My cube-neighbor is a devout christian, but the type of religious person that's a good example for others: She doesn't preach or advertise her beliefs, but will discuss it when it comes up. I enjoy working with her and like her as a person.
She did irritate me a few weeks ago by saying, "I know you might not like what I have to say, but I think someday, in the distant future, you and your husband will be saved." I just said that I know that's how all christians feel and it doesn't surprise me, but not to hold her breath!
The topic came up again yesterday, and we were discussing our families, what their beliefs are and so on. She said her parents are both religious- her father is a devout catholic and her mother is a christian "but laid back and cool about it," words to that effect. Meaning, not rabidly insane like my mother-in-law that I often complain about.
Then she told me how, once when her cousin and his friend were over the house, the friend ("a man of science, very smart guy") said that he didn't believe in god. So her mom politely asked him to leave.
I was incredulous. "She kicked him out on account of stating his non-belief?!" I asked.
"Well, NO, she didn't [motioning with her leg] KICK him out, she just asked him to leave," she responded.
"That's kicking somebody out, you don't have to do it literally! She showed him the door. Wow. And on what basis?" I didn't get any impression that the guy was being obnoxious or rude. He merely stated his position.
"Well, what would you do if a man came into your house, and turned out to be a thief, or a rapist?"
"WAIT. You are comparing an atheist to a rapist and a thief??"
Cue the backpedaling. She seemed confused and started mumbling something about humanism vs atheism. I didn't let go, and she denied thinking that. "But you just made a comparison of non-believers to criminals!"
"I didn't say that. That's not what I'm saying. You must've been very scarred to think that's what I meant," she replied with that creepy calmness so typical of christians. I was floored.
"You have to understand," I explained, "atheism just means 'non-belief.' That's IT. It makes no statement about a person's morals or character. That's ALL it means, non-belief."
She didn't apologize, and won't, but I hope a small seed was planted in her brain. She's been spoon-fed information about atheists her entire life, and I'm sure she had no idea about the proper definition. I hope she begins to see some of the hypocricy.
In any case, I purchase and am almost done reading "A Manual for Creating Atheists." While I hate carrying this book around and reading it in public on the train due to the provocative title (because people will automatically assume that's what I'm trying to do all the time, which I'm not), it's an excellent book.
Also, I should add: I get the impression that she's one of those that's uncomfortable with "atheist" and prefers to think of me as a "secular humanist." Because every now and then, she asks me to clarify my position. "Are you an atheist or a humanist?"
I tell her that I agree with humanist principles, but I don't consider myself a humanist except by default. I'm an atheist. It's weird, like she keeps asking the question as if to give me a chance to redeem myself and choose the "correct" answer. Wow, so there really are people out there who think it's a world of difference between the two, and obviously one cannot really have morals without subscribing to some prescribed "religion."
Please feel free, and hope it works as well for you.
Keep in mind that to a committed theist NOT believing in god is a sin by simple definition. So you are a sinner right out of the gate, and to not accept god is to continue in sin. Having a meaningful conversation with an unrepentant sinner is next to impossible so she had no idea how to continue the conversation. Better to have expressed your disbelief in terms of YOUR lack of FAITH. That way you can steer the conversation to the subject of faith, why SHE believes as she does, rather than having to answer the unanswerable question about the existence or nonexistence of god.
The ESSENTIAL difference between you and her is FAITH.
I usually respond: "I'm sorry, but I do not share your FAITH in the existence of a supreme being".
Let them respond to that.
I hate to be obnoxious (okay, I really don't mind;)) but she did something in the context of your conversation that shows she is not all that "nice" of a lady. She said you must be very "scarred" to think she meant that. Wow-you thought she meant the EXACT WORDS that were coming from her mouth? That is a disgusting tactic used by brainwashed morons to say that the only reason you aren't a "belieber" is because you were "scarred" in the past. It is a trashy thing to have pulled with you, when she did just compare atheists to rapists.
You could stoop to the same level and suggest both she and her mother must be awfully "scarred' to think that an atheist is as dangerous as a rapist. These mind games they play are huge indicators of what trash lurks beneath the, "I hope you get saved someday" bullshit.
This may be exactly true, Emily, but it is the tactics that the theists are taught to use.
I think we need to be more bold in our statement of being an atheist, and confrontational when believers play mind games with us. Some expect atheist to "not offend" even as believers offend all the time and feel entitled. I found that biting hard enough for them to feel pain is necessary to stop the "pity party, you lack faith, or belief, or god, or jesus, or whatever" and make it very clear that I do not believe in superstitions or scriptures written for Iron Age goat herders riding camels.
I have no problem with people praying, or going to church, or kneeling before some idol. It is when proselytizing occurs, or my morality is questioned that I sharpen my eye teeth and go for jugular.
Yes, booklover/Joan, you summed up my point as well-any person who plays these sort of sick, twisted mind games is not a "nice" lady just because she says "please" and "thank you" and gives a contrite smile now and again. It is very sinister behavior, and should be called out as such. She is a grown ass woman-raised to play these games or not, she knows what she is doing is wrong.
My husband, normally fairly quiet on the topic (he just rejects religion outright to the point where he doesn't even want to discuss ANYthing), came home all fired up last night, and had to tell me what he learned before even sitting down.
There was a mandatory seminar about harassment and such, and he said that what my co-worker said constitutes harassment. He explained that I need to document what she said and when (which I did above LOL) and if it happens a third time, to consider reporting it within 180 days or so- beyond that and it's too late.
I told him that I have a thick skin and can handle it, but he pointed out the difference between my general comments about religion and her direct comparison to an atheist (which she knows I am) and a criminal. And then to add the "very scarred" comment on top of it, that's pretty direct.
I doubt I'll ever report her, and told him I had no desire to stir up trouble in the office. He said that I don't have to report her unless SHE goes running to HR and starts things up first, based on how hyper-sensitive and not entirely logical she is.
Anyway, just putting this out there in case it helps others! I can't see it getting to that point, but good to know there's some recourse if it does.