FreeThought Fort Wayne

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Posts Tagged ‘scientific naturalism’

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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