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)

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Comment by Amy L. Cook on August 26, 2011 at 5:46pm

I think you're in a great position. Look upon this as an educational experience. Consider church just another one of your college courses. Use this as an opportunity to gain knowledge about religion and the people that practice religion. The only thing more dangerous than an atheist to the catholic church is a well-educated, well-informed atheist. All that you learn there (at church) will only confrim to you how ridiculous it all is and how much more sense it makes to believe things based on actual facts and scientific evidence.

Besides, your aunt would be a nice, kind lady if she were an atheist, too. She would still be willing to share her home with you and help you through college.

Don't even worry about the communion thing. It's just an overly formal, utterly ridiculous ceremony that some crazy-head ancient zealot came up with to qwell the once-pagan population's need for ceremonial rites. It means absolutely nothing. Nil. Zero. If they insist you participate and you choose to play along - hey, they get what they get right? If you had your ultimate choice you would not be there at all, so as far as I am concerned, you are already doing way more than you should have to. 

I don't think you are a bad atheist or a bad person. It would have been a lot worse for you if you had totally rejected her help, most likely.


Comment by Raymond Marin on August 26, 2011 at 6:42pm

One of the great aspects about being a free thinking athiest is that we have no rules to follow with respect to religion.  Our morals say we can think for ourselves.  I think it is great that you attend church with your aunt out of respect for her, knowing that you do not believe in the church doctrine.  Good for you if you can stomach the churches rituals, just dont participate out of respect for your aunt.  Good luck in school and stay a free thinker!

Comment by Arcus on August 26, 2011 at 6:49pm

I would say not at all. It is unethical of her to list church as one of your chores. Would you have done the same if she was a muslim, or is it just because she belongs to a powerful majority religion that you comply?

In essence, when someone is expecting something unreasonable of you and putting real life consequences behind non-compliance, there is no reason to rock that boat. As long as you know that you are living a temporary life lie you'll be fine in the long run.

Comment by Patrick Gray on August 26, 2011 at 8:52pm

It doesn't make you a bad atheist...  It makes you a dishonest person.

Comment by Rick on August 26, 2011 at 9:20pm

Yes, please enlighten us. How is anything she has done dishonest when her aunt knows she’s an atheist? She’s not lying about her beliefs.

Comment by Patrick Gray on August 27, 2011 at 12:38am
She dishonest based on her own discourse. She pretends to believe what she hears in church. The means to the end to comply with her aunts wishes as a conditional of living in her aunts home. If she were honest, she would tell her aunt, "no, I won't go to church.". Hmmmmmmm she is lying about her beliefs, she intimated that she "pretends to believe". Seems like a textbook definition of dishonesty.
Comment by Patrick Gray on August 27, 2011 at 12:39am
Are you enlightened Rick?
Comment by Patrick Gray on August 27, 2011 at 12:41am
Further.... If her aunt knows that she is an atheist and that it's just a phase... Why would young Samantha care that her aunt finds "Think Atheist" in her web browser history? An honest person has nothing to hide.
Comment by Arcus on August 27, 2011 at 2:38am

There is a difference between being practical and dishonest. It's the same type of dishonesty associated with not calling a manager incompetent to his/her face. When the consequences of unbridled honesty are severe, everyone lies to save their own ass.

It's clear her aunt does not appreciate honesty (being religious sorta proves that point), and must therefore be expected to be lied to on a regular basis.

Comment by Freek on August 27, 2011 at 3:56am

I disagree Arcus. Dishonesty is still being not honest. The problem is that dishonesty is immediately related to being a person who lies about everything, which is often not the case.

And the is a huge difference between calling a manager incompetent to his face and addressing him/her to points where he/she has flaws, but in the core, both mean the same.

The same can be applied here (although this required a certain level of mutual respect, if that isn't there, don't follow this advice). Samantha can honestly tell/explain to her aunt that she doesn't believe the same things her aunt does, and she can try to explain why. She can still agree to join her aunt to church since that is no part of being (dis)honest to yourself but part of agreeing to partake in something you have no particular interest in. And she can still say she'll feel uncomfortable joining communion because that does require a certain level of honesty (to oneself) for partaking.


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