Hey, everyone, my name is Forrest.

 

I'm a second-generation atheist; both my parents having been raised Christian and rejected it. My Dad in particular was really burned by his religious upbringing, and had some real anger issues about that.

 

While religion is just one dimension of how I chose my life partner, it was an important element. I would certainly never get involved with a Christian, but I was equally dubious about getting involved with a bitter ex-Christian. In the end, I travelled halfway around the world and married someone who had barely been affected by Christianity at all; a beautiful, intelligent Chinese woman.  (I also wanted to expand my horizons beyond being too white, too American, and too only-English-speaking.)

 

She came back to the US with me and then, some time later, her retired parents moved in with us.  (Immigration services wouldn't issue them a visitors' visa on the grounds that they would surely stay, but when we then tried to get an immigration visa for them .... no problem. Go figure.) I love my parents-in-law and it's wonderful to have their help raising our two boys -- but some time after their arrival, they decided to convert to Christianity and go to a Chinese church. A lot of it is because they can speak their own language, but they take it quite seriously, getting baptized and all.

 

This is an interesting situation, and I could go on ... but I'm  running out of time now. Maybe I'll say more later, if there's interest.

 

Forrest

 

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Welcome to AN!  How sad and yet how common for a church to draw people in by allowing them to speak in their native language knowing they will get few opportunities elsewhere.  I'll bet this happens all the time.  I hope they are not pressuring your wife to do the same.

Hi Forrest -- sure there in interest in what you have to say.

Welcome to the site -- I hope you like it.

Hi Forrest, welcome.  See you around!
Welcome also.  I think it would be interesting to hear how your wife is handling her PARENTS' indoctrination...I mean introduction....to Christianity....is it Catholic or Protestant?  Churches are like a gateway for immigrants also, I would predict...as new arrivals settled into American cities throughout our history, they probably sought out the comfort of that sort of social group setting.  Do you speak fluent Chinese? Does your wife speak English?  How are you handling religion with your 2 boys?  (Sorry, I'm coming across pretty nosey...ha)
Hi Forrest. Your story sure is interesting. Is Christianity popular at all in China? Did you baptize your boys? See you around here.     :)

Greetings Forrest.  Nice escape attempt.   Foiled again. :)

 

Thanks Grace, Steph, Cheryl, mojo, and Andrea for your interest and words of welcome. Since you have some similar questions, I'll make one reply here:

They are Protestant. I remember one question and answer my wife told me about: someone asked what the difference between a Catholic and a Christian was, and the minister answered that Catholics worship the Pope. (To be fair, perhaps something was lost in translation there.)

My parents-in-law would never think of trying to convert me; they respect my beliefs. They respect my wishes about what to teach our kids, and don't apply any pressure there. There is kind of a langauage barrier actually, but I don't think they would if they could. No way my kids would get baptized.

My wife is not inclined to adopt a religion -- I know she's been influenced by me, but I think that's also her natural disposition -- and while she has gone to their church on occasion to be social, she told me she had to walk out during the baptism ceremony when the minister talked about how all human beings are sinful creatures. Hearing those words just made her feel sick to her stomach.

We did let our kids go with to church with them, and my wife has taken them on a couple of retreats, but my older son has gotten such weird ideas, it's kind of scary. When he got back from the first retreat, he asked me "When someone dies, God kills them, right?"

I guess if there is a God who is responsible for everything, that must be true. So much for Him being benevolent. I told my son that Daddy doesn't believe in what they teach at church, and even though they really really believe it's true and sound like they know what they're talking about, it's not like they have any evidence or anything -- they just decided for whatever reason to believe in a story. And if they ever try to scare you with that story, remember it's not really true.

I work at the University, and there are a ton of Christian organizations trying to recruit. There is one Atheist student group, but they don't seem to do much as far as I can tell. On occasion, I talk to the Christians manning their student group booths, trying to talk some sense into them and/or find out what makes them tick. I'm afraid, though, that even though I've taken on more of the role of an anthropologist than a devil's advocate, my blood pressure still shoots up when I encounter them.
To answer a few more questions I seem to have missed ... I speak a pretty modest amount of Chinese; we've always really relied on my wife's English ability, which was good enough for us to communicate whenever we first met, and has improved greatly since she's been in the US. My in-laws are learning English, but it's hard. We manage by a combination of the languages.

It's been really interesting, especially with our older boy (soon to be 7) -- we let him go to their church activities to meet other kids, speak Chinese, and be exposed to Christian ideas, since it is such a large part of our culture. He now sees science and religion as an absolute dichotomy, you either believe in one (like Dad) or the other (like the grandparents) but not both -- and he's chosen science. I have no idea what he'll say in school when some other kid says something about Jesus; at least he'll know what they're talking about.

My experience has made me interested in "atheist outreach" -- since I work on a university campus, I see all these Chinese and other international students being sucked into Christianity by these aggressive outreach groups, and no one is telling these students, "hey, in America, it's ok to think for yourself. You don't have to believe what others believe just to fit in." I don't see that happening; and I'd really like to. I think it would take language skills that I don't have, though.

Atheist outreach.  What a fantastic idea...it would balance the scales at least and give students choices and opportunities for socializing with 'like-minded' people.    Thanks for your reply.  The more 'normal' and mainstream atheism becomes, the less we'll be viewed as outcasts and 'un-American'.

( PS: I liked your in-laws' simple, clear-cut distinction between Protestants and Catholics...that was funny....pope worship or no pope worship....I was reading about the Puritans who came across to colonize Massachusetts and how they described the pope in their special Protestant way as 'the antichrist' and 'the beast at the bottomless pit'...NOT a very charitable description..ha...it is sometimes easy to forget the real animosity felt between those 2 branches of Christianity throughout world history and US history.)

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