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Well-meaning Family Members


Guest JeniMac
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Guest JeniMac

I'm sure there are people here who have certain friends or family members that you plan on never telling, or at least not for a very long time. How do you deal with that?

 

I have an incredibly well-meaning mother-in-law who is the most religious member of our family (of both mine and my husband's sides). She firmly believes that her wayward daughter is rebellious because my father-in-law never went to church with the family. Wanting to prove that their daughter would not "return home" if he started going to church, my father-in-law went to revival with her just as a means to say "I told you so" when the girl continued on her "rebellious way" (which is only living in another city with a boyfriend they don't approve of and being independent--she's 24 years old). This is the type of thing that would go on before my husband and I moved into my in-laws' house from out-of-state a couple months ago...

 

Now we're the ones dealing with it. We've talked to my father-in-law about our non-belief because he understands, but it's not something anybody discusses with Mom for obvious reasons. We went to church with her on Easter just as a way to pacify her--we figured we'd go once and have our "church due" paid up for a while...but it hasn't been enough. I think she views us as back-slidden Christians, but still Christians nonetheless, who would be happier if we found love and acceptance at her church, but if she ever knew we're agnostic it would absolutely kill her.

 

Any time she gets alone with me she's used as a chance to talk about her faith in an attempt to get me and her son back in church. I've taken it in stride and am all smiles and nods when she's talking about it, but tonight was upsetting. I have fertility issues due to a health problem I've had nearly all my life, and now Mom is using this as a means of "bringing me back to god." She hadn't been able to get pregnant until she was 32 and had rededicated her life to god and started going to church again (but she doesn't give the hormone shot she had around that time any credit). Now I've been married for four years and three of those (not to mention the lifetime before that) were spent as a devoutly religious Christian. Even after I was married I went through a period of being more fanatically religious than ever, so much so that I took it to the extreme and lost even some Christian friends. According to my mother-in-law's "logic," it seems I would have gotten pregnant during that time of intense faith...but we all know better than that. It was like rubbing salt in my wound. :( Of course I sat there nodding and saying "yeah" the whole time, but wanting to cry inside.

 

How can you deal with someone so sweet and well-meaning, but who has absolutely no clue?! She has a lot of health problems that are brought on by worry and anxiety, so telling her the truth would certainly shorten her lifespan. We would move out and into our own place but that's impossible at the moment. I'm coming to a point where I'm willing to go to her church just to avoid the pain of being reminded of my own human shortcomings (that science could more help with than any god) and to get her off the family's back.

 

What have others in these types of situations?

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I want to know, too. My mom sounds a little like your MIL. My MIL is a lax Christian but my mom is fire and brimstone. So of course she doesn't know the choices I have made. She knows we don't attend church where ever we are but that is pretty much the extent of her knowledge.

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JeniMac, I’ll say this to start off. Going to church doesn’t make you a good Christian. Religion can be practiced alone at home, in groupings at a church, or other places. But there is no Law which states that Christians have to go to church.

 

I have to commend your father-in-law for his efforts. I’m sure he was trying to make your Mother-in-Law see that going to church or lack there of had absolutely nothing to do with how she didn’t approve of how you acted, and about the person you were becoming over the years.

 

I can also understand why you don’t want to tell her the truth. Remember this. She may be your Mother-in-Law, but that doesn’t give her a divine right to know your faith. I have a feeling that my family deserves to know that I converted from Christianity to Norse Paganism, but I now know that it is not of their concern, and much like your situation, telling some of them the truth would be like striking an arrow through the heart.

 

You have a strong feeling and desire to appease her, her faith, and for her to be happy with you, but just remember that religion is not something to be taken lightly. If, to make her happy, you would have to become a full-fledged Christian, would it be the right thing to do?

 

I’m not trying to tell you how to live your life, as your are obviously much older and probably wiser than I am, but religion is something that you live by, your own lifestyle and moral’s base. Something like that should not be changed to alter a person’s feelings towards you. It should be something that is felt deep within you, and that you know is the right way to be living your life.

 

I am sorry to hear about the health problems that you and your mother both face, but I’m sure that you know as well as I do, that no God can make you get pregnant. As you discussed about your mother, the Hormone Shot is most definitely what helped her out, rather than the Christian God. If you think about it for a minute, if she thought God could make her pregnant, why would she even have gotten the shot?

 

Your mother seems very direct and persistent about Religious Talk. If it makes you uncomfortable, you need to just tell her that you’d wish to talk of something else, or simply change the topic. Just because you don’t want to tell her the truth, or that you want to appease her, doesn’t mean you have to go through some torturous conversation and listen to religion constantly. It sounds like the words she’s said to you really hurt you, and no one should have to go through that if they don’t have to. If you willed it, you could get away with changing the subject every once in awhile, to something that you wouldn’t have a problem with discussing.

 

It’s hard to be able to deal with a family member that not only is always nice and loving towards you, but doesn’t know what you’re going through. I won’t say it’s a test, because I know it isn’t. It’s something that you, personally, are just having to deal with at this point in the big road of life.

 

You want to appease her, and doing that with something that devoted is tough. It pains you to go to church, appeasing her, so perhaps you will need to find some other way to appease her. There is no sense in trying to appease her, if you are in great emotional pain while doing that. Nothing is worth reliving bad memories all the time for, especially not on a weekly basis, depending on how many services she goes to per week.

 

There are people that understand your situation, as they’ve been through similar ones. You’re never alone. Just remember that your Religious choice is yours and yours alone. Don’t let anyone, not even your family, tell you otherwise. You do not have to tell them, as it’s none of their concern. Even if you did tell them, if they did not approve of your wishes, then they will need to cope with it, as it is your life. Not theirs.

 

I hope this helped

~L2K~

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We went to church with her on Easter just as a way to pacify her

 

Why is it that it's always the religious people that must be pacified and handled with kid gloves?

 

It's an issue of control and mutual respect. It is normal for people to disagree and have different beliefs. Christians aren't entitled to special consideration. I'm not ashamed of what I hold as rational beliefs, and I will not hide, apologize, or accept disrespect from those who disagree with my position.

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Guest Marty
We went to church with her on Easter just as a way to pacify her

 

Why is it that it's always the religious people that must be pacified and handled with kid gloves?

 

It's an issue of control and mutual respect. It is normal for people to disagree and have different beliefs. Christians aren't entitled to special consideration. I'm not ashamed of what I hold as rational beliefs, and I will not hide, apologize, or accept disrespect from those who disagree with my position.

 

:ditto:

 

I treat all religions exactly as I would treat belief in Leprechauns. I just do not see why we must bend over backward to not offend family, when they make no effort not to offend us.

 

You have been offended and hurt by her comments. I can understand letting the comments pass because she doesn't know any better, but why, why, why would you cave in to her pressure? If you give her an inch, will she be happy? I doubt it.

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I just do not see why we must bend over backward to not offend family, when they make no effort not to offend us.

 

Exactly. Fear of offending Christian family members is a constantly recurring theme around here. I just don't get it. Offended, angry, and disappointed relatives are using fear and guilt for manipulation. You don't have to buy into it.

 

"If I tell them I'm no longer a Christian my mom/dad/sister/brother/grandma will be upset/angry/disappointed/sad and I just don't know what to do!!!"

 

Jesus H. Christ! If you're ashamed of your beliefs, you shouldn't be holding those beliefs. If your rational thought has led you to different conclusions than your brainwashed relatives, be proud of that. You don't have to defend your beliefs and you don't have to argue or convert anyone. But you do have to demand equal respect.

 

As Popeye said so eloquently. "I am what I am and that's all that I am." Deal with it. A Christian belief is due no more or less respect than non-belief. Speak up for the sake of your dignity.

 

Exceptions: I think if one is a minor child, or one's livelihood could be negatively impacted, stay in the closet until independent of those conditions.

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Guest JeniMac
I just do not see why we must bend over backward to not offend family, when they make no effort not to offend us.

 

Exactly. Fear of offending Christian family members is a constantly recurring theme around here. I just don't get it. Offended, angry, and disappointed relatives are using fear and guilt for manipulation. You don't have to buy into it.

 

"If I tell them I'm no longer a Christian my mom/dad/sister/brother/grandma will be upset/angry/disappointed/sad and I just don't know what to do!!!"

 

Jesus H. Christ! If you're ashamed of your beliefs, you shouldn't be holding those beliefs. If your rational thought has led you to different conclusions than your brainwashed relatives, be proud of that. You don't have to defend your beliefs and you don't have to argue or convert anyone. But you do have to demand equal respect.

 

As Popeye said so eloquently. "I am what I am and that's all that I am." Deal with it. A Christian belief is due no more or less respect than non-belief. Speak up for the sake of your dignity.

 

Exceptions: I think if one is a minor child, or one's livelihood could be negatively impacted, stay in the closet until independent of those conditions.

 

I guess in my case I feel like it's none of my business to tell my husband's mother. I'm not ashamed of my non-belief and have been very open about it with my own Christian friends, but demanding respect for something my MIL doesn't even know about, especially if my husband isn't even present, would undoubtedly cause more harm than good. We're not minors, but we do live in her house for the time being (and may very well be here for the next year or two). I feel it's more of my husband's place to tell his own mother than it is mine...but she only does this to me, not him. Plus, Christians are going to be more closed-minded about mutual respect than a non-religious person. Someone like me can respect a fundamentalist like my MIL, but someone like her isn't going to accept my decision and will be praying for the "salvation of my soul" for the rest of her life, including the Sunday school gossip that is the "prayer requests." I wouldn't even know then who had access to our business. I'm starting to think that would bother me more than going to church with her once every month or two. At least I'd get some laughs from that.

 

I apologize if this topic has been redundant. Just hoping for a bit of support, that's all.

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It's always tougher to deal with this sort of thing in person. In my head I agree with Florduh, but when they are in the room with you I have trouble telling them I think their worldview is a joke...guess I'm too easygoing.

 

However, unless you rely on her for money, you would probably be better off letting her know. You can smile and say things like 'You know, we've decided to check out some other religions...it never made sense that only one of them could be the right one...'. If she blows up then let her blow up, it's time she faced reality. If she just seems sad that is okay too. Just enjoy life and she will see you don't need the church, even if she doesn't accept what she sees for a while or ever.

 

When someone is controlling enough to constantly confront you, and try and guilt trip you, and you can risk them cutting you off, then I think you should tell them to back off next time they confront you. Sure, things could be bad, but you will at least start having an honest relationship, and sometimes things might get much better. Probably better than stagnation and walking on eggshells.

 

I married a Wiccan, and we didn't tell my parents about that until they really liked her. Once they knew they could only say 'I guess they aren't all bad', and that's good enough for me.

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Guest JeniMac
However, unless you rely on her for money, you would probably be better off letting her know.

 

At this point we're relying on her for food, shelter, and occasionally money until we get back on our feet (we lost our jobs and our home thanks to the economy and had to move across the country so we could live with my in-laws). We're in our mid-twenties and they give us freedom and privacy, they've been incredible...the only exception being when my MIL brings this kind of stuff up with me (and not even her own son). Even though my husband and I have been married for years and now we all live in the same house I feel I don't know my MIL that well (she's extremely reserved).

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You're living with your inlaws?? Oh honey! *hugs* :eek: Even if you like them, that can be an extremely difficult situation. I realize since you and your hubby will be dependent upon them for a while, you probably want to show MIL as much respect as possible. But I would recommend you NOT attend services with her...she will get, and probably already has gotten the wrong idea.

 

I am a new deconvert and as such have not yet come out to a lot of people. I don't really plan on making a big announcement, rather I will let my actions and words (or lack thereof) alert my family and friends as to my atheism. There are some family members, specifically my elderly aunts and uncles, whom I will probably never let on to. I have an aunt "M", my mother's twin sister, who is 82 years old. She's never been particularly religious, never belonged to a church or went to services, but she prays before every meal. *shrug* I will never tell her that I am an atheist because she simply would not understand. I have another aunt, "A", who is a *shudder* evangelical lutheran. Again, I will never tell her I'm an atheist. It's not that I'm ashamed of my newfound atheism, far from it. Sometimes it's obvious that intelligent dialogue will go nowhere. I guess my answer is that there isn't one single answer that works for 100% of the situations. Good luck to you.

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Guest JeniMac
You're living with your inlaws?? Oh honey! *hugs* :eek: Even if you like them, that can be an extremely difficult situation. I realize since you and your hubby will be dependent upon them for a while, you probably want to show MIL as much respect as possible. But I would recommend you NOT attend services with her...she will get, and probably already has gotten the wrong idea.

 

I am a new deconvert and as such have not yet come out to a lot of people. I don't really plan on making a big announcement, rather I will let my actions and words (or lack thereof) alert my family and friends as to my atheism. There are some family members, specifically my elderly aunts and uncles, whom I will probably never let on to. I have an aunt "M", my mother's twin sister, who is 82 years old. She's never been particularly religious, never belonged to a church or went to services, but she prays before every meal. *shrug* I will never tell her that I am an atheist because she simply would not understand. I have another aunt, "A", who is a *shudder* evangelical lutheran. Again, I will never tell her I'm an atheist. It's not that I'm ashamed of my newfound atheism, far from it. Sometimes it's obvious that intelligent dialogue will go nowhere. I guess my answer is that there isn't one single answer that works for 100% of the situations. Good luck to you.

 

 

Thanks PaleLady. It's nice to know there are people here who understand. And thanks for the sympathy regarding my living situation. lol!! I like what you said about intelligent dialogue going nowhere. I think that really describes it best...it's not about being ashamed, but more like "what the point?"

 

Thanks to everyone for your input. As obvious as it should have been to me I wasn't thinking that us attending services with her would lead her to have the wrong impression.

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Thanks to everyone for your input. As obvious as it should have been to me I wasn't thinking that us attending services with her would lead her to have the wrong impression.

 

Listen, if you have the endurance to sit through church services without either punching someone or throwing up, then more power to you! :lmao: But I really do think it's a matter of how your MIL perceives your attendance.

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Guest JeniMac

Well me and the hubby have been talking and we figure my MIL couldn't say anything as long as we went somewhere once in a while, so we may check out the local Unitarian Universalist fellowship. Their website says they have agnostics and atheists to earth-centered believers. She wouldn't have to know it's not a fundamentalist church. lol.

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