Over on another post, a visitor left me a comment, asking my input. The entry with the comment is here: https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2014/07/27/answers-to-questions-for-theists/ but I will repeat the comment below for context and simplicity; any readers are obviously welcome to add their helpful input.
This is almost completely off topic, but I couldn’t find a place on your blog to send you a message, so I apologize in advance for making your comment section skewed. You mention several times that you and your wife have conversations on faith. I would dearly love some insight on these conversations, because I (the atheist) only found out my husband’s church was creationist AFTER he’d already been a few years attached to the congregation and my son came home one Sunday last year with a coloring sheet that had a dinosaur coming off of the ark. I seriously thought creationism was a punch line, to be laughed at like the flat-earthers we learned about in history. No one really believes those silly things, right? It’s okay to send the kids to sunday school. What could possibly go wrong? Ugh.
We now fight constantly about our young kids’ (4 and 14 months) exposure to religion. I want to compromise and try to find another church with him, one that is still engaging and exciting for him that won’t teach the kids creationism, but his only response is that I should “just come to church with him sometime.” (I went once. I didn’t like it.) Like I’m going to suddenly convert and not give two shits about what they’re teaching the kids?
He feels attacked, and I get that. I told him I like the people in his church and I’m not asking him to not be friends with them anymore, I just don’t like what they teach the kids. He hears none of it. Do you have any advice as a former YEC on what I can possibly say to him? Or what kind of nutty mediator would take on such a dispute? The whole situation is exhausting.
There is a lot here that strikes a chord with me and it has prompted me to reconsider a series of posts on the subject, an idea I abandoned because they were all personal to my own relationship and I was uncertain how open I wanted to be about it. These posts would all take time to write but I’ll certainly do something on the subject in coming months.
So, on with the points raised.
My wife and I do talk faith on occasion. Personally, I’d like us to interact on the subject more than we do, the difficulty is that I suck up regular podcasts and blogs on the interaction of faith and non-faith. The subject interests me greatly because as someone who has been on both sides, I understand well the arguments and intellectually I enjoy the discussion. My wife, on the other hand, is comfortable in her faith and having never been on the other side, doesn’t get my position at all.
What this means in practice is that when I start a conversation on faith (and it is normally me who starts it) I come in running, so to speak, having already considered both sides of the conversation and spring it on my unsuspecting wife. Having been caught off-guard like that, it is hardly surprising that that the conversations are rarely stimulating. The other disadvantage my wife has here is that I have an answer for pretty much everything she says, because I’ve already been there and considered it. She does not share my thirst for the challenge of this form of discussion and so she’s rarely prepared for what I will come up with. On more than one occasion she’s admitted to being intimidated by knowledge of the subject. That’s not because she’s unintelligent, she is both wise and clever. It’s simply a by-product of our mismatched passions.
We’re still working out how to have these conversations in a fruitful and productive manor, because it isn’t easy. When she’s simply not in the mood to have the conversation, it becomes painfully obvious very quickly and my only option there is to stop. There simply is no point having the discussion when the other partner just isn’t in the mood.
I get where you are from in terms of what is being taught to the children. I’m at an advantage in that my wife would not accept creationism, she never did. Therefore, if someone in the church taught our daughter anything creationist, she would back me up when I inevitably object. Beyond that though, I do struggle with the idea that we each get to give her our own worldview and our daughter should be free to make her own choice. It may sound like an honourable thing on paper, but I don’t consider fables a worthy alternative to truth. I wouldn’t let a doctor treat my daughter with any form of homeopathic remedy, so why should I tolerate her being told the philosophical equivalent each Sunday?
It’s a difficult challenge and I’ve had to learn to step away from that one for the moment because it’s more important that my daughter has parents that are not fighting. It isn’t always easy.
Specifically on the exposure of kids to creationism, I’d suggest in this instance to try to introduce scientific literature into life as early as possible to counteract. Using cience topis that are in the news is a good way, it doesn’t have to be something that specific challenges creationism. The current project to make the first landing on a comet is a good example. It needs to be done in an open an honest way so as not to be seen as to be undermining the other parent. One thing my wife has brought up is that on matters of science I get to be the parent who answers the questions because it’s my passion and the limey daughter seems equally inspired and so we talk science together a lot. The flip side is that Mrs limey then says that it should be natural that for matters of religion, she should get the say. We’re still working that out because I think I should get a say on religion too because that conversation is something I have valid input on. If passion is the criteria, it’s also a subject I am passionate about. Just because I don’t go to church, doesn’t mean I’m not informed about what goes on.
There is a very real danger in situations like this that each parent suspects the other of trying to pull the child to their side of the fence. Openness is the key if there is any mistrust on issues of faith then it will undermine the marriage.
On conversations specifically.
Conversations can be difficult.
I’ve made the mistake of calling religion bunk. It didn’t go down well and wasn’t especially wise. It’s not easy for my wife to be married to a man who once shared her faith and now looks down on it. For a very long time she struggled with the notion that I was secretly considering myself superior to her and that she was stupid for still believing. That wasn’t true, and still isn’t, however, I didn’t do anything to dispel that misunderstanding and so it’s hardly surprising there was an uncomfortable atmosphere for some time.
In a relationship like this, it is very difficult for the Christian partner to not feel attacked every time religion (or even the church) is criticised. For them, the church and their religion are part of who they are and to criticise one is to attack them. It is a separation and distinction that is almost impossible for them to make. I should have known this because I was there once, but it is still something that I struggle to comprehend. I don’t know what all the answers are.
The questions above, are serious because they come from the heart and here I feel that I have not given them enough of an answer. Hopefully in further postings I’ll be able to address some specific elements on a personal perspective. As can be seen though, this is still an area where I am learning too. I am sure there are many others who are learning this unexpected road too.