Yesterday, I explained to my mom (a strong Christian) how I am not offended when people say "I'll pray for you," because in my eyes, it has the same intent as saying "I'll cross my fingers" or "I'll keep you in my thoughts."
Naturally, she argued it's not the same.
Being an open-minded atheist has its drawbacks. I'm not accepted in a religion because I definitely do not agree in any higher power. However, I'm not always accepted as an atheist, because I'm too passive about non/religion. I accept that other people believe in some existence of a god, and I don't always challenge it. I don't take offense when somebody says "I'll pray for you," when many atheists do, because I see their intention and, in a way, pick up on the intention of the statement as if it was said another way, without bringing religion into the conversation. I didn't take offense when the lady said, "God bless you," for helping her find her car in the parking lot. I simply said "Thank you," and walked away. I explained this to someone and according to them, I'm "not a true atheist."
Is it possible to be a passive-aggressive atheist? If so, are you more on the passive side, or the aggressive side?
'I will pray for you' is almost an insult to me; I usually say "please don't". I will pray for you is saying "you're on your own, kid", regardless of what they actually think it means.
When someone says 'god bless you' to me after I do something for them, I usually reply with 'I am an atheist' and 'God had nothing to do with it'.
That's not passive-aggressive, it's just passive.
objectively, to be an atheist is simply to not believe in a god/adhere to a religion, but there are two main divisions, New and Old Atheist(hate the terms) Old is what you are calling(incorrectly) passive-aggressive (actually passive) and New is Dawkins/Hitchens
For me it's like touching a nerve. I will get on people for even saying thank god someone is no longer sick, because god had nothing to do with it.
I will be aggressive with someone trying to convert me or being preachy, that's fair game otherwise I'll let it go.
An atheist, because they are militant doesn't mean everyone has to be, I would be just as aggressive with them if they were insisting I must react as they do. You get to choose your response.
If someone asks if I'm religious (no doubt expecting a yes), I respond "No, I'm not superstitious." In the few times I've had the opportunity to do that, I tend to get two results; the first being generic theistic rage, and the second being a deer-in-the-headlights reaction, perhaps followed by pondering as to what I might actually have meant-- because certainly I must believe in Sky Guy™.
Generally, I try to respond to theistic questions in a way that's not outright "I'm atheist", since that causes them to ignore anything you say from then on. Answers that make them think, if crafted correctly, go quite well.
I have yet to get a "wait a minute, my beliefs are superstitious nonsense" response. Ah well, one can dream.
...Or pray. But that won't help in the slightest.
"Not a true atheist?" That implies that atheism is a religion.
There is only one qualification in being a "true atheist": believe there is no god.
Years ago, my mother told me that she prayed every day that my life would by miserable until I "returned to Jesus." I told her that was one of the most hateful things I'd ever heard, and she insisted that she did it out of love.
That's the kind of total crazy that I grew up with as religion (Southern Baptist). It's what I tend to think of when I encounter religionists, period. Jihadists really don't surprise me. I've been waiting to hear about mass crime waves because of the failed "Rapture," because obviously it would be somebody else's fault, right?
But when a theist just says "I'll pray for you" or "God bless you" without it being as offensive as my mother's statement, I generally just let it roll off, like most other conversational static. I don't give everyone who asks, "How are you?" a full and truthful response, either. It's noise.
I have tried to find a way to express caring and compassion without using those particular noises or using the lame "You'll be in my/our thoughts." Yeah, like I'm going to channel some healing energy their way? Not going to help, is it? I think the only sincere things to be said are, "I hope you feel better soon. Is there any way I can help you?" and perhaps offer some sort of concrete help (which is always better than prayer anyway.
I tend to agree with your approach, Katie. It's the "more bees with honey than with vinegar" approach mixed in with a respect for individual freedoms.
I can feel twisted when someone offer to pray for me or when someone makes some God comment which is obviously predicated on an assumption that I share their worldview. When it is meant in a nice way, I try to understand that they are trying to be nice or make a bond, but may have limited tools with which to do so. Our language makes it easier to use prepackaged references to supernatural entities or actions than to do the same thing with natural references.
And while I find supernatural-based worldviews to be a sort of functional insanity, I respect the right of people to choose that lifestyle for themselves. I am probably influences in this by my historic research of early America and the Constitution, as well as my eight years of military service (the oath for which references loyalty to the Constitution) in support of Constitutional freedoms.
One major benefit of your approach -- which too many atheists seem to be blind to -- is that if you establish yourself as a nice (read: nonthreatening) person, people will have more respect for you and your ideas, and will be less likely to put up a mental defense to your statements. Iin a sense, it is a tactic of working behind enemy lines.
While militancy is a necessary part of any civil rights movement, actions that provide for social acceptance are also necessary to finish the fight.
As a third generation I agree with your mom on that one. Those expressions are nothing alike :)
I am profoundly insulted by the expression and anyone who states it to me I retorque that I don't deal with that BS.
I am insulted because it relieves them from any action. They place the burden of help on a third party instead of themselves and that is weak and lazy. The only third party involvement I want is an ambulance!