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How To Forestall God-talk?


R. S. Martin
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Any ideas? Someone here suggested I'd be wise not to talk about religion with my family because of how much it riles me up. I think that is good advice. But how to stop it before it starts? They always start it. And then they end it on a self-righteous note of "Okay, it looks like we will never agree. Might as well end this conversation." Once again it ended with me screaming in the phone and hanging up before the other person.

 

There's just no winning. If I refuse to talk when they start it, they will know it's my guilty conscience. If I ask them for evidence of God's existence, because they insist the evidence abounds, they give answers that beg the question so I challenge their answers. And then we start going in circles.

 

Today I was told it's wrong to challenge God. Okay, I point out that she can handle a challenge. So if God is as big and strong as she claims, then surely God can handle challenges too. She did not accept that. She insisted something about how careful we have to go about challenging God. But she cannot/will not give any intelligible reason.

 

I pretty well knew that god-talk was coming on and I wished--oh how I wished--I know how to stop it before it starts.

 

She raised an issue from the past. She tried proving that I don't want my faith challenged either. 1. What faith do I profess that I don't want challenged? 2. What gives you the impression I have a problem with you challenging my faith?

 

She said I keep talking about getting closer and closer to the truth and having peace. I wanted to know WHAT I said that I claim I have a religion or faith. She indicated that this thing about coming closer and closer to truth is what she means. I said that isn't faith--it's experience.

 

She also confessed to being unable to answer my questions and told me if she could ask me the kinds of questions I'm asking her I couldn't answer them, either. I told her I sure could answer them.

 

She kept harping on the fact that I can't explain how the world came into being and who reigns over it so majectically. I kept telling her that if she wants information I can tell her what books to read but I don't have a science brain so I cannot answer her questions. At long last she told me she doesn't want to read those books.

 

To make a long story short, she kept going in circles and circumventing questions. It was absolutely clear that she was resolved not to hear any other ideas except what she was parroting from church and the Bible. I asked her how she knows the Bible is true? She said that is challenging God and it's wrong challenging God.

 

She had called to let me know when family gathering is going to be. But she kept hanging on as though she wanted to say more. Then she said I had asked a few questions some time ago that she could not answer at the time. That was how she brought up the religion subject. Finally she said something about not talking religion with me. I said, "I don't know why you people keep trying to talk religion with me." Well, she had her excuse of wanting to answer my question.

 

STUPID!!!!

 

She knows I was Old Order Mennonite for forty years. Yet she has this weird idea that she can tell me something from the Bible and sermons I don't know????

 

Okay I'm venting and ranting all rolled together into one. HOW DOES ONE FORESTALL SUCH CRAZY GOD-TALK?

 

She repeated that I was welcome to the family gathering. It's at her place. Her welcome sounded a bit stunted. She said perhaps we can find something to talk about. She did not sound very sure.

 

She keeps harping that I did not read that one letter she and her housemate (another sister) wrote last fall. Can't they ever get over anything? Makes me want to not have anything to do with them after such horrible treatment. But there are other family members who might treat me better.

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What's more, she tried to force me to confess that I was not happy, did not have peace, or I would not have been afraid to open a letter that I knew would contradict me.

 

I told her I have no problem whatsoever with other religions. But putting oneself in the path of a truck is just plain stupid. I told her that I have never been treated fair by her and housemate. I guess she doesn't believe it. It feels like a hopeless case.

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I've found 'SHUT! THE! FUCK! UP!' works reasonably well... also 'GET OFF MY BLOODY LAND, YOU ZEALOT!'.... fondling a knife while asking quietly 'So, your god protects you from evil?'

 

As to relatives... tricky subject. TBH, let em believe what they want... tell em, 'If it stops you shooting up shopping malls, sexually abusing children and taking drugs, I agree it works for you...' and let 'em think what the hell they want about you.

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That is sad that by simply asking questions you are attacked for "challenging God". There is no real conscious thought in her head about religion, is there? It is all programmed from birth.

 

I am glad I never had someone that gungho about talking religion with me in my family. My family perfered talking behind each other's backs. That is the way real families communicate. LOL

 

You are trying not to come to the obvious, though painful conclusion, that your mother is more harmful to you than helpful, and that ending the relationship may bring you more peace than holding on because of your belief that you have to be in contact with her because she is your mother. You are not the child that she is treating you as. Stop playing her game. protecting her feelings by not hanging up does not do your feelings any good.

 

To continue to let her abuse you this way is immoral to yourself.

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Rob and Harley, thanks for your support. I guess both of you are fairly new on exC and I need to clarify. The "she" I was talking about in the opening post is not my mother. Mom passed away just over a month ago. That seems to have upset family dynamics and no one knows for sure who they are now that mom is not here anymore for people to revolve around. I am talking about a little sister. There's a whole batch of sisters and brothers who are younger than me. I'm the oldest of eleven.

 

This little sister is well over forty years old and I accused her for not thinking beyond what she thinks the Bible and church tell her to think. But I think these little sisters won't acknowledge me as their big sister. They will acknowledge me as the bad girl who needs fixing. And yes, it comes from mom. She taught them from birth that Ruby needs fixing. For forty years I did as they said. Then I broke with tradition and they think they need to control me.

 

Okay, I know not to let them do that. This forum has been very helpful. I know there's lots of others on here whose families think they have religious rule over them. I hoped someone might have ideas on how to deal with these people civily--how to forestall the god talk before it starts, or to nip it in the bud and keep it from escalating. Seems I'm forbidden to "challenge" or "question" their faith. Seems I'm not allowed to disagree with their religion. But there's a double standard. They take the right to do all those things--and more--to me and my beliefs.

 

One thing this kid sister kept saying was that she would not want anything (meaning faith) that doesn't keep one from being unable to take critique. Now that I have time to think it over I realize how crazy this is. She forbids me to challenge her faith and ridicules me for having such a weak faith that I can't handle critique. This is just plain CRAZY-MAKING.

 

 

 

You are trying not to come to the obvious, though painful conclusion, that your mother is more harmful to you than helpful, and that ending the relationship may bring you more peace than holding on because of your belief that you have to be in contact with her because she is your mother. You are not the child that she is treating you as. Stop playing her game. protecting her feelings by not hanging up does not do your feelings any good.

 

To continue to let her abuse you this way is immoral to yourself.

 

Like I said, it's a kid sister. I guess I have the right to hang up when they start talking religion. They won't respect me anyway. They ASK what I believe, then condemn me for telling them. They assume the right to critique what I say and forbid me to do the same to them. She was not answering my questions; just tried to hide behind "I think we need to end this conversation if we can't agree." I reminded her that Jesus said to have answers for those who ask. She did not respond to that.

 

I'm trying to think what I said that was so bad. I think I simply challenged the blanket statements she was making. I am supposed to believe those things so I think I have a right to better understand. She tells me she thinks a lot. When I ask what she thinks she has no answer.

 

Maybe next time someone tries to talk religion with me I can just say: I've been told that it's wrong to challenge or question your faith so there is nothing to talk about.

 

It's getting to be pretty clear to me that no one really wants to know what I believe. All they want is an opportunity to tell me what I should believe. But they forbid me to ask rational grounds on which to believe. Like I said, it's crazy-making. I guess they don't deserve a relationship with me. Open communication is a good thing so long as it's two-way and people respect each other. When it's used as a means to demean someone it's not right.

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Ruby,

 

It seems like you are letting them control you. Don't let them suck you into their little games. Just don't play the game. It's what I do with my mother. When she gets on her tangents about my not going to church or my life is crap because I'm mad at god, I don't even listen to what she says, I'll lay the phone on the counter, make a cup of tea, pick the phone back up, say "uh'huh" or "yeah" not really listening to what she says, then when she thinks she had her say, I quietly change the subject.

 

Realise, they will never get it, ever.

 

Taph

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*Hugs*

 

I would suggest not talking to them at all, or hardly at all, if you can do so. That was the only way I could deal with my fundy cube mate because he turned every single conversation into god talk. Even if it was just about the weather, he inserted god into it. I had to finally request separate cubes when one was available and to just not talk to him other than "Hi, how are you doing?" "Fine." "Good, see you later."

 

I would also suggest changing the topic of the conversation to something completely different, and do it every time they start talking in Christianese.

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What I finally had to do with my eldest sister was to tell her that I will no longer discuss religion with her...period. I told her that I loved her, but the discussions were fruitless and causing hurt on both sides. She continued to try to bring up religion for about a year. Each time she did, I reminded her that I would not talk with her about this any more. I told her I needed her to respect my wishes in this matter. If she continued to try to talk about religion, I ended the conversation, sometimes harshly. It pissed her off. It hurt her feelings. It caused a silence between us for a while. We have been talking again since my mother died last October. Things are still a little rocky between us.

 

Was it worth it? To me, yes. It stopped the endless merry-go-round that our conversations had become.

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If I ask them for evidence of God's existence, because they insist the evidence abounds, they give answers that beg the question so I challenge their answers. And then we start going in circles.

 

Tell me, their "proof" of God's existence was either "You can't DISprove it" or "God keeps hidden so that people can know (blind) faith".

Those were the two answers I'd get from my schoolmates back in my school days.

 

As for your question, I know this sounds bad but YOU can't stop those conversations from starting with your family. This is clear because they know you're atheist/agnostic and they know that you don't want to talk about it but they still go on. Sorry for the negative statement but it's most likely true.

 

Your solution is to either stop communicating with them, which is understandably hard because they're your family. Or find a way that will make them stop, what worked for me in my school days was to reply to every illogical statement with "That's not proof, you can't prove it and you know that very well". They won't stop at first but say it after every statement and they'll eventually get pissed and give up totally. Who knows, it might even seep into their subconscious leading them to realization.

 

And if your family really strive to piss you of that much, then breaking contact with them permanantly may not be so bad. After all...

 

South Park Quote:

Kyle: Yeah. You know, I've learned something today. Family isn't about whose blood you have, it's about who you care about.

 

And if your family don't care about you, then fuck 'em. (figuratively speaking of course)

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Along the lines of what Amethyst said, for many years, until the beginning of the end, the only conversational topics I had with my mother were the weather and cooking. I learned these were the only two relatively safer topics I could find. Talk about my new shirt? It would lead to god and how I seem to be abandoning him and in danger of being destine to hell. Talk about my trip to the store? Likewise. Combined with not being around too much, while it didn't eliminate her hitting on me for god, at least it kept it down slightly, so that it wasn't constant (merely frequent). When she'd bring it up, she did most of the talking--I wouldn't talk a lot. The relationship? Shallow, of course. Sad, but we can't really force others to change: and that applies to family who think they can bully you back into the fold as well.

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Hi Ruby,

 

I have a similar situation with my sister, we can't talk about religion at all - and there is a big element of sibling rivalry too, so we have always been able to fall out about other things without any great effort as well.

 

I haven't really told my sister about the extent of my apostasy (I think it would cause her - on one level too much distress and on another too much glee) and I decided to stop talking to her about religion when our differences were simply denominational. I know that if I told her that I'd left Christianity altogether she would feel compelled to challenge, question, plead, pray and pester.

 

In the past we have had horrible conversations concerning all the issues that separate slightly more liberal/charismatic Christians from her particular brand of fundamentalism and reading your OP took me right back to these, the tone being the same if not the exact content! I do empathise and it's a horrid place to be.

 

I also decided a few years ago that I wouldn't talk to her about politics, child raising, art/film and our very different memories of our childhood as these topics seemed to send us into angry downward spirals also. Recently I had to add 'food' as well as my sister is 'offended' by my decision to give up eating meat and dairy. Means we don't have much to talk about and I spent a bit of time considering whether or not it was worth trying to sustain a relationship at all - as most of my relationships are based on 'having the conversations that matter'. and for the most part I'm not interested in social niceties or banter. I decided however that it was worth preserving some resemblance of a relationship to make family life more comfortable.

 

How I try to do this .... (I say try because I occasionally stuff up, take the bait and engage in angry exchanges over the phone or face to face ... in fact last time we met up ((I try and limit the time we have together on our own but due to events beyond my control ended up spending nearly three hours with her - way too long ... )) culminated in my storming out and then ringing my Mother - only to find that the line was engaged and she'd got there first. We are 42 and 41 respectively and yet our shared response to our fall out was still to snitch to our Mother!)

 

I try and pre empt the need she feels for 'contact' by occasionally dropping her a card through the post or by e-mail - a few lines of non-controversial news and maybe a photo of my children with a 'nice' message.

 

I don't accept calls from her when I'm tired.

 

If I call her I make a list of non-controversial questions to ask and think of things to tell her before hand.

 

I am no longer really honest with her, or truthful or authentic. I keep my comments superficial. I do not do this in any other relationship and its not the way I like to be, but I've decided that it is a helpful approach in the big scheme of my family life and I do it to ease tensions that would otherwise arise.

 

If she raises a topic that is likely to become contentious I say something like 'oh don't let's risk falling out, I'm really enjoying not falling out with you, if there is something you feel you want to say - I'll listen carefully, but I'm not going to respond or comment OK, because it's too important to me that we can talk to each other without tension getting in the way'.

 

Recently I've also started using phrases like 'wow, its amazing how differently we see things, that's really interesting, and thank you for sharing that'. I guess these are techniques from dialoguing rather than debating. I think a lot of sibling relationships stay stuck in debating because of innate competition.

 

I have to keep reminding myself that my sister is simply a product of her genes, knowledge and experience, I get less irritated that way. She holds beliefs that I once held too. I've been privileged enough to have taken a different route and to have educated myself to a different place. I guess I believe that my sister is mostly acting out of good intent (with a little bit of sibling rivalry thrown in ... that I'm prone to participating in also!)

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Thanks all of you for your responses. I read them all--some several times. It's so good to know that there are other people who have had to deal with very serious relationship issues with immediate family. Sounds like some of you have kids or spouse or both. In comparison I'm alone in the world.

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Ruby, I have a relativly secular family.

 

You are not as alone as you think.

Strangely enough I care. Not sure why at this point...

 

Thanks, DL. I am not sure, either, but I feel we have something in common because we're both in Ontario. But that's crazy because there are others on exC from our province. I guess we just connect and that has to be a good thing. I find myself making mental notes of the people on here who had about the roughest life possible because there's not too many of them around but you're one of them.

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Whenever my husband and I spend time with his mother, we have to have something to do... like going out to eat, shopping, going to a game or something, whatever. Otherwise, if there is any idle time, the mother-in-law brings up religion and we have horrible conversations. No one is going to ever understand the other when there are emotional strings attached (because it's family). We've agreed to not discuss religion, and if it comes up, we reserve the right to leave.

 

Maybe you should face the elephant in the room and make some sort of agreement like that. Lay some ground rules. If I remember correctly, you haven't spent that much time with your sister in a long while, correct? I'm sure there is plenty of other stuff to talk about at this point.

 

However, it is so bad with my mother-in-law, my husband is considering pretending to "reconvert" for her sake.

 

I hope it all works out in the end... try to focus on the positive things that have happened lately. :)

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You've got to lance the boil or leave it alone; giving it an occasional scratch or squeeze will just perpetuate the problem. If they won't let you totally have it out, declare the topic off limits.

 

My family and I have done the latter. The boil is gone.

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My choice in the matter has been to avoid talking about religion with my parents. It's annoying because I'm forced to be superficial with them...I can tell they also get annoyed by my refusal...but then they get more annoyed when I break down and discuss things with them, So i've learned to keep my mouth shut.

 

I've also struggled with how to deal with issues like church, my mom will ask me to come for Christmas or easter, on on the one hand I like doing things like this just to be a member of the family, in the end it is also painful, because I know when I say yes, my mom just builds up a false belief that I'm going to reconvert and walk the isle or something stupid. And then she is sad when I don't, but she is asking for something I can't give.

 

In a way, I really feel bad for them, If I could believe again to make them happy I think I actually would consider it, but I can't force myself to believe something I don't, and I'm not going to lie to them either, because its just not my nature.

 

In my opinion, with family, its best to just let them know where you stand, (without debate) then tell them you'll let them know if you change your mind but otherwise you just don't want to talk about it.

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Kuriokaze, you're probably right. I think perhaps it's the disappointment thing that is upsetting my siblings these days. They let me eat with them at mom's funeral. Maybe they believed that would bring me back into Christianity, if not to their church. And it's not happening.

 

After getting all the ideas and advice on this thread I think I have reached some resolution. One of my sisters is really seeking spiritually. I got a letter from her during this time that I felt so confused about how to deal with them. I have seven sisters and the one who is seeking was not involved with this other crap. I didn't even open her letter until I felt more stable.

 

I responded to her letter but decided to limit my response to her needs rather than try for the chit-chat sisterly sharing thing. I even called her today because I wasn't sure how urgent her needs are. She doesn't have email and a letter takes several days to get there. She also asked about my life--whether I am going on for more education or if I'm going to start working. I told her that I am not going on in education but that my life is at a stage where I don't really know what to tell her. I think that was setting limits but still treating her needs with dignity. She was satisfied so I think I have a right to give a similar answer to the others even if they insist on more information.

 

Ro-Bear said:

 

You've got to lance the boil or leave it alone; giving it an occasional scratch or squeeze will just perpetuate the problem. If they won't let you totally have it out, declare the topic off limits.

 

My family and I have done the latter. The boil is gone.

 

Thanks, I think that is good advice.

 

Pandora said:

 

Whenever my husband and I spend time with his mother, we have to have something to do... like going out to eat, shopping, going to a game or something, whatever.

 

I thought I might try that so I tried calling my one brother and family to plan something. I thought maybe we could have a picnic in the park when it gets warm this spring and the baby ducks and geese are on the water. Didn't get an answer the first two times I tried. Then I realized that I am not ready to expose myself at this point. I'm still emotionally exhausted from too many things happening, not least of which was mom's death and funeral and surrounding family issues. It is an idea for the future, though, providing I ever feel like I want to expose myself to the risk.

 

I'm working on developing a face to face community as an alternative to family. My university classes are over forever (at least for now) so I won't have that human contact anymore. Maybe I'll go to a local church and enjoy the music.

 

I guess I've been diagnosed with something called social adjustment disorder. It was diagnosed several years ago but I did not realize what it meant until the issue came up again this week. I do okay in a highly structured social situation such as class or church but not in parties or casual fellowshiping. Family gatherings would be a similarly high-stress event. I'm okay one-on-one for short periods with a trusted person.

 

I have such a person whose beliefs are practically identical to my own but she identifies as Chrisian and I don't. She takes me to church when she's going. She's not strong on after-church fellowshipping, either. It's a church where a lot of people know me. They are so glad to see that I've come back to god. I let them think what they like. I feel at peace with my position, so I get to say hi to a few people and sing with them, and hear about community events as it regards the congregation. It makes me feel like I belong and others feel like I am part of their community.

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