How to Deal with Religious People if You Are an Atheist

Thứ bảy - 27/04/2024 01:15
If you are an atheist, you'll come across your share of religious people who are genuinely curious about and respectful of your perspective, even if they completely disagree with it. You'll also encounter religious people who are ignorant...
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If you are an atheist, you’ll come across your share of religious people who are genuinely curious about and respectful of your perspective, even if they completely disagree with it. You’ll also encounter religious people who are ignorant about atheism, eager to convert you to their truth, and/or hostile to your very presence. Many disagreements and arguments can be avoided through tact, patience, and common sense. And when they can’t (or shouldn’t be) avoided, a thoughtful and respectful approach can help prevent a contentious situation.

Method 1
Method 1 of 3:

Avoiding the Subject

  1. Step 2 Keep the focus on other topics.
    Instead of sitting back and hoping the conversation doesn’t turn toward religion, or waiting for it to pass on to another subject if it does, you can work to steer the conversation towards topics that may be more comfortable for everyone involved.
    • Consider the audience, and bring up topics that are likely to be of general interest. It may seem trite to discuss sports or the weather at Thanksgiving dinner, but it’s probably preferable to a knock-down, drag-out fight over deeply-held religious beliefs. Even politics may be a less contentious topic to bring up.
    • For example, if your religious friends start to discuss their church activities try saying, “That’s great you’re so involved in your church. What other activities do you enjoy doing outside of church? I’ve been trying to find some new activities to do.” This is likely to shift the conversation to jet-skiing, stamp collecting, volunteering at an animal shelter, etc.
  2. Step 3 Refrain respectfully or partially engage in prayers or religious rituals.
    As an atheist, there will be times when you will feel you need to stand up for what you believe — be it the teaching of creationism in public schools or prayers before city council meetings. It’s okay to decide that every little thing isn’t worth fighting for, though — like choosing to simply sit quietly during a prayer before a group meal. You have to decide for yourself when to “let things go.”[1]
    • If someone happens to complain that you aren’t bowing your head during the prayer or showing the proper reverence in some other setting, calmly offer to discuss the topic privately later.
    • If, for instance, you are at Thanksgiving dinner and are asked to give some sort of blessing or say what you are thankful for, you can do so without invoking any god or religion. Say something like “I am thankful for the people who grew this food, those who provided it, and those who prepared it. I am thankful that we can all be together now to enjoy it, and each other’s company.”
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Method 2
Method 2 of 3:

Preventing Conflicts

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Method 3
Method 3 of 3:

Engaging in Constructive Conversation

  1. Step 2 Define what atheism means to you.
    Before you can explain to others what it means to be an atheist, you need to be able to explain it to yourself. You don’t have to use a textbook definition of atheism — there is no single “atheist” view, just as there is no single “Christian” or “Hindu” view. Come up with a definition that works for you.[11]
    • Before you begin the conversation, ask if the person understands what an atheist is. You may want to say, “I’m looking forward to talking with you about atheism. Before we start, why don’t you tell me what you know about it.”
    • If they don’t know anything about atheism, or assume that it means you believe in nothing or are satanic in some way, don’t criticize them for it. Instead, quickly provide them with some basic information about atheism. You can start the conversation by saying, “Why don’t I tell you a little bit more about atheism, so you know where I’m coming from.”
    • If necessary, provide some source recommendations for the other person to consult and request that you resume the conversation at another time.
  2. Step 3 Ask questions and listen to answers with curiosity and respect.
    Make an effort to understand the other point of view by listening and asking questions. This will show that you are engaged in the discussion. If you don’t have specific questions, ask open ended ones such as, “Tell me more about your beliefs” or “How did you come to believe what you do?”
    • Listen when they respond. Make eye contact and focus on what the person is saying. Now is not the time to be planning your next question or trying to look up something on your phone.[12]
    • Don’t ask questions that are purposely leading and antagonistic. For example, refrain from saying something like, “What makes you think your religion is so much better than others?” Instead, try asking, “What aspects of your religion set it apart from others?” This is a nicer way of asking the same question.
  3. Step 4 Avoid taking cheap shots.
    You may think the other person’s belief system is ridiculous, but offering ridicule will get you nowhere positive. Just because you may have read somewhere that there is a negative correlation between IQ and religiosity (that is, that less intelligent people tend to be more religious) doesn’t mean you should make generalized assumptions or critical remarks about the other person being “foolish” or “delusional.” Offer respect if you want to be given respect.[13]
    • Steer clear of open-ended or hostile questions that won’t move the conversation along. For example, refrain from asking, “Why are Christians so crazy?” You’re not only generalizing, but you’re backing the person into a corner, as they couldn’t possibly begin to answer your question.
    • Don’t blame the person for all the evils you believe have been done in the name of that religion. You don’t want to be blamed for all the evils done by those who rejected religion, do you? You can ask, however, how their religion reconciles evil acts done under the guise of the faith.
  4. Step 5 Be open to learning something new.
    Don’t just say you’re open to learning something new; mean what you say. In learning more about other faiths, you’ll only broaden your own worldview. If your beliefs will be threatened by knowledge, then maybe they ought to be reconsidered anyway.
    • An atheist should be someone who is open to asking questions and seeking answers. Like a good scientist, an atheist should never be afraid of being proven wrong. Truth should be your ultimate goal.[14]
    • If the person invites you to a religious service, agree to go as a respectful observer. You don’t have to convert to their religion or share their beliefs, but you will certainly learn something new. You in turn can invite them to a gathering of others like you.
    • Try to open your mind, without judgment, to the variability of human perception. We all have different sensory capabilities and process information differently. Remember that there's potential for acceptance, and celebration of these differences, because they're all important. Even if you're an atheist, it doesn't mean that you can't have good discussions with a religious person.
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  • Many atheists find belief in a supernatural deity to be irrational. However, stating this perspective bluntly is bound to cause hurt and discord. It will almost never change minds. Be thoughtful and respectful.
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