Do I tell wife’s family I am an atheist?


Hi everyone,

I have only posted here a couple of times before but was hoping you could offer some insight into a dilemma I’m having.

First, a quick summary of the situation…
Wife and I have been married since February. Very happy with our home life and careers. Her parents live abroad so we don’t see them often. They are highly involved in the church and strong in their faith.

My wife was religious growing up but no longer is. She still watches religious videos on YouTube, reads religious literature occasionally but is mostly indifferent now. Our wedding ceremony was not in a church but we did have some religious aspects to it (prayer, hymn etc) as requested by her parents. I am an atheist but I did not see a problem as it meant a lot to her side of the family and felt it would be respectful to them.

The issue I face is…we have never discussed my religious leanings (or lack of) with her family. Everyday I receive prayer messages from her parents, psalms and other Christian advice via WhatsApp (messaging app for those unaware).

I have not bothered to say anything as of yet, aside from the occasional “thank you” in response to be polite.

Should I tell them or is it best to carry on? I don’t want to cause a rift between the family because I know a belief in god means a lot to them.

Your advice is much appreciated.


My suggestion is to have your wife approach them as this is perhaps a sensitive topic.

Only sensitive in that they might feel awkward having just been at your wedding with prayers only a few months ago and having no idea about your beliefs. It’s nothing to hide really, it’s simply your belief that you are entitled to.

Whenever there were awkward conversations in the family, I always talked to my side and my husband talked to his…WAY easier that way! Just my two cents.


If anyone says anything it should be your wife. They’re her parents, after all.

Does she want to discuss her religious views with them or would she rather leave things the way they are? It would seem a little funny to bring up your views but then not explain that she feels the same way.

On the other hand, thinking ahead, what will happen when you have children? Her parents would notice if you don’t have them baptized. Is that the time you want to discuss your joint religious beliefs?


Thanks for the advice.

We don’t plan on having children so shouldn’t be an issue.


Not planning on having children could also be an issue. Eventually, your wife will have to explain that. However, if your MIL is sending you prayers and scripture on a daily basis (and she isn’t just sending those things to everyone on her list) I imagine she already suspects that something is up.


What is the purpose of talking about it? By your fruits, people know your faith. No need to jump up and down and wave an atheist flag in her face. Your mother in law is already bearing the sorrow that her child did not marry in the Church. Rubbing salt in the wound is simply cruel.


Thanks for your advice TheLittleLady.

Just to be clear, the reason I raise this question for advice is because I do not wish to make a fuss or appear to be antagonistic in any way.

My biggest hope (with regards to her family) is that we can all be respectful to each other regardless of whether we believe or not.

It appears the consensus here so far is that it isn’t my place to tell them and I will likely heed that advice.


You say you are an atheist- have you read the Five Ways??


What lead you to ask in a Catholic Forum? :thinking:


Maybe the wife’s family is Catholic?


I’m not sure that he wants to jump up and down waving flags. The mother in law is sending him prayers every single day - much more jumping up and down and flag waving it seems to me.

From the mother in law’s point it seems the big issue is that she does not know her daughter is an atheist and has decided not to have children. That is probably a much more important conversation to have.


Thank you all to the replies to this.

To answer each of your questions (in bold):

You say you are an atheist- have you read the Five Ways?

No, I have not. Always open to reading anything that challenges my world view though.

What lead you to ask in a Catholic Forum? :thinking:

I have always looked at places (websites, forums, literature, videos) that have differing viewpoints to my own. I think it is better to hear a world view directly from those espousing it than a simplified version from those that agree with me. I appreciate those of you taking the time to respond to my query.

From the mother in law’s point it seems the big issue is that she does not know her daughter is an atheist and has decided not to have children. That is probably a much more important conversation to have.

Correct. I think they know their daughter is no longer close to her faith, however, she will still partake in religious aspects of life (prayer etc) when they or other family are around. Telling them that we don’t plan on having children is going to be tough as they most certainly are going on the assumption that we will inevitably have children.


At the risk of antagonizing you right away, I’d like to comment that I think you are underestimating your wife’s “religiousness”, and that that’s a risky thing to do. If your wife is still watching religious videos on YouTube, and still reads religious literature, she’s hardly “mostly indifferent”. Rather, a more or less active interest in religion remains present in her.

And given that people who are from a religious background originally, tend to rediscover their religious impulse as they approach senior age, to dismiss this – as you seem to be doing – as largely irrelevant may lead to unexpected developments in your marriage later on.

Also, women are different from men in this regard. In my experience, men are more conscious of where they stand with regard to religion, and tend to persist (often stubbornly) in a course once chosen. Women, on the other hand, may claim that they are okay with atheism, agnosticism, etc., while in truth they (fortunately) remain attached to a core faith, and tend to revert to this faith intuitively and strongly when necessary (i.e. faced with loss, disease, etc.) regardless of having apparently distanced themselves from it earlier.

In short, I wouldn’t underestimate your wife’s “religiousness” if I were you, because in all likelihood it is at the core of her being and always will be.

P.S. I realize I haven’t quite addressed your question, but as I see it the above does have a bearing on how you might want to deal with the tension between the religiosity of your in-laws, and your own atheism.


I was once an Atheist, too. I don’t wanna be pushy but I could try to convert you to Catholicism :stuck_out_tongue: lol (I’m not a big expert but I’m also someone that was once an Atheist and I made it to Catholic beliefs so).


There no real upside to pushing the issue, especially if you don’t live near them.

Just let it be


Hi help1,

Feel free to Private Message if you wish :slight_smile: (assume you can do that on this site!)

Also, thank you for your response Roguish. I will reply in more detail when I’m free in the evening.


It sounds like her parents have been pretty respectful. Unless you are finding the messaging on WhatsApp of Christian stuff to be somehow disrespectful.

I have heard this sort of thing from a lot of people who have left their parents’ church, that the parents will send them snail mail letters (back in the old days), e-mails (back in the slightly less old days), or some type of social media or text message, basically pushing Christian themes or trying to encourage their offspring back to the Church or even just saying “we wish you’d come back to the Church”. My own mother used to do this by telephone and conversationally during some years when I wasn’t practicing my faith regularly.

I would suggest that you just put up with it. If anything has to be said, your wife should say it. If the messages bother you, I would suggest you use the scroll button. You made a choice to marry into this family and the kind thing to do would be to go along with it since the disruption to your life seems small - they are not on your doorstep daily with their clergyman insisting you convert, etc.


I wouldn’t worry about it.

They are what they are. You are what you are. Just carry on.

The issue would come to a potentially marriage-harming head if you had kids, but as you say - there will be none. The level of “togetherness” child-rearing requires is something you and your wife (and your families) aren’t going to have to muster.

To quote the popular Disney song, “Let it Go”.


There is honestly no reason to share this type of information with parents. It is not their business and will almost certainly cause family disruption. I would avoid this subject and again if anything needs to be said, your wife needs to be the one to address it with her own parents.


You ask for advice, don’t, say anything but start studying about God. How could this world exist with all it’s complexity without a creator. The existence of a watch implies a watchmaker!

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