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Losing A Family Member To Religion


cvd26
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Hi there! Well it has been quite a while since I have posted on here. I left religion behind for good several years ago and am now witnessing someone close to me be drug into hell as I know it.

 

My sister in law was raised agnositc/atheist.. never attending church with her family. Her mom is mildly "spiritual" though not a Christian and her father follows Buddhist principles. Recently she met a guy whose family are evangelical nuts. Yes nuts. Arms waving, are you saved, uber conservative nuts. The guy supposedly is not as religious as them but I don't buy it. She has known him for 4 months. Suddenly she says she is now a Christian, prays, and wants to be wed in a church. Mind you she still has not stepped foot in a church so we can all guess who influenced this change in her. His family believes that non-christians are bad. Well her family, including myself, her brother, and parents are non-Christian. We can all see where this is going. I expressed my opinion to her recently when she called me to discuss him and his family and how extreme they are. I told her that she should not have to change for anyone.. and become something she is not just to be accepted. Also I reminded her that you don't need religion to be a good person. As you could imagine this is raising quite a stink in our agnostic family and my mother in law is quite distressed and I think fears she is "losing" her daughter to this mentality. We soon will all meet this fellow and though we are all nice people, will not pretend to be anything just to pacify him or sister in law. Any advice or thoughts? I figured some of you have been through similar issues with family.

 

THANKS!! :o)

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Tough situation.

 

I'd say everyone just be themselves. Don't gang up on him (or her). Let his mindset be in contrast to everyone else's openness and kindness.

 

Just don't forget that some people feel empowered and justified by being an outcast or in a minority. Just be nice and let it play out.

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Tough situation.

 

I'd say everyone just be themselves. Don't gang up on him (or her). Let his mindset be in contrast to everyone else's openness and kindness.

Just don't forget that some people feel empowered and justified by being an outcast or in a minority. Just be nice and let it play out.

 

Nothing gets to an xian quite like a calm, contented, happy atheist.

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Fuck, sorry to hear this. Ugh. I honestly don't have a good answer for this and I hope it doesn't get tragic. sigh.

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Hi there! Well it has been quite a while since I have posted on here. I left religion behind for good several years ago and am now witnessing someone close to me be drug into hell as I know it.

 

My sister in law was raised agnositc/atheist.. never attending church with her family.

 

<snip>

Any advice or thoughts? I figured some of you have been through similar issues with family.

 

THANKS!! :o)

I have only been on the board a couple of months, so forgive my unfamiliarity.

 

I would make an observation that being raised in an athiest/agnostic family does not mean that one will not become religious. Unless some effort is made to actually teach the child why religion is bunk, it may be percieved as something the family has not considered, or does not know anything about.

 

It may be too late to start, but a serious introduction to why atheism is reasonable would be the best approach. Christians (and other religious folks) tend to isolate themselves and resist any outside influences (like a cult) so getting her to consider reading books, articles or web pages might fail miserably.

 

It's a real shame.

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I think I agree with both florduh and shyone on this topic - if you talk to her one on one, discussing the falacies of religion would be good table conversation. Let her at least go in armed rather than having nothing to debunk all their arguements for their religion. When they're both around, however, just be yourselves, and treat him like you would anyone else. Don't go in with the idea of shooting him down, in fact, I'd avoid religious conversation and just try to get to know him as a person.

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My family went through this with me. My advice don't go in there guns blazing. If you try and overtly attack Christianity they will most likely take this as confirmation of their position. After all why else would somebody attack something as wholesome and good as Christianity, unless the devil inspired them to do it (Remember the atrocities carried out in the name of Christianity were carried out by those who didn't practice true Christianity like.their group, same for any negative experiences you've had with Christians). If your sister in law, or her boyfriend bring up religious matters/ideology you might want to gently point out flaws/things they haven't considered about what they are saying. The idea is that everybody has doubts, by gently pointing out problems they hadn't considered these doubts will be brought more and more to the surface, they may not let you realize it affected them but it will have an impact.

 

The main thing however is to make certain that you don't alienate her. If you make certain to show that you love her and accept her even now, if and when she wishes to abandon it she will know she has a safe place to return to. This brings me to another point. Don't mock Christianity or her being a Christian, ever. In all likelihood if you do it, it will just make it harder for her to break away. This could give her the impression that if she were to leave she would have to face up to you and the rest of your family telling her "I told you so" or whatever, chances are (dependant on how deep she ends up going) she will be feeling stupid enough without having to think her entire family thinks she's stupid. An example of this is one of the people I went to a religious college with. The main reason why he stayed there was because he was in a situation where if he decided to leave and go back the loss of face would be too much for him to handle. I would guess that this is the main reason that he is now a full-time Christian worker, he was put into a situation where the only way out was to lose face in front of his family, as such he thought he had no way out. You want to make certain that your sister in-law never thinks shes in that situation.

 

Hopefully this is helpful.

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I think you were smart to remind her that she should not be expected to change for anyone, since that is so common in religious circles.

 

I agree with others that criticizing her might have negative effects. She should be encouraged to examine religious beliefs critically.

 

I would also show kindness to the guy. If you treat him as most religious people treat those they consider outsiders, he will only adopt the martyr mentality and feel proud of it. Show him how nice and kind atheists and agnostics can be. You never know, he might be encouraged to examine why someone can be happy and moral without religion.

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It might not be so bad. I was a little worried when my niece married a "Bible Evangelical" and so on, but despite his steadfastness in his beliefs, he's actually quite humorous when mixing with the rest of my (mainly) agnostic family members. However, my niece over time has become a little more "hard-core" than he has, so I suspect that there may be some worry about that.

 

As others have said, just be super nice. If he does turn out to be the arrogant religious type, let him "cast the first stone".

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cvd26, if this helps any, my in-laws are liberal agnostics and my parents are uber-conservative evangelicals. DH and I have been together for almost 12 years.

 

They all met when we got engaged. Over dinner, my mom let loose with some anti-Clinton spew. And my awesomely cool FIL delivered a smackdown. The man survived the Holocaust; when he speaks, everyone listens. He looked her in the eye, calmly and pleasantly debunked her points, then complimented her cooking and changed the subject to golf. They have mingled in harmony ever since. They love to talk sports.

 

I completely agree with John09 -- whatever you do, be kind and respectful. Don't escalate things, because if you do (and I say this from sad experience), they will come back at you with all their stereotypes of "lost souls." It is possible to stand your ground without diminishing your dignity. Very, very difficult, but possible.

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Hi there! Well it has been quite a while since I have posted on here. I left religion behind for good several years ago and am now witnessing someone close to me be drug into hell as I know it.

... Any advice or thoughts? I figured some of you have been through similar issues with family.

 

THANKS!! :o)

Recognizing that religion and religious fervor can be largely nonsensical and irrational, you've done well keeping things on a polite and reasonable footing.

 

My wife and I were on the other side of the equation. We were both raised in Southern Baptist families and culture; not the fundy, fanatical ilk, but fairly narrow minded nonetheless. For the last 40 years, we've walked together through the issues of biblical inerrancy, literal interpretation, miracles, and the existence of the supernatural. Importantly, we've done it together. As issues arose, we'd tackle them together with both of us on one side and everything else on the other. The pleasing result, of course, is that we're both comfortable with the things we know and aware of the things we don't yet have answers for, and we're not at odds with one another. We walk together. As we made our way through affiliation with the exclusivists, family was concerned but supportive, for which I'm thankful.

 

When I was in my early 30's, my folks visited us overseas. I remember an afternoon walk with my dad during which I lectured him on some fundamentalist nonsense that was on the front burner of my thinking. Years later, I asked him how he'd managed to endure that from his son; he laughed, and said he'd figured I'd eventually outgrow that nonsense. I did.

 

It's probably important to recognize that the larger issue isn't religious ideology (which will change and mature, fortunately) but the planned covenant of marriage. Religiously grasped or not, marriage is the most significant relationship in life which if well formed will serve well for all the family, and if poorly formed will bring greater pain and harm than the transient ideological issues that are of so much lesser consequence than that of the two becoming one for a lifetime.

 

Walking through similar times with my daughter, we've been aware that the most important element isn't winning the argument; it's maintaining the bridge. Now, decades into the process, the issues have come and gone, the bridge remains solidly intact, and the relationship is a source of joy and strength for us all. We've been through personal crisis, injury, illness, and loss together; we've laughed and wept together, worked and played together, and through it all, love, not ideology, has been our bond and gift to one other. Discussions from differing viewpoints have been offerings of ideas, not assaults.

 

 

The main thing however is to make certain that you don't alienate her. If you make certain to show that you love her and accept her even now, if and when she wishes to abandon it she will know she has a safe place to return to.

Well said.

 

Love, it turns out, really is the greatest single choice one can make. I hope for you and your family that love stays at the top of the list.

 

Buddy

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through it all, love, not ideology, has been our bond and gift to one other. Discussions from differing viewpoints have been offerings of ideas, not assaults.

 

Love, it turns out, really is the greatest single choice one can make. I hope for you and your family that love stays at the top of the list.

 

I am such a failure at this. I can't seem to do it. I'm really sad about it.

 

P

How so? I'm far enough from perfect that if I were to preach, it wouldn't count, so I wont.

Buddy

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Guest I Love Dog

 

Nothing gets to an xian quite like a calm, contented, happy atheist.

 

I agree entirely. This is the best way for atheism/non-belief to spread itself. Many religious people are, I'm sure, convinced that without a religious belief there is no happiness or success in life.

 

I had quite a chat yesterday with 2 evangelical 7th dayers at my door. I think they were totally surprised that I could even manage to exist without a faith in their god! They were really curious as to where I and my children get their morality from! I may have been the first atheist that they'd met, or the first to tell them.

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I grew up among people who offered one another, and me, assaults, rather than ideas. That's where I was incubated. It's been difficult to overcome the fallout from that.

Ah, of course. Perhaps the hardest task a reasonable person has is choosing against what they've learned and making it stick. My best friend was raised by an alcoholic and abusive step-dad with all the negative elements one might imagine in such a circumstance. He's spent much of his adult life choosing against all of that and choosing in favor of genuine love. His sons, now grown, are free from the taint of that earlier generation, but it wasn't an easy task either for them or him.

 

Perhaps a relevant gem from his journey; love isn't a feeling, it's a choice.

 

In conversation with a wise old fellow, I was struggling with my response to a man we knew who had molested a child. I felt that he needed to be punished for all our sakes. I felt I needed for him to be punished. "Yes," replied my old friend, "but we hope for better things in ourselves." Yes we do, indeed; yes we do, and so we choose accordingly, hoping to rise above the angry turmoil inside us. A few years of choosing right, mostly, changes us. It would be nicer if it was quicker though.

 

Buddy

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  • 2 months later...

UPDATE!!

 

Hi there. I really appreciate all of your replies and advice. I thought I would update you on this..

 

We met the religious boyfriend of my sis-in-law. He is nice and respectful which is great for her as her last boyfriends were really questionable dudes. No one discussed religion with him, at all. Though politics did come up at one point and he made a point to let us know he was an "uber conservative", his words. He loves Limbaugh. I help my tongue and my lunch LOL. To each his own.

 

Now on to the religion part. Looks like things are even more full fledge now. She has a new bible (her first one ever) signed by him. Her facebook now declares she is a fan of god, a baptist church, and Christian radio. Apparently he attends a baptist church in his town and she visits him quite often so I assume she has too. My husband is shocked as this is the complete opposite of who is sister has always been. She was the free spirit, always questioning everything.. etc. Thus I think we are too late at this point. My MIL is concerned that she will have a rude awakening once she realizes that Christianity does not hold women as high as men. We shall see.

 

So my question at this point is what can I say to her once she starts talking about her new beliefs...as I really sense that coming very soon. I am comfortable telling her mine, but I anticipate she will eventually ask "why not" sorts of questions. This is hard to get into with a family member. Also anyone have an insight into Baptists? I am not too familiar so I am not sure what to expect as she becomes more immersed in that denomination.

 

My husband and I are betting she is baptized by the end of the year. *Sigh* It is SO weird looking at this from the other side as an exchristian. I am mourning the loss of logic and reason for a man made fairytale book. I wish I could tell her what a complete mind trip it really is. :(

 

Thanks!

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I would make an observation that being raised in an athiest/agnostic family does not mean that one will not become religious. Unless some effort is made to actually teach the child why religion is bunk, it may be percieved as something the family has not considered, or does not know anything about.

 

It may be too late to start, but a serious introduction to why atheism is reasonable would be the best approach. Christians (and other religious folks) tend to isolate themselves and resist any outside influences (like a cult) so getting her to consider reading books, articles or web pages might fail miserably.

 

It's a real shame.

 

That is very much my concern. I like the saying that nothing makes a better atheist than a xtian household - I know people who have been brought up agnostic/atheist only to turn to religion as an adult. I used to joke if I had kids (luckily I don't want to) I'd consider bringing them up xtian for that reason.

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  • 3 months later...

UPDATE:

 

Hi there! I know I posted this topic several months ago and just wanted to post an update and get your take. Your advice was appreciated and we have not mentioned her becoming suddenly very religious. I guess my only questions now are...

 

She is getting quite involved with First Southern Baptist beliefs (I am not all too familiar), though have started researching a little bit. This is what her new boyfriend's family is and he is apparently. She also listens to some evangelical preacher on Christian radio (I know from her facebook LOL).

 

I think what is most alarming is now she posts bible quotes on her facebook with her "new" Christian family and friends responding with "Amens" and "if only people would obey God". Her newphew's (our son) b-day came and went without a card or gift. My in-laws do not mention her at all either. Strange. The only way we know about her is through Facebook and there is little dialogue on there either. She has also become extremely right-wing politically and pro tea party, Sarah Palin, and has made derogatory remarks I can't even repeat on here about black people and hispanics on her Facebook with her other racist "Christian" right-wing friends cheering it on. It is really sick. I took advantage of the facebook "mute" feature real quick after telling her I was diappointed at what a bigot she had become. No response...of course. She's a holy daughter of god now who can do no wrong... cough cough.

 

She presents to me like a person who has been put in a holding cell and brainwashed! I know... maybe that sounds extreme but she is unrecognizable. She has always been a little "out there" and immature, though never had any of these beliefs or spewed out hate in this way. It is quite strange.

 

Of course a Christian friend of mine said she doubts the Baptist church is turning her against her non-religious family but I know that happens all the time... I have seen it myself. Who knows what they tell her. I think at this point it is a lost cause as she has literally become someone else. Amazing how religion really can divide a family.

 

LOL... any thoughts at this point? We really just plan to keep our distance. It is hard to stomach the level of ignorance this has taken. My in-laws no doubt question the "new her" though in the past they have always let her step all over anyone she likes so we dare not discuss it with them.

 

Thanks!!

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Sorry to hear about your sister in law. As an outsider looking in, it appears to me that she fell in love with her boyfriend and she attends the Baptist church and has taken up with his political views as a way to secure her relationship with him. Once with him, it appears that he has influenced her to cut off relationships with non-Christians so she could become "immersed in the faith." He is probably afraid that if she continues her relationships with her non-Christian family and friends, she may abandon Christianity. Maybe he is right and that could suggest what your strategy could be. Would it be possible for you and your husband (her brother) to reconnect with her and bring her back into your lives more so that maybe all of you could be the "bad" influence her boyfriend is probably afraid of?

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Sorry to hear about your sister in law. As an outsider looking in, it appears to me that she fell in love with her boyfriend and she attends the Baptist church and has taken up with his political views as a way to secure her relationship with him. Once with him, it appears that he has influenced her to cut off relationships with non-Christians so she could become "immersed in the faith." He is probably afraid that if she continues her relationships with her non-Christian family and friends, she may abandon Christianity. Maybe he is right and that could suggest what your strategy could be. Would it be possible for you and your husband (her brother) to reconnect with her and bring her back into your lives more so that maybe all of you could be the "bad" influence her boyfriend is probably afraid of?

 

So if I am reading this right you are saying do exactly what the boyfriend is afraid of and try to get her to see she is brainwashed? Well my husband has emailed her (no mention of religion as to not set her off) and just said hey we don't hear from you anymore and are just concerned is all okay... and well no response. He was just trying to perhaps open a tiny window of dialogue there and no dice. I do think he and his family are fundamentalist Christians who view non-Christians as downright evil and bad... there is no middle ground. It was not that long ago she was calling ME telling me how "nuts" and "extreme" they were.. now she is one of them. The fact that she has made ALL new friends within a few months and ignores her family proves that she rejects us on the basis of religion... this has happened only since she became a Christian. Whomever she is listening to (preacher, pastor, evangelist, boyfriend.. his family) has a pretty powerful influence on her and that is clearly evident. Knowing from my own past experience with this type of fundamentalist thinking I doubt his family will care if she abandons her own... as long as she follows their beliefs.. they will not care that a daughter no longer shares a bond she once had with her Buddhist dad, no longer speaks to her older brother and his wife, nor spends time with her only nephew. This all is perhaps the saddest part. Too bad if she was going to become religious it wasn't evangelical or fundamentalist!

 

Anyway I suspect that any attempt to "reconnect" with her is not going to be successful at this point. We may see them at a family event in several months and I am not sure what to say if anything at all... as "he" will be there so she will for sure be in total mind control mode at that point. This is all just so crazy as it happened SO quickly!

 

Thank you again :)

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Sorry to hear about your sister in law. As an outsider looking in, it appears to me that she fell in love with her boyfriend and she attends the Baptist church and has taken up with his political views as a way to secure her relationship with him. Once with him, it appears that he has influenced her to cut off relationships with non-Christians so she could become "immersed in the faith." He is probably afraid that if she continues her relationships with her non-Christian family and friends, she may abandon Christianity. Maybe he is right and that could suggest what your strategy could be. Would it be possible for you and your husband (her brother) to reconnect with her and bring her back into your lives more so that maybe all of you could be the "bad" influence her boyfriend is probably afraid of?

 

So if I am reading this right you are saying do exactly what the boyfriend is afraid of and try to get her to see she is brainwashed? Well my husband has emailed her (no mention of religion as to not set her off) and just said hey we don't hear from you anymore and are just concerned is all okay... and well no response. He was just trying to perhaps open a tiny window of dialogue there and no dice. I do think he and his family are fundamentalist Christians who view non-Christians as downright evil and bad... there is no middle ground. It was not that long ago she was calling ME telling me how "nuts" and "extreme" they were.. now she is one of them. The fact that she has made ALL new friends within a few months and ignores her family proves that she rejects us on the basis of religion... this has happened only since she became a Christian. Whomever she is listening to (preacher, pastor, evangelist, boyfriend.. his family) has a pretty powerful influence on her and that is clearly evident. Knowing from my own past experience with this type of fundamentalist thinking I doubt his family will care if she abandons her own... as long as she follows their beliefs.. they will not care that a daughter no longer shares a bond she once had with her Buddhist dad, no longer speaks to her older brother and his wife, nor spends time with her only nephew. This all is perhaps the saddest part. Too bad if she was going to become religious it wasn't evangelical or fundamentalist!

 

Anyway I suspect that any attempt to "reconnect" with her is not going to be successful at this point. We may see them at a family event in several months and I am not sure what to say if anything at all... as "he" will be there so she will for sure be in total mind control mode at that point. This is all just so crazy as it happened SO quickly!

 

Thank you again :)

 

I agree with what an earlier poster, who was the fundamentalist zealot in a non-religious family, and with what you wrote above, bolded. If you are open to her, she will come if her brain is ever ready. In the meantime, boundaries around hate speech and bigotry will speak volumes if there is any part of her able to take it in.

 

Your comment about her being very against this type of group in the past and now being totally immersed in them and cut off from family may indicate she is going through a hardcore stage of black-and-white thinking. On/off. Good/bad. All/nothing. She is young, yes? It is also normal to go through a separation period from family, to assert oneself in a new community.

 

She may never come out of it, or she may come out of it (with long-term consequences, depending on how far her family-building with this guy goes...marriage entanglement, offspring indoctrination, exclusive support network, etc). If she does come out of it, the emotional/time/lifestyle investment she's put in it will also bear on the long-term consequences. If you push, she is very likely to harden in her view and cut you off as a future ally in healing if she is in a place to need the support you can offer when (if) she is ready. You'll know because she will come to you with little prompting. People move into openness and love and forgiveness. In the meantime, refusing to be an audience for her bigotry will speak volumes as it expresses a moral value system through example.

 

It sounds like you are handling this as best as you possibly can. I'm sorry for your loss.

 

Phanta

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