Dealing with my "crisis of faith" while still respecting my spouse's faith

windsofchangewindsofchange Shipmate
edited September 24 in Purgatory
(First of all, if this isn't the right place for this post, please let me know and/or feel free to move it. I haven't been here a while so I'm a bit rusty. Thanks!!)

Hi! Wonder if anyone can give me some advice. I've been married 12.5 years to a nice guy, and till the past few months, we were both aligned, both politically and religiously, on the conservative/traditionalist side.

However, long story short, over the past few months I've radically changed my opinions and beliefs, to the point where I'm not quite an atheist, but definitely not a "conservative, traditional Christian" any more. I'm much more on the liberal, "Christian agnostic" end now.

None of this would be a big deal if I were single, but I'm not, and I know I'm put my husband in an uncomfortable position. He supports my right to question these things, but he doesn't agree with me -- particularly on the politically conservative stuff.

Also, more importantly, we're older and don't have any kids, so church has been the main social activity that we've shared together. Both of us have been *very* active as cantors, for example. (FWIW, I still attend, and cantor, at the Sunday Liturgy with him, but I've backed off from Saturdays and weekdays.)

Has anyone else experienced this, where one spouse/partner radically changes their belief system while the other one doesn't? How did you navigate the difficult shoals while crossing that river? Any suggestions, tips, etc. will be appreciated! Thanks - and it's nice to be back!

Comments

  • My heart goes out to you both @windsofchange. The burden is on you. The burden of not being able to have 'the conversation' with your partner or anyone at church. It's good that you can keep the cultural commonalities.

    What changed you? What have you been reading? Or was it a gradual tipping point? An hour glass? An avalanche?
  • Ah. The ECD thread. How painful.
  • windsofchange:

    What are your husbands beliefs on salvation? Specifically, does he think that, by reaching the conclusions you have reached, you are jeopardizing your soul and may not be spending eternity with him?

  • stetson wrote: »
    windsofchange:

    What are your husbands beliefs on salvation? Specifically, does he think that, by reaching the conclusions you have reached, you are jeopardizing your soul and may not be spending eternity with him?

    The funny thing is I really can't read what his actual beliefs are. He seems to be more concerned about my political, rather than religious, changes. In fact, in one conversation he said he'd almost rather I be a "conservative atheist" than a "liberal Christian"!
  • Martin54 wrote: »
    My heart goes out to you both @windsofchange. The burden is on you. The burden of not being able to have 'the conversation' with your partner or anyone at church. It's good that you can keep the cultural commonalities.

    What changed you? What have you been reading? Or was it a gradual tipping point? An hour glass? An avalanche?

    Hi, Martin --

    You've got it - it's the reading! Fundamentalists of all stripes are smart to try and control what their members read - a little knowledge might take away some of their power!

    And I do read a LOT, so if you see me saying I believe something, check back tomorrow because I may have changed my mind since then! But basically, I got interested in the debate amongst scholars such as Robert M. Price and Bart Ehrman on the historical evidence for the existence of Jesus.

    And that was the first time in many, many years I'd allowed myself to read *any* theological work that didn't 100% support orthodox, traditional Christianity. Once I gave myself that permission, the floodgates opened! I started reading (and in some cases, re-reading) books, blog posts, ideas that I had convinced myself were "evil" or "heretical," and realizing, "Hey, I actually *agree* with this (or that)! So what does that make me?"

    I don't really want to go into too many details because I'm still not sure if I'm completely "deconverting" from Christianity altogether, or just "deconstructing" into a more open, tolerant version of the faith. It's hard to tell because it's uncharted waters for me. If that makes any sense at all...
  • FWIW, though I don't have anyone at home or at church to talk to, I have been able to find a couple of family members (distant cousins) who I feel comfortable talking with. Since we were all raised Catholics, we understand each other! It's great to have other people IRL who speak the same language, so to speak! :smiley:
  • I'm glad you've got them. My wife and I have each other. That's it. For exploring faith. And it's not enough. We have a new church, but we've deconstructed too far for even liberal evangelicalism. We'll get stuck in to the communal and take occasional communion.
  • I do think I may have found a compromise - at least one that works for me. I decided that *one* Sunday every month, I will go to a different church, by myself. The rest of the time I'll go with my husband to our regular church. He's OK with that.

    Last Sunday I went to a Unitarian Universalist church. It was a small one, and actually quite pleasant. My overall impression was that it felt sort of like stepping into a warm bath! Not something I'd want to go to every Sunday, but once a month seems just about right.

    Plus, they have some fun activities - a book club, a discussion group - during the week, which would be great for me. I really just need some alternatives, I think, to remind myself that it's OK to think outside the traditionalist "bubble."
  • You might find Rachel Held Evans' writing interesting perhaps Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church. She came from a conservative Evangelical background but moved to a more progressive Christianity; however, she was known for reaching out across borders. Note I'm one of the ship's atheists/agnostics.

    For fun look up UU jokes
  • We just stopped going to church, found other things to do on Sundays and don't talk about it. I don't encourage not talking to your spouse, but we are in a difficult position with respect to our fundamentalist family and by not talking about it we can pretend it isn't happening. It works for us.
  • edited September 25
    @windsofchange - I thought I might drop in to mention that I had an experience which sounds similar to yours - a quite sudden and for me reluctant loss of faith, followed by some years of reading and reading and trying to work out 'how to live.' I don't know if I am unusual on these boards, but for me, faith came back - different, in many ways stronger and perhaps even more orthodox having known its lack, and (although I am still part of a church, which is a kind of badly-executed duty for me) happily detached from things other people might want to suggest I ought to believe. In this way losing my faith was a gift, which sounds corny but is true. I wish you well with your journey (turning into Helen Steiner Rice, but I can't think of another way to say it).

    Marriage implications - I have no idea. I am 20 years married, and not good at it :smile:
  • FirenzeFirenze Shipmate, Host Emeritus
    IMO nothing worth keeping was ever lost by questioning what seems inauthentic.
  • Hi @windsofchange ! I went through, actually still am going through, a reappraisal / reassessment of faith. It’s been going on about 10 years now. I was a charismatic evangelicalish, fairly conservative, in hindsight probably borderline fundamentalist. Hey ho. Now I’m still in the same CofE church but I’ve no idea how I’d describe my faith. My husband has been the steady atheist throughout.
    I wonder if @stetson has it on the head about salvation. Is your other half worried about your soul? (Serious question). Given his comment about conservative atheism, I think it could be worth exploring exactly what it is that troubles him about your change of faith.
    And much love to you from an internet random. It’s a weird an unsettling process, but I’ve found it’s brought me to an ok place. Firenze is right - what I had wasn’t authentic, what I have now is, despite being also an almighty mess!
  • Might I chime in from the other side of this?

    I wouldn’t say my husband has lost his faith exactly, but he’s definitely deeply cheesed off with organised religion of late and would happily never set foot inside a church for months at a time. While I may agree that (our) church has its imperfections, it’s still very much a home to me and I’m not done. This can get a bit uncomfortable.

    There’s no getting round the fact that people change, and you have no guarantee that the person you marry is going to stay in the same spot for the next however many decades (and we’re hardly old-timers – 4 ½ years married). So from my point of view I have to accept who he is now. I can’t make him believe or feel things that are no longer true to him.

    I really appreciate though, that husband en rouge is prepared to turn up at church on a semi-regular basis, simply because he knows I appreciate it. Going alone all the time would make me deeply sad. He’s honest about his reservations (with me at least), but is prepared to say, “I’m prepared to do this, because I know it matters to you and you matter to me.”

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, the win is when you find a way of communicating to your spouse that you still care about him even if your feelings about (a particular form of) Christianity have changed.
  • I wish you well with your journey (turning into Helen Steiner Rice, but I can't think of another way to say it).

    Hah, that's funny (in a nice way! :smile: ) - when I was younger I was enamoured with Helen Steiner Rice! "Hey, a poet who knows how to RHYME! What a concept!" :smiley:

  • Is your other half worried about your soul? (Serious question). Given his comment about conservative atheism, I think it could be worth exploring exactly what it is that troubles him about your change of faith.

    Yeah, I seriously doubt it. I really think it's the change in my politics, not my religion, that's bothering him most. He's a dyed-in-the-wool Trump and Rush Limbaugh supporter. And for a long time, I was too, so I can't criticize him for that. I'm the one who's suddenly changed, not him!

  • You might find Rachel Held Evans' writing interesting perhaps Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church. She came from a conservative Evangelical background but moved to a more progressive Christianity; however, she was known for reaching out across borders. Note I'm one of the ship's atheists/agnostics.

    For fun look up UU jokes

    Yes, I love all of Rachel Held Evans' books and was so sad when she died. She made quite an impression on me, as someone who found some way to continue being Christian in spite of (or perhaps because of?) her progressivism. I just bought her last book, "Inspired," about her take on the Bible. Looks promising!
  • As a non-American, it surprises me that faith and politics are so personally intertwined, but I don't doubt that it is, Here, I think it's dangerous to assume that adherence to a particular brand of Christianity means that you will hold a particular set of political beliefs. Just an observation.

    On the main issue, I wonder if you have done any reading on the dark night of the soul?
  • And I do read a LOT, so if you see me saying I believe something, check back tomorrow because I may have changed my mind since then! But basically, I got interested in the debate amongst scholars such as Robert M. Price and Bart Ehrman on the historical evidence for the existence of Jesus.

    Some years ago I went through a similar kind of process myself after reading a few books on Higher Criticism; at the time I wrote to one of the authors who kindly replied with advice that I found useful and which amounted to the following: Think of yourself as on an intellectual pilgrimage. It may take time for you to get to a resolution--if ever. You may find yourself asking a whole different set of questions. If you find something that challenges a particular tenet of faith, perhaps you have to re-evaluate how you understand that tenet, which is a spiritual journey in itself. Especially when coming from a more fundamentalist perspective, learning to live with uncertainty can be a vertiginous and disorientating experience.

    My other comment would be to beware of the fervour of a recent convert.
    or just "deconstructing" into a more open, tolerant version of the faith. It's hard to tell because it's uncharted waters for me. If that makes any sense at all...

    I think it can take time for you to put your faith back together.
  • Is your other half worried about your soul? (Serious question). Given his comment about conservative atheism, I think it could be worth exploring exactly what it is that troubles him about your change of faith.

    Yeah, I seriously doubt it. I really think it's the change in my politics, not my religion, that's bothering him most. He's a dyed-in-the-wool Trump and Rush Limbaugh supporter. And for a long time, I was too, so I can't criticize him for that. I'm the one who's suddenly changed, not him!

    Ah, that makes sense.
    I find it quite tricky to converse with family members with different politics in a constructive way, and my other half’s politics are closeish to mine (though we have regular frank exchanges of views about feminism).
  • I went to a presentation where they suggested to not argue. Rather ask gentle questions like "what are your fears" when someone states something about controversial political and social issues. It'd no doubt be different within a marriage. But perhaps worth considering.
  • First of all, the enemy of faith is not doubt, but certitude. If you can, read James Fowler's Stages of Faith. You appear to be in what he calls the Conjunctive Stage. It is rare for people to reach this stage before mid-life. This is the point when people begin to realize the limits of logic and start to accept the paradoxes in life. They begin to see life as a mystery and often return to sacred stories and symbols but this time without being stuck in a theological box.

    You mention going to a Universalist Congregation. I hope you can try an Evangelical Lutheran Church Congregation (if you are in the US). I think you will find the liturgy very close to what you are familiar with. Look for one that is listed as Reconciling in Christ--or Reconcilingworks. These congregations have determined to be open and affirming to everyone regardless of background or sexual orientation.

    There is also the United Church of Christ which is more informal, but quite liberal.

    Feel free to send me a personal message, if you would like.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    That's a great summary. Richard Rohr makes the same argument as Fowler in his book, 'Falling Upward: A spirituality of the two halves of life.'
  • I'd be tempted to point out to the spouse that if he could live with Trump despite.. well, everything.. then he ought to have no problem with me, given he knows my love for him, that I'm a nice person and that we've had good times.

  • Jengie JonJengie Jon Shipmate
    edited September 28
    Snag, what Fowler means by faith is not what many conservative Christians mean by faith. To Fowler Faith is something like the direction of spiritual growth. To many conservative Christians, it is far more about conversion, loyalty to a world view and feeling of closeness to/justified by God.

    The lack of any consideration of conversion in his theory is I believe a major drawback. There is not simply the Evangelical stance on conversion, there are also experienced when one's World View changes dramatically or when one comes to belong to a tradition outside the scope of your previous experience. There is also the experience of losing a belonging which while I would not like to call it a conversion does make big changes to ones approach to faith. I think I can count three such occurrences, none of them was a standard Christian conversion, but each had a more profound effect on my faith than my actual conversion. Fowler's not allowing space for these, in my eyes, is a major defect in his theory.
  • I smile when I see Robert M Price named as one of the Jesus Mythicist scholars... I had always known him for his Lovecraft scholarship.
  • Jengie Jon wrote: »
    Snag, what Fowler means by faith is not what many conservative Christians mean by faith. To Fowler Faith is something like the direction of spiritual growth. To many conservative Christians, it is far more about conversion, loyalty to a world view and feeling of closeness to/justified by God.

    The lack of any consideration of conversion in his theory is I believe a major drawback. There is not simply the Evangelical stance on conversion, there are also experienced when one's World View changes dramatically or when one comes to belong to a tradition outside the scope of your previous experience. There is also the experience of losing a belonging which while I would not like to call it a conversion does make big changes to ones approach to faith. I think I can count three such occurrences, none of them was a standard Christian conversion, but each had a more profound effect on my faith than my actual conversion. Fowler's not allowing space for these, in my eyes, is a major defect in his theory.

    But the point of windsofchange is that she no longer sees herself in that conversion schematic. She is moving from an "evangelical" world view to what she calls a "Christian Agnostic" world view. That is exactly what Fowler would be a conjunctive stage.

    Truth be told, most Christians on this board will admit to having periods of doubt and agnosticism if not atheism. Ultimately, we just really don't know.

    I referred to Fowler as a way to say what windsofchange is going through is okay. I also wanted to encourage her to check out other more liberal denominations. But if she likes the Universalist church, that is okay too.

    I really have no suggestions about her relations with her husband.
  • Jengie Jon wrote: »
    Snag, what Fowler means by faith is not what many conservative Christians mean by faith. To Fowler Faith is something like the direction of spiritual growth. To many conservative Christians, it is far more about conversion, loyalty to a world view and feeling of closeness to/justified by God.

    The second half of this rings so true for me. If you define your faith as basically intellectual assent to a series of propositions, then if you lose some of those beliefs, you feel you’ve lost your faith. This is the process I’ve been working through for, well, ages now. I haven’t read Fowler’s book though I’m familiar with the basics of his Stages of Faith. The difficulty in trying to discuss it with people who haven’t made the move you have is that you can sound as though you’re leaving them behind and are so much more advanced than them. Not the best basis for a productive conversation - though I care less about this when it comes to discussing it with people who think their version of Christianity is the bees knees and everyone who doesn’t follow it has a hole in their soul.
  • Oh, in case it’s of use, my favourite book about losing faith and building something new is Mike McHargue’s Finding God in the waves. Would be a good read for fans of Rachel Held Evans, I'd think.
  • I smile when I see Robert M Price named as one of the Jesus Mythicist scholars... I had always known him for his Lovecraft scholarship.

    Not to be confused with R. G. Price also a Jesus Mythicist
  • Ironically Robert Price is apparently politically conservative and a fan of Trump..
  • That actually doesn’t surprise me at all.
  • Apparently there are weird links between some high profile atheists and the alt right.

    Robert Price in particular has said some stuff that sounds horribly similar to Richard Spencer.
  • Blahblah wrote: »

    The date is 2016, a month before the election of Trump. I wonder what Price thinks of him now.
  • I think there is a lot to say about Robert M Price but maybe we are going too far from this thread.
  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, Hell Host
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    ...You mention going to a Universalist Congregation. I hope you can try an Evangelical Lutheran Church Congregation (if you are in the US). ... There is also the United Church of Christ which is more informal, but quite liberal. ...
    The Episcopal Church welcomes you; you might want to consider visiting a parish or two, especially if you'd like a familiar liturgy.


  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    edited September 30
    I came across an article written from the Jewish perspective, but still has applications for someone in the Christian faith coming to terms with what it means for them. Happy reading.
  • windsofchangewindsofchange Shipmate
    edited October 6
    Hey everyone, sorry it took me a few days to get back here! We've had not one, but two, high-profile deaths in our little church, and thus two funerals to sing and chant our way through. The first one was today and the next one will be next week.

    I tried to set aside my "deconversion" issues so I could show my respects for the people who died (both lovely elderly people who were founding members of our church) and their families. Even as a skeptic, I consider that a good thing to do.

    Except ... at the after-party (you're church folks, so I know you know about funeral after-parties! :D ), I got involved in an discussion about the Shroud of Turin exhibit at the former "Crystal Cathedral" in Orange County. After a few minutes of listening to the most astonishing, ridiculous pseudoscientific twaddle, I made the mistake of expressing my skepticism.

    It didn't go over well, so I took my coffee cup and hung out in the hallway for a while with some giggly teenagers. Later I went back, and everyone at my table was STILL talking about how stupid all those scientists are who don't believe in the Shroud. ("Eggheads - what do THEY know?")

    Then there was a slideshow of photos of the deceased, which created enough of a distraction for me to sneak off for a hearty glass or two of boxed wine.

    I may need a vacation ...
  • Blahblah wrote: »
    I'd be tempted to point out to the spouse that if he could live with Trump despite.. well, everything.. then he ought to have no problem with me, given he knows my love for him, that I'm a nice person and that we've had good times.

    Hah! Yes, that's true! Although I have to confess, to my eternal shame, I'm the one who talked HIM into supporting Trump! So perhaps you can sympathize with his confusion at my abrupt change of pace!
  • Rossweisse wrote: »
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    ...You mention going to a Universalist Congregation. I hope you can try an Evangelical Lutheran Church Congregation (if you are in the US). ... There is also the United Church of Christ which is more informal, but quite liberal. ...
    The Episcopal Church welcomes you; you might want to consider visiting a parish or two, especially if you'd like a familiar liturgy.

    Yeah, those churches sound fine in theory. I just don't know if I want to go out and join *another* church. I mean, since I'm a bit skeptical about about some of the basic doctrines that *all* Christian churches subscribe to (like, for example, the actual existence of Jesus Christ), I don't think just hopping into another Christian denomination is going to help.

    For now, maybe the Unitarians are my best choice, since they don't really believe in anything except climate change and taking canned food to the local food pantry, which is a Good Cause and gives me an(other) excuse to go shopping!
  • For now, maybe the Unitarians are my best choice, since they don't really believe in anything except climate change and taking canned food to the local food pantry, which is a Good Cause and gives me an(other) excuse to go shopping!
    :lol:

    To be fair, though, I think there’s at least one other thing the UUs believe in, and that’s the right of everyone to work out their own spiritual path, and to be able to do so in the context of a community.

    Okay, so maybe that’s two things.

  • Well UUs do have 7 principles but they are required to reconsider them every few years and it is not required to accept them.

    Some Quaker meetings of the liberal unprogrammed sort tend to be accepting of people with doubts. United Church of Christ (UCC, sometimes tongue in cheek referred to as Unitarians Considering Christ) are another mainline denomination that tends to be fairly easy going (do not confuse with the Church of Christ).
  • Nick Tamen wrote: »
    For now, maybe the Unitarians are my best choice, since they don't really believe in anything except climate change and taking canned food to the local food pantry, which is a Good Cause and gives me an(other) excuse to go shopping!
    :lol:

    To be fair, though, I think there’s at least one other thing the UUs believe in, and that’s the right of everyone to work out their own spiritual path, and to be able to do so in the context of a community.

    Okay, so maybe that’s two things.

    Hey, I don't mind believing six impossible things before breakfast, as long as I'm sure there's actually some waffles on that plate!
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    A couple of comments.

    The denominations that were mentioned-ELCA, UCC, and Episcopal as well as the UU--welcome skepticism. We were actually founded based on skepticism, truth be known. Nearly all mainline churches have that claim, though a few are struggling with future directions in their theology.

    As far as talking your husband into supporting 45, people make mistakes. But you have apparently seen the light, and it does not sound like you will be making the same mistake again.

    Looking through all the comments above, I may have missed it, but one question remains for me is whether your husband is allowing you to go through this period? You say you want to respect your husband's faith, is he respecting your journey?
  • Gramps49 wrote: »
    Looking through all the comments above, I may have missed it, but one question remains for me is whether your husband is allowing you to go through this period? You say you want to respect your husband's faith, is he respecting your journey?

    Well, whether he allows me to or not, I'm doing it. I'm not sure how he'd prevent it! I'm trying to make it as non-obtrusive as possible, and still accompanying him to church functions. But yeah, he knows about it. Whether he respects it or not is up to him!

  • GalilitGalilit Shipmate
    Oh - ho!
    Now that is a perfect marriage!
  • Many years ago I went into the Catholic church in Ryde on the Isle of Wight in the south of England. I knew that the building of this church had been financed by a wealthy and aristocratic convert to Catholicism, whose name I do not now remember.

    Sure enough, on one of the walls of the said church there was a tablet recording the generosity of that lady and indicating some of the key stages of her life - her birth, her baptism and later on her 'receiving the light of faith' I thought that was much nicer than recording her 'conversion to Catholicism'.

    For most of us that 'light of faith' is passed on to us by our parents, but it is up to us to see that the lamp is kept trimmed. Whether we be cradle Catholics, or converts, or even reverts ( a new word I just learned a few days ago) there is a time when we have to take on that responsibility ourselves. Many, many people will let that light go out, or will simply notice at some time when they were thinking about something else that the light has gone out. St John of the Cross called this the 'dark night of the soul'. I write here with reference to Catholicism , but of course it can happen to other Christians , to people of other religions and to people of other philosophical convictions.

    You have to look at this positively. All of a sudden, without the light of faith, the liturgy seems empty, meaningless and sometimes even tawdry. It is a time for you to re-evaluate your position and future.

    If your husband still has the 'light of faith' and sees a meaning in participating in the liturgy, he should understand, that, at least from the Catholic point of view, it is a great gift. It is the pearl beyond price.

    But you may have to keep searching for that pearl beyond all price. You may find in the end that it is indeed that which you have lost, but you may find it elsewhere.
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