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Imposing Religion is Rude even when Meant Well

We live in a world that is dominated by religious belief. Often times, well meaning people insert their religious belief into casual conversation. This is socially acceptable behavior in our society. When this happens, an atheist is put in an awkward position.

We don’t want to send the message that it is acceptable for religious people to push their views on us. We also don’t want to pretend to be believers when we are not and yet we also don’t want to offend the often well meaning religious person who hasn’t even considered the possibility that other people might not be religious or might not be a believer in their religion.

For example, before the summer started I was talking to a local crossing guard as she stopped traffic for me and my baby. But our friendly conversation got awkward for me very quickly when she said, “God bless him,” referring to my baby. Now I could simply pretend to be a believer and say thank you. That would be the socially acceptable response. But why should I have to pretend that I believe in a God when I do not. She was the one who imposed her religion into the conversation.

She meant well and I don’t blame her for the imposition. She is just a victim of religious indoctrination. But had I told her that God doesn’t exist and started the conversation, society would consider it rude. People would claim that I am imposing my atheism on this nice old lady.

It doesn’t seem fair to me that religious people can impose their views on others without a thought and when we inform them that we don’t hold those views, we are the ones considered rude by society. But life isn’t always fair. So I say be rude… as politely as possible. While I am glad this crossing guard was well meaning, she should know that it was rude for her to assume that everyone believes as she does. I wouldn’t deliver a sermon on it or anything, but a simple, “I don’t believe in god, but thanks for the sentiment,” should do fine.

We have to let people know that it is not okay for them to impose their religion on us. We need to change the atmosphere in which this type of behavior is considered acceptable. It won’t happen over night, but if we just pretend to believe by saying, “thanks” out of fear of being rude, than this will continue. We need to risk the social stigma of rudeness for the sake of future generations.

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