I know there is a stigma towards Atheism… at times just speaking the word will get you a dirty look. That is why I tend to not discuss it in groups I know won’t appreciate my point of view. This is something I do out of respect for my friends, family or acquaintances (especially if i am not sure where they stand) but I have noticed more and more that this same courtesy is not given to me. In all areas of my life I come across people who want to tell me all about God, who want to pray for me, who think I need to be saved- despite knowing where I stand they are dumbfounded by my resistance. They are bothered by the fact that I am an Atheist and despite me not flaunting it, somehow they continuously manage to shove my Atheism down their own throat.
I am a member of a facebook support group for the female condition Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. In general it is a respectful group but occasionally religion shows up and tempers flare. Secularists typically ignore the “I’m praying for you” or “God bless you” comments… but sometimes it becomes too much even for the most patient of us. About a month ago I just happened to catch a post that really hit home. One of my “cysters” asked “Please not trying to start religious debate, but does anyone know if there is a PCOS group for non-believers?”. She was immediately hit with inquires of “why would you want that?”, “why are you trying to segregate our group?”… many of the girls were nice, implying that despite our differences in belief our common bond is PCOS and the women of faith are simply sending support the best way that they know how… through Christ. I backed my secular friend up stating that sometimes when we post a question, we just want a legitimate answer about treatment, rather than a foggy believer remedy such as the recommendation of prayer and putting it into God’s hands. I got this rant in reply…
“Please stop looking to science for ALL YOUR ANSWERS. Science told my cousin that her son would die as a result of being shot 5 times, once in the head. Science told her to get donation proceedings underway bc there was no way he would survive his injuries. 5 weeks later, he is out of ICU, no ventilator, no spinal cord injuries despite being shot 3 times in the back, no brain stem injuries, AND ON THE ROAD TO RECOVERY! Prayer changes things. Im sorry the name of God causes you to be upset but US BELIEVERS WILL NEVER STOP PRAISING HIM so the best thing is to join a nonbelieving group. We have too much joy in the name Jesus to keep silent. We are not trying to be offensive.”
When she was told that her rant was EXACTLY why we want a secular group she replied “Please do not try to attack me for what I believe.”. I can’t say I was shocked by this response, but I found the ignorance astounding. First of all, the story of her cousin simply verifies that science can do amazing things, they initially thought that he wouldn’t make it but by KEEPING HIM IN THE HOSPITAL AND CONTINUING TREATMENT doctors were able to save his life. Now, had she said that once the doctor said it was hopeless, they removed him from the hospital, took him to a church and left it up to prayer… well maybe I would be a bit more impressed. Secondly, instead of supporting the earlier statements that we shouldn’t segregate and should simply support no matter what, she flat out says it is best that we join a different group. So in the end, simply mentioning secularism warranted getting read the riot act, but stating matter-of-fact that the believers “WILL NEVER STOP PRAISING HIM” was a perfectly acceptable response. None of those girls who posted that the secularist shouldn’t try to segregate went on to tell the believer that she was out of line. In fact, the conversation continued with many more replies on how Jesus is important and that prayer does work… and if you don’t agree, well then just use the “hide post” option. Luckily, I did know of the secular group for this condition and was able to pass on a link to the girls who wanted it. I was swamped with private messages from ladies who just want straight talk and thanked for not making the link public.
I notice that this happens frequently in my personal life as well. For some reason the believers feel an entitlement to discuss religion without receiving a counterpoint. During a casual visit with friends, one person started discussing “the flood” stating that it is clearly true and citing evidence such as a seahorse in fresh water on a mountaintop. Now he isn’t alone in this belief, many have sipped the Kool-aid despite the obvious flaws. So fine, whatever, he’s still my friend. The time it becomes an issue is when he becomes offended that our Friday night is being spent with our skeptic group…suddenly we receive an eye-roll that just screams “you know I am not interested in that stuff!” . This behavior is not restricted to stating biblical beliefs… it can show up in smaller things such as people discussing the existence of ghosts and spirits. I have a friend who adores the “Ghost Hunter” type shows. He will talk for hours about the evidence they produce and which places in Pennsylvania are the most haunted. Mentioning that now that he knows the techniques he is more in touch with the spirit world and have started having experiences of his own. There really is no reply necessary to any of it, as I am supposed to just accept this as fact. If I choose to question it I become the stereotypical “arrogant Atheist” always dismissing the unknown and pushing their (non)belief on others. However, if I dare mention that me and Rich will be speaking at the PA Atheists/Humanist conference… I get crickets. Maybe, just maybe I will get an “oh” of acknowledgment- but that is it, because after all it is inappropriate for me to mention Atheism in a believer environment.
Just last week there was a statement made by the boys mother that really shocked me. She stated that me and Rich have no right to tell his 14 year old son that there is no God. Implying that it is ok for her, as a believer, to tell him that there is a God. First of all, we rarely discuss Atheism with him unless he brings it up. He knows that we are Atheists but honestly, at this stage he has bigger things to worry about, like school and Xbox. Second, her family are the ones who attempt to force religion on the boys. They criticize them for identifying as Atheist, they dismiss the idea of actual discussion of the topic and they take no interest in the secular activities which they enjoy. I find the ignorance to be pathetic, she finds it to be completely justifiable. Somehow people cannot seem to see that pushing the belief of God on someone comes with the risk that they may not agree… you cannot say they are flaunting their views if you are the one insisting on beating the subject to death.
Listen, I have no problem just agreeing to disagree. If nothing is going to change your mind, and you don’t want to hear my side…fine. However, you need to remember that making this agreement means that you need to control the preaching and stop harping on our differences. If you can’t accept that and you insist on shoving my Atheism down your throat, there is nothing more I can do for you.