This morning, I opened a card from my Born Again mother-in-law. She has a habit of writing lots of letters, which is not so bad in theory, except that she can be visciously judgemental (with an emphasis on "mental.")

For example, when her son moved in with me, she wrote him a letter that had such bad things to say about me (before we ever met) that he shredded it after reading the first sentence and said he'd never tell me what it said.

I  used to see the cards pile up on his desk when we were dating, and asked him why he wasn't opening them. "Because it's just a bunch of religious crap," he replied. Sometimes I'd open one and it was usually not too bad, though she has a way of making subtle stinging comments at times (but that's a "mom" thing in general I suspect!!)

Anyway, this morning I opened one of her weekly cards, which was addressed to me, with some basic chitchat about a recent e-mail exchange we had, a health update, and a description of the changing seasons and the wildlife around the house. But most remarkable was what she did NOT include, the usual closing signature "Blessings in Jesus' Love," and the biblical quote(s.) Huh. How about that.

I even looked on the back of the card to see what church it may have been purchased through- nope, it's a Sierra Club card/photo. Hmmm! I re-read it to make sure........."Not a single mention of God in this one," I told my husband. "That's a keeper!" he said, a departure from his usual, "Just toss it on the fire!"

Could it be a new year's resolution on her part, not to stuff God into every nook and cranny of our blissfully-godless lives?? I don't plan on being too optimistic, no way it would be that simple, but I had to express my relief and dare to hope, even if for a few days......until the next card!!

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I agree ... it IS a keeper ... and maybe an indicator of things to come.  You never can tell...

Sure hope so! I simply can't imagine she's that considerate or open-minded. And even if she found it within herself......what would have brought it about?

This is the same woman who looked me in the eye and told me that I could not possibly have morals without the bible. This after I told (wrote) her about reading "The Moral Landscape," Sam Harris' book about a scientific approach to morals that eliminates religion.

Could it be that the nephews mentioned something about us not being religious? Can she look THEM in the eye and badmouth their beloved aunt/uncle? No idea. We only see the kids once per year.

Suggestion for futures: get your hands on a copy of Peter Boghossian's A Manual for Creating Atheists.  I'm in the process of reading it myself, and it may give you the tools to sound your mother-in-law out on the topic in a fashion which would not only be non-confrontational, but may actually be effective in moving her in the right direction.

Just a thought.

Thanks! I'm going through the reviews right now. I've seen this title before and immediately what comes to mind is, "Duh- the bible." I thought it was a sarcastic nickname for the bible at first!

Been watching The Atheist Experience featuring Matt Dillahunty, the ex-preacher who has a real talent for public speaking, debating skill and a sharp sense of logic. He's heard all the usual arguments, and even has a website called Iron Chariots that tears them apart.

I especially like his take on atheism: He says, "I never said that I don't believe in god or gods; I just haven't seen any convincing evidence yet." He maintains that there could very well be a god or gods, but would believe only if he is presented with credible evidence.

That way, he avoids the "prove there isn't" challenge, which is faulty logic anyway, but does put the person making the claim into the uncomfortable position of having to come up with proof.

But this book appeals to my secret desire to save the faithful from themselves. A few weeks ago, when we had JW's knock on the door, I felt the desire to save THEM. They don't believe in surgery or getting/donating blood, and I couldn't stand that the woman had her pre-teen daughter in tow. I thought about how *I* should be the one saving them, quite literally!!

That's when I realized not just the benefits of speaking up, but the urgency.

While I think of it, if they want to lay their Watchtower tracts on you, you can always return the favor!  I put the attached together some time back, based on a blog post of mine, and it seemed to get a pretty positive reception.  Only thing I ask is that if you see ANYTHING that can be improved about it, PLEASE DO SO and LET ME KNOW!

As for A Manual For Creating Atheists, I expect I'll be reading it a while before pressing its techniques into service.  Bogdossian's approach wants a lot of patience, as well as an understanding of the believers' point of view if it's going to be successful.

Attachments:

Christine, I regretfully say that you cannot "save" anybody.

Maybe it's her way of seeing if you really read the cards. You know, like you tell her this last card didn't have all the religous messages like before, and right there she knows. If you say nothing she knows that you never did read them anyway.

Loren- the guest room we stay in (her office) has a pile of Chick Tracts on the floor, with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves stuffed with religious fodder. I did tell my niece one day while in there, "There's nothing in here to READ but a dictionary!!"

The Chick Tracks are pretty offensive, and I don't see how they could expose the kids to such blatant propaganda full of hatred. Today I'm going to the bookstore to see about the manual and maybe the Annotated Bible.

Dennis- I don't expect to convert a woman whose entire existence (sp?) is built upon Jesus. I never understood how my husband's other three siblings decided to fall into step with their mom's newfound religion.....guess they were young and vunerable enough. My husband was about 14 and took up skiing around then, getting away every chance possible!

I do read her cards as I can relate to her love for writing (and it's fun spotting all her spelling errors- she got her master's in English and even taught at the university level, but there are some words......granted I'm not perfect, but still!!) If somebody takes the time to write, it deserves to be read, plus she is my MIL so I do want to relate to her in other ways. She has her good qualities interspersed in the madness!

I probably won't mention the lack of religion unless it happens again. Could be she was in a hurry? But wouldn't that be priority #1? It's somewhat intriguing to be sure......

Another week, another letter. This time to my husband. Handwritten this time, still not a word of "God" or his alter ego "Jesus" in there. Woooohoo!!

Granted, it's just one sentence with a clipping, but we'll take it! :-p

She just might be getting the message that you and your husband don't need her spooks! We can hope....

Yesterday, got a thank-you card for the gift we got them for the holidays, a charity donation, and it's full of Christmas this and Jesus' love that, though it's a short note. Fair enough- she celebrates Christmas, we don't. I'm not so crazy that I'd correct her on that.

'course the implication is that it couldn't possibly be any other type of gift- atheists who celebrate the Solstice are evil pagans!

 ... atheists who celebrate the Solstice are evil pagans!

She's wrong on both counts! (Mostly: there are some atheist pagans.)

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