What to do about the atheist husband?


#1

I know, I know, pray.

Here's the situation. When we started dating, we were both, for all intents and purposes, atheists. We had both been baptized catholic but grew up in what would be called 'cultural catholic homes'. Pretty much the last time either of us had seen the inside of the church was for our first (and apparently last) communion.
We weren't married long before I got pregnant. Nine months later, the twins showed up. (Thanks birth control pill, you really helped me out there...). And it was after that that I really examined our lives and, as any parent out there probably already knows, risks you might have been willing to take with your own life, immortal or otherwise, you aren't willing to take with your children's. I returned to the church.
My husband doesn't have a problem with me raising them in the faith. And we started using NFP, which he also didn't have a problem with (it certainly helped by the way taht condoms are so gross, and the BCP makes me all wacky in the head, so I think he was kind of happy to switch to NFP actually)
It just devastates me because he doesn't participate in it with me. He will come to mass, grudgingly. I not only have to get myself and the kids ready, but him to. ('No, you can't wear pajamas to mass. You can't even wear them to Wal-Mart. How about you wear pants? Those are nice, too.') it's alot of work. It's easier to prepare twin two-year olds for Mass than one 30 year old man who would rather sleep in.
I remind him that all of the Catholic teaching I give the kids won't matter a LICK if he isn't involved. They'll simply shrug it off later as something wacky mom does. :shrug:
Still, how can I get through to him? I have tried giving him books to read, but he won't open them. I have tried inviting him to various events at the parish, particularly men's events (where people he likes are attending by the way) and he won't go.
Any advice? I would like to raise my children in a catholic home, but it's increasingly difficult with a husband who finds the whole thing to be nonsense.


#2

One of my friend's has an athiest husband...she's Christian, and does she attend all he masses and church events frequently!!! Oh yes she does...never misses a single date at all!! Her husband goes with her all the time...She and her parish dedicated to him many masses because he was dying of some rare disease, now he has one lung to live off of, and horrible stomach problems because of horrible surgery...He doesn't realize that thanks to her praying and devotion and dedication to GOD, GOD has helped him through all these death defying ordeals!!!

The way she convinces him to go is this, "if you don't go I will bring the church to you in our home and they will sing and disturb you while you are trying to sleep! No more video games while my church members and I are in prayer services, and you will have to watch the babies all alone!!!!" They have 2 children, an infant and a toddler...He can handle one at a time not both...so she knows his weaknesses and as horrible as it might seem for her to tell him this, he's been participating all the time without complaints! Actually started enjoying masses, and social events...he has even started to get himself dressed without her telling him what to wear...Just took a year or so to do so...but when push comes to shove...the need for her children to be raised Christian is a must and wants daddy to be involved...He's there, not praying of course, but participating, and participating is a start...Hopefully soon GOD will guide him and show him that GOD is the way, and the life...and that thanks to Him he was able to live another day to be with his family...And hopefully soon will change to a believer...AT least that's all of our hopes! ;)

So just keep trying, and yes pray, definitely pray and who knows maybe if you tell him you are bringing the church home he might want to go with you to church like my friend's hubby does...you never know you know?!

btw I have tried all contraceptives, not proud of myself now, but none ever worked as one thinks it's made to work, so yeah, NFP from what I have read and heard is fantastic! Good for you on going with NFP!

Good luck, don't give up and GOD bless!


#3

rwillenborg,

I know your pain. My wife is non-Catholic, not even baptized, and she hates the faith. Hates it. She has kind of a vague notion of spirituality that includes Jesus, so at least she's not an atheist. We've had terrible fights over the Church since I've returned to the faith. Fortunately, we've achieved a state of detente for now.

Anyway, before I get to some practical advice, I commend to you the following story: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elisabeth_Leseur Elisabeth offered her life for the conversion of her husband. Not until after her death did he convert, but then he even became a Dominican priest. I'm not suggesting that you have to die, but I am suggesting that prayer and additional penance for your husband will go a long way - even if you don't see the results for years (or even in this life).

I do the same for my wife, even though it's been 7 years. I just praying for her conversion and will keep going until I die or she converts. God willing, I will keep praying for her even after I die - if I predecese her.

Some practical advice:

You, yourself, need to get closer to the Lord. Pray more often. Offer prayers and penance more often. Attend daily mass if you can. Go to confession weekly. Adore the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

Offer up the pain and suffering you feel because he does not share your faith to be united with the Cross of Jesus for the salvation of sinners - particularly your husband.

The closer you come to Jesus, the more like Him you will become. That inner beauty will shine forth from you, and will be naturally attractive to your husband. Eventually, he may soften.

Return meaness with kindness. Be loving to him always, even when he mocks your faith. Remember that Jesus said to rejoice when anyone persecutes you for His sake. Go the extra mile for your husband, do good things for him just because he likes them - especially if you don't want to or don't feel like doing them.

Even though you feel an emotional divide with him, try to be intimate with him more frequently. The bond that results will be there, even if he doesn't consciously acknowledge it and even if it's rather prosaic at times. There's two reasons that God made marriage what it is, and one of them is bonding, so take advantage of it for spiritual reasons.

Here's a prayer I deveveloped, that I offer for my wife daily:

Eternal Father, I ask you in the name of Jesus, in the full hope of His promise, that you will send the Holy Spirit upon your daughter, my wife [name]. Please remove whatever is blocking her willingness. Convert her to your Holy Catholic Faith, that she may have eternal life and peace in this life. Eternal Father, I offer myself unto suffering and death as an instrument of your Holy Spirit. Teach me what to do and what to say, and help me to become a better husband, father, and loving example of your faith. Amen.

Finally, become familiar with the arguments against atheism and for theism. However, do not argue them from the point of view that the arguments will be enough to convince him. Instead, just know them so that you can provide reasonable answers when the subject comes up. Also, deliver these "arguments" in as loving a manner as possible. In other words, argue without being argumentative.

I'll put these arguments in the next post.


#4

Hi rwillenborg, I could not agree with iluvmybabies morel. Please, keep trying! When patience is running out, pray to the Holy Spirit for more. Do not give up. My husband was not much of a churchgoer, either. I never pushed him to go with me to Mass; when he did not feel like going, I would go by myself and my daughter. Nowadays, he is the one that do not want to miss a Mass when we are in town!!! (Most weekends we travel to visit family or friends) Anyway, I will keep you and your family in my prayers and Mass intentions. God bless.

Maribel


#5

Here are some of my favorites. I also commend to you this book: amazon.com/Because-God-Real-Sixteen-Questions/dp/158617200X It's a very easy read, but quite profound.

Pascal's Wager:
I often start with Pascal's Wager. It's no argument for the existence of God, but it does show that faith is reasonable. Pascal's Wager goes something like this: There either is a God or there is no God. If there is no God, and you choose not to believe, then there is nothing gained or lost. If there is no God, and you choose to believe, then you have gained nothing (and at worst you have suffered a delusion). However, if there is a God and you chose to believe, then the reward is infinite. If there is a God, and you rejected God, then the penalty is infinite.

Given the risk/reward scenarios, if you believe in Him and follow His laws - and He doesn't exist - then the worst thing that happens to you is "nothing" but for maybe losing some kinds of "fun." However, if He does exist then the payoff is infinite. The converse if also true, i.e., if you fail to believe in him then either nothing happens or infinite loss. So, absent proof of God's existence or non-existence (and neither existence or non-existence can be proved), the most reasonable bet is to believe in Him and follow His laws.

Of course, that tells you nothing about God's nature - that is to come next.

Argument from first cause:
Everything has a cause. Nothing happens or exists that did not have a cause. You resulted from your parents. Your parents had parents. You can keep going back and back and back until eventually you reach the Big Bang (what astronomers call the beginning of the universe).

However, what caused the Big Bang? Even Stephen Hawking, the word's greatest physcist, has said, "what is it that breathes fire into the equations and gives them life?" At some point, there must be something that exists outside of time, is unchaning, and has no cause. That "something" created the first cause "ex nihilio" (from nothing).

We will call that first cause God. Literally, God said "let there be light," and the universe exploded.

However, this tells us only that God exists and is outside of time and is all powerful - but not about the rest of His nature.

Argument for Jesus:
Jesus claimed to be God (citations admitted, you can find them). He was either a lunatic, a liar, or in fact God. Given His self-sacrificing nature and given the fact that the Church has endured despite internal corruption, He was not a liar. Given His gentle demeanor and His love, and most especially given His wisdom demonstrated in the Gospels, He was not a lunatic. Therefore, he was God.

If so, then everything He revealed about God is by definition Truth.

Jesus established His Church and gave to Peter the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven - and gave the apostles the authority to decide matters of faith and morals. Again, citiation omitted - you can find it fairly easily. Jesus also promised to protect His Church (the gates of Hell will not prevail against it).

That means that no matter now beastly an individual may be within the Church, including popes, the *infallible *teachings of the Church (there is a difference) can never be wrong or corrupted.

That means that the Eucharist is true, confession is true - all of the sacraments are true. Heaven is true, God is true, and we are priviledged, honored, and thankful to be able be in His Church and to follow His laws.

There are many other arguments for theism and against atheism. Just google it. However, the above are my favorites and (I think) the most convincing.

God Bless,
Ted


#6

Pray for him the way Monica prayed for her son, Augustine. They both ended up as Saints.


#7

You must start praying the Rosary. No one is more powerful in helping a Mom and a wife than our blessed Mother Mary. She will take care of it. Period. Pray the Rosary daily if you could.


#8

Wow, thank you everyone!!! The advice has really been wonderful!!
I really do appreciate it. iluv and tedfay, both of you had such excellent advice!!
And I've been really working on praying the rosary daily. It's getting there!!
The thought that ANYONE in this family, me, my children or my husband, NOT making it to heaven just destroys me inside, y'know?


#9

rwillenborg,

I’m glad I could help. A few more thoughts.

Decide for yourself what kind of man your husband is. Is he logical and rational? Then learn the arguments I presented above, and others, and then approach him in a logical and rational manner. Is he emotive and intuitive? Then find people that he can connect with that have faith, and put them together if you can.

Basically, you want to deal with him where he is at and on his level. Try to think the way he thinks and approach him there.

Also, people who are atheists often have deep-seated anger at the Church that is based in things unrelated to Christ himself. Either that, or they do not wish to give up some dearly held belief that is contrary to the Church (like being pro-“choice.”) If these issues can be addressed, then sometimes the opposition to faith softens. Not easy, but it helps if you can. A third type of atheist is angry at the notion of suffering, and how could a good God allow suffering. You must be able to understand the Church’s teachings on suffering and its redemptive power if you are going to be able to address this objection. Research it - there are alot of really smart Church thinkers who have commented on this issue.

Also, don’t be intimidated by the haughty attitude that some atheists have that religion is irrational. Although atheists claim to be rational, often they are not and their logic will break down if you analyze it enough (because it is in contradiction to the Truth). Many brilliant philosophers have dealt with this issue through the ages, so if your husband comes up with something that stumps you, then look for the answer online.

If you wish, you may also send me a private message with a specific question and I will do the best I can to answer it.

God Bless,


#10

My husband is an atheist too. (at least he says he is...)

I always invite him to Mass and try to let him know that he's always welcome. Lately I've been wondering what sort of an example I am to him, which isn't so good, so if he has reservations, I can understand, sort of...

But sometimes I get exasperated and say "I want you to become a Catholic NOW." Then there is much mutual rolling of the eyes and I have to apologize to him while my mom and sister tell me to "leave the poor guy alone!"

Yet, though he acts disinterested, he took off work one time in the middle of the day so he could be present when we got our home blessed, and he's the one who always gets me up in time to get to Mass and Confession. And he almost refuses to go to bed at night if he doesn't hear some prayers said...

We have no kids and it's very unlikely we ever will, so I don't have your added burden of needing my husband's example. I do know God can do all things so He will, in His time. It's not all up to you.

The suggestions about prayer and saying the Rosary are very sound.

I will keep you in my prayers. Please pray for me too, and thank you for your post.


#11

I’d begin by looking at the positive, rwillenborg

You’ve said that your husband “doesn’t have a problem with me raising them in the faith” and that “He will come to mass, grudgingly.” Think of the

I’d also look at what you are doing eg “I have tried giving him books to read, but he won’t open them. I have tried inviting him to various events at the parish, particularly men’s events (where people he likes are attending by the way) and he won’t go.”

We’re all different but I know in this situation I’d look for some reinforcement in what I was doing and not more attempts to make me change.

Also think how you would feel if your husband was trying to change you in the way you are trying to change him. Also what would help you change and what would not.


#12

After Jesus left us, He sent the Holy Spirit to be with us and stay with us.

PRAY TO THE HOLY SPIRIT !!!

Very important!

Sometimes (a lot of times) I don’t know what to pray for. There is a situation; but, I have NO IDEA how to get out of it. I have no idea what to beg God for. So, try this: “Dear Holy Spirit. HELP!! I have NO IDEA what specifically to ask for. Please help. (No funny stuff). Thank you for the help you are about to give me and for all the help you have given me in the past and for all your future help.”

[It is necessary to stipulate: “no funny stuff”, because God has a really “delicious” sense of humor. Not funny. He reminds me of Ann Coulter. (just kidding)]

It’s just that you have to be careful what you ask for. Be precise and/or stipulate NO FUNNY STUFF.


#13

Hi rwillenborg

Remember 2 things:

  1. God ALWAYS answers our prayers,
  2. God ALWAYS rewards our efforts for good and doing what is right (particularly when we persevere under trying circumstances).

Never lose sight of this!

God’s time does not always match ours, but if YOU persist in praying and following God with faith, hope and love, your perseverance in faith on behalf of your husband WILL be realised! Perhaps not necessarily in the time and manner you might want or understand, but when we remind ourselves that God’s wisdom is infinitely greater than our tiny little human understanding, we can rest assured that we are in the best hands possible.

This, along with the great practical advice you have received from some other posters, will go a long way to ensuring that your children have EVERY chance of growing up as strong Catholics.

In you it seems they have a brilliant example of persistence in faith! Rest assured that your persistence WILL be rewarded - more than you could ever imagine! God is smiling down on you right now…

God bless!

Patrick


#14

I'm in a pretty similar boat. My husband is a cradle Catholic who was obviously poorly catechized. He went to Mass just about every week as a kid (claims he was forced). Then he fell away for several years only to start going again when I was in RCIA in the year leading up to our wedding. Almost immediately after we got married he started digging in his heels and finding excuses not to go to Mass. He claimed the church was a scam and was adamant about not going. Bottom line is he can't spare an hour of his life each week to worship God.

He did start going to Mass last year when our oldest child was preparing for her first communion. Literally the day after her first communion my husband told me that he needed a break from church and that we should stop going for the Summer. So since mid-May I have been taking the girls to Mass by myself week after week. He has come with us twice since May and I felt he acted worse than our then 3 year old.

I talk to him about why he should be going. I've tried to explain to him the importance of him attending Mass with his family to set a good example (at the very least). But it's falling on deaf ears. Just a few weeks ago he made a comment that the sacraments are like social security. You put in some time going to Mass for a few years, make the necessary sacraments and then you're able to coast for the rest of your life. He didn't like it when I reminded him that confession (something he hasn't gone to since he was 13) is a sacrament that he's supposed to participate in at least once a year. I also reminded him that he's supposed to be at Mass every week and that not being there is a mortal sin. He just doesn't care. It bothers me a lot that he doesn't care, but I can't make him see things my way. I just pray that eventually he will grow up spiritually. I see little changes in him here and there, but so far nothing big with the exception of him agreeing to use NFP.

I would just be over the moon if my husband went to confession and started going to Mass with us again. I get the impression that he's not coming with us to Christmas Eve Mass (even though he said he would a month ago). :(


#15

[quote="rwillenborg, post:1, topic:180476"]
Any advice?

[/quote]

Here's some advice that you may not like:

You were the one that changed. At the time of your marriage, you admitted to being an atheist. He therefore married you with the expectation (whether or not that expectation is reasonable is another matter) that you would continue this religious/philosophical outlook on life.

However, you changed. I don't find it reasonable for you to expect him to change. After all, you married him as he was, atheist and all. His resistance to going to Mass is perhaps resentment that you changed the rules of the game on him in the middle of the game.

He is going along with you with NFP and raising the kids Catholic. It does not sound like he is hostile to your beliefs, he simply does not share them. Let him be in his atheism and stop nagging him to join you.

And, just FYI, I de-converted from Catholicism about two years ago. I am very much aware of the above, from the other side of the table, so to speak. My wife married me with the expectation that I'd stay Catholic. Despite my opinions, I have not hindered her from going to Mass (sometimes I kick her in the butt to go to Mass, even), and help her raise our daughter Catholic.


#16

Rwillenborg, it seems to me that you are already doing a lot of things right and you have gotten plenty of good ideas and information.

I just have a few things to add.

Cheese_sdc is right in that it was YOU who changed the “rules” after the marriage. I don’t say that because I think you need to back off and let him be. (Most certainly not!) I say that because your husband obviously loves you because he has agreed to follow you (however imperfectly) when you went somewhere he wasn’t ever expecting to go. That in and off itself is a sign that God is working on him.

I also suggest you take tedfay’s advice and consider what kind of man your husband is. …what makes him tick and what he finds attractive. In that same vein I would suggest you look at “Catholic life” outside of the parish. Does you parish have any teams that complete in a sport your husband likes? Do you know any good Catholics involved in some community activity your husband likes? When your children are a bit older you might want to involve them in some activity (either at the parish or with parish connections) for which your husband will want to be a parent volunteer. (My former pastor was once invited to do an opening prayer at the beginning of the AYSO soccer season and he commented that he saw more of his parishioners there at the soccer field than he does at any single Sunday Mass.)

Don’t forget parish life itself. It’s human nature that we often begin to feel love for that which we serve. Would your husband serve as an usher if he were asked? Does he have any skills (bookkeeping, carpentry, comuting skills, landscaping, etc.) that your parish might occasionly need? Our parish choir has several members who attend Mass more out of a love of singing than from a love of Catholism but I know that God is working on them.

My final suggesting is to use humor when necessary. You can say things like, “Oh, I know you’ll be a better Catholic than me someday because of all the rosaries I’ve been saying,” while using an (almost) joking tone. Humor can soften some of the requests you make of your husband. But even more importantly, it can help YOU.


#17

However, you changed. I don’t find it reasonable for you to expect him to change. After all, you married him as he was, atheist and all. His resistance to going to Mass is perhaps resentment that you changed the rules of the game on him in the middle of the game.

It is true that one spouse converting is hard. This has happened to my wife due to my rediscovering my faith.

However, we’re not talking about her “changing” the rules on her husband. What we are talking about is her finding the Truth (and its rules which are designed for our own good) that her husband so far has rejected.

Faith isn’t a club you join because it happens to conform with what you like. Rather, Faith should be based on the Truth - and we must to conform to it.

As I pointed out above on this thread, the Truth is subject to the test. Only Catholicism can survive every test of reasonability. If so, then we should conform ourselves to it.

The proof of this Truth is in stories like Elisabeth Lesuer’s en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elisabeth_Leseur, in the lives of the Saints like Saint Padre Pio en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pio_of_Pietrelcina, and in the logical power of Catholic philosophy. The proof is also in the visible way that peoples lives are improved, at least with regards to internal disposition, if Christ is followed the way His Church intends.

It’s very difficult when one spouse finds this Truth and the other does not - but for those of us who have found it, we are duty-bound to try our very best in Christian love and charity to help our spouses find the light.


#18

However, we're not talking about her "changing" the rules on her husband. What we are talking about is her finding the Truth (and its rules which are designed for our own good) that her husband so far has rejected.

:rotfl:

Sorry. I just find it funny when people talk about objective Truth in relation to a religion or denomination. In my opinion none of them are correct. The only Truth that we can be reasonably certain of (if at all) is that there is a Divinity.


#19

Sorry. I just find it funny when people talk about objective Truth in relation to a religion or denomination. In my opinion none of them are correct. The only Truth that we can be reasonably certain of (if at all) is that there is a Divinity.

Actually, that statement is not correct. We can be reasonably certain of much more. :)

From the argument of first cause, we know that God must exist outside of time, must be all-powerful, and must be unchanging.

Jesus Christ claimed to be God, and His divinity is asserted elsewhere in the scriptures. John 5:18, John 8:58-59, John 20:28, Philippians 2:6.

Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic, or - in fact - God.

Given His wisdom and gentleness in the gospels, compared to real lunatics who claim to be God, we can exclude lunatic.

Given His sacrifice, and the total lack of anything to gain, and further given the enduring nature of His Church despite corruption of individulas (including Popes), and still further given the inherent recognizable truth of His teachings, we can exclude liar.

Therefore, it is reasonable to believe He was God.

Jesus passed on His authority to His disciples. Luke 10:16; Luke 22:32. He promised protection from error and corruption to His Church (as a whole and its teachings - not individuals). Matt. 16:18; John 16:13; 1 Tim. 3:15; Luke 22:32. He specifically gave to Peter the power to decide all matters in faith and morals (what you declare bound on Earth is bound in Heaven). Matthew 16:18; Matt. 18:18

Thus, we know that the definition of Truth (God) was revealed through His Son, Jesus, and that His Church has the power to act with His authority. In matters of faith for which the Church has ruled infallibly (there is a difference, this phrasing is exact), the Church cannot err.

So, we actually know something about Truth and God. Look to the teachings of Jesus and His Church. Obviously, being limited creatures, we cannot ever possibly know the WHOLE Truth - even after we die - but we can know much more about the Truth than you suppose.

On the other hand, let's look at your argument. Basically, it says there are many denominations, and in your opinion none of them are correct. Underlying this statement there appears to be an assumption that because there are many denominations, all must be incorrect. There is another implicit underlying assumption that you have the authority to declare them to be incorrect - in your opinion. However, neither assumption would be correct.

First, the many denominations issue. Consider a horse race among 100 horses. 99 will not win. However, one will win. Just becuse 99 fail does not mean that there is no winner. The question is, how to determine the winner.

Fortunately, we don't need to have a crystal ball to know which faith is the winner, because all public revelation is over. Put the denominations to the test - seriously put them to the test.

Don't just make flippant assumptions about what you, yourself, know - but rather study, read, and see what is out there. You will find that only the Catholic Church can be weighed and measured and found strong on all points of infallible doctrine. Only the Catholic Curch expresses the fullness of Truth.

Second, the authority issue. Given the weight of reason shows the reasonableness of the Catholic faith as the revealed Truth, why would you think your opinion should have any weight with anyone else. In fact, why would you trust yourself, given the impact that your choices will have on your life and afterlife?

I will pray for you.

God Bless,


#20

However, the situation has changed and it is very understandable that someone who considers they have found the truth wants to share and get the person who is closest to them to also find it and practice it.

Think there is an obligation on the part of the other person to find out more about their partner's new faith and understand it.

However to expect the other person to automatically convert is an unfair expectation.

Would the person who has converted consider that if their partner thought they had found the truth and changedtheir faith consider they would automatically convert whatever they thought and felt about it. I doubt it.

Also how true would be conversation "for peace's sake" or "to please my spouse, father, mother etc" or "I can't take the pressure any longer". Can someone be expected to make affirmations at baptism and confirmation that they do not believe. Also, if there are children involved what a bad example to them.

And also to respect their search for truth and where it leads them.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.