Chat forum: How do you handle uncomfortable religious conversations?

 
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ImageWoodwife
Jun 19, 2010 3:03 PM CST
Name: Wendy
N. of Houston, Texas - 8b
An Old Wive's Tale
We don't live in a bubble so most of us have friends or relatives with religious views that don't agree with ours. How do you handle it when the conversation gets uncomfortable?
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AlohaHoya
Jun 19, 2010 5:36 PM CST
Name: Carol Noel
Hawaii (near Hilo)
It's all about choices.
Yesterday it happened!!! Actually for the first time .... I was chatting with an acquaintance who has a very religious wife who makes him go to church. In the conversation I said I was pagan. He was shocked!! You mean you don't believe in G(sic)od? I said NO. He, in a shocked tone said, but then, who is going to bury you? I told him I didn't care ... they can throw me down a lavatube where the ancient Hawaiians often buried their dead... if it is legal. We were both laughing...and I felt really good not beating around the bush in order to avoid confrontation. I think he actually was jealous!!!! Whistling
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Imagesheryl
Jun 20, 2010 7:14 AM CST
Name: Sheryl
Middle Tennessee, 6b
Good for you, Carol. Yesterday must have been the day the universe gave us a chance to deal with confrontation of a gentler form.... I failed, miserably, and felt like crap afterwards.

I walked outside to find my mom talking with two men (who I thought were expected visitors). Turns out they were JWs .... and I, stupidly enough, tried the "I'm Jewish" trick. They asked me some kind of question about believing in heaven on earth or in 'heaven' and I probably gave a wrong answer, compounding my lie. They yammered on for a few minutes before I excused myself to go inside, they politely left.

I felt awful afterwards, mainly for betraying myself. There's nothing wrong with who I am and what I believe - or what I don't believe. It infuriates me to be put on the spot like that, especially in my own home.... and then not even sticking up for myself. "I'm not interested" would have been a totally appropriate response, never mind "I'm a pagan left wing pinko."
AlohaHoya
Jun 20, 2010 11:43 AM CST
Name: Carol Noel
Hawaii (near Hilo)
It's all about choices.
Sheryl...I think that we often respond to these situations by not wanting to 'upset the applecart'...and to be able to extricate ourselves politely...especially with people (including mothers) around. I have done this all of my life and at 70 have decided that my mother doesn't care and really never did....so what the heck! It goes back to really not being any of anyones business what we do or don't believe and their audacity galls me!!!

Don't beat yourself up too much... you dirty pagan left wing pinko you Lovey dubby
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ImageWoodwife
Jun 20, 2010 11:51 AM CST
Name: Wendy
N. of Houston, Texas - 8b
An Old Wive's Tale
I once told them I was a Buddhist and it backfired. Whistling They got all excited and wanted to come back to bring me a book on why Buddhism was wrong. Luckily I found it sitting on my doorstep and didn't have to talk to them. After that it was just No Thank You and shut the door. Rolling my eyes.
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Imagesheryl
Jun 20, 2010 3:44 PM CST
Name: Sheryl
Middle Tennessee, 6b
Thanks, Carol. And thanks for reminding me of my *full* title - dirt lovin', tree huggin', pagan left-wing pinko from hell. Oh - and "Ms.". :rofl:

Yup, Wendy - sounds like the same two guys. I hope next time I will have the presence of mind to respond more honestly next time.
AlohaHoya
Jun 20, 2010 9:30 PM CST
Name: Carol Noel
Hawaii (near Hilo)
It's all about choices.
May I use that title, Sheryl?...I like it!!!! Thumbs up
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Imagesheryl
Jun 21, 2010 7:45 AM CST
Name: Sheryl
Middle Tennessee, 6b
Absolutely!
ImageKathleen
Jun 21, 2010 9:00 AM CST
Name: Kathleen Tenpas
Wickwire Corners NY
You get the same response from the JWs when you tell them you already have a church, because it isn't the right one. They kept giving me their version of the Bible. I wonder if the Salvation Army got sick of my donations.
Imagesheryl
Jun 21, 2010 4:14 PM CST
Name: Sheryl
Middle Tennessee, 6b
LOL - I doubt it!
Val
Jun 23, 2010 7:43 PM CST
Name: Val
Ohio
I normally don't get into uncomfortable situations. My family and my in-laws are all practicing Christians. None proselytize. They respect us and we respect them. Our friends are respectful too. I've had several Christian friends who have encouraged me in my religion (ie to take time off work for holidays, make time to meditate, to go to local pagan events, etc)

I really don't mind JW coming to the door. I've always been honest but respectful. I thank them for their concern and tell them that I'm happy with my religion. I would never proselytize like that but I respect them. I think it shows dedication to their deity and to what they feel is right. I admire people who are dedicated to those things even when it is inconvenient to them. Surely they don't like the rejection that they come across yet they do what they feel is right anyway. So while I may not agree with what they do, I greatly admire their dedication to do it. If they give me literature, I smile and hand it back to them, explaining that it would be better to give it to someone who would read it. They smile and take it back.

Once, I even agreed to go to one of their meetings to observe. The only reason that I agreed is because the person was so respectful of my religion and he promised not to push his beliefs on me. He also promised that I wouldn't have to take part in any rituals (that would have been against my ethics). He kept his word and I found the meeting fascinating. I have no connection to their deity and disagree with their theology but that wasn't the reason I went. I don't care about that stuff. I went to observe a religion that I was unfamiliar with in order to better understand people who practice it. It was educational and very interesting.

So, uncomfortable religious conversations don't happen very often to me. The last one was maybe a decade ago.
AlohaHoya
Jun 23, 2010 8:21 PM CST
Name: Carol Noel
Hawaii (near Hilo)
It's all about choices.
Val, you are so much more tolerant than I could ever be. I do find that the fact that the JWs (Mormons etc.) who come around to my space to discuss a subject that is not important to ME, is an invasion of my privacy. No, they are sweet, well intentioned folks, but it is first and foremost MY space and I did not invite them. I feel the same about anyone who comes to my door to sell me something or get me to sign something. For ME, that is the issue here. I would compare it to someone uninvited coming to my house to discuss the Easter Bunny. Or Groundhogs' Day. I reckon there are some people who don't mind...and that's what makes life interesting, eh? We are not the same.....

I have been asked by friends if I am Xtian and I answer No. Actually the question was "Aren't you a christian?". Their response was horror! " What? Why not? You seem so nice....." What is there to say to that Whistling
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Val
Jun 23, 2010 9:22 PM CST
Name: Val
Ohio
I can understand how it could be seen as an invasion of privacy. Even though I've never met any rude JW's, I have heard of plenty of horror stories from others.

My answer to " What? Why not? You seem so nice....." is usually "I was raised with a different religion". I say it with a friendly smile and somehow they seem to understand. Perhaps they reflect on how they still believe the religion they were raised with. I don't know. But after that, it is seldom an issue. Of course my reasons are much more complicated than that but I don't go into them since these people generally don't care.

I find people of all religions interesting as long as they respect me enough not to insult me by trying to convert me to a belief system that is foreign to me. If they don't respect me, my association with them will end. Life is too short to be associated with people who don't respect me.
AlohaHoya
Jun 23, 2010 11:19 PM CST
Name: Carol Noel
Hawaii (near Hilo)
It's all about choices.
As I said...you are much more patient and polite than I am. I admire that... I used to be afraid of shocking people by voicing something, perhaps, controversial (and why should one's own beliefs create controversy.???? Confused I speak my truth...if I care enough. I simply say I am pagan/heathen/atheist...they can choose. Generally they stop asking questions by then (OH my Goddes, will she turn into a fairy and fly off?). Generally one can tell if the questions are sincere or if they are baiting.

Actually it is not one of my favorite topics with people not of like mind, so I pick my battles. Whistling
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Val
Jun 24, 2010 12:06 AM CST
Name: Val
Ohio
I guess I can tell the story about when I didn't handle a fanatic very well. This happened maybe a decade ago and nothing had ever happened before or after to compare.

I got a job as a machinist. I was the first female they had ever hired but this was relatively normal in my trade. I had the training and experience and had scored the second-highest on their testing of anyone who had ever taken their tests. The company was small and was owned by brothers who went to a fanatical church. After my first day on the job, one of the owners called me into his office. After I sat down, he pointedly asked me what my religion was.

I was shocked. It's not something that I talk about--especially to an owner of a company that I worked for. I stuttered something about not talking about these things. He raised his voice and leaned down closer to my face demanding to know what I believed. I was like a deer in the headlights. I said that I practiced a pagan religion but didn't name it. Then this guy went into a rant asking me about Alister Crowley and black magic. I stammered that my path had nothing to do with Crowley but he wasn't listening. He started in on a tirade about the evils of the devil. I just sat there. He was my boss and I needed this job. After an hour of this, he let me go home.

He put me on a machine with especially heavy parts. But I have good upper body strength and was used to handling heavy parts. I easily made quota. After a week he switched me to another machine that had heavy parts that were hard to load. The machinist who worked it last messed up his wrist and the one before that messed up his back. But I was up to the task.

Then he posted a long "informational" document in the men's room from his church saying how bad Wicca was. He wrongly assumed that I was Wiccan since I didn't tell him what pagan path I followed. A co-worker told me about it and brought the paper out to me since I didn't use the men's room. My co-worker wanted to rip it up but I told him to put it back where he found it. I quietly kept doing my job.

Then the boss made me drive out to his personal garage at his home in a rural area to run a mill. I was alone in his garage. This is against OSHA rules (for safety, a machinist cannot work alone). I didn't say anything and simply did the work. Then he came out one night and told me he was firing me "because he didn't think that I was happy". That was the only reason he could come up with since I was never late, worked overtime without notice every time I was asked, always met quota and my work was good. I was okay with it until I found out later that he told the temp agency that he fired me for cussing him out---a complete lie! Actually, I shook his hand and thanked him for the opportunity to work for him. So he managed to smear my good reputation with that temp agency as revenge. Just because I didn't believe in his religion.

I guess I could have lied on that first day but I had never lied about it before. And I had never been asked such a question by an employer. It totally caught me off-guard.
AlohaHoya
Jun 24, 2010 12:22 AM CST
Name: Carol Noel
Hawaii (near Hilo)
It's all about choices.
Oh dear. What a terrible position he put you in!!! I don't think he would have ever been satisfied...sounds like a religious fanatic AND a woman hating jerk Angry
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Val
Jun 24, 2010 12:48 AM CST
Name: Val
Ohio
He really was weird. The guys told me that a few months before that he had brought in a bunch of illegal rifles and had the employees cut them down. I guess he had stocked up a bunch of guns and ammo for Y2K.

Employees were allowed to have radios at their machines (I chose not to) but they weren't allowed to listen to "devil music". He brought in religious videos and gave them to the guys to watch and then would grill them with questions the next day. The guys weren't atheists but they weren't church-goers either.

He was always lecturing one co-worker because his WIFE was a JW. I guess he wasn't supposed to "allow" his wife to be JW if he worked there.

As I said, the owner of this company was weird. I was kinda glad to move on. My co-workers were great but the owner seemed mentally ill.
Imagegemini_sage
Jun 24, 2010 6:02 AM CST
Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY
Val, that boss soooo deserved a big lawsuit! It takes some serious insecurity to get that worked up over someone having different beliefs. I think its people who have doubts about their convictions that have that kind of reaction.
Imagesheryl
Jun 24, 2010 7:30 AM CST
Name: Sheryl
Middle Tennessee, 6b
"Deer in the headlights" is absolutely the reaction I often have instead of sitting back and thinking out my answer; why I think a pause is an illegal reaction is beyond me....

It sounds like a awful situation, Val - I'm glad you were out of there with no injuries. Hopefully the next person he hired was married to a Jewish lawyer....
Val
Jun 24, 2010 8:37 AM CST
Name: Val
Ohio
That was one of the rare occasions when I've been uncomfortable--and it was definitely the worst.

To make this constructive, what are some suggestions on how I could have handled it? I don't think that I did too well. But I don't know what I'd do differently if it were to ever happen to me again (unlikely).

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