When I Offend My Religious Friends
I’ve offended a few religious people here and there. Not because I was trying to but merely by being ME.
What the religious don’t understand is that our culture is designed with YOU in mind not ME. My very presence can be perceived as anti YOU just because I’m being ME.
Let me explain.
An unbeliever like ME spends countless minutes every day being reminded that they chose not to embrace the culturally approved religion of the country where they were born. I happened to be born in America where Christianity is the dominant religion, but if I’d been born elsewhere, I might’ve been a Hindu.
I didn’t get to pick my culture, nationality, or parents.
Because I was born in the US, I received years of indoctrination that Christianity is the truth and the Bible is the word of God. Wherever I went, I saw large, impressive churches of one denomination or another where the members held this common belief. I was inundated with further culturally produced indoctrination like steeples, bells, holidays, famous quotes, constant mention of prayer, rituals, church weddings, symbols and crosses.
Everywhere I looked there were endless reminders that if I wanted to fit in to my culture, the one I didn’t get to choose, then I should take heed and conform.
For me to question anything about the Christian God or the Bible was almost a miracle. Most people don’t, because questioning is met with shock and dismay. From parents to grandparents, teachers to employers, friends to acquaintances, everyone judges you accordingly.
It takes a very strong INDIVIDUAL to question the traditions and beliefs of their cultures.
Not just American culture, but Indian, Japanese, German, Spanish, Brazilian, Iranian, well, name me a country and I guarantee you that their children grow up expected to conform without question.
Those of us who do question our cultural expectations are gutsy to say the least.
Every time we open our mouths, we offend a Christian. Every damn time. Most of us refrain from opening our mouths whenever possible. It would be exhausting if we even tried to counter every Christian who feels that its their god-given right to freely and openly live as they please without reservation. No secret lives required. Christianity is so deeply engrained in our collective consciousness, maybe even in our DNA by now, that if an unbeliever decided to take a stand in their own defense, they would be forced to object to one thing after another ad nauseam. It’s so much easier to not say anything at all.
So we keep quiet most of the time.
We have little to no desire to stir the pot. We just don’t want to go to church, tithe, pray, be baptized, read the bible, talk about crucifixions, accept unscientific explanations for natural occurrences, praise god, attend mass, kiss the pope’s ring or talk in tongues. Some of our religious friends don’t want to do everything on the list either. Unbelievers don’t want to do any of the things on the list. We aren’t religious because we think it’s archaic and mystical rather than logical and rational.
But if we ever say ONE thing, just ONCE, to almost ANYONE who’s religious, we offend. We’re even accused of persecuting our religious friends.
Actually, unbelievers of any religion have been run out of town, burned at the stake, or silenced far more often by believers than the other way around. Historically, it’s not just atheists who are feared by believers. Believers fear other believers from other religons as well. It’s not enough to be religious. Everyone must also believe in the one true religion.
Which religion is the one true religion? Well, the one that my culture, that I didn’t get to choose, promotes, of course.
Christians get high on the very idea of persecution. They’ve been indoctrinated to believe that they should expect to suffer for the truth. Yet, when one takes an honest look at a suffering Christian’s life in America, they are the norm, not the weirdos. They come and go and do as they please because our culture has appointed them a special role in society, to keep the truth from dying.
It’s the weirdos who have always been shunned. The non conformists. Those who are different from the tribe.
Those deemed to be normal gang together in places of worship and town squares refusing to marry or employ the weirdos. Sometimes, the weirdos are even killed just for being different.
Unbelievers are outnumbered although they tell me that church attendance is at an all time low. Yet, I still pay attention, even watch my back around the devout lest I offend and set off a firestorm of shock and dismay.
Sometimes, I write articles like this one.
Why? Probably in hopes of educating believers and introducing a different perspective other than the one that the lottery of birth assigned us.
I rarely hold a face-to-face conversation with a believer, however. They’re too easily offended.
So, yes, I probably do offend a Christian from time to time. I know what they want but I refuse to give it to them. They want me to accept their God and join the tribe. They’re trying to insure a strong membership and maintain their special place in mainstream society.
They refuse to question what they’ve been taught and resent me for doing so.
They’ve been indoctrinated to believe that my very presence is offensive to their god and to them. I’m so offensive to their god that when I die, he’s going to throw me into a lake of fire for eternity. I may try to point out that the Bible is full of fairy tales and unscientific explanations, but they turn around and tell me that I’m an abomination to God.
When they choose to pray before we eat, I’m expected to just shut up and bow my head.
If they have a piece of literature to drop off at my doorstep, I’m to take it and say thank you. When they’re thanking god for being so blessed, I’m expected to feel a bit of envy. When I’m suffering and their solution is to pray for me, I’m expected to be grateful.
There are hundreds of different Christian religions with different rules and rituals, all believing that they have found the way.
Pay attention. These different denominations disagree non stop with one another. So much so that they must build their own expensive houses of worship in order to separate from other professing Christians. They can’t possibly sit under the same roof with someone who believes that you need to be dunked not sprinkled in a holy baptismal service.
Yet, let one atheist enter the picture and suddenly these believers who can’t worship together, unite.
Atheists know what’s going on. Trust me, we know. We understand the contempt directed our way. We see it for what it is. Make no mistake about it. Yet, most of the time, we say or do nothing. NOTHING. Most of our acquaintances have little to no idea that we’re unbelievers.
Let’s be honest. Shall we? Who should be offended. Me or them?
Teresa Roberts is a retired educator, author, world traveler, and professional myth buster. You can find her books on Amazon.