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?)
I feel for ya.
Avoid those who are vexations to the spirit. If she comes, you should go somewhere, if she calls; just hang up, if she sends a letter; just put it in the garbage. If family asks why you don't attend family functions tell them!
This is an excellent idea. Try it! Nosy, controlling people tend to really care about their social position, so exposing all of her shenanigans could shame her into backing off. It sounds like she is making you miserable by overstepping reasonable social boundaries, so you have the right to boldly assert your needs.
I understand how terrifying doing something like this can be when you have social anxiety and overbearing personalities in your family--I deal with both! It might help to practice reading your message with an understanding family member or friend. I've had to do that when discussing heated topics with certain people and it really helped me to practice before hand. Although you're nerves will still be there, they aren't as overwhelming because the words feel familiar and you know where you're going to go next with your message.
This woman does not get to drive you away from your home. She does not get to have that kind of power. Stand your ground because you deserve to live in peace. I think she will back down once she sees there are consequences for her behavior.
Just as you thoughtfully prepared this blog, I agree that preparing a statement is the best way to approach this. You are just like me and most other people who are rational in that irrationality tends to tick us off. Remember the saying,"You can't argue with idiots. They will just bring you down to their level and beat you with experience." Writing about how you feel comes much easier than just speaking on the spot because it is you and your thoughts. No one else is around you to refute every thought you have. When you have everything written down that you want to say (in an intelligent, pleasant manner), call a family meeting and speak your mind. Begin with a disclosure that nothing you are about to say is up for debate and that if anyone disagrees to the point where they want to "disown" you, that is on their conscious. Stick to the script, keep your composure, and whatever happens know that there are ALWAYS people (family included) who will be there for you no matter what. It may be tough to break ties with people you care about but know that it was not your choice nor your desire. They will be the ones who will have to confess their sins to their imaginary being in the sky. We are all here for you :)
That sounds like a good idea. Forgive me if I sound patronising, I don't mean to be - you sound like an exceptionally intelligent and articulate person. Have you thought of writing her a letter, explaining your position? I would probably do that first, not that it always works. I would stick to a friendly but firm tone, be super-clear, and make it politely understood, you will not be fucked with and are in fact strong and invincible, and the silly old b**** will not win. Perhaps suggest that she finds something better to occupy her tiny mind - which may point out to her her own neurotic meddling tendencies. I understand that these people can succeed because they play on your proper sense of politeness and respect for older family members. As with all neurotic people however, she would probably rather explode than deal with her own problems.
I assume that she doesn't understand the situation. You must spell it out for her.
Man I feel for you and others in the same situation I have had no problems with my family but we tend to be a very liberal group so i cant really speak from personal experience. I can tell you some people will never give up and your Aunt sounds like one of them the real problem is they do not see how disrespectful and rude there behavior is they really think they are helping you by trying to bring you back to the fold. And the real kicker is there is not too much you can do to stop them unless they become willing to accept you as you are. As long as they think they are helping you they will not stop I would bet all the tea in china your Aunt thinks it is her duty to save your eternal soul and that letting you go would be a failing of her sacred duty.
I see three things you can do first idea is to have a sit down with your Aunt and any one else giving you grief state your beliefs and explain how you came to them and then ask them to respect them and leave you alone point out that you don't tell them what to believe and you expect the same courtesy, and at the end let them now if they wont respect you you wont see them any more. Second idea is to do more or less the same thing as above in a letter or e-mail this gives you the advantage of not having to be face to face where you could get ganged up on. The last idea is just cut ties let your Aunt go and any one else who wont leave you alone this of coarse is the nuclear option and should be followed only after the failure of one and two as no one should have to wright off family.
Is it possible to ask another relation or a parent to speak with her and ask her to stop? I would still tell her myself in no uncertain but polite terms to give it a rest. Sometimes just being assertive with people who don’t expect you to be so works wonders. Keep calm and civil in your encounters with her but leave her in no doubt that you are not interested in any further discussions about faith matters. You do not need to explain to her why not.
I strongly agree with this. This doesn't seem to be a case of your whole family sending her out to harass you. She seems to be doing it on her own. Since you say that you have fairly liberal relatives, is there someone close to your aunt who can talk some sense into her?
Agree you may need a little back up from a family member.
I say go on the passive offensive. Write a series of essays and send it to her... or find a way to show her how ridiculous her behavior is by finding her disdain in someone that does something similar... or perhaps make it a point to do something she simply can't be around whenever she mentions the subject. Like take gods name in vein. I sometimes use aggression when someone gets on my nerves... she mentions my heathenism and I mention the fact that god probably hates to see children of his that can't think for themselves or live their own lives for that matter. And remember... throwing things can go a long way too.
Passive-aggressive? Aggressive? A bully? A very clever bully? How do we deal with very clever bullies?