How to explain why I'm not a Christian

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

Status
Not open for further replies.

juniper

Always curious.
Requiescat In Pace
Registered
Joined
Mar 1, 2010
Messages
4,129
Reaction score
674
Location
Forever on the island
I hope the title doesn't sound confrontational. It's not meant to be. It's just my dilemma.

My husband is a Christian. I am not. I was, but not actively, when we married, but within a few years I dropped that identity. I moved to the Unitarian Universalist church because I couldn't believe that there was only one way to God, the Divine Power, the Universal Energy, whatever your phrasing.

I grew up Christian, in a Southern Baptist congregation. My mom was church secretary. The pastor who came in when I was about 9 was a fire and brimstone preacher. My husband grew up Christian and continues worshiping that way. He's actually a rather vital member, an Elder, on the missions committee, liturgist, helps with summer Bible kids school, etc at a lovely smallish Presbyterian church.

I don't attend church with him. I've gone a handful of times, for special events, but have felt like a fraud. He wishes I would, but regular attendance would, to me, imply my allegiance to Christianity.

Recently I was diagnosed with a serious illness and had surgery. My husband gathered much strength from his church family and they brought over food etc. I wanted to thank them for their support of him so went to church with him today. And faced the question, both overtly and covertly asked, "Why don't you come to church with him?"

It seems abrupt and even churlish to say, "I have different beliefs" or something similar. "I find it too limiting as to the nature of the Divine" sounds as if I am disrespecting Christianity, and that's not my intent.

I've discussed this a couple of times with husband, and previously my job schedule had me working Sundays around noon, so that was our excuse. But now I'm not working due to illness, and when I do go back I will probably have a Monday-Friday schedule, so no easy out excuse.

While I'm using my church visit today as the catalyst for this thread, this question extends to other circumstances as well. A co-worker was amazed a few years ago when I mentioned, during some conversation, that I wasn't Christian. I think I may be one of the few non-Christians she's ever known. In USA, Christianity is the default.

Could you help me come up with a good, respectful response to the question of why I don't go to his church? Or for other people who ask, why I'm not a Christian? Thank you.
 
Last edited:

cornflake

practical experience, FTW
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 11, 2012
Messages
16,174
Reaction score
3,733
That's a bit of a tricky one.

I hope you're doing better, btw, and have a good vet! ;)

I think maybe you have two different answers, one for your husband's church and one for people outside that circle.

For the husband's church family I might try something like, 'I'm grateful for the people here and for my husband being so comfortable in his church home, but I was raised in a different denomination and haven't really found a congregational home; I worship in my own way.' Then if they say they could be a home, 'I enjoy the fellowship when I come with my husband, but I don't feel led to attend myself.' Then just change the subject. The key is to not get into a thing where they pressure you to attend, or explain how you were raised, or whatever. Just repeat you enjoy the people but don't feel led to attend, and oh, did you see the new market that opened, or whatever.

For other people asking why you're not a Christian, or what are you, or whatever (also, move here, this will never be asked of you again, I guarantee, heh), you might try something like, 'I was raised SB, but I'm not involved now,' or a snarkier-type response 'my feelings have changed over the years, you can join my mother in praying for me to return to the fold.'

Same basic thing though - you can also certainly say to strangers, 'why would you want to know about my personal relationship with god?' or 'that's really not something I'd like to discuss,' or whatever means 'bugger off and mind your own business,' in your world, but the key is to cut it off and don't get into a back and forth. Just repeat your answer, or some part thereof, and change the subject.
 

Fruitbat

.
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 15, 2010
Messages
11,853
Reaction score
1,311
I think it is an obnoxious, pushy question. I'd say, "Oh, I don't want to get into that right now." And keep repeating it for determined muttonheads who refuse to take the hint to butt out of your business. Also, I don't think Christianity is the default, not among people I know anyway. Most of them are just kinda not really anything, religiously speaking.
 
Last edited:

Roxxsmom

Beastly Fido
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 24, 2011
Messages
19,764
Reaction score
3,344
Location
Where faults collide
Website
doggedlywriting.blogspot.com
I don't know why it's so darned hard to admit to a group of Christians that while you respect their beliefs, you don't share them and have other things you'd rather do with your time than go to Church.

But it can be. I've never been religious in any conventional way, and feel no guilt or shame over my non-religiousness, but I still find it awkward.

And it's curious, really, because I've occasionally been invited to a special milestone celebrations by Jewish, Catholic, and Hindu friends, and I've never had one ask me why I don't follow their religion or come to their services regularly. They probably assume that if I don't go to their synagogue or temple, I don't share their faith, and are fine with that. They don't expect me to.

Maybe that's the issue. Not only is being a Protestant Christian of some kind is sort of the accepted, default norm for many in the US, many of these are evangelical religions. The people in question probably know you're not Christian, at least not in the way they are, both because you don't come to church, and because your husband may have even said as much. They're asking, possibly, because they're looking for an opening to evangelize.

My response when people try to evangelize is to simply say, "Because I have different beliefs," or "I'm happy with my spiritual life." Most let it go at that point, but if someone persists and wants to know what those beliefs are (as an inroad for debate), I smile and say, "My beliefs are very personal."

And I hope you're feeling better!
 
Last edited:

Ravioli

The Aryan Arab
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jan 4, 2015
Messages
2,583
Reaction score
277
Location
Israel
Website
agiladi.wordpress.com
I don't think you owe anyone an explanation, period. You get to say, "Just because". That said, I don't see the harm in joining him to church as long as you don't let anyone try and make you take it seriously. It's like my mom going to the zoo with me I guess. She may not be into it, but hell, indulge me?
 

oceansoul

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 18, 2014
Messages
743
Reaction score
91
Age
32
Location
Seattle, WA
I think it's an obnoxious question, but unfortunately one I used to face all the time. I was raised as a protestant. My parents / immediate family are not super religious, and have become less so over time. They go to to church, but not every week and have seen enough of the word to be pretty accepting.

Unfortunately my extended family are not the same. I constantly face the "why haven't you joined a new church in Scotland?" question. I just politely remind them that those are not my beliefs.

In your case, it's tricker because these people have come together as a community to give you gifts. I would maybe respond with something like "I have different beliefs, but I am really grateful for how supportive this community has been of my husband and I, so I wanted to visit today. I know he's gotten a lot of comfort during this really rough time from you, and thank you all for the meals, etc." That way, the bulk of the emphasis is on why you're hear with them today, and you sound gracious while staying true to your own convictions.
 

fivetoesten

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 28, 2010
Messages
335
Reaction score
31
The very first thing I imagined when I read the title thread was me saying "How to explain why I am a Christian." I do want to explain it. Maybe sometime I can in a private message or elsewhere. Maybe, to begin to answer your own question, you should try to answer it for yourself in detail. Write out the reasons on paper, then burn the paper.
 
Last edited:

RichardGarfinkle

Nurture Phoenixes
Staff member
Moderator
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jan 2, 2012
Messages
10,433
Reaction score
1,567
Location
Walking the Underworld
Website
www.richardgarfinkle.com
While the subject matter is religious, the problem isn't. It's a question of manners. They're being rude and intrusive. You no more need to answer it then you would need to answer any other personal question.

Thanking them for their kindness and the help they've given you and your husband should suffice.

You can ignore the question possibly in the kind of pointed manner that implies that you are giving someone an out for a faux pas they committed.

There is no need to accept the social burden on yourself for someone else's poor manners.
 

ErezMA

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 27, 2015
Messages
3,042
Reaction score
145
It seems like every answer here is the right answer and at the same time is the wrong one as well.

To them, there's nearly no excuse to them as to why you weren't at church. If you aren't at church every sunday, unless you were physically unable to be there, you've failed in their eyes. They are there and expects other Christians there.

At the same time, you signed no contract that you'd be there every Sunday and you're free to believe what you want. You can have every reason, or no reason, not to attend. Ive faced a similar issue getting it through to my family's rabbi that I wanted no part of Judaism. I contacted him and asked him for some exemption that could be made for my orthodox brother to come to my wedding. (The issue is that I'm marrying a non Jew) and he completely ignored the point and tried so hard to dissuade me into marrying her, dumping her and becoming orthodox. This isn't to say that religious people are bad. They have a developed sense of community, which is good, but it can lead to situations like yours.
 

Marian Perera

starting over
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Dec 29, 2006
Messages
14,049
Reaction score
3,851
Location
Heaven is a place on earth called Toronto.
Website
www.marianperera.com
When my parents' friends invited me to go to church with them, or asked why I didn't go to church, I'd always say, "I'm an atheist." It ended that line of discussion at once, and hopefully taught them not to ask questions if they weren't prepared to hear the answers.

Though I did go to church with one of them, because she'd driven me a couple of places I needed to go and I got the impression that the favor needed to be repaid with the church visit. En route, she added that I had to do one of the readings. I have no idea why, but I figured it was easiest to just do what she wanted and get it over with. So I went up there, did the reading, wondered what the congregation would say if they knew the most godless of heathens was reading from their holy book, and never asked her for any kind of help again.
 

ErezMA

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 27, 2015
Messages
3,042
Reaction score
145
When my parents' friends invited me to go to church with them, or asked why I didn't go to church, I'd always say, "I'm an atheist." It ended that line of discussion at once, and hopefully taught them not to ask questions if they weren't prepared to hear the answers.

Though I did go to church with one of them, because she'd driven me a couple of places I needed to go and I got the impression that the favor needed to be repaid with the church visit. En route, she added that I had to do one of the readings. I have no idea why, but I figured it was easiest to just do what she wanted and get it over with. So I went up there, did the reading, wondered what the congregation would say if they knew the most godless of heathens was reading from their holy book, and never asked her for any kind of help again.

An issue that may arise from that could result in strained relations with the husband. They could frown upon such an integral member of the church if his family doesn't share the same amount of devotion.
 

dawinsor

Dorothy A. Winsor
VPXI
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 21, 2005
Messages
2,108
Reaction score
634
Location
Amid the alien corn
Can you say "I'm a Unitarian"? That might be enough of an answer to stop the question politely.
 

Marian Perera

starting over
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Dec 29, 2006
Messages
14,049
Reaction score
3,851
Location
Heaven is a place on earth called Toronto.
Website
www.marianperera.com
An issue that may arise from that could result in strained relations with the husband. They could frown upon such an integral member of the church if his family doesn't share the same amount of devotion.

Yes, I just gave my experience with such people. I didn't mean to suggest or imply that the OP should give the same blunt response to her husband's friends.
 

kuwisdelu

Revolutionize the World
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 18, 2007
Messages
38,198
Reaction score
4,542
Location
The End of the World
I would just say "I'm not Christian."

If they asked why, I would say "I'm Zuni."

If they happened to know that some Zunis are also Christian (which never happens because most people don't seem to realize it's possible to follow more than one religion), then I would say "Some Zunis are also Christian, but I'm not."

So...

It seems abrupt and even churlish to say, "I have different beliefs" or something similar.

I don't see why that shouldn't be a perfectly good answer.

When my parents' friends invited me to go to church with them, or asked why I didn't go to church, I'd always say, "I'm an atheist." It ended that line of discussion at once, and hopefully taught them not to ask questions if they weren't prepared to hear the answers.

Heh. Sometimes I wish I could say that. Seems simpler. Once certain people know you believe in god(s), they tend to take it for granted that you follow (or should follow) their god(s).
 
Last edited:

ErezMA

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 27, 2015
Messages
3,042
Reaction score
145
Yes, I just gave my experience with such people. I didn't mean to suggest or imply that the OP should give the same blunt response to her husband's friends.

Ah, my error. I'd probably say the same thing back when I was an atheist. Lol
 

kennyc

Banned
Flounced
Joined
May 30, 2011
Messages
503
Reaction score
56
Location
Aurora, CO
....
I don't attend church with him. I've gone a handful of times, for special events, but have felt like a fraud. ...

And faced the question, both overtly and covertly asked, "Why don't you come to church with him?"

It seems abrupt and even churlish to say, "I have different beliefs" ....

..... so no easy out excuse.

... A co-worker was amazed a few years ago when I mentioned, during some conversation, that I wasn't Christian. I think I may be one of the few non-Christians she's ever known. In USA, Christianity is the default.

....

There is no reason for excuses or feeling guilty or even explaining why you don't believe (in mythology). Just a simple, short direct answer is the best and refuse to get into extended discussions about it. A simple answer, "I'm an atheist." or "I am not a believer in religion." Is fine. It's unfortunate that history and society here makes some feel guilty about NOT believing.

Good Luck!
 

Kylabelle

unaccounted for
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jan 3, 2013
Messages
26,251
Reaction score
4,023
Juniper, you asked for help finding a kind way to answer truthfully to a possibly rude and pushy question. I can understand the question though, from your husband's church members, to an extent.... But I agree you have no obligation to explain, or at all to make the questioner(s) feel comfortable about things.

I think that holding in your own awareness your gratitude for their support (as you genuinely feel that), smiling, and saying simply "I'm Unitarian" and then changing the subject is probably easiest. Unless the questioner is being overtly obnoxious -- and in that case it might be easier just to say "it's really none of your business, is it? Why do you wear your hair short?"

Or the like....
 

Captcha

Banned
Joined
Jan 27, 2010
Messages
4,456
Reaction score
637
I agree with cornflake that you need two different answers.

The questions from the people at church seem more polite, to me. Your husband goes there, they've been kind to the two of you, you have occasionally attended so clearly don't object too strongly, etc. The question could, really, be seen as a polite invitation - why don't you come more often? We'd love to have you!

Maybe you could ask your husband how he'd like you to reply to these questions, since it's primarily because of his relationships with the church members that you're involved at all, and it's probably important to him that those relationships be respected.

(I was raised in a Unitarian congregation and they had a stained glass window with loads of different religious symbols and the words "In my father's house are many mansions". Not sure that sentiment would go over to well with a non-Unitarian crowd, though...)

For other people who ask? I'd give them a brush-off, for sure. "Oh, I like to keep my religious beliefs private, thanks," or "I've found my spiritual home elsewhere," or whatever. And then, definitely, a topic change. None of this is any of their business.
 

CassandraW

Banned
Kind Benefactor
Flounced
Joined
Feb 18, 2012
Messages
24,038
Reaction score
6,485
Location
.
I'm with Kyla on the simple "I'm a Unitarian."

For persistently nosy people, I generally do favor moving on to a snappy comeback.

But if you truly feel they are kind and well-meaning, or you for whatever reason don't feel right giving a snappy comeback, I recommend a repeated "thank you for your concern. I truly appreciate your kindness," perhaps followed by an "I'm happy in my spiritual beliefs."

I can empathize with you, by the way. When my father was dying and after he passed, I (an atheist) was awash in religious friends and relatives. They were grieving, too, and well-meaning, but oh boy. I saw no point in asserting my atheism at such a time (especially since I planned my dad's very Catholic funeral and did the eulogy); I followed my approach in my third paragraph.

I admit I struggled at times. One family friend get wind of our plans to scatter my father's ashes in places he loved. She gave me a half hour lecture on the Catholic church's position on doing that. I wanted to say "screw you and the damn church; Dad would have loved this idea and it's none of your business." What I did say was "thank you so much for your concern."
 
Last edited:

Tazlima

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jun 26, 2013
Messages
2,764
Reaction score
819
I understand the tightrope-walk involved in sticking to your beliefs while not advertising them to the wrong people (i.e. my extremely right-wing Christian boss, who's awesome but basically my complete opposite in all her world views). If someone asks me outright, I'll tell them what I believe. Otherwise I generally avoid the subject of religion whenever possible.

My father was an agnostic but in later years attended church regularly because both my mother and my brother's family were very active in that particular church and he liked spending time with them (particularly the grandchildren):). He decided to approach it as a purely social activity and simply refrained from taking part in communion and similar ceremonies.

When he died, I found myself in an awkward situation, sitting with my mother (who is religious) and the pastor of that church while they chose which texts to read and which songs to sing during the funeral. I had, over the years, had several frank conversations with my father and knew he wasn't really a believer. It didn't sit right with me to have the overtly Christian ceremony that they were putting together.

Luckily, the pastor was a wonderful guy (even as an athiest, I get the appeal of that particular church. They were a great group of people). I carefully broached the subject that Dad was more of an agnostic and asked if there were "any Bible verses he could read that didn't specifically mention God or Jesus." Not only did he not look at me like I was crazy, but he took the request seriously and found some wonderful passages to read during the ceremony. (Thankfully my mother has a sense of humor about these things and found my request hilarious rather than blasphemous).
 

Marian Perera

starting over
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Dec 29, 2006
Messages
14,049
Reaction score
3,851
Location
Heaven is a place on earth called Toronto.
Website
www.marianperera.com
Heh. Sometimes I wish I could say that. Seems simpler. Once certain people know you believe in god(s), they tend to take it for granted that you follow (or should follow) their god(s).

Exactly. I think my response worked because my parents' friends were expecting some sort of embarrassed or guilty response, as my conscience awoke under their insightful inquiries.

There was nothing in their script about what to do when faced with someone who didn't even believe in their god. That belief was something they took for granted, so they assumed everyone shared it. I got blank, stunned looks from quite a few of them as a result.
 

ColoradoGuy

I've seen worse.
Staff member
Super Moderator
Moderator
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 11, 2005
Messages
6,670
Reaction score
1,479
Location
The City Different
Website
www.chrisjohnsonmd.com
Excellent discussion, folks.

I run into this occasionally when patients' families ask me if I am a Christian, usually in the context of a dying patient. My answer varies with the family, but usually if I tell them I'm Quaker that has the same effect as what people have suggested upthread happens if you say Unitarian. People generally don't know what to do with it and leave things at that.

In general, I agree with what Richard wrote: it's really a question of manners and decorum. People certainly can ask the question, but they need to respect your answer and then leave it alone. This can be difficult for those with evangelistic imperatives. But that's not your problem; it's theirs.
 

juniper

Always curious.
Requiescat In Pace
Registered
Joined
Mar 1, 2010
Messages
4,129
Reaction score
674
Location
Forever on the island
Maybe that's the issue. Not only is being a Protestant Christian of some kind is sort of the accepted, default norm for many in the US, many of these are evangelical religions. The people in question probably know you're not Christian, at least not in the way they are, both because you don't come to church, and because your husband may have even said as much. They're asking, possibly, because they're looking for an opening to evangelize.

I agree that could be part of their asking. Or at least it could be for many Christians. For my husband's church, I don't know. They were very polite, very sweet, and maybe just curious as to why I don't attend with him, since he's so active.

En route, she added that I had to do one of the readings. I have no idea why, but I figured it was easiest to just do what she wanted and get it over with. So I went up there, did the reading, wondered what the congregation would say if they knew the most godless of heathens was reading from their holy book, and never asked her for any kind of help again.

Yes, participating in the service is counter to my nature. I don't feel right in singing some of the songs, even though I know them from childhood, such as the one with the phrasing "loud praise to Christ our King ... before His throne rejoice ... " or prayers that refer to Jesus the Saviour. Things specific to the Christian faith - I feel like a phony singing / reciting, so I stand mutely.

Can you say "I'm a Unitarian"? That might be enough of an answer to stop the question politely.

I'm with Kyla on the simple "I'm a Unitarian."

... usually if I tell them I'm Quaker that has the same effect as what people have suggested upthread happens if you say Unitarian. People generally don't know what to do with it and leave things at that.

Of course! What a simple, honest response. Today that seems so reasonable, and not confrontational - yesterday, not so much. Can I blame it on lingering effects of general anesthesia? :tongue

The very first thing I imagined when I read the title thread was me saying "How to explain why I am a Christian." I do want to explain it. Maybe sometime I can in a private message or elsewhere. Maybe, to begin to answer your own question, you should try to answer it for yourself in detail. Write out the reasons on paper, then burn the paper.

Thanks for the offer, but I don't need/want an explanation of why you do have that belief. I'm happy and comfortable with my own. I know why I'm not a Christian. I'm glad you're satisfied with your religion as well.
 
Last edited:

Roxxsmom

Beastly Fido
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 24, 2011
Messages
19,764
Reaction score
3,344
Location
Where faults collide
Website
doggedlywriting.blogspot.com
I agree that could be part of their asking. Or at least it could be for many Christians. For my husband's church, I don't know. They were very polite, very sweet, and maybe just curious as to why I don't attend with him, since he's so active.

It could be that for some, especially if there's been hints, at least, that your work schedule was the reason.

I think the "I'm a Unitarian" explanation is the best one, probably.

It's harder for me when I get that kind of question, because I'm not really anything except agnostic, and when you're not anything except agnostic, some do think you're fair game because you must simply not have made up your mind yet.

My husband's mom is religious (Methodist). Like your husband's church, hers is filled with nice people. We sometimes go with her when we visit, especially if she's singing in the choir or something. No one's ever asked me what religion I am, and I don't know if he ever gets asked if he's active in a church. We don't live in the same state as his mom, so people aren't going to wonder why we don't show up more than 1x a year, however.
 
Last edited:

frimble3

Heckuva good sport
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 7, 2006
Messages
8,498
Reaction score
1,118
Location
west coast, canada
I'd suggest "I'm a Unitarian" as well. It's simple, it's honest, it's hard to argue with.
I personally go with "But I don't go to church" in a tone that implies astonishment that it's even coming up. But I don't get asked much.

Socially, the only religious person I know is one of Jehovah's Witnesses, and while we've talked about religion, she's never made any overt attempt to reel me in. (Aside from being a sweet person and a fine example of a human being.)

At work, there are so many different faiths represented that nobody cares much.
There was one new employee, a sweet little thing, just out of some private Christian high school, sitting beside me, who took it upon herself to inform me that it didn't matter how many goods works I did, if I didn't recognize Jesus as my personal savior, I was going to Hell. I nodded my head and said "I've heard that." I believe I deserve points for not saying "Just as well I haven't wasted my time on good works, then."

The reason I don't go to church is that my parents seemed to feel it was a bad idea, and I've never had any reason to think otherwise.

This is obviously a different kettle of fish from your situation, surrounded by churchgoers, and married to a regular attendee, and, indeed, a pillar of the church.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.