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Advice With Atheist Pet Peeves:
Ever Heard This Line? "You Sure Talk A Lot About God For Someone Who Claims They Don't Believe!"
...or "Got ya that time, atheist boy!" Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk!8/19/07
Yes. How witty and original. This is the sort of thing that turns some of us into anti-theists if we hear it too often. The weirdest thing is that I actually think some believers mean it seriously! Here are some suggestions on how to deal with this sort of assumption, especially when stated this way.
If They Intended It As A Zinger Or Insult (And You Want To Give As Good As You Got...)
Bear in mind that you are stooping to their level. But if that's what you want, here are a few things you can try.
Parents talk a lot about Santa Clause, but they don't believe in him either.
Many theists will take this as an insult. Make sure that's how you meant it if you use it.
Well you sure spend a lot of time talking to atheists for someone who doesn't believe we exist.
That's a slightly more clever reversal on their insult. The believer is obviously accusing you of being a closet believer, so it basically throws the same sort of nonsensical logic back at them with the same amount of bite. Another, slightly stronger variation is:
If atheism doesn't really exist, then why do you keep talking to me about it?
Even stronger than that is:
If atheists like me don't exist, then why don't you just go away?
This should only be used when you've given up on communicating with someone. Of course, if this is their attitude, you probably have. Just make sure they don't hit you with a rock or something. Now would be a good time to walk away and let them stew.
If They Intended It As A Serious Observation (And You Haven't Given Up On Forming Some Kind Of Relationship With This Person)
Politicians talk a lot about honesty. That doesn't mean they believe in it either.(You usually have to stress the "it" for this to come off right)
Smile when you say this and you can use this one as an ice breaker. Hopefully, the theist will warm up to you a little so you can settle any differences you have before it turns into an argument. That might be a good time to sincerely (but briefly) discuss the fact that you honestly don't believe in any gods. Believe it or not, they're more likely to be in a mood where they will listen.
Note that you could have said, "Parents talk a lot about Santa Clause, but they don't believe in him either." That would certainly convey the obvious flaw in their reasoning in one sentence, but it's in my zinger section for a good reason. Most of them feel it's just as insulting to them as their comment was to us. Don't use the Santa Clause line or anything like it if you honestly want to make friends or spread any kind of understanding. The one I gave you is a lot better. Heck, most politicians don't even trust each other! Few people will feel insulted by a line like that.
Here's a few things you could say during the conversation that follows:
I'm not offended by comments like that, but I really think you should know that most atheists would be. People honestly talk about all sorts of things they don't believe in or agree with all the time. I'm sure you know that. I don't know why this is so difficult for people to accept, but I honestly don't believe as you do. It's nothing personal. If I can accept your beliefs, I really think you can be big enough to accept mine without judging me.
You have to keep the psychology behind this approach in mind in order to say it the right way. Basically, you're telling the believer that whether they realize it or not, that was a pretty mean or petty thing to say. But you are big enough to let it slide because you want to be their friend, or at least reach an understanding. It's a good way of cowing them enough to listen to you while inviting them to raise themselves to a higher standard. This will leave them far more open to a "heart to heart" conversation and will force them to admit (to themselves, at least) that you've just treated them better than they treated you. It's a funny thing about humans, but they're far more likely to take you at your word when they feel this way.
Remember, the goal here is to get them to listen to you and to take you seriously instead of making baseless assumptions about atheists. You want them to see you as you and not as "another one of those atheists." You've basically just earned their respect while shaming them (only a little) for failing to show you the same. By taking the time to say these things in a kindly, patient manner, you are not only showing them that the damage isn't permanent, but that you are someone worthy of respect. Once they see that, you are far more likely to get it.
Well, I could say the same about you if I wanted to insult you. But I'm not going to do that. I respect other people's beliefs even when they don't respect mine. I'm sorry that you don't understand my beliefs, but that doesn't make me a liar. If you're willing treat my views as seriously as I treated yours, then maybe we can work out our differences. Get back to me if you would like to do that.
This one is a little heavier handed, but sometimes, people are just plain dense. Especially if they've just made a stupid comment in front of others. It doesn't matter if they're believers or atheists. In these cases, you might actually have to lay it on a little thick to snap them out of it. This is the sort of thing you might try at one of those times. Bear in mind that it leans more on guilt than the other one did, so don't lay it on too thick.
Anyway, there you have it. Mature and immature ways of dealing with a tired old chestnut you often hear from the other side. Give'em a try.
-the Atheist Geek-