December 4, 2011

Why It Makes People Uncomfortable When You Talk About Your Religious Beliefs

keep your religion to yourself

I have heard many religious believers, mostly Christians, ask why it makes other people uncomfortable when they talk about their religious beliefs. It is a fair question, and as you might expect, different people are going to have many different answers. I'll highlight a few of the reasons it makes me uncomfortable. Please recognize that my reasons may be a bit different from those of other atheists based on differences in our experiences.

Let me acknowledge at the outset that it does indeed make me a bit uncomfortable when someone begins to talk about their religious beliefs, especially when I do not know the person very well. The primary reasons for this are as follows:

  1. I was raised in an environment where religion was a private matter, and it was considered rude to talk about it with people one didn't know fairly well. This leaves me reacting in a visceral way with something like "I don't know you that well" or "we don't have that kind of relationship" when a casual acquaintance or stranger approaches me to talk about their religious beliefs or ask about mine. For me, a complete stranger asking where I attend church is comparable to how you might feel if a complete stranger were to ask you when you last had sex. It is an intrusive violation of privacy.
  2. I worry that I might laugh in your face. I don't say this to be mean, but I find religious beliefs so absurd that my immediate reaction tends to be very similar to how I would react if you told me that you can fly like Superman. Because I generally try to be polite in social situations, the amount of self-censorship required of me when you bring up your religious beliefs can be taxing.
  3. I have little use for one-way conversations. I have found that most of the time people bring up their religious beliefs, they are interested in having them confirmed by others and not critically evaluated. I am not only not going to do this, but I might criticize your beliefs. Since this is typically met with hostility, these one-way conversations quickly become uncomfortable. If you've ever been in a conversation where you felt like the other party didn't want to hear what you thought, you know what I mean.

I cannot speak for other atheists, but these are the main reasons it makes me uncomfortable when you approach me to talk about your religious beliefs. I do support your right to your religious beliefs; I do not support your right to involve me in your religious beliefs against my will.