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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.
Most of the people I work with are christians. By sharing my personal beliefs as a non christian to several that I like, I soon picked up the vibe from others that this info spread like wild fire. I can tell as they look at me and judge me they have singled me out as some kind of nut case. It's so condescending as they talk about attending bible studies, baptisms, lent, etc, etc. If I were to talk about attending women's choice marches or atheist meetings ....well you can just imagine. Many like myself have to stay underground. I'm more open about my beliefs now but still have to listen to their nonsense while biting my tongue. I'm hoping in generations to come this will change. I am seeing more progressive thinking with millenials and this gives me hope!!
At this time, I don't say anything about my personal beliefs. However, I'm making progress. How?
I no longer tell people "I'll pray for them" especially in situations where they're asked for. Instead, I tell family and friends and even strangers I'll be thinking of them or I'm sending positive thoughts and vibes their way. If point blank asked, I say that I don't believe there's some guy in a white robe up in the sky waving a magic staff deciding one person will get cancer and another will win the lottery. We all have control of our own lives. [BTW, I'm from Georgia (USA) so my actions are considered blasphemous.]