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fundevogel's avatar

What's the proper etiquette when gifted with (hilarious) prosthelytizing religious gifts from love ones?

Asked by fundevogel (15037 points ) February 11th, 2013

So just checked the mail and got a package from “Christian Television Network Homekeepers”. Naturally I laughed, clearly they don’t know who they’re addressing. Flipped it over “gifted by [my grandma]”. Ouch.

Inside:
one self-published creationist mega-pamphlet
and an apologetic letter reading:

Dear HOMEKEEPER Friend,
I want to apologize for the fact that you are receiving this order much later than we planned to send it. The demand for this book has been so great, Dr. McMurtry [not a real doctor] had to have more of them printed, which took longer than expected.

Thanks so much for supporting this ministry.

[End of letter]

Naturally I will read this book and make much fun of it on the internet. What I don’t know about is what to say about it to the nutty, Catholic, Eastern European grandmother who I never outed myself as a atheist to for obvious reasons. I’ve been getting hints from the family that she either knows or suspects and would like to handle this in a manner fitting Emily Post.

It should be known this is not a woman with whom I can have a meaningful discussion about religion or my lack of it. After Christmas I faced the novel problem of whether or not to wish her a happy new year in my thank you note having received her “Merry Christmas the world is ending” newsletter that December.

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23 Answers

Rarebear's avatar

You say, “Thank you.”

Sunny2's avatar

Just tell her you appreciated her very thoughtful gift and that it was very sweet of her to think of you. No need to try to educate her about anything. She has it all figured out.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

Why is it that atheists and non-theists don’t prosthelytize? Is it because they’re so comfortable with their beliefs (or lack thereof), that they have no need to convert other people? Is it because a lack of religion makes one very tolerant?

JLeslie's avatar

From your grandmother? And, you don’t generally have religious conversations with her? I’m with Rarebear, just say “thank you.”

JLeslie's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul Part of the reason might be a lot of them are Jewish. LOL. Then also a portion probably were raised with religion, or have family who are theists, and respect their right to hold whatever personal belief they choose. Lastly, as a minority group, they have more perspective on having respect for for the differences among people. Just guessing.

Megan64's avatar

Say thank you, and then donate it to the Goodwill.

Jeruba's avatar

I once received a gift subscription to Guideposts (link goes to Wikipedia article and not the magazine’s website) from a relative who I know meant well. I don’t even think she was trying to (re)convert me; I think she honestly didn’t know how hugely unwelcome it would be.

I sent her a note and thanked her for her thoughtfulness.

At renewal time a year later, she renewed the subscription and had an announcement sent to me.

At that point I sent her a note letting her know that I appreciated her thinking of me but that I was not the right audience for this religious publication. I said it would be best if she didn’t continue the subscription. That’s probably what I should have done in the first place.

The worst part wasn’t the magazine itself, which I could easily throw away without reading, but all the mailing lists it got me onto, from religious solicitations and catalogs to cheery fund-raising letters from Ronald Reagan. It took me a long while to clear all the Republicans and God-sellers out of my mailbox.

proselytize (no “th”)

CWOTUS's avatar

Do what @Rarebear said… and then send her a Happy Festivus card.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@JLeslie (You’re a very intelligent person). I’m a Jewish non-theist, so I guess I fit the bill! :-)

JLeslie's avatar

@Jeruba Ugh, the mailing lists. Well, that is worth considering when accepting a gift like that. Plus, I would not want a friend or relative to spend their money on something of no interest to me. Tricky problem if it might lead to continued gifting of religiously oriented presents.

laureth's avatar

I have this come up a lot, and will be watching for good answers.

This is what I did. I have a relative who does the very same thing. Every holiday it’s some religious books that aggressively put forth the relative’s religious and political perspective. She knows I am an atheist and it seems to rankle her, making each gift seem like an ever more desperate plea to find God. My husband spent years trying to get her to understand by giving her books that debunk the books that she gives us, like that Misquoting Jesus book, which only makes this relative double-down on the Godly books she sends our way. It became sort of a Book War. And none of it is in the holiday, giving spirit.

To me, when you give someone a gift, it is supposed to be something that the recipient would really appreciate. It’s not about the giver, or the giver should just buy herself a book and leave it at that. So I thought about what this relative would want and thought about how to do it without feeling like I’m compromising my values in the process. I ended up choosing a lovely pendant that was a copy of a Holy Land mosaic of the loaves and fishes from that Bible story. I wrote her a letter to go with it, explaining that I hoped she’d enjoy the pendant and perhaps take to heart the story of abundance that overflows so mightily from the Sacred that there was enough for everyone and then some, and wished her that overflowing of abundance in her life. (Many of the books she gives us are Religious far-Right tracts.)

She about fell out of her chair. Loved the pendant. Wears it all the time. And I noticed, just a little bit, that her gifts to us changed. The religious ones are just a little less preachy, and more about love. Some of the books actually became secular material about things we’re actually interested in, like gardening. And the non book gifts started to be from charity-type missions that buy their handcrafted products at fair-wage prices from empowered third world women’s co-operatives. Stuff like that. She hasn’t lost the religious or conservative political zeal, not by a long shot, but she sort of softened around the edges when it came to us.

I guess my best advice is to not tackle your grandma head-on. Butting heads over her generosity will just make everyone unhappy. Instead, see how you can use her own energy and “vibes” (if you will) to turn it back her way, ju-jitsu style. Give her something she’ll appreciate, and maybe she’ll return the favor in her own way. And at the very least, you might make an old lady happy, even if she really has figured out that you lack her faith. Life is short, family is precious, and love matters.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
DrBill's avatar

@fundevogel
Considering “Dr. McMurtry has earned a B. S. from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; an M. S. from the State University of New York, Syracuse; and a D. D. from the School of Theology, Columbus, Georgia.” why do you say he is not a real doctor?

gailcalled's avatar

Because of this? vvv

Christian Life School Of Theology is a non-profit private institution, located in Columbus, Muscogee County, GA. Total enrollment is approximately 50. The program lasts for less than one year. Popular programs include Religion/Religious Studies.

“In some areas such as the United States, the Doctor of Divinity is not an earned academic degree and instead is an honorary title. When a person has contributed significantly to their (sic) community through religious leadership, his church or an academic facility affiliated with his church may determine that the individual is eligible to receive the degree.” Source

Compare that with the typical Doctor of Theology program offered at Harvard Divinity School. Completion takes between 5–7 years. MDiv or equivalent pre-requisite. Source

Sample core requirements (see HDS Handbook for Students for full degree requirements)

16 courses, 6 of which are in the student’s chosen area of study

24 courses, field education, and senior seminar

8 courses, 4 of which are in the student’s chosen area of study

2 years of coursework in chosen field, general examinations, dissertation and defense

Language requirement to be completed while at HDS

Harvard Div. School is accreditied at The Association of Theological Schools

Christian LIfe School of Theology is not. LIst of accredited schools

josie's avatar

Why do anything but say Thank You?

bookish1's avatar

You received a prosthetic that was trying to proselytize?

diavolobella's avatar

@fundevogel Jeepers! Did you see how much that thing is selling for on Amazon? I’d say thank you and sell it. LOL

fundevogel's avatar

Thanks guys, clearly I was making this way more complicated than it needed to. Simple thank you it is!

@diavolobella Jesum lord mercy! I did not notice that. Though that’s the price they’re asking for, doesn’t mean anyone’s paying it ;)

Edit: Apparently you can get the revised version (containing: ‘the up to date information proving that there is “Absolutely No Truth To Global Warming!”’) for just 12.99

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes, say thank you. Next year send her a gift as well, for example an article with the Pope endorsing evolution with all the official seals and religious symbols on it. Even grandmothers are able to have new insights. Don’t write her off.

fundevogel's avatar

@mattbrowne It’s been awhile since she’s approved of a pope. They’re to liberal for her.

I gave up on her when she gleefully told me a story of a pregnant woman demanding a cross being removed from her hospital room so her baby wouldn’t see it only to have the baby born blind and another of a communist soldier that dared to dance in church getting run over by a train and losing his legs. Way too much schadenfreude there on top of some seriously stomach turning bigotry.

mattbrowne's avatar

@fundevogel – Very conservative Catholics feel obliged to obey the Pope. Is she a closet liberal after all?

fundevogel's avatar

@mattbrowne Definitely not. I think what it is is that she reads the Bible herself and takes it very seriously. She’s done it many times over in her life. And while anyone that reads the Bible and takes it that seriously has to do a bit of cherry-picking to gloss over contradictions she is far more tolerant of the most draconian elements than most. So when she sees others soften what she regards as gospel she doesn’t respect that. She knows that the position of the Catholic church and the Pope changes but she doesn’t buy that God or the religion does. To her religion comes from God, not people so she has a certain amount of contempt for those she perceives as trying to change her religion.

analystguy38's avatar

Do what I do; Scream in pain and throw the gift to the ground and stomp on it until its broken, then turn to the gifter and say thank you.

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