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vampmoore's avatar

Has religion ever hampered you ability to have a conversation with someone?

Asked by vampmoore (445points) September 6th, 2010

I’ve tried to think of a simpler or more delicate way of putting it, and I couldn’t quite get there. I hope no one is offended.

My cousins and I have always been really close. But they live in another state so sometimes we don’t see each other for large amounts of time. Recently they came to visit and apparently have been going through a huge lifestyle makeover and have become very religious. I was talking to my cousin about a problem I was having in my relationship.

The advice she gave me was of the “the bible says” “put your trust in him” “when I pray about it” variety.

I am not religious and she knows this. I could do nothing with the information she gave me. Also for the rest of the time they were here, anytime anyone would ask them a question about themselves it would turn into something about Christianity. It got to the point that I kept my yap shut about anything personal and I wonder if our relationship is ever going to be as close as it was before, since I feel like I can’t have a in depth conversation with them without it turning religious.

(Sorry if I’m rambling, I’ve been thinking about it all morning.)

Has religion ever put a damper on a converstion for you?

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37 Answers

TexasDude's avatar

Certain family members.

Apparently I was supposed to pray my anxiety disorder and depression away. Too bad I tried that for years and it never worked.

laureth's avatar

Have you ever seen the movie “The Matrix,” where Keanu Reeves discovers that all his life so far has been an engineered dream, and he wakes up to a larger reality?

To me, it seems like both camps (let’s call them Theists and Non-theists) see the world in a Matrix-y kind of way. Non-theists seem to think that if only the Theists would do some research and thinking, they would wake up to the larger idea that God is a human construct and that they’ve been living in a small religion-box all their lives. And Theists seem to think that if Non-theists would do some research and thinking, they would wake up to the larger idea that they’ve been fooled by the devil’s science or the illusion of worldliness, that there’s a much larger spiritual reality out there, and they’ve been living in a tiny box their whole lives, too.

The effect of this is that the Ts and the N-Ts can’t agree on some basic ‘realities’ about the world. Their gestalt is completely different, and the value of the advice and insight that each offers would depend on the listener accepting that the Universe works the same way as the speaker believes.

Another example. Poor guy’s car breaks down, he doesn’t have the money to fix it and therefore he can’t get to work to make any more money. Upon hearing of his plight, a Rich guy says, “I don’t see what the problem is, you just get it fixed and then you can drive to work.” Neither guy can conceive of the reality that the other lives in. It’s utterly foreign to their mind.

Until people can agree on basic issues like “praying works” or maybe “we all have enough money to fix our cars when they break down,” conversation remains difficult. There’s a gulf between them that can’t really be crossed without someone bending their brain uncomfortably far out of whack. Sometimes, at this point, the best thing is to agree to disagree, see if you have any other common ground, and if not, possibly to love them and wish them well from a distance.

It might also help, if possible, to translate your family’s advice into something that does work with your mindset. “Pray about it” might become “be still and meditate on the problem,” for example. Or, “put your trust in God” might become “you can’t do anything about that which you can’t do anything about, so don’t worry so much and wait to see what comes next.”

Christian95's avatar

All the time
My hole family is Very religious so I’ve been “advised” thousands of time(I’m not over estimating)to pray for my school success,for my health,for my family members(dead or alive) and others crap like these.
I’m very pasionate of science so when I try to speak about this,I always end up with something like“It’s the presence of God or the work of it”.That’s why I gave up few years ago and now I talk only with my friends but I have only 2 because in a religious country is hard to find some non religious folks to just hang out without God being present.
So I’d say that my social life was pretty much limited by religion.

Seek's avatar

You think that‘s a hard conversation to field, just wait until a super-religious close friend has a life-shattering event, and they ask you to pray for them.

Someone please tell me what the eff to say in that situation? Because all that comes to my mind is “Where was your god before your mom got liver cancer?”

muppetish's avatar

I’m just going to say “yes it has put a damper on conversation” and leave it at that.

bob_'s avatar

I’m trying to find a quote from The West Wing that pretty much sums it up. It went something like “it kind of limits the debate when God starts talking to some people”.

Austinlad's avatar

No, because I generally don’t discuss my religious beliefs except in very simple terms. Not only is it an unwinnable debate, it’s one that doesn’t need to be won.

TexasDude's avatar

@Austinlad, it’s one that doesn’t need to be won.

I like that… can I steal it?

nebule's avatar

@Everyone…your answers here are brilliant!! lurve to you all xx

Yes, I experience this all the time and I am currently going through a difficult period because of the disagreements that I have with my family. I think as others have suggested, that it’s difficult to have conversations with people on any topic that they have faith in and are unwilling to question their views about and religion falls into this category with enthusiasm.

The way that I am having to deal with it is slowly find my way out of spending so much time around them because I constantly find that I come away feeling grumpy, but through the times I do spend with them try to talk about stuff that avoids the issue…. Unfortunately as I am fast becoming aware of this leaves little room for conversations that I am passionate about…and am realising that maybe just maybe I need to find others (like you guys on Fluther) that I can talk to about the things that matter to me without being bombarded with nonsense.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Well, in my job, I talk to people about their health, emotional well-being and fears. They’re a population (black and hispanic people in brooklyn, nyc) that very often tends to be pretty religious and since they’re cancer patients and are dealing with frightening events, there is a lot of god talk and so forth – often, in the course of our conversation and them praising the lord, they ask me about my religious beliefs (it’s a way for them to establish trust with me and that’s something that’s important in our ongoing relationship) and I feel really uncomfortable a lot of the time because when I tell them I’m an atheist, they literally freak out and look at me like I’m some kind of a diseased individual and don’t want to really talk about anything else besides my soul and how I should read this or that in the Bible and how they’ll pray for me. Sometimes, when I know that a person will become closed off, I pretend I’m a believer, of their faith too, because it’s pretty easy to fake – I don’t feel good about this but my job is to get them services they desperately need and they don’t have other options. I really wish they wouldn’t ask me.

Fyrius's avatar

“Sometimes, when I know that a person will become closed off, I pretend I’m a believer, of their faith too, because it’s pretty easy to fake – I don’t feel good about this but my job is to get them services they desperately need and they don’t have other options.”
I couldn’t imagine a more noble lie.

TexasDude's avatar

“Sometimes, when I know that a person will become closed off, I pretend I’m a believer, of their faith too, because it’s pretty easy to fake – I don’t feel good about this but my job is to get them services they desperately need and they don’t have other options.”

As the unofficial therapist to nearly everyone I know, I’ve found myself doing this countless times. I think it’s perfectly justifiable if it avoids an awkward situation and genuinely helps someone else.

JLeslie's avatar

Happens all of the time. The religious talk shuts down the conversation for me. I guess they find comfort in the religious words, but to people who are not religious it is almost offensive, definitely uncomfortable and not helpful. I many times don’t really respond or just say a simple thank you, because I know their intentions are good. I think they need to feel like they are doing something to help, and quoting the bible, lighting a candle, praying, helps them feel like they have some control about out of control situations.

Cruiser's avatar

Yes it has happened many times especially with new converts who then think everyone needs to be saved and their new religious views must be shared. I love discussing religion not debating it.

ibstubro's avatar

I have worked with a lot of very religious people in a blue collar job. Personally the ones that made me the most self-conscious were the ones that walked the walk rather than talk the talk. I would be more sensitive to my cursing, gossiping and running other people down (hey, it was a factory!

I remember one time I was telling a religious friend about my weekend, and having bought a valuable antique for pennies. She said ” SEE! There it IS, God was looking out for YOU!” I looked right at her and said, “Well, that doesn’t speak too highly for the guy that SOLD it to me.” She stood there a minute, her eyes got big, and she said “You CAN’T look at it like THAT!”

Ummm. Yeah, I can.

@Seek_Kolinahr : Someone please tell me what the eff to say in that situation? Because all that comes to my mind is “Where was your god before your mom got liver cancer?”

You CAN’T look at it like THAT!

Nullo's avatar

Religion is on the list of verboten conversational topics at work, so it hampers discussion that way. Otherwise.

@Seek_Kolinahr I shall offer you some Scripture:
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Cancer is not on anybody’s list of “unique experiences to have before you die,” but it can work out as a net gain. And to a Christian, death is small potatoes anyway; to paraphrase build on Lewis, it’s the final exam before summer vacation.
You can then follow up by mentioning that the liver is quite possibly the hardiest organ in the body, which I expect helps with survival rates.

ibstubro's avatar

I was blind, but now I see everything. Well, everything except what I have to take on blind faith, which is just the important stuff.

ibstubro's avatar

@Nullo If you are not Christian Scientist, you are a hypocrite. If you take an antibiotic, you are subverting God’s will. He let you have the infection so that you could be nearer to Him, and then He could decide if He should set you to summer vacation. You keep cheating on the pop quizzes in order to avoid the final exam. What need of you for doctors, dentists and prescription drugs? Can you not give your life over to God completely?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@ibstubro You know, you win whether or not you believe what you’re saying and that’s hard to do. GA

YARNLADY's avatar

I try to just listen when that comes up, since I don’t see any point in arguing. Some close friends have asked me to explain my views, and we can discuss it when that happens.

ibstubro's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Yeah, I’m a winner, but I’m not certain what response you responded to.

Ron_C's avatar

I was on a job in North Eastern Washington state in a town with less than 500 people and two religious radio station.

I was in the control room fixing some computer problems and mentioned that I have never been in a place with so many fundamentalist christians. The guy looked me in the eye and said “what do you mean?” I decided to change the subject and get out of Dodge as soon as possible.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@ibstubro The one right above my comment.

ibstubro's avatar


Speak up, hun, I’m a little hard-a-typing.

Believe it or not, that is a thought that is original to me. I’m not saying that it is a point never made before, but that it is something that I have never heard before and something that has been percolating in my brain for YEARS. I could just never pinpoint it until I was typing my response. Epiphany, defined. I kept asking, “If there is a Heaven, why are you so afraid of it?” This is much more specific and on topic.

Thanks for sharing my moment!

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@ibstubro I speak in whisper because my remarks to you are not answers to the question, that’s how it works. And please don’t call me hun.

ibstubro's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir sorry, I didn’t know. so does that make me look like an idiot talking to himself by posting openly? Heavy sigh I don’t know the politics and cliques here, and hope to never. I call them as I see them and if I’m out of line the powers that be will slap me. All I know but that I called you ‘hun’ to soften the request to TYPE BIGGER. lol All good!

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@ibstubro I don’t know about the politics or cliques either – it’s just fluther etiquette.

bob_'s avatar

Heh, cliques is such a funny word.

talljasperman's avatar

both yes and no… sometimes I wouldn’t be talked to on the street if it wasn’t for religion…but those conversations almost always lead to come to church and sing and the conversation ends then…I’m not going to sing

Nullo's avatar

@ibstubro Oho! A challenger appears!
First of all, I was offering @Seek_Kolinahr words to give to her friend. Subtext, context, and background are supplied by a common reference frame, one that, I gather, you do not share.

If you take an antibiotic, you are subverting God’s will. He let you have the infection so that you could be nearer to Him, and then He could decide if He should set you to summer vacation.
You assume that I assume that every ailment is a Godsend. I do not. Rather, I believe that He can work through illness, just as he can work through any other hardship, or convenience, or modern medicine, or Facebook, or really, anything else. I also believe that sometimes, little stuff happens on its own.
If God wants to take me home via infection, then there’s precious little that an antibiotic can do to stop it.

You keep cheating on the pop quizzes in order to avoid the final exam.
* facepalm *
I see that my similie went misunderstood. I was comparing death to exams in order to highlight their mutual unpleasantness, and to tie in with Lewis’ likening of Heaven to holiday.
And academically, in most classes you could cheat on all the pop quizzes in the world and still have to take the final.
Maybe I just expect too much out of you guys.

Seek's avatar


Actually, liver cancer is basically a death sentence. The liver filters blood. If there’s cancer in the liver, there’s cancer in the blood, and there’s cancer everywhere.

But that was just an example, anyway. I don’t currently know anyone still alive that has been diagnosed with liver cancer.

However, I will never use scripture to console a friend. I will certainly never pull the “all things work for good for those who believe in God and are called according to his purpose”. For one – I don’t believe in god. For two, there is no god and he has no purpose.

Telling my friend that would be just as much of a lie as saying “Of course I’ll pray for you.”

ibstubro's avatar


“And to a Christian, death is small potatoes anyway.”
I am not a Christian and I do not fear death. And yet, I have seen Christian’s scratch bite and claw to their last breath to hold on to this life. If death is small potatoes and Heaven a holiday, why would you WANT to take an antibiotic, was my point. How can you profess to be ready, willing and eager with one side of your face, and fight death with every fiber of your being with the other?

“Maybe I just expect too much out of you guys.”
Gee, you obviously have taken the “Win Friends and Influence Enemies” course!
Chapter, 2: Talk Down to the Other Parties

BTW: I also enjoyed the final exams.

JLeslie's avatar

Some people on this thread may be interested in the book Why Bad Things Happen to Good People I have not read it, but from what I understand the rabbi who wrote it realized after his teenage son died that many of the supposedly comforting words people were telling him, including ones based in religion, words he used to tell others in times of great sorrow, that the words did not bring him comfort at all. Everyone I know who has read the book said it was a very good, very helpful. It recently helped a friend of mine who in the last two years has lost his wife, brother, and mother. It does not directly address the OP’s question, but is kind of in line with where the thread is going. What is interesting about it is even this religious man felt religious words were not helping him.

I have another friend, she is very religious, brings up religion quite often, and she has just been through a very trying year, and she says to me things like she is praying, and she has faith, but it is worded in a way like she doesn’t get why she is having so much trouble coping (she actually in my opinion is coping as well as could be expected) she seems to have this added pressure because of her religion, rather than it helping her mentally. I guess it is a mixed bag, her religion gives her this idea that everything will work out and God has a plan, but it is her beliefs in my opinion that make her overly self critical about being angry and upset or not coping well. Anyway, when she launches into the religious stuff, asks me to pray for her, ugh, I just tell her how well I think she is coping, and empathize with how much she has been through.

Nullo's avatar

@ibstubro We’re supposed to be good stewards of what God has given us, and that includes our health, hence my approval of medicine. Besides that, not everybody likes the idea of dying, even if it does mean getting to start vacation early.
Yes, I sometimes respond to vitriolic attacks with condescension.

@Seek_Kolinahr Then I shall refrain from touting the liver’s hardiness should I find myself in your hypothetical situation. Thank you.

ibstubro's avatar


Consider yourself spoken down to. In a very Christian manor of course. He’s not an arse, but an opportunity to turn the other cheek.

delirium's avatar

As a scientist, zoologist, and a general nerd, I have trouble having an ongoing conversation with someone who doesn’t ‘believe’ in evolution.

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