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Old 04-03-2014, 05:43 AM
 
Location: SC
8,793 posts, read 5,666,073 times
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I have found that the worst thing about being open a about atheism is that as soon as your friends or coworkers find out about it, you are in for at least an hour or two of q&a about how this terrible thing happened to you.

I know they all mean well, so I don't take offense, but it is tiring going through the standard lighthearted initial conversion attempt along with explanations as to how you went wrong and what can put you right again.

This conversation has a frequently familiar pattern and almost always comes to an end after they suggest that i could get the answers i seek by reading the bible, talking to x, y, or z, or prayer - either for me or by me. The stunner and conversation killer is when i respond that, "I don't have any questions that I want answered." This is when you find out who will continue to be your friend and who will slip away.

I always am patient with them and answer all their guestions, "yes, at one time I did attend church - until I was 14", "yes, i have read the bible", "yes, even though i have no desire to be preached at by anyone - especially those less moral than I - I know you are supposed to put your faith in god, not in man."

I always wonder why they think it is acceptable for them to try to persuade me that my "beliefs" are wrong and the product of some great error.

The only problem i have with people who don't know, is that when they are down and in need of comfort, i do not let them know at that time, because then it would be about me and not about them. So i come up with wishy-washy platitudes that i hope will make them feel better while not lying or offending them. When they are down is not the time to spring my thoughts of atheism on them.

Last edited by blktoptrvl; 04-03-2014 at 05:53 AM..
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Old 04-03-2014, 09:30 AM
 
Location: South Carolina
3,533 posts, read 2,451,228 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John13 View Post
Doesn't sound like much of a friend to me. I'd rather be lonely.

I can't recall I've ever been backed into a corner like this but I know I wouldn't lie about it. I have no problem with dodging the question to something like "he will be in my thoughts." If that's not good enough and I'm pressed further that person is asking for a good strong dose of reality. And I will be happy to oblige.
Expecting me to say "okay" when asking me to pray for someone ain't gonna happen.
Yeah I'm sure my disbelief honesty was the topic of conversation after I left. I'm getting better at simply stating I don't believe in god rather than just blurting out I'm an atheist, softens the blow a little I think. It's all new to me having to deal with this stuff since I was a Christian for so long and I don't want to make any missteps. I don't want to hurt anyone or have heated discussions about it, I'm done with all that so if I have to keep it a secret from certain relatives I will continue to do so.

I don't want to be dishonest but the well being of others is something to consider. I feel it may be a little self-serving to just be blatant about it and not be concerned about how it will affect others.
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Old 04-03-2014, 09:34 AM
 
Location: South Carolina
3,533 posts, read 2,451,228 times
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Originally Posted by MysticPhD View Post
Ask yourself why it really matters to you, my friend. Why is it important not to tolerate or accommodate their nonsense in such trivial ways? Is your life not sufficiently fulfilling without publicly parading your disbelief around? Is this an abreaction to your earlier public parading of your belief? Have a sincere inner talk with yourself about these things, my sister. Peace.
I have asked myself why it really matters and the simple answer is I don't want my Mom to find out because of how it would affect her. If I tell some of the other family members it will get back to her so that's why I don't tell them. I don't care to parade my disbelief like I did my belief, it's totally different now Mystic and you know that. I just want to be able to be myself without judgement.
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Old 04-03-2014, 10:05 AM
 
3,404 posts, read 2,252,114 times
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Originally Posted by Northsouth View Post
I have asked myself why it really matters and the simple answer is I don't want my Mom to find out because of how it would affect her. If I tell some of the other family members it will get back to her so that's why I don't tell them. I don't care to parade my disbelief like I did my belief, it's totally different now Mystic and you know that. I just want to be able to be myself without judgement.
I don't know if it is any comfort, but what you are dealing with is very common. It is awkward, and difficult to try to keep something so fundamental from coming up without being dishonest. It is certainly a balancing act. It isn't a problem with my wife's family, but with my family we have kind of settled into a don't ask, don't tell situation. My wife and I made the mistake of being open with one of my cousins, and it has strained relations with a large portion of the extended family. I expect my family has heard, but as long as they don't mention it, I won't.

It isn't worth damaging the relationship over, so I do my best to keep it a non-issue.

However, unlike what Mystic seems to be saying, personal integrity is important. I cannot and will not pretend that I believe in a God, I cannot threaten people with Hell, or promise them the comfort of the Holy Spirit with any kind of integrity, just to make someone else accept me. I do my best to be tactful and non-confrontational, but if someone is bound and determined to make me profess belief in their god as a precondition of having a relationship, then we will not have a relationship. They would take the same stance if I asked them to abandon their faith, I don't see why it is "parading one's unbelief" to ask that the street go both ways...

-NoCapo
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Old 04-03-2014, 10:43 AM
 
Location: Somewhere out there.
6,867 posts, read 3,791,335 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MysticPhD View Post
Not worry, Cruithne . . . it is just a forum debate. There is no raw nerve involved. I have no beef with you personally. Your posts just had primacy in the queue. I am an advocate of realism . . . not self-deception and pretense to unattainable perfection. There isn't a human being alive who isn't dishonest . . . it is just a matter of what things they are dishonest about and what they pretend they just cannot be dishonest about. It is all a largely self-serving facade.
The 'pretending' part is when you are hiding the truth, not the other way around.
Nobody 'pretends' what they cannot be dishonest about, that doesn't even make sense.
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Old 04-03-2014, 12:08 PM
 
8,341 posts, read 9,806,954 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Northsouth View Post
Yesterday I spoke with my sister who is unaware that I'm now an unbeliever. Her FIL passed away and she was asking me to pray for the family. I didn't have a clue how to respond except to say "uh-huh" or "ok" but I have yet to find the right words when it comes to something like this. I just said I was really sorry and that I would send a donation. I know people think I'm a coward for not just being honest but there are so many things involved and it just wouldn't be well received. So I keep it to myself.

I met a new friend over the weekend and I made the mistake of saying I didn't believe in god.....wow what a chilly reception. Here in the bible belt people equate non-belief with the devil so I'm sure I've been red-flagged. Then there was a side discussion that I caught parts of about god and I made another mistake of asking if the god-conversation Wasatch over with and it made my other friend cry. She never would say what she was upset about but I know that was it. So these are some of the reasons I don't talk about it or mention it. I get so sick of hearing about "god", praise "god", pray for me, I'll pray for you, on and on and on.....you get the picture. Makes me want to shout "I'm an atheist!!!!" from the rooftops sometimes but I'd probably be picked off the roof by these gun-toting idiots around here.

What the heck do you do? Any suggestions about what to say or do?
I went through that for many years. I was a closet atheist surrounded by fundamentalists. Most of my family and wife's family. Most people I work with are very religious. You know what? I got tired of pretending, of hiding who I was. Why was I elevating their opinion of me over my own self worth? Why was I giving them so much power over my life? I finally decided I had enough and quit lying. Now I no longer feel shame for being atheist, and will outright make it known if the subject of belief/religion or lack thereof comes up.

I truly think if all atheists would just quit pretending and stand up, things would only improve. Nothing changes if people continue to hide. You know atheists are considered the least trustworthy people in the US? It's because mainstream religious folks have it in their head that we are all satanic criminals with no moral compass. What they don't realize is most are working with atheists, have family with atheists, but those athiests haven't spoken up. Once they see we are good people, the pressure for others to hide will fade. . Look at homosexuals. For all time they've been shunned and ridiculed, having to live two lives. The tide is turning thanks to their boldness to stand up and say "hey, we are people just like you". So athiests, quit hiding. It will make things better for all of us. Just stay out of Saudi Arabia though. Atheists have been officially declared to be terrorists.

Last edited by 11thHour; 04-03-2014 at 12:42 PM..
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Old 04-03-2014, 12:48 PM
 
13,682 posts, read 13,611,373 times
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Reading this thread, I feel like I must be on another planet. I have friends of varying degrees of faith of varying religions, not to mention a variety of political leanings. The majority of my friends are probably left-wing atheists like me, but I'd say there's a healthy sprinkling of people who have different viewpoints in my life. We agree to disagree, and I think we appreciate the elements of diversity we bring to each other's lives.

I don't get this freaking out if someone holds different beliefs. If they're not a romantic partner and they're not advocating hatefulness and bigotry and if they are an overall good person, I really don't see how such things should affect the friendship. Everyone knows my views on religion and politics; I know theirs. They trust that I am reasonably intelligent and have followed a particular logic and conviction to arrive at those beliefs, and I afford them the same respect. We don't hide our beliefs, but we steer clear of things that will result in an argument, just because we know we're not going to change each other's minds.

But I don't understand this idea that MysticPhD is putting out that people should hide the reality of their beliefs. Why would I not be my authentic self within my personal relationships? I'm open about who I am, and my friends, romantic partners and co-workers often comment that I am exactly who I say I am, and that I behave consistent with my character in whatever situation I'm in. And I'm really proud of that. I'm sorry, but if I bring up the fact that I'm an atheist to make a point in a discussion and that offends someone to the point that they view or treat me differently, pfffft. Who really cares? The relationship was obviously not that solid to begin with.

Now, I'm not being flippant. I know full well that this is a really hard thing for a lot of people who may face the loss of friends and family for being true to who they are, whether that be an atheist or a liberal or gay or whatever. But I find it just bizarre that they are being taken to task for wanting to be authentic and honest in their personal relationships, like that's some sort of luxury rather than a fundamental building block for a strong and secure support network.

As someone who spent much of her formative years as an outcast for a variety of reasons, I can say that I understand what you are seeking and how isolating it is not to have that, OP, and my heart aches for you that you don't have it. I'm not saying you abandon your current social circle, but I'd say you should maybe wean yourself off of placing emotional investment in them and redouble your efforts to find friends who maybe don't necessarily share your beliefs but respect your right to have differing beliefs. Head out on a social quest to find these people, join some more groups, attend some concerts and festivals and whatnot. Maybe travel a bit more outside your local range? I dunno, but you do deserve people who accept the person you are rather than the facade you must maintain to prevent exile.

And maybe think about coming out and setting some serious boundaries. Look, I'm a liberal atheist in a conservative family that is mostly Catholic. Everyone knows this about me. My mother FREAKED when I told her I was an atheist. But I also made it pretty clear that it was a topic that wasn't up for debate - I would cheerfully hang up the phone or walk away from the conversation. My father HATES that I'm a liberal. But again, I will hang up the phone or withdraw from the discussion when he starts to get on his political hobby horse. I don't criticize their views for the most part, and they don't criticize mine. Basically, the only thing I demand from them is common courtesy, and respect for my intellect and the decisions I make based on that. It's easy for me to have that emotional distance though, because I have an alternative social circle and support system.

I dunno, OP, maybe it's time to consider moving to an area where there's more like-minded, or at least more accepting, people. Because I can't imagine living in an area where I feel like I need to tamp down on who I am and hide my most deeply held beliefs simply because if they were discovered I would be an outcast.
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Old 04-03-2014, 02:54 PM
 
40,099 posts, read 26,761,498 times
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Originally Posted by Northsouth View Post
Yeah I'm sure my disbelief honesty was the topic of conversation after I left. I'm getting better at simply stating I don't believe in god rather than just blurting out I'm an atheist, softens the blow a little I think. It's all new to me having to deal with this stuff since I was a Christian for so long and I don't want to make any missteps. I don't want to hurt anyone or have heated discussions about it, I'm done with all that so if I have to keep it a secret from certain relatives I will continue to do so.
I don't want to be dishonest but the well being of others is something to consider. I feel it may be a little self-serving to just be blatant about it and not be concerned about how it will affect others.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Northsouth View Post
I have asked myself why it really matters and the simple answer is I don't want my Mom to find out because of how it would affect her. If I tell some of the other family members it will get back to her so that's why I don't tell them. I don't care to parade my disbelief like I did my belief, it's totally different now Mystic and you know that. I just want to be able to be myself without judgement.
That is what I thought and I completely understand and agree with your beautiful and considerate motives. it is not that you would be self-serving to parade you disbelief as you did your belief. It is that it should not matter now that you consider it all imaginary anyway . . . and as you said it would hurt those you care about. I support you 100%, my friend and always will. It is never easy caring about others at the expense of our preferences. Peace my beloved sister.
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Old 04-03-2014, 04:34 PM
 
40,099 posts, read 26,761,498 times
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Originally Posted by JrzDefector View Post
But I don't understand this idea that MysticPhD is putting out that people should hide the reality of their beliefs.
That is why I was reluctant to advance this discussion in this area. That is NOT what I am advocating. There are always multiple factors and impacts to consider in the complex world of human relationships. I admit to having an extreme dislike of the often completely bogus ("I can't be dishonest" nonsense). It is always just a matter of what we are capable of being dishonest about and with whom.
Quote:
<snip>
I dunno, OP, maybe it's time to consider moving to an area where there's more like-minded, or at least more accepting, people. Because I can't imagine living in an area where I feel like I need to tamp down on who I am and hide my most deeply held beliefs simply because if they were discovered I would be an outcast.
Your entire diatribe reeks of egocentrism and you completely miss the point that started this discussion. It is NOT about the OP feeling like an outcast. It is about NOT hurting others she cares about who feel deeply about something she now considers imaginary and causing unnecessary discord and dissension over it. I find that a majority of those who most vehemently proclaim "i've gotta be honest" about contentious things are primarily self-centered and inconsiderate human beings looking for attention. My friend is not . . . so I was asking her to consider what it is about revealing her disbelief that is so crucial to her . . . given it is about what she now considers to be imaginary anyway.
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Old 04-03-2014, 04:51 PM
 
3,404 posts, read 2,252,114 times
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Originally Posted by MysticPhD View Post
It is about NOT hurting others she cares about who feel deeply about something she now considers imaginary and causing unnecessary discord and dissension over it.
But you believe both Hell and the OT picture of God to be imaginary. Do you just agree with those who would consign a portion of humanity to torment, so they will like you? Do just agree with them and encourage them in believing these things simply because you think they are imaginary, so they don't matter? I sincerely doubt it.

All of us have been saying the same thing, we have to temper ourselves and compromise to get along, but sometimes the "compromise" involves either pretending to be something you are not, actively lying about things you consider important, or staying silent about what you believe to be harmful. That is a line that for many of us that is just one step too far.

None of us are advocating needlessly causing strife, but even in your original advice, you gave exceptions that you do believe are worth dissenting over. Clearly there are some things, and they may be different for each person, that are worth standing up for. Ultimately each person has to decide for themselves where that line is, and in my experience, it is almost never where you would like it to be. You go as far as you can tolerate, and then try to set some boundaries. Its the best you can do.

-NoCapo
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