I love my wife. She is deeply religious. I have become an atheist. Do I tell her? What now?
posted by anonymous to human relations (70 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I have searched the archive and read other posts that approached this, but none seem to fit well enough for my comfort. I apologize for the length of this question, but I want to give as much information as possible, as I am asking it anonymously and don't want to over-simplify a complicated issue.
My wife was raised Baptist and I Catholic, although I spent much of the time agnostic. She was so devout that we had an argument before we were dating wherein she said Hitler would be more likely to get into heaven than Ghandi because Hitler believed in Jesus. (I know there are stories apocryphal and otherwise that disparage Ghandi's character, but for the sake of example this will have to do). And, while wishing no offense to those who share her beliefs, I found it strange and personally irreconcilable that she thought the world was only 6,000 years old and dinosaurs either lived during the time of man or were faked by science or God to test us.
Despite all this I attempted to court her--there were innumerable other good qualities; her only "failing", as I saw it, was her fanaticism, which should have been enough to stop me, but we were 16 and 17 at the time and long-term relationship considerations did not enter into my mind. Not surprisingly, she listed my lack of faith as the reason we couldn't be together.
Fast-forward a few years. I go a little crazy in college and pretty much burn out my jack-ass party-animal capacitor, calming down unrecognizably by the time I graduate. She goes to college and grows in tolerance and independent religious thought by leaps and bounds. We talk during this time, her using her religious background to help talk me through some rough patches and I use my un-abiding cynicism and insensitive arrogance to get her to question some of the perceived illogic of the Bible and organized religion (getting her to move from a literal interpretation of the bible to view it more as a mixture of history, fable and allegory). We have long discussions wherein I ask her why a sect supposedly based on Jesus's infinite love and forgiveness has so many churches teaching hate and intolerance (against homosexuality, other faiths, misogyny, racism, etc.)
The long and the short of it is she became much, much more tolerant, open-minded and free from the inflexible teachings of her church and I gained a small spark of faith in return.
We started dating, and again I fell head over heels for her. As ridiculous and cheesy as it sounds, I found it her proof of God, I saw our love as a kind of religious awakening. She truly is a very good person; generous, patient, forgiving, etc. and I saw her as an example. Our romance allowed me to have faith and my faith allowed us to have romance.
I still love her, but too many things have happened or not happened in the macro-world and our small private microcosm. Old fallacies and illogic have crept back. Every church we have tried together has either expressed intolerance towards others or blatant sexism. And I have continued friendships with my mostly atheist college friends, with whom discussions about the negative impacts of religion have further quashed my belief in invisible, absentee gods. The contradictions, paradoxes, illogic and unanswerable questions ("God works in mysterious ways" or "We cannot comprehend his infinite wisdom" are non-answers to me") solidified my atheism.
Despite all this, I do not feel her belief makes her "gullible", "fooled", "ignorant" or "stupid." I feel it makes her happy and that's all that matters. On the important things that anger me about religion, listed above, she agrees with me.
But I don't know what to do. Me having faith was so important to the start of our relationship. A former boyfriend lied about his faith to date her and she felt justly betrayed. I didn't lie, I did believe, but I don't any longer. I truly want to be honest with her but also want her to remain happy (both of our families are religious and this would add to the strain). As I don't foresee any punishment from a God I don't believe in for lying to keep her happy I'm not sure if her happiness is worth more than my honesty. This is my first question: Is it worth it to admit my lack of faith when it has no impact (save question two) on our life? When there is a chance it may create a wedge between us, even if it doesn't end the relationship?
And my second question, the one that really bothers me:
We plan on having children and I want them to make their own decisions. "Good Christians" raise their children in the church, but I don't like the idea of unquestioning faith, in God or science. I want my children to be able to ask why and be comfortable finding the answers out on their own. I also fear that, while I support my wife's decision in faith, she is an adult. I don't like the idea of what, to me, would be lying to children. I have this idealized, optimistic view of the children going to church with her on Sunday and coming home and asking us both questions about how we believe and interpret the sermon, and deciding when they are mature enough whether or not this is something they want to pursue. I'm not sure if this is realistic, as it seems a little to modern-Rockwellian to be possible.
If anyone has personal anecdotes, experiences, or any opinions or answers I would greatly appreciate it.
Other, possibly applicable information: We are both in our mid-20s, live a few states away from our families (she is very close to hers and I am somewhat estranged from mine), have a group of friends spanning most faiths and levels of belief, have been married two years and have only had 2 "fights" which were completely resolved. The only other points of contention we have are minor deficiencies we both recognize in ourselves and are constantly working to improve without medication (she has attention deficit disorder and is "flighty" and I am bipolar, sometimes resulting in rude or cold behavior).