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Author Topic: Should I come out to my family...
Javert
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...that I'm an atheist?

I have a great deal of respect for everyone here and I would really appreciate your opinions.

My family never seemed that religious. I was 'raised' Roman Catholic, and we went to church quite a bit. Not every Sunday, but more than just Christmas and Easter. I went to CCD (essentially Sunday school, but on Tuesday nights), was a member of the church children's choir, received my communion and had my confirmation at 18.

It's funny. Reading the above, it sounds like I had a very religious upbringing, but it certainly didn't feel that way.

Eighteen was also how old I was when my parents divorced, and we all stopped going to church. It wasn't so much a decision, we just seemed to lose interest. I think part of it is that my mother and father were denied communion since they divorced and didn't get an annulment.

Anyway, I moved away for college and just never got back into religion. I didn't party, or drink, or sew my wild oats either, but I did take several religion classes.

Those classes are what got me to start thinking about my beliefs. I had always taken them for granted, never having sat down and thought about them. Until rather recently, that is.

Now I'm at a crossroads. Like I said, my family really isn't all that religious. The most I get is my grandmother occasionally saying she prays for me, which I don't mind. My problem is that I have no idea how any of them would react to finding out I was an atheist. I don't want to start a fight, but I also think it would be interesting to talk about it.

So...what should I do?

(My apologies that this turned into a mini-landmark. Thanks for indulging me. [Smile] )

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TomDavidson
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I wouldn't bother talking about it, to be honest. In my experience, most "socially Catholic" families aren't prepared to have the kind of conversation you'd want to have; IMO, it's unlikely they've ever given their religion more than a cursory thought, and so you're probably not going to get much out of that conversation.
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Tatiana
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My parents were okay with it when I was in the same situation. My dad was upset kind of, but my mom reminded him that a lot of really smart people in history had believed as I did, and so he wasn't really in a position to contradict me.

What upset them was when I converted to LDS 20 years later. [Smile]

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Launchywiggin
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I didn't talk to my parents about "turning atheist" until mom asked me about it. She was questioning her faith and I told her that I'd never had any (despite 18 years of church and religion classes in college). Most people still think I'm a Christian--this one girl was shocked out of her seat last week when I told her I wasn't.

If you're feeling compelled to tell them(you're obviously thinking about it), then you probably should. I don't think it's necessary at all otherwise.

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rollainm
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Javert, I'm in a very similar situation. I'd love to hear what others have to say as well.

My initial decision was to just not bother; it would likely cause nothing but problems, and no one needs that. But my fiancée and I (both atheists) are planning on getting married next year, and I'm fairly sure the lack of religious influence in the ceremony will raise a few eyebrows. Then again, part of me says I should do the honest thing and tell them out right. I also don't have a clue how they will react. Tom's observations are probably true of my parents, and this is another reason why I have yet to "come out" to them.

It's inevitable at this point, though. And to be honest, I’m just plain curious. I imagine that for them it will be similar to me confessing that I don’t believe in gravity.

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theamazeeaz
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Why bother?

I'm in a similiar situation. Social Catholic describes my family well, as does your description of your 'upbringing'.

I've been an atheist since I was ten, so that's over ten years and the issue is less exciting because it's old hat.

I agree with Tom that you aren't going to get too much out of telling your family.

I've mentioned atheism to my family (years ago, high school): here is what happened:

My mom's reaction was to assume it was the phase saying that the pope probably questions faith too. She converted to catholicism after being the one to take us to CCD and felt awkward at church.

My dad's reaction was hostile. He said I was like those people who think they are so smart for not believing in God. Except since he was alter boy for ten years and owned the 11 o'clock with his brother, that exempts him from going to church except for special occasions. Hence why my mom brought us to church. He very recently bragged about never having read the bible.

I made my confirmation when I was 16 (when our church does it). My mother blackmailed me into doing it by reminding that I would have to explain to my grandmother that I was an atheist (think cute little old (80s) widow who can't turn off her four-ways on her car). She's more relgious than us, as are my uncle and aunt.

I'm not one of those atheists who needs to tell everyone that I'm an atheist (ironic, given this post), or that their religion is "wrong". I'm also so used to going through the motions that I put up with church attendance on the holidays when I'm home.

Do we (nuclear family) read the bible? No. Have we ever prayed outside of church besides saying grace at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter? No. Do we talk about faith? No. Did it bother my parents that I am an atheist? Yes. Do they mention it at all? No. Do they still drag me to church on special occasions? Yes.

A part of me is thinking detractors will liken this to not confessing an affair to a spouse, but church is so out of sight out of mind for Catholics when they are not in it, that saying something does nothing.

If you want discussion, talk to friends or atheists/agnostics.

rollainm- I'm not sure what I would do about a wedding. I'm working on the acquiring a boyfriend first part. My questions to you are 1. Is her family's religion the same as your family's relgion? 2. How do you feel about relgion? When I read "not bother", I think have a church ceremony and let no one question, but that doesn't seem right to you I'm sure.

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rollainm
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Her mother actually claimed to be an atheist until just a few years ago. When she remarried, that apparently changed. I'd say her husband's family is just a hair more into going through the religious motions than my family. They both consider themselves Christians of some protestant denomination or another. She's not sure how her family will react either, but she seems less worried about it than me.

How do I feel about religion? I'm actually still trying to figure that out. However, when I said I'd rather not bother, I simply meant I didn't see the point in forcing the issue upon my family. Changing or compromising our own lives, decisions, or beliefs to keep them in the dark definitely doesn't seem right - for us or our families.

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the doctor
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In my experience, many people fall away from belief for a significant portion of their young-to-middle years and yet somehow find it again later.

I'm not saying that'll necessarily happen in every case, or yours, of course, but it's worth at least considering that what you believe in the future may be quite different from what you believe now -- whatever those beliefs may be.

Ultimately, unless your family puts great stock in religion or you are likely to be forced into participating in rituals you find meaningless or offensive, there's probably very little reason to have that discussion with your family. Would you be hoping that they could somehow talk you out of it? Do you feel like they need to know in order to treat you properly? I'm just trying to figure out the reason for the conversation having to take place at all.

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BlackBlade
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Javert: Perhaps you should first decide for what purpose you would reveal your new found outlook on the question of God to your family.

(These are just possible reasons, I am not speculating on yours)
Are you trying to just be honest and up front with them? Are you trying to inform them that you have found a set of ideas that are making you happy? Are you trying to rub in that their inactivity in the church left you without a strong belief in God and that that belief is now dead? Are you perhaps hoping that you can help them see the virtues of atheism and the folly of theism?

If your motive is in the vein of, "Just FYI mom and dad, I'm an atheist." I don't know your parents, but in my totally-ignorant-of-the-specific-details opinion I would just leave the matter unspoken. Unless you honestly believe that you would feel happier if they were aware of this important issue.

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King of Men
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You should tell them, not so much for yourself, but to make atheism more socially acceptable. Lots of Christians don't know that they know any atheists, and are scared of us. Your parents are probably not that sort, but every bit helps.
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Nick
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Javert, The question of telling them is certain. You should tell them as straight-forward as possible, I think that would make them respect you more.

BlackBlade said:
"Are you perhaps hoping that you can help them see the virtues of atheism and the folly of theism?"
First off, it's best you don't call people who believe in God fools or lacking in virtue. Some would argue the exact opposite.

I don't think counseling Javert to call his family foolish is wise either. Nor is it wise to say they are lacking in virtue.

What are trying to tell this poor man to do?

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Rakeesh
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King of Men, you're clearly a "do as I say, not as I do" sort of fellow! Heh.
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King of Men
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Eh, what?
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Rakeesh
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Just pointing out that you do not seem to be an atheist interested in making atheism more socially acceptable.
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Angiomorphism
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Javert, how do you know your parent's aren't atheists as well?

I was raised in a similar situation as you, more or less forced to go to church from a young age, to commune and convert, and to generally adhere to catholic traditions. However, as I got older, my religious commitment became mostly (because I was still required to attend major holliday mass for grandma's sake) my own choice, and since I had never really bought into the whole religion thing, even from a very young age, I simply stopped participating completely. My parents don't really go to church anymore, and though my mom was raised by my uber religious grandma, I've had some really meaningful discussions with her about historical/academic christianity and dogmatic belief. When I started talking to her (casually, I never made a big deal about my atheism/agnosticism - it changes depending on my mood) I discovered that her religious beliefs were just about as nuanced as my own. She respected catholic traditions, but didn't really think that there was a big bearded guy in the sky looking over us every day. She had her own idea of what spirituality was to her, and how christianity fit into that framework.

All I'm saying is don't write your parents off. They are probably smarter than you think, and if you really want to talk to them about your beliefs, don't go in thinking that you are going to rock their naive world. Bring it up in context one day, and be open to listening to what you parents have to say.

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Nick
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I have friends that are atheists, I know they're atheists, and they know I'm Christian. It has never been a problem for me...

I don't have a problem with atheists, as long as they don't say "theism is folly" and "only atheism is virtuous". I respect everyone's beliefs until they give me a reason not to.

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Nathan2006
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I wouldn't necessarily call your parents up and say "Hey, how are you? I'm an athiest."

But I wouldn't hide it either. If it comes up I'd address it, but I don't think I'd diliberately bring it up.

If you feel like you really want to get it off of your chest that you don't believe in a God, by all means do it.

I would warn you: If you make a big deal of telling your parents, they're likely to assume that you want to be talked out of it, or you want their permission. If this is *not* what you want, I would make it clear to them.

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theamazeeaz
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Nick,

A couple of months back (don't know if a thread ended up at Hatrack, couldn't find it searching for "atheist") a study was published about what outside groups people felt shared the American way of life, a yes or no thing. The list of groups included many religions, and ethic backgrounds as well as sexual orientation.

http://www.ur.umn.edu/FMPro?-db=releases&-lay=web&-format=umnnewsreleases/releasesdetail.html&ID=2816&-Find

This probably explains why atheist are worried that most people don't share your attitude.

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Nick
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Okay, that's a stereotype if I've ever saw one. None of my Christian friends distrust atheists. I'm not as "reputable" as a study done by University of Minnesota, but my personal experiences directly contradict that study.

Were the people who conducted this study paranoid atheists?

There are some christians out there that are bible-thumpers, atheist-haters and blatantly intolerant of other views.

I am not one of them, and I am not a minority. Not all christians dislike atheists.

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King of Men
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Nobody is saying all christians dislike atheists. But a substantial and vocal fraction do. And to sit about asserting "I am not a minority" is hardly very helpful.
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Tarrsk
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Reporting the results of a study is perpetuating a stereotype?

Nick, I'm not trying to be offensive (as neither an active Christian nor an atheist, I don't really have a horse in this race), but I suspect your anecdotal position is the one that is more likely to be biased than a peer-reviewed article in a prominent sociology journal.

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Leonide
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Javert, to me this is one of those situations where it's essential that you're honest, but there's no real reason to force discussion of the issue.

I think it's important that families understand each other, what makes them tick, what is in their heads and hearts. A lot of family members can't acheive any sort of understanding between them, but if it's possible then I think it's important to be open and honest.

If your family asks if you've been attending services, or what you're doing for a particular holiday that you might not actively celebrate, or directly asks you about God and your feelings, I see no problem with saying "actually, i don't attend church anymore. I've re-evaluated my beliefs, and I'm not following a religious path anymore." (or words to that effect [Smile] ) And then just let the conversation proceed from there.

I don't conceal my beliefs from my parents -- neither do I shove it down their throats. My mom brings it up every now and again: "So what exactly DO you believe?" As if it's changed, or as if she's forgotten [Wink] But i don't mind re-explaining myself. My dad and I rarely talk religion, but we did have a decent discussion the other day about more generic belief things, if not our specific belief systems.

I think it's just important to be honest.

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Nick
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quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
You should tell them, not so much for yourself, but to make atheism more socially acceptable. Lots of Christians don't know that they know any atheists, and are scared of us. Your parents are probably not that sort, but every bit helps.

And this totally unverifiable claim IS helpful? [Roll Eyes] I think Rakeesh is right.

Just for the record, I've NEVER met nor heard of anybody scared of an atheist. It almost sounds as if you're more distrusting of Christians than they are of atheists.

Many times in recent years both sides of this have tried to play the victim, and this is simply another instance. I read that link above and thought, give me a break. Besides, in this certain case, I hardly believe that Javert's parents will trust him less when they discover his true beliefs.

Tarrsk, agreed. It is more likely to be biased, but that doesn't mean I'm necessarily wrong in saying that myself and the christians I know don't distrust atheists. This is an excerpt from that study:
"East and West Coast Americans more accepting of atheists than their Midwestern counterparts."

I live on the West Coast, in a very diverse area, racially and socially. An area where if you're not accepting, you get branded a hate-monger or at worst, get shot.

[ May 29, 2007, 11:26 AM: Message edited by: Nick ]

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rollainm
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quote:
An area where if you're not accepting, you get branded a hate-monger or at worst, get shot.
....
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KarlEd
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I think that if you can genuinely phrase the question as "coming out" then you might want to consider doing it. As Tom and others said, you might not "get much" out of a conversation on the topic, but there is one thing you can get that can't be underestimated and that's peace of mind.

Now, maybe I'm reading you wrong and you're fine with this never coming up at all among your family, but if I'm not let me say that not "coming out" means it's going to continue to be a question in your mind during interaction with your family. If you keep "closeted" you're going to be modifying your behavior in order to keep your "secret". This is going to prevent others from knowing the real you.

That said, "coming out" doesn't have to be a specific conversation. Just make up your mind that you will always be genuine and avoid deception. If the topic comes up, you will join in as appropriate with your true feelings. If someone asks about church, be honest. If you have opportunity to let people know how you feel, take it as appropriate. After a while, people will either get the hint, or ask you outright, in which case you can have a good conversation and maybe "get something" out of it.

Whatever you do, don't keep yourself closeted. You can't be yourself and simultaneously live a lie. Trust me, I know this.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by rollainm:
quote:
An area where if you're not accepting, you get branded a hate-monger or at worst, get shot.
....
I know there are people in the world that do not love their fellow human beings and I hate people like that.
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King of Men
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quote:
Originally posted by Nick:
And this totally unverifiable claim IS helpful?

Excuse me. If you would please look five or so posts up the page, you will see a very nice link to a study which does, in fact, verify precisely this claim.

quote:
It almost sounds as if you're more distrusting of Christians than they are of atheists.
Well, yes. When was the last time an atheist burned anyone at the stake? People who become emotionally attached to beliefs they cannot prove are extremely dangerous.

quote:
Besides, in this certain case, I hardly believe that Javert's parents will trust him less when they discover his true beliefs.
Of course not. That's my point. They won't trust Javert any less, so they will instead start trusting atheists more.

quote:
Tarrsk, agreed. It is more likely to be biased, but that doesn't mean I'm necessarily wrong in saying that myself and the christians I know distrust atheists.
I think you missed a "don't" in that sentence - a Freudian slip, perchance? However, your personal circle is in any case totally beside the point.
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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by Nick:
Javert, The question of telling them is certain. You should tell them as straight-forward as possible, I think that would make them respect you more.

BlackBlade said:
"Are you perhaps hoping that you can help them see the virtues of atheism and the folly of theism?"
First off, it's best you don't call people who believe in God fools or lacking in virtue. Some would argue the exact opposite.

I don't think counseling Javert to call his family foolish is wise either. Nor is it wise to say they are lacking in virtue.

What are trying to tell this poor man to do?

I think you misread my post,

1: I myself believe strongly in a God who is quite active in the affairs of this world,

2: That list was purely a list of POSSIBLE reasons for coming out. I've heard of people coming home to parents and saying, "Guess what mom and dad, I'm an atheist because I got some smarts in college, I hope both of you will stop being dumb and come join the bandwagon."

If you reread my post you would realize I am not suggesting he take any specific course of action with the exception of the very end bit.

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Nick
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BlackBlade, the context of the post seemed to indicate that you believed those reasons. I take back what I said then.

The University of Minnesota study doesn't prove your claim, it's one study that only says that atheists are distrusted, and mostly only in the midwest of the United States. That link specifically says that more educated people are not as distrusting. Nowhere does it say that christians (or other religious groups) are scared of atheists.

quote:
Well, yes. When was the last time an atheist burned anyone at the stake? People who become emotionally attached to beliefs they cannot prove are extremely dangerous.
Didn't you know we have freedom of religion here in the United States? Do you fear for your life because you're an atheist? Do you think you're going to be burned at the stake? That was an age past, a less educated and accepting time. If you're afraid of being burned at the stake, you're nothing short of being delusional or paranoid. Even if this an example, it's a poor one, because you're using something that was done hundreds of years ago that is currently forbidden not only by law, but also by belief. Anybody who does burn people at the stake is no christian.
quote:
I think you missed a "don't" in that sentence - a Freudian slip, perchance? However, your personal circle is in any case totally beside the point.
I have edited my post. Don't call a typo a Freudian slip to further your argument, it makes you look stupid. I'm not talking about a personal circle, I'm talking about pretty much every christian I've met. The U of M study that you're so eager to refer to even says that the most distrusting people are in the midwest. Correct me if I'm wrong, but if you add the east and west coast together, isn't that most of the population the United States? That study specifically said that the problem is more in the midwest than anywhere else.

Lets not hijack this thread any more than we have though, we should start a new thread to discuss the claims of that study.

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El JT de Spang
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We've already had a thread discussing that study, iirc.
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kmbboots
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Nick,

My experience (here in the midwest even!) is quite similar to yours.

Specific religious beliefs are not really a factor in my relationships.

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Teshi
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quote:
I know there are people in the world that do not love their fellow human beings and I hate people like that.
If you hadn't quoted it, I would have [Big Grin] .
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rivka
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[Big Grin]
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King of Men
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quote:
Originally posted by Nick:
[QB]The University of Minnesota study doesn't prove your claim, it's one study that only says that atheists are distrusted, and mostly only in the midwest of the United States.

[Confused]

My claim: Christians distrust atheists, on average.
Study: Atheists are distrusted.
Additional fact: Most Americans are Christians.
Conclusion from study: Christians distrust atheists.

I honestly do not see how you can possibly say this doesn't support my claim. Perhaps you're playing games with 'prove'? Sure, no study ever proves anything 100%, but there's such a thing as a middle ground between "Totally unsupported assertions based on what feels good" and "Confirmed by 100 years of experimental data".

quote:
quote:
Well, yes. When was the last time an atheist burned anyone at the stake? People who become emotionally attached to beliefs they cannot prove are extremely dangerous.
Didn't you know we have freedom of religion here in the United States?
You certainly have a law saying there's freedom of religion, yes. I won't even deny that it's quite often enforced. But atheists still often find it necessary to go to court to get rights that everyone else can take for granted. Consider, for example, the Smalkowski case, second link on the page.

quote:
Do you fear for your life because you're an atheist? Do you think you're going to be burned at the stake? That was an age past, a less educated and accepting time. If you're afraid of being burned at the stake, you're nothing short of being delusional or paranoid. Even if this an example, it's a poor one, because you're using something that was done hundreds of years ago that is currently forbidden not only by law, but also by belief. Anybody who does burn people at the stake is no christian.
I'm just not going to go there, ok? If it calls itself Christian and believes Jesus was divine, then it's a Christian for purposes of this discussion. I do not care what doctrinal differences you might have.

As for burning at the stake, I agree that this is unlikely; lynching would be the preferred method, or beating and ostracising as in the case above. And certainly I should not care to attempt attending a military academy around here. Again, there does exist a middle ground between fatal persecution and just not quite being as good as everyone else.

quote:
I'm talking about pretty much every christian I've met.
That is your personal circle. Anyway, what are you, a thought reader? Do you go about asking all these Christians whether or not they distrust atheists? If not, how do you know what their attitude is? Come up in conversation often, does it? "Oh, by the way, I don't distrust atheists. How about you?"
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Nick
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I said that the study doesn't prove the claim you made about Christians FEARING atheists, not distrusting them. I thought that was plain.

But as I said before, if you want to continue this discussion, lets start a new thread. I hope you don't because it seems obvious that you have some issues against christians. It almost seems as if some have persecuted you in some way, and that your anger is clouding your reason.

Better yet, lets not waste Hatrack bandwidth, email me.

[ May 29, 2007, 10:43 PM: Message edited by: Nick ]

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El JT de Spang
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quote:
People who become emotionally attached to beliefs they cannot prove are extremely dangerous.
Which makes this even more deliciously ironic.

I don't happen to think that his anger is clouding his reason, but I don't there's any question that KoM is, in fact, pretty emotionally invested in atheism.

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King of Men
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quote:
Originally posted by Nick:
I said that the study doesn't prove the claim you made about Christians FEARING atheists, not distrusting them. I thought that was plain.

Then I suggest you actually read the study in question, not the summaries. Some extracts:

quote:
For all these respondents, atheists represent a general lack of morality, but for some, this lack was associated with criminality and its dangers to safety and public order, while for others the absence of morality was that of people whose resources or positions place them above the common standards of mainstream American life.
quote:
One man, DD, a Democrat who is also a pastor involved in social justice outreach, told our interviewer,
quote:
You know, anybody can effect change but it has, most non-faith-based organizations do it much
more from the perspective of what’s in it for me,
and it’s more [a] possible takeover situation, “I’m gonna force you to do whatever I want to do” .|.|. [I]t’s a healthy faith-based tradition that I always recognize as being fixed in community, and working together, and looking out for the well-being of the other person just as much as myself.


quote:
It is important to note that our respondents did not refer to particular atheists whom they had encountered. Rather they used the atheist as a symbolic figure to represent their fears about those trends in American life—increasing criminality, rampant self-interest, an unaccountable elite—that they believe undermine trust and a common sense of purpose.

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Nick
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What do you want me to say KoM? That the study is right and Christians distrust atheists, and you're a victim of distrust?

I hardly believe 2,000 phone samplings is enough to produce an accurate result. Basically, 2,000 people polled can speak for the 300 million people in the United States? If you take those numbers literally, that means that one of those phone poll participants spoke for 150,000 people. I don't know if I buy that. I think it shows that a group of 2,000 people distrust atheists.

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King of Men
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Yes, well, if you're really so emotionally attached to the idea of Christian tolerance that you're going to throw out the whole method of representative samples, and most of sociology therewith, I can't stop you. I would suggest you take a deep breath, though, and think things through before you get quite that defensive. Also, you should please note that the word 'victim' appears in none of my posts.
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Nick
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My tolerance of other beliefs doesn't have anything to do with my belief in Christianity.

I'm simply saying that the method the of information-gathering is imperfect.

I'm one man in a city of 150,000 (actually the population of the city I live in), would you be alright with me speaking for you if you lived in the same city?

I hardly think I'm throwing out the whole method of representative sampling, I'm saying their sampling was far too inadequate to produce accurate results. That's being logical, not defensive.

I'm not saying you called yourself a victim of distrust. This study says it for you if you accept it as fact.

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King of Men
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Are you really not aware of how representative sampling is done? Of course I don't want you speaking for me; but in a sample of 2000 people, it is extremely likely that there will be someone who does speak my opinions, even though atheists are fairly rare. At 3%, that sample will contain roughly 60 atheists.

Please note, most election polls are done on rather smaller samples than this, and probably less well selected for genuine representativeness; do you reject those too? If you do, you need to explain how they nevertheless manage to have a decent track record of predicting election outcomes. 2000 people is in fact enough to get a good cross-section of the population.

As for being a victim, I may let a study speak for me on facts, but I'll make my own interpretations, thanks.

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rollainm
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I'm not even sure why this argument is happening, but at this point I think the thread is officially hijacked. Javert has gotten about all the good advice he’s going to get by now, and besides, he’s probably already made his mind on what to do anyway.

Nick, your point is well taken, but you have asserted it so aggressively that it really does seem like you're assuming what the average American Christian opinion of atheism is. That study very well may not amount to much at all, but neither does your personal experience when it comes to assessing such a large scale opinion - and by personal experience I mean your opinion AND that of "pretty much every christian" you've ever met. It's basic psychology that we humans have a historically unreliable perception of what other people believe or how they see things. I believe “false consensus effect” is the concept I’m thinking of here. Not that I’m accusing you of this fallacy, but this is how you’re coming across to me and apparently to others as well.

Consider my own home town as a counterexample to your experience. To an unknowing visitor, the people here are your average upper-middle class. Do a little research and you’ll find that 90% of the land and businesses in this city are owned and run by the overwhelming majority of Christian conservatives that founded it. Spend a little time here and you’ll soon learn just how religious these people are. How religious are they? I once witnessed our city council argue for thirty minutes over what constitutes an “act of God” (as an exemption from immediate lawn care liability of all things) - the phrase itself was never questioned. They also begin and end each of their meetings with prayer.

I happen to know several people (two are present coworkers) that have been shunned or otherwise rejected by their families because they’re gay, atheist, or simply prefer a different Christian denomination. On a persona level, I have a small but considerable (and growing) fear that my family will refuse to ever speak to me again when they find out I don’t believe in God. I have justifiable reasons for this fear, and I am not alone. I’ve conversed with other atheists from all over the country through forums, instant messages, and emails. There are even websites specifically targeted to people like me or Javert that offer support and advice.

We don’t need polls and surveys to tell us we’re not very well liked. This is simply our reality. It’s wonderful that you and your friends and family don’t discriminate, but can’t you see how that is completely irrelevant when our own friends and families do?

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Dog Walker
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quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
Yes, well, if you're really so emotionally attached to the idea of Christian tolerance that you're going to throw out the whole method of representative samples, and most of sociology therewith, I can't stop you. I would suggest you take a deep breath, though, and think things through before you get quite that defensive.

I am not so sure that that survey is a very acurate representation of most Christians. I am the son of a pastor, and plan to become a pastor myself. In the last three places i have lived 2 of my best friends have been atheist (the other a Morman). I still talk to my old atheist friend from 2 schools ago and I trust him more than i trust some people that say they're Christians.

Personally I would much rather have someone tell me he/she is atheist, than clam to be a Christian but don't live out their faith. I have found that some of the greatest Christians i know were once atheist. They started searching for God by first eliminating him, but eventually came back to him.

My thoughts are that If you say you hate Atheists, How Christian are you really? Christians should be considered the most loving people in the world. The fact that we're not says we are falling short of God's plan for us.

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King of Men
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I-don't-care-what-you-think-a-Christian-should-be. I-care-only-whether-someone-claims-to-be-a-Christian.
You-do-not-have-the-right-to-say-who-is-Christian-and-who-isn't.

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Nick
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"2000 people is in fact enough to get a good cross-section of the population."

Really? Really do the math, and you'll see that one Christian extremist bigot or one atheist makes a severe difference on a number as small as 2000. It is possible that we both disagree on how much sampling is necessary, rather than having to have one of us be wrong? By the way, political polls have long been worthless to me. I look at information relating to propositions and/or candidates, and I vote. Polls are irrelevant.

Doesn't the study, in fact, say atheists are distrusted? So you don't like the word victim. Then what shall we say, a target of the country's distrust? That's all I'm saying.

Please note, the word victim has more to do with others around and less about yourself. I wasn't saying you're making yourself a victim, I'm saying the study is. I can't think of another way to interpret it.

I'm not going to accuse you of anything, but ask a simple question: Do you think all Christians distrust atheists?

rollainm, I'm shocked by your anecdote. There is no separation of church and state there? If that happened in my city, or neighboring cities for that matter, people would sue, the local newspaper would headline it, "City council requires prayer before meeting commencement" and people would be outraged. The schools I went to banned any mention of religion, coaches can be fired for praying before games. I know that I can't use these facts to support a counter-point for the study, but I can say they give me reason to have doubt of it's validity.

On a side note, maybe 3% of the country is atheist, but it sure seems like a lot more than 3% of the people where I live are atheist. A good deal more are agnostic.

I know this may surprise you KoM, but I feel I must apologize for any discrimination you have suffered at the hands of Christians. They should let their actions speak for them instead of speaking out against atheism, for this only frustrates atheists and convinces them that Christians are self-righteous fools. I imagine you've seen plenty of that.

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King of Men
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quote:
Really? Really do the math, and you'll see that one Christian extremist bigot or one atheist makes a severe difference on a number as small as 2000.
Indeed? You consider one-twentieth of a percent to be a large difference? And now do the math and figure out the probability that one such extremist is actually going to be in a sample of two thousand.

Further, this is what margins of error are for. Let's suppose we had a study to determine the number of atheists in the US, and we asked 2000 people. Let's say 60 of those respond "I'm an atheist". We would then quote the atheist percentage, by respectable statistical methods, as (3+-0.4)%. Now, let's do it the other way: Let's say we got it right, and there really are exactly 3% atheists. What is the probability that we are only going to get 50 atheists in our study, and therefore quote a wrong percentage of 2.5%? By simple Poisson (or you can work it out using probabilistic methods of pick-2000-from-300-million, if you prefer), it is a mere 2.3%. So, you'd have to repeat the study 50 times to get, on average, one that was off by half a percent!

I do not wish to flame you, but it does seem to me that you have not studied this subject, but are instead arguing from your gut feeling, plus some revulsion over what this particular study shows. If I may ask, what is your mathematical background?

quote:
By the way, political polls have long been worthless to me. I look at information relating to propositions and/or candidates, and I vote. Polls are irrelevant.
Excuse me, you did not read what I wrote. Of course polls are irrelevant to whom you vote for; so they should be! But polls nonetheless do a pretty good job of predicting who is going to win. And they do so with samples no larger than in this study. If you reject this study based on the sample size, you need to explain how polls manage this trick. Whether you, personally, use them to inform your vote is utterly irrelevant.
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Dog Walker
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quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
I-don't-care-what-you-think-a-Christian-should-be. I-care-only-whether-someone-claims-to-be-a-Christian.
You-do-not-have-the-right-to-say-who-is-Christian-and-who-isn't.

I dont have the right to say who is a Christian and who is not one. Your 100% correct. I was just trying to say that it is not a very Christian thing to show hate toward anyone, and I'm sorry some Christians mis-represent us that way.

Jesus says in the bible the greatest comandment is to love your God, the next greatest is to love your neighbor as yourself. My opinion is that if you say you hate your neighbor your not really acting out your faith. But I'm not about to say someone is, or is not a Christian, I leave that up to God.

King of Men, I don't know who you are and what you have been through, but it almost seems like your proud of the fact that some Christians dislike your lifestyle. My two best friends that are atheist, don't where their choice like an honor badge. They ask me questions and test my faith sometimes, but I never get a negative vibe from them.

I'm not trying to say I think your a bad person at all(you like OSC how bad could you possibly be [Smile] ). I just don't understand why you have to believe Christians hate you. I'll tell you right now, I "clam to be a Christian" and I dont hate you or any other atheist. My family "clams" to be Christians and they don't hate you either. Add us to the 2000 plus my church of 300. That will sway the numbers a little bit.

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King of Men
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I will let you speak for yourself. I might even let you speak for your family. When you begin speaking for a church of 300 people, I'm having to wonder where you get your information. I asked this question of Nick also, and got no answer: How do you know that those people you claim to speak for don't distrust atheists? Is this a topic that often comes up in conversation, between hymns perhaps?

Also, you don't seem to understand the fundamental point about representative samples: You're already represented. Someone in that study spoke for you, saying "No, I don't distrust atheists in particular". But you are in the minority.

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MightyCow
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quote:
Originally posted by Dog Walker:
I dont have the right to say who is a Christian and who is not one. Your 100% correct. I was just trying to say that it is not a very Christian thing to show hate toward anyone, and I'm sorry some Christians mis-represent us that way.

If all Christians are sinners, and fall short of the glory of God, then it's not really a mis-representation. In fact, if a majority of Christians believe in something, then by their majority, they are the best representation.

Interestingly (to me at least) that was one of the factors that helped me to decide Christianity was not for me. Most of them talk big, but don't walk the walk.

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Dog Walker
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quote:
Originally posted by MightyCow:
[/qb]

If all Christians are sinners, and fall short of the glory of God, then it's not really a mis-representation. In fact, if a majority of Christians believe in something, then by their majority, they are the best representation.

Interestingly (to me at least) that was one of the factors that helped me to decide Christianity was not for me. Most of them talk big, but don't walk the walk. [/QB][/QUOTE]

Man. I hate to hear it when Christians do stuff that causes others to reject the faith. I'm sorry you have run into some big talking Christians. I once heard "the greatest single cause of atheisism is Christians... who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, and then walk out of the door and deny him by their lifestyle."

Nothing gets to me more than hypocritical Christians. I mess up all the time and I'm no better than anyone else, but I try to live a life that is pleasing to God. I wish i could do something to make up. I wish i could meet you man.
My family has helped out drug addicts, homeless people, gang members, homosexuals, people from every ethnic group, and all kinds of people during our years in the ministry. In the bible it says that everyone was "beautifully and fearfully made". Who am I to disrespect anyone God created.

Mighty Cow, I sorry the Christians in your life did not show you God's love. I wish I could meet you and try to change your feelings toward what Christians are.

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