Alright so I’ve been meaning to do this for some time, and now here it is. This is the basic story of my wife and my deconversion from Christianity to atheism.
Looking back I think I hadn’t really believed for a long time, but I clung to it. Or maybe I just didn’t really think about it. I was raised Seventh Day Adventist, which is extreme even for a Christian denomination. I left that behind long ago. What can I say, I wanted to eat bacon. In all seriousness though, I realized many of their beliefs were bullshit and I moved on to being just plain Christian (because of course that’s less bullshit, right?). When I met my wife-to-be in 2007, she was Baptist and that seemed fine. It was pretty much what I believed, so I started identifying as that. We got married 7 weeks after we met (yes SEVEN, and we’re still incredibly happy together).
Skipping ahead to 2012, we hadn’t been going to church much. We kept meaning to, but when football season rolls around, that’s pretty much off the table. We had watched all of Penn and Teller’s Bullshit TV show, and I thought Penn was very interesting. We watched him on Celebrity apprentice, along with Adam Carolla, who I’ve been a big fan of since the Loveline days. Penn then started a podcast on Adam’s network and I started listening to that. I have always been struck by Penn’s personality, his kindness, his love for people, etc. I don’t know anyone who exudes these qualities more than he does. And of course, he’s one of the most outspoken atheists around. I was amazed, and found myself pondering.
Then he did an episode with Lawrence Krauss that was one of, if not my biggest, turning points. I was again struck by the casual, flippant mocking of god and the bible, particularly the explicit talk about god and religion in general in the last 15 minutes of the show. I think it forced me off the fence I had been sitting on for some time, part of which I didn’t even realize I was. I think it was then I realized I no longer believed. I was an atheist.
I realized I had to come out to my wife. It had come to the point where continuing to not tell her would be dishonest. On Sunday, December 16, 2012, as she was putting the kids down for a nap, I turned off the game and poured us a couple of beers. When she came back out and saw the TV off and me at the kitchen table, she knew something serious was going on. I just came right out with it… no easy way to say it. I gave a quick rundown of why and what lead up to this point. She cried, but took it better than I expected. She said later that she felt hurt and felt betrayed, and thinking about that still makes me very sad. I was very scared about what would happen now.
The next few weeks were a bit tense, and she made a few sarcastic comments like, “well I guess I don’t have to get you anything for Christmas now”. I knew she was venting and I just let it all go. She never did really lash out and she now says she’s glad she didn’t. We mostly just left the whole thing alone. I knew that poking at it would not accomplish anything, and would probably do harm, particularly if she was going to stand by her faith. I also knew that if she was actually questioning, it would be something she had to do on her own, and if she did have questions that she would ask them.
I did go buy a couple of books. Dawkins’ The God Delusion, and Hitchens’ God Is Not Great. I came home and set the bag on the counter and she later saw what was in it. Dawkins and Hitch were met with an icy reception. I bought the books because I wanted to see what was behind all the shit atheists talk about religion. I had worked out that I didn’t believe in god, but what was wrong with religion? Well I got an education, and have since come to understand fully why Hitchens subtitled his book, “How religion poisons EVERYTHING”. How true.
Anyway, aside from the snarky comments, my wife also did occasionally ask a few questions. I don’t remember many of them, but they were along the lines of, “hey, how did all those animals from Noah’s ark get back to their correct continents?” She also started really reading her bible.
On new years day we talked some more. She said she didn’t know who I was. She also said she still loved me though. I was worried still, but had hope.
Then on January 7, 2013, we went out to eat. There, sitting in our booth, she told me she didn’t believe in god. It was still some time until she could call herself an atheist, but we both now wear the label proudly.
Only very recently did I realize that was one of the happiest days of my life. Of course our wedding and our kids being born come in above that day, but it may be close. Up until that day, I didn’t know what would happen with us. I was scared to death when I came out to her and had no idea what would happen. For all I knew, she would grab the kids and take off to her parents. I thought that very unlikely, but I know a believer/non-believer relationship is generally shaky at best, especially with kids involved. I imagined a day when she decided we needed to start taking them to church. I didn’t know then the abject harm religion does, but I knew I would prefer our kids not be raised with that kind of false thinking.
I knew there could be any number of things like this to put a big strain on our marriage. Up until that day sitting in that booth, I didn’t know what the future would hold for us. On that day though, I was sure. I knew we were on the same page and we would be fine.
A few months later we came out to family. My parents took it okay. My dad said as long as I’m open-minded, when I started seeing prophesied events happening, I’d turn back. Sure. My wife’s family though… hoo boy. Southern Baptist, young earth, gay hatin’… well you get the idea. Her dad is a pastor as are many others in the extended family. They do still talk to her, but not much. They are now praying for something terrible to happen so we will turn back. I’m like “OMGWTF??” But she’s more hurt. It sucks. Aside from a couple of people, nobody is interested in any kind of discussion or debate. The ones who are argue BADLY. The rest talk in bumper stickers. Its maddening. And I know they hate me now because I made her an atheist.
The thing is, I didn’t. Reading the bible did. I love reason and logic and talking about morality and things like that, so I dug into Sam Harris and The Atheist Experience, and that sort of thing. She did that too, but mostly read the bible… without the god glasses this time. I love that we took different roads to get to atheism. I’ve read plenty of the bible now, with new eyes, but I ask her about stuff when something like the timeline of Jesus and the writing of various books of the bible comes up. Or the authorship of the apostles. I love to watch her make people squirm when she knows more about it than they do.
Anyway, I think that’s about it for now. I think our shared story is a good start to this blog. There is much more to the story, but I may post more about some parts in the future. Like I said, I wanted to start this for some time, but hadn’t been able to sit down and come up with a good first post.