This is a guest post by Mike, my friendly neighbor to the north, at the Godless Cranium. He graciously invited others to post to his blog and we agreed to exchange posts. I respect his views and confirm that our correspondence online and off makes him a person I would gladly fellowship with. I’m glad to see him actively blogging again.
Mike, thank you for adding value to our home here. – – Pascal
First off, thank you for the opportunity to post a piece on your blog. I’m sorry for the delay. Without getting into too much detail, I was dealing with multiple issues that unfortunately took me away from my blog for some time.
However, I’m glad to be back and I hope you and your readers enjoy my take on how I approach religious friends and acquaintances.
Let Us Begin
Most of my family is religious. My mom talks about my dad being in heaven. She also reminisces about how anything that dies is also up there with my dad, and to be honest I just grin and bear it. My mom is aware of my non-religiosity and she agrees with most of my reasoning but she’s religious and that’s not going to change any time soon. She doesn’t attend church and thinks that organized religion is just there to suck money from you, but overall she believes in God and the bible etc.
I grew up around religion. I live in a culture where Christianity is prominent and I’ve grown fairly used to it. Over the years I’ve created a sort of code of ethics when dealing with religion. Here’s a few examples.
I’m a social worker and I work primarily with the deaf/blind. I avoid religious talk at work. I’ve accompanied clients to church and sat through the sermon. I’ve said a prayer for a client just going to bed. If asked about religion, I deflect because I don’t think it belongs in my professional life. When I’m at work, I’m there to serve my clients and if they find comfort in me praying with them, then I’ll be doing just that.
At social functions I do not bow my head in prayer. I do not pray. I do not sing hymns. I do not profess faith in a deity I do not believe in.
At functions or in public areas where I’m not working, I do not support religion. I do not actively go out of my way to embarrass people etc., but I also don’t partake in what religion is offering.
If you know me at all, you will probably figure out I’m not a believer. If you ask me about religion in a non-professional atmosphere, I will discuss my views with you. I will try to do so in a polite manner unless pushed to the brink with torture threats (like Hell) or other religious inanities. I’ve been told that I’m the anti-Christ on more than one occasion, for example, and that I have ‘weird views’ on religion as a whole.
That’s fine. I make sure that I don’t actively hide my religious views. I’m openly atheist without being in-your-face about it. But if asked or drawn into a conversation about religion, I will speak my thoughts.
I believe being openly atheist is important, since many, many people can’t be. Some atheists fear for their lives, some fear losing their family and friends etc. I’m lucky enough not to fear those things. I live in a part of the world where I’m free to speak my mind about religion. Sure, I may take a few social consequences, but I’m fine with that.
My wife was a Catholic when I met her and she is very much aware of my atheism. As are my step-kids, kids and close friends. We’ve had religious discussions and they are aware of my reasons for not believing. I never told my kids I was an atheist when they were growing up and I supported their right to choose religion or non-belief as they saw fit. My son believes in God and my daughter doesn’t much care about religion one way or the other. I love my family whether they are religious or not. I’ve even offered to attend church with my wife if it was important to her, as long as she didn’t expect me to bow my head (or kneel) and pray or in any other way compromise my own ethics. I would gladly (well…semi-gladly) sit quietly through a sermon if she wanted me too.
Basically, I try to strike a balance. I don’t pretend to be religious but sometimes I must put my religious and non-religious differences aside to help people I work with or care about. I’m proud of my atheism, because it took me a long time to arrive at. It meant many hours of reading and examining. It meant years of self-discovery, and I’m now comfortable with my non-belief in God.
However, that doesn’t mean I don’t challenge that non-belief on a regular basis. I read many religious writings and constantly strive to find good arguments against my position.
I hope you and your readers enjoyed the post and thank you once again for the opportunity to post on your blog. As you probably know, I enjoy your writings very much.