Tuesday, April 23, 2013


I just spent a good five minutes trying to type out a post asking for advice on my online birth community. And in trying to find my words, I found my answer on my own.

Redirection is a powerful, important skill to master. We'll call it the "bean dip" tool, thanks to said birth community. Say someone asks you a question or makes a suggestion, and it's really none of their business. You say something vague, then offer up the "bean dip"--the subject change. It can be literal, "Well, I hadn't heard of doing that before! Hm! *pause* Would you like some bean dip/a drink/a slice of pie?" or it can be the figurative discussion of the weather/current events/whatever shallow conversation happens to be your go-to.

My belief system (or lack thereof) is something that occasionally requires me to use my bean dip skills. Like many personal choices, religion is one of those things where it seems like people feel if you do something different, you are judging them for doing things their way.

I do not care in the slightest what other people do or don't believe in. But it can be really really important to some people to care about and try to influence what other people do or don't believe in. And it's exhausting.

I have a number of friends to whom their faith is extremely important. I have been very lucky in that the vast majority of my friends happen to not act like they pity me or fear for me or otherwise be condescending. I do not need people to "pray" for me (or if they do, I certainly don't need them to tell me about it), I do not feel as if I am missing anything. My life is complete and happy and meaningful without religion. If I'm wrong, I'm wrong, but I don't think I am, and I do not believe in hedging my bets, which is what so many would rather I do "just in case." If a wink and a nod and an apology surrounded by air quotations is all it takes to get into your heaven, then I think there are bigger problems than my refusal to participate.

But I wasn't meaning to get into a philosophical discussion here. My main point is that as with many things people can be "out" about, from child-rearing styles (more controversy there than you might think) to sexual preferences to political leanings, belief (or lack thereof) is sometimes a very difficult subject to broach with new people. You don't know where a new person stands on various issues, and just like with a new romantic relationship you don't want to hit the heavy topics right off the bat without making sure there's a foundation of some sort there. But sometimes it pops up right off the bat, and you have to make a decision.

This is the decision I was wanting to seek advice about in my birth community. How do you politely decline an invitation to a religiously-focused gathering? Whether a Bible study or church event, whether it's a casual or formal thing, it's difficult to say "No, but thanks for the invite!" It can turn into a question about whether it's a day/time/childcare issue, a one-time thing or a "ask me again later" thing, and just like with many other personal issues people feel like they have the right to ask about details. So you have to not only say no thanks, but also give a response that is specific enough to indicate that future invitations are not favorable but vague enough to not spur more questions.

What answer did I find on my own as I tried to organize my thoughts enough to put them into words asking for advice?

"What's the worst that can happen?" I will keep things light for as long as that answer is enough. "Thanks, but I'm not a Bible study/church event/whatever kind of person. Bean dip?" If that becomes not enough, I will be honest and respectful--as I always am. If the respect isn't reciprocated, then that is not a relationship I need to pursue anyway. If it's a dealbreaker for them, then I will gladly respect that as well. I am not a martyr, I am not a person who believes you should be forced to suffer any relationship that causes you pain or other negativity.

Not every new friendship is meant to last. Sometimes it's just that step you need to get to better places. Sometimes that new friendship becomes so solid it's like you have always known each other, even if you can count on one hand the number of times you've met in person and you are complete opposites on some major issues. Some friendships are meant to be light, airy, surface friendships; some are meant to reach straight into your soul. Both are important. So we'll see where this one ends up on that continuum.  


  1. Wow. So u never wonder about if heaven and hell are real

  2. I wondered plenty for a few years. Then I accepted the idea that their existence is unlikely. Kind of the idea behind atheism. ;)