What can I say to a relative who’s appalled at finding out I’m Agnostic/Atheistic? Somehow I don’t think telling her I live by the Golden Rule and that I’m still a good person will suffice!
You could try the ol’ “we aren’t that different really” gambit:
You: “Say, do you believe in Zeus or Thor or Appollo . . .?”
Her: “No! Of course not!”
You: “I agree. And, I feel the same way about Jehovah. So, out of the thousands of gods that people believe in or have believed in, I just believe in one less god than you do.”
That won’t suffice because you’re apologizing for not being a Christian. In fact, the very wording of the title of this thread suggests that you need to apologize for it.
Don’t explain that you’re a good person, just BE a good person.
I suppose it depends on the relative, your personal relationship, how often you see her, etc. Is her opinion of you so important that you must win her approval?
In general, I think the less you say the better. Don’t bring it up unless she does first, and then you can shrug and say “Different strokes for different folks” or something equally trite, and change the subject.
“If you require a book and an invisible man in the sky to make you a good person, then the problem is with you.” Though that might be a bit too confrontational for relatives.
What I tell people who challenge me, besides the above, is that faith and truth are not the same thing. The main difference between me and believers is I’m not walking around pretending that I have answers to things no one could possibly have the answers to; that’s truth. If one chooses to believe that he/she has those answers, that’s faith and is not something that can or should be argued.
But ultimately it requires no defense. The burden of proof is not yours.
“I appreciate your concern, but I’m good with where I am spiritually.”
“Bite me, bitch?”
People like that annoy me greatly, so I take some small joy in telling them to go piss up a rope, relative or not.
Why did you have to tell her anything? People start pressuring others for various reasons. I think the number one reason is to brag how thankful they are to be saved. The second top reason is so they can do missionary work and notch their cross. You could simply refuse to discuss spiritual positions with her or anybody else. You don’t owe and answer to these folks.
I don’t defend anything. And people have been appalled before. Generally they don’t find out until they’ve known me for a while, in which case they are often surprised that I am a good person without. Otherwise, I just refuse to discuss it, and if pressed, gently say, “I don’t try to sell my atheism to people; please grant me the same respect”. And stay out of their sphere as much as possible.
Although I get along with both of my parents very well, they are bitterly disappointed that I am no longer a Christian (haven’t been since I was 15) and that I am not raising my kids as Christians.
When the subject first came up, I told them that I simply didn’t believe in it, so calling myself a Christian would be a lie. They accepted that for a long time and left the subject alone, but brought it up again when I had my first kid, trotting out the old “better safe than sorry” argument for raising my kids as Christian. I had to explain to them that I still didn’t believe in it, so it made no sense for me to choose it for my kids over any other religion I don’t believe in (I don’t believe in any of them).
They’ve come to terms with that and we don’t discuss it much anymore. Occasionally, the subject of religion comes up and they ask me if my feelings have changed, but drop it again when I tell them they have not.
As for my moral code, I just try to show it by example.
Ask her how she dares judge you for your decisions. I’d suggest not discussing religion ever but it looks like you’re in Dallas–it’s going to keep coming up whether you like it or not I guess.
I love these short and to-the-point responses, and almost decided to ignore her note. She’s a cousin-in-law and a dear heart I’ve loved since I met her about five decades ago. But now she’s concerned about dying and meeting up with my dad and aunt who will surely chastize her for not explaining (thoroughly enough) to me how to have everlasting life! My goodness – such guilt for her to bear. Geographically we’re very far apart, but I guess there’s no way she’ll ever feel friendly toward me again, is there?
Probably not. Can you live with the crushing dispair that must entail?
The mother of a friend of mine was very worried when she found out her son was an atheist. I once reminded her that, as per the doctrine we were all taught, “faith is a gift: either you have it or you don’t”. It’s been over 20 years and he says it’s still their go-to line. She still does worry sometimes (she’s a worrier, if she didn’t worry about this it would be about something else), but she reminds herself or he does remind her about that line and she calms down.
There are other people for whom I wouldn’t take this approach, but in this particular case I happened to know it would be acceptable to him (he doesn’t reject either God or religion in and of itself, he simply doesn’t have faith - IME there’s as many flavors of atheist or agnostic as of believer) and was lucky in the guess that she’d be able to accept it. I understand his wife used it with her own family, somewhat rephrased: “faith isn’t something you choose, you didn’t choose to believe, I didn’t choose not to. Like my size or my gender, ‘it is what it is’.”
I agree that I don’t need to defend my beliefs, but I can see that their are times when you are expected to explain yourself. Here’s what works for me;
“Do you think there is anything I could tell you or share with you that could sway you from what you believe to be true, concerning your religious beliefs?”
Of course she’ll say, ‘Certainly not!’, at which point you say, ‘I feel the same way. So let’s just agree to disagree, shall we?’
I find this very effective.
Ugh, I just happened to mention the Buddhist thing at the dinner table yesterday with my niece and nephews, and even though they all know I grew up in the same church they go to my youngest nephew is now trying to “tell Aunt Zsofia the Good News!”
ETA - oh, and when I said it, every single one of them said “No you’re not!”
Sure she could. Why not? She’s a little shocked now but if she really cares for you she’ll come to accept it in time.
I don’t bother to defend myself, especially after I got into a circular discussion with my mother about evolution. The same woman who espoused science when I was younger started to cry when I said I questioned the existence of a higher power, or at least a high power who cared. When we started talking about the Bible and whether or not the story of Adam and Eve was true, things just went downhill. Since then, I don’t bother.
I’m not an atheist (or a Christian), but my answer is simply don’t get into it with them. If they’re of a mind that you need to defend it, there’s not a damn thing you can say that will change their mind about you. Don’t try to teach a pig to sing, it frustrates you and annoys the pig.
If they ask, change the subject. If they insist, tell them that you’re not going to get into it with them. If they still insist, say “I’d appreciate it if you’d respect my boundaries,” and walk away.
You defend it by pointing out that the claims of the Christian religion, like those of all others, are absurd and unevidenced, and that you personally prefer to believe ideas you can verify rather than ones you can’t.