I accidently "converted" my wife... and now she desperately wants God back!

"Coming out" to my wife recently had an unplanned affect. It was not my intent, but it caused her to question her own faith. Now she wishes she could turn back time. Atheism, however, is a genie not easily put back in its bottle. It was never my intent to "convert" her away from religion. I was simply sharing (in a gentle way) my own crisis of faith. I didn't realize it until a couple of nights ago I must have sewed some pretty serious seeds of doubt in her.

She is now extremely distraught because she has come to the conclusion none of the things upon which she feels she based her life are real. She comes from a deeply devout family (two aunts are nuns and one uncle was a priest). Despite my attempts at suggesting alternative ways of finding meaning in life, she insists life no longer has meaning without God. I suspect some of it also has to do with the loss of belief in an afterlife... which to her means for example should our only daughter die (I almost added "God forbid" just then... old habits die hard) then she'd simply be gone and she'd never be able to see her again. My wife lost her Mother when she was young, and I think the idea that death is final is one of the things that's hit her hard.

Has anyone else dealt with someone who while losing their religion ended up feeling tremendously sad and at a loss for finding meaning in their life? I never meant to hurt her, and would love advice on how I might ease her into a new, healthy, happy way of viewing life after God.

Tags: accidental, atheist, loss, meaning

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Haven't dealt with it, but my hope is that time will smooth things out for her. You could tell her that now her life/this life has MORE meaning.
She is now extremely distraught because she has come to the conclusion none of the things upon which she feels she based her life are real.

That's accurate: they weren't.

For example should our only daughter die then she'd simply be gone and she'd never be able to see her again.

Ditto.

The upside is you can live you life free of delusion. Delusions can be comforting, therein lies their power. That we each only have one life to live means that living it free of delusion and honestly is perhaps the greatest gift we can come to.

That's the gravel and brass tacks version.

There are ways of saying the same thing with more - diplomacy, I am certain.
Thanks, Damian. I was rather surprised by the depth of her feelings of loss. She kept saying life had no longer had meaning. Losing my faith has really had no affect to me other than refocusing my energy on the one life I've got. I'd think that would, as you say, give this life MORE meaning, but she doesn't see it that way. Again, I think for her much of the loss is the knowledge that her time with loved ones is finite. Having lost her mother at an early age, the idea of loss is much more real to her, and religion, however deluded, provides a comforting myth. She's horribly afraid of something happening to our little girl. At least "heaven" gave her small comfort of all being together again someday should the inevitable happen to one of us.
She may have 'Lost heaven', but surely that is balanced by not having fo fear hell either ?

M.
Yes, that's what I meant. She is upset by the thought she won't be reunited with our daughter after either die. I think she's less concerning about reuniting with me, but that's another issue. ;) You're right, she's not considering the possibility of her new lack of faith being wrong. That is to say, as much as she'd like to be able to believe in some of the more comforting myths associated with religious belief she finds she cannot. While intellectually one can consider that a good thing, it broke my heart to feel her pain the other night. It's been a big loss for her, even if what she lost wasn't real. I'll have to figure out how I can best guide her to finding beauty and meaning without God.
Emily, thank you for your thoughtful response. That's encouraging, actually. I really felt awful when she broke down crying the other night. I suppose you are right that with time and support she'll feel better. I'll check into Dan Barker's book, thanks. I'm on this site, in part, to see if it might be helpful for her. I would, however, like to shield her from some of the more blunt (however accurate and presumably well meaning) approaches some atheists seem to take. She doesn't need to have the errors of her old beliefs pointed out to her... she get's it, but is suffering from significantly feelings of loss and meaninglessness. She's smart and tough, but this seems to have shaken her quite badly. Anyway, thanks for your kind thoughts.
I think you should tell her what you told us. You are worried about her and her happiness. Let her know her happiness means a lot to you and ask her what you can do to help her.

You can tell her what it is that keeps you going too. Let her know there are other things to live for. We, as atheists, have our own things to live for. I work hard every day to make my family proud, to make money to buy little toys for my niece and nephew and bring them some happiness, and I wonder every day how to make a difference in the world.
That makes sense, Roxanne. I'm quite new to atheism myself, and while I did not experience the feeling of loss that she did, I am only just working out the whole life without God thing for myself. I suppose suggesting we try to work it out together might be a good idea. Sometimes we guys (sorry for the stereotype) can be somewhat clueless, especially concerning talking about feelings. I agree about finding meaning in the things that are truly important. In my case that's my family. Thanks again everyone! Have a great evening, I'm heading home to the aforementioned family.
When I first realized that I didn't believe anymore it was extremely difficult for me to deal with the issue of death being the end forever. But after having some time to think about it, I understood that when it's over it won't bother me that there's no afterlife because I'll be dead anyway. That sounds a little simple, but I guess my point is that after enough time, it stopped being such a sad thing for me. Hopefully given enough time your wife will learn that this life is to be lived here and now. It dosen't mean that the memory of loved ones who have passed don't mean anything. We can still appreciate the lives that they lived and celebrate them for the rest of ours. I've learned to really appreciate life much more, being that it's the only life I have, and that there is nothing beyond it.
Tex,

For me it was a great sense of liberation, like a weight had been lifted off of me. Oh sure, I feel a some existential angst every once in a while, but everyone has that if they do any thinking at all. For the most part, it's been a very positive thing. I would suggest some Carl Sagan books, which seem to really inspire a lot people about their place in the universe. As a parasitologist, I find a lot of inspiration in the biological world. Of course, Dawkins is very good at this sort of thing also.

I'm not sure what her religion was but here's a point I always like to make. The god of the bible is so very, very small and petty compared to reality. The real world, the real universe is so very, very much more complex and bigger than the bible even begins to hint at. How could there be no mention of the microscopic world also? In short, everything in reality is so much bigger and better than religion. It is so much more inspiring. It is so much more full of meaning and depth.

I understand the safety net has been taken away but that only makes life and loved ones all the more precious. There's no second chance. That's a hell of an incentive to do the right thing and to make sure that you let everyone know how special they are to you. We're all in this together. Take care. Hope it works out.

Chad
I also felt more like I was removing a blindfold than losing something great. Carl Sagan had a lot to do with my becoming atheist too. When people feel like they don't have meaning, or they don't see anything magical in life anymore, it helps to discover that the truth is much more amazing and crazy than anything people came up with to explain things.

Also, you may not see your relatives in heaven, but you don't have to worry about them burning in hell for minor infractions.
My wife is still a Christian, though she hasn't set foot in a church in years. She knows I'm an atheist, but we've never really talked about it at all. A lot of the reason is that I'm hesitant to because I don't want to hurt her. Even though she isn't devout, she takes great comfort in thinking her dad and my parents (whom she loved very much) are in Heaven. I don't want to take that from her.

The hardest part of atheism for me was coming to grips with the permanence of death. I did come to grips with it nicely, but I wouldn't want to wish the despondency on her for anything. It might be temporary--she might come to the same conclusions I did--but she might not.

In every other way, religion doesn't come into play in our personal lives at all. I can live comfortably with that elephant in the room. He's quite, and he doesn't eat much, and he makes my wife feel more secure.

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