Not too long ago, I left the world of theism for good. My most recently religion was Mormonism - not the casual kind of theism, and I was not a casual practitioner of it, let me assure you. I was a member in a young-adult (18-30 age group) ward, most of whose members are pretty laid back, non-judgemental, and haven't given me any grief about leaving (at least the ones I've met since departing). My old Bishop had the attitude that people need to make decisions for themselves, and once they've heard the basic message, they should be left to their own devices... so, thankfully, I've had no crazy missionaries or home teachers barging in on me.
The problem I'm having is with one particular Aunt who has nosiness issues. (Other family members have also reported moments of aggravation caused by said aunt). Even when I was a member, she was often calling me up to complain about my practice of the faith, or social life, etc., and even showed up at my house on some occasions (namely after I told her to leave the topic be, over the phone). I reported her once to my bishop, who asked her husband (my uncle was an assistant to him) to educate her about nosing into adults personal lives. She continued on with that behavior on other occasions, but I got pretty tough with her once and she seemed to just leave my personal matters alone after that.
Recently she learned of my atheism. Of course her response was to go scripture ballistic and try to convince me to return; I let he know very plainly that I was not interested and to drop it. She called twice more to lecture me fervently... only to receive the same reply; the second time she called she started off on other topics first; she let me know that a certain young lady friend was having a tough time because of a boyfriend in prison, and she wanted me to come over so she could arrange for us to hang out a bit, you know, to help said friend out... but then she brought up religion again.
Soon after she realized that I would not even listen to her on the phone anymore, my aunt started visiting our house more often, and of course would always visit my bedroom/office. The first time she visited, she just burst out about religion as though she had just received the news of my atheist status. She got a bit of an education and once again notified that I was not interested. The second time she visited, I asked her if she was going to talk about religion before I would let her in my room to talk. She said "no" and I allowed her in. She asked about my coming over to help my friend, asked about my sister and stuff... and then of course, after that, brought up religion again... I let my aunt know that I don't have any questions regarding religion, that I was not interested (and if I was, would go to an actual authority on topics thereof), and to leave me alone.
Since she (must have) realized she will no longer have access to me via. the phone or via. personal visits, she started writing letters. The first one had photographs of myself with certain family members, but the letter component was no so nice, talking about how wonderfully I was doing in church, then complaining that I was being a bad fellow, basically, and that I was pushing "people's" buttons, being arrogant by "not listening" to her (funny, I thought I heard every word she said). Her second letter contained scriptures (the testament of John) with highlighted passages (I guess she thinks I haven't read them [five dozen times] or didn't understand them). The scriptures were prefaced with a picture of a turkey and a thanksgiving invitation to her house. I ripped both letters up and plan on ripping future ones up without reading them.
I am very aware that the two invitations mentioned above would likely be used to get me in a place/situation where I would be inclined to stick around for more religious bombardment, a captive audience. This is where things are going to become a problem. I have a bit of a social anxiety problem, and struggle to speak up for myself when I am in groups. When I am cornered and attacked by my aunt, my heart starts pounding and I really struggle to keep my anger down, or from having an attack. She darn well knows that I would have a problem defending myself if she gets me in a situation surrounded by Mormon—and other christian—friends or family members. What can I do about those things besides not attend them... and aggravate other family members who expect me to participate in Thanksgiving with them?
In addition, school and work related things get me stressed out enough without coming home to find a letter from aunt-crazy, or find her at my house or other events and know that I have to lock myself in my room, or find some place to avoid her for the rest of her or my stay. My heart rate and blood pressure rise every time these things happen, despite trying to keep my cool.
My question is, what can I do to stop her letters and make sure she leaves me be when I inevitably end up in other situations where she is present, short of violence, pressing charges, or getting other family members involved and possibly upset at me for being mean to her? How do I deal with her?
P.S. I should mention that I have more secular family up north that would have me, but I am going to school down here (In SoCalifornia), cannot afford my own place, and am on grant money. I am not sure that moving is an option (since Calif. pays 3/4 of tuition, would the Feds appreciate my moving to a state where school cost way more?)
Practice in a mirror. I'm not talking good arguments here, I'm talking intimidation, fury and ferocious contempt. You need to be able to look her dead in the eye and tell her "Your shitty religion is a fucking lie, your god is a laughable myth, and you are an idiotic piece of shit for believing any of it."
Practice that on yourself. Come up with variations. Use swear words. Be as denigrating, contemptuous and vehement as you can be. You need to prepare yourself to take it to that level - or you are going to chicken out. You won't necessarily need to take it to that level, but if you do not prepare, you will chicken out at some point.
Sadly, I am a little concerned about increasing the 'crazy' part of his relationship.
Having watched theists get all weird and nutty a few times, such a recommendation might attract the family exorcist.
I can see it now, you practice your little heart out, and you are about to give the show of your century. Anntie Maim is all happy to see you, gives a nice hug, maybe even blesses you for being such I nice guy, then you lay into her. From her perspective, your head spins around 360, you blow green spittal onto her pant suit, fire and brime stone flash from your eyes, and you take her god's name in vain every which way to next sunday! Her face flash dries to a grimish, her heart freezes solid, and she runs down your front step crazed, as if she had just stepped one foot onto the surface of Pluto, or was forced to watch PBS's 'Creationism On Trial'.
By all that is holy, please think of her sanity, and your forced holy water bath!
If you must do this, please tell us all the gruesome details with pictures! LOL
Yes, doing it my way "ball's out" would probably cause problems, but like I said, it isn't about necessarily taking it that far - it's about being prepared.
Question, 'Do atheists catch fire exposed to holy water?'
Dead ends. I like to say "Oh, yeah, uh... I'm not interested in religion. At all... yeah... yeah, listen, what you're saying right now, I'm not really finding it that interesting. So..."
Mastery of the awkward moment.
Having a friend with a camcorder would be super 'neato!' We could all make some popcorn and enjoy the action thriller.
Did you tell her that God told you to quit your religion? She can't ask for proof because that would be questioning god(me) which is a very serious matter.
The point here is you can't make any rational arguments against her, because they're allergic to it. You have to be fight idiocy with idiocy and ridicule her so much that she'll stop