So I've ran into an interesting problem. My sister who was raised largely in a secular manner is identifying as Christian. Not that she goes to church. Not that she reads the Bible. Not that she knows anything about the Bible. But she's becoming sensitive about any swipes I take at anyone who identifies as Christian. The last example was over Christmas when I brought up Huckabee blaming the Newtown shootings on lack of prayer in school. Her reaction was immediate as if it's a wound just waiting to be hashed out. I brushed it aside as my point was that there were more shootings in the 25 years prior to 1963 than in the 25 years after. But her assertion that I always hit Christians and her pain has stuck with me. It's left me with a question. When should I be respecting one's religion? 

Some of you might not know me since I haven't been too active in the last couple of years. I'm anything but shy or reserved. But I'm not aggressive until my head is bleeding on the desk. What happens in the home where I grew up is anything is fair game for discussion. Usually politics while we drink beer around the fire. In the last decade that has certainly included many fervent Christians. I'm usually mocking something like the deciding factor for invading Iraq being Bush's apparent discussion with God on the matter. Or Palin lording her religion as the course to take in life while she has two grandchildren conceived out of wedlock. These jabs are sticking with my sister and clearly causing her some emotional pain. If she were ancillary in my life, I'd probably turn up the heat and watch her leave my life because I don't have need of those looking to defend Huckabee's or Bachman's. But this is my sister. 

I would avoid hurtful discussions with people out of respect. If I run across a Muslim I'm not going to refer to their leader as a drunken repressed bi-sexual pedophile. I'd avoid that. In the same way, I'd not pick on Christianity until pushed if my sister were one. But she isn't one. She seems to be beginning to identify as one and is clearly starting to feel pain. So when do you respect it, even if she isn't being one? Does one need to know who Peter is before you give a crap about their position on Jesus? Does one need to know what Jesus said before you accept them as a Christian? When would you confer respect? This is for a family member and not a stranger on the street. And by respect, we're talking about avoiding legitimate points in discussions where Christians are often over the line saying stuff like theories are from the "pits of Hell". Where is your line? 

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I have respect for people whether christian or something else but I can't respect their beliefs. I will point out whenever the opportunity grants itself that religious belief is to me ridiculous but I will never stop respecting the person most times they didn't have a choice on the matter.

Hi Gaytor, I take the line that I will respect the right of someone to believe whatever they want to believe. However the problem I have is that Theists tend to take the “high moral ground” and make statements about how things would have been better if others had the same faith. It is this false piety that gets me every time.

Blaming the school shooting on a lack of religion in class is so far of the mark that I get annoyed that even “normal” Theists cannot grasp how stupid such a statement is. I (always) tend to be derisive of what they are saying especially when they say it in such a matter-of-fact way. They wonder why it is not obvious to me that if only people had more faith in their god then life would be better.

The problem is that when I rubbish their claim and explain why it is wrong they tend to assume I am attacking or belittling them rather than the belief or statement they made.

I recently said to someone who was prattling on about the pope that “No, he is not retiring, he is resigning”. This was taken as an insult because “an Atheist” said it. Then I am informed that maybe if I had a little more humility….yada…yada….so I replied by saying that if god chose Benny for the job he must be angry with him quitting like that. I suppose I find it frustrating at times that people I normally respect can appear to hold such silly beliefs in their heads and be upset when I don’t. They get angry or defensive when the cognitive dissonance grates something in their mind that they don’t like to have pointed out.

I can’t help myself. I won’t miss an opportunity to “disrespect” anything I am demanded to respect with justification. It is a full time job for me. Keep up the good work too man. Good to see you back.

Yes, very well said. I think most Christian's, whether devote church goers or a "couch potato" Christians have a certain amount of cognitive dissonance. When their beliefs are challenged by someone they tend to become very defensive and are unable to carry on a meaningful discourse. They don't want hear the truth. I think Believers are trained to reject anything that may lead them away from the "faith". Don't persecute me with your atheist thinking! They say something like "I believe, end of argument!", no proof required!

Most people are "spiritual" but not religious. It is a blissful state of being and you get to live forever. It's living with blinders and enables the virus to propagate, but hey, for family I would bite my tongue.

Why on earth should we respect someone's religion ? I will respect anyone's right to believe in what ever bat-crap-crazy insane nonsense that they choose to believe in, but actually respect what they believe in, sorry but that bat does not fly with me.

Like you I would avoid hurtful discussions, but if they (quite literally) ask for it then I am not going to hold back regardless if that person is of that particular type of craziness or not. I would apply this approach, and in fact do apply this approach, to anyone, family or stranger. Happily unless they can sign in NGT I do not have to listen to their response :-) 

As your sister is not actually christian is she not merely following the politically correct nonsense line of "respecting a persons beliefs" (what a crock !) ?


Judith vd R

I think I am usually respectful towards people's beliefs unless and until they wittingly or unwittingly trample all over other people's belief or lack thereof.  Even then, I am able to walk away quietly most of the time.  When the conversation warrants it, I will at least let people know I am an atheist.  If someone is being especially hideously arrogant and ignorant, I will say more.  

If my sister started identifying as a Christian, she would probably end up in the hospital.  What I mean by that is that my sister, who is most adamantly an atheist, has a serious mental illness and if she got to the point of actually claiming to be Christian, she would clearly have reached a point of psychosis.  I hope she never really decides to become one; it would only cause her family members serious concern and worry.  If she did become one for real, I would avoid saying anything I thought would harm her.

I joke a lot here, but underneath that is a lot of sadness and fear,  I know sometimes I react strongly to others' Christianity, if their expression of it warrants it, because of specific damage done to love ones in Jesus' name.  At some point I become rather like a wolverine protecting its kits.

..yeah, I have had some roller-coaster experiences with bi-polar loved ones that shook me to the core. At certain points everyone's mere survival became the priority.

Jimi Hendrix summed it up quite nicely, I think.  Manic-depression is a frustrating mess.


What is your goal with your sister?  Understanding what you want may go a long way toward determining how to achieve the goal.

Personally I only respect the person, not the ideology.  If I want to get along with someone while explaining to them that I disagree with their idea, I set aside the vitriol.  If I don't give-a-phuck about them, I use the heavyweight vitriol.

disagreeThe Free Dictionary: To fail to correspond: our figures disagree.

Finding an understanding. We'll get there. I was thinking more about when you acknowledge respect for ideas or beliefs. I'm kicked back with taking on ideas unless asked. So if one says that they are religious, I'll take them at their word and be sure to not be confrontational unless the conversation warrants it. But if you are close enough to someone to know that they aren't what they claim to be, how much of the deference would you give?  

Good luck to ya Gaytor, may the heavenly angels bless you and your sister in your never ending quest of sibling understanding. :D

Someone once said: "You pick your friends not your family.", it's one of those statements that when you explore the underlying premise, family can be seen in a practical light. 

I'm attached to my siblings (after all we grew up together, have a lot of the same formative experiences), however I have come to realize they are each unique human individuals, the same as the other 7 plus Billion that infest this planet.

And " I " as a unique individual stand apart from all of them.

So I love my siblings because we share much, but I pursue my own happiness in my own unique way.  I make my own path thru the wilderness of life and do not follow the well worn path others feel compelled to take.

A lifetime of happiness is best found where one is most comfortable and at peace, that is where I look for human companionship.

Man, I would have to have a candid conversation with my family member...I would want to ask about how they came to identify as "Christian" and what that means to them.  I would try to make everything as clear and open as possible about where we both stand and our motives for what we say.

I think opting into a version of Christianity is kind of like defining your sexuality...only the individual can do that for themselves. If their identity seems to be inaccurate, it's not something you can change about them. I respect a person's self-identification up to the point that it harms others (ex, sexuality-closeted celebrities and atheists hiding behind agnosticism or humanism are harming the communities they hide from by perpetuating the closet).  If you found out your sister is genuinely interested in some version of xtianity, I would respect her. If you found out she was taking up with xtianity to gain the privileges of belonging to that culture, I couldn't show respect for that. 

Now respecting a person's self-identification is different from respecting what they identify with.


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