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Old 04-29-2014, 11:41 AM
 
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So there is a very religious family friend I am fairly close to these days. I always visit her in the nursing home when I visit my hometown - she's still pretty rowdy, but her cognition is slipping. I think my guard was down because I was very tired on this trip (very whirlwind - literally had two hours to myself over a 5-day period) and she had just dropped some bombshells on me about her past (far racier than I'd ever have expected - I was really shocked, and not in the funny way).

In any case, I was discussing something regarding my family and mentioned my godchild. She looked at me a little funny and I said lightly "Yeah, I know, I'm an atheist with a godchild. It was a long time ago."

Turns out she was just having a hard time HEARING me, and immediately kind of freaked out that I was an atheist.

She was appalled. And I could not walk it back. I've never hid the fact that I'm an atheist, but I don't bring it up a lot. So I guess she never got the memo, and I never kept track of who knew and who didn't. Mainly because I didn't think it was that big of a deal.

I didn't argue with her, though I could have. She talked a lot about the comfort of believing in Jesus. I didn't say that I didn't need any comforting. When she talked about his willing sacrifice, I didn't point out that there are thousands (millions?) of everyday heroes everyday who suffer for their fellow man. When she said she didn't want to contemplate eternity without heaven, I didn't say I was fine with oblivion when I die. I just said I'd think about what she'd said.

So... any way to fix this? I'm not sure if she'll remember it. And I'm worried about her family thinking I was just winding her up for the fun of it (my father is that type of person). Etc. I like visiting her, and I don't want to stress her out if I stop by next time I'm in town.
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Old 04-29-2014, 12:02 PM
 
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JrxDefector,

I think you did fine. You were gentle and polite, you didn't argue, and you just let it be about her and her concern for you. She may remember it, she may not, but don't let her attitude change you and your concern and care for her. Ultimately you can't control her reaction, all you can do is be as caring and gentle as you already have been, and hope that she can get past it.

Not that I think you are in any danger of this, but I would say that you do have to draw the line somewhere. Me personally, I cannot in good conscience pretend to be a believer, even though it might make things easier with some of my family. I choose not to make a big deal about it and deflect rather than confront, but I won't lie about it. There has been some advice from theists that we should just pretend to believe, since we think it isn't real anyway, so what it is the harm, I just don't think I could do that. It feels very slimy to me, even if I claim I am doing it for someone else's benefit.

-NoCapo
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Old 04-29-2014, 12:04 PM
 
Location: City-Data Forum
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Ask her if she remembers, tell her you are sorry that she is so distraught by your views on religion and personal beliefs on the supernatural; you didnt mean to stress her out, and you hope she wont mean to stress you out either with religious talk that you've (respectfully) already heard a thousand times before from others and have come up with acceptable atheistic answers for. She might not overjoy in listening to your atheistic stance, but if she wants to take any comfort, the universe has been full of atheistic cultures and religions, but they aren't as advent about converting others. You, of course, wish what's best for her; and are comfortable that she will know what is best for herself that you will not hound her with your objections to people's religious beliefs. You love visiting, and are hoping that you both will still enjoy eachothers love and respect as people and neighbors.

Hopefully, something like that will allow you both to get over the snagfu of the propaganda she has been fed against free-thinking and atheism.

If no one contacts you with signs of bigotry and segregation, then i'm thinking you are free to go back and visit and hope for the best.
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Old 04-29-2014, 12:16 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JrzDefector View Post
So... any way to fix this? I'm not sure if she'll remember it. And I'm worried about her family thinking I was just winding her up for the fun of it (my father is that type of person). Etc. I like visiting her, and I don't want to stress her out if I stop by next time I'm in town.
When someone in my family talks about religion (although lately it's more to disparage it than anything else), I just say, "And you know what? If it gives you comfort, good for you." With a nice smile, so they know I'm not being sarcastic.

And then I change the subject.
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Old 04-29-2014, 12:50 PM
 
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It's ok OP. This is nothing compare to the very first time I came out during an argument with my mother in my late teen's. I was talking back just like any teen does and it was over something I saw she was in the wrong. Anyways she kept repeating about god punishing me and something like and in my anger I loudly said ''I don't care. There is no god, I'm an atheist, you hear that an atheist'' and obviously she was shocked. She told my father about it right away and for that day kept treating it as if someone messed me up or something but thanks goodness he's an agnostic and understood me better.

It's been a long while since but she's ok with it by now. I didn't mean to insult her but I was upset at the time and well I was younger. You know how a teen can get when they're angry. If there is one thing true is when you're mad, it's easier to come out.

I still haven't come out to all the rest of my family members.
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Old 04-29-2014, 02:19 PM
 
Location: Downtown Raleigh
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Older people are just people who have lived more years. That doesn't make her naive (as you now know!) or fragile. She's just a person who disagrees with you and worries for your eternal life. She'll let you know on the next visit if you need to follow up.
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Old 04-29-2014, 07:23 PM
 
Location: Detroit
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Don't backpedal or try to "fix" anything. You didn't do anything wrong, and you shouldn't have to apologize or feel sorry for your beliefs. I think it's incredibly important that people come out to people like your friend to challenge their stereotypes. It's easy for some religious people to believe that the rando atheist on television is some evil, devil-possessed being; it's not so easy when that someone is their friend.

I'd just visit her like normal next time you are in town. She might remember, or she might not. Either way, don't apologize for your beliefs or lie to appease her.
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Old 04-29-2014, 09:03 PM
 
13,677 posts, read 13,583,473 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RC01 View Post
Don't backpedal or try to "fix" anything. You didn't do anything wrong, and you shouldn't have to apologize or feel sorry for your beliefs. I think it's incredibly important that people come out to people like your friend to challenge their stereotypes. It's easy for some religious people to believe that the rando atheist on television is some evil, devil-possessed being; it's not so easy when that someone is their friend.

I'd just visit her like normal next time you are in town. She might remember, or she might not. Either way, don't apologize for your beliefs or lie to appease her.
Normally, I would agree with you. But she is old and not in good health, with her mental acuity slipping - her life span is now down to months, possibly days. I don't want to rattle her cage, ya know?

I'll be open about my atheism with anyone who has all their cognitive abilities, but I'm reluctant to switch things up on someone who is dwindling away. I maybe have one more visit (possibly two?) left with this woman the next time I am home - I just worry that it might be spent with her fretting about the state of my soul rather than enjoying the conversation.

Her concern was less that atheists are evil and more that she felt I would be missing out on something that she considers to be a very joyful thing.

What I've found when I speak with religious people is that they seem to think being an atheist is a very dark and gloomy business. They are always surprised when I explain that since embracing atheism (rather than just muddling along with my skepticism), I've been happier than I've ever been.
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Old 04-29-2014, 09:06 PM
 
13,677 posts, read 13,583,473 times
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And thanks for the reassurances, advice and anecdotes! I went back to my hometown for my high school reunion, and while the reunion itself was pretty awesome, the other aspects of the trip were quite stressful. I think the damn trip is going to be generating threads for me for the next few weeks. I came back fretting about a potluck of issues - guess I remember now why I moved away!
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