Ask Richard: Apostate Couple Called Satanists by Members of Former Church January 27, 2011

Ask Richard: Apostate Couple Called Satanists by Members of Former Church

Note: Letter writer’s names are changed to protect their privacy.

Kate wrote a long letter, the first part of which I am summarizing:

She was born into a basically non-observant Catholic family. When she began dating her husband-to-be in high school, she was completely uninterested in religion, and he was nominally a Christian. They got along very well, but his parents are very heavily religious. (She did not specify the denomination.) She attended church with them so that they would accept her, and she was accepting and respecting of her husband’s level of involvement as a Christian. Four years ago they married when she was 18 and he 19. Since then, her husband began to lose interest in religion as well. We pick up the story in her own words at that point:

…He didn’t want to go to church or be around religious people. He didn’t even want to be around his own family because all they talk about is religion or what happened at church the other day. Eventually we stopped going to church all together. We tried and tried to appease his parents by doing what they wished but finally we couldn’t take it anymore. So when we stopped attending completely he was of course confronted by his father. After a big argument his parents finally stopped talking about it, and now it’s like an elephant in the room.

The problem we are facing though isn’t really with his parents. They just don’t talk about it and pretend that it never really happened. Other members of the church we once attended are becoming “concerned” about us and whether or not we will go to hell. Most of the people at church now think we are Satanists and are very bad people. We aren’t bad people nor are we Satanists. This is just a rumor about us and it is quite hurtful. I am just as moral as I ever was, and I still treat people as I always did. Religion is not a prerequisite for morality as they say. I have done many things for people at church and outside of church in order to help them regardless of my religious beliefs.

The problem is that one of the deacons from the church is coming to our house soon to talk to us about our beliefs. He is a very nice man and truly concerned but I don’t know how to handle his questions. How do I handle all of these people and their questions without causing upset or a huge family argument? How can I prove to my husband’s family that I didn’t change him and that he made his own decisions? What should I do?

Sincerely,
Kate

Dear Kate,

It’s time to turn this around. I’m sure that as you say the Deacon is a very nice man, so you’re going to be like iron wrapped in velvet.

It is very important that you keep your manner courteous, civil, and businesslike. You will actually have more power and command during the discussion. Frequently take deep, slow breaths to keep your composure.

I don’t know who arranged the Deacon’s visit, but you should conduct this meeting as if you called on him. You should take complete charge of the meeting right at the start. Make sure that your in-laws are not at this meeting. It should be only you and your husband, with the Deacon by himself. If he shows up with others, you have every right to politely send the others away. You don’t have to give any reason other than that’s what you want. In other words, never allow anyone to gang up on you.

Don’t be intimidated. He has no authority over you. You’re free of all that. Take written notes of what he says. That shows him you’re really listening, and you’re going to hold him to his word. Remember that you don’t have to justify yourself to him or anyone else. You have the right to frankly ask him why he’s asking these questions before you even begin responding. If his questions are truly only out of concern for you and your husband, and are only from genuinely wanting to accurately understand you, then politely answer any of them with which you feel comfortable. Label any of his questions that you don’t like as not acceptable, and disregard them.

BUT in any of your answers, do not sound apologetic or contrite for the decisions you and your husband have made. You don’t have to sound hostile, but don’t sound ashamed either. Make it clear to him in very assertive terms that neither you nor your husband are bad people or Satanists. Don’t be embarrassed to say that you are moral, and to describe the good things you have done for your community. Say it matter-of-factly, not sounding like a boast or a defense. You’ve done nothing wrong, they have. Don’t be on the defensive.

You can be well-mannered while doing it, but you should put him on the defensive.

In a peaceful, relaxed voice, demand that he take decisive and thorough action to put a complete stop to the vicious and ridiculous rumors that have spread through his staff and congregation about you and your husband. Participating in a rumor without checking it out is nothing less than lying, so you’re glad he’s come so he can put an end to it.

Smoothly make it clear to him that such ignorant and cruel gossip is disgusting, and that you consider it his responsibility to clean up that filth in his flock. Tell him that tolerating such slanderous “false witness” is very hypocritical of his church and his religion, and it poisons both the spirit of his church and the rest of the community. It’s the kind of lunacy that not very long ago brought people to burn the old woman of the village as a witch. Ask him point-blank if he is willing to tolerate that kind of Dark Age superstition in his church, and if not, then exactly what is he going to do about it?

Insist that he tell the clergy and congregation that you and anyone else should have the complete right and freedom to join or to leave the church, and neither the clerics nor the churchgoers should ever, ever penalize anyone socially or any other way for deciding what is best for their own lives. That is one of the major reasons why people get fed up with churches, and reacting with more of it only drives them further away. He should give the assembly some stern sermons about not believing or spreading rumors and about not judging others, and in addition to that, he should give the staff training in challenging and stopping rumors.

Tell him that the most revealing test of how well a Christian has actually adopted the best teachings of Jesus is in how lovingly they treat people who are not part of their church, and who do not necessarily agree with their views. So far his flock is failing that test very badly. The fact that “nobody’s perfect” is not an excuse for them doing this, or an excuse for him to allow them to do this.

Do not allow yourself to be sucked into any debate about the existence of God. If he tries to start that, just say “I’m sorry, discussing that is a waste of our time. I’m concerned about this abuse from your followers in the here and now.” If he asks why don’t you believe, remember you don’t have to justify your lack of belief. In your mind, consider him a salesman who has failed to convince you to buy his product, because he doesn’t have his product to show you, and his sales pitch is full of holes. If you want to respond at all, just shrug your shoulders, and say that you’ve listened to many people for a long time, and no one has convinced you. Then move back to your demands for him to clean up his church’s act.

Assure him that while you’re sure he will do these things to be a better steward of the people he’s supposed to be guiding, you will be watching for the results. Let him finish his tea if he hasn’t already spilled it on himself, thank him for coming, and in the most courtly manner, send him on his way.

Now as for your in-laws, I suspect that they haven’t been quietly “ignoring the elephant in the room.” I suspect that they are at least part of the impetus behind this calumny. The first thing to do is to forget trying to avoid “causing an upset or a huge family argument.” You already had that, and it hasn’t really gone away. If they want to start another ruckus, make use of their door. If they start a quarrel at your house, show them how to use your door. Tell them that when they can act like adults instead of brats, you’ll talk again, maybe.

You should not have to “prove to your husband’s family that you didn’t change him and that he made his own decisions.” He should do that, and just like with the Deacon, he should make it clear in a polite but completely non-apologetic way.

Kate, I hope this helps you to feel more confident and assertive. Remember, you’ve done nothing wrong, they have. Memorize these basic rights of assertion that pertain to your situation:

    You have the right to expect respect.
    You have the right to act in your own best interest.
    You have the right to defend yourself against abuse or aggression.
    You have the right to make a request.
    You have the right to turn down a request.
    You have the right to think about any question before answering.

I wish you and your husband well. Let us know how it goes.

Richard

You may send your questions for Richard to AskRichard. Please keep your letters concise. They may be edited. There is a very large number of letters. I am sorry if I am unable to respond in a timely manner.

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  • Jeff Dale

    Wow. All kinds of win in this response. If I were in a situation like that, I’d want to conduct most of the proceedings in writing rather than in conversation. Unless one is very experienced in this kind of discussion, and can be confident of finding the right words and maintaining the right tone, trying to do it in “live” conversation is bound to be difficult. Besides, if you start with a carefully worded letter, you have a framework for conversation; you can ask things like “is there a part of the letter that troubles you or with which you disagree?” Force the deacon to explain his or his church’s position clearly against the backdrop of your own clearly worded thoughts, instead of letting him use conversational gymnastics to evade your points and turn the heat back on you.

  • Ethan

    I like the satanism angle – explain to him that his organization has systematically went on a smear campaign, and is in no way worthy of any respect. Even if a vision of Jesus himself appears in your living room, there is no reason why you should subject yourself to an organization that would spread malicious false rumours about people who didn’t attend a couple of times. And tell him this is the last you want to hear from them as representatives of the church. He or others from the church might be welcome to visit again, but not to hassle you about not being a member anymore. Anyone who comes representing the church again, should be kicked out. The only reason why you are talking to him, is so that you can put this all behind you, not because you have to defend yourself.

    Trying to explain that you are not satanists or that you are in fact moral is too apologetic. You don’t need to prove yourself to him. The only thing that matters is that they spread rumours that you are satanists.

  • Kate,

    I was attending an evangelical church (even volunteering for things) a while ago with my wife and kids and finally decided to stop going. The pastor wanted to have a little chat with me about it so I invited him over to my house. I’ll summarize how the conversation went. Perhaps you can get some ideas from my experience.
    I should point out that I’m a bit older than you and the pastor and I only differed in age by about 7 or 8 years.

    We started out with small-talk. (That is the way things are done in the South). Eventually we switched over to why I wasn’t attending anymore. I explained that even though I agreed with the Golden Rule and liked the message of not being so self-centered, I just didn’t believe in the supernatural aspects of Christianity and didn’t want to devote any time and energy evangelizing the supernaturalism to others. He predictably started to refer to scripture to back up the supernatural aspects of Christianity. I interrupted and said that I also didn’t think scripture was proof of anything except that perhaps the people who wrote it believed it. That kind of disarmed him because when you get down to it, all they have is the belief that scripture is the word of God. Take that away, and they don’t really have anything to say. I told him that instead of “putting God first” I was going to put my wife and kids first. He admitted that I was a wise man and even insinuated that he was a bit closer to me than the rest of the congregation. The whole conversation was quite pleasant and polite. The one thing I did, though, was to be absolutely sure and honest about my feelings. I didn’t leave him any wiggle-room to find an angle to worm into my psyche.

    I never had to deal with anyone saying I was a Satanist. If I heard anyone say that I would probably just laugh at them. In my opinion, the only reason why anyone would say someone else is a Satanist is if they thought saying that might change your behavior (or beliefs). If you don’t give them that power, they will probably stop saying it.

    Good luck with your talk. Try to find a way to look forward to it.

  • Claudia

    Kickass Richard, excellent.

    If I had to bet I’d say that the deacon was the in-laws idea. He’ll be reporting back to them. Unless he is of especially good moral character, there’s close to zero chance he’ll admonish his flock for their vile rumors. The kind of church that equated “atheist” to “satanist” quite likely has clergy to match, so I wouldn’t hold my breath on anything changing on that end.
    Remember, you don’t need their approval. If they think you are satanists, well fuck them. The in-laws are the only two people you should have any more than a passing interest in maintaining good relations with, if they are willing as Richard said to act like adults. The rest of the church members? They are acting like bratty 8 year olds. You’re 22 (incredibly young to be in a four year marriage), so you’re beyond the age where you should feel compelled to tolerate or participate in schoolyard nonesense.

  • Angel

    Having been in the similar position of being gossiped about maliciously in church, I know how utterly devastating it can be. I was an active member of the youth/young adults group and I started to become a bit more vocal about how disgusting I thought the behaviour of listening to a sermon about loving unconditionally followed by an hour of gossiping about one another in the church foyer over tea and coffee was. There was no drama on my part, I just stopped attending – although I would frequently meet up with friends from the club and was always invited to the movie nights for the group.

    What I didn’t realize until later was that the entire time I was remaining friendly, they were circulating plans to save my soul while telling the congregation that I was possessed by Satanic forces (I wish I was kidding) and needed to be forcibly pulled back to religion.

    I was invited to a dinner/movie night and arrived to find a none too insignificant portion of the church clergy there, along with confused looking extended family members (who the church members had gone out of their way to hunt down, despite not knowing them at all, and advised them that they suspected I was on drugs), and almost the entire youth group. I had no idea what was going on, and remained very confused as to the intentions for quite some time because I simply couldn’t comprehend it all. It was one giant religious intervention coupled with an attempted exorcism, and it was something that was so traumatic that I still can’t remember all the details to (and I suspect it is for the best).

    I cut all my ties from that point forward. Completely. it was hard to let go of relationships that I had come to depend on, but I discovered that it was a very fine line to tread and if you aren’t a believer, you are a potential threat. And any church (this one was a smaller one in the suburbs with maybe a few hundred families) will do anything and everything to ensure that you are no longer a threat. The easiest method is to paint you as evil…a visiting deacon will confirm it if you can’t be convinced to return, and that will be that. It’s best to end the visit quickly, as politely as possible, and sever your ties and move on.

  • mouse

    I think I get why the OP is bothering to have the conversation at all but I have to say that when I first read the letter, I got the distinct impression the Deacon basically invited himself over. If permission for the visit was not granted by OP and/or husband, then guy has a lot of nerve.

    Just throwing that out there in case the option of “don’t bother to have conversation at all” hasn’t been thought of. I think others have covered more practical advice for the actual conversation beautifully so I figured it couldn’t hurt to represent the other end of the spectrum.

  • Silent Service

    I’d start off on the offensive. As soon as the Deacon sits down ask him before he gets started how he’s going to deal with the false rumors and lies coming from his congregation. Make the conversation about what he’s going to do to solve the issues since they are his responsibility and not yours. If he says that’s what he’s here to talk about tell him, no that’s what he’s here to explain; since you’re not Satanists there’s no conversation, just his explanation on how he’s going to deal with the liars in his congregation. If he presses you to talk about your faith let him know this lying and backbiting part of the reasons you don’t go to his church anymore. You don’t find the people in his church to be good examples of Christians.

    Take notes like Richard suggested, and then sit down with your in-laws and let them know that if they can’t be civil, and not try underhanded tricks behind your back like siccing the deacon on you, they are not welcome. There’s no way that they are not at least partly responsible for the deacon showing up. I’d wager that they are in part the source of the rumors to begin with. It may not be intended, but have no doubt, it’s their complaints to their fellow church members that started them.

  • pinksponge

    “Satanist,” like “gay,” is only an insult if you think i tis — i.e., if you believe that being Satanist or gay is a bad thing. Satanists, or at least the LaVeyans that I have known, are atheists who don’t worship or even believe in Satan, and they bear no resemblance whatsoever to the outlandish stereotypes that people believe about them.

    That being said, I sympathize with this young couple and applaud Richard’s excellent (as always!) advice. Although I did have a WTF?! reaction to the deacon coming over to the house. If they didn’t invite that deacon to their home, he really has no business coming over there. Their personal beliefs are nobody’s business but their own.

  • Silent Service

    Holy crap Angel!! I’ve never heard anything like that before. That is some kind of messed up.

  • JenV

    I too agree with the first poster but in a different way. Sit down and write out an outline or letter with your major talking points in bullets. You need to keep your composure, and the best way to do so is to rely on having your thoughts down in writing; concretely and succinctly. Then let ‘im have it.

    Keep in mind, there is no way that any religious elder has any right to bully you into going back to church, for any reason. Richard is right, you did nothing wrong in this situation. Don’t let these fools make you feel like you did, in any way, shape or form.

    Good luck!

  • One more quick comment. If your world seems small and petty, you need a bigger world. Make new friends. Expand your horizons. Move if necessary. But no matter where you are, you will need to know who you are and know how to deal with those who are petty. Things will get easier as you get older.

  • Goldarn

    “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so?”

    I can’t seem to recall offhand who said that first, but I think he was someone important to Christianity. Maybe the deacon could identify him.

  • Amy

    Great response Richard, and some good ones in the comments too.

    I just wanted to add that I ‘came out’ as an atheist to my coworkers a few years ago. It was a small workplace (15ish of us) and of course word spread like wildfire. One day a coworker pulled me into her office and said that she had some questions for me. She then proceeded to ask me, “If you don’t worship god then do you worship Satan?” She truly thought that was the only alternative. I quickly explained that I don’t believe in anything supernatural, and that included angels, unicorns, and devils.

    It would seem that many religious people who are ignorant of other belief (or nonbelief) systems jump to the satanism conclusion, for some reason.

  • Rich Wilson

    I wonder what’s worse. Satanist (which means you at least believe in the Jedeo-Christian ethos. Or atheist (which means you don’t).

  • One more thing. Remember that in any conversation with the Deacon, your in-laws, or that person from high-school that you thought was your friend, that you don’t need a reason not to believe something. Don’t view these conversations as having to say why you don’t believe. Just view them as an opportunity to state that you don’t believe. It is the people believing in something without evidence that need a reason to believe in it.

    I would also encourage you to have these conversations and not avoid them. It isn’t that they deserve to have the conversations. They don’t. It is because it will help you organize your thoughts. Even if the conversation goes badly and they “win”, it will help you organize your thoughts and deal with things better in future conversations.

  • lurker111

    IANAL (I’ve always wanted to use that acronym), but if they’re being called Satanists in any kind of public setting, isn’t this a civil tort, i.e., slander?
    Surely there must be a few lawyers in the congregation who should know this. I’d point that out.

  • Anonymous

    Richard Wade, you are very good at what you do. I hope the letter writer takes your response to heart 100%

  • Angel

    “If your world seems small and petty, you need a bigger world.”

    @Jeff – Absolutely perfectly. I’m going to hijack this and live it.

    @Silent Service – It still seems completely surreal. I’m told the event was even advertised in the church bulletins. I am pretty sure that a large factor in how it played out in my life was due to the fact that church officials knew that I didn’t have an immediate family to back me up (I am an orphan and began attending the church alone). Prior to my decision to leave the church I was a member of a very popular youth worship band and the younger kids and my peers looked up to me – I heard it more than once that my peers and the younger church members considered me a big sister. I’d be dragged by kids to sit with them during services/events, and more than once I found myself having to sit in the toddler room to stave off potential hurt feelings. I felt like I was a valued part of the community.

    I suspect that my absence brought a lot of questions forward, and the answers were not something that the church elders were going to provide honestly. I say this without ego – it was in their best interest to paint me as an evil individual, hence providing the answer to all their questions with “Satan did it”.

  • Zoe

    What excellent advice, Richard. Such a pep-talk too 🙂

    Let us know how it went, Kate. Perhaps you can add to Richard’s advice for other people in the same situation.

  • cutthroatjane

    That was wonderful Richard. It helped prepare me for the day that my in-laws find out about my husband and I. I don’t think they would get the church involved but I know it’s not going to go over well.

    I was lucky to have such an understanding mother.

  • Amritha

    Wow! A comprehensive response that touches on every potential overture from the other side… I plan to save this – thanks Richard.
    Good luck, Kate!

  • fiddler

    @lurker111
    That is nowhere near slander in America. We set a very high bar for libel and slander cases here, it protects us and our freedom of speech.

  • Ethan

    You could of course go the opposite direction: open your door in a burka, and tell him you’re a muslim now. The one thing about religious people that you can use to your advantage is that people with other religions are off limits. They will preach, proselytize and provoke non religious people day and night, but if you switch to a different religion they don’t bother with the game of “my holy book vs your holy book”. He’ll know it’s a lie, your in laws will know it’s a lie, but it might be a fun way to get them to go away.

  • Ibis

    I dunno. I think I’m with mouse on this one. Why bother wasting their time? Does anyone really care what some ignorant, parochial bigots think of them? If the two of them want to sit down with the in-laws just to inform them that the apostasy was an individual decision on each of their parts and reassure them that, apart from church attendance nothing else has changed, and of course, inform them that they’re telling them this as a courtesy, but from now on religion is a personal topic off the table, then go ahead, but don’t bother sweating anything else.

    Frankly, I’d be pretty pleased to be thought of as a Satanist. I mean, have they read Paradise Lost? Satan fights against a tyrant to bring knowledge to Dumb (Eve) and Dumber (Adam). He’s an advocate for freedom and liberty.

  • Forgive me, but why are they inviting this man over to their house in the first place? The prospect of the conversation is clearly causing them stress, and they are under no obligation to speak with him. IMO, Kate and her husband should simply cut their losses and move on. I don’t think there’s any reason to worry about what members of their former church are saying. They never have to speak with those people again, so who cares about the rumors?

  • DA

    I’d be insulted to be considered a Satanist considering how ridiculous the Church of Satan and its various splinter groups are. It’s like the Ayn Rand fan club developed a taste for LARPing.

    I met with a couple mosque regulars after my apostacy to discuss with them. They were friendly and concerned, but I reminded myself that were we in Mali, KSA, or Yemen, they’d probably kill me, and that was enough to not feel too bad.

  • Caleb

    Hi there. I’m Kate’s husband. We’ve just finished the meeting. Thank you for all the comments and suggestions. I have rarely seen this sort of competent level headed behavior in any online community. But I think I need to clear a few things up that were misunderstood. Forgive my awkward spacing of paragraphs. I’m separating them into sections for ease of reading.

    The person in question is actually an elder not a deacon. Our previous church has a really weird management system with deacons on the bottom of the leadership staff and elders on top. Their purpose is to make decisions about the business side of the church and to visit people who are in trouble or need help of some kind.

    He is an old family friend and has known me since I was in diapers. He was not there as a representative of the church. He came to us out of concern for our well being and after a very long talk (about 3 hours) he realized that we shared a lot of his core values (respect and caring for others etc.).

    He was not threatening, condescending, or accusing in any way. He just wanted to know why we stopped going to church all of a sudden. We didn’t tell too many people at the church that we were leaving and although I know him well we don’t have a close relationship.

    He seemed genuinely concerned about the rumors that were spread about us (although personally it makes me laugh whenever someone mentions them). No one came along with him.

    The only people spreading rumors about us are the “young and married” group at the church who we used to go to private Sunday night classes with. We stopped going because they are particularly petty and prone to gossip so I can’t say I was surprised or even really hurt by what they said (oh no a group of idiots hate me *gasp*).

    If anyone has any questions I’ll keep an eye on the comments on this page (at least for a while).

  • Wow. As an atheist raised by atheists, and married to an atheist raised by non-church-goers, in Canada where people are for the most part too polite to harass you, I find this situation (as well as a majority of the others described on this site) to be something so completely beyond my realm of experience as to be nearly alien.

    Love to everyone, and I would be very interested in seeing how this particular situation turns out!

  • Caleb,

    Can you say a little about what you all talked about and how it went?

    It might help others in a similar situation.

  • Richard Wade

    Caleb,
    I’m very glad to hear that your visitor was not the intimidating challenge for which we were bracing. It sounds like he is an asset to the church and an ally to keep even though you’re no longer in the church.

    I wonder if a well-placed word from him to the rumor-mongering jerks in that “young and married” group might set them onto a more positive, humane and dare I say it, Christian path. Even if their vituperation doesn’t harm you or your interests in the community, eventually they’ll be doing it to someone else.

    My best to your wife, and my best wishes for an eventual good resolution of all these things with your family.

  • Carlie

    Great advice. Above all, act as though you’ve done nothing wrong, because you haven’t. Whoever the deacon is will probably be totally nonplussed at it. I once ran into my former pastor, about two years after I also became an apostate. I saw him in a public place and was about to duck away in the crowd, then realized if I did that, he would think that I “knew” I had something to be ashamed of. So I walked right up, said hi, started to chitchat. He had no idea what to do. He stammered around a bit, physically kept backing away, and finally cut off and left. It was hilarious – he just didn’t know how to deal with a backslidden member who wasn’t contrite and apologetic and making excuses for themselves. I was veering off-script and it threw him entirely for a loop. Most empowering day of my atheism ever. It still makes me happy to think about it.

    ETA: Oh, I see that meeting happened already. But still, for any of the others you encounter, I’d say just act normally like the happy atheists you are. 🙂

  • I like what you say and it is an intelligent, well-reasoned response. I do not believe for one second that it will work.

    The deacon’s visit is not to reason or engage in a rational discussion, it it to preach and intimidate. I would expect this to be a dismal failure ending in inviting the man to leave.

    You cannot reason someone out of a position that they have not reasoned themselves into. That’s why it will not work on the family, either.

  • Ubi Dubium

    I’m really pleased to see that this worked out well. But I have heard of other cases where this same issue has come up, and it has not been cordial at all.

    For those, I’d suggest not allowing the church representative to meet you at your home. Change the venue, and agree to meet somewhere neutral and public, like a Starbucks. Be sure to suggest a time when there is sure to be a good number of people there. This way he may be more reluctant to make a scene in front of the general public, and you have the leverage of getting up and leaving if you are not happy with the way the discussion is going. Just another level of putting you in control of the conversation.

  • Silent Service

    Wow again, Angel.

    That’s just so many levels of wrong. I’m glad you managed to break free of that kind of behavior. It makes me glad that I moved away from home as quickly as I did. I can imagine a few of my cousins wanting to save me from myself, though I don’t think any of them would go as far as your church did.

  • cass_m

    Caleb, I’m glad you are comfortable with the outcome. I’d be interested in hearing from Kate though. While you know this fellow well enough, she was uncomfortable with the whole idea of the visit. Did she participate a lot or mostly listen? Is she convinced this has been laid to rest or is it your positive response? Is she more socially penalized by this than you are? Is this elder going to remonstrate with the group promoting this hurtful rumour (to me he would be remiss if he doesn’t)? Whether you answer or not I hope you will think about the questions. An unspoken concern I would have had is the elder putting us at odds by convincing my husband to return to the church. I hope you can talk about this together.

  • cypressgreen

    I don’t know if I have missed this information before, but are are follow ups (other than Caleb’s note) ever given after Richard’s advice is posted here?

    I think after a while, Richard shouls publish a book of letters, answers and updates.

    This would be a HUGE help to many.

  • cypressgreen

    BTW, before I was an atheist (and after I was catholic) I was a pagan. I ran into trouble here at work because some evangelical co workers were meeting up at lunch talking about my “evil” “satan worshiping” life. This was hurtful, but actually more just plain troublesome, as the ringleader pulled crap to try to get me in trouble with the boss.
    I am lucky to not have ever faced the horrible situations so many others have.

  • littlejohn

    You guys are being way too reasonable. Buy a plastic tarp, a live goat and an ax. If your home has a fireplace, so much the better.
    I sense you’re getting ahead of me here. Don’t sacrifice the goat – they make nice pets.
    Kill the deacon and destroy his remains in the fireplace. The tarp should collect all forensic evidence – throw it away in a public Dumpster in another town.
    Claim Deacon Dumbass left your home after a pleasant conversation and seemed perfectly all right.
    Trust me. This has worked for me at least a dozen times. Oh yeah, throw away the ax. They can get DNA off it, even if it’s been washed.
    Good luck and God bless America.

  • Drew M.

    What do you do with the goat? Felch it in celebration?

  • Caleb

    @jeff p
    I’ll try to remember all of the topics. It was a very long conversation and we went off on a lot of tangents.

    He asked why we didn’t believe in the Christian religion and we responded with the following things (There were probably more but this is all I can remember.):

    1. God’s Cruelty (killing innocent children in Egypt, messing up Job’s life to win a bet with Satan, etc.)

    2. The church’s stance on homosexuality (I’m a big advocate for gay rights.)

    3. The church’s treatment of wemon.

    Then he asked questions about our morality and we made the following points:

    1. We don’t have a problem with spirituality. It’s a very mentally healthy thing to indulge in for some people and we respect that. What we really don’t like is organized religion. As soon as someone holds a position of power over you and says that they are the link between you and God you have a problem.

    2. We don’t believe in sex with anyone other than each other (no swinging etc.) He didn’t ask about that but we fealt it was necessary because it explained more about our viewpoints in other parts of the conversation.

    3. We believe in kindness toward others etc. (It’s amazing what some Christians think you’re getting up to when you stop going to church. I wanted to head all of that off right away.)

    4. The lack of physical evidence.

    @Richard Wade
    We didn’t talk much about what he was going to do regarding the gossip situation. He seemed upset and fairly angry about it so I’m sure he’ll be speaking to people responsible.

    @cass_m
    Kate should get on soon and comment. I’m sure she’ll be happy to tell you her side of things.

    Overall I think it went well and we won’t be bothered by anyone else. If anyone is reading this and is in a similar situation with a person who is genuinely concerned for their well being I would recommend putting all your effort into making him/her feel at ease. Let them know that you’re the same person you were before and that you aren’t going to do anything crazy just because you aren’t a part of their religion. If they’re coming to you out of kindness then that should be good enough.

  • Richard Wade

    Caleb, thank you for the update and the summary. I’m sure that many people will benefit from your experience, and I think your very gracious approach to your well-meaning visitor was wise. I and I’m sure others would be interested in hearing Kate’s experience as well.

  • Kate

    Hi Everyone,

    First of all I would like to apologizer for my inability to respond in a reasonable amount of time. 🙂

    Second I would like to answer all of these questions and concerns everyone has.

    The meeting for me was really tense at first. The guy who came over started with the typical southerners small talk, only to wind up where we really needed to be, on the subject of our beliefs. Since I was raised with out any formal teaching of the Bible I didn’t know how to answer any of his specific questions about what I didn’t like about the bible. The only thing I told him was, based on the sermons at our church, I didn’t agree with many of the things Christians believe in.

    At first he seemed to become a little hostile towards me when I asked him to explain certain things he was talking about but once I explained that I have never read the book (nor intend to really) he simmered down and actually began to listen with a more open mind.

    Once we got into the heart of the conversation we were able to talk calmly and reasonably and somewhat enjoy it. It felt a lot like how they want you to feel in high school debate class. Hahaha. 🙂

    We got onto long tangents about certain parts of the religion that we don’t like and why. Of course the first thing was about homosexuality. When I point blank asked him, “Why is it wrong and why do Christian’s feel it is wrong if homosexuals harm no one?” He answered me in the most honest way any Christian has ever answered that question. “I don’t know.” There was no “because it’s in the bible,” or “because god said so.” I thought it was very refreshing.

    The next thing I asked him is whether or not he believes people like me go to hell for not being Christian. This was something personal to me because ever church I ever attended said something along the lines of, “Well if they aren’t Christians then they are going to burn forever in a fiery pit of eternal torturous pain.” (I like to exaggerate cause it’s fun, :p)

    What he told me was that he didn’t think good and honest people would go to hell for not practicing Christianity. When I asked him why he said, “In the bible Jesus talked about the Gentiles and how God was more happy with them than his own followers. The gentiles followed Jesus more closely than his followers did without even being told that they had to.” I was incredibly surprised to hear this. I never thought that a Christian could actually accept that someone wasn’t a part of their close group or that they could even think good of them.

    When the conversation was nearing it’s end I asked his advice as to what to do with Caleb’s parents. I asked him if there was a way to make them happy in this situation at all. He replied with, “Don’t try to appease them. They will either accept you as you are or they won’t. You are still their children and they still love you even though you are frustrated with them and vice versa. If they bring it up you can just tell them that you are you, still as good a person as always, you just don’t like the organized part of spirituality, and that they have to deal with it in their own way. You won’t ever be able to live up to what they want and still be happy yourselves.” This made me the most surprised out of the whole conversation. To think that a church member told me to tell my in laws to shove it (in a nice way though I guess) really made me smile. 🙂

    The whole experience was enlightening. I still don’t believe that Christianity is the right path for me and I am still going to continue to be as I was before but I am glad that we won’t have to answer any more questions.

    If anyone has any more questions for me I will answer them at some point. Haha! You all have been great support and I am so happy with all the responses.

    Also, Richard, Thank you so much for what you helped us get through. Thank You Everyone!

    ~Kate

  • Kate’s Mom

    My Daughter is wonderfully intelligent. I love how she thinks for herself, and I love Caleb as well. He has been the best Son-in-Law that I could possibly hope for. They are both witty, and extremely intelligent people, who go out of their way to help if they can.
    It doesn’t surprise me that they have had to go through this. I have been through this as well, but to a much smaller degree. Catholics really don’t care if you come to church or not, they would just like you to “give” what you should. When Kate’s Step-Grandmother was alive (Irish Catholic) she would hound my Husband (who was going to become a priest) and myself that we needed to get the kids to church every Sunday morning. Tried for a while, but it just did not fit, so we stopped going except on major holidays, and now we have stopped going all together.
    It’s not that I don’t believe in the spiritual, it’s that I don’t believe in the physical world of religion. I am more of an Animist than an Atheist, but I accept Kate and Caleb, however they are. I am so pleased to hear that they have come out on the good end of the debate. Hopefully, Caleb’s parents will come to grips with Caleb’s decision to leave the church, but I honestly don’t think they will. It is so ingrained in them that if you don’t go to church, you will burn in Hell. Well kids. . . you’d better save a lawn chair beside the lava pit for good ol’ momma, cause I’ll be right there beside ya!
    Love you guys!

  • Richard Wade

    Kate’s Mom, you’re a treasure. Thank you for being so supportive of Kate and Caleb. Hopefully some day most people will be as accepting and loving as you, despite differences in their beliefs. I wish all of you much happiness.