Religion and In-Laws

posted 2 years ago in Interfaith
Post # 18
Member
6231 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: September 2016

I was raised in a Christian family (lots of ministers and people with churches of their own) and became a goddess worshipping pagan when I was about 14. My parents were really good about it but my other relatives were pretty freaked out. I was also not always very gracious about explaining why I felt called more to one path than the one in which I’d been raised so I’m sure that contributed to their concerns. I’m more of a Pagan Buddhist now and I’ve been doing my thing for years so I can share a bit about how I have changed and how they have. 1- I no longer have strong feelings about not attending church (I used to be very staunch about it). Now, I simply go when I want to and do not go when I don’t. I don’t owe anyone an explanation about my choices and I don’t provide them. When I’m in church, I usually meditate during prayer times and I listen to the stories otherwise but I behave like a guest in someone else’s home- respectful and polite. 2- my family used to try to push back or correct me on my views but since I was studying my path (and theirs) as I was figuring myself out, once they realized trying to educate me (brainwash me 😉 ) wasn’t working, they sometimes tried guilting me or scaring me. It led to some rousing debates! Now, they’re more respectful of my path (it probably helps that I was so serious about it that I got advanced degrees and work in the field, that I married a Pagan raised man and that our son is being raised in a similar fashion) and ask questions rather than announcing to me what they believe I’m doing.

What I’ve found is that a lot of times people are afraid of what they don’t know or don’t understand and a lot of religious paths deliberately scare people away from knowing anything about others so people are acting out their ignorance. Religion gives answers and makes people feel confident and safe (even if they’re only half-assedly doing it) and people doing things they don’t understand (especially things like atheism, paganism or Satanism which can have really bad reputations) rocks them.

I don’t think you need to explain why you aren’t going to church. Just say no thank you. If they’d like to have a conversation about it and you’re willing, then participate and answer their questions. When the time comes for you to have children they will likely understand you and your path a bit more and then you can explain what you’ve chosen to do with your kids (specifically no baptism. There are other ways to bless and formally welcome your children to the community, if you wanted to just replace that Christian ritual with something else that isn’t overtly religious). If you decide to go to church, you don’t have to know what to do other than being polite and considerate, the way you would going to any venue or event as a guest. As long as you are grounded and centered in who you are and what you’re doing, then you become an example and a way for people to learn about a path they simply aren’t familiar with.

Post # 20
Member
29 posts
Newbee
  • Wedding: March 2018

jayquellen :  

Bailing on going to church with your future in laws an HOUR before, on Christmas Eve, is not very polite. Presumably, they had invited you to go to church with them and you accepted. It is not polite to bail on plans an hour before, whether it’s church or a secular dinner date, no matter how long of a laundry list of excuses you can come up with. This is why the fater in law reacted the way he did. 

Reimagine the situation as if it was not a religious holiday. Imagine you’re spending time with his family over a weekend, and his father is retiring and they’re celebrating and are going out for a nice dinner, and you are included. And then an hour before you say “oh by the way I’m not coming to dinner.”

If I were to guess, his family most likely does not have an issue with your non-Christianity. You said they accept you and you are on good terms with them. Based on your Christams Eve bailing, they may be concerned about your level of respect for their religious traditions. 

Post # 22
Member
44 posts
Newbee
  • Wedding: July 2017

I think you are in a pretty good position. Your inlaws clearly seem to have some feelings about your religion, but are doing their best to be respectful. I would have a conversation with them, but not bring up future kids unless they ask about them.

Post # 23
Member
29 posts
Newbee
  • Wedding: March 2018

jayquellen :  I see. That does change things a little since they just assumed you would go. I do think that their offense was not about your non attendance of church, but just the fact that you didn’t want to participate in their family activity when you had been spending the rest of the holiday with them, and bowed out suddenly. They’ll get over it !

I think you could be making a bigger deal out of all of this than it really is. You mentioned feeling like a fish out of water at church. It sounds like you feel uncomfortable and out of place whilst at their church services because you are not Christian/ a non believer, but I want to tell you that this is totally okay to be a non believer ! I would encourage you to practice letting go of the anxiety about that a little bit. It’s totally okay to attend a religious service as a non believer, for the sake of spending time with his family, or learning about a religion or a culture in question. For example, when I travel to other countries, I love to visit houses of worship to get an insight into the people and the culture and their architectural history. Another example- my fiancé is catholic and I am not. Some members of my family are catholic. When I’ve gone to mass with them, I simply don’t stand up for the parts or participaten in parts I’m not familiar with or that I don’t agree or believe in. But I go to support who I’m with and for the fellowship, and to learn something new. 

You mentioned and example of not going to a mosque as a Christian because it would be very out of place for the Christian. I disagree with this. If a Muslim friend invited me to the mosque with them I would 100% go to learn about it and because I’m interested in my friend’s life and would want to accept their invitation to learn about their faith. 

I think most houses of worship are happy to welcome a non believer at their services so that you can learn about their beliefs and mission whether you believe it or not. And I don’t mean that they want the chance to convert you. The church you described as your fiancés church sounds like a welcoming down to the earth church. You’re not dealing with the Westboro Baptist church here. I think you may be overthinking things and that it would totally be okay for you be open about the fact that you’re not a Christian, and still attend a service with your fiancés familiy on occasion  – for the sake of respecting their families traditions, showing a willingness and interest to learn about the faith and something that is important to the family, and simply being present at something that is important to them. even if you don’t participate and just sit there as a keen observer. That is totally allowed. Go to the service. Sing if you know the hymn, stand up if you don’t. Don’t say the prayers because you don’t believe them. Don’t take the communion. Shake hands and smile but don’t say anything you don’t believe. Listen to the sermon and if he says something that resonates with you, great. Or just sit there and don’t participate at all if you want. if you truly hate dont like it than that’s another story but it sounded like the church in question is a nice one as you said.  You don’t have to drink the kool aid to attend a worship service – observing as an outsider is allowed and welcomed. I dont mean to encourage you to go to church with them more often – I just want to encourage you to be open about your non beliefs and not feel like a fish out of water when you end up going with them. 

Post # 24
Member
125 posts
Blushing bee

Why do you have to have a discussion with them at all about baptizing/not baptizing your future children, or your decision to not attend services with them any more? Unless they directly ask you, I can’t see why you’d have any reason to bring it up.

My partner’s family are extremely religious. While I have attended church services with them in the past, I no longer make the choice to do so. I never offered them any explanation as to why I didn’t wish to accompany them any more, and I have never felt the need to tell them that I don’t plan on having my future children christened.

I actually stopped attending services as the new vicar takes a very hard stance on the importance of beliving in and submitting to god and spreading doctrine to others. The old vicar, who retired, used to share sermons about compassion, kindness and caring for other people in your community, which aligned with my personal morals. The new vicar’s harsh, negative sermons about the decline in congregation numbers, the sinful nature of non-believers, and how the congregation have a duty to convert people made me feel very uncomfortable, so I decided that it wasn’t worth me attending with them any more, even though my attendance was only ever 1-2 times annually. 

When we have children, if asked, we will just say that having them christened doesn’t align with our beliefs and leave it at that. How we raise our children really isn’t any of their business.

However, if our children ever express an interest in participating in any religion, then we will support and facilitate them in doing so.

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