I've always been an atheist. I grew up in a family that never went to church, and there was no indoctrination of any sort at all. I even got into some trouble with a friend who was religious when his parents found out about my worldview.

My atheism has never been an obstacle or hindrance… until recently.

I've known my wife for over 18 years, and we've been married more than 13 of those. We've had many discussions, and belief has been something she has struggled with for much of her life; she oscillates between belief and non-belief. I have done my best to understand this, even though I have no point of reference.

We were having a discussion last night, and she asked me to go to a church with her (for support; she doesn't expect me to change my worldview), and told me that our pre-teen daughter also has some belief and would like to go.

Is there anyone in this kind of a mixed family, where they are the only atheist? I want to support my wife and daughter, but I also have misgivings. I am uncomfortable in church, and get worried (especially with kids) about indoctrination and suppression of critical thinking. I want, more than anything, for my wife to be content. Essentially, I'm at a bit of a loss for how to proceed, and would appreciate any input I can get.

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Tags: family, mixed

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For what its worth, I can tell you how we handled stuff like this in my family growing up. While we never had this exact situation come up, i have a pretty good sense of how it would've gone down if it had:

  • Re. father's partners: He would absolutely NOT go to church. He would feel very uncomfortable, out of place, and a little creeped out if he went. But he WOULD support her going. 
  • Re. Child: If i'd wanted to go to church, he would've let me. BUT he would also ask me about it, and ask me about my *reasoning* in believing the things i believed. Our family was very consistent in gently but firmly challenging anyone's deeply held views. If we could present a good argument, the idea got a thumbs up. If not, back to the drawing board.
Food for thought:
Depending on the religion/denomination, going to a church can actually be a help in realizing why abrahamic religions are so bizarre. I went to a handful of churches with friends as a child. And i was really uncomfortable -- all those people singing the same thing at the same time was creepy, the lecture format and the subjects of discussion seemed unhealthy, the strongly hierarchical organization of the rituals. They were nice enough people, but it still left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth as a youngin'

I am an atheist and my wife is very religious.  In 32 years of marriage I have gone to church a few times at Easter and Xmas.  In the last five years I have not gone at all because it is excruciating to listen to some of that stuff.  My wife would prefer I come to church but is okay with me not attending.  I always thought that my three children would go to church with my wife but still come to the same conclusions that I did about religion.  I made them aware about my atheism but did not indoctrinate them.  My oldest son is an atheist, my daughter is very sympathetic to atheism and the scientific method.  My youngest son is very religious like my wife.  It tears me up that the youngest has gone an opposite way - but he still is a great kid and I have to be tolerant of his decisions.  You should impress on your wife that an atheist and a devout christian should be able to live together (the world needs more tolerance) she needs to respect your being uncomfortable in a church just like you need to respect her apprehension in sitting through an atheist class.   You can try out a church visit out of curiosity but don't become a regular attendee just to please your wife and daughter. 

I am coming to this discussion a little late, but I also am married to an evangelical christian. My wife wants me to attend services, to keep her company, as she says, but it had gotten increasingly difficult to sit there and listen to songs and praises for something that you know is imaginary. Even though I grew up Catholic, it is different once you see these things for what they are, which is delusional. The blissful expressions on the faces of the 'believers" with their eyes closed and their hands held up the the sky-is just creepy now. I stopped going a few weeks ago, but it is a week by week thing, as my spouse still has expectations of me being there with her.I am struggling with the guilt of not supporting her emotionally, but at the same time, I don't know how much more I can take of the craziness.

There has been a development. My wife has told me that, after long consideration, she is taking the agnostic view of things. I suppose, in many ways, this resolves the tension that spurred my original post. I thank those who replied with ideas, or just to commiserate, or who read the post but did not reply. With any luck, those who *are* in a similar situation but did not feel comfortable speaking up will benefit from those who did.

Thanks again!

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Wow, really good news there then, huh? I'm happy for you. I'd give so much to hear my wife say she is now an agnostic. Congrats!

I would comply with her request, and then ask them to comply with one of yours, perhaps getting a DVD of this movie for a family movie night?

Glad to hear about her agnosticism, though I wonder what she means by "agnostic", as it doesn't on its own rule out theism, or atheism.

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