothing wrong with being a cultural Christian though. Even after you lose your faith you're still a being that was built up in that environment and it will stick with you whether you want it to or not--that's not a bad thing. Even though the basic premise is flawed, Christianity gets a lot right and you can learn to celebrate that.

    I was lucky and my wife deconverted not long after I met her. I'm very open to my children about what I believe, but I try *very* hard not to tell them what they *should* believe. I'd rather they were religious by choice than brainwashed into atheism.

    I still haven't told most of my family--I don't honestly see any benefit to it and it would only cause harm. I'm sure some know or suspect, just because of my children (kids don't keep secrets), but if your wife doesn't force you to out yourself there's no compelling reason in my mind to tell the rest of your family. I'd ask her to keep it to herself for a week or something and think about it.

    Good luck--let us know how it goes.

  • 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
    Recluse wrote: »
    So yeah, this is an Alt, for reasons that will be quickly become obvious.

    I have come to the realization that I am an Atheist. This may not seem like a big deal to some people, but it is a big deal to me. A huge, life-altering, paradigm-changing deal. I was raised Southern Baptist, and participated (and more, actually believed!) in the theology taught in the church. My entire family Is religious. My wife and I have been quite faithful to the church for all the years we've been married, and we've raised our children the same way.

    But over the last couple years, things have changed. It started when we felt our oldest was old enough to begin understanding what it meant to be saved (I'm going to be purposefully vague on gender here). As good Christian parents, we were concerned for our child's soul. We asked the very serious question... if they didn't accept Jesus and died that day, would they go to hell? This seems silly for people who didn't grow up in the church, but it was more serious than life or death to us at the time. This concerned their immortal soul. So naturally we did what we believed we should as good parents and led our child to salvation. All was well.

    Except that the question began to nag at me, somehow for the first time in my life. Would God really allow our child to go to hell if they died before being saved? What if it were only one day before? Supposedly Jeffrey Dalmer accepted Christ in prison before he died. So I'm supposed to believe that he gets to spend an eternity in heavenly bliss, while my innocent child suffered for all eternity? And the only answer I found was... yes, that is exactly what I was supposed to accept.

    It left a bitter taste in my mouth. I didn't say anything to my wife, because I assumed I was just missing something and needed to research and pray about it more. So I did. I started reading more theology, studying the bible more intently, and at the same time expanding my horizons to more secular authors like Hitchens and Dawkins to make sure I was getting the whole story. And I prayed. Constantly I prayed. And the more I studied, and the more I prayed, the more I realized that I was studying about and praying to a God who wasn't there. I moved from skepticism to deism to agnosticism, slowly over the last couple of years, and finally this year I've accepted that I am fully in the Atheist camp. And though my new world view keeps me open to more ideas than I ever was before, I doubt my views on God or Religion will ever regress again.

    So now I have a problem. My wife and children and family have no idea. I still go to church, still pray before meals, still give the impression that I'm a good Christian husband and father. But I can't do it any more. I can't keep lying to the ones I love most and pretending to be someone I'm not. It's killing me inside.

    But I'm also scared to death. I know I have to tell my wife first and foremost, but I'm terrified of how she'll react. I still love her, and I want to be married to her. But her faith is such a huge deal, I'm afraid that this is big enough to tear our marriage apart. And it will be my fault. After all, I'm the one who has changed, not her. I broke the contract, so to speak. I never intended to, but it happened, and I can't go back. How will we function? How will we raise the kids? Will our marriage turn into nothing but a string of uncomfortable silences and arguments, or worse, will she simply leave me altogether and take our children with her? I know that seems extreme, but for anyone who has been in a fundamentalist faith, you know... these aren't unfounded fears.

    My question is, has anyone else ever been through anything like this? If so, how did you handle it? How did you "come out of the closet" so to speak, and what happened afterward? I'm just looking for some advice on how to go about this. I feel like I have to tell her soon, probably within the next week or two. If anyone can provide some advice on how to handle it, or just encouragement that it turned out okay for you, it would be most welcome.

    TL;DR... I've recently become an atheist and my wife doesn't know. How do I tell her?

    It's understandable you care for your family and your kids, but to be honest, I'd find it quite hurtful if my significant other found my entire world view and way of thinking irrational or backward; and just pretended to support it for fear of splitting up. This isn't some kid in a Halloween costume, acting out some fantasy, it's your wife trying to live her life with you.
    You can't just play along like that. You owe them honesty, they're your family. It is an incredibly selfish and cruel thing to hide something like that. You need to be straight forward, not mean spirited or malicious, but make it clear what you think.
    I hope you can keep it together man, as someone who grew up without a dad, I'm still dealing with lessons and things I missed out on.

    You should have stopped here, and even this has a poor and accusatory tone. The thread is not about your view on various world religions or even religion in general, it's about how the OP should handle telling his wife and family. This much of your post is a sub-mediocre response at best, and the rest is superfluous and at times incredibly offensive. Please do not post like this in H/A.

    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
    SiskaZxerolIlpalaChopperDaveEncNightDragonDr_KeenbeanKetarDonovan PuppyfuckerOrthanc
  • Grunt's GhostsGrunt's Ghosts Registered User regular

    Except that the question began to nag at me, somehow for the first time in my life. Would God really allow our child to go to hell if they died before being saved? What if it were only one day before? Supposedly Jeffrey Dalmer accepted Christ in prison before he died. So I'm supposed to believe that he gets to spend an eternity in heavenly bliss, while my innocent child suffered for all eternity? And the only answer I found was... yes, that is exactly what I was supposed to accept.

    I am a Christian, but I haven't claimed a church in years. I left the Catholic church in high school because I stopped believing in Confession. I was taught that I could tell the priest my sins and that was it. They were gone. I remember telling about the Pokémon cards I stole in the 3rd grade, the time I kissed a girl in the 5th, how I thought that having a gay best friend would send me to hell (for the record, it won't), but it was when I was 15-16, when I started having sex that stuff changed. I knew premarital sex was a sin, but I liked it. I confessed like I should and it dawn on me that I hadn't really done anything. Not an hour later I'm back in bed with my girlfriend and I didn't care. Confession would erase it all. Soon I had lied to myself that it wasn't really that sinful and stopped confessing at all. It was years later when I was locked up for selling drugs that I kinda got why Confession didn't work. I did the song and dance but I never repented for my sins. I confessed because someone told me that some Big Brother Guy In The Sky would rain Brimstone and Lighting on me if I sinned. But I stopped believing the sin. So when you hear people say "Murders Go To Heaven" I ask "Did the repent?" Not just say they did because death and hell was the only next step for them but because they truely saw what they did as wrong and they wanted to make it right, not just in their souls but in the world. Honestly, I can't anwser that. That's between God and that person. But I do believe that most "saved" death row inmates and church goers aren't saved. The do the song and dance and speak in tongues but never truely know Christ and God.

    I believe that we can only save one soul in our lives, ours. We can only make one personal relationship with God, ours. We can show others the path of God and Christianity, but we can't make them walk it. And honestly, I don't believe that a child who can't understand consequences beyond time out goes to hell. Hell, I don't believe you have to be a Christian to reach heaven. Just seek to be a better person. Seek to right your wrongs, try to be a good influence in ours' lives and don't be selfish. Truly seek repentance, truly seek to bless others. So many Christians believe that going to church on Sunday makes you a Christian. That praying will give you a big reward in heaven. I believe we shouldn't seek rewards in heaven but reward others to make life here heavenly. Maybe I'm not the best Christian in the eyes of the churches or others I know, but I believe I'm the best me that I'll ever be and that's what my God wants from me.

    As far as telling your wife your faith is gone, tell her. If she loves you, truly loves you, then she'll stay. She'll seek to help you gain your faith as Christians do and pray for you everyday, but she can't change your faith. Only you can. Only you can find your own relationship with God or choose not to have one. Either way, be a good man, a good father, and a good husband. That's more important to teach your kids than how to be a Christian in others' eyes.

    destroyah87
  • Fuzzy Cumulonimbus CloudFuzzy Cumulonimbus Cloud friend pelican soft and relaxing mouthRegistered User regular
    If you still want community, I would recommend the Unitarian Universalists.
    Very accepting church that is chock full of non-believers of all types. May be a nice compromise for you and your family.

    pelcan Mouth perfect size for put poster in to n\ap! inside poster sleep soundly put poster in Pelicn Mouth no problems because good Support for poster neck weak of big poster head
    Zilla360JebusUDLord Palington
  • Yes, and...Yes, and... Registered User regular
    This is a tough situation, and I applaud you for being so thoughtful and for seeking advice. I'm going to highlight one part of your OP, because I think it really captures the crux of the issue.
    But I'm also scared to death. I know I have to tell my wife first and foremost, but I'm terrified of how she'll react. I still love her, and I want to be married to her. But her faith is such a huge deal, I'm afraid that this is big enough to tear our marriage apart. And it will be my fault. After all, I'm the one who has changed, not her. I broke the contract, so to speak. I never intended to, but it happened, and I can't go back. How will we function? How will we raise the kids? Will our marriage turn into nothing but a string of uncomfortable silences and arguments, or worse, will she simply leave me altogether and take our children with her? I know that seems extreme, but for anyone who has been in a fundamentalist faith, you know... these aren't unfounded fears.

    You don't know how your wife will react, and you can't control how she will react. That is understandably terrifying. One thing to consider is that you can control how you present this change to your wife, and presentation absolutely matters. The discussion here so far seems to be running with the idea that you will go to her with some message that you now believe that there is no god.

    What if you take a different approach?

    What if, instead of presenting the message "I'm atheist now, get used to the new me", you presented it as "I'm having a crisis of faith"?

    If that idea makes you recoil to a certain extent, I understand. It may well feel like a lie, and, if we focus on what your truth is, then it is kind of a lie. The way you've described things--the narrative you're committed to--is that you had a crisis of faith. But that crisis is resolved now; you no longer have any faith. That is your truth*.

    And what about your wife's truth?

    What you probably want is, in the end, for your truth and your wife's truth to line up. You want her to be able to recognize that you are atheist now. This may be hard to bring about quickly.

    Think about it.

    You did not arrive at your truth right away. You had a crisis of faith. You went on a spiritual journey of a sort. You asked questions, did your research, considered your experiences, and came to a decision. While you were searching for your truth, you were distancing yourself from your wife's truth. And all of this without her knowledge. That is not a criticism; yours was a personal journey, and you had every right and all kinds of good reasons to keep it personal and private. That said, even the right decision made for the right reason can still have consequences that will be difficult to deal with. What I'm getting from you is that, right now, there is a large distance between you and your wife that only you know is there. You created that distance, and you created that distance over time.

    And you want to close that distance.

    It took time to create the distance. It will take time to close the distance. It took effort on your part to create the distance. It will take effort on your wife's part to close the distance. The terror of this situation is that you don't know--you can't know--if your wife will commit to taking that time and making that effort.

    What can you do?

    Focus on your wife's truth. Recognize that her worldview means that the most charitable gloss she can give your atheism right now is a crisis of faith. Make it easy for her to give it that gloss. And then, over time, let her experience the path you took, even if it means reliving a certain measure of it yourself. She may not follow that path herself and join you in disbelief but she will at least find you there, and the gap will not seem so large.

    All the while, you can still live your truth, because your truth is about your beliefs, and you do not need to change those. All you have to do is present them in a way that allows your wife to make sense of them, and that doesn't force her to confront at once all of the questions that you took years to grapple with.

    Just something to think about.

    _______________________________
    * Probably. I am assuming. I don't know you, and I certainly don't have privileged access to your mind. If I got that wrong, then feel free to disregard.

  • WordLustWordLust Registered User regular
    edited October 2015
    I don't know if I agree with that one. I feel like if you are an atheist and you play it to your spouse that you are just having a crisis of faith, then that is a lie. I mean, if his experience was anything like mine, then he has probably already told enough uncomfortable lies on the journey to where he is now. When you first start losing your faith, and you can FEEL that you don't believe anymore, but you are really worried about your relationships with your family and friends, then you WANT to say something to be honest, but you DON'T want to say anything because you're worried what will happen. So you end up in prayer circles with your head bowed and your eyes closed, and everyone is praying it and meaning it, and all you can think about is how weird it feels, because you know it doesn't mean anything, and you're pretending to them like it does.

    Honestly, what it kind of feels like is being in a relationship where you're not sure if you love the person anymore. You want to be honest, but you're not sure yet, so you don't want to bring it up until you're sure. By the time you DO bring it up, you've already made your decision, but you've just been waiting for the "right time" (there is no right time).

    So, yeah, he's gone on this journey of losing faith, but it's perfectly understandable that he wouldn't say anything that whole time. It's not a journey you really plan to go on, so you can't really announce it. It's a journey that you don't fully understand until it's already over.

    I've also never been a huge fan of the phrasing "my truth" and "your truth", as it implies that everything is perception and that there is no actual truth/reality.

    TLDR: Apostates are usually plenty tired of pretending to be more religious than they actually are. I don't think it's good advice (for his sanity, if anything) to pretend to be only in a crisis of faith.

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  • Dr_KeenbeanDr_Keenbean Dumb as a butt Planet Express ShipRegistered User regular
    I don't think the 'crisis of faith' route is a good one. It give a false hope and it's just a lie. Also, the most likely reaction is going to be to 'save' you and to help you find your faith again which it seems is not something you are interested in.

    I was lucky when I realized I was an atheist. That it happened to me while attending Catholic school wasn't super great, but it wasn't near the level you're on. I hope that the life you and your wife have shared will maintain enough momentum for her to work with you through this.

    The only actual advice I can give is to not make the mistake that I (and I'm sure many) new atheists do and be an insufferable tool about how you've figured things out. I was the worst. It was exactly as bad as people that insist on shoving their faiths down other people's throats. Don't do that. And certainly don't do that to your wife when you open up to her about this!

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