Assumptions are a funny concept. It’s always amazing to me how some folks automatically assume things, without knowing the facts about anything. I’ve always been one to never assume anything – – because nothing is ever as it appears…and nothing is ever as simple as all that.
For example – religion. I’m an atheist and not at all afraid to say it to whomever. I don’t wear it on my sleeve, however.. because I have no need to. Likewise, I don’t have a need to know about a person’s religious beliefs (or lack of) within the first 15 minutes of conversation. I don’t ever make assumptions about a persons faith – or lack of faith – and I generally don’t bring it up. However, over the past few weeks, I’ve held discussions with a few christians, usually about business stuff – and religion somehow gets brought up within the first 15 minutes of conversation.
One conversation went something likes this (after discussing their requirements for a site design)…
Client: “You really are very talented. You must thank god every day for the talents he has given you.”
Me: “….silence…thank you. Everyone is talented in their own different ways”
Client: “Don’t you feel that god has really blessed you?”
Ok – I have a choice here. I can get into a religious, philosophical discussion with someone who I really don’t care to ‘go there’ with… or I can open the can of worms.
I could respond with the truth: “Well, actually – no. See, I don’t believe in god – I’m an atheist. Now about that color scheme . . . you’re thinking blue and red?”
Or I can give the pat answer of:
“Yes, thank you. I do feel fortunate that I can put together a graphic or two and make them look nice.”
The latter would be the polite and correct answer – – in order to avoid offending anyone… and to avoid getting into a conversation about my lack of beliefs when I really don’t want to, and/or don’t feel it’s that person’s business – – and/or, don’t have time for it.
If I give the polite answer of not really answering, then the assumption is made that I’m a believer… a christian… a friend in faith. The references to religion and god become more frequent during our association with one another. I’m offered prayers.. and asked to pray for whatever..or whomever. I’ll even get dragged into discussions about good versus evil (in a religious sense) and eventually I have to come clean anyways. So wouldn’t it be better to just say it to begin with, rather than being polite?
I am not offended by a person’s belief in god – – why should anyone be offended by my lack of faith in god? Why is it such a dividing line? Why do folks take it as such a personal think? They don’t really know me – why would my lack of faith in god offend them so much?
I’ve chosen the direct approach these days, because it solves unforeseen problems down the road.
I once had a very brief discussion with someone and did a little free help on their blog to solve a very simple coding problem that took me a minute to do. The person is an acquaintance… a friend of a friend of a friend. Not someone I socialize with – – or even speak with on a regular basis. I was doing someone a favor that took me about 30 minutes to complete.
Within those 30 minutes – I had been talking to this person via IM. They had said something about thanking god for sending me their way. They offered to include me and my family in their prayers because they felt I was such a nice and good person.
Instead of opening the can of worms.. I just said, “Thank you. You’re very nice.” and left it at that.
About a week or so later – that same person had read on my blog that I’m an atheist. I then received an email berating me for leading them to believe that I am a person of faith… leading them to believe that I was a ‘good person with a pure heart’ – – they felt betrayed and hurt that they were offering prayers to a “heathen“.
I simply responded with a short email explaining that they assumed I believed in god. It was their assumption, after all. Because I don’t feel the need to look at every religious reference in conversation as an opportunity for debate. I don’t need to debate the issues because I know, and am confident, in where I stand. So, I let it slide. No big deal.
But to this person, it was a big deal. Do I need to wear a badge? A scarlet “A” on my chest? Tattoo it across my forehead? Open myself up for a debate every single time a person makes a reference to religion in any conversation because if I don’t, I fear that I’m misrepresenting myself to them by allowing them to assume that I’m religious in any way?
Whenever I do the direct approach of something like… “Thank you – you’re very kind – but I am an atheist and do not believe in god.” It’s usually followed up by “Really? Why not?”… “What lead you to those beliefs?”… “What happened in your life that lead you astray?”… Who? Why? What? How? When? … all questions I’d rather not answer because I’m not interested in the ensuing discussion. It makes for uncomfortable conversations, to be sure.
I’ve been told that I feel that way because I’m afraid of the discussions. Another assumption.
I’m not afraid of the discussions – – I’m just tired of the debate. I’m very confident in my (non)beliefs. I’ve had the debates many, many, many times in the past with some very nice, warm and well-meaning people. I’ve been down that road and back again so many times that it makes me dizzy. The debate is always the same. Arguments always the same. It’s a never ending circle of “Yea but – what about…” – – and the truth be told – – I”m not afraid to engage in the discussions or debates… I’ve just tired of them over the years. I don’t feel like engaging in them anymore because I don’t feel that those debates hold any worth for me – – and certainly won’t get anyone anywhere.
Ask any of my christian friends who have very deep faith – they will tell you that we’ve gone round and round on the topic to no avail. I love them even though our beliefs differ. We can agree to disagree and still be friends at the end of the day. It’s a rare person whom I’ve run across that has the same outlook on things – – so I’m choosy with whom I will actually engage in the debate with.
I guess I will just settle with a “Thanks, but I’d rather not discuss it with you” statement and leave it at that and allow people their assumptions… because if I’d rather not discuss it – then there’s nothing I can do to correct their assumption anyways.
Have I rambled? See what Vicodin does to me?
(Yes, I’m still on the Vicodin – – but at least I’m not taking it like candy anymore, like I was over the weekend. I’ve gone from 10 a day down to 2 and things with the tooth are getting better and better every hour! Maybe.. just maybe.. I’ll squeak through this and everything will be just fine for the cruise!! 2 days and counting!)