Coming Out

Remember our parents always used to say, “Don’t talk religion or politics.” There’s nothing more divisive than those two topics. Yet sometimes, we need to talk about our religious beliefs. Coming out to friends and family can be difficult for many reasons, and each situation, each person, is different. I hope this post sparks a useful discussion (here you go, Shelley). I look forward to everyone’s input.

A. Is keeping quiet and playing along causing you grief?
If yes, go to question B. If no, keep reading here:  Sometimes, it’s easier to just play along. I’ll give you an example. My 80-something-year-old grandmother was a devout Catholic, and she believed with every last cell in her body that she would meet her entire family in heaven. She was a simple woman, and her family was her world. Why hurt her by telling her I’m not a believer? She would only worry about me, and she did not have the ability to even begin to understand why I’m a nonbeliever.

B. Do you know this person?
If yes, go on to question C. If no, keep reading here: If you don’t know the person, and you’ve been cornered some place (or even at your home) by a Jesus salesman, then, by all means, share your views with him or her. This doesn’t mean we have to steamroll them with facts and logic, but just say, “No thanks, I don’t believe, and I won’t discuss this with you.” If you are up for a little entertainment and would like a reminder of why you’re not a believer, you may want to engage in a conversation with God’s head hunter. But always, since we represent “our kind,” I think we should avoid being belligerent or hostile. It only turns us in to one of them. (Think of all the antagonistic evangelicals we know.)  We want to be the voice of reason, and that means leaving emotion out of our conversations. I know, I know. Theses people can be frustrating. You and I realize that the very annoying stranger trying to sell us on their god or their church doesn’t even realize they are not working for god, but for themselves. Finding converts means an express-pass to heaven, and all they’re really trying to do is save themselves. Still, we have to forgive them their ignorance.

C. Are you friends or family?
If you are family, go on to question D. If you are friends, read here: Friendships are like marriages. You and your friend are attracted to each other for some reason, and you have to be compatible to sustain the relationship. There is some commonality in which you can relate. Sometimes, these common interests change. Sometimes, we just outgrow our friends. But I can tell you that, while you may mourn the loss of a friend because of religious differences, ultimately, you’re better off. Trust me, in most cases, they won’t respect your views. Each religion teaches its followers that their way is the right and only way, so naturally your friends will always be right. And if you come clean that you’re a nonbeliever, you’ll always be a threat to and a splinter in their “spiritual” health (or, psyche, to us). Why a threat? Because you’re rejecting their belief system, and in doing so, you tell them their beliefs don’t make sense. Because, when it comes to religion, there is strength in numbers. And when you doubt, when you say you don’t believe, you make them feel insecure about their own beliefs. For you and me, we’ll always look at our religious friends askance and wonder how flipping crazy is it to believe that god is talking to them or has planned out the minutiae of their lives. Every time we hear a godism, we’ll cringe. And every time we hear a Christian friend complain about giving access to affordable healthcare to the poor, we’ll note the hypocrisy because Jesus enthusiasts are supposed to love their neighbors and help the poor.

On the other hand, there will be some friends that you can come out to without jeopardizing your friendship. You’ll know who they are. Friends who are loosely tethered to their religions (for example, a lot of Catholics) or friends who are just more tolerant (people who are from certain areas of the country). To these friends, your disclosure will mean nothing more than a preference for a certain color or a certain beer or wine.

Some friends just won’t get what you’re saying. I have a friend who thinks I just don’t believe in religion, and no matter how many times I tell her, she just cannot (or will not) understand that I don’t believe in god either. Every once in a while, she tells me I’m going to heaven because “I’m a good person, no matter what I believe.” I think she is in denial because she wants to maintain our friendship. And that’s ok with me, but she won’t be one of my close friends. The friends you hold near and dear accept you, and they can say, “I know she doesn’t believe in god, and she’s still my friend.”

D. If you cannot stand it any more, and need to be heard and understood by your family, you might just softly say (and I’ve had to do this), “I’m sorry. I’ve given my religious belief a lot of thought and consideration. I respect how you believe (mom, dad, brother), but I just don’t believe any more. I’m agnostic/atheist.”

I had to tell my folks, and while my mom is, like any other mother, devoted and loving, it does pain her that I don’t believe. There is a chasm, too, when we talk, because she believes in things like mediums and talking to spirits, and she knows I don’t. Still, she hopes I will. I understand her need for these things, and I listen to her and don’t criticize. (Instead, I come on here and vent!) But we have to consider the intentions of the people who love us. They are fearful that we will not be “saved.” I know my mother is disappointed in me, and I realize that coming out to her was better for me, but clearly not for her. She prays for me because she doesn’t want me going to the deep, deep south after I die. That’s fine. Her prayers don’t hurt me, but they bring her some kind of comfort. From my perspective, it was better to be honest than to continue living a lie—or worse, to have my mom find out from someone else who had reads my articles. Yes, I will still attend church with her, but I will not participate as a believer, only as a person who respects other’s traditions. I sit and stand on queue, but I do not say the prayers or take the sacraments.

Sometimes, you might encounter some anger or resistance rather than sadness and disappointment. I offer that we just calmly continue to tell others, “I respect your right to believe; please respect my right not to.” We will not gain acceptance by kicking down the front door. We have to desensitize believers and let them know we are not a threat to them. No matter what we say, they will not budge from their place of belief or understand where we are coming from. We cannot open a door for them. They will have to do it themselves. The best we can hope for is that they leave us in peace. American Christians are like no other. Most believe they believe they have an inalienable right to force their belief system on everyone else, whether it’s an individual, a group of people or a nation, and our goal is to break free from that mindset.

In all interactions with those who believe, whether the person is our best friend or a stranger, I think we should be a good representative for our cause and show them that there is no war on religion; we just want the same rights and respect as believers. We don’t try to talk them out of believing, and we don’t want the religious to try to talk us into believing. We are not in the market for god or religion.

There is a tolerance paradox, meaning we are sometimes intolerant of those who are not tolerant and hence intolerant ourselves. I know I can fall into this trap, but I try to remember where intolerance comes from. It grows out of fear and out of focusing too much on the self, and those are two things that religion encourages. A lot.

Sorry this post grew so long. I would love to hear your experiences and/or thoughts on how to talk to others about your beliefs.

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109 responses to “Coming Out

  1. I was so happy to see this post this morning. I am struggling with this very thing. My mother is a believer (and assumes I am as well) and my husband thinks I should “just tell her”. But…I’ve actually heard her say things like, “Well! If I knew that that guy (I don’t remember who she was talking about) didn’t believe in God, I wouldn’t even walk on the same side of the street as him!” I will be giving this more thought. Thanks for the “pep talk”. Yours is my new favorite blog!

  2. I find it easy to talk to friends. They’re either fellow non-theists or they’re not interested in converting me so it works out well.

    Most of my family members know. There are a few that I haven’t told yet because doing so would cause more harm than good. I’d rather not make elderly loved ones with very black and white worldviews worry about the state of my “soul” if I can I can avoid it!

    I wonder how many of your readers are also part of the LGBT community? Coming out gave me tools that I was later able to transfer to the “and I’m also no longer a Christian” talk. 🙂

  3. I think it is easier to be around people who are Jewish, Hindu or other religions that people are more so “Born into” and associated with a culture or region. They never try and convince me to believe what they believe. Like it is ok for me NOT to be just like them. I am just anti militant, aggressive religions that want to attack or convert others. (Muslims, Christians). You never hear of Buddhists trying to convert people. I think that if your religion, belief, or way of life is that great, then you dont need to SELL or threaten others to want to be like you.

    • @Lori Yes, I agree…Also, seems that when you are dealing with groups who have been discriminated against or disenfranchised in the past (like Jews), you tend to find more tolerance of other’s beliefs…

  4. I speak up to strangers, but I tend to have a condescending tone and use words like myth & fairy tales. (I need a set script that is short and sweet) Around friends I gently and nonchalantly say phrases like, “hmmm, I dont really follow a particular religion”. (I live in the deep south). I dont want to mock or offend people who believe in fairy tales, but deep down they look like complete fools. 😦 But my friends are smart nice people. I just dont understand…..

  5. The biggest issue for us has been how others react to how we raise our children. Since we stopped attending church and have made the decision, myself, that I never really believed and my husband no longer believing in what he was raised to believe, our friends and family treat us differently. Before they just assumed many things about how we raise our children based on only the words “we are christians”. Now that we say we don’t believe they assume we are raising our children in the worst way. Funny part is, we aren’t doing anything differently than we did before. Our values didn’t come from church, they came from us and our own personal decisions about how we wanted to live in the world. Now our friends and family act as if our children are doing bad things, going to get into trouble, we will have marriage problems or anything that they believed going to church and “believing” was going to solve. If good things happen they blow them off but watch out if anything bad happens. It must be because we aren’t “under the covering of Jesus”.
    We are the same people and raise our children the same as when we were attending church. It’s funny to that when I meet people they just assume I’m a believer just because I don’t fit their image of a non-believer (my kids are well behaved and intelligent, we have a great long term marriage- 20 yrs, no addictions
    My husband and I went on a date night last night. He said something that I think is kind of funny. He said he realized that our life isn’t any better or worse off than any of our christian friends and family. Funny, I thought everything falls apart when you don’t believe. As humans we are all in the same boat, spinning on this great big ball of dirt.

    • @Amy B I’ve met you (and your husband), and I know you are intelligent, articulate people. For every one person in your circle of friends and family who criticize your choices, you’ll find many more (like me! Us!) who are supportive.

      And, yes, I’ve found that so many people assume we’re “Christians” because they think that’s what it takes to be “moral.” Hmmm…

  6. “It’s funny to that when I meet people they just assume I’m a believer just because I don’t fit their image of a non-believer.”

    I run into this often…this idea that because I’m kind and show empathy, that I must be Christian.

  7. CaseyTheTyrant

    It was relatively easy for me to come out. I think everyone including my family just knew anyways. For years especially when I was a teenager I carried around enormous guilt for not believing or adhering to the christian values. I always had this knee jerk feelings from my childhood indoctrination that if I truly said out loud that I didn’t believe that God would smite me down. But as an adult and as I had more confidence I realised that if I didn’t believe there was nothing to strike me down. And then it happened, that enormous weight was lifted off my shoulders. I’ve been enormously happy ever since.

    My grandmother was probably most affected by it, but she doesn’t mention it much. She knows that she won’t win the argument with me. And thankfully my family hasn’t tried to force it on my children. I don’t care if they embrace a religion, but then need to be at an age and maturity that they understand the gravity of their choices.

    As for my friends, it has always been that we do not talk about our beliefs. Most of them are atheists anyways for similar reasons I am. Once in awhile we’ll discuss how to handle those tense conversations about religion with outsiders. I will say that everyone atheist that I know are some of the most outstanding individuals.

    I think it is much worse on your conscious to continually pretend the act of a believer. Once you let it go, you feel so much better about yourself and the relationships you have with those close to you.

    • @CaseyTheTyrant I agree w/you about giving kids the free to choose–when they are older: “I don’t care if they embrace a religion, but then need to be at an age and maturity that they understand the gravity of their choices.”

      I do think, though, that if you live in certain areas of the country, some people will choose not to be friends with you if you’re honest about your beliefs. And, IMO, that’s ok. Better to be honest. I also know for a fact that some small businesses won’t hire you if you’re not a Christian, and that’s not ok.

  8. I figure if someone wishes to condemn me for not worshipping their god, then they are just negativity — and who needs that. Life is short. Friend, family, old, young, whatever –if they cannot respect my beliefs, I care not.

  9. I love reading your posts. I live in rural Texas and feel so isolated at times. There are very few places where I feel safe or comfortable talking about my happy choice to be free of religion. People out here just don’t get it and I have to pick and choose whom I “come out” to. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Apparently I live in a different world, one where people don’t ask about or talk about each other’s religions and make no effort to proselytize. It’s the polite, respectful way to behave. If anyone makes an erroneous assumption about me and my beliefs, well, you know what they say about people who assume.

  11. Pied….that was my life in new england. When I moved to northeast Fl, it is much more out there and in your face.

  12. Great advise! Religion was never a big topic in our house. We did not attend church, nor pray at home. There really is no need to “come out” with my small family. I do however have a friend, a childhood friend. She is a born-again Christian with a very religious family and I think all of her friends are from within the church. We have lived thousands of miles apart – each moving away from home at an early age. Over the years we kept in touch and visited a couple of times and it feels like little time has passed and we can pick up as if we just talked yesterday when indeed it had been months. However, when the topic comes to religion, it’s obvious how sad she is and the pity she feels when she talks about how our friendship is only limited to this earth and this time and that we will not be together in all eternity. Trust me, I kind of like this idea, too, but I just don’t see that happening. Also, I know that we could never have become friends had we not known each other since we were in diapers. I don’t think either one of us would chose the other as a friend (today) because religion rules her life in every aspect and it’s not a part in mine.

    • @Nicole I have friends like that, too–a shared history is the glue between us. We were friends since childhood. But if we met today, we would not be friends…

  13. mtprairiegirl

    Great post! I like they way you outlined it. For me I guess I somewhat “came out” when I posted a year ago on FB that I wish I were in DC at the Reason Rally. I only had one reponse which was “really?”. I briefly explained why and she just replied “oh, just curious”. Not sure if anyone else even knew what the Reason Rally was. This person that commented is part of a group of individuals in our community that for as “Christian” as they claim to be are not “Chistian-like” at all. She infact has raised 2 boys who have a reputation of being disruptive & disorderly. They had to transfer schools and the school they ended up with couldn’t wait for them to graduate. I saw first hand how she raised these kids, which was NO discipline or respect for other individuals, I being one of those individuals.

    Never have I had religion in my face like I have here in a small community in MT where the majority are Evangelicals. I got tired of the mentality of the assumption of being talked to all the time as if I were religious. I didn’t even have that in Utah! Depending on if I’m with a group or a couple of people determines how I respond to religious talk. In a group, I bite my tongue. If it is just one or two people I briefly make a subtle comment and ususally the topic of the conversation changes.

    With family……my side isn’t religious, but my husbands side is and that has created much discourse in our marriage. I finally put a stop to all the religious emails I was getting from his sister simply by replying with “not everyone is religious”. I briefly said a few other things, but nothing to be offended by which she evidently didn’t take that way and replied with this…..”IN GOD WE TRUST!” For awhile it was hard getting together at family gatherings, but has subsided in the past couple of years. The only thing now is “I’m” the outcast. Not my husband or my children, but me because I spoke up. They are all nicey, nicey to my face, but I know I am the subject of conversation now behind my back.

    I’ve just come to the conclusion that I would rather have people in my life that except me for truly who I am than to be a phoney just to fit in with people I’m not even on the same page with.

    • @mtprairiegirl I can hear the whispers now–because you’re the “outsider,” you’re the one who corrupted your husband. My mother-in-law thought that, too, after my husband told her we’re not believers. She died a few years ago, but get-togethers were tense because she was very condescending about our choices. I’m not sure if it’s worse to have them in your face or talk behind your back!

      You know, I’ve pondered setting up our own state, where all citizens must be believers. Then we can all be real all the time.

  14. mtprairiegirl

    Forgot to mention the documentary movie that is out now by Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins called The Unbelievers. I know in my little religious community it won’t be showing at our local theatre. Might have to travel across the border into Canada which isn’t far from me to see it. From what I’ve heard it’s being widely accepted there and have actually sold out in various theatres! I can’t imagine too many religious people going to see it unfortunately.

  15. Great post. I really liked how you advise people to dismiss religious discussion as quickly as possible. I think one of the temptations of newly converted atheists is to try to explain whey they are no longer religious, especially if most of their peers are religious. This isn’t usually the best approach. I like the advice of saying, “I respect your right to believe in your religion; please respect my right not to believe,” and leaving it at that.

    I would add that I think it is important for people to live with integrity with their beliefs. While you don’t have to tell your 80-year-old grandmother, I think that it is sometimes tempting not to tell people with whom we interact on a daily basis, and that causes mental distress in our lives as we are trying to figure out how to continue these relationships without being found out.

    Still, it can be a tricky course to navigate. Thanks for discussing this.

    • @the frogman Thanks for your comment. I agree–it is important to live with integrity of beliefs….just sometimes, it’s so damn hard to cause others pain.

  16. I know what you mean about the deep deep south. Last year I had to attend the funeral of one of my wifes friends in Mississippi.

    As to why believers are so threatened by non believers, again I will use my Linus analogy.

    They are all afraid of appearing insincere lest their Great Pumpkin not come for them.

    I find it hard not to feel pity for those so encumbered by fear.

  17. This is a great post. I have struggled with this so much with my family. My brother tells me I can’t celebrate Christmas – to which I point out that 95% of the celebration of Christmas has nothing to do with Jesus. My mother tells me that she does not have to respect my right not to believe because I don’t believe in anything. I struggle with how to raise my son in a loving, caring environment while there is hostility toward mine and my husband’s atheism. Our son gets this environment at home but when his grandmother, aunt, uncle and cousin are telling him that his parents are going to hell, how do I deal with that? Right now he is only 2 and does not understand but eventually he will. For now, I have told my mother that is not her business to discuss religion with our son and if he has questions, they should be directed to us as his parents. It is a difficult thing when you are the “black sheep” in the family.

    I personally struggle with the fact that my family is so blindly religious and take a back seat to improving their lives. They believe God will provide everything they need and so they sit idly by and wait for it. I feel it would be better if they would apply themselves and work for things like I have done. My family is jealous of the fact that we live in a nice house and get to go on vacations, but I work for it while they sit around waiting on God. It is painful to me to see them do this.

    In the end, I have found that it is better for me to be upfront about my atheism, no matter the person. I was so unhappy when I tried to bite my tongue and hide it, that nowadays, if asked or put in a situation that requires it, I plainly state, “I respect your beliefs but I am an atheist and would prefer not to discuss your religion”. That usually suffices in stopping the uncomfortable feelings I get when the topic comes up. I have lost acquaintances over it, but then I don’t need to associate with people who cannot at least have a somewhat open mind 🙂

    • @Amber That’s tough when your family doesn’t support you…I do understand. As for the comment from your brother, there are two Christmases. One for the religious holiday (with Jesus) and one for the secular holiday (with Santa). So, he celebrates two holidays on Dec. 25th, and you and I celebrate one.

      Yes, I agree here: “I have lost acquaintances over it, but then I don’t need to associate with people who cannot at least have a somewhat open mind :)”

  18. I’ve been an atheist for more than 20 years and fortunately I’ve never had a problem telling friends, family and most especially, strangers about my lack of belief. I live in South Africa and generally find we are a tolerant bunch when it comes to religion and I’ve never felt the need to hide my views. I’ve only had a few unpleasant experiences with rampant believers.
    I don’t have one single atheist friend (there seem to be so few here), and all my close friends are either Christian (some born-again) or Muslim and they all accept me as I am without EVER trying to push their views on me. In fact, we very seldom discuss religion, it just isn’t an issue.
    As far as “coming out” goes, it was easier for me as my Mom is an atheist who did her “duty” in raising me as a Catholic, while never overtly speaking about her non-belief, nor reinforcing what I was spoon fed in church. I believed in God until I was 19, even becoming a born again Christian for a couple of years. My Mom never challenged my beliefs but encouraged me to keep an open mind. Her calm acceptance allowed my foray into religion to remain just what it was – an exploration of my spirituality and my need for a sense of belonging. When I became an atheist, she simply said, “I knew you would find your way.”
    The only time my husband and I get any major resistance or disapproval about our views is from family (especially my husbands family) when it comes to raising our 7 year old daughter. While we have introduced her to the different major religions and read her bible stories and other fables, we have chosen to break the cycle and not live a lie. Family (and strangers) often express shock that she hasn’t been Christened and has never stepped foot in a church before. They believe, as my Mom did, that you have a duty to raise your kids in church and allow them to decide for themselves whether or not they wish to believe in God. But that’s a whole other debate.
    At the end of the day, I think it’s more important to be true to yourself and your beliefs, and to judge each situation as it arises. I think there’s no harm in being polite and gently refusing to be drawn into an argument for the sake of peace or on those occasions when it’s just not worth the effort. I’m not a poster child for atheism – I want what most people want, religious or none – to be happy and to believe and live how I want, in peace. So I believe that those people who get extremely ferocious with their bible thumping are deep down very insecure about the authenticity of what they believe in. And that thought alone stops me from getting defensive about what I believe. The bottom line is, I’m an atheist. Deal with it or get out of my face!
    (PS. I LOVE your blog, it’s a breath of fresh air. If there were more of you, the world would be a much better place.)

    • @BettyK Thanks for sharing–and for your nice comment.

      I agree that people who get ferocious are “insecure about the authenticity of what they believe” or, perhaps, they’re trying to make a living selling religion. (We have a few mean-spirited preachers in Texas.)

      It’s also interesting that people believe you “…have a duty to raise your kids in church and allow them to decide for themselves whether or not they wish to believe in God.” I (we’ve) heard that a lot, but the thing is, it requires us to brainwash our kids. Too bad those folks don’t say we have a duty to raise our kids free of religious dogma so that they can choose for themselves when they get older.

  19. Like someone above said, your blog is my new favorite! Thank you for being here and giving me a place to read views by like-minded, intelligent, respectful people.
    After growing up Catholic, and indeed feeling brainwashed, my separation from the church and religion happened around the same time that I met my now-husband. He is also a “non-believer” so we were a united force in getting married in a non-religious, non-Church ceremony, and then in not having our children baptized or introduced to religion as we had been. Our families struggled with this, but aside from a few snide comments about us going to hell or the like, they seemed fine with it… *seemed*… Older relatives still have their very vocal opinions here and there (we have been married for 13 years now and have 2 children) but I guess it’s been a cake walk compared to some folks’ stories. I am in awe of your ability to continue going to church with your mom. We will attend for a wedding or funeral if that’s where it’s held, but the thought of going through those motions more often that that is unbearable. Your love for your mom shines through in your willingness to continue that attendance for her.
    Friends can be a little harder… I still keep in touch with many people whom I met as a child in Catholic school, and their “faith” only seems to have grown louder and brasher over the years. Your advice will come in handy, thank you.
    While I read daily, this is the first comment I’ve left. Thank you to everyone who posts and comments here. Others’ comments allow me to breathe a daily sigh of relief.

    • @Jody Hi. I’m really glad you spoke up and contributed to the conversation. All of us make a difference.

      Kudos to you and your husband for sticking together. I’m sure that, while it makes your family unit stronger to share this belief system that your extended families oppose, it can also be stressful.

      I guess you know, then, that I was raised Catholic, too. I’m just amazed by the number of ex-Catholics here. I wonder if it’s because they don’t focus as much on the devil and hell as other religions do.

      In all fairness, my mom lives several states away, so I don’t go that often. If she wants to go, I will go with her, especially since my dad passed away. She is very lonely. But thanks for those nice words.

  20. I live in a country where religion plays little role in everyday life. It would be a subject of wonder if anyony said grace before lunch.
    The majority of people belong to the church but only less than 3 percent are active in any way form or fashion (i.e attend services more or less regularly).
    Despite all that it takes an effort to come out. Funny isn’t it?

    • @saab93f But if you tell your friends and neighbors you’re atheist, they are still accepting right? Funny you mention praying before lunch. I was at Jason’s Deli today and a couple were praying silently over their food before they ate. That always makes me feel a little uncomfortable, as if I’m watching them in the bathroom or something….I just look away quickly.

  21. I love your post, and wish more of us who do believe would also follow the same advice. Given that both of my parents are agnostic, it was just as hard for me to tell them I was getting baptized as it would be for you to tell your parents that you do not believe in God.

    The only comment I will make as to why some of us will be more open (sometimes interpreted as forceful) about telling others our beliefs is because we are hoping to help save you. Just as I feel it is my duty to warn my neighbors about a brush fire coming, I feel it is my duty to provide information that could help them for an eternity. I don’t force it, if they don’t want to hear it I don’t discuss it again, but it is important for you to understand that some of them are not doing this to help themselves, but to help you. Similarly, I will tell my neighbors about a brush fire coming, but if they choose to sit in their house and ignore it, I am not going to drag them out of their house. I have done my duty. I am confident that I will not be judged by how many people I converted, but I am also confident that I will be judged for people that I could have helped and chose not to.

    • @kidnike I agree with mtprairiegirl and peter. We (nonbelievers) have given our position a lot of reasoned thought–we’ve been where you are. It’s insulting to offer your views. You believe you are right–that we all need to be “warned” and “saved.” But your danger is not our danger. Your truth is not ours.

      I do appreciate that you spoke up. I think it increases understanding amongst us all.

  22. kidnike — you are extremely insulting. And that highlights what I dislike about the “believers.” Believe whatever you want — it’s your choice and right. But don’t treat me like a wayward child who needs your help. I don’t. I don’t want it. And I am just as comfortable with my convictions as you are with yours. The difference is I have no desire — nor do I feel it’s right — to preach them to you.

  23. mtprairiegirl

    @kidnike……..with both your parents being agnostic what swayed you into thinking or believing what you’ve been taught is true? The thing we non-believers can’t seem to drill into the heads of those who are believers is that we have been there done that. Many of us have gone through religious training and have read the Bible. So no need to save us. We don’t believe in hell just as we don’t believe in the Devil or God.

  24. @dam..I’m glad you touched on this topic today. I’ve been having lengthy discussions about this very topic w/co-workers lately. To me, this topic coincides w/the current discussion about the NBA player opening up about his sexuality. I see parallels in both opening up sexually as well as opening up about being a non-believer; especially in the deep south. I find it much easier to discuss my lack of religious beliefs w/select friends than family members. I was able to express my lack of beliefs to my Mom last year after my daughter was born. My wife and I had a horrific experience during the labor. Unfortunately my wife suffered a placenta abruption approximately 8 hours into labor and thanks to advances in technology & medicine, our daughter’s life was saved. If this scenario would have occurred years ago, the hospital staff might not have saved her life. After the initial shock and anxiety was over our family wanted to thank God. I didn’t particularly like their comments. I had to tell my mom that I didn’t believe in God or an afterlife. Of course she was distraught. I asked her what would have been the consensus if she would have died. Would everyone say she was in a better place? Or that it was all part of God’s great plan? Here we are months later and I find it funny that more of our family are trying to give me their bullshit prayer stories now knowing that I don’t share their beliefs. I now feel more comfortable having this discussion w/some family members but I tend to avoid this topic w/strangers.

  25. I told my mom, sister and best friend. Everyone else in my family took it upon themselves to out me to the remainder of the family. They found it so upsetting and appalling they never once stopped to think that I might like to tell or not tell the others myself.

    Telling my mom destroyed our relationship. She could not handle it and for two years called me derogatory names and blamed my husband and was so angry at us both that she began to spread lies within the family and has even voiced that they should “take her side”. This confirmed for me that my mom is a narcissist. Our relationship has not been the same since. I do not talk with her in the phone and neither me or my children see much of her. It’s better this way though its sad and not what I would have hoped for.

  26. I was recently outed on Facebook by a friend. I posted a link to her new novel, which centers around life in a megachurch in Texas. She commented that it was funny that an atheist–me–was asking people to buy a book about faith. While my close friends know about my atheism my newer friends–parents I’ve met through my kids’ school–just know that I’m not really into religion. (That’s what I’ve told them.) Some of these new friends are very religious and I know they saw my other friend’s comments. No one has said anything. Yet.

    And kidnike, everyone’s already heard about Jesus. We don’t need to be told. It’s not like he’s some great indie band whose fame will only spread through word of mouth.

  27. I think it pains my parents to know I’m an atheist largely because their understanding of it (versus run of the mill non-belief) is given to them by Fox News. We are all out to burn bibles, laugh at Christians, and ruin marriage. When I tell them that’s not what we do, I’m told that they don’t want anyone else’s beliefs “shoved in their faces” … kind of like what Christianity has been doing for the last 2,000 years, and would do with far more zeal if they had more power in this part of the world.

    Best part? They’re not even Christian. So I have no idea why they even care other than it being a result of having Fox News on roughly 12 hours a day. The one saving grace is that once I talk to them about it for a while, they understand why I feel the way I do, and they’re OK with it. The down side is that I have to do it **every time it comes up** because they can’t seem to remember from one conversation to the next. It’s really weird.

    I have a lot harder time talking with them about politics. I honestly don’t care much about their quasi-religious views since they consider them little more than a personal outlook on life. But their politics have caused many an argument, especially since that which they oppose(d) so strongly like long-term unemployment and health care reform were things that directly impacted me and the missus. Funny how their perspective changed when they realized their own blood would be affected, and not the “moocher class” they’ve been told to hate all these years. And the less said about gun control or the Obamas “hating America”, the better.

    • @Senator Jason What faith are your parents? Are they Jewish? I thought a requirement of watching Fox was that you had to be Christian. (haha)

  28. @dam – Thank you for posting this article and also sharing about the relationship you have with your Christian mother. While I was reading, I thought about all the people I care about, the important people in my life who are devout Christians, the people I love. I realized that all of them (I hope) would accept my non-belief if I were to just have the courage to calmly sit with them and lovingly let them know that I do not believe in God.

    If I were to say, “I need to tell you something about me and I don’t want to hurt you in any way. I don’t want you to feel any kind of threat or disrespect from me. I do not believe in God. This isn’t something that I’ve come to decide on a whim. I’ve spent the past eight years studying and learning about other religions, religions of the world not just Christianity. I know church is a big part of your life and I want you to feel comfortable telling me about things going on in your church that are important to you. I’ve been so afraid to tell you I don’t believe in God because I didn’t want you to judge me. I didn’t want you to reject me. For me, this has been a big hurdle in our relationship for a long time, and I feel so much better being able to let you see me for who I really am. I love you the same as I always have.”

    It is so important to not be confrontational or argumentative when dealing with the Christians I love. I don’t have to be an “expert” in not believing in God. I don’t have to argue bible verses with them. I’m not out to “convert” them into atheism, and I don’t want them to feel like they have to “re-convert” me back into Christianity. I understand and respect that church is a very big part of their lives. Even though I am a non-believer, I still want to hear about things going on at their church, personal issues they’re dealing with when it comes to other members of their congregation, their church’s doctrine, etc. I understand. I know what they’re talking about. I’ve been there.

    • @Shelley I think what you wrote would be a perfect way to approach your close friends/family. I’m like you–I don’t want a disclosure to bring up a wall. It’s just hard to feel like you’re being yourself when you have to play along.

      As to your second comment….If people don’t have some sort of familial relationship, it’s much easier for them to turn on you or exclude you. I know a lot of engineers, many with master’s and PhD’s, and the ones I know are religious, some very much so. I’d share more of my experiences, but I never know who is reading this blog…

      Like you said, we have a long way to go. We’re on the front lines, and maybe we’ll look back in 20 or 30 years and say, “Remember when we had to hide our views….”

  29. I’ve lived all over the US and Japan. I know how religion is viewed in those different places. Living in Alabama is by far the worst for non-believers. I live in a modern, very progressive city where the majority of the residents are college educated, one out of every ten residents are engineers, a large percentage of the population is not “from here.” It is not an Alabama stereo-typed ignorant, redneck city. My city is not what most people would think of when they hear the word “Alabama.”

    Even so, I cannot “come out” to the people I work with – all of those “progressive, modern, well-educated people.” I could be black-balled, discriminated against, or even fired – only because I am not a Christian. We have a very long way to go…

  30. I’m new to your blog, but have to thank you for it anyway. I live in the south, and in my very small community about 80% are Catholic. This town was settled by Catholics, and there’s a Catholic church and school about 10 minutes from my house. My son is just starting public school, and he’s making friends who are Catholic, which normally wouldn’t be a bad thing, but his ignorance to church, god & being saved has caught his little friends attention. He has brought home “Jesus loves you” pamphlets from school and many questions, too. At first I was outraged that he is getting his hands on this stuff at school, but it’s from his friends, and not the school, itself. They teach him songs, and they play games involving god (i.e. rock, paper, scissors, but god beats everything).

    My biggest worry is that our non-belief might ostracize him from his peers, and possibly make his school life miserable. Thankfully the kids are all young enough now that it doesn’t matter, but as middle & high school-ers I just really hope they are accepting, or that at least he can find a friend or two that doesn’t believe.

    I found your blog because I am struggling with trying to explain things to him in a way that a 6-yr old can understand, without him trying to preach his non-belief to his friends. He is the type of kid that tells his classmates what’s healthy to eat, and to not eat, and we’re not those kind of parents. I just ask him to make good decisions about his food, and he took it upon himself to let a classmate know they weren’t making good decisions.

    I know the questions are just beginning, and I don’t mind telling him, but I don’t want him “sharing” with his friends and then the few mommy-friends that I have made will stop inviting us to birthday parties and playdates.

    I, too, feel like watching someone pray is like seeing them in the bathroom. I once asked an elderly co-worker if she was feeling bad at lunch because she put her head down, only to find out she was just praying. Also, at a (Catholic) friends fathers funeral there was a brunch afterward and everyone was milling around and talking, and I started to help myself to the buffet, only to be chastised because the food hadn’t been blessed yet. If I’m that out of my league as an adult… I fear for my sons school life.

    Thanks for giving us a place to feel normal 🙂

    • @Guymama I’m glad you commented. There are a lot of parents who feel as you do–many who’ve written here over the years. (Funny experience you had with your elderly co-worker praying at lunch. Or, at least, it’s funny to me because I would have done the same thing!)

      I think it can be helpful to our kids when we have different views from the majority. You can talk to him at home, and he can contrast home with school. Have you talked with him about Santa and why he can’t tell other kids the truth? If so, you can use that same approach about God. There are some things we just cannot tell others.

  31. Great summary and tactics. I didn’t read all the comments, so I may be repeating a point already made, but I smile – a lot.

    And I mean it.

    Whatever comes out of my mouth is the truth (as far as I know) and I do not mean to hurt anyone. I wear my emotions plainly on my face, and while friends, family, and/or strangers may not like the words coming out of my mouth, they see (and feel) the smile in my voice. 🙂

  32. Oh, I meant to add…

    It confuses the heck of ’em. 😉

  33. Hey Deborah, thanks for this entry.

    Yeah, I live in a tiny town of about 10,000 in west Tennessee, and we’re totally surrounded by a bunch of other little towns.

    Religion IS the way of life here!

    Here are just a few things that I’ve seen in the three years I’ve lived here…..

    My son who attends a public school has had at least two functions for his gifted program at a local baptist church. The only one function that that public school program actually had at a public school cafeteria was opened and closed with prayer, and a long poem about god was read somewhere in the middle. My son came home last year with a flyer that was passed out at school inviting kids to attend an easter egg hunt at an assembly of god church. When I take this same son to his music lesson I sit inside and wait for him, and without fail, hear the “bells” of a church up the street. These aren’t just any bells though, it’s a recording of the entire music to “Tis so sweet to trust in jesus!”

    We know a Jewish family here who has been personally invited to one of those halloween church hell houses. Adults have also come to the mom and offered to take her little ones to church with them. This same family has a couple of teenagers whose good friends have told them that they’re going to hell because they don’t believe in jesus.

    Then there’s the usual…..local blogs, neighbors, bumper stickers, roadside signs, and solicitation going on and on about prayer, jesus, god, and vacation bible school.

    I would love to come out about being an atheist, but both of my kids are small, and we’re still new here, I just can’t take that risk. I continually have to keep their safety and well being in mind. My husband also started a new career just this year with a christian denominational hospital. And you know the story with my crazed pentecostal dad.

    For now I’d prefer to not talk to family or locals about my deconversion because it’s so new that christians would try to coerce me back into salvation. I am not, nor do I ever intend to be, a prodigal daughter.

    • @Hi Charity– Always great to hear from you.

      I understand that you don’t want to talk to friends and family about your deconversion because you want to avoid the conflict and ostracism for you and your kids. It’s also just easier to be left alone and in peace. With young children and a husband working at a christian hospital, I totally get why you don’t want to make waves. I worked for a woman for several years who was very, very religious. Let me just say that it was an interesting experience. Fortunately, I’ve been able to move on, but I felt the whole time I worked for her as if I was being one, big fake. I never lied. I just didn’t clear the proverbial air. You probably understand what I’m saying.

      We have several convention centers around us, but my older son’s graduation will be a church two cities away. Oh, joy. I feel that is not right, but am I going to make a big deal of it? Of course not. I’ll be way out numbered and just labeled as a nutcase, when ironically, talking to god is way nuttier, IMO.

  34. @dam: Yes, telling people that you do not share their faith was actually almost as if you‘d tell that you’re left-handed. It did not change anything – probably because there were no fundies (even by our standards) in my circle of friends and relatives.
    In retrospect “leaving faith” has been made much bigger deal than it is, at least in here.
    I cannot really grasp what life as an outsider in a xian-dominated areas must be like. I just am glad that you have found inner strength to be honest and…reasonable.

  35. @kidnike: Brush fire is real, it exists and causes real and measurable damage. It is nothing short of amazing how religiosos equal h3ll with anything tangible. Your faith is just one of thousands yet because of popularity you claim it to be THE ONE. There is exactly as much (or little) evidence for Christianity as there is to Islam, Scientology, Mormonism or Hinduism. Probably the most “believable” is the Cargo Cult since the USAF and the soldiers they worship are real…

  36. Long time reader, and this is my first response.

    As someone who disagrees with your basic approach, I am one of those people who make other agnostic/atheists cringe.

    I love – I mean LOVE – the argument. I always tell the person who initiates such conversations that I will not back down once it begins and they, thus, have a choice to make. If the person continues, then I have no problem tearing into the person who tries assault my beliefs with her/his own. I never start the argument, but I do everything in my power to have the last word. I refuse to be polite because most theists (and I do consider them slightly insane) have not the least compunction to tell me how wrong I am in the most impolite terms. Once they begin, I open with both barrels and continue to let loose with an unending barrage.

    People who cannot let it be and let me have my belief without being molested by their need to “make me see the light” I try to make cry. Strangely enough, I am more successful than not. Socially impolite theists have a hard time with logic, especially about god, Jesus, Mohammed, or whomever. If these people feel they are perfectly entitled to try and change my mind, then I assume I have the exact same right.

    I make no apologies for what I believe and think. I see no need to hide what I believe or think. I am not afraid and my intolerance stems from having tried to play the “nice guy” and just walk away from it. Theists tend not to respect those who are willing to walk away and let it go. It makes them think their evangelism is is working. I know this because numerous individuals told me so. Thus, I now see I have every right to believe what I want with the same zeal as any other.

    In the words of Dubya, I say bring it on. I look forward to dismantling their kookiness one illogical brick at a time. I will no long lie docile and let them have the last word. If they don’t respect my rights and feel compelled to verbally assault me, then I feel perfectly justified in shattering the foundations of their belief through the cool use of logic and carefully measured words. I never get angry, I just try to see how sputtering irate I can make them.

    Once they break the social contract, I play to win.

    • @Derrick Hi. I’m glad you joined the conversation.

      I understand where you’re coming from and know the frustration. I guess I just think that the people who are evangelizing are “asleep,” that they don’t know any better or they just don’t have the hardware we do. They are doing what they’re told. I also think, being a mom and having my kids always watching has made a difference, too. I don’t want to teach them to be belligerent or intolerant.

      I see where you’re writing from. I’d think that area would have more transients and more folks who subscribe to the idea of live and let live….Guess it doesn’t matter. We’re still a “Christian nation,” no matter what area we live in.

      You haven’t been marginalized at work for your views?

  37. Derrick, I understand your approach. It reminds me of what I tell my little boys, “don’t you EVER pick on anyone or start fights, BUT if anyone starts something with you finish it right away or you’ll be that kid’s bitch for the rest of your school life!” I know, I’m such a cuddly stay at home mom. Your just simply stating that you’re very much a “live and let live” kind of person (as I am trying to raise my kids to be), but if someone thinks that they can personally bully you they need to understand that’s unacceptable and you’re not going to take it! Because I’m so new at being an atheist I haven’t really had a one on one personal confrontation with anyone about it yet. My dad, being the Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggert, and Benny Hinn fan that he is, is too passive aggressive to have a direct conversation with me about religion. He just thinks that I’m a sad sap because I quit going to church and tells me “Don’t you think that god thinks that some churches are crappy too?” I guess this is all partly why I tend to take the author’s approach in dealing with the religious. However, I’m certainly going to consider and try to carefully apply what you’ve said here. After all, “We’re here, we’re heathen, get used to it!”

    Deborah, I really appreciate your blog. When I read this particular article I just cried and cried because I am a little miserable out here in the buckle of the bible belt. Often I pull back because I realize that certain situations are not about me, they’re about my husband or boys, and as a result, I can’t call the ACLU (though I am often totally within my rights to do so) because I have to think of their schooling, job and/or future jobs, community sports, music lessons, and general well being. I understand your outlook about your oldest son’s graduation. You don’t want to risk ruining a special event that needs to strictly be all about him and his fellow senior classmates. You also know that as a woman and a mom, we are not given much grace to disagree with anyone about religion in the South. Even as a Christian my simple questions and concerns were greeted with great disdain from men and women alike. It is MUCH, MUCH more accepting for a man to state his views, when we do so we’re considered bitter “femi-nazis” with extreme submission issues.

    • @Charity You are SO right: “…when we do so we’re considered bitter “femi-nazis” with extreme submission issues.”

      I was thinking when I read Derrick’s comment that, while I admire him standing up for himself, if I had done that, as a woman, someone would dismiss me as a crazy bitch. That’s how women with strong or controversial opinions are dealt with. And if you read some of the comments on the CNN article (and also to my inbox), people said these things and much more, including that I was a bad mother. And that was just for politely saying this is why I (we) don’t teach our kids this god narrative, but I’m not attacking anyone for teaching their kids to believe.

      I don’t like hearing–at all–that you feel so miserable and isolated. Several others have said that, and I feel like saying, look me up on FB. Here’s my address. We’ll all be friends. We’ll stick together. But will I put us all in danger because of those few crazies who are so militant about their beliefs that they kill abortion doctors? Maybe they’ll feel the need to stop us or save our kids.

      I just want you to know–I do care, and I don’t like that you feel so marginalized.

  38. @dam I think being Jewish is acceptable among Fox viewers, considering the degree to which Israel’s policies are defended among members of the GOP. But strangely enough, no, my parents grew up Catholic. (Looking back on it, though, I think they went to church just long enough for us to get confirmed, because they stopped going shortly thereafter.) These days they’re agnostic / deist of some sort. They may not even believe at all; I can’t be too sure.

    That’s why it’s so difficult to talk to them sometimes. They’ll start in about how “atheists” want to do this or that, and how their religious freedoms are being violated by things like the contraception mandate, yet they’re blind to the same kind of crap Christianity has done to everyone within their reach since the freaking conversion of Constantine. When I point it out, I get the catch-all response of “just don’t shove it in my face”, even if they don’t seem to care about the latter’s offenses over the centuries. I give up shortly afterward, since it’s not a battle I care enough about fighting on a regular basis.

    These days I just tell them to stop watching 24-hour cable news. They don’t listen to me on that either, but I keep thinking it’s a slightly more neutral argument than anything else so it just might sink in eventually.

    • @Jason I read your blog, and you’ve been commenting here. You seem really reasonable. Given your parents own beliefs, it’s strange that they have such a “schism” inside their own minds. It does seem they’re just being brainwashed and not really thinking about what they’re saying, so it’s the same as church….At least, you won’t be bringing up your kids like that.

  39. LanceThruster

    Great topic and responses so far. I’ll weigh in as soon as I get a chance. I’m in the middle of my own drama right now being singled out by bullying xians.

    • @LanceT Was wondering where the hell you were. Glad you’re ok. Share the details with us when you are through w/your drama….

  40. LanceThruster

    As I’ve mentioned here before, I tell people that I consider it a sign of respect to share views openly and honestly. Though the advice to avoid talking sex, politics, and religion is meant to keep interactions civil, it ignores that these are some of the most vital topics to the well-being of our species (even the sex talk). People can agree to disagree respectfully, but in a non-disfunctional world, these issues should be discussed in a meaningful way.

    People tend to want to converse about these contentious issues only with those of a like mind. Those confident in their ability to defend their viewpoint are always open to discussion, and even consider changing their views if they feel the other person has made a strong enough case. But sadly, as my pal Bernie the Attorney explained, the most common reaction by people hearing information that conflicts with thier own worldview is to just tune out.

    As was pointed out here, logic does not change a view not arrived at by logic in the first place.

    • @LanceT Yes, in theory it is a good thing to be open and honest. However, our nation is now so polarized that it can be detrimental to speak openly and honestly. Also, when it comes to family, some folks just believe so very strongly that they are going to “heaven” that they cannot handle a child/spouse/close family member saying that they are not on-board the heaven train.

      You said: “People tend to want to converse about these contentious issues only with those of a like mind.” I don’t think so. People seem to like conflict. They like to argue. There are many sites where people argue so hatefully.

      IMO, there’s no need to argue about religion. It’s someone’s personal preference, and there’s no basis in logic.

      If I ever need an attorney, I’m going to get Bernie’s number. 🙂

  41. LanceThruster

    @dam – I guess I should have qualified it by 1) most people and 2) those uncomfortable with modifying their beliefs/worldviews for any reason.

    The typical example is a Faux Snooze viewer who regurgitates some baseless meme and actively resists being disabused of any of their notions no matter how incorrect. Self-actualized people (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self_actualization ) much prefer getting accurate info, even if it means reassessing their own views/understanding. I compare it to the difference with people who appreciate being informed of the right usage or pronunciation of a word versus those who get angry at having their errors pointed out. Think of it as a “don’t confuse me with the facts” attitude.

    The old saying is, “People are entitled to their own opinion, not their own facts.”

    There are those who enjoy debate/discussion from any angle, but Bernie summarized it thusly —

    All people are motivated by two things; ego and laziness. Ego in that they don’t want to be made to feel stupid, and laziness (or more precisely “conservation of energy”) in that if there is a choice between holding the views you’ve always held because you’ve always held them and that those in your circle hold similar views, or having to do the work to verify that the reality of a particular understanding does or does not hold up…most people just stick with the familiar and tune out .

    I enjoy the arena of ideas with anyone willing to defend/put forth their views.

    Bring out your champions! (i.e. whose works/views most closely resemble your own?)

  42. Excellent post; this statement really resonated with me: “American Christians are like no other. Most believe they believe they have an inalienable right to force their belief system on everyone else, whether it’s an individual, a group of people or a nation, and our goal is to break free from that mindset.” So true, and that is totally my goal as I’ve raised my three sons.

  43. Oh Deborah, as they say down here “Don’t you make no n’rmind!” I thank you for your super kind words, and I’ll be fine. I’m a grown ass woman, and I’ll adapt. In all honesty, some of those tears I cried were concerning you, and so many of your incredible commenters. Both my parents are still alive and I am the oldest of seven kids. However, I doubt if I will ever feel the same connection with them as what I have with so many of you. Thank you.

    I have to say, I’ve lived in Michigan, Missouri, Texas, Georgia, Florida, California, Hawai’i, and England, and I have never seen sexism to the extent that I’ve seen here in Tennessee (I’ve lived in both the Memphis and “Nash Vegas” areas). Boy, could I tell you some stories!

    I can’t believe that you’re still getting hateful responses from an article you wrote back in January! It’s not as though you have a show or movie out, and I’m pretty certain you’re not putting up signs on street corners or highways. I doubt that you’re soliciting souls door to door…oh, but wait, we all know who the offenders of those actions are!

    I agree with you, I was also wondering what happened to Lance.

    Hey Lance, I saw a sign that made me think of you. My family did some shopping in Memphis last weekend, and there was this little Christian book store at the end of a small strip mall called “Ram in the Bush”. Now, we all know that it’s referencing Genesis when god told Abraham to sacrifice the son he gave him through Sarah, Isaac. But wait, just as Abraham was about to gut his adolescent son god caused a ram to get stuck in the thicket that would be sacrificed instead! Well, I have to admit, when I saw the sign I said to my husband “Ramin’ the Bush?!”

    • @Charity Well, you certainly seem to have great inner strength!

      You know that saying that you can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends (and spouses). Thank GOD! 🙂

  44. LanceThruster

    @Charity – Too funny. You almost wonder if they get the wordplay themselves. I hear you about TN (and would love to hear your stories anytime you’d like to add some colorful personal history to the comments). I was kicked out of a cousin’s home in Chattanooga (asked by the husband to leave), because they knew I was atheist when I was discussing my work with the local chapter American’s United for Separation of Church and State and he felt it was not safe for the children to be around me (mostly because we were bonding a little – I like kids, just have none of my own – and I don’t think he liked the idea of a positive godless role model…or he actually thought “atheist” = “pedophile.”). An ex of mine was from Knoxville (which has a wonderfully progressive newspaper located there) and she embodied a Southern sensibility that I’ve always found a little disturbing. It’s basically the act of saying something mean while making it sound sweet. “Bless your heart” means you think the person is learning challenged. The trappings of civility reigned supreme at the same time they were brutalizing other human beings. I think the mentality of many church groups/members is a throwback to this kind of cognitive dissonance.

    @dam – I have not read Kohlberg but will check your link. It looks interesting. Thx.

    @Kim – I’ve posted my own quote here saying “Nothing offends a person more than to reject their deeply held belief.” So aside from feeling that you should come over to their way of thinking (and all that entails to try to get you there), they also get their feathers ruffled merely by you holding another view and pretty much insist that you keep quiet about it so they don’t get an attack of the vapours.

  45. LanceThruster

    @Senator Jason – Some of my friends complain about “Evengelical atheism” but I tell them we’re just standing our ground after years of being marginalized. Most believers consider their worldview the default position.

  46. Well, since it’s raining, and my big boy’s not home from school yet, and my other little guy’s busy I thought I would share some more “shit Christians say” stories.

    There was this pretty popular song from the contemporary Christian music genre years ago called “I get on my knees”. I remember watching “X Factor” last year when a teenage girl who was Hispanic and beautiful just like the original singer of the song, Jaci Velasquez, decided to use it for her audition in Houston, Texas. Of course, because of the locale, people in the audience went nuts and cheered her on! All I could do was cringe, and watch Simon Cowell’s reaction to her soulfully singing “I get on my knees, I get on my knees….I don’t know how, but there’s power when I’m on my knees!” Uh, yeah.

    Speaking of Jaci Velasquez, while I was in choir at that crazy Nashville church where I saw Ray Comfort, she would attend. I remember during one of their “jock itch” pro business men/athlete conferences one of the local visiting speakers led a service and totally criticized one of that poor girl’s songs! I don’t remember seeing her, but a fellow choir friend told me that she saw her there. The speaker totally tore into her song about “I don’t want to get up in your face, I don’t want to put the pressure on…..I just want to show you love!” This ass went on and on about not watering down the gospel, and how we should unashamedly preach the gospel of jesus Christ!

    Well, while I was at that same church I absolutely dreaded a song we would sing once in a while. Are you ready for this title? “He’s all over me, and he’s keeping me alive!” Okay, but it gets worse, here are the words to the chorus: “He’s all over me, and he’s keeping me alive! He’s all over me, and he’s keeping me alive! I know he is keeping me alive…He’s keeping me alive!” Now for the best part: “He’s to my left, to my right, to my front and back; underneath, over me, and he’s living down inside!” of course, on rapid repeat. I don’t know what was worse, the upbeat tempo, the words or the in sync hand motions we had to do along with the words to that last part/tag.

    • @Charity Hilarious!! Oh, my. I wrote several comments to your songs, but deemed them inappropriate….LOL.

      That would make for an interesting site (like that one guy had about white folks): Things xtians say or mean shit xtians say! Let me know if you need some material!

  47. We are so worlds apart that it is just amazing.

    I am totally toolless in your discussions about dealing with fundies. The most extreme I‘ve encountered was some years ago when my colleagues asked if I was coming along to church before xmas (a special service for government workers to start the holidays with) and when I replied that it is not really my thing, they just said okay and wished me nice holidays. That is all that has ever been said of the issue.
    Not very dramatic really, sorry.

  48. This is getting off the subject and pardon my ignorance, but I didn’t know yesterday was The National Day of Reason! 🙂

    I just came across this on my FB newsfeed from one of my favorite TV programs on Current TV called TYT (The Young Turks) Cenk Uygur (Agnostic) had this to say about a segment on Fox news about The National Day of Reason. Only 3 1/2 min. and wow does he make some really great points and observations! Enjoy!!!

    • @mtprairiegirl Too funny! Love what he said about the xtians and the Holocaust. Please tell me why Fox is a show case for such stupidity?!!

  49. LanceThruster

    @Charity – Go here for great “praise” music from South Park – http://www.11points.com/TV/11_Most_Spot-On_Song_Parodies_From_South_Park

    3. “Faith + 1” – parody of Christian rock music

    Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s send-up of Christian rock stands as one of the greatest things they’ve ever done. Cartman, Butters and Token forming a lame Christian rock band — where all of Cartman’s lyrics about Jesus inadvertently venture into the sexual realm — is one of the indisputable highlights of the entire 13-season run.

    Every song they sing in the episode is gold, but I went for the pinnacle: The commercial for Faith + 1’s album that includes the two lyrics I’ve spotlighted below.

    It’s unthinkably offensive while simultaneously being unbelievably funny. In other words, it’s exactly what “South Park” strives for.

    Best line #1: “The body of Christ, sleak swimmer’s body, all muscled up and toned. The body of Christ, oh what a body, I wish I could call it my own.”

    Best line #2: “I wanna get down on my knees and start pleasing Jesus / I wanna feel his salvation all over my face.”

    • @LanceT “I wanna feel his salvia all over my face?” I think I read that wrong.

      I second Charity. You are too much (meaning, funny)!

  50. You’re too much, Lance, just too much but I suppose you already know that!

    🙂

  51. LanceThruster

    @Charity – I like to think that I am just the “right amount.”

    😉

  52. @Lance – Bless yo’ heart LOL. :O Sorry, I couldn’t resist…

    Hey y’all, it’s been a very long day for me. I had to attend a very southern Christian funeral today for my long-time best friend’s mom who passed away, an awesome woman whom I adored and loved dearly. The extreme Alabama radical Baptist pastor went on and on and on… until I wanted to puke. At one point, I remember him saying “I was ‘told’ I needed to preach today”… GAG… barf… blah, blah.. No I didn’t actually puke but it was a close call for me. While I, very respectfully. sat there in his church, I kept thinking, “WHO told you to preach today?” No one I know did. And it wasn’t just his pseudo-Christian gospel bible-thumping scripture-reciting preaching that got to me. It was his showy, dramatic, booming voice, waving of his arms, circus-like, so very fake, antics, almost like he was possessed by something (yea right) that made me want to get up and walk out. All the theatrical crap, bellowing his voice down at us sinners in his congregation who needed to be saved… What a big, fake show he put on for all of us. I’ve been to several funerals and church services at his church to hear my closest (Christian) friend “Nancy” sing and also for several other funerals in the past, mostly for her loved ones.

    My sweet Christian friend “Nancy” is very special to me. I’m the worst kind of heathen-atheist in the eyes of her mom’s pastor, even though I’ve never actually stood up to him and said I don’t believe in his god, or any other god. Why should I bother? I would never hurt “Nancy,” my very special “soul sister” whom I love dearly, with all my heart. “Nancy” doesn’t live in a Christian-fantasy world, she’s been through some serious sh!t in her life and she lives in reality.

    Anyway, thanks for letting me vent. Lawdy lawdy, I need a glass of wine LOL… preferably a nice Merlot… all by myself.

    • @Shelley Too bad I didn’t see this earlier. We could have all had a glass of merlot with you! I hope it helped your blood pressure…

      I always wonder (and you mention it several times)–are those preachers really faking it? Or, do they have some sort of screw loose and they really, truly believe what they’re saying? If it’s the former, then they’re manipulative, cunning, shysters, getting rich off their flock. If it’s the latter, then do we pity them?

  53. I’m sorry, Shelley and I’m especially sympathetic for Nancy to have witnessed such an insulting display towards her and her mother today. More than likely preacher man knew you would be there and “god” told him to preach the “unadulterated” word of GAWD! It never ceases to amaze me of how church leaders, and heads of ministries say that they’re going to put god/jesus/holy spirit first during a funeral or wedding, etc., however, they really aren’t doing so. All things “holy” are just an escape goat to showboat their own talents, charisma, and personality, overshadowing the actual person/people the event is for/about. Let’s say such officiators honestly did worship the almighty during those dedications and services, is it too much to ask god to let go of anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours to honor the respected human being/s of the day?

    Deborah, I would love to read your reaction to those songs I posted. Censoring yourself on your own blog just reiterates to me how well mannered you are, and I respect that.

    • @Charity I will say that Catholic funerals (the ones I’ve been to) seem to be much more solemn and centered on the deceased.

      As for the songs–I had a few smart-ass remarks to make, but in all seriousness I do think they (especially the second excerpt) show how xtians adulterate natural human feelings of passion and lust. God is their object of desire. He is their savior, they’re everything. If a psychologist looked at the believers relationship with god, I think he/she would say that it’s a very unhealthy one.

  54. @LanceThruster We’re in a terrible position right now. Coming out of the Cold War and decades of hating the Soviets and Red China, the American public has been trained to believe that atheism constitutes some sort of moral shortcoming, not simply a lack of belief. Nowadays, with Fox News carrying the torch by saying we want to kill Santa Claus and make the baby Jesus cry, we stand little chance changing the minds of their target audience … not that we had much of a chance at that, but still. Even in the minds of the general public, atheists are among the least trusted demographic.

    And we’re the ones who don’t believe in imaginary beings who watch us 24/7. Screw us, right?

    I think there is a strong urge on the part of nonbelievers to evangelize a bit … but I personally am against it (in spite of all the complaining I do on my own blog. And boy howdy, I can complain.) It’s not time yet. In this generation, I feel we have to just live life as best we can, being open about our nonbelief, but simply letting our actions serve as our example. We need to show the people around us that those without faith (don’t say atheist!) are just as good, moral, just, and charitable as anyone else … so much so that they wouldn’t have known we weren’t religious unless we told them.

    Over the last 30 years, there are fewer evangelical Christians and more “religious but unaffiliated”. In other words, it looks like a shift from a belief in a personal god to more of a Deism. If that trend continues, then we’ll have a little more to work with and a lot less to worry about with regard to the legislation of personal morality and the sullying of our science classrooms with creationist nonsense. It’s a trend in the right direction, but it will definitely take time.

    • @Senator Jason….That’s my stance, too. And I also think, with the rise of the nones and with people like us raising children not to believe, in another decade or two the religious fever in this country will have cooled. Churches are already losing members. Our numbers will grow.

      The more we show others we’re not a threat, and that there is no “war against religion,” the more likely we’ll be assimilated and accepted. We’re in the middle of this transition.

  55. Did you good folks read about the 5 yo killing his little sister with HIS OWN rifle? (Of course you did).
    While that itself is both a real tragedy and sheer idiocy, what riled me to no end was the childrens’ granny saying that “God knew that it was the little girls time to go and that she is in a BETTER place now”. Vomit vomit vomit!!!
    Why is living with ones parents not the BETTER place?

    • @saab93f I saw the headline, didn’t read the article. Why? Because it happens so often and no one does anything about it. Guns don’t kill people!! Very frustrating. As to the god comment…I’ve seen that way too often, too. Unbelievable.

    • The following was in an article in the NYTimes yesterday about confidence. IMO, it shows how believers really have a fractured view of themselves. This person sees herself “through god’s eyes.” It’s not only a huge illusion, but also narcissistic to think there is this perfect, powerful man in the sky who is always delighted with one’s behavior. God as the ideal daddy or lover. Wouldn’t this normally be considered a sign of mental illness? (yes.)

      “One of the calmest letters came from Carol Collier, who works at Covenant College. She wrote: “As a believer in Jesus Christ, I see myself as redeemed, forgiven and covered in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. I believe that this is how God sees me, all the time and without exception. I believe that his smile and delight in me is unwavering. This view of myself is quite simple yet with profound implications. It allows me to accept criticism without self-condemnation and to accept affirmations without exalting myself. This is the ideal view of myself that I am always working at. It is a struggle, but a good one.” ”

      Full article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/03/opinion/brooks-the-confidence-responses.ht ml?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130503&_r=0

  56. I don’t know what it is lately. Today we bought a piano and the guy owns the place found out that I home school. He just assumes that we’re Christians. I hate that just because I don’t want my children brainwashed by the public or private schools doesn’t mean I’m a believer. Then he said that the end of the word is coming and Monsanto is making the famine. Which on a level I agree except for the end of the world crap. Otherwise he was a nice guy, who also home schooled his kids. Then I read this ridiculous FB shared post about a little girl on a plane who talks to an Atheist – no point is made besides saying the atheist doesn’t know shit. I can’t let stuff like that go anymore. I asked her what was the point to it? Thank for letting me vent. Tired of assumptions.

    • No worries, Paula. As Jody said, I feel your frustration, too. Every day, without fail, I see this, too…People assume their way should be everyone’s way. Did your friend respond to your question about the atheist joke?

  57. I understand your viewpoint that you don’t want religious people preaching to you. I personally do not push my beliefs much. I just want you to understand that some of them are doing it to be nice and because they care about you, and that you should consider that in you response. I know where you are at. I have been there too. I just want tolerance on all sides and I do understand that Christianity in general has been intolerant. I would encourage my children to play with a neighbor’s children if I found out they were atheist because I want my children to be tolerant and understanding of different views.

    • @Hi kidnike I understand you don’t mean any harm. However, I don’t believe that the xtians who preach to us are trying to be nice and that they care about us. If they care about us, they will help pass healthcare laws so that every citizen can have access to affordable medical care. If they care about us, help pass more strict gun laws so that we can have a safer society.

      The assumption behind a xtians attempt to preach to us are that 1. nonbelievers are lost/uneducated/confused and need to be enlightened. That is, of course, not true. And 2. your belief system is more correct than ours. That may or may not be true, but since none of us knows, then your beliefs about god are not any more relevant than my beliefs about their being no god. I would not go to a complete stranger and try to talk them out of their belief, and if they truly respect others, xtians should not try to talk us into theirs…

  58. @Paula, I feel your frustration as a mom! I took my kids to a dentist appointment this week. The hygienist was filling out a school form for my older son, and when she asked his middle name, then said his full name out loud, she commented “Oh that’s wonderfully biblical. You are so blessed.” My son’s name, while perhaps sounding biblical to christians, is NOT. He is named after family members. I had a moment of hackles-up defensiveness, then had to take a deep breath and let it go. It was a conscious choice on my part to say nothing. This particular hygienist has been so fantastic with my dentist-phobic son that I decided it wasn’t worth the risk of having her treat him/us differently. But yes, it seems to be a struggle on a daily basis to deal with christians’ assumptions that we are all like them, and we want to chat abot religion etc. in casual conversation.

  59. I’m a non-believer married to a fundamentalist. I finally figured out I was for sure an atheist about a year ago. Before then, I struggled GREATLY with religion, massively struggled for more than half of my life. My husband had his own struggles with his beliefs just before we met and that lasted our entire relationship until we married (which was over 4 years). Until then, I did not realize the depths of his religious beliefs or how they would affect us (as well as how it would be when children came into the picture). I’m becoming more and more confident about my lack of beliefs and I will challenge my husband at times (in hopes that my children sort of pick up on it and eventually challenge them as well since I don’t have much of a choice right not but let him teach them his beliefs). My family I don’t think fully understands. My mom is Catholic, has been for all of her life. I wouldn’t say she goes crazy about it but she definitely believes in God and in the Catholic teachings and I know she wishes that I was involved in the Catholic church as well. My dad I’m not sure about. Last I heard, he was Catholic too (but where he’s at, it’s not like there are a lot of options) but he was at one time Buddhist, I believe. My siblings sort of pick and choose but I think all more or less believe in God (my one brother may be more pagan, I’m not really sure). Religion is not really something that is overly discussed though in my family, to be honest. Friends more or less are accepting of it but I think they see that I haven’t really changed at all (and like I said, I have always struggled with my beliefs so if anything, it’s been the periods where I have tried to take on a religion when I have changed the most). I have seen some hostile comments here and there but general comments and I don’t try to change anyone’s mind for the most part and will even pass things on I know will be of a benefit to them even though they are of no benefit to me because I’m a non-believer. Still, I have been very fortunate to find a local freethinker’s group. That gives me the breath of fresh air I oftentimes need when I feel bombarded by all of the religiosity around me.

    • @Janeen I imagine you have some tense times at home. Does your husband know that you are an atheist?

      • Yes, he does know I am an atheist though he says it’s because I haven’t been called yet. I think it’s more that he has called but got the wrong number. I’m sure though it makes it easier for my husband to believe that there’s a chance at some point that I’ll become a believer again.

  60. @dam, but now you are confusing issues. First of all, I am the first to admit that most religious people are not doing it for your benefit. But I would argue that there are some who are doing it for you. I would also argue that there are many religious people who are trying to provide affordable healthcare, and that there are also many religious people who would like to reduce gun violence. Some of these will also preach to others about their beliefs. While many believe that Mitt Romney represents the Mormon faith and that this shows that Mormon’s are strict conservatives, it is also important to note that Harry Reid is also Mormon. Religion does not always correspond to politics.

    As for your discussion on assumptions. 1. Most people are confused about religion. This is true about believers and non-believers alike. Percentage wise, there are not a lot of people who have thought hard about religion and god and have reasoned idiocy out of their lives, so if you are concerned about someone’s beliefs then it is reasonable to assume they don’t understand yours. 2. You are right, nobody knows for sure until we are dead.

    Now, if someone will not accept your polite refusal to talk about it, and keeps pressuring, then they are wrong and feel free to have at them.

  61. Oh I got no response at all. Maybe she realized that there was no point to it. I have felt such a person relief a couple years ago when I was watching a video with Stefan. He made me realize that all the stuff I was brainwashed into believing wasn’t true. As a kids I knew something was wrong with all of it but I was forced to attend a lutheran school. I have never felt so free to realize that I can just focus on this life I have and enjoy every minute of it. A lot of people hear our story (we were pregnant 9 times and have 2 girls) and would be surprised that we don’t believe in God. It was actually liberating. Now that I’m being honest with who I really am I have found better relationships & enjoy them for the things we have in common. So I don’t mind religious people and if that works for them great. It just doesn’t work for me. Thank you for understanding and letting me vent. Oh buy the way – my husband was talking to this piano guy – the guy told him that he had to pray about this truck he wanted to buy and that he held off for one day so he knew he wasn’t coveting the truck. He took it as a sign that he could buy it when it was still available. WOW.

    • @Paula I feel this way, too: “I have never felt so free to realize that I can just focus on this life I have and enjoy every minute of it.”

      That’s a funny story about the piano guy. Funny, but sad. I play tennis with a woman who told me this weekend that God helped them out of a tight financial situation recently. It’s funny because, as soon as someone shares a story like that with me, I add them to my mental list of people to keep a distance from. One of these days, I’m going to have the nerve to say, “Why would god help you but not help all the other people who pray to him for help?” I’ll say it in a nice way, of course, but I am really curious to know the logic behind these thoughts (if there is any).

  62. What a wonderful post. I did not take the time to read my way through the many comments, but the ones I skim read seem equally thoughtful.

    My wife, who is a doubting Catholic and seems to “believe” just enough to cover her bets in case there actually is a God (plus she likes the comfort of having something to pray to when times are difficult), knows I am an atheist. I used to call myself an agnostic, but I finally had to admit that I wasn’t being honest with myself. Somehow, my wife found my being agnostic much easier to tolerate – she would rather I said “I don’t know” than “I really don’t believe”. So she is less happy with my current position on this than she used to be.

    Also, she has pleaded with me not to make any overt statements about my non-belief to any of her family or friends, as she is certain they would condemn her for being married to an atheist. I love my wife, so I comply with her request. With her family and friends, I just avoid the topic, and don’t respond when they make any “thank God” types of statements.

    • @Chris A You’ve comment here before, and I know you make very good arguments….I think–I know–you’re in a tough situation, having been there myself. It’s hard. I guess before, when you said you didn’t know, you left some hope for her…

      I also think it’s interesting that you’ve resigned yourself to “atheism.” My 17yo tells me all the time I’m not really agnostic, I’m atheist. But, for me, that just implies a level of knowing that I don’t have…What made you finally choose atheism?

  63. LanceThruster

    @dam – I think agnostic atheism is a perfectly defensible position.

    see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnostic_atheism

  64. LanceThruster

    Interestinng listing of authors here – http://www.naturalthinker.net/trl/index.html

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