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Help I'm atheist DH to be GodP how to deal with MIL etc.

(23 Posts)
herethereandeverywhere Fri 22-Mar-13 14:58:37

Okay, I think this will turn into a long ramble, will try to be succinct. A bit of background:

I'm an atheist. DH has never discussed his beliefs with me in the 14 years of our relationship. (Yes, throughout our wedding planning and having 2 DC). He was raised Christian and I assumed he was agnostic.

I do not want religious beliefs presented to my children as fact, they will be free to choose a religion when they are old enough to understand what they are signing up for.

I do not agree with lying about my (lack of) beliefs in order to get DC a place in a desirable school. DH thinks I'm morally wrong and should lie to people of faith in order to put my children first.

So, the Christening: He is going to be GodP to his DSis' son. Apparently this is "nothing to do with church or religion, it's about helping family and doing what they want." He'll be expected to buy 'special' (i.e. more expensive than for other nieces/nephews) Xmas and birthday presents and "take him for a pint when he gets older". He does not plan to ever mention Christianity to the child so far as I can tell.

I feel he and his DSis are being hypocrites but their choice, none of my business, let them get on with it.


My MIL is very rude about my choices for our kids (which DH agrees with I think!) She has asked several times about when they'll be christened and has even said "just get them done at the same time" when we've attended other friends/family christenings.

I'm dreading the whole bloomin weekend of the christening when we'll be saying with her. I'll have to be polite to her offensive comments when I don't want to be. I'll have to fend off assumptions about my DC from the MIL and all her friends (whilst trying to amuse two very bored under 4s in a church with no help from anyone else.)

I really need some good responses to: (her baiting me with) "So, what do you think about [DH] being GodP then?" and "Are you getting DC christened" and "I don't know why you aren't getting DC christened".

Ragwort Fri 22-Mar-13 15:03:13

Why can't you tell her you are an atheist? hmm If you have thought about religion carefully and made your decision then presumably you are comfortable with it?

I am amazed that someone can be with someone else for 14 years and never discuss their spiritual beliefs confused.

ItsallisnowaFeegle Fri 22-Mar-13 15:06:20

I think the best way to deal with this is to be honest.

Tell MIL that your DC wont be christened, until such time they can make that decision themselves. Be blunt but not rude. Tell her you do not plan on being a hypocrite and that's that.


herethereandeverywhere Fri 22-Mar-13 15:14:29

Thank you! I have told the MIL before but she does a sort of "do not compute" face and repeats herself at a later date. I guess I'm looking for something to say when I feel myself being wound up by the lack of consideration for my feelings and beliefs when I'm respecting hers/her childrens! I want to feel calm and in control not under strain.

Re not discussing spiritual beliefs: I've expressed my views, clearly, explained why I didn't want a church wedding/children christened/religious school etc. He has never expressed a contrary view but has defended the decisions of others who eg: get their child christened and go to church when they realise that's the way to get their kids into a certain school. I love him and assumed if he felt strongly enough he'd have told me his beliefs, hence assume he's agnostic. When I was completing the census a while back he gave his religion as "not disclosed" (or whatever that option is).

AuntieStella Fri 22-Mar-13 15:23:36

"So, what do you think about [DH] being GodP then?"

I think he was happy to be asked, and the decision was entirely his.

"Are you getting DC christened"


"I don't know why you aren't getting DC christened"

Because DH and I have jointly decided otherwise.

ItsallisnowaFeegle Fri 22-Mar-13 15:24:51

Repeat repeat repeat until it does compute.

Sorry, I'd be hopping mad if someone poo-pood my beliefs, you've done well not to have been very rude indeed!

ecuse Fri 22-Mar-13 15:27:15

Does your MIL know you're an atheist? There's no conversation to be had if she knows, surely?

herethereandeverywhere Fri 22-Mar-13 15:53:17

Thanks for your answers AuntieStella I do look like I'm rather over-thinking this when you put it like that!

Ecuse you'd think so wouldn't you?! I think she thinks my atheism is a bit like, say, a teenage crush on Take That and once I grow out of it/it wears off then "normality" will resume and I'll get my kids christened!

There have been some judgmental mutterings about "good morals"/needing moral guidance (ludicrous as the christened offspring don't attend church anyway!) I've also explained I think that morality is absolute, ie: stuff is right or wrong. It just is or isn't. No religion needed to tell us that. Oh, her ither favourite is "you should hedge your bets". I assume that is get then christened just in case I'm wrong? confused This is rapidly turning into a MIL thread! grin

AuntieStella Fri 22-Mar-13 16:00:56

It's not over thinking. What she is saying is winding you up. Stonewalling her with simple, repetitive answers may help unwind it all.

ecuse Fri 22-Mar-13 16:09:40

If she mentions hedging your bets again, ask her if she had her kids inducted into the world's other major religions, just in case she backed the wrong horse.. ?

Italiangreyhound Fri 22-Mar-13 16:15:33

herethereandeverywhere I think Aunt Stella has some great answers.

Here are my thoughts.

"I'm dreading the whole bloomin weekend of the christening"

Try not to dread it, it is one of life's experiences, there might be some nice food there and even if you do not have any spiritual desires or aspirations at all you might enjoy some small bit of it. Be positive, if you can, I think it will show in your face and make you feel more relaxed. If you can afford it why not get a nice new knock 'em dead outfit to show you are 'taking it all seriously' as in - I seriously needed a new outfit!

"I'll have to fend off assumptions about my DC from the MIL and all her friends"

No, you just need to answer her questions politely in the broken record style you would use for a child who can't quite grasp what you are saying, but all the while smiling, because it is good for you to smile.

"whilst trying to amuse two very bored under 4s in a church with no help from anyone else"

Why can't DH help? Or will he be up the front?

My DH was a Godfather recently at a baby baptism in a quite highest Anglican church and his role was very important - in that he was up the front/ having his photo taken etc.

The following month or so I was a Godmother in a Baptist Church at a baby dedication, I was not required up the front and no photos!

So in the first instance I did understand why DH left our daughter to me.

That might be the case at this Christening so it pays to be prepared. Take some quiet toys they like, some paper and colouring pencils or crayons (not felt pens, too much chance of damage!) plus a drink and something non-noisy to eat! Sorry if this all sounds totally obvious but we are Christians and our DD is 8 and can only just read so does not join in songs etc at church or most of the stuff aimed at adults and is very bored until she can go out for the children's fun bit! So I am used to pacifying her and making it more fun for her.

Finally -

Stella pretty much said it all but I would add ....

"So, what do you think about [DH] being GodP then?"

It's lovely/nice/great/good/fine (whatever level of enthusiasm you can muster) that his sister asked him and he is happy to do it etc."

"Are you getting DC christened"

"No, we have decided together that when DC is older they can make up their own mind about being Christened/baptised/joining a church etc."

"I don't know why you aren't getting DC christened".

"We aren't getting DC Christened but they might choose it for themselves when older, it will be their choice...." And into the loop.....repeat etc!

As far as "you should hedge your bets", you'll have to come up with your own answer to that one!

I hope it is not as awful as you are imagining! I find infant baptism lovely and often cry at them, they are so much about the start of a new life, and yes there is usually the lovely food and a chance to buy a new hat!

cloutiedumpling Fri 22-Mar-13 17:01:32

You could tell her that lots of people, many Christians included, don't want their kids baptised as babies and would rather that they made the choice for themselves as adults.

I am a Christian and do take my kids to church. For a one off event I'd take lots of milkybar buttons or caramac. They don't make as much of a mess as chocolate. I take them out of the wrappers and put them into Tupperware tubs so they don't make any noise.

ethelb Sat 23-Mar-13 18:14:40

It sounds a bit trying but tbh it is none of your business what your DP does with his family (except in v extreme circumstances). I really don't see why you expect them to respect your beliefs and actions when you obviously don't respect theirs'.

However, on this happy, family occasion you just need to be honest

"So, what do you think about [DH] being GodP then?" It's lovely his sister felt she could ask him to get involved with DN's christening.

"Are you getting DC christened" Because I am an atheist and we don't take them to church. Neither of us want them christened. ( I would avoid comments that could be construed as disparaging SIL's choice, save those for another day if the family don't stop going on at you about it).

and "I don't know why you aren't getting DC christened". As above.

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Sat 23-Mar-13 22:32:59

"It sounds a bit trying but tbh it is none of your business what your DP does with his family (except in v extreme circumstances). I really don't see why you expect them to respect your beliefs and actions when you obviously don't respect theirs'."

That's kinda harsh. It would be a weird relationship if it was none of your business what your DP does with his or her family. And I see no example that there's a lack of respect here just because she doesn't agree with the ceremony. MiL should back off.

herethereandeverywhere Sun 24-Mar-13 11:05:10

Thanks Pedro. Ethelb I'm interested to know what you believe construes me not respecting my DH's beliefs and that of his family - please do explain.

I don't agree with them as I'm an atheist. I'm unsure of the point of DH standing in church and promising to help guide the baby in his Christian upbringing when he doesn't intend to do that but it's not my decision to make. And dishonesty makes me very uneasy. It's not something I want my DCs raising to think is okay but this does not directly affect them. As I said further up thread it's none of my business what SIL and DH agree between themselves. Disagreeing is not disrespecting.

Thanks everyone for their input. I think the short snappy answers are what I've not been doing before - trying to fill the silence with lots of explanation that isn't needed. Some great tips on occupying the kids in the church. I haven't attended lots of christenings but those I have I seem to remember the godparents at the front so don't think DH'll be on hand.

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Sun 24-Mar-13 11:19:00

I actually had a similar situation recently. DW was GP for her sister's DS3. I'm atheist (well, technically anti-theist if you're being picky), DW is the same. SiL doesn't believe, neither does her DP, yet for some reason they had to have a Christening.

I had to go along of course. At the end of the day, the GPs are just saying words, they don't really mean anything. But I sat at the back with DS, who was generally good, fortunately. But I was damned if I was going to sing their silly songs or put money in the collection basket!

sarahtigh Sun 24-Mar-13 18:42:04

we are christians but I am from a baaptist background though in DH family they tend to baptise as babies, I go to church more than DH,

when DH hfamily ask re baptism we just reply "DD can be baptised when she is ready to make a commitment to the faith on her own"

your DH will need to be up front with rest of party I think as others have said small non noisy toys/books/snacks are the way to go, do not take them in until 2-3 minutes before they start explain they need to be quiet when other people are talking praying it is unlikely to last more than an hour

specialsubject Tue 26-Mar-13 17:02:41

er...being a godparent does mean standing up in church and promising to guide the child in the Christian religion. Doesn't seem much point in making vows you have no intention of keeping. (I've been asked a couple of times and have refused for this reason, I still dote madly on the kids concerned!)

unfortunately MIL is one of those religious people who missed the bit about 'tolerance'. You can tell her that if you dare, and your husband should back you up.

sounds like you have some domestic things to discuss. Good luck. A christening doesn't take long and the baby will make enough noise to drown out yours.

MareeyaDolores Thu 28-Mar-13 00:42:25

Your MIL wants the dc christened.

She's entitled to want that... and you could always acknowledge her want while defending your/ DH's 100% entitlement to actually make the decision, wanting to let the dc decide for themselves when they're older is a polite way of agreeing that their beliefs will ultimately be up to them.

It would be interesting to know just why she's so obsessed with it. If she's got some funny idea or fear (eg that they might die unbaptised and go straight to baby hell) you could perhaps have the local vicar or priest speak some common sense heavy theology to her

MareeyaDolores Thu 28-Mar-13 00:57:28

You sound quite worried about your MIL sniping at you. Would the DIL-baiting that you face on the weekend happen whatever the topic? If so, would guess that if she sees that this one riles you, obviously it'll become impossible to resist. Any way you can do a totally Zen-like calm on the subject? she can't argue with you turning the other cheek, really wink

chipmonkey Thu 28-Mar-13 01:43:20

I used to be Catholic. Dh still thinks is is Catholic but doesn't go to Mass at all and doesn't trust most priests but I suppose as one priest mentioned on a MN thread said, his problem is more with the Vatican than with God. In any case we had the DC's baptised, and if I'm honest, I felt the baptism for me was more a family occasion to welcome the child rather than an indoctrination into a church they rarely attend. I do feel your pain, OP because ds3 was almost a year old before he was baptised and MIL harped on about it a lot!

The godparents we chose were people we felt would be special people in the dc's lives. My dsis is not religious at all in the Catholic sense though she does believe in an afterlife etc. I chose her for ds1 because I knew she would be an attentive and fun godmother. I simply couldn't imagine there being anyone better in that role and to be fair, I don't know anyone who would fit into the traditional church role of godparent. Even our friend who is godfather to ds4 and who does attend Mass etc, doesn't quiz ds4 on his catechism when they meet! Nor would I want him to! ( Nor would ds4!grin) I'm not actually sure that even religious parents chose godparents on that basis, as parents it's up to us to either bring our children up in a faith or not.

Re MIL. She is probably hoping you'll come round. My MIL does that too, it's as if she doesn't get that someone who has a different view from her own can possibly be in the right. Actually today, we had a conversation where she was discussing demon possession. I said I didn't believe in demon possession and she then proceeded to tell me that it must be true because a Jesuit priest had given a lecture on it, really not understanding that to me, a Jesuit priest is no more of an authority than anyone else. I just say, over and over again "I don't believe in that" or "That won't be happening" . It never does sink in!

WhenSheWasBadSheWasHopeful Thu 28-Mar-13 08:21:15

It is tricky. I had similar issues with my mother. I wanted (and ended up having) a naming ceremony for my daughter not a Christening. My mother is Christian but is not really a church attender.

She really struggled to understand why I didn't want my daughter christened. With it being my mum not my mil I felt able to discuss it more openly with her.

In the end my mum really enjoyed the naming ceremony and said it was very meaningful.

What did surprise me was the number of friends who thought I should get her christened. These friends are agnostic / atheist, they just seem to like the tradition. One said "you should or she can't get married in a church when she's older".

Polyethyl Thu 28-Mar-13 10:14:44

Baptisms are a very child friendly service. They are very short. And the children are often invited by the vicar to come to the font to get a good view of the action. And the expectation that the baby might cry when the cold water hits its head means that people generally aren't bothered about any other children noise. I have attended loads of christenings and the children are usually welcome to toddle around the church. It would be odd for a child focused service to be off about children making noise.

If I were you I would takethis as an oopportunity to buy a new dress, let your children roam exploring the church and enjoy the family tea party afterwards, and just keep telling your mil that you're atheist.

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