Skip to main content

A response to “ My Dilemma”

By Carl S --

The author of My Dilemma, The Truth Seeker, poses a question to the readers of this site. In essence, he asks how can he cope with a Catholic spouse in a community of anti- agnostics/atheists, while being a non-believer himself, a result of realizing “that everything I knew about Christianity was false and I had been fooling myself for years.” He goes on to say, “Nevertheless, I’m glad I finally found the truth and feel very much relieved because of it.”

He’s hit on something there: he has searched for the truth to begin with, and those around him are indifferent to the truth. I’m sure many of us have had the same experience. Understand that they are where he once was himself, unquestioning.

I’m 72 yrs. old and do understand, so maybe I can offer - not so much advice - but what has worked for me. First though, a little entertaining background. When I initially placed my short description in the “Singles Seeking” section of the local newspaper (1995), I said I was a non-smoker/non-drinker, hearing-impaired man who was tired of Platonic friendships. One woman who read this was struck by the fact that here was someone NOT well-built, professional, handsome, and seeking a younger, athletic, slender woman. Such honesty made an impression on her. Ironically, this same honesty has been the cause of serious disagreements between us, but only in regards to religion. Because our original phone call included her mentioning she was a Christian woman, I brought this up on our first date as a possible division in our future relationship. As I left for home, she reassured me, “Don’t worry about it.” We were married three months later.

I would attend church services with her, though I cannot forget my first impression when attending the first one, “These people act as if they actually believe these things!” To be honest, being hearing-impaired helped, because I couldn’t completely understand what was being said, and enjoyed the music, though it was canned.

We moved, including a change of churches. She’s been a member of one for some years now - with live musicians. I used to go with her to church because she enjoyed it, and there might have been an element of hope that her “spiritual experiences” might transfer to the bedroom.

In the past few years, as I continued with my interests in science, nature, and comparing religions and their histories, I started writing poetry about my experiences and observations in the services, and taking notes, watching the congregants, hearing aids turned off. Every pew had a bible in front of each person, so I started reading the gospels, noting the contradictions, the judgmental attitudes of Jesus, and his intolerance for any differences from what he claimed. One time, I went through these gospels several times during a service, and went right into the Epistles, where I found writings utterly divorced from what came before. This made me think, “What’s going on here? They’re entirely different worlds.”

Truthfully, I was as indifferent to the claims of religion as I was to the believers around me. The catalyst, that one drop of water which made the full glass overflow, was that one day in church when I became physically ill, not puking ill, but a nausea you might call psychological vomiting. I couldn’t take it any longer. (Can silence, under the circumstances, be toxic?)

I had to face up to telling my wife that I would no longer go to church with her. Although I think she had already been expecting this, she was hurt, and yes, I was prepared to explain that the only reason I did go for all those years was because I love her. She has been true to “Don’t worry about it.”

This personal testimony may help some of those in the same quandary, or those who may someday find themselves in it. Suffice it to say I feel I’m loved for myself, believer or not. To me, that describes real love. How others handle the problems religions create must differ, but I’d like to give a few insights which I think might be useful, though not necessarily in order of importance.

1. Don’t talk about what’s true. Believers aren’t interested in the “truth” of their dogmas, claims, or their religion’s history. To question or merely comment is interpreted as attacking not only the beliefs, but the believer. Although beliefs are portrayed as rock solid, they are very flimsy and can’t stand up to these simple things.

2. Respect. No marriage can be successful without it. Here is where we encounter the difference between believer and belief. One can have an utter abhorrence and contempt for irrational beliefs, and still respect the person who believes. Is this not the basis of the First Amendment; freedom to have differences of opinions, which, after all, means freedom to choose even superstition?

3. With the author of “My Dilemma,” I too have heard those words, “You are not the man I married.” My answer was, “No, I am a BETTER man now than the one you married,” and I give examples (more caring, thoughtful, loving, etc.).

4. Find mutual moral points, for such concerns are important to both of you. She isn’t aware of how the convoluted and often immoral teachings she was indoctrinated with have affected her, become part of her life. With ease and time, she may. For instance, my wife, when confronted with the child rape coverups by the Catholic Church, proclaimed she would, if a member, immediately leave it. She astonished me in flatly stating that she has been aware for many years now that not all clergy really believe what they preach.

5. I have a thing going with letter writing with friends and family: I’ve written, now it’s your turn, and vice versa. I’ve expressed a few opinions, now it’s her turn. Like letters, it may be a long time before I hear back.

6. Don’t just be honest, but emphasize your respect for truth. This may come in handy when and if she realizes that the clergy she TRUSTS are lying to her.

7. Very casually state that being an atheist is NOT a matter of choice, but an acceptance of reality, after facing all of the information before you. You might add that it makes no sense to pretend to believe something which makes no sense to you.

8. Take a good look at the person you love. Don’t ALLOW religion to poison your relationship. Be gentle.

9. Live life as fully as possible. Enjoy. Laugh at the silly things people are willing to believe, even if it’s only with yourself. (Sometimes my wife gets peeved at me, because she knows what my “secret” chuckling is about.)

10. Because I am an overt atheist, some of those around me may not understand my thinking, but those who are true friends tolerate it. My very presence asks questions of the beliefs they have accepted. All I can say is that it isn’t bad being the “elephant in the room.” My age might have something to do with this. Yet, dismissing me as some kind of eccentric, or a nut, does not compute with those who know me. Maybe you can apply this to your own situation and play around with the possibilities.

11. As long as you’re “in the closet,” people can say any degrading things about atheists/agnostics right in front of you; they can lie up the ass about us and call us immoral and deserving of contempt. This worked for decades to deny rights to Afro-Americans, Irish-Americans, homosexuals, etc. But, being an open non-believer AND decent person points out the prejudice and lies of those who claim to be virtuous. Again, assess your situation. You may find yourself lonely in your freedom, but, on the other hand, your thirst for justice and equality might be irresistible. And you might be amazed at how many of us there are who are part of this family

12. I told my wife that I understand where she is, because I myself was there once. I understand the beliefs, how they came to be and why. Was she ever willing, as I was, to die for Jesus? In all fairness, I do remember her saying years ago, that she was not certain she would die for her faith. (Was my hidden message that I am not only NOT the same person she married, but have become a better person without religion, and so she might also?)

13. I’ve pointed out to my spouse that I did not want her to find out, as some spouses have, that her mate had been living a double life, but that this is what she is demanding of me by asking me to be silent about grave injustices and lies supported by religions. Some may question whether I should have said this. She, I feel, is like one of those wives who knows, yet looks the other way, about her husband’s affairs as something she cannot change. She respects my need for a life apart from hers; a life of writing outlets and other communications of a nature she cares (dares?) NOT enter. Mine is the freedom I so desire she partake of. My door is wide and wide open. My secret life is no secret, just misunderstood. Did not Darwin live such a life of love and misunderstanding? Ah, I can’t have it all, but this is the closest to it I have experienced so far. And life itself is much bigger than a single relationship, must vaster and more mind boggling than all the dogmas and superstitions put together. Ask Darwin.

Oh hell, before I get too preachy, let’s leave it at that. I hope these personal comments might help some others in the “loving predicament” they find themselves in, as well as in their broader environments. (By the way - isn’t it about time the believers learned to ADAPT to US?)