How to bear uniformed bigoted comments

I found an interesting post written by an American atheist reporting about her negative experiences with religiously conservative members of her family.

Atheism: a consoling delusion for people who can't handle the reality of God's existence.
The atheistic delusion? Is this a fair and intellectually responsible look at the situation?

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Musings on the Eve of a Family Reunion: Things not to say to your atheist relatives if you want them to continue to enjoy your company

This weekend, we’ll be traveling for my family reunion. Usually, it’s one of the highlights of my summer, but this year…feels different.

I don’t like conflict. It’s not enjoyable for me at all. It makes me feel shaky, to the point where sometimes, I will physically shake. My head will spin a bit. In bygone times, I sometimes backed down from it for just that reason–it felt insurmountable. Nowadays, I’m not so apt to back down, in part because I usually formulate my beliefs based on reasons that I can defend if I need to. That doesn’t mean that I want to, though.

Looking down the barrel of this weekend, I’m incredibly stressed at the prospect of interacting with my family as someone who’s “out and proud” as a nonbeliever. I am afraid of having to constantly defend myself–not because I can’t, but because I don’t want to. I want to be accepted with the same acceptance that I have for them. Unconditionally.

I work best when I can take these worries put them down somewhere outside of my own head, so here’s my list of things you should never say to your atheist relatives if you want them to enjoy your company and not dread having to interact with you. Enjoy.

1. This isn’t how you were raised.

2. You’re just going through a dark time.

3. You’re just rebelling.

4. You just want to be able to sin.

5. Can’t you see God all around you?

6. *any variation of “But Christians really believe this…” or “That person is not really a Christian…”*

7. What does your life mean?

8. What if you’re wrong?

9. How can there be morality without God?

10. Why do you hate something you don’t believe in?

11. You’re just mad at God.

12. You’ve just encountered bad Christians.

13. You really believe.

14. You do have faith. You have to have faith in (science/evolution/etc).

15. Don’t you want to believe? Just in case?

16. God doesn’t believe in atheists.

17. You can’t prove that there’s no god.

18. You’ll be back to God when you need him.

19. Why don’t you give your children a choice?

This is just a brief list, some of which is compiled from personal experience and some from wider stories and interactions online.

Basically, what I’d like to see in interactions with my family is the same lack of ulterior motives that was there before I left religion. I’d like to believe that all of our interactions are in good faith.

I have reason to believe that’s not the case–if there’s one thing our family does well, it’s gossip, and there’s definitely plenty of it circulating right now. I suppose my other wish would be, if I can’t have that lack of ulterior motives, to have brash, bald-faced honesty. I’d rather put it all out there, no half-truths or veiled questions.

If I can’t have no conflict at all, I’d rather just have it out and get it over with.

Instead, I’m stuck somewhere between the two, imagining conversations that might be, and hoping that they won’t be, and wishing that I didn’t have all of this knocking about in my brain. And fully realizing, of course, that it’s just as likely that I’ve blown all of this up in my head because I’m simply an anxious person.

No way to know at the outset. As the cliché goes, the only way out, is through, and so through I go.

Toodles. 🙂

****************

Here is my answer to her post where I draw on similar experiences.

Hello Kayla!

I’m an European progressive Christian and really love this post of yours:-)

“I want to be accepted with the same acceptance that I have for them. Unconditionally.”
I truly like that part. I can very well relate to this and hope that things will get better in your case.

As a Christian, I feel extremely disgusted by the anti-atheist bigotry which is commonplace among American fundamentalists.

I certainly think you should respectfully explain them the reasons why you’re an atheist and reassure them that you are still leading a moral life.

While I think that what you hear during such meetings is mostly offensive non-sense, I find that the following question is genuinely interesting:

“9. How can there be morality without God?”

It can be understood in two ways:

a) if you don’t believe in God, you’re gonna be very immoral
b) without God, objective moral values do not exist

The first interpretation is one more of these fundamentalist insults.

The second interpretation is a philosophical assertion which can lead to very legitimate questions, such as:

“Can objective moral values be meaningful in a completely material cosmos?

Many atheist philosophers would answer that no such thing is possible.

I also want to react to

“19. Why don’t you give your children a choice?”

I am all in favour of giving children a choice. I think that good enlightened Christian parents should always say something similar to that to their offspring:
“Look, we’re Christians, we think this is the best worldview and we believe that atheism is wrong and flawed. Yet, we do recognise there are reasonable and lovely people among other religious communities and atheists.
Therefore, we really encourage you, our beloved child, to make up your own mind.
If you sincerely conclude that atheism is true based, for example, on the problem of evil, then you should follow your conscience and Reason and give up your faith.
God will never punish a sincere person following his or her honestly acquired convictions.
Either way, stay always kind, loving and humble.”

Since your relatives would most likely never say that to their kids, they’re probably hypocrites ,

Now I wanna share my own experience.

I’m a Germanic Frenchman born in secular France and I often went through an ordeal similar to the one you’ve described.

In France, the reigning ideology is called Jacobinisme and it can be summarised as follows:
“French is the only language of the country. All dialects and other languages ought to disappear from the public sphere. Religion is a relic of the past which ought to disappear completely or at the very least become insignificant“.

I fell away from Jacobinisme by beginning to proudly speak and defend the declining German dialect of my region and becoming a Christian.

I then began to hear the following things from relatives and acquaintances:

1) You’re an old-fashioned fossil
2) You’re religious just because you’re “a weak animal”
3) (mocking my German accent)
4) You shouldn’t speak in dialect in the presence of French people
(after I had just whispered something to my father in our Germanic dialect)
5) What a religious brain-washing you underwent!
6) You speak German because you’re a Nazi!
(forgetting that my half-Jewish motherly grandfather could have perished in a Nazi death camp)

and so on and so forth.

As I documented elsewhere, anti-religious people can be as bullying and intolerant as their fundamentalist counterparts.

I usually also base my beliefs on reasons I can defend and a while ago I decided to react to these claims while trying to remain as kind and respectful as possible.
As a rule, I have no problem defeating their weak arguments and the discussions evolve in other directions 🙂

I wish you good luck with your relatives.

I hope we’ll have opportunities to interact with each other in the future.

Best wishes from Lorraine / Lothringen (my homeland).

fundies-anti-theists
Fundies and anti-theists fighting each others.

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The cave where death never was

Die Höhle, wo der Tod nie war.

La grotte, oĂą la mort n’a jamais Ă©tĂ©.

English

Deutsch

Français

The Scream.jpg

Then I said to myself, “The fate of the fool will overtake me also.
What then do I gain by being wise? I said to myself, “This too is meaningless.”
For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered; the days have already come when both have been forgotten.
Like the fool, the wise too must die!”
Kohelet.
Da sprach ich in meinem Herzen: “Wenn mir doch das gleiche Geschick widerfährt wie dem Toren, warum bin ich denn so ĂĽberaus weise geworden? Und ich sprach in meinem Herzen: “Auch das ist nichtig!” Denn dem Weisen wird ebensowenig wie dem Toren ein ewiges Andenken zuteil, weil in den kĂĽnftigen Tagen längst alles vergessen sein wird. Und wie stirbt doch der Weise samt dem Toren dahin!
Kohelet.
Et j’ai dit en mon coeur: J’aurai le mĂŞme sort que l’insensĂ©; pourquoi donc ai-je Ă©tĂ© plus sage? Et j’ai dit en mon coeur que c’est encore lĂ  une vanitĂ©.
Car la mĂ©moire du sage n’est pas plus Ă©ternelle que celle de l’insensĂ©, puisque dĂ©jĂ  les jours qui suivent, tout est oubliĂ©. Eh quoi! le sage meurt aussi bien que l’insensĂ©!
Kohelet.

http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/~/media/NPWS/Images/Parks/Borenore-Karst-Conservation-Reserve/park/sandstone-cave-02.ashx

Raymond saw that the whole cave of Saint Barbe, by the village of Falck in Lorraine, was shaken.
Raimund sah, dass die ganze Höhle der Heiligen Barbe beim Dorf Falck in Lothringen erschüttert wurde.
Raymond vit que toute la grotte de Sainte-Barbe, près du village de Falck en Lorraine, où il se trouvait avait été ébranlée.

He looked at the apparition which was glaring at him in a way no mortal mind could have ever interpreted.
Er schaute auf die Erscheinung, die auf ihn auf eine Weise blickte, die kein sterblicher Geist hätte je deuten können.
Il observa l’apparition qui lui lançait un regard qu’aucun esprit mortel n’aurait jamais Ă©tĂ© en mesure d’interprĂ©ter.

“If you truly seek salvation, you won’t fail to heed my words and lay down the weapons you’ve deceptively acquired”, the otherworldly creature said.
“Wenn du wirklich das Heil suchst, wirst du ganz bestimmt meine Wörter beachten und die Waffen fallen lassen, die du dir auf eine betrĂĽgerische Weise angeeignet hast”, sagte die Kreatur aus einer anderen Welt.
“Si tu cherches vraiment le Salut, tu ne manqueras pas de prĂŞter attention Ă  mes paroles et tu laisseras tomber les armes que tu as acquises Ă  travers ta tromperie”, dit la crĂ©ature d’un autre monde.

“What are you talking about?”, he answered in a defying tone while swinging his sword.
“Wovon redest Du denn?” antwortete er mit herausfordernder Stimme, während er sein Schwert schwang.
“Mais de quoi parles tu ?”, repondit-il avec une voix de dĂ©fi tout en brandissant son Ă©pĂ©e.

A sound vaguely resembling a laughter resounded in the cave.
Ein Geräusch, das etwa an ein Gelächter erinnerte schallte in der Höhle wider.
Un son ressemblant vaguement à un rire résonna dans la cave.

“I know you aren’t quite satisfied with the fate which awaits every creature of your kind.”
„Ich weiss, dass Du nicht ganz mit dem Schicksal zufrieden bist, das jedes Geschöpf deiner Art erwartet.
« Je sais que tu n’es pas tout Ă  fait satisfait du destin qui attend toute les crĂ©atures de ton espèce. »

You know, the thing you call…Ah, what’s the word? Death?
Ich meine…das Ding, das ihr so nennt…Ach, was ist das Wort? Tod?
Je veux dire…cette chose que vous appelez…Ah, quel est le mot? Mort ?”

All your feelings, desires, dreams, longings and noblest achievements will inexorably trail off into space one day, am I correct?”, the unknown being replied.
All Deine GefĂĽhle, WĂĽnsche, Träume, SehnsĂĽchte und edelsten Errungenschaften werden sich eines Tages unausweichlich in die Luft auflösen, nicht wahr?”, erwiderte das unbekannte Wesen.
Tous tes sentiments, dĂ©sirs, rĂŞves, soupirs et tes accomplissements les plus nobles disparaĂ®tront un jour inexorablement, n’est-ce pas?” rĂ©pliqua l’ĂŞtre inconnu.

He sighed.
Er seuftzte.
Il soupira.

fading-flower

“Yes.”
“Ja”.
Oui.”

“I am aware you would do anything you could to quench your thirst for immortality”, the thing added.
“Ich bin mir bewusst, dass du alles mögliches tun wĂĽrdest, um deinen Durst nach Unsterblichkeit zu stillen” fĂĽgte das Ding hinzu.
“Je suis conscient que tu ferais tout ce que tu pourrais pour combler ta soif d’immortalitĂ©”, ajouta la chose.

“Indeed. How could I not? My own life is what matters most to me”, he answered while whispering, fearful of being heard by other sons of man.
“In der Tat. Wie könnte es anders sein? Mein eigenes Leben ist das, was mir am Wichtigsten ist”, antwortete er mit einer flĂĽsternden Stimme, da er befĂĽrchtete, von anderen Menschensöhnen gehört zu werden.
“En effet. Comment pourrait-il en ĂŞtre autrement? Ma propre vie est ce qu’il y a de plus important pour moi”, rĂ©pondit-il en chuchotant, craignant d’ĂŞtre entendu par d’autres fils de l’homme.

This time he unmistakably heard the creature laugh in a shrill voice.
Dieses Mal nahm er das schrille Lachen der Kreatur auf eine unverkennbare Weise wahr.
Cette fois-ci, il perçut nettement le rire strident de la créature.

“My master wasn’t wrong about you.
Mein Meister hat sich nicht ĂĽber dich geirrt.
Mon maĂ®tre ne s’est pas trompĂ© sur ton compte.

If you show us unconditional obedience, we shall grant you the deepest wish of your fragile heart.
Wenn du uns bedingungslos gehorchst, werden wir den tiefsten Wunsch deines zerbrechlichen Herzes erfĂĽllen.
Si tu te soumets Ă  nous sans conditions, nous exaucerons le souhait le plus profond de ton coeur fragile.

If you slaughter all our enemies in the tainted city of Gehenna, we shall save your soul from the eternal unconscious slumber in the colourless valley of Sheol it is currently heading to.”
Wenn du all unsere Feinde in der befleckten Stadt Gehenna schlachtest, werden wir ganz bestimmt deine Seele vor dem ewigen bewusstlosen Schlaf im farbenlosen Tal von Scheol retten, wonach sie sich gerade  richtet.”
Si tu massacres tous nos ennemis dans la ville souillĂ©e de GĂ©henne, nous sauverons ton âme de l’Ă©ternel sommeil inconscient dans la vallĂ©e de ShĂ©ol, depourvue de couleurs, vers laquelle elle se dirige.”

https://i0.wp.com/www.thehistoryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Overlapping-skeletons-room-5.jpg

He wanted to ask for more details, but the being disappeared instantaneously in a blur of reddish mist.
Er wollte ihn nach mehr Einzelheiten fragen, aber dann verschwand das Wesen augenblicklich in einem Wirbel rötlichen Nebels.
Il voulut lui demander plus de dĂ©tails, mais l’ĂŞtre disparut instantanĂ©ment dans un tourbillon de brouillard rougeâtre.

It didn’t take long before he decided to completely surrender his own heart to darkness.
Es dauerte nicht lange, bevor er sich entschloss, sein eigenes Herz der Dunkelheit völlig zu übergeben.
Cela ne dura pas longtemps jusqu’à ce qu’il décidât de soumettre complètement son propre coeur aux ténèbres.

Woods of dark despair... by wolfcreek50

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