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Being the Heathen?

I am completely at a loss. When my fiancee proposed to me, religion was not an issue. Between that time and now, he found his grandfather’s ring (which has a cross on it), and it persuaded him to go back to church. The problem is, it isn’t just any church. It’s a baptist evangelical church.

I’m not an atheist, but I’m not particularly religious. I’ve always thought that living a “good life”, ie, taking care of those who needed help and trying not to encourage hate or ignorance was more important than sitting in a big room hoping that you’ll someday go to heaven because you sat in the said room once a week.

He has said that he thinks I’m going to hell because I don’t believe Jesus is my savior (even though I think he was a fantastic person and role model), but he loves me anyway and still wants to marry me. He now wants to go to a religious college. I feel like everything he now does is a slap in the face to me.

I’ve tried reasoning with him, but nothing works. He just says the bible is the word of god.

I know it seem ludicrous after what I’ve just written, but I love him very much and do want to stay with him. I just don’t know how.

Posted: March 9th 2008

Eric_PK

I understand your quandry – you had plans that involved marriage to somebody you thought was a good match for you, and now the conditions have changed.

As somebody who has been married a long time, I’ve had lots of friends either divorced or unhappy, so here’s my advice.

Marriages across religious lines can work if:

1) One of the people converts
2) Both people are tolerant of the other’s beliefs, and willing to put up with some give and take.

If that’s not true, then there are usually problems, and I know a couple of couples where the break has led to infidelity (interesting, in both cases, the more religious person was the unfaithful one, and with somebody from their church).

Now, you might be up for #2, so I’ll put in another caveat.

It’s especially hard if you have kids. I’ve know a few couple that had settled into “we don’t go to church” until they had kids, and then suddenly one of the pair said “kids have to go to church”, and became more religious. That’s especially bad because I think divorce isn’t a big deal until you have kids, at which point it becomes a huge deal.

So, my advice to you is, as hard as it is, break off the engagement and look for somebody who will treat you with the respect you deserve.

Posted: March 16th 2008

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George Locke

Sounds like you’ve got a real problem. I’m not really sure that we are the ones to help you with it, unfortunately. I would seek some marriage counseling or similar professional assistance.

I will say that I know a guy who was an evangelical and is now an atheist, but you really can’t hope to change a man. It just doesn’t work that way.

Posted: March 11th 2008

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John Sargeant www

It is said that political, religious and economic differences between people can have a big impact in a relationship. People change, and ultimately you have to go on how it is now.

I wish you both well in seeking your happiness – for that is for you to decide.

Posted: March 11th 2008

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themodestagnostic

It doesn’t strike me at all as odd, that you still love your fiancee. He is still exactly the same person you fell in love with, merely with a new and peculiar enthusiaism.

Its tricky:-)

The likelihood of any given religion being true is very low, thus the most successful ones have evolved ways to short circuit the intuitive logic we use to understand the world. To up the ante to such a degree, that all things being equal, the religion is the safest bet. Here are 3 key ways.

1) It extends an incredible prize.
2) It extends an incredibly threat.
3) It lumps all efforts to get to the core illogic of the religion under the heading “Evil/Satan” and actively champions an embrace of ignorance, at least until the religion is fully settled and hard to uproot.

The way to deal with this, is to do an end run around item 3, by tackling religious themes, showing the full blizzard of choices thus reducing the value, threat and utility of 1 and 2. If there are many choices, and no way to decide which is correct (this is the practical scenario we find ourselves in) then what difference does it matter what you choose? As far as religion goes, it largely doesn’t matter. If he is particularly intelligent, it sometimes helps merely to point 3 out. These processes often occur at a completely subliminal level.

One counter intuitive tack is to compare your current denomination to some other, ideally an extreme one, and try and get him to articulate why he chooses one over the other. For example, why not embrace the teachings of this guy :

http://www.the-end.com/

or this :

http://www.godhatesfags.com/

Together, you need to try and understand why these guys are wrong and his church is right. I would maintain that you actually can’t, because the more extreme versions of christianity tend (for what its worth) to have greater biblical backing. Akward:-) Such a process is already a sort of mild inoculation against faith, its educational and it can even be fun. You can casually point out that, had you both been born in Iran, you’d be discussing Islam rather than Christianity. This highlights the cultural and thus human origins of religion.

Doubt, never far from the mind of even the mildly intelligent, is your most potent weapon. That is why the concept of faith evolved in the first place:-)

Good grief, I sound like screwtape!

Good luck:-)

Posted: March 11th 2008

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SmartLX www

My heart goes out to both you and your fiancee.

Finding that ring must have seemed to him like a sign from God, or made him feel terribly guilty about having drifted away from the church, or both. Either way it seems that guilt drew him back. His upbringing must have been a powerful indoctrination indeed.

It hasn’t affected his love for you, at least not yet. You’re not a heathen to him because the god you believe in is his; you’re just not “saved” because you haven’t accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and saviour as you said. So he wouldn’t leave you on religious grounds unless you took positive steps to embrace a non-Baptist faith, or reject faith altogether. In that case he’d have a tough decision to make.

As it is, you’re simply an ongoing target for evangelisation. As difficult as it is, don’t feel that he’s victimising you. If he really believes the church doctrine, he’s trying to save you from that which has been used to scare him all his life: eternal hellfire. That it doesn’t scare you as much is probably even more frightening to him. (That said, if he doesn’t really believe it himself, then he’s preaching to you for entirely selfish reasons.)

Of course the main problem with this is that even if the Christian God exists (and that’s a huge if), any Christian denomination might be the one you actually need to join to be “saved”. If Lutheranism is the right one, for example, all Baptists are in trouble. For what other reason did your fiancee become a Baptist than that his family was Baptist? If he’d been raised a Lutheran in Denmark where it’s the primary church, would he believe any less in the teachings of Martin Luther than he does in Baptist doctrines? Has he actually had a go at finding flaws in other faiths that don’t apply to his own?

I’d ask what your fiancee plans to study at a religious (presumably Baptist) college. They do regular liberal arts degrees, but they also have special training degrees for preachers, politicians, lobbyists, creationist “scientists” and other professions which can serve the church directly.

To the point, does your fiancee just want to study in a place where everyone shares his religion, does he want to learn apologetics to convert people (including you), does he want to atone for his churchless years with “holy” service, or all of the above?

It’s a tragic thing that religion has retaken its hold on your fiancee. This new fervour hasn’t changed him as a person, but it will seem like it has because religion affects everything he thinks and therefore does. Whether you can live with that, and to what extent you can bring him back to his former self, only you can determine.

Again, I feel for you both. I hope it turns out all right.

Posted: March 10th 2008

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