Positive Atheism Forum
References To Theism
From: Positive Atheism
Sent: Monday 16 August 1999 5:01
To: Positive Atheism List
Subject: Question: Coping as an atheist in the (un)real world
We got the following question (below) about coping as an atheist.
We are also developing our Frequently Asked Questions section and want you to send us questions that you've been asked (and provide answers, if you know them -- if not, we'll do our best at addressing them).
I put up with constant references to church, ministers sabbaticals, religious outings, and more in the workplace. I nod, I smile, I never get into "religious" discussions or demean their constant jabber. As a -- well, I don't know, an agnostic -- an atheist. I'm not sure what I am -- simply a non believer in this supernatural god. Any assistance on "coping" with this constant tirade? Or, perhaps a listing of agnostic/atheist groups in my area that I could relate with? Is there such a thing?
You can go ahead and call yourself an atheist if you lack a god-belief. This is a legitimate definition for the word.
Coming out of the closet is the first move you should make if you don't care about losing some friends (who were probably not true friends in the first place). Any true friend will stick by you despite your differences.
Your next move is to demand dignity as an atheist any time you think you are being slighted or slandered for your stand.
You can learn a lot about atheism on our web site. I would first check out our Articles, Atheism and Awareness, Editorials section (this list comes up by default when you click the "Articles" button). Also, Cliff's monthly column has covered all these topics. Note the editorial called "Getting Along Outside the Oasis."
Finally, you can find atheists and organizations in your area at the Freethought Contacts Page and in the Freethought Directory.
I would add if you don't have an organization in your neighborhood start one just by letting people know that you want to get together to meet like minded people who are interested in your cause.
I'm not sure I would have answered as you did. The question referred to "constant references" to religious activities, not preaching or recruitment efforts. To me, this is more akin to my situation at work with discussions regarding professional football and baseball. I could care less which teams are ahead, or who recruited whom, yet I must continually bear this boring clammer.
If I were this person, I would continue to nod and smile, and ignore it for the most part. If I'm invited to an activity, I'll say I'm not interested. If they continue to press it, I'll tell them why.
As for atheist, freethinker, and rationalist groups, there are many. Skeptic groups are also excellent escapes from the unreal.
I think the other thing that this fellow should be reminded of is that church is a social reality for many people and their mentioning their involvement -- "We sure had a good time at our church picnic this weekend!" -- should not be taken as an effort to exclude him. People that talk about their kids to childless (or infertile!) people can also cause their listeners discomfort that they in no way intend. Many of the members of the North Texas Church of Freethought here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area say that these sorts of references in casual conversation don't bother them as much as they once did, because they're comfortable not only in not caring to participate in the believers' church activities, but in being involved with their fellow atheists in the NTCOF. On the other hand, if theological ideas are being thrown around in a bigoted way -- "Yeah, we had a good time at our church picnic this weekend, but it was hard to share the park with all those sinners and damned unsaved souls!" -- that's different.
Dr. Tim Gorski, Pastor
The North Texas Church of Freethought
I encounter references to "God", church, etc, etc. quite often in the workplace and everywhere else. I also hear unsolicited testimonials from people on how "God" is working in their lives. I just change the subject unless it gets into my life and I just say I'm not religious and then change the subject or walk away depending on the degree of intrusiveness.
I live in a country where I am by the Constitution allowed my own beliefs with regard to religion or lack of it. For that reason I have no desire to intrude on another's beliefs no matter what they may be as long as they do not try to deprive me or any other citizen of their civil rights.
Unfortunately, there are certain citizens of this country who are willing and definitely trying to interfere with your and my civil rights and would like to have their very narrow religious beliefs incorporated into the laws of this land. There I draw the line and fight them and am very vocal because I believe in freedom of religion or lack thereof and personal liberty under law. I will work for separation of church and state for as long as I breathe.
To argue with someone who believes diferently than me with regard to religion and is not working to deprive me of my civil rights, is an exercise in futility and I'd rather talk about something else. So I lt it go. Why not, if the shoe were on the other foot , I'd hope for the same respect.
When in a group of people, and someone begins talking about religion, or any supernatural baloney, I will ask a couple questions about their belief. Then, with a smile, I will triumphantly say, "oh, really? I'm an atheist!" Most frequently, everyone will shut up and never again mention religion in my presence. Occasionally, someone will begin to ask questions of me. This gives me an opportunity to expound on the beliefs and benefits of atheism. Either way, atheism wins!
Robert Keller, President
Freethinkers Association of Central Texas
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