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How to deal with a rude atheist

(32 Posts)
ItsNowOrNeverTrevor Sat 26-Dec-15 13:39:18

So over Christmas dinner I had the mis fortune of finding out a member of my extended family is a militant atheist (and I don't use that term lightly). I was raised a Catholic though admittedly I am pretty lapsed these days. That said, I strongly believe you don't need to go to church to pray, and I do pray sometimes.

I also strongly believe that if your religion is what makes you happy, then as long as it doesn't harm anyone else, then it's up to you what you practise. It really doesn't bother me. I think there's room for all sorts and all religions in this world and I feel that on the whole, the common thread running through all religion is to respect others, be compassionate and mindful. I don't see what's so wrong with that.

So what's with the militant atheists who are so very vocal in denouncing all religion and declaring their contempt for all those who believe?? I think he thought his audience was also atheist; I didn't feel like having a debate on Christmas Day of all days so kept quiet. But I did think he was exceptionally rude in the way he ridiculed all who are religious and I wondered how best to deal with the situation if it should rise again (which I'm sure it will?)

I also feel there was a certain hypocrisy but I'm not quite sure how to express it; along the lines of by banging on about what he believes in, he was actually no worse than someone who was very religious being quite outspoken about what they believe in, both equally wanting what they say to be taken as fact.

specialsubject Sat 26-Dec-15 16:40:13

things not to discuss over dinner: religion, finance, politics. And this is why.

if you are secure in your faith, his ridicule and non-belief will be irrelevant to you. If you have those 'christian values' then you are tolerant and can rise above such things.

you can't agree. You can't change his opinions. He can't change yours. Neither of you can be proven correct or otherwise. So a debate is pointless.

so tell him that if there's a next time, that's the situation and he needs to talk about something else.

Themodernuriahheep Sat 26-Dec-15 16:45:02

I agree though with such people, as on Mumsnet too, it's hard to shut them up..but at least in RL you can ask them if they saw a TV programme or where they are going on holiday.

YeOldeTrout Sat 26-Dec-15 17:10:45

Evangelical people are annoying, too true.
How did others in the room feel, would anyone back you in a group effort to ask him to keep opinions to self?

tribpot Sat 26-Dec-15 17:20:19

Well on the one hand, at least he didn't set you on fire for disagreeing with his beliefs! Nothing says Christmas like an auto da fé smile On the other hand, I would also find this extremely rude and I am an atheist - like you I think people should be free to believe what they want, respect other people's right to believe something different, and celebrate peace and tolerance above all else.

He was obviously spoiling for a fight and hoping someone would say 'well actually I disagree', so that he could have an argument he could 'win' (since you can't prove the existence of a deity over the dinner table). Whoever was hosting the dinner should have shut the conversation down and turned to something less controversial - like the EU. Or really anything.

On another occasion, I think you just need to say "I'd appreciate it if you didn't assume your audience shares your beliefs, and I'll show you the same courtesy. I'm not going to debate religion with you, let's change the subject". He won't, but then your challenge really is to rise above his goading.

Sorry you've had a rubbish time, I can't abide anyone who won't admit the possibility of other people having different views, whether religious, political or whatever.

Diggum Sat 26-Dec-15 17:24:45

"Hmmm yes, whatever about beliefs or lack thereof, I really do find proselytising in any form to be somewhat arrogant and really quite tiresome ... Any good movies on later?"

I speak as an atheist who loves Christmas and thinks that as long as you are nice to other people you are free to believe whatever brings you like reallygrin.

Diggum Sat 26-Dec-15 17:25:14

Oops. Errant "brings" there.

chariotsofire Sat 26-Dec-15 17:33:08

Personally I just ignore. My sister does the opposite and talks about other religions in what I would describe as a dismissive or disparaging way, (she is Catholic), or knowing the rest of the family's beliefs (atheist), still talks about her religion as if we are going to agree with her on religious matters. As she has children it is impossible to say anything without upsetting/ confusing/ angering them, they must be aware we are not religious and it is wrong and hypocritical on so many levels but engaging just adds fuel to the fire and really serves no purpose.

frozenslice Mon 28-Dec-15 16:41:26

But religion doesn't keep it's views to itself.

Religious indoctrination is compulsary in schools, we have unelected church leaders making laws. Christianity is a proselytic faith and as such seeks to spread its influence.

I am told by christians that I am a sinner, indeed my babies are born sinners, and that because I have not accepted jesus then I will go to hell.

All very rude.

tribpot Mon 28-Dec-15 20:07:57

Quite, frozenslice. Hence my reference to the auto da fe as an example of how Christians have maybe not always limited their displeasure with those who failed to share their beliefs just to getting the hump over dinner.

However, the OP has not been preaching over the dinner table and deserves the same courtesy as anyone else.

Qwebec Tue 29-Dec-15 21:00:56

It's tough, I'm sure there is a way to say it firmly something like you may feel this ways, other don't and change subject. But like politics people can get so worked up about it I generally smile and change the subject. I know how I feel and there are no words that will make the other person understand what God means to me (esp. faced with the patronising remarks that faith is a plaster to deal with pain or the similar that get's told where I live). I have no intention of becoming a preacher.

ivykaty44 Tue 29-Dec-15 21:07:33

Just say please stop forcing your opinion on me its the same with religious bigots they force their views on people and your arent behaving any differently

BathshebaDarkstone Tue 29-Dec-15 21:11:39

I'd tell him that I don't shove my beliefs down his throat. Then I'd probably leave the room.

Higge Tue 29-Dec-15 21:18:33

Agree Frozenslice I so wish Christians would keep their views to themselves but they interfere in our schools, our law, our Government - they interfere all the time....but maybe it's not polite to say so. confused

tribpot Tue 29-Dec-15 21:28:01

It's not polite to say so at dinner. If the Archbishop of Canterbury turned up for tea would you start giving him grief for the dissolution of the monasteries? You could do, he would probably agree it was a Jolly Bad Thing and the Church would try not to do it again.

It is polite, and indeed necessary, to challenge it in every day life, such as the current campaign to revise the syllabus of Religious Studies GCSE to include non-religious world views, or to campaign against state-funded faith schools. Others I'm sure disagree, and that's fine - but over dinner let's all try to get along.

FrancisdeSales Wed 30-Dec-15 00:06:15

When someone is graciously sharing their hospitality with you it is never the time to start telling the hosts and guests what to think and believe.

Some people unfortunately have no manners and no idea how to be delightful and charming in company.

Fairenuff Wed 30-Dec-15 00:11:10

God made him the way he is. It's all part of his plan isn't it? Ours is not to wonder why, etc.

BertrandRussell Wed 30-Dec-15 00:11:48

I suppose it depends on context. Was the conversation about religion? Did he start the conversation? Was he actually rude or was he just expressing his opinion? Did everyone else feel uncomfortable too?

But generally, religion, politics and what people earn are topics to be avoided with people you don't know well.

gingerdodger Wed 30-Dec-15 12:12:59

I doubt anybody ever changed their opinion, particularly not deep seated ones, as a result of someone having a rant, a dig or picking a fight. I think I try to take the route of 'you have your beliefs as I have mine'. I would prefer that someone was attracted to explore Christianity because they have seen the peace, comfort and moral framework my faith gives to me (that doesn't mean that atheists or people of other faiths don't have those things).

It is annoying when someone belittles you personally but that says more about their lack of manners and tolerance for others than anything else. I'm all for healthy debate but I think it tends to entrench rather than change views.

HanSolo Wed 30-Dec-15 12:31:06

There are rude people everywhere- religious and non-religious alike.

originalmavis Mon 04-Jan-16 17:00:33

'Oh do shit up, you're boring the arse off me' usually works for me in so many situations.

cdtaylornats Mon 04-Jan-16 23:13:04

If you are a Christian I suggest you forgive them

Bolognese Sat 09-Jan-16 23:34:50

Something doesn't sound right. In what way was he being rude? Is it possible he was unaware anyone was being offended? If no one said they were upset then he was passively given the green light.

He is described as a militant, how is this different from just a normal atheist, was he in some way violent? Perhaps he had a reaction to prayers said at start of the meal which from his point of view might be offensive.

What I find interesting is, why you are offended? If a adult at the table started expounding their denial of gravity, evolution or DNA, I wouldn't be offended I would find it amusing. Are you perhaps upset because he has brought up some suppressed feelings?

dudsville Sat 09-Jan-16 23:44:59

This isn't about atheism or religion, it's about behaviour in public. Anyone who holds forth at the dinner table without taking the other guests into account is a fool (who will be brought to task by mn later!). I'm an atheist. Its true I sometimes forget when outside my atheist bubble that some people are still religious. Sometimes I think to check before I make a comment. Sometimes I have to apologise after. I've never heard a religious person apologising similarly.

nextusername Sat 09-Jan-16 23:52:13

> But religion doesn't keep it's views to itself

The behaviour of some religious people isn't the OP's fault though, so why should she be subjected to a rant?

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