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How do you tell religious people that you're an atheist?

I live in America and am surrounded by Christians.
Whenever I talk about myself to religous people, I want to say ,"I am an atheist". Do you say that? Is there a better way?

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757 comments

81

I've found that it is better to wait and let people get to know you as a person before you reveal you do not believe in any good/gods. It is harder for someone to write you off or react negatively when they like you on a human level.

God* not good lol oops

Yes, totally agree. Imagine a woman goes a year without talking about religiousity with her partner, assuming it’s even possible to go that long, and she loves almost everything about her significant other and loves spending time with him and they are inseparable. It’s gonna be hard for her to stop being with him just because he said he doesn’t believe in a god or gods. I could be wrong.

I agree with you in theory, Ashley. Although personally, I find it difficult to actually do that in practice, because many seemingly inconsequential, basic premises in discussion, touch on religiously charged topics. For example... Evolution as a big one. Can't talk about living things without invoking evolution!

Agree. I wait for them to ask rather than telling them.

@hanahbanana Absolutely! I've noticed that anyone with a clue will assume atheism fairly quickly once we become fairly well acquainted. If they don't, and are offended after asking, well too bad for them, I don't hide my lack of belief, don't scream it to the skys either.

Nor do believers. I mean, they don't enter a roomful of strangers and say, "Hi...! My name is Grace, and I believe in the Invisible Man, talking snake, and all sorts of weird off-the-wall shit. Nice to meet you."

It's simply something no one would do at a first meeting. I usually wait until they've noticed that babies are disappearing before I let 'em know.

@AshleyM1997 how do you handle being asked to prey?? In the bible belt you might even be asked to lead a prayer or say Grace if you don't let your non belief be known up front

@Jarucker It might work the other way - your significant other tells you after a year that they're religious! Horror!

@evidentialist - unfortunately I've had loads of people proclaim "I'm a christian!" or even worse (possibly) "I'm a catholic!" at first meetings. Time to take a sly step away.

@Gringo6 -- It's their problem then, isn't it? Until such time as they assail me with one thing or another based upon whatever it is they believe, it doesn't concern me what they believe nor what they think everyone else believes. I don't believe in anything beyond the mundane transient stuff we use to maintain a degree of sanity, so I could care less.

I can’t speak for Ashley, but when I am asked to pray I start with silence like meditation. Then I say the things I hope for the group (I always mention cultivating critical thinking)
Then end with something like “with these good intentions let us move onto dinner” or the meeting or what ever activity I am asked to pray for so people know it is done without the Amen.
No mention of God etc.
People generally stop asking you to pray because it is so weird to them. Kind of gives them an insight into how non-believers feel at a prayer though they may not make that jump.

If people ask about it you can say you subscribe to separation of church and state in your life. Or you feel it’s rude to proselytize your believes outside of your personal time and that’s why you didn’t mention God. This is more of a move to plant the seed that it can be construed as rude to ask people to pray religiously at a public function. That you think of it as rude. Maybe a minority might change their behavior.

@Stevil

@Myah i love this! Thank you!

@Jarucker American Atheists have two documented cases of married Atheists for DECADES pretending to each other to be religious. ...separate postal boxes to receive American Atheist membership mail. ...when both took separate vacations they lied to each other for separate destinations AND MET AT AMERICAN ATHEIST NATIONAL CONVENTIONS instead UN-intentionally. ....one couple expressed joy to end their separate secret lives THE OTHER RESENTMENT OVER THE LIES assuming sexual affairs were also afoot. ...THE DEPTHS OF THE CLOSET ARE FOOLISH fearsome and presumes the worst when honesty is the best policy

Edited

I agree with Ashley, once people know you as a moral person who is not sacrificing small children and animals on an altar to the devil they relax. besides it is a good opener to point out we don't worship the devil either!

I generally follow this approach and avoid religion or politics before getting to know someone. However, it is not unusual for me to be asked within the first hour of meeting some about my personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

@Stevil Maybe we should have some sort of form of words to say if we are asked to say grace, like 'We are thankful that we have food before us today, when many others lack it, and we are grateful to those who prepared it for us.'

@CeliaVL I go with " rub a dub dub this is sure good grub, YAY! God" or " good bread good meat, good Lord let's eat!

Edited

@ you can do everything right and make one mistake and she'll never let you forget it that's all she'll talk about about everything that you've done wrong that's what happened to me never anything I did what was right

My wife was a believer but not a church going person and knew I was a nonbeliever when we married. About 4 years ago (20+ years into the marriage) she began attending weekly services at a local church and has since retired and become heavily involved in church activities. So far we are doing well with our differing beliefs, but I can't help but wonder if some day someone from the church will convince her that she needs to end this marriage and find herself a compatible Christian man.

Edited

@Myah I find must believers just assume so is everyone else, if it offends them then that's just their problem for assuming, not mine.

@hanahbanana but they never ask. People just make the assumption that you/me are religious. At least in my experience.

37

I usually say I am a secular humanist. If they don't know what that means, I explain that I don't believe in a god but I do believe in humanity.

Recently in a group discussion, one of our group who is a former minister turned atheist and author of several pro-atheist books, said that he believes that we should say we are atheists. The contention is that some people may not know what the other names or euphemisms we might use, mean. That makes sense to me but my experience has been that when I say I'm an atheist, people are automatically turned off and stop listening or walk away. That's OK with me but it also means that I've missed an opportunity to engage with them and leave them with a good impression of what an atheist might be like!

KLMFTFW Level 5 Sep 28, 2017

I wanted to comment, just didn't know how to put it in words. YOU NAILED IT! Thank you!

29

What I believe is NONE of their business. Unless someone is specifically interested in me and my beliefs... 99% of religious people want to TELL you their religion, not learn about yours.

waterwolfie Level 3 Oct 17, 2017

Just had two stop by to take a survey on spirituality from a nearby church. Simply told them my spirituality is none of their church's business.

Waterwolfie! Yes ! Exactly. They'll go on and on about their "walk with the lord and other holy crap ! I don't want to be rude or mean. Why do they think its ok to drool their beliefs all over me? It's qawdawful !!!

@dutchirish

I need to tell you about my religion if you don't believe what I believe you go to hell!! I better tell you that I'm a hypocrite I enjoy this shit it's fun keep my mind off life

29

Depends on your comfort level. "Sorry, I'm not religious" is what I say if I know they'll be extremely offended by "atheist". Going by my experience, you have to think about your safety. Not religious is a softer blow. Easy to accept. Mainly because they know there are people who believe in a god, but don't participate in religious activities. There's no shame in being atheist, but we're a minority up against many people who would harm us if they got the chance. I'm sure you've seen some of what they've said they'd do. Not all are friendly enough to leave it at "I'll l pray for you" lol.
When I came out to my mother, her words were "you'll know God when you're burning in hell and by then it'll be too late". After that, she started mistreating my kids and trying to indoctrinate them.
I have to ease my way into saying I'm atheist. They think we're beyond demonic and can never be good people. Have to show them different before they judge off what we say we are.

Ember Level 4 Sep 25, 2017

I am so sorry. I would never have thought that personal safety would be an issue. Then again I am a large guy and have been told I'm very intimidating, so not much of an issue for me. But to fear for your kids? I've been down that road but never because of religion That sucks.

I totally disagree with you I think you should get good Christian like me!! I'll talk to my imaginary friend and maybe he or she could help you out!! I'm just kidding I've had terrible experiences in every aspect of my life including Christians there are some who do the walking instead of talking but where in the hell are they!?

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I am non delusional

RonaldJames Level 4 Oct 18, 2017

I like this as it reminds me of saying "non-denominational" so that they enquirer may double-take at the reply.

lolz Ronald smile001.gif

It's my favourite, I've used it many times. smile001.gif

PERFECT.!!! Thank you !

21

I am of the age where I really do not care what anyone thinks of me. If my beliefs are relevant I'll just state them. If someone doesn't like it s/he can F%$# off.

Magnolia Level 4 Oct 20, 2017

You and I are the same. I could give a rat's ass what someone thinks of me. I do not feel I have to explain my belief system. If someone presses me on dogmatic religion too much, I tell them, I go to church everyday, I commune outside, step into mother nature's planet. I see perfection everywhere from a blue jay to a red maple tree, to a magical butterfly, I feel the power of a higher presence.

I'm glad you didn't spell that nasty word the right way because I have very sensibilities and it hurts my eyes to read those four letter words!! This shit's fun!

20

You say, “I am an Atheist.”

Oosaleh Level 4 Oct 27, 2017

I’m with you. If it comes up for whatever reason in a conversation. If that doesn’t work I’ll look them in the eye and in a calm and slow manner say, “I don’t believe in your God.” Then I usually get, “He believes in you.” To which my best response is a big grin, a thumbs up, and comment a simple, “Awesome!”

Edited
20

Very carefully. I got into a taxi cab in Manhattan and the driver, who had recently arrived from Africa, kept saying things like Bless you My Child, and Blessed Be and May Christ be with you. I smiled politely but did not return his religious sayings. He asked me if I was religious and I said I was an atheist. The man pulled over to the side of the road and burst into deeply felt sobs. That's right. He cried. When I asked him why he was so upset, he said I was going to hell and he could not save me. I told him, the best thing about being an atheist is that we do not believe there is a hell so I didn't think I was going there. Unfortunately, he did not understand my sarcasm. It was a very long and uncomfortable cab ride.

PhylStar Level 2 Oct 20, 2017

Hahhha! Great story

It that situation, I would tell the cab driver that he is only responsible for getting me to my current destination. When I go to hell i will probably take the bus or fly. Anything that gets him to shut up about his ignorance would be fine by me if it works. Sometimes they think about your words and your smile and come around. Sometimes.

@prof_braino That's a great response - I'll use it!

Wow, you are brave. If I were alone in a cab with a super religious person, I would never admit to being an atheist. Too many fanatics in this world to take that chance.

The extreme emotional investment is frightening, even when seemingly directed in a benevolent manner. Makes you wonder when that fanaticism might suddenly turn the other way.

When you answered that guy when you said awesome that made me laugh I don't understand these religious people I totally enjoy having all of you all to relate with I used to try to believe that there is an imaginary friend that would watch over me and protect me I was very conflicted about my beliefs about some kind of a imaginary friend that will help the poor bastard but I found out that lies by the way to go because in many cases honesty is a felony

20

I explain that I am a humanist and have no belief in god. People naturally want to "save" you to tell you why they believe. I find firm believers often have a story, a very pursuesive story that helps them rationalize their beliefs. I do not care if others believe and I am not focused on changing their belief system. I let others know this and that if they ask, I explain why I do not believe in a god. I don't try, but I think I set a good example of being "good without god" - that the constructs of "morality" do not start with faith, but a knowledge of how to perpetuate the human race. But even then - that is all subjective. I personally am a humanist - I "believe" in furthering the human species, as well as all other species, on this planet in a sustainable and responsible way - not all atheists or agnostic people "believe" in these ideals. I think overall, you need to be able to have confidence and security in your beliefs. I recently had a great conversation with a former-Yugoslavian region war survivor at my work who firmly believes in god as he is alive due to god's intervention and now lives in a beautiful area in the US. His children are very well off and he is "blessed". He asked me about my faith and I was honest - he initially tried to disagree, but when he began to understand that I was a good person, who cared for him and others, and expressed that I did not rely on "faith" do do this, he accepted that he would not change my position and, as he knows me well as a co-worker, accepted my position. It wasn't "agreeing to disagree", it was accepting our differences and respecting one another. did not seek to tell him he was wrong and I did not hope to have him tell me I was right. Its not about the. He's a cool guy with a great history. It is about respecting each other.

KMEverything Level 3 Oct 18, 2017

And he's probably so traumatised by events that he fails to connect the fact that though god save him, he let an awful lot of other innocent people die horrific deaths.

That was really good the way I look at it if God is good why all the atrocities and Hate the greed the deception I don't see anything related to love in that I believe in a creator more or less the indigenous way of life but I sure as hell don't believe there is a loving God I think maybe you said that we have to have self confidence and like ourselves I have a hard time with those things because I don't hear see things right get things mixed up easily

20

I had some Mormons come to the door, and told them that I was an evolutionary biologist (which is partially true). That was a short conversation.

zanyfish Level 6 Oct 17, 2017

Guess I don't have enough points to actually write a response yet. That's too bad because I've read a few of your posts. Let;s see if this one goes through.

HAHA! Zany smile001.gif

You have a very important job!

20

I don't bring it up but if it comes up I certainly don't shy away from it. I once had a woman tell me how terrible she thought Atheists were. So I said, "Really? I'm an atheist." I try to always challenge their misconceptions about what a non-believer is before I let the truth bomb hit, though.

Tigerwallah Level 2 Sep 26, 2017
19

It depends on the person. Usually I keep my beliefs (or lack thereof) to myself. When pressed (asked to say grace) I tell them that I am not a Christian. (or whatever religion they are) Sometimes they ask for details. If so, I just say that, although I was raised Methodist, I'm not religious.

Some people push, preach, and try to convert me. That's when I pull out the Flying Spaghetti Monster and try to convince them that I've been born again as a pirate, and that "belief" is a choice, so I choose to follow a benevolent god. They never take me seriously and, for each attempt to challenge my belief, I am able to challenge their equivalent belief with even more substance and vigor. It's a lot of fun. It's no wonder that I don't have a lot of friends.

Emul-P-Edmon Level 3 Oct 20, 2017

When they ask me to say a meal prayer. I say over the lips, over the gums, look out stomach here it comes! They stop asking me!

@Jmjmis321 I've never been asked to do so, but I'll keep this one for if I ever do!

@Jmjmis321 my favorite is rub a dub dub this is sure good grub yay! god.

If i happen to be in a "mischievous" mod, I tell them I am a Pastafarin, with no explanation.
If they push the subject and I want to "rattle their cage" I go into detail about the FSM.

@GoldenDoll
My mother-in-law was raised in a Masonic orphanage. She said some of the boys changed the "god is great" prayer to "Gravy is great, gravy is good, we will eat gravy til we are dead".

If you pay me well I can tell you how to have a lot of friends or did you want me to tell you that for free or maybe send the bill to you you have to have the qualities of a Charming cheerful chickenshit just kidding I wish I had those qualities to play these peoples games

18

I am proud of being an atheist, so I just say I am an Atheist, if the issue of religion ever comes up or at holidays when people ask weird questions..but sometimes my "Proud Atheist" or "This is what an Atheist looks like T shirts " gve me away.

Teresa Level 5 Oct 16, 2017
15

Maintain your intellectual integrity at all times. If the question comes up then state your position. 'A' Pride! What are you really afraid of? Ruffling some theist feathers. Remember, 'Better an uncomfortable truth than a comfortable lie.

Atheist1 Level 3 Sep 13, 2017

yes, always maintain your integrity and sincerity

I like your comment i want the truth.

We all must be proud because we are smarter than the brainwashed religious people. We are using our brains, they do not, they not capable to think right.

And if a comfortable lie will prevent harm to my significant other. Ought I maintain my integrity then? Absolute answers always have an exception. (yes it's intentional)

14

It depends on the person. Sometimes I just say, no, I don't believe. If they want to continue with that, I give them as much as is appropriate. If they start to threaten me with eternal torture I say this in not so many words, by John Povlowitz:

"Do you believe in God?”
"People have asked me that question for my entire life.
The answer used to be simple and quick, almost involuntary. I had a tidy little collection of the platitudes and Bible verses I’d stockpiled, committed to memory, and carried around should I be asked. I’d learned it—and I could do it well.
But little by little, I gradually grew less comfortable with those easy answers and I had less and less peace in my spirit with what they implied. I look around at many of the Christians whose God I was expected to share and amen and defend—and I realize that I can not.
I listened to the celebrity evangelists and the partisan politicians and the brimstone street preachers, and knew that we were not speaking about the same thing. We couldn’t be.
As I read the Bible; as I reflected on the world I’d experienced and the people I’d encountered; as I watched what Christians were doing and saying in the name of God, I came to the conclusion that I had to make a distinction between their beliefs and mine—because the two were simply incompatible.
There is a God I do not believe in:
I do not believe in a God who is male and white. (though I will use masculine pronouns below, as this identity is critical to the beliefs I once had but have discarded.)
I do not believe in a God who created women as less-than; who assigns certain tasks to them, who ascribes different value to them, who reserves church and home leadership solely for men.
I do not believe in a God who doles out blessings like a cosmic Santa Claus; adding up our naughty and nice stuff, giving us good things if the scales tip in our favor and withholding them if we don’t measure up.
I do not believe in a God who answers prayers based on volume; who will move to bring healing and help—only if enough appeals are made, when a critical mass is reached.
I do not believe in a God who is capable of permanently writing off His children for their mistakes, their rebelliousness, their unbelief; who would craft a place of eternal torment and suffering and separation—and then send them there for good.
I do not believe in an all-powerful God, who would allow a devil dominion anywhere—let alone in the place where His supposedly treasured children spend their days, as hurting, vulnerable, and scared as they all are.
I do not believe in a God who commands me to forgive others unrelentingly—and then holds a grudge against me should I fail one too many times; a God who is as petty, judgmental, thin-skinned, and vain as I am.
I do not believe in a God who spoke to a handful of people a few thousands years ago through divine dictation—and who is now silent.
I do not believe in an all-knowing God, who would create men and women with a specific identity and natural inclination to love—only to find them repulsive as they lived into those deepest truths.
I do not believe in a God who would choose sides in any war; who would revel in violence, who would rejoice in death, who would celebrate genocide.
I do not believe in a God who blesses America—or any other nation.
I realize that to many Christians, this means that I am not a proper person; that my lack of faith is illegitimate, my lack of religion is heretical, my testimony nullified. I’m okay with that. I know that any bitterness or condemnation that they respond to these words with, is the voice in their head of the God they believe—and I understand. They are, trying to figure out what character is—and how we should live accordingly.
All any of us can do, is to be as honest as we can at any given moment, about where all our searching and studying and praying and living has led us. This is where I am. I can’t be anywhere else. Today when people ask me, “Do you believe in God?”, especially when Christians ask me—my reply isn’t quick or simple or nearly as tidy.
Now my response is, “How much time do you have?”

That was awesomely put...

14

I just tell people that I am an atheist and of course they try to convert me every time I tried to be as polite as possible and tell them that I have no interest in their imaginary Sky Daddy

BBblve Level 3 Nov 21, 2017
13

In my early twenties I was pretty angry and abrasive with my beliefs or lack thereof. I've found that communicating an aura of open acceptance, humility and a willingness to listen completely changes the receptivity of the knowledge that I am agnostic. It almost catches people off guard. There is a stigma attached to being without religion. I enjoy the widening of a person's eyes when they learn that this kind, smiling and generous person doesn't adhere to their beliefs. I enjoy it much more than I used to enjoy shredding their evidence of God.

JLsobel Level 3 Sep 16, 2017

pardon, mam, but I can't help but say "God bless you!" ha-haaaah ! ! !

I think that you have the best approach. I respect people who can approach believers who you disagree with and treat them the same way you do with someone you agree with.

I have found the same. Practicing kindness, compassion, generosity, etc., is both the right thing to do for our fellow human beings and it seriously gives folks pause who have been taught that the godless are wicked. When they discover that that isn't the case - by finding out that someone who is obviously kind-hearted isn't a theist at all - well, that undermines the bigotry against us and may sometimes get some people thinking even more broadly about whether the Christian stories make sense.

12

The simplest response is "why are you a Christian/Jew/Muslim," and the normal reply is either a rehearsed line or a dumb look.

JimLammers Level 2 Dec 15, 2017
12

It's not so much that people ask about my beliefs, but that they assume I believe. And with that assumption they feel perfectly free to speak to me like a comrad, seeking a nod of agreement to whatever they are saying. I usually allow them to go on for a while before I say, "Excuse me # but I'm an atheist and I disagree with everything you've said so far and probably with whatever you continue to say."

If they question me about it with the to learn more, I'll continue speaking to them. If they start the next sentence with but, I end the conversation.

DeniseDeSio Level 3 Oct 23, 2017
11

I'm very matter of fact about it. If it comes up. I don't lead with it, but it's part of my identity so I don't keep it in a closet. I'm like, oh, youre Catholic. I'm an atheist. Like volunteering my ancestors are from Ireland. Next.

jmott Level 3 Dec 18, 2017
9

I have no problem telling anyone that I am not a believer but only if it comes up. Some people want to convert me and think if they keep talking I will come to their way of thinking and see how wrong I am. In reality, it just puts me off. It does bother me that my mom worries about my soul. I know she is a true believer and I don't want her to worry but I also have told her since I was a little kid that I didn't believe so she knows. Now that she is in her 70's, I hate that it adds stress to her.

Cheryl Level 3 Sep 26, 2017

I lost my Mom 10 years ago, she too was a devout believer, there came a point when there was nothing left to do but to humor her and relieve her stress. I attended church with her once or twice. it made her happy.
I never spoke to her about my skepticism and spoke to her in her Christianese language. I held her hand when she was passing and I told her to greet my dad and siblings for me, and she passed away peacefully.
Sometimes love and compassion just calls for humoring people and meeting them on their own level.

My mother too was devout and nagged me relentlessly about believing! Going to church was mind numbingly boring! To much hypocrisy for me! Went to church a few times from guilt but watched as it was more important for her lady friends to see me there than any benefit for me. My biggest realization was, I’m the only one that can make me feel guilty so........thankfully I stopped going to churh

@Donna. Yes that last sentence is what I believe too.

9

I think it depends upon how well you know them, but I have no problem telling people I am an atheist.

8

Telling them you're "A HUMANIST" is a good idea. Maybe they don't know what it is and you can ask them (gently) to look into it. Then, smile and SCRAM! smile001.gif

some of us actually are card carrying members of the Humanist Association. It's worth examining their position.

@Flettie OF COURSE! You'd be doing them a favor!

Good idea, but some need a direct answer. I have family, who after 40 years of rejecting their views still did not recognize my views. In that case I just had to tell them I was a step thing Agnostic. It worked, and they never bring it up again.

@Carolina You don't suppose they think you're in a CULT? smile001.gif

8

I'm an atheist works for me.

Angelface Level 7 Feb 25, 2018
8

I usually avoid religious discussions the way I avoid discussions about Harry Potter or any other work of fiction. If, however, I am dragged into a religious discussion, I inform them that the scriptures were written by a bunch of people with no Idea of how to store grain. This allowed hallucinatory fungus (ergot) to grow and make people see a lot of strange things like talking snakes, talking bushes that burn funny, haloes around heads, and angels. This usually gets them to change the subject

heathen77 Level 6 Feb 18, 2018

Love it smile001.gif

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