Contention with wife over Atheism.

I was raised a Catholic and she some form of Christianity. (To be honest, they’re all pretty much the same to me.) I was never really into religion, she however went to a Christian school and grew up around other Christian church goers. We’ve been married for 5 years and together for 8. Throughout that time, unless it was a wedding or other special occasion, we went to a church only a couple times.

I was always a lazy believer, but for the past few years I’ve become an adamant Atheist. Apparently she thought it would pass because she’s been playing it cool until lately. She went to church with her family on Easter and now has become more adamant about going, and dragging me and our (now 1 year old) daughter along. Not so much for the God stuff, oh no. She mainly wants to go so because:
A. It will be a good coping mechanism for our daughter.
B. Church people are nice people and misses/wants that sense of community back in her life.

On the outside, I totally understand that. But on the inside I’m torn. She knows I have no desire to go, but she’s making me seem like a dick for not wanting to and not being a part of our child’s life. Not to mention that I don’t want my child to be raised to believe in God. I tried to meet her halfway with the, “When we tell her the truth about Santa and Tooth Fairy, we can tell her about God.” But that didn’t fly.

I’ve tried to get her to “come to the darkside”. She’s seen Religulous and said she agreed with pretty much all of it. But that is pretty much as far as I could get her to go with it. But this church is more of the “rock concert” type with a band and stuff which she thinks is great because it isn’t all creepy and evangelical-y.

What can I do? I can’t go and pretend, that isn’t in me. And I don’t want our daughter brainwashed. But I don’t think there’s any getting through to her.


Posted: April 28th 2011


This initial part probably won’t help you, but I’m saying for the benefit of others.

It’s not uncommon for a non-practicing believer to become much more devout when kids come along, and as you’ve noticed, there’s no way to compromise on whether the kids go to church on not. I’ve seen one messy divorce when the churchgoer decided that “community” meant sleeping with one of the other churchgoers.

“How will we raise our child” is a question couple should have a serious discussion about before they decide to have them. Church is only one of the areas where there can be friction.

In your case, it’s likely that her family and the church that she is attending are encouraging her to get you to come. It sounds from your description that she has an emotional need that she is getting met by attending, so getting her to stop going seems unlikely (it’s you against her famly, the people in the church, and her history of going to church when she was a kid).

You only have two choices on attendance.

1) Go with her
2) Don’t go with her

If you choose to do the second, know that it might establish a permanent schism between the two of you. I have known couples that seemed to do just fine with one attending one not attending, though I think it’s harder when it’s believer/atheist than when it’s believer/very lazy believer.

For your daughter, you can teach her about science and myth and if you do that right you have a decent chance of her being skeptical about religion when she gets older. However, this may be a further issue with your wife, especially if what you teach your daughter conflicts with what the church teaches.

Finally – and I hate to have to give this advice – you have to think about protecting yourself. There is some possibility that your relationship will not survive, and if that does happen, you will heed to be prepared. Documentation about what is going on, who is doing what, etc., may be necessary if you are looking at shared custody of your daughter.

Posted: April 29th 2011

See all questions answered by Eric_PK

SmartLX www

If the two reasons why you say she wants to take the family to church are the only reasons, there’s no problem because
A. praying is arguably not a good coping mechanism in general and there are plenty of others, and
B. there are any number of communities you could join, from sports clubs to book clubs to drum circles to activist groups to PTAs to Neighbourhood Watch, which don’t go against every fibre of your being.

Unfortunately I suspect those two are just the reasons she gave you, because she knew the real reasons wouldn’t sway you. The real reasons, in all probability, are that
C. she wants your daughter to believe in God like she does, and
D. on that Easter trip she was pressured by her family, the church, her own Christian guilt or all three.

The most important thing is not to conduct this conflict through your daughter, and fortunately she’s young enough that most of it will go right over her head. Also, there’s time to sort things out before she’s old enough to be indoctrinated properly.

Your wife’s beliefs are the central issue here, so learn about them. Find out what her denomination is, both while growing up and now. Ask her exactly what she believes, and why she believes it (which may be different from how she argues for it). That will give you a better idea of several things:

  • why she largely agrees with Bill Maher about religion but stays in one,
  • whether the religious fervor is coming directly from her or from someone else (in her family?),
  • how you might be able to change her mind, etc.

The more you know, the better.

I sympathise with you, mainly because I may end up in the same situation in the next few years. I hope things turn out all right.

Posted: April 29th 2011

See all questions answered by SmartLX


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