Vanessa and I both appreciate the invitation, and we both know that it comes from a place of sincerity for both of you. As non-believers, Vanessa and I often feel a bit marginalized given that we live in such a religiously-minded society. To that end, we tend to keep our religious views to ourselves. Our beliefs have, on occasion, caused some friction within our families so we generally feel it's a topic best left alone.
Over the years, she and I have both been invited to countless church services, implored to talk to church leaders (we have), given books on Christian theology and apologetics, and drawn into debates in which our beliefs are put on the defensive. Just this week, Vanessa was cornered by a priest at her aunt's funeral who questioned her decision to get married outside of the Catholic church. Imagine if a non-believer wrote to you and said, "I know you usually go to church on Sunday, but this Sunday why not stay in and I'll loan you my copy of Richard Dawkins' book 'The God Delusion' to read", or if a Muslim invited you to their mosque imploring you to open your heart to Allah and his prophet. Vanessa and I don't want to disabuse anyone of their religious beliefs, but we also don't want to be marginalized or treated as though there is something missing in our lives because our beliefs are different — we are living fully happy, purposeful, moral, and meaningful lives without religion.
I feel it's important to emphasize that Vanessa and I both left the church for deeply studied and well thought out reasons. Our shift in belief was gradual and reflective, not impulsive and reactive. The impasse we feel with the church runs to the core of historical and theological claims, and they are not the types of issues that could be resolved by attending a service and hearing an inspiring message. We both agree that if anyone is interested in what we believe and why, the best course of action is to approach us with a sincere sense of curiosity – in other words, to simply ask. So while we are grateful for your invitation, we must respectfully decline.
13 July 2014
My response to the church invitation
Earlier this week, I wrote out a hand-written response to the family friends who invited my fiance Vanessa and I to their church. Vanessa read it and suggested some changes (with a nod to alert reader 'Lunaticus'), so to save time I opted to reply to them via email. Here's my reply in full: