Monday, July 6, 2009

Being Confronted About Atheism

I don't hide the fact that I'm an atheist. But I don't advertise it either. Generally if a stranger asks me about my religion, or asks what church I go to, my standard response is: I'm not religious. That usually ends the line of questioning and we move on to another topic. But if anyone wants to inquire further, or actually starts proselytizing, I will make it clear that I'm an atheist. It's been awhile since that has happened. But it happened today.

Today I started a part-time job and went for training/orientation. There were eight of us in the class. We all had to give basic introductions, but other than that, there wasn't much talk between us. Most of the interaction was between the instructor and students, rather than student to student. But I did notice that one woman was pretty overtly religious. She was making comments about things being the "will of the Lord," and so forth, the kind of phrases I'm used to hearing from devout Christians. As it happened, on our lunch break she and I didn't go anywhere and were both hanging out outside the building killing time. She was around my age and we started up a conversation about why we were taking this job, the training, kids -- the usual stuff workers who don't really know each other talk about. Within five minutes she asked me if I'm a regular churchgoer. I gave my usual "I'm not religious" response. But instead of changing the subject, her next question was "But you do believe in God, right?" So I told her no, actually I didn't. I was expecting some shock and horror -- reactions that I have gotten in the past -- but she took it pretty well. We talked about it for a couple more minutes. There were no warnings about me going to hell, questions about why I hated God, or any of the usual nonsense. I was pleasantly surprised. She basically expressed the wish that maybe I might change my mind in the future. We left it at that and moved on to another topic.

I decided to post about it because I've often seen posts or questions from atheists, especially younger ones, about whether or not to reveal their atheism and how to do so. The above situation is usually how I handle it. I'm not going to proselytize for atheism, because I feel that it's a personal decision each person has to make. But if I'm confronted about my lack of belief, I refuse to hide it. They can take it or leave it. If they don't like the fact that I'm an atheist -- so be it. 

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