The other day, I met this really nice woman with whom I have a lot in common. Or, at least, she thinks we have a lot in common. And from the outside, we do, although as soon as she wished me a blessed day, I knew otherwise. But she wanted to exchange numbers and set up lunch.


So we set up a time to meet, and I realized that as a nonbeliever, I have to make a decision. Actually, we all have to make these decisions every time we meet a potential new friend—or even a prospective girlfriend or boyfriend. Do we tell people early on in the relationship that we are atheists, agnostics or humanists and risk alienating them immediately? Do we wait until the friendship is well into its third trimester and allow the truth to come out naturally? There is always the chance that we will be able to demonstrate through our actions that those of us who don’t believe in god should not be feared.  On the other hand, they may continue to be friends with us while holding us at arm’s length like a poopy diaper, thinking “ewwww.” Or should we continue to hide who we are? After all, it’s nobody’s damn business what we believe about gods, demons and spirits, alcoholic or otherwise.

Unfortunately, a couple of times, after I’ve come out to friends that I’m not part of their club, they’ve been cordial, but different. Definitely distant. It’s like we’re now wearing masks of ourselves with a permanent smile. Of course, that’s not friendship. And clearly, it never was a friendship. Friends shouldn’t like you because you’re their twin or their mirror, unless, of course, they’re extremely insecure and need constant reinforcement.

On the other hand, I also get it that some folks just want to be friends with people who are like them because life outside the box is just too damn scary.

So I’ve decided that I will carry on as usual. I’m not going to make an issue of religion or wear my beliefs on my proverbial sleeve. If the topic comes up, I’ll be honest. I won’t hide the truth about who I am if confronted.

If this turns out to be a deal breaker, as it has with some of my previous friends, then the truth is, that says more about them than it does about me.  They’re doing me a favor.  I wouldn’t want a friendship with someone who judges me on my gender, my skin color or my lack of belief in the story of god.

That’s my two-cents. What’s yours?


76 responses to “Dilemma

  1. Religion (or lack thereof) has never stopped me from being friends with other people. I certainly don’t use it to judge another person. Because I think life is precious, I respect and value the opinion of all of my friends. Quite frankly, some of the best advice I’ve received is from friends who don’t believe. I find that when you think rationally, after pushing the supernatural out of the way, sometimes the best course of action was right in front of you the whole time.

  2. As someone that was raised Jewish, I always felt like a bit of an outside when I would tell someone I didn’t believe in Jesus. People are actually still shocked that I am of Jewish decent since my married name is very Italian! I don’t explain my non religious beliefs unless it comes up. If someone chooses to be distant or stop a friendship over it, then it isn’t a friendship worth having.

  3. When I let a devout believer know that I’m an atheist they usually try to convert me, then run away in some way or another once they find out that I know what I’m talking about and can’t be easily swayed by the kind of platitudes they have at hand.

    I generally test the waters with both feet and have a “let the chips fall where they may” attitude, perhaps to my detriment.

  4. I know how you feel! I’ve felt this way so many times too. Hell, I have this problem w/ my own family. But you’re right that if someone refuses our friendship or views it differently simply b/c of our beliefs (or lack thereof in their mind) that says a LOT more about them than about us.

  5. I, personally, don’t think the type of person who’s going to stop talking to you because you’re a non believer is the type of person you want in your life anyways.
    I’m Roman Catholic. My husband and maid of honor are both, and have always been, atheists. I don’t ever remember a time when I didn’t know this.
    I also never remember a moment of conflict or lack of acceptance of this. The two of them are two of the greatest people I know (obviously). The fact that they don’t believe what I do is just that, a fact. One facet of their million-faceted persons.
    It helps that they in turn don’t judge me for believing.
    As far as the “blessed-day” thing…try to think of it as someone saying “Good Luck!” because that’s all they really want for you. It bugs me too sometimes, just as someone telling me they’re praying for me (unless they are very close to me) bothers me. It’s like “look at how selfless I’m being for you, give me a cookie!” But I do say, I’m a very blessed person as much as I say I’m a very lucky one.
    In the end, I find people that are more worried about what religion you are (or aren’t) than what you are or aren’t as a person just not worth my time.

    Sorry for the longness. Just like to speak up for people who have both faith and logic. 😉

    • @Ms.Isabella Thanks for taking the time to comment. There are a lot of ex-Catholics who write here. I’m one as well, so I have several friends and relatives who are still men and women of faith. Some religions are definitely more tolerant than others….It doesn’t bother me when people say have a blessed day or that they will pray for me. It only bothers me when people use their religion as a club to beat others with–or when they try to force it on others.

    • @Ms.Isabella Your opening statement says it all.

  6. I have had two totally opposite experiences with “coming out”. Last Christmas I was with my family, and for all intents and purposes my wife and I are the open Atheists in the group, but not all of my family knew. We never hide it, but we never bring it up unless it comes up naturally. Most of my family is devoutly religious and they wear it on their sleeve, working god into conversation with a regularity that only prunes can give you.

    it came up that I was going to TX in March for a conference, and when my cousin asked what conference I was going to my wife and I just looked at each other across the room and smiled. One of those secrete communications only possible through tight bonds and understanding that spoke of “Well this should be fun”. When they heard me say “The American Atheists Convention” you could have heard a pin drop. I swear the volume on the TV went down in the background. My wife had a better view, and she told me that my cousins mouths were agape, and that other people behind me literally stopped what they were doing and started intently listening.

    Now this last weekend I was at a dinner party in Vancouver BC with a wonderful group of my wifes friends and work colleagues. A mixed group of probably every belief you can find, religious, spiritual and atheist. Conversation turned to family and I talked about the visit to TX where I met up with my sister prior to the conference. When they asked what conference the reaction could not have been more diametrically apposed to last Christmas. They actually applauded. I think most if not all of them assumed that I was religious because I come from America (though I hardly count Seattle as being stereotypical America).

    • @Katoth That’s a funny story, and I could see that happening in many families. Was that the conference in Austin? You have a sister in TX? If so, you know there are some very religious pockets here in this state (and the entire south, really). Although, of all places, Austin is the least religious, I think. I lived there for a bit and loved it.
      I can only imagine what people outside the US think….

  7. It is a sad junction, isn’t it? I’ve had friend/neighbors CRY over me because they just “can’t bear to think of someone as nice as you going to Hell”….which made me say “Well, then think about that, ok? Really, if there is a God, you think he is THAT unreasonable? That he would condemn a good person?”

    I think that scared them more, not less!

    My own spiritual life is a skeptical-mystical hodge-podge; I don’t really mind anyone practicing no religion (prefer THAT to most ways of practice I observed) or a religion that comforts them….as long as they don’t impose their religious rules on those outside their faith. But I do find the longing for lock-step conformity of belief horrifying.

    Why can’t we, as humans, find more common cause in similar needs and longings….and in helping each other without recourse to deities rushing in to save us?

  8. This is such a relevant post and I thank you for it. I vacillate on this myself. I’m such an outsider, being both an atheist and transgendered (male dressing as a female to be specific). I’ve tried mentioning aspects of myself at different points in new relationships and nothing ever seems to be obviously correct. I’ve concluded, at least for now, to just be myself and enjoy whatever relationships develop. I don’t mention my beliefs, gender identity, or politics unless it comes up in normal interaction. In my experience, by the time these topics come up, the other person has already fallen into liking me and if they disapprove of some aspect of myself, they end up rationalizing it in their own head. Almost all of the time, it’s an educational experience for them. I consider that just being myself without hiding is opening up teaching moments. It happens quite often.

  9. First off… don’t overanalyze the situation. If you were meant to become friends then you will, if not than not. I agree that if anything about you (from your belief to your driving style) offends the other party to the point they don’t want contact, then so be it.
    At the start of any relationship the important thing is to be yourself. If a subject comes up naturally in a conversation then discuss it honestly at that point. Don’t force conversation subjects just to get them out of the way. Getting to know someone new is a journey, most of the roads lead to a deepening of your friendship. But if you happen to run into a dead-end then it wasn’t meant to be.

    • I agree Kevin. But you know sometimes if you do that you just know that there’s a “train wreck” coming later…

      • Kevin and Unglued, yes, I think that is the biggest fear of mine. I fear that down the road there will be this discovery followed by rejection. It almost feels deceitful sometimes and I know that isn’t healthy. But I don’t know how to handle it any other way than to just let it come up later if it even does.

  10. I would opt for the indirect approach as well. Just be yourself, and let her see the kind of person you are without prejudging you based on your religion or lack thereof. If the topic comes up, obviously you should be honest and forthright, but ideally it will be after she already has a favorable impression of you. It may not help in the end. She may squirt you with a water pistol filled with holy water she keeps in her purse specifically for this kind of situation, but it might also be an opportunity to build some bridges and show some believers that their impression of atheists doesn’t quite mesh with reality.

  11. When you hear that phrase, “have a blessed day”, it is an opening for a reciprocal response. Your new friend wanted a blessing in return. By not responding to her with a parting remark to assure her that you want her day blessed as well, you have already acknowledged who you are back to her. (I don’t know how you responded to her, I assume you made some kind of comforting remark!). The ball therefore is back in her court. She can either like you for who you are without reservation, try to change you to fit into her mold of what a friend is, or ignore you completely, because she was offended that no blessing came from you.

    When I was much younger I took these verbal clues from new friends much more seriously. I hid my beliefs in an effort to respect theirs, tip-toeing my way around so as not to offend their feelings, and thereby ignoring my own. This was especially true when my son was very young. I did not want to offend any friends of his, or their parents. It was also so rare to meet anyone who agreed with my ideas that I took friendship when I could and made the best of things to have associations with people.

    Now that I am older, I realize how foolish I was. It is better to have one true friend than dozens of false friendships based upon false assumptions that they have of you. A true friend will respect you for how you conduct your life, and how you treat your friends and family; for how you walk your talk. Nothing else matters. To me there is no dilemma here. Be yourself, and hope your new friend likes you for who you really are.

    • @Sandra Hmmm. Good observation. I just say “thanks.” I hear that phrase a bit around here, and I never thought that maybe they were expecting a specific response.

      I agree here, “A true friend will respect you for how you conduct your life, and how you treat your friends and family; for how you walk your talk. Nothing else matters.” I’m always a little wary of people who have a lot of friends anyway. It’s hard to maintain a lot of close relationships like that. I have a lot of acquaintances, but only about seven or eight friends who I’d call in the middle of the night.

      As a nation that is transitioning away from religion, I think that I have to set an example first with my actions. New atheism has set a bad tone, and it’s made people defensive. I don’t feel the need to tell people about my religious views any more than I should tell them my shoe or bra size. It’s that personal. And I’d like for them to keep their beliefs personal, too.

  12. I think you are handling it the right way. I almost never talk about religion. When I have outed myself as non-religious (I never say “I’m and Atheist”), it has been because I have been asked directly. One of my friends is a minister’s wife. She was very understanding and we had a lot in common. Another friend is deeply religious and she knows where I stand yet has never, ever judged me for it. Currently, I am working with two older women who talk about god sometimes and they also believe in the paranormal and some other “odd” things. I have never let on that I am not into religion. They both really like me. Soon I won’t be working there and I have no intention of telling them, just because I don’t think it matters, they accept me as I am right now. I just wish there wasn’t such stigma associated with the word “atheist.” When and if I do tell people, I just say that we (my husband and I) don’t practice any religion. I think it comes off less threatening.

    • @Gina. Yes, I agree that it’s best not to bring up if possible. There is still a lot of stigma around the word atheism. By being non confrontational, if they do find out later, we’ve set a good example and perhaps even changed how they see us.

  13. I’d like to believe we could all make adopt lifetime friends based on what we have in common, not what we do not share. But the fact remains, as Deborah wrote about, I also have many friends that would become distant “friends” if I were to say that I was a non believer in their religion. My only heart wrenching moment over that is there are few people that I know that are truly devout in their faith that I love dearly that would feel they had to chose to pray for me every day. My telling them would cause them true heartache. That bothers me some. I don’t like to cause the people I care about pain of any kind.

    Ponder this thought also:

    How distant do you think they’d become if I just said I believed in a different religion instead of no religion? Do you think in the eyes of a Believer, that no religion is the worst possible life choice?

    • @Beck. I understand and have chosen not to share my beliefs with some family members so as not to cause them grief. I think people would be more accepting if you said you switched faiths (as long as you remained Christian). When you step outside of the belief that Jesus is your savior, then you are damned and going to hell. I do think, though, that it is worse to be a nonbeliever because so many people still think we are amoral. What are your thoughts?

      • @Deborah… Yes I agree Deb. To say that you that you don’t practice a faith (non-believer) to many people I know would earn me that exact status you mention.

        If I’m pressed about religion I tend to reply with “My religion is kindness.”. It sometimes ends the questioning nature of some conversations. However, regardless of what a persons idea is on the subject I try to treat everyone as I hope they will treat me.

        I welcome hearing different and new ideas and thoughts obviously since I come from a Southern Baptist background and now have shed all of that for logic.

    • @Beck I wouldn’t say, as a believer, that I view no religion as the “worst possible life choice”… actually not associating with religion is somewhat easy to grasp because there is so much corruption within the realm of religion, it’s understandable why someone might fall away from the “system”.

      However, I think it gets much harder for me to understand someone who does not believe in God at all. Just “harder” in that – it is hard for me to comprehend – not in that it makes me think less of that person or judge their choice as a “bad life choice”. Particularly when that choice has been made after deep searching, researching, and evaluating.

      • @Molly – I sometimes wish I could still say I believed. But I’ve never been able to go back “there”. Whatever labels and beliefs and differences people have however I find that is what makes life so interesting. To me it brings me closer to people because I want to hear and learn all I can in life. It makes me happy when people are brave and choose their own path.

        • @unglued you wish this just to avoid conflict? to make life easier? I don’t think you should feel like you have to deny or hide who you are. But I understand maybe sometimes you just feel its not worth a fight or you don’t want to even have the conversation….

          One of my dearest friends just came out as a non-believer to me, and although I knew she no longer practiced Catholicism, I was surprised to hear that she didn’t believe in God at all. Still, my opinion of her and friendship with her is unchanged, at least on my end.

      • @Molly It’s hard for me to understand why people believe in the human-created version of god. Really. I don’t get all of that. If I were to believe in anything, I’d believe in Ben Franklin’s god.

    • In my experience, the religious people I know would find non-belief worse than having another religious belief. The reason is that although they may not believe in the other religion, they assume it gives the person a moral grounding and thus they are at least a good person. This distinction, however, would only apply to people who were already another religion. For example, to someone raised Jewish. They would not be very approving of a Christian who converted to Judaism or another religion.

      • @Karen “…they assume it gives the person a moral grounding and thus they are at least a good person.” I agree– people seem to believe this, but I wonder if folks would be as accepting of Muslims or Hindus.

    • @Theresa I have to disagree with this approach. It is more or less forcing one to become self-censorious on a very important issue. If family are having conniption fits because you don’t believe the same as them, then trot out this old chestnut (works only for christians): “Judge not lest ye be judged.”

      We have every right to be as open and free with our philosophies as they do theirs.

      • @Derrick We absolutely have the right to be as open and free with our philosophies as they do theirs. Fortunately, I don’t have this problem with family at all. I was more referring to acquaintances or other folks I don’t know quite as well. I just don’t bring it up and don’t felt the need to make any proclamations about my lack of belief. I figure it’s no one’s business – just the same as I don’t want to hear about their bible study.

        • This is my approach, too. I don’t want to be preached to, and so I try to give the same respect that I’d like. There’s a lot of things that I don’t agree with about religion. I oftentimes think, how can people believe that sh*t? I feel free to talk about it here because people know what they are getting and because we’re all pretty frustrated with religion in our country. But I’m quiet with my nonbelief in person.

          I don’t think religion (and belief in god) is going away in our lifetime, though I think many are leaving the church. If it brings people comfort, and they’re not using it as a club or measuring stick, then fine.

          On the other hand, if someone is being rude and in-my-face with their religion, then I will engage in a discussion. But unless I’m asked or confronted, I keep my opinions to myself because it’s such a touchy subject. I don’t think this is a cop out. I just want to teach my kids to be kind and tolerant.

  14. It seems to me due to the current political divide in US politics, some people feel the need to define themselves as religious. Furthermore, their personal biases tend to work their way into conversations. However, I do realize it’s my choice to be affected by their behavior. I must add that I reside in a highly political community.

  15. You’ve already gotten a lot of sound advice. I have little to add.

    It is very sad that religion does often come between people. Just the other day I read about Jehovah’s Witnesses and their habit of shunning those they kick out or who leave. Those psychotic raving lunatics (I could use stronger terms if my view on them does not convey…) do value their “relationship” with Jehovah over their siblings, spouses or even children. Sick sick sick…

    I am not as big a person I could hope to be – I could most likely not be friends with a JW. More benign religions however matter little, as Ms Isabella wrote, it is only a facet or a layer of a person. Most of my best friends are believers and we just don’t agree and that’s that. Our friendship is big enough to contain that.

    • @saab93f. For sure some religions are more accepting. Many of my friends are Catholics. They seem to be less judgmental, and having been one, I can relate. Some-like the Baptists or Mormons-are more difficult to sustain friendships with.

  16. I think you are doing the right thing in letting the topic come up naturally, and not making an issue out of it. If people are open and curious in how they live life, it will not be an issue. But I hear you with that mask thing, that happens so often, even when religion isn’t in the picture. It takes a while for the masks to fall off. I’ve always felt that friendships take a really long time to cultivate, like a garden. They grow, flourish over some seasons, die off a little sometimes, then come back and change over the years, always with something new. And as your friends get to know you and you get to know them, the trust develops and deepens. That doesn’t happen easily and it won’t happen at all if we are hiding who we really are. It’s true, some people are more comfortable having friendships with others like them, ok, that’s fine, but they are probably missing out.
    One of my very good friends is pretty conservative in both her religion and her politics, but neither of us gives a flip. On the occasions when we can find time to get together we rarely discuss religion or politics. We each know how the other believes, and don’t care much about it. Our friendship is based on other things, and when we manage to get together for drinks or dinner we pick up right where we left off the last time and talk our fool heads off all night.
    But I must say I don’t have a lot of really close friends anymore since I left my religion. Leaving the JW religion means losing your whole support network and all your friends. Often family too. Now whenever I do have the opportunity to meet new people I just let the topic come up on it’s own, if it even does. And I always feel a little weird about it anyway. Saying “I was raised in a cult, not allowed to go to college or date, so as a result I really have no use for organized religion any longer”, tends to make a conversation awkward for believers and non-believers alike! 🙂
    The only exception I made to this rule was during the years when I was single. If I started dating someone and it became clear the relationship had a future, I felt it was the right thing to do to let them know about my background before we got in too deep. That way they could run while they still could!
    So good luck with your lunch, hopefully you will end up with a potential new friend!

    • @Angie Yes, I like this: “I’ve always felt that friendships take a really long time to cultivate, like a garden. They grow, flourish over some seasons, die off a little sometimes, then come back and change over the years, always with something new. And as your friends get to know you and you get to know them, the trust develops and deepens.”

      Friendships, especially for those of us who are more introverted, takes a long time to develop. They are also time-consuming, so we need to decided which potential friends are worth the time and energy investment.

      I am with you on dating and clearing the air. But, for me, not only did I want to give them a chance to bolt, but I had to bolt once or twice myself when I came across some real….ummmm….unique Christians!

  17. Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.

    I never mention religion, mine or theirs, and IMHO it’s a discussion that shouldn’t occur until you are already very good friends.

    • @PiedType Yes, if you can help it, religion doesn’t need to be discussed until your good friends, if then. I’m always amazed by the people who show up on my doorstep wanting to talk about god or hand out pamphlets about their church. We recently had some Mormon boys who asked if they could “help the family in any way.” I politely decline, of course, but I felt bad for them– that they were giving up their youth riding around on bicycles, pimping for their religion.

  18. Sigh. Yes, I know exactly what you’re talking about. I, too, have lost friends when I’ve come out as a non-believer – even my oldest friend, who I had known since we were both 12-year old geeks in seventh grade Home Ec class – she dumped me unceremoniously when I began being as open with my non-belief as a lot of believers are with their belief. And you’re right, there’s always that tension when you meet someone new . . . “Is this going to be a deal breaker?” you wonder. And it stinks, because when you get right down to it, it just shouldn’t matter, should it?

    • @Lisa That stinks. I’m sorry to hear about that because, from what I know of you (through your mind and thoughts), you’re an honest, caring person….I know it’s clich, but true: her loss.

  19. I think there are a lot of issues that we don’t bring up with people when we first meet them: religion, politics, money, sexual orientation. I think we all make assumptions about those things through the way others dress, talk, hold themselves, etc., and we are always making snap judgments on the fly.

    Hey, sometimes we’re caught off guard, and then we find ourselves at a crossroads: “Whoa, I would have never guessed she was gay/libertarian/communist/aristocratic/pastafarian/Beiber fan (ewww….)/[insert epithet here]…I mean, am I cool with this?”

    It’s the natural way relationships develop. Most of all, I don’t think we should ever assume who other people will react. Your instincts seem good to me, Deb: be yourself, roll with it. What have you got to lose?

  20. I’ve learned that it’s best to not say anything unless the subject is brought up whether it’s at the beginning of a friendship or if you’ve known one another for sometime. The results will depend on how open minded and accepting that individual is regardless of the timing. I’ve had both who have known me for years and others not long and the result has been the same, which is that they distant themselves. If I can accept them for who they are and their beliefs it’s only fair they do the same for me. So I’ve come to the conclusion if I can’t be myself and be accepted for my beliefs or lack thereof then it’s not a friendship I wish to pursue.

    I was at a tailgate party a couple of weeks ago. The subject arose about a family who moved into the community a couple of years ago and that her son plays with their boy. She blurted out “Their Mormon”. I thought to myself WHY does that even have to be brought up??? Course everyone at the party are Lutherans and attend the same church. This same gal is an individual I have known for over 20 yrs. When she found out I was a non-believer she got all snobbish on me and pretty much doesn’t really give me the time of day anymore. But there is something I know about her that I’m sure no one else in the community knows. She’s not the saint she projects to be so knowing that I don’t let her holier than thou attitude get to me.

  21. It’s possible her attitude is similar to your own, nervous about what you’ll think of her when she tells you she’s a “Christian.”

    Or…she’s eager to tell you but still nervous at your reaction but seeing it as her duty in case you “change.”

    Hopefully, she’ll just be your friend with no ulterior motive.

  22. I think people should be able to express who they are without fear of judgment. Personally, I would not choose someone who is that judgmental to be a friend. In fact, isn’t that one of the hypocrisies of religion? Religions often teach their followers to be tolerant and accepting (even Ghangis Khan preached tolerance) when in practice many of their followers practice just the opposite.

  23. I most of the time let it come up naturally and have had surprisingly good results. If I want the person to disappear quickly, I usually jack it in pretty early to get rid of the! Lol!

  24. Call me chickenshit, but I typically prefer not to even discuss religion with people around here. As you’re well aware, coming out as a member of the local undercover heathen chapter is pretty much social suicide. Besides, I’ve always felt that religion (or lack thereof) is sort of a personal thing. Aren’t “we” not supposed to flaunt it? Anyway, if she is actually a friend that you want, she will understand and stick around. If that’s a deal-breaker, then good riddance.

  25. Debbie, always interesting stuff going on here. Thanks for building and supporting this community.

    Anyway, time for another story that, hopefully, is on point.

    A little over two years ago I heard some of my work colleagues muttering in a disgusted manner about another colleague who was wearing a small pendant with — I think — was a quote from the quran on it written in Arabic. They were all but questioning this person’s loyalty to the United States and even to humanity in some regard. Needless to say, I ripped into them, and lost one friend in the process (see my comment to Ms.Isabell further up).

    Because of that incident, I ordered (http://www.evolvefish.com/fish/jewelry.html) and now wear an Atheist pendant that I let hang outside of my shirt, just like many of the christians do and jews do with their symbols. It’s funny, but most people never comment on it. Those who do often look gobsmacked when I tell them what it is because most don’t realize Atheists have synmbols. I like wearing it since symbolism is very important to almost everyone. Moreover, it’s an open declaration in a quieter mode than I usually employ.

    Of course, I am a known quantity with my friends, where I work, and where I socialize. People who try to judge me based on my not sharing their beliefs are no friends of mine. That’s when I get to have fun and let my mouth out of its cage. As I said before, it’s astounding to watch people react in horror when they are judged the same way. The arguments do often last one and rarely get repeated with the same person twice.

    I’ve mentioned this before on this board, but one of my best friends is a Franciscan monk (Capuchin, OFM)… actually it makes him a friar. He’s known from day one I am an atheist. His mentor, one of the greatest people I’ve ever known, told my friend it was important to maintain friendships with others of different beliefs and faiths. That it would him stronger both as a person and as a friar. It’s been nearly thirty years now since we’ve been friends, and our differences in belief has actually brought us closer together as friends. We challenge one another’s thinking all the time.

    Lesson: We should be who we are. We will find and make strong friendships with those who see past the veil of philosophy and religion and look at the core of the person. Sometimes, those friendships will be the strongest and longest lived.

    • @Derrick I have a relative who’s a priest, and I have no idea if he knows my views. But I would hope that he would feel as your friend does about you.

      I don’t know what I’d do if I heard coworkers criticizing/ganging up on another coworker over their religious views. I hope I’d be brave enough to defend the person. I don’t think one religion is any worse than another. Christians and Muslims and Jews oftentimes don’t realize how much they have in common. Their religions all grew from the same tree.

  26. I could not agree with you more. This is something I think about all the time. We almost always know that the other person is religious because they have no problem talking about it. We accept them into our lives knowing we don’t believe in the same things. We open ourselves up to new friendships. We hope that if the subject does come up that they will be just as accepting of us as we are of them. Unfortunately, this is not always the case…so they were never really our friend to begin with.

  27. Consider it a sign of respect to share your views openly and honestly with others. If the subject of religion doesn’t come up, you have no need to do so unless you choose. However, if the other person brings it up, you have no reason to hide that aspect of who you are, again unless you choose to do so.

    • @LT. Nice way of looking at it….

      • It’s too bad so many religionists are unwilling to discuss theology and philosophy openly as dissension is too much for them to handle.

        How on earth can religious people believe in so much arbitrary, clearly invented balderdash? … The acceptance of a creed, any creed, entitles the acceptor to membership in the sort of artificial extended family we call a congregation. It is a way to fight loneliness. Any time I see a person fleeing from reason into religion, I think to myself, There goes a person who simply cannot stand being so goddamned lonely anymore – Kurt Vonnegut

        • @LT That is certainly the most humane way of looking at the religionists: “Any time I see a person fleeing from reason into religion, I think to myself, There goes a person who simply cannot stand being so goddamned lonely anymore – Kurt Vonnegut”

          Some folks (like our family members) were raised in religion. There is fear to leave, to even examine. The JW shun their loved ones, so atop of losing the extended family, they lose their blood relatives, too.

  28. My boss is a Christian and knows I’m an atheist but in the three years since my deconversion the subject has only come up once as part of a five minute discussion. We talk about everything else (work, family, life) like any two friends would or should. That’s the way it ought to be.

  29. This is a relevant topic for me right now as I’m advising my college freshmen on how to deal with this situation while making new friends. She feels she should not need to ‘hide’ who she is and finds herself to often be more educated on the topic of religion than most of her Christian peers. However, this certainly puts off a lot of teens who have been raised not to question and to be wary of ‘devil’ (this was last weeks issue – when she was asked not only if she believed in the devil then, but if not she must have some possession).

    I am suggesting to her that it does not need to be a topic until she has established a friendship and then, not until it comes up. If she meets individuals who are outward vocal initially, then certainly she can share her stance, but then she probably wouldn’t be close friends with them in any case.

  30. Hey Debbie,
    I don’t know how I unfollowed you. I kept thinking “why isn’t she showing up in my reader?” Sorry about that.
    I don’t feel so bad when I see that someone as smart and as experienced as you in your non belief is concerned about when to tell whom what. I’m not celebrating your uncertainty, it just makes a newbie like me feel normal. Thank you for that.
    Being that I’m not even two years into all of this, I don’t have a definitive answer for you. In all honesty, as different as some of the comments are, anyone of them can be right, depending upon you, the other person and the situation at hand.
    I think as religion comes up, deal with it in your kind and honest fashion. You don’t have to volunteer anymore information than what you need to. I don’t know, I don’t really have any friends in the flesh around me. We did tell some friends we’re atheists, but we (my family) has been building a friendship with them (their small family) since the very beginning of this past spring. We didn’t tell them until the beginning of August. We still text each other and hang out two or three times a month at each other’s houses. There must be something there for it to have lasted this long. At the same time too though, we have taken our time. We had been burned dozens and dozens of times while we were Christians by other Christians, so, this time around as non believers, we are taking this friendship with this family slowly. They have a dog and one little boy, and live in our neighborhood. They’re really nice, but like us, they’ve seen a lot of shit within their own families, the military, social services and Church. Their little boy goes to a private Christian school, but I think it’s because the mom still holds onto faith just a little bit. However, he has adapted well to it and they don’t wan to pull him out of it, all parents can understand that.

    • Thanks, CHope, for the great insights.

      I think that, not only are solutions different for each person, but they also change over time. I don’t know how I will handle these situations down the road. It’s all a work in progress. But one thing that does remain true–as you said–is to deal with things in a “kind and honest” fashion. Always. 🙂 Nice to hear from you.

  31. That’s crazy. I literally just clicked “publish” on my blog post where I admitted that I’m now agnostic, after being an extremely fervent and conservative Protestant for, well, most of my life. One of my musings was that I was afraid that I might lose friendships over this. It’s not like I’m going to be trumpeting my beliefs (or lack thereof) from the rooftops, but because of my background most of my friend group are the fervent, conservative Protestants and I’m almost sure that some of them will, as you put it, hold me at arms length like a poopy diaper, or slap on the mask with the permanent smile, or worse yet, make me their evangelical mission. We’ll see. I just thought it was funny how timely this post was.

  32. We will soon be building a house on a beautiful piece of land we found. We’ve known who our builder would be for some time and we recently discovered he was quite religious. As we walked the land a couple days ago to pick the house site, he said he likes to pray on the site before breaking ground to make sure he’s doing the right thing. So, as we prepare to break ground in the next few weeks, I figure there will be an invite to pray. Quite the dilemma…he doesn’t know my beliefs and will be building the house I plan to spend the rest of my life in. I don’t want him to say he can’t build it and I don’t want to mis-lead him.

    I figure I’m probably going to let him know that I have faith in him building a good house for me and my family, but if praying on the site will help him feel better about it, then I will be there with him if he wants.

    It’s just how some people deal with life and I’m not going to judge him because of that. He’s a good person and I like his work, so he’s the builder for us regardless of his religious beliefs.

    • @JR It’s a little thing in the big picture, and it’s nice that you are willing to show a fellow human respect like that. You could make an issue of it, but if it doesn’t bother you, I see nothing wrong with bowing your head while he prays. His prayer will not affect your house. Good luck with the building process.

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