FreeThought Fort Wayne

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Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

Now What? (A Response to Andy’s Personal Question)

Posted by mikebftw on June 13, 2008

(This is my response to Andy’s post from a few days ago.)

I’m a little envious of Andy’s brother for being able to handle a mixed-belief relationship so neatly, honestly, and openly. Surely it has to do with the character of the people involved, but there’s also a situational element that we shouldn’t overlook. That is to say, both participants came into the relationship with (I presume, from Andy’s description) existing, articulated worldviews. From this standpoint, as long as they were honest with each other, they couldn’t fail.

However, what happens when the order of events is reversed: first comes the relationship, then the worldviews? This best describes my relationship with my wife. We were both raised in Catholicism, but we weren’t exactly regular churchgoers at the time of our wedding. Being Catholic was simply a portion of our individual identities, and provided a base set of beliefs that we took for granted (i.e. there is a God, the basic Christian narrative is true, etc.), but to which we didn’t really commit much thought or effort. Originally, I was the one who suggested we get married in a church, but I was motivated more by the idea of “doing the right thing” than a particular closeness to the church or its doctrine. (We ended up getting married on a beach in a civil ceremony.) As most engaged couples hopefully do, we had several conversations regarding what kind of lifestyle we wanted together, how we would raise our children, and so forth. While we never committed to a stringently religious lifestyle, we did agree on raising our children as we were raised, in the Catholic church.

We had been married for about a year when I really started engaging in and scrutinizing my belief system. I have to admit that when you come to the realization of your naturalistic worldview, there’s nothing scarier than anticipating how your loved ones will react. So many questions came to mind – Am I a fraud for this? Am I still the same person she wanted to marry? What about our kids – can we find a compromise, or will one of us have to watch our children raised in a way that we completely disagree with? Again, we were never the most religious couple, but I still felt this kind of anxiety – I can’t imagine what a more devout couple would have to go through.

So, how does one deal with a mid-relationship change in beliefs? My personal experience is a work in progress. The first step is to appeal to the qualities necessary to make any relationship work: honesty, compromise, and a sense of humor. Honesty can be difficult, especially given the negative attitude toward atheism that dominates American culture. It’s just plain scary to face how the most important person in your life will react – it feels like you have more to lose in that moment than you know how to deal with. However, if your relationship is built on trust, you owe it to yourself and your partner to be completely honest. If you’re in the middle of a relationship, hopefully you’ve mastered the art of compromise by this point, so applying it to your beliefs is a logical transition. For my relationship, a sense of humor has always been most important. My wife and I have a knack for knocking each other down a peg if one of us is taking ourself too seriously. Presently, she likes to refer to our freethinker group as FWAC, as in “Fort Wayne Atheist Club,” pronounced “fwhack,” despite my insistence on calling it FreeThought Fort Wayne. She also (rightfully) makes fun of my sometimes nerd-a-rific interest in all things scientific. Meanwhile, I have found ways to tactfully poke fun at the sillier aspects of her beliefs, not in a mean-spirited way, but in a “funny ’cause it’s true” kind of way – like Dane Cook did.

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Do You Mind if I Ask a Personal Question? (A mini-series?)

Posted by Andy D. on June 10, 2008

I listened to John Loftus’ speech to us again on why he rejects Christianity from the position of a former evangelical minister and apologist.  It is a good listen.  (Check out his referrals on his latest book! That is a long list of famous people who mostly are going to hell.  We were lucky to have John join us.)

As most of you know, I have been on my own educational quest.  I wanted scientific answers to the big questions with no BS.  I have been following the technical blogs and reading everything I could on evolution and I read ex-ministers’ books on theology.

During the Q&A period of John’s speech the theists asked (and made comments) on the same old morality and Hitler objections.  The freethinkers asked good logical questions and battled back the comments and the reductio ad Hitlerum fallacy. The topics were technical and logical.  I loved it.

Suddenly, in the middle of the talk, Sarah asked John if she could ask him a personal question?  We all laughed in anticipation of the question.  She asked John what did his family and friends think of him being out as an Atheist? What a great and relevant question!  I was focused on the logic and arguments; Sarah wanted to know more about the relationships.  John answered by saying at least we are not getting stoned now for speaking up about non-belief and he wanted to change the world.  He didn’t blow Sarah off, but I think she wanted to know more about the personal problems he may have experienced as a by product from being open. The young earth creationist attorney switched the subject for us so we didn’t get that answer.  I am going to e-mail John this blog post and see if he will respond.  I did a quick search on his debunking blog to see if he wrote about this already but I didn’t find anything).

I wasn’t even consciously focusing on this part of my life.  However, I am neck deep in this.  Most of us are probably having trouble in this area so let’s talk about it.  (Blogging is good for you! It sure beats prayer because someone actually reads it and they may respond!  Although they may both provide a self-meditating effect).

My brother has recently graduated from The OSU medical school and he is now engaged to his amazing girlfriend who is also a new doctor.  She is a devout Catholic and accepts a theistic type of evolution as the former Catholic generation did.  He was honest about not being religious and the two of them are getting along great.  I talked with Jim and suggested to him if he loves her there is nothing in our worldview that keeps him from participating in that part of her life.  The trade off is Jim has to have a big Catholic wedding which is her dream.   I love Catholic music and ceremony.  They sure beat the boring Lutheran services.   Don’t hate me folks if I turn off my logic hat during the wedding.  I won’t walk up and say excuse me do you realize there is no evidence for any of these far out claims?  I love my brother and soon to be sister-in-law far more than dragging up reason in the ceremony.  I would be a major ass if I did that.  In fact, that would be unreasonable and dare I say illogical.   (Is there some attempt at a natural selection type of altruism here?  Maybe selfish gene evolutionary theory applies?)

Where do we draw the line on what we tolerate?  I know it would be wrong and silly to run around nursing homes and start saying excuse me, did you know this God thing isn’t really true.  Of course, we draw a hard line to keep creationism out of science class.  I want to know more about the middle demarcation between criticism of religion and intolerance and what that means to our relationships.

I want to pose Sarah’s question to all of you.  What about your family and friends?  Are you open?  What problems are you facing?   I only scratched the surface on this topic and I will write a series on personal issues that I am having with family and friends.  It is extremely complicated.   Let’s help one another.  I will talk to you all tomorrow at the meeting!

Andy

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