I just thought I would share something with you all that happened to me about a month ago.

I am very open as an atheist, but I didn't always used to be. In fact, I used to have a job at a church (even though I had serious reservations about a god). Ironically, this is where all the bricks began to fall out of the mental prison. I saw the light alright, just not in the way they try to force you to in church, ; )

Anyway, as time has worn on, I have found the best thing to do is be honest about one's beliefs when put in a situation where people are discussing it. The reason for this in my case is that I find the bible to be very dangerous to society and degrading towards women, homosexuals, children,and others. I am sick of the cherry picked hypocrisy and flat out lying associated with the Christianity I have come to know- and I think that when it is forced upon you, one should defend their own mind.

That being said, I had a very recent (and unfortunate) incident with a Christian aquaintance (she is the wife of one my husband's friends). This person started bringing up their faith in god, and all this and that while they were visiting me (hadn't seen her in 3 years). I was really gentle about it, and I said as politely as possible that I was a non-believer. The conversation on "gawd all maghty" dissolved immediately, and we went on to other topics. The rest of the visit was wonderful and fun.


Sooooo.... right away after this visit, I started recieving those ridiculous bulk e-mails about miracles, with stupid sayings involving angels, and other assorted religious related crap. I knew it was a direct jab, because I was only getting religious e-mail from her. I told her as plain as day I am a non believer. After about the fifth time I recieved one of those stupid emails, I was over it. This is the typical "Christian love" I am used to. They smear their views all up in your face as an insult, but don't like it when they are criticized for this very inappropriate behavior. Then it is persecution, because as I have come to know, it is only persecution when it is their beliefs being skewered.
So, I replied to her after she sent me a propaganda email about keeping "one nation under god" in the pledge. I have never seen so much fail in one place! Wow! I sent her a very lengthy reply on why I disagree with this stance. I was detailed in my reasons. Did I know it would offend her? You're damn right I did. So why did I do it? Because there was no way to avoid offending her, to start with. But also, I am sick of religous people thinking everyone has to take the back seat to their toxic beliefs because those are their beliefs they hold so dear. You know what? I have my own beliefs that I hold dear, and if they don't like it too bad. They can criticize my thoughts as much as they want. It doesn't bother me in light of the evidence that is there to back it up. They get all ruffled up because it hurts their oh so fragile feelings. At what point does one grow up and come to the realization that not all the people in the world will agree with your magical book? At what point do you realize there is something wrong when you can't handle the thoughts of another person- but fully expect them to sit and nod while you tell them yours? They get all frustrated because of their own lack of evidence. They can't prove their beliefs to be real. They punch at the air.

Needless to say, she and I had a heated argument after she recieved my reply, but as far as I'm concerned she set off the powder keg. I think this needs to happen more often. Atheists need to stand up for themselves. We don't need to resort to violence. We have logic. I explained very logically my problems with "one nation under god" and she was so upset that she just went off. She also said if she and I were going to talk, I would have to not refer to her god as "That guy" or anything other than "god".

Uh, no. No one tells me what I can or can't say. No one tells me what I should or shouldn't feel. No one tells me that I have to unwillingly respect something I won't have in my own life- and for very valid reasons. They have gotten so comfortable thinking that this is a Christian nation. It's time to change that.

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Sweet!
Nerd - well done. Whenever chain mails like that have all the recipients' addresses visible I too hit 'reply all' when firing my gentle but firm the-feeling-is-not-mutual.

At first I'd get angry scolding from the original sender not to do that since I don't know most of the other recipients and they don't know me, but I point out so long as my name is attached and visible on something I disagree with, it's a public discussion and I will make my views public. "If you don't want the conversation to be two-way, use BCC so no one can see each other's addresses."

Some of them still have not learned how to do this.
I've had a similar experience recently with some old friends. They wrote me a letter apologising for offending me, and enclosed a Christian CD! I wrote back, enclosing the CD, saying that the 'gift' was, "inappropriate, unwelcome, and insensitive – especially when we have previously made our feelings about receiving religious material from you crystal clear." I think that friendship is over.
Good for you - we must speak out in the kindest way about our atheism. It is nothing to be ashamed of at all. I would be more embarrassed in believing in god. The tide is slowly turning.
I applaud you.

I'm finding more and more often, people who use religious tolerance to bully others. Friends, family - it makes no difference who they attempt to assault because they believe that the act of being a bully in the name of God is a virtue. When you attempt to explain your own views, they hide behind the pretense of being offended.

I, like you, won't walk on eggshells around them anymore either.
HourglassStargazer,
Your "terrible experience" is not so terrible. Maybe it hurt, but it's good to stand up to the idiocy. You did well, you did the right thing.
I do this too, and I send logical reasoning and call bigotry what it is, sending back to all.
I like what The Nerd did, however, and I'm going to do it too!
We all must continue to speak out just as you did.
Several people have stated that this isn't a terrible experience, and yes I agree it's something that as managable. But that doesn't make it not terrible. How often do we sit back and simply accept people acting like this toward us? Have we learned to tolerate and accepts such assults like this as justifiable?
I have a separate gmail specifically for "forward to everybody you know" assholes. I send an email back to everyone [*], the response varies, but with the following core bit -

Do you know if sending indiscriminate unsolicted bulk email is illegal where you live ? Do you want to find out ? I am more than happy to make spam complaints against each and every person on these indiscriminate forwards to your ISPs and relevant government representatives.

That works surprisingly well.

[*] - http://www.surf7.net/product/tools/extractor.php extracts addresses out of message bodies.
My hands are sore from the applause I have given this story. Thank you. It is usually a sad thing when one loses the ability to communicate with someone they considered a friend. But there is that "battered spouse syndrome" thing, and we simply cannot allow people suffering from that to drag us into their prison... we must always show them the open door, and tell them it really is ok to walk out whenever they can.
It is sad that one of your friends was ONLY a "friend" as long as they thought they could harass you with their beliefs without getting any just criticism in return.

You already know that you did the right thing. No way should atheists have to put up with GENUINE intolerance from theists of any cult without being allowed to stand up for themselves. As for her demands for how you should refer to her deity, your response sounds silimar to my thoughts on the subject. Why respect her beliefs when she has clearly not shown any respect at all for your own?
Very cool to see so many people who understand what this was like. Thanks for all the replies!

Wow, "The Nerd", that was a smooooooth move! Lol. I love that!

It was empowering, but the terrible aspect was that she really hurt my feelings (initially). There is a certain delight you can sense from people who come riding into town on their moral high horse. Just being honest with each other, and letting sleeping dogs lie wasn't enough for her. Why? That was what I was asking myself each time I saw that stuff come sliding into my mail box. I would have had a boat load of more respect for someone who initiated a debate to my face when the subject came up. I felt like she was so slimy and rude in her passive aggressive behavior. She was getting a great deal of pleasure - I think- in sending me these things. She had to either think A. I was going to see them and quietly delete them... or B. Say something that she could get all sensitive about. Either way, she was doing something disrespectful. She was also putting me in a position that was very uncomfortable in light of my husband's friendship with her husband.

I did not say something when the first e mail came in. Perhaps that would have made a difference? I gave her the benefit of the doubt the first time. I thought, well. Whatever. Must have been unintentional. But, by the third one, I was getting pretty steamed. I think even if I had told her gently the first or second time I got one of those, she would have had a smug satisfaction in irritating me. She knew what she was doing.

As it happens, my husband is a Christian. We do not get into too many discussions about it. In fact when all this went down, he jokingly shook his head and called me a "heathen". I told him I hoped that his friend would not take this out on him, but I think his wife was very disrespectful to me. He agreed that she shouldn't have done that since she knew I was not on board with those opinions.
My family has similar experiences with a set of cousins all the time. Rather than dealing with religion, however, it tends to surround politics (given, religion is at the base of it). My parents are fairly liberal and one side of the family is extremely conservative. If politics are brought up during a conversation, the room becomes eerily quiet. After a debate during a family get-together, we all started receiving chain emails about right-wing viewpoints. My parents finally just sent a polite but firm email back telling them to stop. Why so many people feel the need to push their beliefs on others, I'll never understand. I would be utterly embarrassed to force my opinion on someone...

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