My younger brother's mother-in-law just sent me a message on Facebook. Pretty much, we're friends on FB so we can be neighbors on those stupid application games. Yes, I'll be the first to admit I'm an addict. Those games are probably the only real reason I don't delete my account. Anyway, I've probably only exchanged three fragmented sentences in real life with this woman. Not only that, but I barely announce my heathenism on the site; the most I do is quote Betrand Russell with fairly cryptic stuff that doesn't directly criticize religion. I'm more of a subscriber to skepticism than a religion-basher. This is what she wrote:

"Let me be the first to acknowledge that one of the worst things to happen to Christianity are Christians. We have a lot of misguided and
worse, Christians out there. I have seen my share of people who are
legalistic, those who use the label for their own purpose and so on. I
have seen many who call themselves Christians who do not resemble
Christ in the least bit. I hope you do not take offense to this but I
just want to tell you where I come from. I believe that true
Christianity is a relationship with a loving God. Yes there are some
things that I do not fully understand about all of what God does and I
will never know this side of Heaven. I know that He loves all people
even Osama Bin Laden and Hitler. I believe He has given me free will to
choose which path I want to take. I was raised in a very conservative
church that was so off base. They taught the word wrong. I can see why
many walked away. I know you have heard this all before, over and over
again. I know that we all seek the truth to life. I just ask that you
be open to praying to God for 30 days without telling anybody and ask
God with all sincerity to show you the truth. You will have to be
completely open to doing this with all sincerity. If after 30 days you
feel the same way then you can come to a better understanding of what
you believe. I just want you to know though that Jesus does exist even
though many use His name not truly knowing who He is. I hope you will
do this one last time. Have an awesome day!

Sooo... I'm completely caught off guard by this gesture. Did her daughter, my brother's wife, mention my unbelief? Has she peered at my profile to see my Atheist status? Why this sudden "outreach"? I'm also curious if she sent the same message to my older brother. In any case, the only thing I can think to do is not respond. I don't feel like debating my in-laws, however ridiculous I think their beliefs are.

I'm not angry. I know she has good intentions. I understand the mind of a Christian enough to know it probably took some guts to send this... although I'm really not sure why she's concerned herself with me suddenly. I know there's nothing I can say that would make any difference to her. I know she actually doesn't believe that I do not believe there's a god; she thinks I'm just mad at him, or disenchanted with Christians. I know nothing good would come of a response. She asks me to be open, but she would never be open to the possibility there is no god... even less would she believe that I truly don't believe there is.

It's just really strange being on this side of Christianity. There's a huge part of me that resents the fact that this woman, and her daughter, have no idea just how devoted to Jesus I actually was at one point; they have no idea how I got from point A to point B. They merely assume it's because I had a bad experience (there's another discussion here that deals with that very assumption). I have a lot of credibility when it comes to all things Christian! But all of that is completely forgotten the moment I openly admit I don't believe anymore. They must think I'm an idiot... oh you poor fool! 

I know I can't win this discussion, so why engage? 

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This is just further proof of the evil that those Facebook games are.
Hey Reggie, you want to be my neighbour in the country? You wanna adopt a penguin? Please water my plants, Reggie! Here is a dragon I found, want to help me by sending me a gift back? :D Come on, those games are great!

Cara, this is very interesting. She reminds me of myself when I was a Christian. I had become disillusioned with the church and fellow Christians. They were not good people. I distanced myself from doctrine and made up my own version - TRUE Christianity is having a close personal relationship with God. He knows and understands, I don't need those fakers from the church, I've got Jaysus!

This lady is very close to understanding the truth - that religion is made up and that she has fabricated her own version of Christianity. My question to her would be, why bother? If by the book Christianity is wrong, if what the church teaches is wrong, if what other Christians believe is wrong, why bother with any form of Christianity at all?
I agree.
Why engage? Because if you ignore her she might be disappointed/insulted. And because by not explaining/defending yourself you are losing the discussion but if you engage you'll at least be equal to her in the debate with neither of you winning lol. I'd try my hardest to respectfully explain to her all that stuff about how devoted to Jesus you actually were and how you came to your conclusion and explain to her how you know she has good intentions and especially explain about how you KNOW that the moment you admit you don't believe anymore she won't consider you credible anymore but that that's not fair, and that you feel you can't win the discussion. Try to get her to see your point of view. She seems like a nice and possibly reasonable person who might read what you write. You never know. But if you really don't want to, you can ignore her too. It's your choice of course, and if you've already decided not to engage and you're happy with that, then that's fine. LOL. ;)
that's not fair, and that you feel you can't win the discussion

Probably not phrasing you would want to use in a response to this. You've got to be persuasive without sounding like you're whining about fairness and winning.
Ok ok... so, I wrote a reply last night. Here it is for everyone to critique:

"I do appreciate your concern and the time you took to write this letter. I'm a little unsure how to respond, or if I should respond. I feel like it might be disrespectful, though, if I don't. I hope you don't take offense at what I say... I'm simply trying to be as honest and open as I can be.

Let me start off by saying that I was once a very devout Christian, and one who strongly held the beliefs you and your family hold (not to mention my own family). As you know, my grandfather was a Southern Baptist preacher, and an amazing man (if Jesus were real, then I feel my grandpa was the embodiment of his love). My biological father's father was also a preacher. When I moved to Nashville at 21, I moved there with the sole purpose of getting closer to God. I spent three years immersed in church and theology and had a wonderful group of friends who also shared my beliefs. You could say Nashville is the Buckle of the Bible Belt since all things Christian come out of that city (books, music, apologists, etc etc etc... I even hung out with several well-known Christian artists) In short, I've been surrounded by Christianity/Christians, and the brand that I think you subscribe to as well. I don't know how to fully stress just how large a role Jesus played in my life, and my desire to know his will. Although I knew people who were legalistic, I never bought into it. By and large, I've had a fairly positive experience with Christianity. Sure, we've all run into our share of dopes who make the whole lot look bad, but... I know better, and I even pleaded the same case you're pleading now.

It's definitely difficult to be on this side of it now. Like I said, I've made all the same pleas and arguments to the unbelievers I knew in the past. You're right, I have heard it over and over... and I've said it over and over to other people. I'm not here to convince you of what I've come to believe though; I know your beliefs are solid. But, for me, I simply do not believe the things I used to anymore... and it was a series of events that led me here.

I never put my trust in people; I never looked to Christians to be the example of Christ's love... I always knew they were just fallible people like anyone else. I realize that even now. I haven't been let down by God, I simply don't believe he exists... as unbelievable as that may be. I have my reasons, and the conclusions I've come to I did not come to lightly. If nothing else, I hope it doesn't offend you that I admit it... admitting it can be scary when everyone I know does believe. It would've been easier to remain a believer, but what I've discovered is belief is not a choice. We do not struggle to believe the sky is blue; we do not attempt to believe there's a car in our driveway or a tree in our yard. Except when dealing with ideas about the supernatural, we believe things because they are, not because we decide to. If I could believe, I would... but I don't believe things just because it might make me feel better, or more at home.

Thank you so much for reaching out to me; we barely know each other, so it means a lot to me that you think enough of me to try. I'm not trying to be closed-minded, or even closed-off to God... but you might as well know where I stand. I hope we can still have a relationship despite our different views."
I think this was pretty good Cara.... how she will receive it depends on her, but I think your responce covers everything you need to.
That's a better letter than I'd have written. Very good, more than very good.
Oh my god, I would have nailed her to cross! Good thing she sent it to you and not me. I kept waiting for the next paragraph you wrote to read "All that being said..." then BLAM!

All that being said, very well written. I am glad you made the point about your close walk with god. It is so difficult to convincingly explain the difficulty a future non-believer has trying to believe. There is such a long period of time where that doubt is explained away. It is a long process, for some, but they assume it's one or maybe a few inconsistencies that lead us away. Or simply arrogance and selfishness. "I don't want to be a virgin so fuck you god." I disagree with Dawkins. I do wish there were a god. But one that actually minds the store. One who punishes the wicked and explains the world in a logical and reasonable fashion. One who didn't rely on faith to prove his existence. I wish I could look forward to seeing my grandfather again. I wish miracles happened. But they don't. And I am willing to admit it. And I am a better man for it.
naah.....just say thank you for the concern!

say that your happy with your current beliefs. Have an awesome day!"

dont get emotional about people who wants you to be converted to their beliefs in a peaceful way.


hahhahahahahhahahhahhahhaha lol
The only response I might have if my fiance's mom sent a letter like this to me would be to respond with something like

"I honestly appreciate the gesture of your letter and I know the courage it must have taken to reach out to me, so I hope you're not insulted by my response.

I would ask you to consider the letter you sent me as if I sent it to you. Could you not think about God for 30 days? Would you? I have a feeling you would find that suggestion to be an impossible task for you. The same is the case for me.

My atheism wasn't inherited, it was a conclusion I came to and is as truthful for me as your religion is to you. Asking me to pray to something I know doesn't exist would be the same as me asking you to ignore something you know does exist.

I'm not offended or upset by your message, in fact I'm flattered that you would think of me and reach out to me in a way that is very personal with compassionate intentions. I just can't do what you're asking me to do. I hope you understand."

and then hope with all my might that it never came up again.
This is fairly similar to a response I already wrote last night... I haven't sent it yet. I'm not sure how much damage it would do if I just ignored her since she's not my boyfriend's mother, but my brother's wife's mother... sort of a less important in-law, if you will. What would you do if it were your sister's husband's mother? Some people never come into contact with their sibling's in-laws. I know I've only met my parent's sibling's in-laws a handful of times.

I'm just really irritated. I never wanted to be that person everyone was reaching out to and praying for and trying to convince that God/Jesus is really loving. It's such a gross feeling. After having been so "on fire for Jesus" once upon a time, I can't get over how insulting it is to be a target of his disciples.

Then again... I could send the letter and maybe I'd get a reply and then it would make this discussion thread that much more entertaining!


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