In a second 3 hour conversation, my mother told me that because I had left the church, she had failed me as a mother.
Some time later, my eight year old niece was to be baptized into the Mormon church. My older sister invited me to the baptism, which I attended. During part of the ceremony, a group of close family and friends gathered around my niece to lay their hands on her head and give her a blessing. Although I was not invited to participate in this blessing for understandable reasons, my mother whispered to me with a motherly twinkle in her eye, "That could be you."
Later that same day, my older sister hosted a luncheon with family and friends. While in line to make a sandwich, a long time family friend confronted my younger sister about her leaving the church. I stood quietly as my sister simply and honestly explained her reasons without drawing too much attention to herself. Flabbergasted, the family friend turned to me and said, "Well, you still go to church, don't you?" I said, "No," and did not elaborate. She replied, "It's okay. We still love you."
Around the following Christmas, my mother got a Nook. She had a hard time setting it up, and asked me to help her. Per her request, the first book I put on the device was C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, which is about as faith affirming as a book can be without being actual scripture. The second book was the entire Mormon canon.
When my wife and I started dating, her family was concerned that I was not an active believing Mormon. Her father even wrote her an email citing, among other things, my disbelief as a disqualifying attribute for someone looking to date his little girl, for whom he only wants the best.
A couple of years later another niece of mine was to be baptized. This time I declined the invitation, citing my own bachelor party as the reason, which none of my family attended (to be fair, it wasn't much of a party, possibly due to lack of attendance).
At my wedding, while my wife and I were busy posing for pictures next to a cabin in the middle of a lush vineyard on a sunny July morning, my father volunteered himself to offer a prayer over the reception food. I suspect this was his passive aggressive way of shoehorning some religion into our otherwise completely secular outdoor ceremony. Although, I never bothered to ask him directly. (I realize this one sounds fairly innocuous, so let me put it in a different context. Suppose a Christian attended a Jewish Passover celebration, and decided to interrupt the festivities with a prayer to Jesus. It would seem to be in poor taste, no?)
In an attempt to get us to use a Mormon Bishop as our wedding officiant, who would have been compelled by protocol to use his platform as an opportunity to chastise us for not having a real wedding in a Mormon Temple, my in-laws refused to pay the non-denominational minister we used for our secular ceremony (It was totally worth the $150 to not be talked down to at my own wedding).
I have only attended two (that's right, two!) of my seven siblings' wedding ceremonies due to Mormon prohibitions on non-card-carrying Mormons entering their temples.
When the U.S. supreme court legalized gay marriage in 2015, I posted a picture of a notoriously anti-gay Mormon leader with a rainbow overlay on my Facebook wall as a joke. A couple days later, the church leader died, and my post exploded with comments. My father in-law wrote a rather long private email to me defending the church leader, and chastising me for being so insensitive. I wrote a thoughtful response back defending my post, and inviting my father in-law in a discussion about the issue. I never received a response. Later, he admitted to my wife that he didn't even bother to read what I wrote.
About a year ago, while attending a Sunday dinner with my in-laws, without any notice my father in-law decided to turn the TV to a live Mormon holiday broadcast. They were surprised when my wife announced about five minutes into the broadcast that we were leaving.
A few weeks later, my wife and I helped her family with some home renovations. Her mother invited us to stay for dinner, to which she had also invited the sister missionaries.
When my father died last year, part of the funeral preparations involved dressing my father's body in his Mormon Temple clothes, which are normally kept out of view of anyone who does not have a current Temple Recommend, even otherwise active believing Mormons. Traditionally, the dressing occurs the day before the viewing by family or close Mormon friends. I was told about the dressing, but was not invited to participate due to my disbelief. My sister in-law even joked about how distraught some family members would be if I just showed up to help. At the viewing, my older brother thought it unjust and unnecessary for my younger sister and I to have been excluded from the dressing, and he invited us to put the finishing touches on my father before we closed the casket.
Over the holidays, my wife asked her mother if she could borrow some soda for a drink her younger sister had told her to try. Her mother responded, "Is it for alcohol? If it is, I don't think I can give it to you. I don't want to be a part of that."
The next time we were at the in-law's home they invited us to attend a fireside (a special church service at night), in which my wife's teenage brother would be speaking. My wife asked if I was interested in attending. I flatly said, "No." My mother in-law was visibly disappointed.
I have tried to maintain healthy boundaries with believing family and friends, while ensuring mutual respect, at times less successfully, I admit. But it seems to be one sided. Imagine if my in-laws had asked us for a loaf of bread, and I responded, "Will it be used for the sacrament? If so, I don't want to give it to you, because I don't want to be a part of that." Imagine if we had invited my in-laws to dinner, to which we had also invited friends who were very vocal about leaving the church, and afterwards we decided to watch the most recent episode of the Atheist Experience.
Imagine I had told my mother that I did not want to put religious books on her Nook because I didn't support what they said, and I didn't want to enable her delusion. Imagine someone told me they had recently started going to church and I responded, "It's okay. I love you anyway." Imagine if a child of mine joined a church, any church, and I told them that because they believe in unsubstantiated nonsense I have failed them as a parent. Imagine I had responded to my mother after she tried to guilt trip me back into church activity at my niece's baptism, "Ya know, Mom, because you're a woman in the the church, that can never be you."
Imagine I had told my believing Mormon friends and family that they were not invited to my wedding because they did not believe the same thing as me. Imagine I stood up at a Mormon wedding reception (because I would not be allowed to attend the wedding ceremony) and started explaining how the Book of Mormon is historically and scientifically anachronistic. Imagine I told my believing family they could not dress my body at my funeral because they believe in fairy tales.
All things considered, I feel like I have been pretty goddamn cordial.
Christopher Hitchens addressing similar nonsense: