“He would have talked me out of it”: When Religion Refuses to be Questioned

Something jumped out at me when I was digging around on the Celebrity Atheists List. It bugged me, and I want to talk about it.

It was in the page on Ted Turner — the part talking about his divorce from Jane Fonda. Apparently, one of the main reasons Fonda and the atheist Turner broke up was that she had become a Christian. I quote:

Fonda’s divorce papers, however, were filed on the same day the New Yorker published an interview with Turner in which the 62-year-old media mogul said he and Fonda split up partly because of her decision to become a Christian.

“She just came home and said ‘I’ve become a Christian,’ ” Turner told the magazine. “Before that, she was not a religious person. That’s a pretty big change for your wife of many years to tell you. That’s a shock.”

But that’s not the disturbing part. Here’s the disturbing part:

Replied Fonda: “My becoming a Christian upset him very much — for good reason. He’s my husband and I chose not to discuss it with him — because he would have talked me out of it. He’s a debating champion.”

I’m going to repeat that:

“I chose not to discuss it with him — because he would have talked me out of it.”

I chose not to discuss my newfound religious faith with my husband — because he would have talked me out of it.

I would rather get a divorce than allow my faith to be seriously questioned.

Or to put it another way:

I know that my faith probably doesn’t stand up to reason. I know that I could be argued out of it. But I still want to have it — even if it means divorcing my husband of ten years. I’d rather get the divorce than be convinced that my faith is mistaken. I’d rather get the divorce than even take a chance on being convinced that my faith is mistaken.

How fucked-up is that?

I used to have a fair amount of respect for Fonda. Not anymore. And it’s not her Christianity that made me lose respect. I have respect for a lot of Christians, and other religious believers. But I have no respect for a Christian faith — or any other religious belief — that consciously and deliberately refuses to allow itself to be questioned. And I really don’t have any respect for a religious belief that would sacrifice a serious relationship — a marriage, a friendship, a family relationship, whatever — simply to protect itself from an argument against it.

Some religious believers welcome questions and robust argument. Fonda is apparently not one of them. Too bad for her. That’s gotta be one weak-ass faith.

“He would have talked me out of it”: When Religion Refuses to be Questioned
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8 thoughts on ““He would have talked me out of it”: When Religion Refuses to be Questioned

  1. 2

    I wonder if she realized how much she was insulting both her own personal faith and the faith of others.
    Either that or Ted Turner has some kind of super-human Atheist brain control powers.
    And that would be awesome.

  2. 3

    One thing to think about is that these two are people who have always been in the public eye. In other words, spin, spin, spin. I always thought the divorce was because he relentlessly screwed around on her. She even walked in on him doing someone in his office. So, I sincerely doubt that the Christianity argument was the whole story. They may have had an agreement of some sort to make him look like the Bad Boy regarding his atheism and her being the aggrieved wife with the Christianity rather than telegraph that he screws around and she was sick of it.
    Regardless, its a pretty feeble wording for what basically is “I don’t love him enough to explain this move to Christianity with him and deal with the expected blowback. ”

  3. 4

    Contrary to a lot of people who think like I do on other things, I’ve never thought much of Jane’s thinking ability. I have admired some of her acting, where she can occasionally convey depth and complexity of thought. Most of those, I expect, depended on the script. Some actors can convey depth even with feeble scripts, in the same way that Sarah Vaughn can give meaning and depth to a Karen Carpenter song. Jane has never been one of those.
    While I shared her opposition to the Vietnam War, I never felt that she could say much more than bad war, bad US. She never conveyed much understanding of the complexities involved. Granted, understanding complexities can get in the way of snappy slogans and great photo ops, but strong positions like that need both. This became particularly apparent when she tried to make nice to veterans 10-15 years ago and just got tongue-tied.
    So her conversion was no surprise to me. She’d never dealt with complexity and was now hiding in the favorite refuge of those seeking shallow certainty.

  4. 5

    That’s amazing! What an endorsement for the power of faith, or at least her faith, or at least how well it fairs against, as someone else said, the atheist superpowers of Ted Turner.

  5. 6

    I nearly threw up when I went through the checkout line at the local supermarket today. Many, many magazines told me that J-Lo is having twins. Scientists have determined that at a certain point one must destroy old memories to create new ones. I recorded the knowledge that J-Lo is having twins over something else. By having read this you have probably lost some older memory. Celebrity gossip is a god damned virus!
    Who cares why Jane Fonda and Ted Turner got divorced? And why would you believe some interview as relevant to reality in the first place?
    I really, really, like your blog Greta. You are a funny and insightful observer, and a clever and entertaining writer. Please. I beg you. Don’t try to get beneath the surface of pop-culture. There is nothing beneath the surface. Won’t you at least think of the children?
    But, of course, do what you want.

  6. 7

    I don’t think Greta was delving into pop culture. I think she was using this as an example of religious people refusing to start conversations about their religion because they are frightened of it being questioned. In a way, this explains the religious right’s disgust with atheists. And why christians are not supposed to be with non-Christians. Its a fear that the thin tapestry of their faith can be ripped to shreds in the face of rationalism.

  7. 8

    While I see and understand your point very well, I have had many many discussions/arguments with my very religious friends, I don’t quite see Fonda’s statement the same way. I find it offensive that her husband would try to “talk her out” of her religious beliefs. Granted they might have discussions which might not go well and she SHOULD be able to defend her beliefs, I agree that being able to defend beliefs is important, but to assume her husband would not support her religious decisions strikes a sour note to me.

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