This weekend, we'll be traveling for my family reunion. Usually, it's one of the highlights of my summer, but this year...feels different.
I don't like conflict. It's not enjoyable for me at all. It makes me feel shaky, to the point where sometimes, I will physically shake. My head will spin a bit. In bygone times, I sometimes backed down from it for just that reason--it felt insurmountable. Nowadays, I'm not so apt to back down, in part because I usually formulate my beliefs based on reasons that I can defend if I need to. That doesn't mean that I want to, though.
Looking down the barrel of this weekend, I'm incredibly stressed at the prospect of interacting with my family as someone who's "out and proud" as a nonbeliever. I am afraid of having to constantly defend myself--not because I can't, but because I don't want to. I want to be accepted with the same acceptance that I have for them. Unconditionally.
I work best when I can take these worries put them down somewhere outside of my own head, so here's my list of things you should never say to your atheist relatives if you want them to enjoy your company and not dread having to interact with you. Enjoy.
1. This isn't how you were raised.
2. You're just going through a dark time.
3. You're just rebelling.
4. You just want to be able to sin.
5. Can't you see God all around you?
6. *any variation of "But Christians really believe this..." or "That person is not really a Christian..."*
7. What does your life mean?
8. What if you're wrong?
9. How can there be morality without God?
10. Why do you hate something you don't believe in?
11. You're just mad at God.
12. You've just encountered bad Christians.
13. You really believe.
14. You do have faith. You have to have faith in (science/evolution/etc).
15. Don't you want to believe? Just in case?
16. God doesn't believe in atheists.
17. You can't prove that there's no god.
18. You'll be back to God when you need him.
19. Why don't you give your children a choice?
This is just a brief list, some of which is compiled from personal experience and some from wider stories and interactions online.
Basically, what I'd like to see in interactions with my family is the same lack of ulterior motives that was there before I left religion. I'd like to believe that all of our interactions are in good faith.
I have reason to believe that's not the case--if there's one thing our family does well, it's gossip, and there's definitely plenty of it circulating right now. I suppose my other wish would be, if I can't have that lack of ulterior motives, to have brash, bald-faced honesty. I'd rather put it all out there, no half-truths or veiled questions.
If I can't have no conflict at all, I'd rather just have it out and get it over with.
Instead, I'm stuck somewhere between the two, imagining conversations that might be, and hoping that they won't be, and wishing that I didn't have all of this knocking about in my brain. And fully realizing, of course, that it's just as likely that I've blown all of this up in my head because I'm simply an anxious person.
No way to know at the outset. As the cliche goes, the only way out, is through, and so through I go.