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Religion and Spirituality, Science and Philosophy Use this forum to discuss what you believe in. This is a place where everyone may share their views freely.

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Girlfriend has "accepted God fully and completely" - September 14th 2013, 02:08 PM

This might be more of a relationship question. I figured I'm more worried about the effects it will have on my non-spirituality than the relationship itself, hence why I'm posting it here.

Anyway, my girlfriend, 16, has lately been attending "youth groups" at a local church with her friend. She says she finds them to be fun and relaxed; the other teenagers and the group leaders provide her with a good community to express herself, which she doesn't have elsewhere (schooling doesn't help her at all, and her other friends are total wankers). That's fine, I can understand her wanting to join that sort of community.

Before attending these sessions, though, she was an atheist. Obviously, not that much into it at the time and she is easily persuadable. In fact, highly impressionable, I would say. Since finding out she was attending these, though, I haven't stressed and haven't pushed or impressed upon her my atheist views. I don't want to do that, at all.

I find it difficult to accept, though. After going a few times, she was asked to listen to "praise music" for 30 minutes every night. She loves it, not for the praise, but the music itself. She finds she can relate to it on an emotional level. I, personally, don't condone this sort of request. Then, she started receiving messages from the group leaders twice a day about how fantastic God is and basically outlining the positives to accepting the Lord as her saviour.

Tonight, she went to a Christian concert. Not sure what it's called, I think it's Earthshakers or Earthmovers or something of the sort. Basically, a concert filled with personable, impressive, whimsical motivational speakers that praise the Lord in all his holiness. That, and there's obviously "praise music", as she put it.

I received a message after it finished, simply saying "it was great. I accepted God in my heart fully and completely". Obviously, this wasn't a shock: it's impossible to not expect a vulnerable, impressionable young person to accept God, when for the last couple of months, she's been told to immerse herself in Him and she's complied without hesitation because of the strong community she finds herself in. It was, however, a pretty big occasion. It's a huge deal for anyone to convert religious beliefs, but it's even bigger than that because when religious beliefs change, personality changes.

I've basically come here, to the wonderful community of militant atheists and oppressed theists (let's face it guys, atheists outnumber theists two to one in this neck of the woods, and you definitely don't back down - take that as a compliment), to ask a few questions. At the very least, and I'll ask this gingerly, do theist organisations prey on the vulnerable and young for membership and followers? Also, what things should I expect to change in my relationship? Will there be a picture of Jesus on my bedside table that stares at me with the eyes of a smiling assassin as I sleep? Will I be forced to listen to "praise music"?

On a more personal note, how do I tell her not to impress her views on me, without making her feel like her views are being suppressed?

Just generally, what do you think of this whole predicament I find myself in? I do consider myself to be a strong atheist, but I try to keep my opinion close to my chest. I fear, though, that this new spiritual journey my girlfriend is on will impact our relationship - I fear there will be a lot of head clashing because of this, despite my efforts to hold my tongue. I'm curious to hear what you think.


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Re: Girlfriend has "accepted God fully and completely" - September 14th 2013, 04:18 PM

I suppose I should start by saying there are a few loaded questions in there, so expect some interesting replies. I'll aim to be as neutral as possible though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Age of Ignorance View Post
At the very least, and I'll ask this gingerly, do theist organisations prey on the vulnerable and young for membership and followers?
You'll probably get some people screaming "YES!!!" in response to that (and they know who they are ), but the honest answer is it really varies from group to group. Some groups do target people quite stridently (and quite frankly I find such groups pretty distasteful to say the least...), while others let people come to them and see what they make of it for themselves. I've had experience of both, and the latter is definitely my preference by a considerable margin - the former makes me kick back against it quite strongly, despite my self-confessed theism. With the one your girlfriend has attended it does sound like they've been quite proactive in their approach, but whether that amounts to preying I'm not so sure. Do you have any more details about them? I might recognise the name...

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Originally Posted by Age of Ignorance View Post
Also, what things should I expect to change in my relationship? Will there be a picture of Jesus on my bedside table that stares at me with the eyes of a smiling assassin as I sleep? Will I be forced to listen to "praise music"?
Much as that's quite an amusing image, I think you're safe. I've been a Catholic for most of my life, but aside from wearing a crucifix and having a fairly discreet one on my wall you'd be hard pushed to tell. Most of my wallspace is taken up by stuff to do with cars and motorsport. Hell, I play Grand Theft Auto on the Xbox. So you shouldn't necessarily see any overt changes as much as you might notice her world view is different. Then again, she may want some more symbols up. It all varies from person to person.

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Originally Posted by Age of Ignorance View Post
On a more personal note, how do I tell her not to impress her views on me, without making her feel like her views are being suppressed?
I think the key thing is to look again at how you've worded that. You're looking at basically giving her an order - "don't impress your views on me" - while at the same time trying not to make it sound like an order. In that respect I'm afraid you are doomed to fail. If she is serious about her change of beliefs (and it is still early days yet) then you need to find a way to be accommodating about them, and that's on a mutual basis as well. It's no different to any other clash in interests in that respect, just on a different basis.

In addition to this, I would say it's worth taking some time to find out her reasons for making this change. Thus far you've put it down to her being impressionable, which may indeed be the case. But it may also be down to something else that she's not let on about as much, and if you act from a position of assuming naivety then you're far more likely to end up butting heads on the subject. Which leads me to your last question...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Age of Ignorance View Post
Just generally, what do you think of this whole predicament I find myself in? I do consider myself to be a strong atheist, but I try to keep my opinion close to my chest. I fear, though, that this new spiritual journey my girlfriend is on will impact our relationship - I fear there will be a lot of head clashing because of this, despite my efforts to hold my tongue. I'm curious to hear what you think.
Short answer: It all depends on how much you let it impact your relationship.

Longer answer: You're not the first person to be in a relationship with someone with totally different religious beliefs to yourself, and you certainly won't be the last. There have been so-called "mixed marriages" (not a phrase I'm particularly fond of but hey) throughout the centuries, many of which have been very successful. There's at least one marriage in my extended family between a Christian and an atheist, and I have friends in similar circumstances as well. So it all comes down to how the two of you approach the topic. It may not be a particularly easy one, particularly if - as appears to be the case - you have strong contrasting opinions on the subject, but there are ways and means if you're both willing to explore them.

Hope that's some help and free feel to ask more questions if you like. Best of luck with whatever happens.


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If you're referring to dr2005's response, it's not complex, however, he has a way with words .
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Re: Girlfriend has "accepted God fully and completely" - September 14th 2013, 05:38 PM

Hey there,

You have asked some good questions and I will try and answer them to the best of my ability. Firstly, not all churches prey on the impressionable. I think that there are some churches that are very good with encouraging people to worship and will help people find God if that is what they CHOOSE but they won't push their views on anyone or anything like that. It does sound like your girlfriends church has been very proactive but as stated I don't know if that means they were preying on a vulnerable member that could just be how they are in general. In all honesty, all churches are different and it is important to remember that fact.

I don't think you are going to have to worry about pictures of Jesus or anything like that. I know a number of Christians and I don't think any of them have pictures in their house. Sometimes they read their bibles and leave them on their couch, bed or something like that but other then that you wouldn't even really know you were entering a Christian household.

Are you sure she will even try and impress her views upon you? She knows that you are an atheist so it is very possible that she will respect that. I know that I have friends that do not believe in God and I respect that and have never once approached the subject of God with them (it is rather unnecessary if you think about it). So, before jumping to the conclusion that because she converted she is going to impress her views on you try and approach the matter with the mind set that she might respect your views just as much as you are going to accept her views. If she does try and impress her views on you you would probably do well to have a conversation with her about it and explain that you are trying really hard to accept her views and to respect her views but you need the same things from her.

Also, I agree that there might be more reasons as to why she changed her views than being impressionable and if you could work on figuring out what those reasons our it could help you out.

Lastly, you can make this relationship work. I have a friend who is Christian and is dating someone who is agnostic or atheist (sorry I can't remember which) and they are making it work. It just all comes down to how the two of you work on approaching it. Yes, there might be times when you two disagree about things but if you can work on overcoming those disagreements and trying to work on some type of resolution you can work through this.

I hope this helped in some way and wishing you the best of luck.


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Re: Girlfriend has "accepted God fully and completely" - September 14th 2013, 09:35 PM

Haaang on, let's not be overly generous to Theists.

Yes, they 'prey' on the vulnerable (hooray for fulfilling the "Militant Atheist" stereotype). Now, I'm sorry, but I find it hard to believe that religion could exist without authority figures telling the impressionable about it. This is mostly in young children but also other impressionable personalities.

My atheism aside, the others have given excellent advice. I don't think you need to worry about changes in your relationship too much (as much as I'd love to paint the opposite picture, the people your girlfriend is now worshipping with are likely very kind people devoid of mad extremist views). However, I'm sure that she'd be more than happy to have a Smiling Assassin Jesus if you offered.

If she starts making you listen to things against your will or otherwise forcing any religious views upon you, it is the simple matter of telling her that, as you did for her, she should do for you. You don't listen to Atheist music ("Gravity, Gravity, Gravity" and "The Genetic Mutations occurred Two by Two, Evolve!" etc. ) around her, she should respect your views.

Religion might affect personality, but the personality is still there beneath religion and I'm sure it won't cause problems between you.
I'm strongly Atheist, but I still think that tolerance and understanding are the best things, not just all agreeing.


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Re: Girlfriend has "accepted God fully and completely" - September 14th 2013, 11:18 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Age of Ignorance View Post
I've basically come here, to the wonderful community of militant atheists and oppressed theists (let's face it guys, atheists outnumber theists two to one in this neck of the woods, and you definitely don't back down - take that as a compliment), to ask a few questions.
I don't find myself claiming to be a militant atheist, but I am a weak atheist and someone who seeks truth, even if that points me to god. However, I will respond as I do have some experience with Christianity.

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At the very least, and I'll ask this gingerly, do theist organisations prey on the vulnerable and young for membership and followers?
The simple answer is: No. Not intentionally.

Christianity once had a really hard message prior to the 1950s. The message of Christianity was a call to deny your earthly pleasures, and follow Christ, which, is the message of the bible.

In the 1950s, we had just finished two World Wars. Christianity as a whole realized this, and so, they changed their message. I mean, the West suffered from the Great Depression, and many deaths. Why would they continue preaching that it's harder to get into Heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of needle? So, as we have it, people like Billy Graham Jr. and other popular evangelists changed the message of Christianity. They started teaching the popular "God is love, he accepts everyone, if you have that hole in your heart, god can fill it." And theoretically, this is true. The IDEA of god is a powerful placebo and can fill that hole.

What I mean is this: People who are weak can find comfort in god. People who are hurting can find comfort that a divine being cares for them. People without a father can look to god, or without a loving mother, they have the love of god. It really depends how liberal of a group she is going to. The liberals tend to feed on this idea more than conservatives. Conservatives like John MacArthur, Paul Washer, and the like are progressively moving back to the original Christian message of the West.

Regardless, I don't think preachers today have this knowledge that I've shared with you. Many Pastors are actually really ignorant about the Bible when you talk with them. Yes, they study it, yes they know Greek, and the Historical Contexts of passages, but they are still ignorant about a lot of things. Including the psychological issues of the Christian movement in the 1950s. Others, sure, they do prey, but generally, this isn't the case. When I was a Christian we never targeted weak people. We targeted everyone.

The general message of the Bible is this: Grace to the humble, law to the proud (because the OT law is directed to make people humble). But, I mean, read Matthew 5. It talks about how the broken-spirited, etc. will inherit the Kingdom of god. So, Christianity, as a whole, is more accepting of those who have issues. But if you mean weak as in easy manipulated, I don't think it's intention. I just think the easily manipulated are easily manipulated.

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Also, what things should I expect to change in my relationship? Will there be a picture of Jesus on my bedside table that stares at me with the eyes of a smiling assassin as I sleep? Will I be forced to listen to "praise music"?
Typically this depends on the individual. If it's a more liberal congregation, you probably won't have to deal with it. If it's a moderate or conservative, I would prepare yourself. She will probably ask you to listen or attend because she likes it and wants you to, too. One thing to keep in mind is, depending how serious your relationship is, she will talk about religious things with you because she loves you. You can't get mad. I have family who is REALLY religious. But, I don't tell them how I hate god, etc. I suck it up. Why? Because... they are telling me about god because they want me to be "saved" from Hell. They do it out of love. I put up with it. If you can't, then, I hate to say it, but good things she's not family. Move on.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Age of Ignorance View Post
On a more personal note, how do I tell her not to impress her views on me, without making her feel like her views are being suppressed?
I would simply tell her your glad she has found a place to express herself, and new friends, and a place where she is happy. But, I would be open with her and tell her you're not interested in sharing those experiences with her. OTOH, I would go to a few just to support her. A relationship, IMO, should be supportive, even when you clash or contradict. Love is about putting up with your differences and supporting them. Otherwise you're just settling for someone who is identical to you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Age of Ignorance View Post
Just generally, what do you think of this whole predicament I find myself in? I do consider myself to be a strong atheist, but I try to keep my opinion close to my chest. I fear, though, that this new spiritual journey my girlfriend is on will impact our relationship - I fear there will be a lot of head clashing because of this, despite my efforts to hold my tongue. I'm curious to hear what you think.
It likely will. You may need to move on, or give it time. It might just be a phase. I think, overall, you should express yourself to her. Tell her how you feel. Don't hide them, because then you will just lash out eventually. Rather, talk NOW while you aren't pissed and clashing. Discuss things with her and keep an open mind. Don't shove your atheist opinions down her throat.

I know some of this may sound hypocritical coming from me, but I think here is where the difference lies. When I talk to people about religion, I am not trying to shove my opinions down peoples throats. I'm trying to get people to think, and I am trying to challenge myself. My atheistic views aren't anything if I don't challenge them, but another belief. While I don't think Christianity is probable, I still keep it open on a list of possibilities. Not because I'm playing it safe, but because being closed-minded is just blind faith. So, I suggest the same to you. Maybe question her about her beliefs, but don't do it militantly. Do it out of curiosity. Don't try to deconvert her, do it to strengthen her as a person. And don't think that you're right and she's wrong. Go to it as a learning opportunity, otherwise you'll become high-minded and she will ignore what you have to say.

In the end it depends on the two of you as a couple. Religion doesn't even have to be discussed. But if she becomes overly-zealous, it's unlikely that will be the case.


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Re: Girlfriend has "accepted God fully and completely" - September 14th 2013, 11:19 PM

Thank you for all of your responses. I won't have time to say much at the moment, but I will say that I knew some of the questions were heavily loaded. Whilst I asked the questions sincerely, I loaded them in a way to spark certain responses. Yes, I was performing the role of the militant atheist, but I did mean some of them in jest. Aside from the question regarding how I should ask her not to impress her views on me, and how it would impact my relationship, I just meant to spark enraged responses.

That being said, I thank you for your responses to them anyway. I would like to state, at this point, that I do find it very difficult to accept that she's on this spiritual journey without me, even if I'm not religious and refuse to be religious. It gets harder to accept when I throw in the fact that I don't really understand exactly why, and yes I have chalked it up to her being impressionable. I know that, lately, she's been struggling with suicide and self harm and that is a contributing factor to everything she does, and whilst I am there for her and so is her psychiatrist, I knew that neither of us could fulfil, satisfy or even alter how she feels about life. She needed to make a change, and take a different outlook on life, and I'm glad that she has found that in God, I guess. It's not the fact that she is religious or that she has accepted God which scares me the most, because I know that it is beneficial for her wellbeing, it's that she may change considerably because of this journey.

I can accept that she has found a place in religion, that's fine. And maybe, at the same time, my views that her personality may change may be unfounded. But maybe, and this is probably about the nth maybe that I find myself considering, she will shift her priorities so that her new community and her newfound love of God will sit higher than myself.

Of course, this may be one of those situations where it is what you make it, but I know that she has a habit of diving headlong into things and committing herself to those things wholeheartedly, to a point where it becomes an obsession. So, I wonder what will become of our relationship when her priorities shift.

Anyway, thank you for your advice. I'll let the replies keep rolling, I just wanted to clear a few things up.


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