Tough, somewhat embarrassing situation for me; time to share...

BACKGROUND

As I have mentioned in many, many posts I am an "out of the closet" atheist, and have been since my mid teens. I have been married for 27 years, and have five great kids - 2 of whom are adults. I also have a grandson. When I was dating my wife, and we were beginning to get serious, we had the religious discussion. I knew she came from a very strict Catholic upbringing, but through our discussions over the years I also knew that she wasn't a Christian, much less a Catholic. She still believed there was something that connected us all (I think it was because she had trouble coming to grips with there being NOTHING), but she definitely didn't believe in anything around xianity, or a "granddaddy in the sky" of any type. There is one thing, however, that is important to know about my wife. She HATES discussing religions, especially with me. I am very non-confrontational, especially with her, but she definitely knows my feelings about certain xians and especially hypocritical fundies. She's just the type of person who has a deep aversion to discussing religion or politics, at all.

When we began having kids, we decided to raise them Unitarian Universalist. It was a great way to give a sense of community (church is VERY BIG down here in the Deep South, and there is a huge stigma if you don't go somewhere), and UUs teach a very objective approach towards religions, their histories, rituals, etc. (Incidentally, I still consider myself a UU and I love it.) We have always raised our kids to be respectful of others' beliefs as you would want your beliefs to be respected, and that it is OK - and quite natural - to ask questions, research, and explore different religions. I also explained to them that discovering your answers to spirituality (or no spirituality) is a journey, not a destination - and that you will adjust and refine your thoughts and beliefs throughout your life. It's even quite natural to completely change your mind about parts of it. As they embarked on this exploration my only requirement was that IF you believed something you must be able to explain WHY you believe it, and HOW you arrived at your beliefs.

So far, so good. My eldest is "generically spiritual", more in tune with the human spirit (love one another, etc.) than any deity. She is married to an atheist. My second eldest is also generically spiritual, but even less so than her older sister. She is definitely a "live and let live" type. My third kid, my eldest son, is a died-in-the-wool atheist. My fourth, who is my youngest daughter, is generically spiritual as well. And then there's my youngest - and we arrive at my dilemma.

HERE AND NOW

My youngest, who is a teenage young man, is a very good athlete. He's a middle distance runner (fastest in our county in middle school in the 800m, averages 2:05), and his first love is football. Down here many, many of his friends are xians - and most of them attend what I refer to as the "scary church" - Freechapel, which is one of the U.S. "megachurches". He knows about religions, flavors of xianity, their tenets, etc., so he understands this church; but he's decided he wants to attend church there, and his mom - my wife - is attending with him. They seem to enjoy it. My wife is still defensive around me, but she also knows that I am more knowledgeable about the Bible and xianity in general than anyone else she knows, so she has been asking me questions. I have been answering them, and have gone out of my way to be non-confrontational, because I want to keep the dialogue open between us. My son doesn't really like to talk about it right now, and I think it is because he wants to enjoy it with his mom and friends and not confront the things he's learned from me and his UU education.

SIGH....

So, now you understand my situation. I don't know if I'm asking for advice, as much as I'm just wanting to vent, get this off my chest, tell someone who understands my point-of-view, etc. My eldest son (also an atheist) and I just don't know what to do - if anything - and I just don't know where this may go. I think it may be what I've said before - it is (hopefully?) just a phase he's going through, and a step in his exploration of his feelings and thoughts, and eventually he'll come back around.

I guess I'm willing to accept that this may take awhile - even until he gets to college - but I just don't know what to do until then, if anything. I also don't know if anyone else has gone through something like this. If so, what happened? How have you handled it? What worked? What didn't? What was the outcome? I'm also really not sure of where this is going with my wife. We've had quite a few hardships in our lives lately, and I think this may be a reaction to these hardships, since it is going back to something familiar (somewhat) to her childhood. She still swears up and down she's not a xian, and never will be, but I dunno. Anyway, you get the idea. Right now I feel like I have more questions and trepidation than answers.

Any thoughts you have would be welcome.

Views: 565

Comment by SteveInCO on April 1, 2012 at 7:31pm

Also according to Dan's T|A page, he is a Christian, which no doubt explains the reason he doesn't like anything he reads here.

Comment by IEatDinosaurMeat on April 1, 2012 at 8:44pm

How could encouraging critical thinking, free and open dialogue, research, and mutual respect for conclusions be brainwashing?

Comment by athnam on April 1, 2012 at 10:19pm

All I can offer is my thought train...

You mentioned he is very athletic (another relligion, IMO, but never mind). You also mentioned there is a "huge stigma" assigned those who don't go somewhere. And lastly, he's 13.

Well, I put those three together and decided he very much wants to keep his "status" with the type of friends he's chosen. They may have indirectly communicated that he needs to do, say, share very similar values as theirs to secure his status.

The only thing I have to support this answer is having worked with several hundred 9-13 year-olds, but it's still just an opinion.

Comment by Ed on April 1, 2012 at 10:54pm

Peer pressure and want of acceptance are powerful motivators for a young teen. You have seemingly done a fine job of rearing all your children. I would hold off on any alarm bells just yet. Talking to your wife as another forum member suggested would be beneficial in raising awareness to the slippery slope they hopefully won't enter upon.

Comment by Unseen on April 1, 2012 at 11:28pm

Ever read The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran? Okay, it's hippie dippy in tone but there's a lot of truth in his chapter on children:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

Comment by Okinawa R. on April 2, 2012 at 2:09am

what he said.

and Rocky, the story of what you've told is not much different from what my mom have been saying ever since i said to her i'm an atheist.

Comment by Pope Beanie on April 2, 2012 at 3:40am

I didn't teach my kids about atheism, and their mother is a theist. I encouraged them to be skeptical of tradition, authority, and institutions. I pointed out the various strange and crazy things people believe in, and how most of today's humans are intellectually far from perfect. I didn't even tell them I was atheist until they were in their late teens, bringing the topic up themselves.

My kids became atheists anyway, despite all other peer pressure surrounding them. But because humans really are far from perfect, I feel lucky that it went the right way for us. It sounds to me like you've done everything right. I think the best you can do is just continue to be a good example.

Btw, did you point out the shear size of the profit-making enterprize Freechaple is playing a part in? Free Chapel has only one "campus" in GA, and one in CA, but they are affiliated with Jentezen Franklin Ministries, which is huge!

Comment by Suzanne Olson-Hyde on April 2, 2012 at 4:33am

I think it is brilliant how you have bought up your kids - congrats. You have two problems, the age of your son, very impressionable, wanting to socialize, lots of gorgeous girls, camaraderie, then you have the church, the singing, the group,but they are a brainwashing lot. You, in any way shape or form, even suggest not to go, he will go, this is what teenagers do. If he turns up with a full blown xian girlfriend, then your problems will start, as she will have lots of control over him. Is there any other activities he could be involved with, mixed and socialising, that just won't, in his head, allow the Jump for Jesus crowd influence him so much?

He just needs a bit of a diversion, he may or may not come to realise that the church is not for him. If your wife was brainwashed as a child, that is really hard to get rid of, especially when shite happens, so be patient, everybody calm down. You have coped with four teenagers, one to go Yahooo!

Comment by Gary Mueller on April 2, 2012 at 9:09am

Like so many churches that are in fact a cult of personality your family is in danger of becoming one of them. But you have through your writing shown the love and respect that seems to be the bedrock of your family.

Churches like gangs often attempt to supplant the family by offering both the paternal figure at the pulpit and the daddy in the sky, you seem to have been there for both spouse and child, I doubt you will loose either for any long period of time, the ingredients are lacking for cult victory in your case.

Comment by Dogly on April 2, 2012 at 12:09pm

Your wife and son love and respect you.  Therefore, if you suggest that they have a sit down with that preacher, and ask him what his church teaches about god's punishment for atheism, apostasy, rejection of jesus, blasphemy, etc.  When he begins listing your unforgivable sins, your eternal burning in hell, and what an evil slimy bastard you are, your loving family may come to their senses.

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