Selling Your "Soul" For a Free Ride...

I've recently entered college, and my college of choice was fortunate enough to be 20 miles down the road from my aunt, who has agreed to let me stay with her for free. Upon the conditions that allow me to stay here are doing chores around the house, taking care of her autistic son with her (he's my cousin, it's not like I was going to say no...) and attending church with the family on Sundays.


Does this make me a "bad" atheist? I mean, singing and pretending I believe in the crap that the Catholic church is spewing IS giving me a wonderful benefit, I wouldn't be able to afford this college otherwise, as the room and board is awful, and I'm getting a quality, secular education while also getting to park in the campus church's parking lot (Score!). But is all of that a worthy price to pay?


Now, my aunt knows that I'm an atheist but, being the wonderful right wing Catholic that she is, bless her heart, she thinks it's a phase and that I should simply attend church to get back to Jesus. We pray before meals, (I bow my head respectfully, but keep my eyes open), we attend church and sing and eat the bread and wine (God-awful as you can imagine...) and she constantly tells me of God's wonders. Some days, I believe she has simply forgotten, but other days it's apparent that she wants me to convert. I knew this would happen, so I ignore it and get along with my day. What's 45 minutes thinking about debunking the arguments if I get to stay for free?


But morally...does my "willful" act make me a terrible person, or is this simply a sacrifice worth free room and board?


Perhaps I just need reassurance. I wouldn't be bowing to her metaphysical bully if I didn't have my education (as a microbiologist!) at stake.


(Now quick, I post this before she comes up and sees "Think Atheist" in my browser history. :P)

Views: 533

Comment by Arcus on August 27, 2011 at 4:22am

"Dishonesty is still being not honest."

I tend to disagree. Honesty is to dishonesty what truth is to lies. Somewhere in between you have bullshit, which is when you lie and either don't know it or seek a personal gain.

"person who lies about everything"

I disagree. You lie to someone to spare their emotions, which is the fault of the person who's opinions need to be spared from critical review, not the person sparing in the first place. I prefer calling it common decency: Hiding brutal truths from otherwise nice people.

"Samantha can honestly tell/explain to her aunt"

Not without retribution, which i why eye rolling behind the back is the best strategy. Until you can truly fend for yourself, lies are a necessary evil. When she is ready to move out, she can speak freely, until then the best strategy is to keep her mouth shut as sharing (supposedly) is a Christian value most Christians don't adhere to.

"And she can still say she'll feel uncomfortable joining communion because that does require a certain level of honesty (to oneself) for partaking."

Biscuits and cheap wine doesn't make you a Christian, it has more similarities to how life in general is in college. ;)


Essentially, there's nothing wrong in taking advantage of people's stupidity and selfishness. Religious people demanding adherence to their faith fulfill both of those qualifications, especially when they are using a hidden threat of force to ensure compliance.

Comment by Freek on August 27, 2011 at 5:22am

I can see your points Arcus. If I understand correctly, for you there is a scale between honesty and dishonesty and respect for others and common self conservation have an influence on that scale.

"Biscuits and cheap wine doesn't make you a Christian, it has more similarities to how life in general is in college. ;)"

This is about being honest to yourself. For instance, if I go home in the weekend, I usually join my parents for church because I know they appreciate it and it will hurt them if I don't. (They are fully aware of my lack in belief and already told me that it's my own choice to go with them to church). However, I don't join Mass (or whatever the Protestant version is called in English) because doing that would make me dishonest to myself, and I'd hate that.

"Essentially, there's nothing wrong in taking advantage of people's stupidity and selfishness. Religious people demanding adherence to their faith fulfill both of those qualifications, especially when they are using a hidden threat of force to ensure compliance."

And that's where the necessary mutual respect has to come in. With that absent, you are correct.

Comment by Arcus on August 27, 2011 at 5:40am

"This is about being honest to yourself."

She appears to be, just dishonest towards others to save their assumed sensitivities. That's fine in my book as long s she doesn't lie to herself.

"I don't join Mass"

I tend to avoid that too if I can. However, when I had just turned 19, I attended one. My choice was standing outside for 3 hours in pretty much the middle of the arctic and literallyfreeze half to death (hypothermia sets in at around 1.5-2 hours, 2 days on a 6*6' naked cell for non-compliance) or have wine and crackers while playing Tetris on my cellphone when someone was talking about something I didn't care to pay attention to. I don't think you've ever faced a moral dilemma.. and then chosen to 'fail' the test. (It's admirable, but a bit silly to expect of others tbh.)

"And that's where the necessary mutual respect has to come in. With that absent, you are correct."

I think we agree on this point. I will not treat anyone (who haven't made themselves deserving of it) worse because they are in some way religious. It goes against my personal ethics and common decency in how you act towards others. In my experience, many religious people don't see eye to eye with us on this particular point for some reason, and I expect that reason to be selfishness mixed with dogmatic religious beliefs.

Comment by Rick on August 27, 2011 at 11:17am

@Patrick: Her aunt already knows she’s an atheist. She participates while in church. Participation isn’t the same thing as pretending to believe. This may be a distinction Samantha should also consider.


Plenty of kids hate going to school, yet they participate in class and do the assignments. By your “logic” they are being dishonest as well.


Why would she tell her aunt she doesn’t want to go to church? That’s part of the agreement. Bitching about it won’t do any good and may give the aunt a reason to throw her out. That’s like refusing to do an aspect of your job that was outlined in the job description. The fact that someone participates in an activity they don’t like doesn’t make them dishonest.


Why would she care if her aunt finds TA in her browser history? For the same reason kids all over America don’t want adults finding subject matter they deem to be unacceptable… It’s to avoid conflict and ridicule.

Comment by Patrick Gray on August 28, 2011 at 7:52pm

@Rick....  I used her words not mine.


I was asked to defend my statement and I have.  She is indeed being dishonest regardless of the definition given by Arcus.  I would submit that 99% of any english majors, philosophers, ethicists or people in general would agree with his definition.


Webster defines dishonest as deceitfulness shown in someone's character or behavior.  By Samantha's own admission she is dishonest.

Comment by Rick on August 28, 2011 at 9:04pm

@Patrick: you know what they say… 99% of statistics are made up.


You did indeed use her words. But can you say that you never misspoke or had been confused as to the distinction between two closely related things? It’s a part of being imperfect and human… unless you want to make the claim that you’re a god?


Considering neither of us are Samantha and cannot possibly gage her actual intent to deceive, then this discussion is pointless. Without her definitive clarification, there is enough evidence present in her statements to concede either point.


Unless Samantha wishes to chime in, then you and I have nothing further to discuss on this point.

Comment by Patrick Gray on August 28, 2011 at 10:25pm

That's where you and I will disagree on this topic.  Her intent was made clear.  Her deceitfulness provides for a place to stay if she were not otherwise honest.  In a court of law this would be the overwhelming evidence of intent.  Intention is generally defined in terms of foresight of particular consequences and a desire to act or fail to act so that those consequences occur. It is distinguished from recklessness because, on a subjective basis, there is foresight but no desire to produce the consequences.



Comment by Rick on August 29, 2011 at 2:04am

@Kris: my points exactly . Thanks for rearticulating them.


@Partick: We agree to disagree, yet you continue … Let it go.


Why are you so hell bent on dragging this poor girl through the mud? That seems so un-christ-like. I think it’s about time you took a break to ask yourself: WWJD?   

Comment by Arcus on August 29, 2011 at 11:14am

Speaking of honesty and dishonesty, Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit recently wrote the following on the subject:

Saints may always tell the truth, but for mortals living means lying. We lie to protect our privacy ("No, I don't live around here"); to avoid hurt feelings ("Friday is my study night"); to make others feel better ("Gee you've gotten skinny"); to avoid recriminations ("I only lost $10 at poker"); to prevent grief ("The doc says you're getting better"); to maintain domestic tranquility ("She's just a friend"); to avoid social stigma ("I just haven't met the right woman"); for career advancement ("I'm sooo lucky to have a smart boss like you"); to avoid being lonely ("I love opera"); to eliminate a rival ("He has a boyfriend"); to achieve an objective ("But I love you so much"); to defeat an objective ("I'm allergic to latex"); to make an exit ("It's not you, it's me"); to delay the inevitable ("The check is in the mail"); to communicate displeasure ("There's nothing wrong"); to get someone off your back ("I'll call you about lunch"); to escape a nudnik ("My mother's on the other line"); to namedrop ("We go way back"); to set up a surprise party ("I need help moving the piano"); to buy time ("I'm on my way"); to keep up appearances ("We're not talking divorce"); to avoid taking out the trash ("My back hurts"); to duck an obligation ("I've got a headache"); to maintain a public image ("I go to church every Sunday"); to make a point ("Ich bin ein Berliner"); to save face ("I had too much to drink"); to humor ("Correct as usual, King Friday"); to avoid embarrassment ("That wasn't me"); to curry favor ("I've read all your books"); to get a clerkship ("You're the greatest living jurist"); to save a dollar ("I gave at the office"); or to maintain innocence ("There are eight tiny reindeer on the rooftop").

If you insist on calling her dishonest, then her lies are as white and pure as they can be. If they were a substance, you may see it as uncut cocaine... I think most of us would think of flour.


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