Monday, May 30, 2011

Dealing with the Nosy

People who are non-believers who happen to live in the more religious parts of the world have a serious problem.  Being part of a small and reviled minority, they must continually hide who they are.  This can be very difficult because the religious are often very nosy and gossipy.  In fact, those traits are an inherent part of the same narcissistic, social climbing personality that causes them to be religious.

Often these very same people will occupy positions in the non-believer's life such that he or she must maintain a good relationship.  The more nosy, gossipy, and narcissistic they are, the more likely this is to be true because such people in religious cultures tend to be the ones who end up in positions of power and influence.  Religion is just one of the political games they play to get into such positions and stay there.

The nosy ones are usually also the intolerant ones--no surprise there.  Many atheists have an honest streak, which is why they became atheists.  Turning off that honesty in the face of the intolerant is often a good idea purely for purposes of self-preservation.  Unfortunately, many of us rebel at the thought.  We feel like this is knuckling under to implicit bullying.  We understand that if we are not free to tell the truth about what we believe, then we are not free to believe it.  This bullying, we know, is a violation of our most basic human right.

Nevertheless, we have to deal with the real world.  Standing up for ourselves often means facing an unrelenting attack.  Unless we are prepared to lay the groundwork for a lawsuit and then follow through for years and perhaps have to move away even if we do win, then other strategies must be employed.

One of the best tactics is to pay enough attention to the conversation and circumstances to predict when the subject of religion might be about to come up, then either end the conversation or guide it away from the subject.  This can be difficult to do, however, especially in parts of the world where religion is a frequent topic.  If you can, have a ready list of topics that are bound to take the conversation off track, such as local college sports, or whatever else the person or persons you must deal with find eternally fascinating.

If you are not able to derail the conversation completely, then perhaps asking questions about the membership, politics, or gossip of the person's church might do.

If it comes down to it and you are asked point blank what your religion is, don't say atheist.  A person who would be so impolite as to ask directly is almost certainly a gossip and intolerant.  The best way to respond in such situations is to be evasive.

"I don't really feel comfortable with any of the organized religions."

"My body is my temple and I worship in my own way."

Just make sure that your evasive gambit implies that you believe in "something".  Don't simply say that you aren't religious; say or imply that you aren't very religious--at least not in the usual way.

If all else fails, lie.  Chances are that you will find this course of action repugnant for the same reason that you found the dishonesty inherent in religion repugnant.  Perhaps a better way to think of it is to see it as setting up the enemy through disinformation.  In order to get to this mindset, however, one must realize and accept the fact that such people are at war with us--and with truth.  You, unfortunately, have been forced into the role of spy behind enemy lines.

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