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Shmalter
Apr. 7, 2012, 08:04 PM
The door knockers thread set me to thinking.

DH and I are decidedly not religious. DH is an active atheist. I'd consider myself more of an agnostic with a side of atheism.

DH's family, however, are very religious. Used to be strongly Christian and with in the past two years, all of them have converted to Catholicism.

We occasionally take a beating at family functions for our beliefs. They know that DH is staunch in his beliefs, and they also know he minored in Religious Studies, so they know they will lose any argument they try to start.

So. I've become the bullseye of pressure, comments, questions.

They have, on various occasions waited until he is out of the room to pressure me by demanding to know how we will raise our child, what we will tell him, how we will explain that we are "different", yada yada. I have told them on those occasions that it is a very personal decision, that their implication that DH is not a good person because he lacks religion is an offensive one as he is probably the most moral person I know with a huge heart and brimming with kindness. (He's their family member, they ought to know!)

Last Sunday while over at DH's parents house for dinner, most of the crew was there. There were many kids running around. I have a darling 4 year old niece who thinks the sun rises and sets in my very young son. She is so sweet to him, that when she pulled out a little pamphlet about the resurrection of Christ she'd gotten at church that day and started "reading" it to my son, I didn't say a peep. Nor did DH. I offered to DH under my breath to go get another book for niece to read and he declined. Our son is too young to understand, and niece is too young to really read, so she was making stuff up as she went along and it was pretty cute. Nor did we want to start anything that would result in a 4 year old questioning why we found it not appropriate.

Not really a problem, except...
When DH and I looked up, the whole family was staring at us, waiting to see what we were going to do. One member turned to DH's mother and said "Isn't it cute that "child" is sharing the story of Jesus with "baby Shmalter"? Perhaps there is hope after all".

DH and I didn't say a word about it. All the way home we pondered how to handle this in future as it is sure to get worse.
Tomorrow, I will be spending Easter with his family. DH will be working, so I will be there alone with tiny Schmalter. A sitting duck. I know I will be backed into a corner and questioned, pestered, and many attempts will be firmly made to try and save this heathen family.

DH and I have talked long and hard about the hardships that might face our child as he grown up with parents who have the beliefs (or lack there of) we do. We've decided that of course our child is allowed to make up his own mind about what he believes, and that we will just provide as much information and education about all religions as we can and answer any questions honestly and without judgement.

What I hate most of all is the idea of most of the bigotry will come from his own family. It sure seems to be headed in that direction. I don't quite know how I will handle those questions, that pressure, and that those statements intended to produce guilt.

Understanding that we would like to maintain pleasant family relations, how would YOU handle it? How to diffuse with out insulting or escalating? How do I let them know this is not a topic open for debate without them seeing that as rude?

Huntertwo
Apr. 7, 2012, 08:10 PM
I wouldn't worry about being rude. Just be honest in a few short words. Simply say, "That is our belief, and I don't wish to discuss it any further."

End of discussion.

marianne
Apr. 7, 2012, 08:50 PM
My heart goes out to you for your beliefs but realize that the beliefs and values your in-laws or own family have are very deeply rooted. They may not be able to comprehend the idea that DH does not believe in a higher being or whatever. From personal experience I am a Christian but my daugther who was raised in the faith, went to parochial school and church, has become an atheist and pagan. Her boyfriend is the same. I don't like it because I personally have felt that this was a total rejection of my core values and beliefs. For those of us who read the Bible and believe in it, this rejection of God has terrible consequences. Now whether or not, this will happen or not, who knows that is not for me to say. But I have learned not to let it bother me(most of the time). After all, she is an adult. I do hope that at sometime in the future she would return to the fold. But that is jus the mother in me. It is unfair for your in-laws to force these questions on to you but also make sure you are not flinging your beliefs into their faces. As for the questions, take a page from Dear Abby and politely ignore the questions. You do not have to answer every question posed to you. There was a good interview with the female governor of SC yesterday morning on "All things considered" on NPR Check it out on their website and listen to what she says about having Sikh parents as a Christian. It may encourage you.

Mickey the Marcher
Apr. 7, 2012, 09:14 PM
My heart goes out to you for your beliefs but realize that the beliefs and values your in-laws or own family have are very deeply rooted.

Deeply rooted? They just converted to Catholicism last week.
There are none more zealous than the recently converted.

OP, tell them to go &$@$ themselves.... Ok, maybe chose different words, but the message is the same. This is 20andgoddamed12, no one should be subjected to that crap in this day and age.
Your beliefs are your beliefs, it's not open for discussion, end of story.

saultgirl
Apr. 7, 2012, 09:21 PM
Ugh. I wouldn't even go for dinner. Who needs people like that around? Fill your life with people who love you and make you happy. "Family" does not need to be related by blood or marriage.

threedogpack
Apr. 7, 2012, 09:27 PM
I'd be so annoyed I'm sure I'd tell them....if we can't leave this subject alone, remember I don't have to be here. I've made a special effort to come, so lets leave the hot subjects alone.

Shmalter
Apr. 7, 2012, 09:36 PM
My heart goes out to you for your beliefs but realize that the beliefs and values your in-laws or own family have are very deeply rooted. They may not be able to comprehend the idea that DH does not believe in a higher being or whatever. From personal experience I am a Christian but my daugther who was raised in the faith, went to parochial school and church, has become an atheist and pagan. Her boyfriend is the same. I don't like it because I personally have felt that this was a total rejection of my core values and beliefs. For those of us who read the Bible and believe in it, this rejection of God has terrible consequences. Now whether or not, this will happen or not, who knows that is not for me to say. But I have learned not to let it bother me(most of the time). After all, she is an adult. I do hope that at sometime in the future she would return to the fold. But that is jus the mother in me. It is unfair for your in-laws to force these questions on to you but also make sure you are not flinging your beliefs into their faces. As for the questions, take a page from Dear Abby and politely ignore the questions. You do not have to answer every question posed to you. There was a good interview with the female governor of SC yesterday morning on "All things considered" on NPR Check it out on their website and listen to what she says about having Sikh parents as a Christian. It may encourage you.

Marianne, I very much appreciate your kind reply. I can tell you are a very sweet person, and understand my wanting to have everyone get along.

Let me assure you, however, that they are newly converted, nothing deeply rooted. To give you the sort of idea of what sort of religious person my MIL is, she gave up being catty for Lent. Last weekend I overheard her talking about someone in their church who she has nicknamed "Kwiki-Mart" because of his race. Apparently she doesn't feel that is catty. She then proceeded to start to tell a story that would have resulted in her making fun of a person. When she was called on the Lent thing, she asked another family member who had given up booze for Lent to tell it instead. These are all things that make it so hard to politely sit by while they insinuate that DH, myself and our child will be burning in hell for our choice, when we are much kinder and gentler people. Because it's the right thing to do, not because the man in the sky will get mad.

Rest assured we never start a discussion about religion, and NEVER EVER discuss it in front of any family members who are children. I'm sure it breaks his family's heart, our choices, but we do things like attend their church pagents that the children are in, sit quietly and politely through prayer before dinner and mind our own business and keep our traps shut on that topic. We are never the ones to bring it up.

Thank you for taking the time to reply, I really do appreciate it, and I will be checking out the show you recommended.

Thanks, everyone. I appreciate the advice. It feels good to just get it out, too.

saaskya
Apr. 7, 2012, 09:54 PM
i unfortunately am not as forgiving as others seem to be... maybe its my red hair...

my mothers family is a deceitful, shallow, judgemental, racist, homophobic group of people who are mean to each other for no reason. examples of all these lovely character traits are numerous. the relationship between them and my mom and i has seriously deteriorated to the point that they have disowned her twice, once for converting from catholicism to SDA and then for divorcing her first husband after he came out. last week, after years of not speaking, they attacked her via email for her political views and work she was doing on some campaigns and then demanded my college fund money back (long gone, gramps).

they are unforgivingly close minded and i have a really hard time with that mindset. a fault of mine, i know, but i live by the philosophy that, 'if they make you unhappy more than half the time, theyre not worth any of your time.' i was very close to my grandparents until i was 3, so im told, and from then on we were fairly minimally involved.

i know you want everyone to get along, and i know its hard for you moreso because of the wee one. i hope that you can figure out a balance for you all. i personally would not go to easter, though.. youre already stressing about it.

LittleblackMorgan
Apr. 7, 2012, 10:10 PM
The difference between atheists and religious folks is that many religious people try to convince you you're wrong. Atheists dont try to convince them they are crazy for believing in god, we just want to live our quiet, private existence.

I just posted about the same thing. It's a battle with my mil. Always and forever. She wants my kid to be "educated about god". I already told dh of I catch her giving my kid speeches on the late JC, we will have a very big problem. It is my and my husbands job to raise our child in whatever faith or lack thereof that WE choose

Bluey
Apr. 7, 2012, 10:13 PM
One question, why would you go to their house in a day of religious celebration, when you don't follow their religion?

Easter, Christmas, those days for a religious family are about religion, so why go there then?

Since being a good person means you have to follow some religion, then by default, you are not good enough without following some religion?:confused:

I am glad that more and more people today are standing on their own feet, don't need a deity guiding them straight.;)

Seriously, I have always thought people are good or not so good or right down rotten because of who they are, not because they follow any one spiritual belief and specific divine rules of conduct.
You may want to try to make that important distinction time and again when you are pressured by those religious family members.

Or you may tell them that, while it is very christian of them to worry about your family's soul, it is not very christian of them to be judging you, leave that to God.:lol:

Tapperjockey
Apr. 7, 2012, 10:30 PM
The difference between atheists and religious folks is that many religious people try to convince you you're wrong. Atheists dont try to convince them they are crazy for believing in god, we just want to live our quiet, private existence.

I wish it were so *sigh*. I do not go to church, but I am religious. I do believe in creation and in evolution. I and my spiritual advisors have discussed it at length, and I practice how I am comfortable and what I believe is correct for me.

I do have agnostic and atheist family members who have found out I am Christian however. And they are constantly trying to convince me that I am wrong for believing in God. I now avoid them at all costs. I skipped my aunt's funeral because of it. Oddly they have no problem with my Grandmother practicing her religion (She is a Christian of the Catholic persuasion). They don't "preach" there faith (lack of faith? i don't know) at my parents either. They do to me and my siblings, and other cousins though. My grandmother, who really wishes that everyone was Catholic, has less problems dealing with it than they do.

Shmalter
Apr. 7, 2012, 10:34 PM
Bluey, it's a tough question to answer, it feels like, though the answer makes sense in my head. I don't see atheism as a reason to not celebrate the commercial version of holidays, I guess. They are fun traditions and especially fun for children. I absolutely see what you are saying though, that the core of the holiday is religious. But I'd like my child to know the Easter Bunny, which really has nothing to do with religion (that I'm aware of). Same thing with Christmas. I sort of think of all holidays in the same manner I think of Thanksgiving. A day to spend with loved ones, family, eat well and enjoy your life and celebrate what you have. I don't know if that makes any sense.

I think you guys are right and that I probably shouldn't go to stuff that is religion based. While I don't think I can get out of it tomorrow (suppose to bring a bunch of the food), I'll have a discussion with DH about that idea.

Perhaps the first comment should be met with "It's not something I'm willing to debate and if we can't enjoy ourselves without it being brought up we will no longer be able to spend holidays together.".

LittleBlackMorgan, am I glad to see you. A fellow (soon to be) child rearing atheist. Do you worry and panic about the things your child might face when his/her friends find out you don't believe in God? Or worse yet, your child's parents find out? I am terrified that my son will one day come home and want to join the boy scouts and I will have to tell him he's not allowed to, as atheists are not allowed in the boy scouts. All of that stuff, and the shaping of this little life feels so daunting, and I feel like I am setting him up for some hard lessons in human nature. He could one day tell me he's gay, wants to go to church, wants to be a mime and all of those things I can support and love him unconditionally through. But the thought of him coming home and saying "I can't play with Jimmy anymore because you and daddy don't believe in God" just breaks my heart.

marianne
Apr. 7, 2012, 10:41 PM
"One question, why would you go to their house in a day of religious celebration, when you don't follow their religion?"

This is the best reply for you. Why go to the lion's den? Easter is more important than Christmas. So I understand if you can't get out of this year's but there is always next year. (or maybe, one of you can come down with the "peep flu")

"When she was called on the Lent thing....."

Hypocritical people occur in all religions and non-religions. Christians do not have the market on this. Good people occur in all religions and non-religions. Again Christians do not have the market on this.

Personally, I look at Lent as not as giving up but to do different habits,i.e., will do certain behaviors not give up. I do believe that at some point there will be an accounting of our behaviors but it is not for me to judge.

Remember you don't have to "hear" or answer a question. There is always selective deafness. Good Luck

Bluey
Apr. 7, 2012, 10:41 PM
Just try asking them if they firmly believe that God made everything in this world.
If they, as expected, tell you of course, then say, well, God evidently also made atheists, do you want to second guess God's motives?:p

Equibrit
Apr. 7, 2012, 10:43 PM
I wonder why the "righteous believers" cannot extend the same politeness as they receive from those who do not share their beliefs.

Tapperjockey
Apr. 7, 2012, 10:46 PM
Bluey, it's a tough question to answer, it feels like, though the answer makes sense in my head. I don't see atheism as a reason to not celebrate the commercial version of holidays, I guess. They are fun traditions and especially fun for children. I absolutely see what you are saying though, that the core of the holiday is religious. But I'd like my child to know the Easter Bunny, which really has nothing to do with religion (that I'm aware of). Same thing with Christmas. I sort of think of all holidays in the same manner I think of Thanksgiving. A day to spend with loved ones, family, eat well and enjoy your life and celebrate what you have. I don't know if that makes any sense.




That may be what those holidays mean to you, but is that what they mean to your relatives?

(and btw.. Catholics are Christian. You said they used to be Christian and now are Catholic. All Christians are not Catholic obviously, but Catholicism is a Christian religion).

Shmalter
Apr. 7, 2012, 11:04 PM
That may be what those holidays mean to you, but is that what they mean to your relatives?

(and btw.. Catholics are Christian. You said they used to be Christian and now are Catholic. All Christians are not Catholic obviously, but Catholicism is a Christian religion).

I understand that Trapper and it has given me something to think about. Perhaps we have been giving false hope accepting those holiday invites.

As for the Catholic/Christian thing, that was not a point I was making. I just thought it might be TMI to go into what their denomination was before they converted to Catholicism.

littleum
Apr. 7, 2012, 11:22 PM
From personal experience I am a Christian but my daugther who was raised in the faith, went to parochial school and church, has become an atheist and pagan..

I stopped reading right here.

You can't be atheist AND pagan.

Pagans (pick your flavor) believe in an assortment of pantheons.

Atheists believe there is nothing.

I can see you clearly have made a grand effort to understand your daughter's relgiious views. Because if she's pagan, she's religious and believes in something... she just rejects YOUR pantheon.

Tapperjockey
Apr. 7, 2012, 11:56 PM
I understand that Trapper and it has given me something to think about. Perhaps we have been giving false hope accepting those holiday invites.

As for the Catholic/Christian thing, that was not a point I was making. I just thought it might be TMI to go into what their denomination was before they converted to Catholicism.

Probably a bit. Christmas and Easter are pretty Holy days in most Christian religions (a lot of which actually broke off of Catholicism). By accepting and celebrating the days with them, you're kind of giving them hope/the idea that you accept them. You don't (which is perfectly okay).. you just have to be honest about it, and pick a non-secular time to have family time. As they do feel the holidays are religious and not commercial, I would expect that they may (not that they will or won't.. just a possibility) not include you in some of that anymore. Personally, I would have no problem if my brother for instance, raised his children as atheists or agnostic or pagan or BillyBobSoulSavers. I will still love them. I would not buy them Christmas gifts any longer though, nor would I include them in Easter Baskets, etc. They aren't commercial gift grabs to me, and while I don't give anything extravagant.. to me.. the gift is in celebration of the religious holiday, and it would be hypocritical to force that onto someone else (or there child) if they don't celebrate that holiday (same as my Jewish .. other side of the family.. relatives, don't shower me with Hannakuh gifts). I am a doting aunt, and would probably find other ways to spoil them obviously.. but that is something to consider as well. (not that you should practice the religion to get gifts, but how to explain that to your child down the road).

TheJenners
Apr. 8, 2012, 01:33 AM
I am going to agree with those who said avoid the holidays with religious overtones with the religious family, if it makes the situation that much worse.

LazyTrot
Apr. 8, 2012, 09:31 AM
No advice, but I totally sympathize. I have juggled this my whole life (more with my religious catholic family than my husband's jewish family!) The hard part is that since easter and Christmas ARE such important holidays, they become the family "get-together" time. I always want to be a part of my family's life (I have 6 siblings, all but me go to church every sunday) but I sort of resented that it always revolved around a religious thing (baptisms, first communions, etc, were all highly celebrated). I love all of my 15 nieces and nephews, and would feel terrible not being in some contact, and the closest one is 4 hours away. So we made Thanksgiving our holiday to have family over (no religion there!) I feel for you, but would also say, don't shut them out, even though it is hard. Handling it the way you sound like you are is much more admirable.

Shmalter
Apr. 8, 2012, 10:25 AM
Thanks, Lazy Trot (love the name). You have a PM.

Thanks everyone. :)

onelanerode
Apr. 8, 2012, 10:33 AM
I'd be so annoyed I'm sure I'd tell them....if we can't leave this subject alone, remember I don't have to be here. I've made a special effort to come, so lets leave the hot subjects alone.

This. Religion and politics aren't good topics for polite conversation. So ... they can be polite, and enjoy your company, or they can be rude without you. ;)

Seriously, though, life is too short to deal with that kind of crap.

If you do go and they start harassing you again, you could take some tracts about atheism and share them. Bet that would go over like a fart in church. :lol:

Curb Appeal
Apr. 8, 2012, 10:39 AM
I've got no advice, only sympathy. I'm an Atheist and DH is a non-practicing Jew. I come from a family of mostly Catholics and Southern Baptists. DH's family are devout Jews, mostly still living in Israel.

I get the "why attend holiday gatherings" question all the time too. The problem is that that holidays are when the families gather. If we didn't attend then, we would never get to see everyone. It's frustrating that vacations coincide with holidays, but that's the way it is so we make the best of it.

I'm with you in allowing my kids to decide for themselves. My 8 year old son has asked me some religion questions and I always preface my answers with, "some people believe..." and then give him the opportunity to decide for himself. No one gets to tell my kids what to think, one way or the other. I will respect them no matter which way they decide to go. Right now, they still believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny :)

Janet
Apr. 8, 2012, 11:14 PM
Athiest beliefs can also be "deep seated" - I am a third generation athiest.

Being an atheist child can be challenging. I remember that in pre-school, I was mortified to discover that I had been saying a prayer - something like "Thank you for the birds and the flowers and the sun and the rain". It didn't have the word "God" or "Lord" in it, so i didn't know it was a prayer.

I was a Brownie (the pledge the Brownies said wasn't religious), but when I aged out, it was MY choice whteher to join Girl Scouts (which did have God in the pledge) or not. I chose No.

But that doesn't change my cultural affinity to some of the religious aspects of the holidays. My husband's Catholic family finds it very odd that I ALWAYS find a way to listen to the "Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols" (a religious service) at Christmas, while most of them don't go to Mass.

Probably because I am not rebelling against a religious upbringing, I enjoy church services, as a form of theater. If I am in San Francisco on a Thursday evening, I try to go to the Evensong service at the Episcopal cathederal.

My husband's sister is convinced I am going to hell, and tells my husband that she worries about me. But she doesn't say anything to me.