TexasTeacherMom

Coming Out as an Atheist

10 posts in this topic

I told my husband that I do not believe in god and he is taking it very hard. We have had several fights over this past year as he has struggled to come to terms with the news that he finds so troubling. At first he denied it and as he has questioned me more and I have been more adamant in my assertions of my non-belief in god, he has gotten more frustrated. He has even gone so far as to tell me that he would like to divorce me but does not want to give up his relationship with his kids. I don't know if it's really how he feels or if he is just speaking out of his frustration and pain. When we married, we both were believers, but he really never pursued his faith. I was more devout than he, and read the bible regularly. We went to church for a short time, but haven't for several years. He doesn't read the bible or really even bother to worry about his actions with regard to his religion. He basically believes that we just have to believe in god. I am hurt and find myself torn between wanting to leave him and not look back and hoping that he will come to accept me as I am. I think that deep down he believes the same thing I do, but he wants for me to be the one to "save" us both by holding on to my beliefs. I find it hard to believe that he really believes, judging by how he lives his life. He is a good person, but does what he wants and then rationalizes those things that he knows are against Christian morality. I still love him, but find it very hard to do so knowing how he claims he feels about me now.

Has anyone ever been through this? How do I handle it?

In some way, I feel badly for the fact that I have changed on him. I have told him that I see where he has a right to feel betrayed, but I also cannot lie or live a lie. Also, I feel so much better about life now that I don't have to try to make reality fit into an illogical box. I am sad that he cannot share in my happiness, and that he now sees me in a negative light, when I am feeling so good about myself for the first time. I can finally take credit for the life I have worked so hard to create for myself, rather than giving credit to some divine force. Life makes sense now, but I am losing my best friend. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm sorry to hear of your situation. I hope you will not feel guilty because you have changed. People do change with experience; can you imagine the alternative? You own your mind, and no one has a right to tell you how to run it.

I of course don't know all your circumstances. What you do say, reminds me of friends whose marriage was severely stressed when the one being controlled showed some independence. I would have thought your value as a wife would override an issue like this. Makes one wonder how he rationalises his lack of tolerance. One cannot force oneself to believe something through sheer will. One can only cease to think and accept it. Is that what he wants?

Good luck TTM, I wish you well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In some way, I feel badly for the fact that I have changed on him. I have told him that I see where he has a right to feel betrayed, but I also cannot lie or live a lie. Also, I feel so much better about life now that I don't have to try to make reality fit into an illogical box. I am sad that he cannot share in my happiness, and that he now sees me in a negative light, when I am feeling so good about myself for the first time. I can finally take credit for the life I have worked so hard to create for myself, rather than giving credit to some divine force. Life makes sense now, but I am losing my best friend. :)

You didn't betray him. You are growing and, at least in that realm, he isn't. You can naturally feel badly that there is a conflict, but not because you 'changed on him'. That he demands that you believe something that you don't -- and which he doesn't even take seriously himself -- is not a good sign no matter what it is. The whole realm of independent thought and the happiness it is bringing you is a broader issue than the particular religious belief. That is what he is going to have to accept if he wants to remain "best friends". He may feel frightened of the rejection of tradition and authority that he escapes, without acknowledging it, through the rationalization you describe. You are doing what you are because you actively and idealistically want to do the right thing, which is probably why you were the more devout one before you realized that it wasn't the right thing. Maybe he will come to accept your improvement because that idealism was something he valued in you from the beginning, which he may be confusing with 'tradition'. Keep your idealism, remain consistent and open with him, and don't compromise your principles in a futile effort to patch it over.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Along with the good advce that Arnold and ewv have given I would like to add a perspective from a somewhat different situation.

I have had clients that have been with me for years and not known that I was an atheist as it is not something I bring up about myself with clients. Usually, if they stay long enough they figure out that my statements are very different than most people and then they ask me if I am religious which, of course, I answer them with a no. Quite often after I give them my response they say something like; "you cannot be an atheist, you are to moral." I then attempt to explain that my moral principles stem from the nature of man and that I use reason to guide me toward my selfishly chosen goals. But, sometimes these people cannot grasp of a person being moral without "the fear of god" in them and hence I automatically become immoral/evil to them. It is this aspect of their lack of a moral system without a god that seems to me to be the main betrayal and most times an automatic ending of the friendship. These type of people seem to think I have misled them, abandoned certain ideas or some other similar form of thought on the subject. Whatever their thoughts are I am not certain because for the most part the relationship usually ends even after I explain to them why I am moral and demonstrate that morality by past shared experinces.

With that said, maybe you can ask your husband what it is that he feels betrayed about. And maybe you can explain that you are now a consistently moral person that strives to live without contradictions. For example, you do not steal because nor kill others because it is not in your best interest and the principle of individual rights, not because of a fear of a god.

Just some thoughts, that I hope you find helpful.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
----------

Has anyone ever been through this? How do I handle it?

----------

I can't speak to your specific situation, but I'd like to congratulate you on your own personal achievement. I think the most important thing to do is to keep the conversation going with your husband to try to work out a rational solution. Remind each other of what other values you share in common. Why did you fall in love with each other in the beginning? Would you have fallen in love if you each knew then what you know now about each other? Try doing something you both enjoyed doing together, and see how you feel about each other at the time. It's important to determine to what extent being religious is a real value to your husband or is he just paying lip service to it because he doesn't fully grasp the principles.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The only type of possible "soulmate" who was religious that I could ever give a "second chance" to is one who tells me she believes what she believes because she has thought it through, and holds that her belief system is true because it is a reflection of reality (even though she would be very mistaken about the existence of the supernatural). In other words, what I require is first-handedness, even if mistaken, with reason as my potential mate's conscious guide.

I once dated a woman who told me she believed in God, Jesus, etc., because she had "thought it through", and because the Bible said it was true. I responded by saying that that's no different then me saying that what Ayn Rand said is true because I've thought it through and because she said it. I said that the only standard of judging whether something is true or not is if it matches up against your awareness of reality--in other words, by use of your reason. Not one smidgen of second-handedness enters into it. I told her that just because something is written doesn't make it so. She disagreed in the Bible's case; that "written" was true because it was the Bible.

Well, that was the death knell on that relationship. But it wouldn't have been if the woman had said only that she had thought things through, using her reasoning mind. If that is the reigning principle in someone, they may be persuadable, and may not require that you go on some "re-education campaign" to change them (which never works, anyway, and is only destructive to both parties).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
When we married, we both were believers, but he really never pursued his faith. I was more devout than he, and read the bible regularly. We went to church for a short time, but haven't for several years. He doesn't read the bible or really even bother to worry about his actions with regard to his religion. He basically believes that we just have to believe in god.

Why? Talk with him to find out what is really bothering him.

For instance, ask him if it is OK as long as you don't tell anybody you are an atheist. It may be that he is worried more about what Aunt Minnie thinks than in saving your immortal soul. Maybe it is an issue of independence and control or maybe not. The only way to know is to ask.

If talking becomes too emotional and unproductive, you may wish to find a marriage counselor to help you work it out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

But find a marriage counselor who is more objective than Aunt Minnie :-)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you all for taking the time to read my situation and comment. I have taken a few days to mull things over and decide the best course of action. I think that my husband's feelings stem from several factors. 1. He likes the assumed superiority of the male over the female that he thinks is part of Christianity and is afraid that I will not respect him anymore. Sometimes when we fight about him being bullish and not listening to my point of view, he pulls that old trick out of the hat and tries it, though he knows I never fell for it even when I did believe. 2. He really doesn't believe in god himself and thinks that now I will think he is silly for believing, even though I can see that he is making pretense. The way he lives his life is proof that he doesn't really fear the consequences of many supposed sins. 3. He simply doesn't understand that the basis for our real morality is not tied to religion, but rather is inherent to our being. Once, he questioned whether I would still be faithful to him, and I asked him if the only reason he was faithful to me was because of his fear of god. I explained to him that I am faithful to him because I love him and because I value myself for honoring my promises. I think he understood. And 4. He is terrified that our kids will grow up not believing. He had hoped that I would take care of that, since he could not actually do it, again, since he really doesn't believe either.

I have decided to give him some time to accept it and to continue living my life according to my morals. It hurt to feel his rejection, butI love him, and I understand that he is having a difficult time accepting this, but I think that ultimately, my courage in admitting the truth could make it safe for him to do the same, which would bring us closer together. We have a five year old and a three year old together, and I feel that they are best served with both of us in the home, provided that we can be civil to one another, which we can.

I think it may be a bumpy road ahead, but I just hope that he will come to accept the truth eventually and then I will truly feel like I have a matching partner.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

TTM He is very fortunate to have such a thoughtful and caring wife. It will be his loss if he can't come to terms with your independent thoughts. I hope it works out for you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites