ADVICE: As an Atheist, How Do I Handle Religious People?

Every week, New York City’s own party messiah takes your life questions and sets you safely down the right path to a solution in his new weekly advice column in The Village Voice. Read the latest edition of Ask Andrew W.K. below or by clicking HERE.

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November 19th, 2014

Hi Andrew,

I’m hoping you can help me. I’m a passionate atheist and one of my best friends is too. I’ve known him since we were 6 years old and I love like him a brother. Just last week, he got married. He hired a non-denominational minister to conduct his ceremony. Everything was going fine until the minister said, “We are gathered here today, in the presence of God, to unite these two people in matrimony.” I tensed up as soon as I heard the word “god” and basically spent the rest of the ceremony fuming over the fact that this minister snuck the god thing into my friend’s special day. The whole thing was tarnished. I never really mentioned how upset I was to my friend or anyone else, but I can’t stop thinking about it and feeling like I should’ve spoken up. I really hate religion and that religious people always need to force their dogma into everyone’s lives. Just because they think everything’s being controlled by some bearded sky-daddy doesn’t mean they need to insert their faith into otherwise beautiful parts of my life. I’m the kind of person who stands up for atheism. I’ve made a commitment to fight against religion whenever I can. I’m most upset that my friend allowed this minister to say the word “god” during such an important moment in his life and then didn’t say anything back or even seem to care. My question is: Should I mention this to my friend, or do I just let it go?

Kind regards,
Anonymous Atheist

Dear Anonymous Atheist,

Thank you for asking about this. You definitely shouldn’t feel bad for caring. The fact that you’re thinking a lot about this situation shows you have a thoughtful and strong character. It’s natural for us to encounter moments which challenge us. Having the capacity to question our most deeply held opinions is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. Especially when we have the composure to resist our immediate emotional reactions and let our common sense lead us toward a more dignified type of contemplation.

Keeping an open mind and an open heart requires an incredible amount of determined effort. The act of questioning and the search for truth demands the utmost courage and discipline. And it’s not a discipline built around staunch and unwavering adherence to one’s beliefs, but an unwavering commitment to the quest for honesty, integrity, and discovery, even at the expense of one’s own beliefs. This is to ensure that new insights and opportunities for enlightened growth aren’t dismissed simply because they conflict with previously held opinions.

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