Religious Manipulation Strikes Again

A few days ago, someone from my religious past sent me old photos from my childhood as a nice gesture. Tonight he sent me a religious music video of a worship song that I used to sing all the time when I was religious, one I was rather known for since I sang it passionately in church all the time. The message was clear: He thought that sending me a video of my old favorite worship song would somehow make me want to be a Christian again. 
This person was once a person of great significance in my life when I was a young teenager, he was a mentor figure. Now I can’t communicate with him without him trying to blatantly coerce me back into their belief system. He knew I didn’t like him pushing his beliefs on me because he’d done it before; I removed him from my Facebook friend’s list after repeated failed attempts to get him to respect my wish to not be preached at. So he certainly knew better, and sent it anyways. 

I feel like he used those old photos in a manipulative way to get me to be more receptive to his blatant reconversion attempt. He did something nice for me, so he probably figured that I’d feel obligated to not be mad at his intrusive and unsolicited religious pressuring. 

I don’t hate religion, there are many wonderful religious people that I have a lot of respect for. But I do hate religion being used to pressure or harm others, and I no longer have the patience to let people use their faith to bully or demean me. I’ve grown a backbone over these past years… I started out terrified of negative social confrontation and making people upset with me, and now I have no problem putting people in their place and being unapologetic about having my own opinions. It’s been a very difficult journey of self improvement, facing my fears, and boosting my low self confidence. And like all life journeys, it’s far from over. 

My reply to him was very blunt. I didn’t say anything nasty or mean, that’s not really in my nature, but I certainly didn’t mince words about what I thought of his message. In reply, he preached at me and then insisted on saying “I’ll be praying for you” after I reiterated that I did not like him pushing his beliefs on me. 

I hate this so much. I hate being reminded yet again that people of importance in my life who once praised and respected me when I was religious now think so little of me as an atheist. It’s been several years since I came out as an atheist, and though it’s gotten much better, people’s rejection and negative reactions have yet to stop negatively affecting me. 

I can’t decide if I feel like crying or punching something. Or both amidst some (responsible) weed consumption. But my body says it wants sleep, so that’s going to take priority now that I’ve sorted out some of my thoughts. I find that journaling is an effective way to emotionally process life’s bullshit.  

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13 thoughts on “Religious Manipulation Strikes Again

  1. This is one of the reasons I’ve stayed off of Facebook. There are people from my past that are now pushy evangelical types, and I really don’t want to reconnect with them and open myself up to the preaching they’d dish out. I’m happier just to leave my old memories of good times with them as they are, and not mess them up with newly added resentment.

    • I was off Facebook for about a year for that exact reason. I’m back on now, but I delete people whenever needed and I’m picky about who I add. Facebook has been a wonderful avenue for me in other ways now that I’ve addressed much of this, and I’m not willing to let stupid people take that away from me any longer.

  2. You know, as a pastor… I’ll play devil’s advocate. Why not lie and say you do believe? You’ll be left alone and get the social benefit. I find most atheist are in the pews anyways. I mean it’s an Easter and Christmas and your done! None except for a few will be “Christian” in any sense once the I.D. is stampt and its not like they live any different from anyone else. You can still deink, etc.
    Just my two sense. I mean do you think everyone who says the pledge of allegiance thinks deeply about it?

    Of course, to be fair, I’d like to know why you wouldn’t if you want to talk about it. But it seems like the win win bet for you.

    • Why should I lie? Yes it would make life much easier- but only for them. The social benefits I’d receive are not enough to counteract the emotional distress of pretending to be someone I’m not. I’m the one who would have to sit in church services that I utterly and completely disagree with, holding my tongue to make them happy while always being reminded that I can never truly be myself without making them hurt and angry. Why should I have to hide who I am while they get to be so open and unapologetic about who THEY are? Are they the only ones allowed to be authentic? Are my beliefs so offensive and terrible that I cannot be accepted by my loved ones unless I pretend to be just like them?

      If I have to pretend to believe like them in order to be accepted and treated with dignity, then are they not essentially socially blackmailing me? I only get treated humanely if I bend to their wishes and outwardly support their beliefs? That’s social blackmail. I could never give in to that, it’s revolting and unfair.

      There is no winning for me in your scenario. The only winner is the religious person who doesn’t have to deal with their loved one being different from them.

      Perhaps you could live a lie like that. I cannot. I’m a deeply authentic person with very strong opinions and an aversion to deceit.

      • I was only playing devils advocate, don’t think I’d do it.

        The issue is you want acceptance without meeting their demands. But those demands flow from who they authentically are, even if you think they are stupid.

        So you’ve create a senario were either they or you need to fake it. They need to stop preachering or you need to listen to it. Realize both would be inauthentic.

        So if you to be authentic must make sacrifices that seem lopsided why is it on the other person who to be authentic doesn’t have to pay more than losing your friendship? It’s noones particular fault that’s how the chips fall.

        You probably should step back and ask why being the winner or loser matters. Or why there being a cost to follow convictons is upsetting. These are universal parts of the human condition, and your only making yourself miserable by kicking against such spurs.

        If these people are ready that important to you, why not accept them as they authentically are? Or just they stop preaching to be with you? Then the only winner is the unbeliever.

        That’s what I was pointing out. You’ve asked the same of them as I suggested to you.

      • I am NOT asking the same thing. If I was, then I’d be telling them that I won’t love them unless they go to atheist meetings and pretend to love Richard Dawkins. I’m not asking them to pretend to think like me, I’m only asking that they stop bullying me into their religion. HUGE difference. They’re asking me to be religious like them, I’m asking them to stop bullying me.

        When people believe that they are required to mistreat and bully others into converting in order to go to Heaven, there can be no winners. Their beliefs have made that impossible. Either they have to change how they express their beliefs (because nobody wants to be around people who use their beliefs to hurt others), or the unbeliever has to give in and play along with their manipulation and social blackmail. How can either side win here?

        I have many wonderful Christian friends, and we have one very important thing in common: No matter how much we disagree on hot button issues, we always treat each other with dignity and respect. They hold many of the same exact beliefs as the Christians who have mistreated me, but the difference is that they don’t expect or pressure non-believers to share those beliefs. They may wish that I was a Christian, but they and I know that you cannot force someone into a belief system and nor should you. We understand the difference between living out our personal beliefs authentically and expecting others to share our belief system.

        Maybe those other Christians are incapable of having relationships with people outside of their faith. It’s like racist people who are incapable of having friends outside of their race. Is it the fault of the people on the outside? Of course not. Their bigotry makes it impossible to get along with them unless we pretend to be like them. Some people are, authentically, assholes. (Excuse my French.)

        So let me ask you this. What would you do if you had an atheist relative or friend that insisted that you pretend to be an atheist, go to secular humanist meetings, and never talk about your religion in front of them? Would you feel loved and accepted? Or would you ask politely that they stop forcing their personal beliefs on you?

      • I don’t have any atheist friends or relatives who don’t insist I never touch the topic. Praying for meals in public even gets unsolicited advice; the fact people care enough to speak or complain doesn’t give me the impression they don’t care at all. It’s not apathy when one hates. But they want effective atheism as a term of relationship. So I just ignore it and so what if they get pissy?

        It’s rare to find a freedom of religion and not freedom from religion atheist these days.

        But most the time what bugs me is when they police my religious views… that’s just annoying!

        But there is always pressure from everyone for conformity. Maybe cause I’m Californian I’ve taken to paying religion very close to the chest and never interject it even when I maybe should. And I agree, folks be jerks at times.

        Yet proselytizing is important to some religious views, that’s why they call themselves evangelicals… The ego in them is wrapped up in an ideology no one can get through.

        I didn’t get it was bullying more that they were just expressing religious views and putting that lens onto things. Sorry for that misunderstanding, my typical experience with atheist is a certain breed of jerk that interrupts conversations and the like or will belittle you if you mention Jesus at all. Or say that you inviting them to bunch or a church softball game is attempted indoctrination. So you’re outside my frame of reference.

        I find atheist touchy and to have a persecution complex so i guess im guilty of typecasting you. Yet, if people are really hounding you then you are justified in complaining. My only question then is religious or not they don’t seem like people you need in your life. Family is earned not a right!

        So still, it comes to why discuss what everyone already knows. If it really was a case if bad people I’d wonder if you’d complain so… I don’t want to presume, but two responses can portains to a perhaps deeper issue.

      • Many atheists, like me, have experienced bullying and mistreatment from Christians. I’m not taking about a nice Christian inviting me to church and then accepting my polite “no thank you”; I had panic attacks after my deconversion because my entire social support structure was falling apart because they couldn’t handle me having different beliefs. I was bullied off of Facebook, some of my closest friends abandoned me. I’ve been called a liar because they can’t believe I was ever a true Christian, I’ve been told I’m a fool who deserves to burn in Hell and who deserved to lose my friends, and someone I love told me that they’d rather I had died as a believer than lives to become an atheist.
        I am also now LGBTQ, so I’ve dealt with even more stigma and judgment from the Christians in my life who can’t tolerate me being different from them. You have no idea how cruel many Christians are to LGBTQ people… Whatever you think it’s like, it’s probably far worse. We are like animals to many of this type of Christian.

        Are you aware that most homeless youth are LGBTQ kids who were disowned or severely bullied by their usually religious families? Teens and adults who come out as atheists, especially in the Bible Belt, are often disowned or horribly mistreated or thrown out on the streets. While this doesn’t mean all Christians are like this, surely you can understand why many atheists seem angry at Christianity? We have pretty understandable reasons.

        The religious people in my life all responded in different ways. Some very well, others terribly, but most were somewhere in the middle- saying and doing hurtful things even while honestly believing they’re being kind, being nice in some areas and heartbreaking in others.

      • Ah, well… Your bible belt. That changes things. Here in the Inland Empire lgbtq kids have gang violence to fear more than anything else… which makes them the same as everyone else!

        My wife lost her best friend and social network over switching from Catholic to protestant, so I ken the situation alright.

        Unfortunately, I’m no pope who can yank these folks Christian members cards. But if it makes you feel better even I’d condemn them and I am in no way a liberal or “pc bro.” (Hint hint). They are those John calls of the antichrist, and not even Jesus can reach them. But I don’t think that’s relevant to this to much.

        So, maybe i’ll give some affirmation:

        If it makes you feel better I, well… (if I say I won’t pray is that worse our better?)… I find you more than tolerable and like you better than the people you describe. And I wish you a full happy life, as ultimate fates with an eternal God aren’t decided in single moments who knows. I think you are honest, and value your opinion even if only to ignore it!

        I am a Chr… “person of the path” and my route is very different. Yet it should be hard for me not you. Our moral codes are different, by mine stands only to save the world not judge it. So I won’t judge you.

        That’s all I can do online I’m afraid. Thank you for sharing your story, my experience of Lgbtq comes from LA and San Fran. Shoot, my school in Santa Barbara cancled its pride parade saying people needed something else to be proud of now. Such different world!

      • I should mention though that I don’t personally live in the Bible Belt, that’s just where this stuff is worse for LGBTQ people and atheists. I grew up in New England, which despite its very Liberal leanings still has a lot of this stuff. Sometimes bigotry is not obvious to those who are not on the receiving end of it, especially in areas where bigotry is less socially tolerable; it tends to hide itself more.

      • Ah, I find New Englanders I’ve met really partisan myself. That smile at you kinda mean. But then again, the West coast is more open about it’s biases and on the same token thinks it has none. It’s like the Old South here at times.

        Nice taking to you too.

      • As for accepting them as they authentically are- we accept dissenting ideas and beliefs, not abusive, bullying, or manipulative behavior. Big difference. Using social peer pressure to manipulate people into their belief system goes far beyond a simple disagreement in opinion, it becomes oppression and bigotry. We’re adults who ought to be able to disagree without treating each other like crap.

No trolling, please! Genuine dialogue for the purpose of mutual understanding is appreciated; debates are not. General comments are welcome.

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