Assumptions

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!)

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41 thoughts on “Assumptions”

  1. One of the reasons I like being where I am (England that is) is that you rarely have to put up with this sort of thing – religion is generally seen as private (and most people tend to avoid the more obsessively religious as being a bit “weird”)
    I did get called a “satanist” the other day though, because not believing in god(s) obviously means that I worship the devil …

    Still, I think being honest from the start is the best way, avoids any unpleasantness later on (and gives you a good idea what kind of person you are dealing with depending on their reaction).

  2. My high school chemistry teacher often shouted out that one should never assume becuase you make an
    ASS of U and ME. 🙂

    And things will go just fine for the cruise! Have fun!

  3. Come on Lisa’s Christian friends back her up, you know she is a good person, and that her lack of faith is not a detriment to her personality. It would be sad if only her atheist friends would stand by her.

    I have met christians and atheists who are evil and I have seem little evidence that faith and vileness are in any way related.

    I understand what you say Lisa about the constant questioning, once you have argued up and down a dozen times it really loses it’s luster, and you know what never once has anyone involved in one of these conversations actually changed their mind. The only reason I get involved in these things now is to educate the christian that just because I’m A- theist doesn’t make me A- moral

    Anyone who doesn’t want to be friends with me because I don’t believe in God are not worthy of being a friend of mine in the first place, their loss , my gain.

  4. The answer to the

    – – why should anyone be offended by my lack of faith in god? Why is it such a dividing line?

    questions are pretty simple Lisa… it’s because you are wrong, wrong, wrong, and the christians are not – go ahead, ask one 🙂

  5. One god is fine, but to keep it up is not my cup of tea. Does that make me a bad Catholic? I don’t know, but I get edgy when I am around these people.

  6. Certainly it is a strange reaction to your admission that someone would say they wouldn’t have offered their prayers to your and your family. As Christians, we are called to pray for the conversion of all people to God, and thus their prayers should only increase if they care about you (and who are you to complain? — if there really is a God why wouldn’t you want the prayers?).

    I think it’s refreshing that an atheist doesn’t feel the need to shove it in everyone’s face and also doesn’t feel the need to eliminate everyone else’s religion. I’m always surprised that atheists don’t just laugh at the rest of us (believers) and let it go from there. Obviously no one should be forced to pray (most of us believers hold that God gave us all free will and it is up to us to choose Him or not). Other than that, though, let people do their thing.

    I highly respect you for just letting these things pass as they might, or at least politely saying “I would rather not talk about religion.” That should be good enough for anyone (well, besides John Roberts).

  7. I think maybe because it’s a bit of a novelty to meet someone who is an athiest? I don’t know. Plus, I think there are certain catch phrases … such as “thank God that didn’t happen” or whatever, you know? For someone to push it, with “don’t you thank God?” is kind of interesting to me.

    I honestly would never try to convert you. What you believe is what you believe. It does present a bit of … I don’t know … pause, I guess, because it’s such an ingrained habit for me to ask for prayers and promise prayers when huge blessings (of which you are to me, btw) and huge catastrophes happen. If I slip, I never mean it to be disrespectful, please know that.

    Anyway, there was something else I wanted to say but I can’t remember what it was now. And I’m not even on vicodin. Hrmph.

    xoxo

  8. Tim: I’ve been called a “Satan Worshiper” because of my atheism, as well. By my (ex)mother-in-law, no less. I tried to explain that if I didn’t believe in god… then….come on, you can do it! Go ahead – draw the logical conclusion – you know you can!

  9. Fred:

    I have met christians and atheists who are evil and I have seem little evidence that faith and vileness are in any way related.

    Thank you for that!

    And I will engage in the debate with someone who pushes me. However, unlike christians – I don’t engage in the debate with the hope of ‘converting’ them to my beliefs . . but rather, with the hope of them understanding that just because I’m an atheist doesn’t mean that I have a black, empty pit for a heart 😉

    Too often, morals are associated with religion. If you have no religion – – you have no morals, right? Wrong.

  10. Judd – thanks for your words. I thought it odd, as well, that a christian would ‘take back’ their prayers because I’m an atheist. Whenever anyone tells me that they will pray for me.. I usually respond with “Thanks – it’s nice to be in your thoughts” and leave it at that. Many of my christian friends constantly tell me that I”m in their prayers.. and hey, if their prayers about me makes them feel better – then I say go for it.

    And that whole “Keep me in your prayers just in case there is a god” idea? Not me – there is no god, in my mind.. there is no ‘just in case’ about it 😉

    Christians are taught to ‘spread the word’ and work to convert the faithless. They do it all over the world – – trying to convert those from other religions, even (take a look at the christian missionaries in the middle east, for example). It is engrained in them straight from the pulpit that they must make a sincere attempt to convert those gone astray, right? It’s no wonder that some christians push so hard when they find out about my atheism.

    If there is one thing that offends me the most it’s that. The way that some will push the word of their god down my throat as if it’s going to make any difference to me at all. I don’t go around pushing Darwin down their throat. I usually end up telling them to “Live and let live.. and save their soul saving for the next guy who might like it”

    I swear, the guy in San Fransisco who brought suit against his child’s school asking for the Pledge of Allegiance to be removed from the school gives all atheists everywhere a bad name! lol We’re not all out to erase your religion, I swear :mrgreen:

  11. Jeannette – you’ve never offended me, no worries. I’m not offended when someone says “Keep me in your prayers” – – because I will always keep a friend and her family in my thoughts during a time of need. I’m not offended when folks say that they will pray for me, either. People who have faith in god rely on their prayers and see them as a way to get them through the tough times in life. That’s fine – – they need their prayers.. I need my coffee. We all have needs in life 🙂

    And for the record, as an atheist – My friends will always catch me saying things like “Oh, thank god you’re OK!” – – they’ll respond with – – “You can’t say that – – you’re an atheist!” lol – – I say it, not because I believe it.. but because it’s one of those sayings that you just automatically say without thinking.

    I was raised Catholic. Very strict Catholic, as a matter of fact. Spent my years in catholic schools – – with catholic nuns for teachers. Had to go to confession every Wednesday morning . . . we’d all march single file down to the church and confess our sins to the man in the black robe. My family and I attended church every sunday morning and wednesday night – – and I had those CCD classes every week, too.

    I also spend 3 years of my adult life dating a guy who is an “Apostolic Pentacostal” – – I loved him a great deal. In order to try and understand his life.. I attended some very intense bible studies and classes.. as well as his church and church functions. In the end – we decided that I was just too corrupt for him.

    Our relationship actually ended in Milwaukee’s Museum. ONe afternoon – we had nothing to do.. so we decided to go to the museum. We broke up in the Prehistoric Exhibit when he and I had an arguement about carbon dating and how it is a wild consipracy drawn up by a group of scientists to keep the world stupid about creation. I disagreed and said I thougth the very same thing about religon – – something drawn up by a group of men to keep society controlled and dumb.

    Ha.

    These days – he’s the pastor of his own church right here in town. He married a nice Pentacostal gal and they have 8 kids. It worked out for everyone 🙂

  12. I understand what you mean. I am Catholic, but I’ve been in the business world so long I know where ‘personal’ and ‘business’ begins and ends.

    In fact, I’ve never been so forward to ask a person their specific religious backgrounds. Case in point: A person whom I consider my best friend — I’ve known her for about 7 years. I know she’s Christian, for she has spoken at times about her ‘dad, the minister’, but yet I can’t tell you which faith her dad ministers, or how faithful she is, etc. We’re friends, but somehow knowing how much each of us tithes is not an issue.

    Lisa I will ask you one question: if you went to Catholic schools (as I did… even St. John’s University!!), why did you need to attend CCD?

  13. Charlie – good question to ask my folks, I think 🙂

    My mother even made us all matching “CCD” outfits for classes. It was.. a sad chapter in my life. :p

  14. Awww, how cute. Do you have any pictures of you in your outfits? 😈 Or maybe I should have let Astroknight ask that?

  15. Lisa – have you ever watched the late Bill Hicks? He has some VERY funny standup, with a lot of it being very atheistic.

    I think Catholics do a great job of fueling atheism. (Remember that polytheism is bad, but don’t forget to pray to Mary and the saints…) I was raised Catholic, and now I think I fall closest to ELCA Lutheran. Even then I’m way out on the fringe thanks to taking one religious history class too many. I’m pretty sure that the last sermon I did in church, the one with the message of Jesus went to the sinners because they’re more fun, went over most everybody’s head, and boy did the pastor work to smooth that one over! I’ll readily admit that knowing the history of things did cause some major faith problems for me, but I’ve had enough stuff happen that I readily admit that it’s my faith and that everybody’s faith is personal to them so quit forcing it on everybody else uninvited!

    Oh, and don’t worry about the things we assume about you. It’s the things we KNOW about you that should have you worried! 😀

  16. Lisa,

    Trying to convert people isn’t totally about making them Catholic in name and practice, as many Catholics misunderstand. Leading by example is a good way to convert hearts and minds, and that is the true example Jesus gave us during his all-too-brief time on earth. We are powerless with some people (and maybe you are one of them), but we can still hope to inspire you to live a good life (and you can do the same for us even though you are a non-believer).

    Regardless of whether you want us to admit it, we still will keep you in our prayers — it’s just what we do. And that’s what I mean about atheists just laughing at our ineptitude…since we are “wasting” our own time I’m not sure why many atheists care. Yet, you still cared enough to, in a way, correct me and to say that there is no “just in case.” Are you trying to convince me or is that something else you should have just let go? I’m honestly not sure about the answer to that one…

    Lastly, Astro, Catholicism doesn’t fuel atheism any more than a misunderstanding about any other religion. Mary and the other saints are asked for their prayers, not worshipped. No one is required to ask for intercession of the saints, though it is only logical considering that they found a way to live a saintly life, that we are all brought together for His glory, and the saints would have special regard for those of us trying to do the same (they struggled to do so, too!). It’s always amazing how people will blame Catholicism for the things they don’t understand about it, all the while admitting they don’t have the time to look into it. Have you ever taken a few minutes to research why it is that we ask for the Saints intercession?

    Here are a couple of posts on the Catholic.com forums from apologists that might shed a small amount of light (though this, in no way, is a comprehensive look at the practice of praying to saints)

    http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=59367&highlight=pray+saints

    http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=59189&highlight=pray+mary

    Perhaps just acknowledging that you don’t understand why Catholics ask the saints for intercession would be better than blindly hacking out that “Catholicism fuels atheism” because of your lack of understanding. But, whatever’s most convenient for you, I guess…

    Judd

  17. I see. And getting angry because you’re offering your prayers to a “heathen” is a good way to lead by example.

    Aren’t you supposed to pray for the heathens?

    Sierra. Tango. Foxtrot. Uniform.

  18. I want to say something, I don’t want to say anything, it’s really a toss up. Okay I’m saying something, but only because Redfred said something to the effect of letting you twist in the wind. 😛

    First, I know you don’t need my backup as a Christian friend. You believe what you believe, and ya know what? That’s fine by me. Certainly looks are deceiving, you act Christian, you are generous and caring, kind and compassionate, and a conservative to boot. It’s easy for people of faith to mistake you for a believer. Really.

    But to find out otherwise is to find out how totally blind (we Christians and people of faith who think Athiesm means devil worshipping) are to what role religion plays in behavior. Truth be told, that’d be a really small part, if any at all.

    Even on behalf of Christians, it’s sad to see so many blinded by the thought that we’re fighting the good fight when in all actuality, we’re disgracing and making a mockery of the example set by Jesus.

    You know, I married an atheist. And in 15+ years we’ve never had a disagreement about faith. He witnessed my baptism. I think he has faith now that he never had before, but I’ll leave that between my hubby and my God.

    All I can do is what I believe is right, and hope that the example I set shows others that not all Christians are gung-ho on forcing our God onto people who are uncomfortable with Him.

    I also get really annoyed with people who claim to be “of the faith” and throw such a haughty tone around, puffing themselves up while degrading others.

    Lisa, you know how I feel about this, and I know you know me well enough to know that when you sneeze, I’m still going to Bless you, like it or not. And when you say “Thank Fred”, I totally understand and respect your decision and above all, your free will.

    :mrgreen:

    HAVE A GREAT TRIP!!!

  19. Wench, if you are talking to me, I’m confident if you scroll up and read my other post you will discover that I did, indeed, say that we should only pray more should we find out someone is an atheist.

    I quote myself:

    “Certainly it is a strange reaction to your admission that someone would say they wouldn’t have offered their prayers to your and your family. As Christians, we are called to pray for the conversion of all people to God, and thus their prayers should only increase if they care about you (and who are you to complain? — if there really is a God why wouldn’t you want the prayers?).”

    -Judd

  20. Judd brings up a few good points, Should we as atheists be offended by “I’ll pray for you” or the casual god referance? I think the thing that is misunderstood is just how often these things happen, it is not the thought or concept that gets under my skin it is the constant grind that occasionally becomes too much to bear and I will utter a “there is no god”.

  21. Thanks RedFred.

    As a *believer* I get tired of the constant grind, too. I like to think I’m as devoted as the next guy, but religion is not for show (it’s more about the walk than the talk). I think it’s nice if atheists can let a reasonable amount of this stuff pass by them — it is only with great patience that you can. As a Catholic, if someone who prays to a God by a different name says I am in their prayers I think it’s a very nice gesture. If an atheist says I am in their thoughts I, too, think it is a nice gesture. All of us have a line of decency for which to limit ourselves, though, and in that sense I understand.

    From my point of view, as a believer, I think it’s important for an atheist to know that I see my prayer as the best thing I can devote to anyone. It’s too bad that it would be taken as offensive when I, 100%, think there is no amount of money or good deeds I can do that would equal the prayer. However, I do not assume that I get free reign, because of my beliefs, to cram it down your throat.

    Lisa, in her example, definitely had the line violated, and my points are definitely not in defense of the fellow Christians mentioned. These people should look at the seven heavenly virtues and see that imposition is not one of them (http://deadlysins.com/virtues.html).

    Thanks for reading,

    Judd

  22. Since it was intended in a nice way, I think the best way to go would be a polite thank you and that’s it. If the person persists, change the subject. If they continue to persist, explain your position.

    Usually after the polite thank you, that conversation will be over.

    Have fun on vacation!

  23. Have you ever lost business because of your beliefs? I am, for all practical purposes, a Satanist. (This does NOT translate to Devil Worshipper, contrary to some popular belief, and I urge you to spend just a few minutes at http://www.churchofsatan.com and read their tenets to see that it’s basically a matter of living one’s life and bothering no one else, harnessing one’s own power to exceed, and not to suffer idiocy gladly.) I have to wonder if these religious zealots scrutinize everyone they come into contact with in this same way? We can’t all share the same belief systems, but if you are selling something I want to buy, as long as you don’t bore me to tears about your religious beliefs, then please take my money, hand me my item and let’s both be on our merry way, shall we.

    Great post! Have a wonderful time off!

  24. I’ve been without religion my entire life – I was exposed to it by my parents, but thought it was just make-believe stuff like Winnie the Poo – when I realized it was not, that people really believed it, I became an atheist, though I probably didn’t know the word until later (and some of the folks posting here don’t know it now: aTHEist, not aTHIest).

    I had a job once where the owner did not want me to do the work because I wasn’t “saved”. As I was probably the only person within one hundred miles who could fix his problem, he relented, but insisted upon taking me to lunch where he pushed Jesus the entire time.

    I tried explaining the obvious: you can’t force belief, I’m not “against” him, I just think it’s ridiculous, I don’t need religion to be moral, etc. He couldn’t get it.

    By the way, to the person who asked if we laugh at you: yes, sometimes we do laugh at some of the more ridiculous things religious people say, but frankly we’re more apt to be frightened than amused. And if we do laugh, we do so privately, between ourselves. You have a right to your beliefs, no matter how insanely wacky they seem to us.

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  26. T. Bruce McNeely

    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 d like to be blunt here – the person in question is a bigot and a rude slob. It seems to be only in religious matters that someone can act so maliciously and get a free pass from others. It s disgusting.

  27. T. Bruce, what’s disgusting to me is that you call behaving with kindness “a free pass”. Obviously you return harsh words with harsh words? Lisa may not believe in God/Satan, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t treat others the way she would like to be treated. What would have proven the woman’s point would have been to lash out like you just did. In my opinion, Lisa set a better example than her client did, and I say good for her.

    It’s one thing to express your frustration over the topic generally, it’s quite another to be so hateful and intolerant toward someone’s oblivion to different beliefs.

    Funny story, just after Lisa wrote this entry my neighbor came over to offer his help when he saw me back our truck in with a heavy load. I immediately spouted off that he was a Godsend. Shame on me? How offensive exactly is that statement?

    It is a part of our life as much as it’s NOT a part of yours, we are simply creatures of habit.

  28. I don’t find the minor “God bless” or “God send” offensive; I think a lot of that is just automatic, unthinking and devoid of meaning. If it’s never ending, I might say something, but I’m more apt to ignore it.

    When someone does get a little more aggressive as happened to Lisa (“don’t you feel you are blessed”), I don’t want to side step it, but I don’t want to be confrontational either. Most usually I say “I’m not religious” and hope that’s enough. Actually it often is, and sometimes I get a “Oh, I’m not either, I just meant such and such”.

    But now and then I get somebody who can’t understand that (“How can you not be religious?”) or worse, understands but doesn’t like it. The latter are jerks and nothing pleasant usually comes out of it. However – MOST people are accepting, understanding, and don’t push it.

  29. Leanne:
    I think that you ve misunderstood what I meant to say, or maybe I communicated it poorly. I agree that Lisa acted politely and with class. What I don t understand is the mild tone of the comments in this thread. What if Lisa were being attacked like this if she were Jewish…It s my contention that religious fascists get a free pass in society simply because they re religious – that s what is disgusting.
    By the way, I take no offense at someone wishing me a Bless You or I ll pray for you. I simply say thank you or That s kind of you – because I believe it is.

  30. Assumptions are substitutes for knowledge. They are inventions of “facts.” If we didn’t assume, we likely could not survive. We must make assumptions in order to make decisions.

    I assume I’ll find fresh food at the grocery store, so I go shopping there. If I don’t make that assumption, I’ll starve.

    ARB

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