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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The "dark night of the soul" - losing touch with your spiritual apron strings. In many ways, this is the same experience that a child has on their first day at school when they realise their parents are not there and they are on their own. It is ultimately a test of character for the individual and very much sink or swim. Some make the transition, never look back and feel much lighter and better for it. Others rebound like a slingshot and become even more rabid in their theism. This is your wife's private battle. The best you can do is be supportive, but resist the temptation to push her along with the de-conversion. She has to work it out for herself. Good luck.
I was a little freaked out by realizing death is final. No one thing made it all better, just kinda accepted it after awhile. Hope she feels better soon.
I have not dealt with this directly, but I only recently spoke in depth about religion to my wife. We have been together for 7 years (counting dating) and it she always assumed I was religious in some fashion, possibly because I always enjoyed preaching to nasty parts of the bible for people to hear. We came across the topic on religion not long ago and I was shocked when my wife got angry at me for saying I was atheist, and how she didn't want to be married to an atheist. I thought my history of bible eating would have been a sign (shit happens when you get drunk).

I always considered her spiritual without any real religion, but at this point she was saying she was Christian. After some discussion, we came to the conclusion that she wasn't Christian, because she didn't think that Jesus was a god, but just a prophet or something. Now she is open to others about not wanting my daughter to go to christian daycare or anything else associated with them, which makes me a happy camper.

I still would consider her spiritual/agnostic, not atheist, which I can deal with. I just can't handle any dogma.

It is obviously hard to come to terms that what you thought was reality for much of your life was nothing but a myth. This can't be an easy thing to deal with. Meaning in the world will build as time goes on, when you jump off that boat, you still need to swim to shore. She will find meaning to life, there is so much in the world that you can't feel empty forever. My love for science, nature, human history and of course my family keep my all warm and fuzzy and gives my reasons for waking every day.

As far as afterlife, this again is something that takes time and people just need to accept. People can live far after death by the things they do while they are alive.
Though I am an atheist, I think I'm a spiritual person because I believe in the human spirit, but that comes from us, not any divinity. Why do we have strong gut reactions to art and music and literature? Scientists may someday untangle the Gordian knot of neurons and nerves etc. that cause our bodies to react to thoughts, sounds, and sights, just as they have learned to sequence the human genome. Our consciousness is the result of biological factors. It's not a miracle, but it's close enough.

I am a college professor in the Bible belt, and I have been very surprised by the fact that most of my colleagues and the VAST majority of my students do not accept the theory of evolution. (They don't understand it, either, but that's another post.) I have been more surprised by the number of students who come to me for information on the Bible and the rather bloody history of Christianity. Many have been scarred by being "raised in the church." They are happy to meet someone with a different and more logically consistent view.

Craig
I have found that simply by saying one is an atheist - ,"coming out" (as I did in a louder than expected way recently), empowers others that may already carry doubts about God, to question it; or it nudges others into theistic skepticism. Several of my friends that once called themselves believers, now proclaim agnosticism or even atheism. Sometimes all it takes is an example of applied rationality by someone close, to sway others to do the same.

For me, Humanism provides such a positive and beautiful outlook on life - it is facing the truth and "breathing in" every drop of human experience because this life is the only life we can be sure of, why cheapen it by dwelling on some other afterlife fantasy realm? Meaning? This life means everything!

Humanism also leads one to realize we cannot and should not ignore injustices in the world, nor accept human rights violations. Comprehending the reality of ones own mortality can really draw you in to a laser-sharp focus on the needs of humanity. Reality can give much purpose.
Wow. THANK YOU ALL so much for your thoughtful responses to my concerns about my wife. As many of you said, it will likely take her some time.

I'm not pushing her one direction or the other, but will do my best to support and love her through her "crisis" of faith (or lack thereof). You've all been so great and your kindness is the sort of thing I'd like her to see from people that aren't members of a religious organization. Ultimately she might benefit from joining a site like this, though right now I'm not sure she's ready.

I agree with time she will see the beauty and "miraculous" complexity of the natural world, and will refocus on the life she has and the joys (like our beautiful baby girl) it brings. I suppose I was caught by surprise by the depth of her feelings of loss. My own "crisis of faith" was much less dramatic. On some level I was aware I'd been suspending disbelief for some time before I let go all together.

I suspect my wife had had doubts for some time, but it was several key people in her life (one of her best friends, her aunt and me) "coming out" that forced her to face her own doubts. Anyway, thank you all again. I appreciate some of your sharing your personal stories. That helps me understand better what my wife is dealing with since it was different for me.

Have a great day!

--Tex
With respect to your own feelings and hers, I think you'll find feelings and emotions not tied to any religious drama are more pure and your own, not belonging to anyone else. Might make it a bit tougher to share sometimes, but much easier to empathize. Certainly easier to raise a child!
Your wife still has the values she was raised with. Many of the things of her past are still with her. For me, becoming an atheist meant accepting uncertainty - that human beings do not have all the answers. Saying something is "god's will" is trying to find an answer for something there may be no answer for.

For example, I have known people who have lost their children and they say it was god's will or god took that child home. As a mother of young children, I find this explanation of the unexplainable cruel and harsh. What kind of horrible god has a will that children will suffer or people will be murdered?

Of course, at that point, your average religious person will say it was to teach the person something or man's will interfering with god's will. According to most religious types, nothing can happen outside god's will, therefore, for some people that means being a murder victim is all in god's plan for them. And what kind of horrible god does these things? Not one I care to believe in. Even when I was a christian, I thought Satan was nonsense. I don't think I ever really believed there was a Satan creating all the bad in the world. Of course, if god created everything, then he also created Satan and evil, therefore, evil is also part of god's plan. According to christians, everything god created was good, therefore, evil must also be good. None of that makes a lick of sense, but as Robby Coltrain said in Nuns on the Run, "It doesn't make sense to anyone. That's why you have to have faith. That's why you have to believe it."

For me, living with this uncertainty that some things cannot be explained and there are some things which we will probably never understand, was really hard. Bad things really do just happen and it is not part of any plan.

It is very easy not to think for yourself and just follow the crowd even if the crowd isn't making any sense. It's nice to be part of the crowd where everyone likes you. You all think alike and there are very few arguments. Being an atheist is hard. It makes you stand out. Some people don't want to be friends with you or react badly. Not all atheists think alike and many will challenge you instead of just parroting the company line.

However, in the end, I think it is better and actually, kinder to oneself, to accept uncertainty, randomness and that some things cannot be explained instead of using god to explain everything.

When you are a christian, you know many things are certain and nearly everything can be explained by the phrase "god's will". I can understand her feelings of loss.

I hope i am making sense. My father recently died unexpectedly for no easily apparent reason. When I shared the news with my daughter, I told her that Grandpa was only as far away as her thoughts. My husband told her that some people believe in reincarnation or heaven, but no one really knows for sure. Your wife does not have to give up her belief in an afterlife to quit believing there is a god. There are some atheists who do believe in an afterlife, if not a heaven or hell.

That's the great thing about being an atheist. You can choose what you believe or don't believe in without someone else telling you what to think. i hope this has helped.
Sorry for the grammarical and spelling errors, I have had very little sleep since my dad died.
Gosh, that's sad to hear. I hope you have people to talk to, aside from folks here; face time is so important. With a relaxing beverage (I prefer tea). I also (I am not a doctor) prescribe naps.

And having read your prior post, you did a good thing with your daughter.
Not really. My family is very religious. I was the black sheep before I was an atheist. The whole atheist thing made it worse. I, also, got a nasty shock from my sister whom has told me many times that she was an agnostic leaning towards atheist has suddenly started spouting bible verses out me and telling me to take comfort from them. *rolleyes* I do not react well from being told to read the bible.

Seven years ago my husband's 16 year old cousin was murdered by her boyfriend, because he wanted to know what it was like to kill someone. He is now rotting in a Michigan jail finding out what it is like to serve 32 years to life. Loser.

Sorry for the aside. Back on topic...

I am atheist who calls the winter holiday Christmas, not because of Jesus, but because my family has celebrated that holiday and called it by that name for hundreds of years. Tradition is as good of reason as any to do a thing. My kids believe in Santa and the Tooth fairy. The difference between Santa and Jesus is Santa brings results even if he is your dad and when you no longer believe in him, your parents confirm the truth for you. In my case, I am going to say "and wasn't it believing in him fun?"
There have been some great responses, but here's my $.02 anyway.

As far as feeling her life has no meaning without God... I would turn it around on her. If anything life has MORE meaning and is even MORE precious without God. If this is the only life we get, the only chance we have, then we'd better make it count. So many religious people throw away this life (by extreme means like suicide bombings, and by more subtle means like wasting a good portion of it bowing and scraping to a non-existent deity), and squander the time they do have with the ones they love. Knowing that this is the one chance she has with your daughter, encourage her to make it count. I'm reminded of some (slightly cheesy, but apt) country/western song lyrics, "If tomorrow never comes, will she know how much I loved her?"

Encourage her to look at it that way. Not "I'll never see her again if I die." But rather "If I die, what will she remember of me" and indeed vice-versa. I have 3 kids of my own and I fear losing them, but I try to make all of the time I do have with them full of good memories for all of us, so if something terrible does happen those remaining will have many fond memories to smile about and good lessons to remember.

Also, look up any clips you can of Julia Sweeney's "Letting Go of God." She's both funny and poignant.

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