How to explain why I'm not a Christian

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Elf474

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I worship Tiamat and primal chaos and tell them that.

I always just say "You go Yahweh, I'll go my way."


Of course it helps if you've actually taken the time to study your religion as well as Christianity so that when they inevitably argue you know what you're talking about. I live in Utah and most of the missionaries here haven't even memorize the Book of Mormon... despite supposedly teaching from it.
 
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Tedium

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I'm sorry about your illness and hope that you are back on your feet soon.

I don't think you'll find any magical catch-all formula for these types of situations. I think you just have to handle each individual case as it comes. Having said that, though, honesty is usually the best policy. You ask for a respectful way to explain, and I think just saying you have different beliefs and that they are private is not being disrespectful. If people press you after saying that then they are the ones who are disrespectful. We live in an age where everyone posts every part of their life, in real-time, all of the time. It seems rude to have anything private anymore, when really it's not.

You seem to be deferring to what makes your husband comfortable, and that's valid, but I don't know that there is a way that this conversation won't be at least a little uncomfortable for someone. It seems rather odd to me that he is as integral to the church as you say, and has yet to mention your beliefs to anyone. That's not judgement, but genuine curiosity. My best friend is Christian and we are able to maintain our friendship despite the fact that I am not. He doesn't pressure me and I am not so sure that the people from your husband's church would pressure you. It just sounds to me like they are unaware and curious, and given his standing in the church, I can't blame them for that.

Again, I don't think just saying you have different and private beliefs is rude or disrespectful. I would hope they follow Jesus' example in the Gospels and not judge you. I would ask your husband for his support in that. It sounds like you guys have been skirting the issue and looking for excuses. Y'all should try being honest them. Have a little faith that it will turn out for the best. But you won't know until you actually have that conversation.
 
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CassandraW

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We live in an age where everyone posts every part of their life, in real-time, all of the time. It seems rude to have anything private anymore, when really it's not.

So true, this.
 

Max Vaehling

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Oh, you Americans. :evil That whole notion of going to someone's church to repay a favor? Is religious ritual really that much of a currency? I'd just have invited them for coffee. (Seriously, the closest I usually get to that kind of situation is when I'm at a barbecue and folks ask me why I'm a vegetarian.)

Anyway, good answers so far. It really depends on the intent of their questions, and for politeness' sake, I'd assume the best intentions unless proven wrong. So I'm guessing they just assumed you're of the same congregation as your husband and wonder why you're not joining him more often. In that case, "I'm of a different church" or even a clarifying "I'm Unitarian", along with a line about how grateful you are for the help and that you're only here now to show your appreciation, should be perfectly fine.

If their intent is to pull you over into their church, they won't be content with that. If they get pushy, feel free to cut off the discussion by pointing out that it's a private matter and you appreciate their concerns, but they're somewhat inappropriate and disrespectful. Or use the Unitarian many-mansions line. Isn't it a Bible quote? Good. If they're not familiar with it, you just out-bibled them and they should really take that in their stride. But it really depends on the situation and how rude they are. If they remain civil and non-pushy, there's no reason to escalate. And, to get back to the vegetarian thing, often people turn out to be relly interested in your side of things, and great discussions can expand from that. Takes mutual respect, though.

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).

Actually, in my experience, you get away more easily if you believe in something else that is not theirs than if you're an atheist. Very religious people, unless they're really small-minded, can handle different religions as long as there's that common ground of belief. But tell them you're an atheist, and a lot of them won't see it as a conviction that's as valid as theirs, but as its absence, a vacuum for them to fill. Even worse if you're agnostic. For atheists, they might decide it's not worth the effort if they experienced how stubborn atheists can be.
 

juniper

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My brother, who goes to a Baptist church in another state, is visiting me. I took him to the Unitarian church this morning, which he said he enjoyed.

The topic was "overlooked hymns" - in the hymnal but rarely sung. The choir leader, was the speaker today, surmised part of the reason was that some of them spoke of "God" in a traditional sense, and some UU don't like that. She suggested we think of the word "God" as a 3-letter spelling of "love." I rather like that.

On the other coast my husband is visiting his father, and this morning FIL took my husband to a Quaker meeting. FIL returned to his Quaker roots a few years ago. Husband found the meeting meaningful and peaceful. The congregation there is "holding me in the light" because of my health problem.

There is room for many kinds of worship and awe.
 

kuwisdelu

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Actually, in my experience, you get away more easily if you believe in something else that is not theirs than if you're an atheist. Very religious people, unless they're really small-minded, can handle different religions as long as there's that common ground of belief.

I think that's true if it's another Abrahamic religion, or at least another monotheistic religion, or at least a very well-known polytheistic religion like Hinduism, but tell someone you're from a Native American religion they've never heard of, or, say, some pagan religion, and they may not even consider it a "real" religion, even if they're open-minded about other major religions.
 

ErezMA

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but tell someone you're from a Native American religion they've never heard of, or, say, some pagan religion, and they may not even consider it a "real" religion, even if they're open-minded about other major religions.

There's a lot of misconception about pagan religions. They tend to see it synonymous to evil. They think that it's a bunch of voodoo crazies worshipping to some malevolent being.

...or at least, there are some who see it that way. Pagan religions actually tend to be older than the Abrahamic religions. It is real in every definition of the word, unless you think a real religion is who has the most members.
 

RichardGarfinkle

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There's a lot of misconception about pagan religions. They tend to see it synonymous to evil. They think that it's a bunch of voodoo crazies worshipping to some malevolent being.

...or at least, there are some who see it that way. Pagan religions actually tend to be older than the Abrahamic religions. It is real in every definition of the word, unless you think a real religion is who has the most members.

voodoo crazies is a problematic term Voodoo and related religions like Voudo and Santeria are no more accurately shown in their offensive pop-culture depictions than Judaism fits the blood libel claim, Catholicism fits the DaVinci Code or Islam fits its polytheistic, idol worshipping depiction in the Song of Roland.
 

Chumplet

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I'm glad you have a supportive community, and loving friends who supported you throughout your illness. I have no problem with my friends and family worshiping or believing in a higher power, but I think it's intrusive for them to ask why I don't share their beliefs. I was raised Catholic, but never felt a connection beyond that of community. My tongue-in-cheek response was always, "I practiced Catholicism, but never got it right." They'd laugh, and move on.

Of course, a gentle response can always be something like, "I don't discuss religion or politics," and leave it at that.
 

ErezMA

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voodoo crazies is a problematic term Voodoo and related religions like Voudo and Santeria are no more accurately shown in their offensive pop-culture depictions than Judaism fits the blood libel claim, Catholicism fits the DaVinci Code or Islam fits its polytheistic, idol worshipping depiction in the Song of Roland.

I'm sorry. What I meant came out the wrong way. I've heard paganism being called using that term so I meant to describe it in those words. I've studied a bit (but not extensively) in Voodoo, and I know that it's not the same way that pop culture describes it.

But to add to my previous point, I can't label myself as of a single religion. The fact of the matter is that I've spent a couple of years on a spiritual journey, trying to find a religion to which I find value, and I found that I've taken a lot from a lot of religions and used some of their teachings to help me. A lot of what I've learned and in some ways, the most powerful additions, stem from paganism. The idea that there is energy in everything is very empowering. It's a nice contrast to my Jewish heritage, which suggests that I am nothing, other than what Ha'Shem (God) wants me to be.
 

Maxx

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

I thought Unitarians were Christians. Doesn't the "Unit" in Unitarian refer to a disbelief in some aspects of the Trinity? One doesn't have to be a Trinitarian to be a Christian, right?
 

Maxx

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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.

I once had a very good friend who was some kind of Living-Snake-eating Baptist who spoke in tongues and was regularly beaten up personally by God. Naturally he invited me to his church. I said if he could beat me at Squash, I'd go. At that time I had a magic squash raquette so I knew that even though he was seemingly more large and athletic, I would crush him at Squash. And I did. He accepted it as a sign from God (and all the moreso since BLOOD WAS SPILLED) and so I avoided another beating from the Divine Guy.
 

RichardGarfinkle

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Myrealana

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I face the same thing. My parents are very involved in their Methodist church. I was raised going to church once in a while. My dad was usually a member of some singing group or another, but even when he was in the church choir, he would often go to the service alone long enough to sing, then come home before the sermon. Church just wasn't that important to us.

Then, sometime after I went off to college, my parents found Jesus. They began joining groups, giving money, teaching Sunday school. My mom became the choir director for a while, then ran the children's choir for years. My dad became a deacon. They joined the Wesleyan Foundation for the college where they met and are now on the board. Oh, and they now run their church's food pantry.

In other words, they are very, very churchy.

So, every time I visit their church, I get the questions. Luckily, I can duck them by saying I live too far away, but they often follow up by asking what my home church is, which I usually just answer vaguely. My brother, on the other hand, who lives right down the street, doesn't have that excuse. He usually just says "I'm fine, thanks." Most people take that as the polite brush-off it's intended to be, so he doesn't have to elaborate.
 

Maxx

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I face the same thing. My parents are very involved in their Methodist church.

Methodists! I once travelled with some very scholarly Methodists to look at some Biblical manuscripts. It was extremely enlightening. I suppose it was like going to church but it was more of a case of total immersion in Biblical scholarship -- it didn't feel Christian in a live-snake-eating kind of way, but it was still enlightening.

Oh! And I did once have a talk with some Unitarians about the Trinity. Their views seemed more or less Arian (Christian) -- which is not too surprising, the Scholarly Methodists had a similar polite skepticism about the Trinity thing.
 

RichardGarfinkle

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Methodists! I once travelled with some very scholarly Methodists to look at some Biblical manuscripts. It was extremely enlightening. I suppose it was like going to church but it was more of a case of total immersion in Biblical scholarship -- it didn't feel Christian in a live-snake-eating kind of way, but it was still enlightening.

Oh! And I did once have a talk with some Unitarians about the Trinity. Their views seemed more or less Arian (Christian) -- which is not too surprising, the Scholarly Methodists had a similar polite skepticism about the Trinity thing.

Two close friends of mine are married UU ministers (married to each other). The background of one is Unitarian, the other Universalist (the religions didn't meld until the 1960s). Both are highly educated scholars with backgrounds studying multiple religions. Neither is either Christian or non-Christian. They call upon and use multiple traditions for their understandings and practices.
 

Maxx

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Two close friends of mine are married UU ministers (married to each other). The background of one is Unitarian, the other Universalist (the religions didn't meld until the 1960s). Both are highly educated scholars with backgrounds studying multiple religions. Neither is either Christian or non-Christian. They call upon and use multiple traditions for their understandings and practices.

It seems to be a somewhat problematic area for UUs. I know some UUs very well and they admit to a very Christian overtone to the whole thing. They meet in Churches (very often anyway) and the Christian Unitarians were a major intellectual force in the late 18th and early 19th centuries (eg Coleridge). So that history is something UUs have to deal with (and generally very well). And there's the supersessionist thing (which I guess is Unitarian) and I'm not so sure they deal with that very well.
 

juniper

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It seems to be a somewhat problematic area for UUs. I know some UUs very well and they admit to a very Christian overtone to the whole thing. They meet in Churches (very often anyway) and the Christian Unitarians were a major intellectual force in the late 18th and early 19th centuries (eg Coleridge). So that history is something UUs have to deal with (and generally very well).

No Christian overtone to any UU church I've ever been to.

And there's the supersessionist thing (which I guess is Unitarian) and I'm not so sure they deal with that very well.

I have no clue as to what you mean by this. Could you expand on this please?
 

Kylabelle

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I was Unitarian Universalist for a couple of years, once. What Richard says is the case: Unitarian Universalism originally was a Christian religion, and it expanded beyond those boundaries. While individual members may hold Christian beliefs, there are also plenty of Atheists, Pagans, Agnostics, and members who like to pick and choose elements from various faiths. It is predominantly a religion of intellectual self-examination and attempts to find common ground with all beliefs. (And that is my take on it, and no doubt there are UUs out there, in good standing, who would find something to disagree with about that statement. :greenie)

The fellowship I attended had a couple who were Jewish who attended faithfully for a while, until there was a service that included a Christian element (I forget what it was! -- maybe one of the hymns included mention of Jesus.) They became very uncomfortable, and left immediately after that service, never to return. It was sad. Ecumenical inclusiveness was not possible for them.... understandably so. I felt it was insensitive to include that element -- I do think it was a hymn -- in the service, given what we all knew about that couple's history, but it was not my decision to make.
 

Robert Dawson

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One doesn't have to be a Trinitarian to be a Christian, right?

Traditionally the Nicene Creed (Council of Nicaea, 4th century CE) was accepted (albeit with minor variations) among all denominations of Christianity (basically Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox on those days)as the "minimal statement" common to all Christendom. It definitely involves a belief in the Trinity.

Doubting the doctrine of the Trinity was known as the "Arian Heresy" (Arius, 4th century CE) and people were executed for it. (The exact relationship between the persons of the Trinity is the subject of some of those minor variations - look up the "Filioque" ["and from the Son"] controversy if you want details.) Gibbon (Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire) passes on, tongue probably in cheek, a gruesome and scatological account of the the death of Arius, which was originally told as an awful warning of what God did to heretics.

These days there are denominations, notably the Latter-Day Saints, who do not accept the doctrine of the Trinity, and still consider themselves Christian. Most of their mainstream Christian neighbors seem to accept this, though some still take an exclusive doctrinal view.

When asked, myself, I just fall back on "Because I don't believe a lot of the things your church believes." If pressed (hasn't happened a lot lately) I add "and I don't even want to believe many of them." (I probably couldn't say this to a Unitarian, but then they've never pressured me to go to church.)

My secret vice - I do enjoy meditative services like Compline and Taize. Ask me when I'm in a good mood and I might even go to one with you.
 
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Maxx

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No Christian overtone to any UU church I've ever been to.



I have no clue as to what you mean by this. Could you expand on this please?

First, the only Church I've been to in the last 30 years is a UU church, so my quibbles with UU are actually very minor. On the other hand
slightly disturbing things can lurk in apparently rational locations. Here's the paradigm of supercession: Christianity (in some form) superceded
Judaism (in some form):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supersessionism

The way this seems to have worked for late 18th century-19th century Unitarians is that just as some form of Greco-latin Christianity superceded Judaism,
so basic Protestantism superceded Greco-Latin Christianity and Radical Protestantism superceded basic Protestantism and Unitarianism
superceded Radical Protestantism. The hidden term in all this is a progressive reduction in ritual elaboration, which is apparently not properly spiritual, so the Second Temple was very ritually elaborate and was superceded by progressively less ritually elaborate things. I don't think I need to elaborate about how poorly such a model of "Religious Progress" works in its details. One might ask what form of early Christianity superceded what form of Judaism? for example. Or what isn't spiritual (whatever that means) about ritual (which at least has something you can indicate)?
 
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Underdawg47

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I used to have friends and family members ask me why I didn't go to church. I think the best answer that I gave was that I did not believe in sharing my beliefs, but that ultimately my spiritual path was mine alone to walk.
 

Blinkk

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I'm friends with a gentleman who used to be very involved in the Christian church. Some pivotal life events happened to him that forced him to rethink his spirituality and he left the church.

He now tells people, "Well, my relationship with my creator is a personal topic." He leaves it at that. It's nice because it indicated he has some form of spirituality, but he politely declines to explain what it is. Added bonus: no religions were bashed. Sometimes if people press him he'll explain further, "Unless you can tell me my son's first name and name his condition then you don't know me well enough to discuss it." He says it all very kindly and there's not a hint of malice in it. (Of course if he's met with a really determined fanatic his fang will come out, and he hurts when he bites!)

I can't say this will work with your husband because that's a person who is very close with you. But perhaps you can use this with people who you know on a more casual level.

Spirituality is a very touchy subject, but you didn't need me to tell you that. I hope you get better soon, and I hope you can have this church experience without a lot of drama.
 
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