How to Avoid Finding Out What Others Think About Your Religious Beliefs

door knocker
Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay

If you do not express a claim based on your religious beliefs, I will not question it. I won't criticize it or argue against it. I won't even share my opinion of it. Without knowing what you believe, I'd have little reason to express skepticism about any of it.

But when you do express what you believe, I assume that you have initiated a conversation. And the thing to know about conversations is that they involve more than talking to oneself.

If we are in a conversation, I assume you'd like to hear from me. You are looking for some give-and-take. If you tell me about your religious beliefs, I may share my reactions to them. That's what a conversation is, after all. If you don't want to hear my thoughts, you can prevent me from sharing them by keeping yours to yourself.

If this isn't clear enough yet, we can try reversing roles and shifting contexts. Suppose I approach you and start ranting about how "libtards" are ruining the country. I've engaged you in a conversation, and this is an invitation for you to express what you think on the subject. If you do and I whine about how you are criticizing my views, I'm in the wrong. Whenever I express my views, I run the risk that someone may share different views.

Keep the roles reversed but return to the original context. I'm an atheist, and you are a religious person. If I approach you with disparaging comments about religion, you are free to respond. You don't have to agree with me or hold your tongue. You can tell me you think I'm wrong and why. For me to then accuse you of not respecting my beliefs is absurd. If I didn't want a conversation, I shouldn't have started one.

When one of the local Southern Baptists knocks on my door and proceeds to threaten me with hell, I have a few choices. I can hold my tongue and be polite, though I often choose not to exercise that option. If they interrupt and insult me, I'll take that as an invitation to share my views on the beliefs they've shared. If they'd rather not hear my views, they shouldn't be on my porch.

None of us get to live in a world where nobody ever disagrees with us. None of us should want to live in such a world. And yet, it does seem like this is what some people want. They want to express whatever they may believe without anyone expressing contrary views. But that's not reality, and that's not how conversations work.