I,m 54 and a 40 year athiest,that will fight for freedom from relgion but have no desire to convert others. Let me tell a story,at age 25 one sunday morn a knock,a lady with a watchtower,oh boy come on in..for the next hour i talked about predestination,loving god,the favorite,you get my drift.this woman was not prepared for me,and as she left i saw fear in her eyes..she came with jesus in her heart and left damaged..Boy did i feel small agree or not that jesus thing was her world and well i felt small. one week later a knock there she is with a deacon who was sharp enuff to relize the wink i gave him wasnt gay. I let them talk me in circles (biting my tongue at every stumble)when they left i saw joy and faith in her eyes,promissing to return(never did 11 years not 1 wittness came to my door) i felt much better about myself for what they would call a christian act. my point is befor debating dogma ask yourself what have i to gain? the answer allmost allways nothing.  jeff hogue

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I just hope this lady didn't have a child later on that needed a life saving blood transfusion. Her happiness with her delusion could be dangerous to someone. Reverence for religion and a bitten tongue are not noble acts, in my opinion. What could be gained by disabusing these beliefs? Quite a lot.
Personally, I feel no guilt about having an open conversation with someone who has propositioned me with a sales pitch for religion. That woman wasn't hurt by you, she was hurt by her own ignorance. My question to you would be, what is there to gain by NOT speaking up, besides avoiding an uncomfortable situation and giving false credence to ideas you honestly don't agree with or support?

I can understand people who don't want to argue and I can even understand people who would rather grin and bare conversations than actively take part in them honestly, knowing that the conversion might become offensive to the person you're talking to. I get that. What I don't get is when anyone tries to claim that because they feel irrationally guilty for someone else's ignorance, it follows that I should feel guilty too and bite my tongue accordingly.

No.

If a woman with big sad eyes and a kind disposition came to my door peddling Jesus and she got offended by what I had to say, that isn't me looking for a fight or being a bully. That's me being approached and engaged, being honest and her being offended. No guilt involved. No reason to feel ashamed.

Compassion does not, in my opinion, require unquestioning acceptance or endurance of someone else's emotion based position.
In your story; it is because you have empathy that you feel bad. However, I also feel bad when someone is in a hurry and I have to tell them the fastest road is closed, or they're looking forward to a snow day and I tell them the forecast has changed to rain. I feel bad being the bearer of bad news, but I do not feel guilty, because I know that I've saved them time or an even greater disappointment than what I've imparted. If you feel so very bad about the debate, then simply say that you're not interested and allow them to move on to the next house.

I have a story from when I moved to TX as well. Two guys knocked on my door and had bibles in their hands. They introduced themselves and I said outright, "i'm not interested". They said that I didn't know why they were there and to hear them out. So i politely said, "You're here to convert me.." They were shocked and began to deny it, a look of almost shame in their eyes. I quickly asked how many bibles they had in their bag, and pointed out that they were both carrying one. When they answered how many bibles there were I asked if one was meant for me and, of course, yes it was. I reiterated that they were there to convert me, and thanked them before also reiterating my lack of interest in it. They looked confused and shameful when they left.

I did not feel bad, because they came to my door to convert me. When someone does that, they have opened themselves for honest discussion about what they're "selling". I might feel bad about walking into a church and handing out literature about being a freethinker or an atheist. I have also never been known to go from door to door trying to save people from religion.

I have been known to point out when legislation is clearly religious and immoral. I will use gay rights as an example. I believe it was South Carolina that just made it legal again to discriminate against gay employees. This is immoral. Clearly immoral. It is religiously motivated, and when my rights or the rights of others are adversely affected by religion, I have not guilt in speaking up about it.
When people's beliefs are what stands in science's way when it comes to discovering cures to diseases and other atrocities, you're damn right I'm going to let someone know that what they believe has been proven wrong, and I will never apologize for it. That lady's sadness when you refuted her beliefs is the ignorance that religion breeds. "I don't want it to be true, so I will not believe it to be." These people need to open their eyes and look around at the world they're actually living in, as opposed to covering their eyes and pretending it's the one they want to live in.
Thanks Kelly!

I'm in the same boat most of the time though. Especially at work where I believe it would be a bad career move to be.. overt. :)
I have however engaged in debate about whether morals can exist without the bible, whether science is a religion (it is not :) ), and on creationism and the principles of evolution. I'm amazed sometimes at how people will ignore what they know to be true in favor of what they want to be true. Actually, i think the view that science is a religion is a reason why many theists distrust it or ignore it. If they rationalize it as another competing belief system, then they can make the same excuses they do for why they're not Buddhists or Scientologists. Of course they have to ignore what science actually is to make such an argument. (Can you tell this one's a pet peeve of mine?)
I have come to the conclusion that if someone would like to discuss their religious beliefs then they are open to discuss freely and listen to my beliefs and to have respect both ways.
They are not going to be convinced there is no God as I will not be convinced there is.
Many years of having a belief whether false or not cannot be changed easily. I just mention that modern science disproves belief in a being never seen and that the bible is wicked and if there is a God all seeing and all knowing would not let anyone suffer, and would stop killing and suffering.
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ok i get it
I agree with you - mostly. I would have to say that my atheism came in 3 stages; doubt, realization, certainty. As such, I spent a lot of those years jumping at the chance for debate and it took me a long time to get out of that habit. Still, however, I do feel compelled on occasion to throw out the odd question or observation geared toward causing some skypilot to consider whether he/she actually has faith in god or faith in what others say about god. I usually try to keep my tactics obscure so they can easily be ignored by those who are more comfortable doing so.
ty they were ganging up on me lmao we think alike on this
It could have to do with how long we've had our beliefs. I notice that people who are new to atheism tend to be a lot more vocal about it - as I was at one time.
This is generally true.
I have been an atheist basically my whole life. Theism never occurred to me as a reasonable explanation for anything, and therefor I always considered it to be on the same level as Greek myths. Entertaining and socially informative, but ultimately only a story.

I was less vocal about it growing up actually. It was as i got older and began to realize the societal inequities and the unconstitutional institutionalization of religion in U.S. government that I really began to speak up. The only place I'm really not vocal about it is work, because it is kind of dangerous. :)

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