My sister-in-law sent me an e-mail today detailing "advice to follow to improve your life". Some of the advice was common sense but it also included "Carry a Bible to read while you are waiting in lines", "Bring scriptures along everywhere you go in case you need inspiration", "Give your worries to God" and "Connect with Godly people". It cannot be a secret to this woman that I am an atheist since I do not join in prayers at family events (nor have I ever, in the 10 years she has known me), my atheism is all over my Facebook page and I am certain we have had past discussions about the topic. I ignore the e-mail or do I respond? If I respond, should how should I answer? I'm not sure if she even thought about it since she sent this to, apparently, everyone in her address book. Maybe she just thought she was sending me something nice or that I could overlook the religious parts of it. I don't want this to become an issue at every family gathering but on the other hand, I really don't want to keep receiving e-mails littered with beliefs that I find objectionable. Advice?

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Personally, I would ignore it unless it starts to become a regular occurrence. Like you said, you don't want it to become an issue at every family gathering.

If the emails DO become a problem, you could politely ask to be removed from her mailing list without delving into the topic of religion. I've done that with success before. I generally try to maintain my relationships with family and friends who have beliefs that differ from mine, so I try not to be antagonistic toward their shenanigans.

However, if she starts targeting these emails directly to you rather than to her entire mailing list, then I think you'd have cause for some reprimanding. :-)
I find it depends on the sender and the circumstances.

In the case of a family member who is aware of my views, I'll confront it. Often I'll send something back that is as atheistic/anti-religion as theirs was theistic/pro-religion.

I've had a couple of family members who put all the 'to' addresses in the 'to' field rather than blind cc. It's probably rude but in those cases I've sent my reply to the entire list. When confronted back on it I've said, "By putting my name and address on your email for all the world to see, it's implying that I share your beliefs. I don't want to be labeled a Christian any more than you would want me labeling you a Muslim or a Wiccan or an Atheist."

These relatives still have not learned how to use the BCC feature of their email. :-/

I am curious though how others respond. Especially when it's a friend or acquaintance, someone you don't want to tick off but you still don't want to be labeled with their religion.
I just ignore and delete it, as I do with all junk e-mails.
After 9/11 I was bombarded with e-mails like that from family and I was upset one day with a specific e-mail from an aunt telling us all to turn to Jesus because without him, we were doomed for more. I responded not just to her, but to everyone she sent it to, reminding them that the terrorists were pretty much thinking the same way. I know now that it was wrong for me to click "Reply All" because I didn't get the hateful replies, she did. Everyone she sent the original e-mail to, then received my response, wrote to her asking her why she would allow their e-mails to be given to me.

She in turn began to harass me about turning to Jesus... long story short, it was a long time before I could talk to my aunt again about anything.

I guess my response to you is, how strong is your relationship with your brother and sister-in-law if they react poorly to an e-mail asking them to not bother you with religious advice? And is it really bothersome if they keep sending it?
I have three levels of response, depending on person and frequency of emails.
1) delete it and move on with my day
2) send a polite "Hi, I'm an atheist. I'd prefer not to receive these emails but if you'd like to discuss our differing views I'd be happy to do so."
3) to a friend who wanted to save my soul (former screw buddy, so the irony was pretty high) I finally had to send an all-caps "ATHEIST! Look it up" which put a stop to the catholic emails. We're still good friends. He promised to quit trying to save my soul, and I promised to quit calling his priest "that man in a dress".
If she knows your an atheist, then you need to put her in her place. Ask nice at first, then if that fails, chew through her.
Simple and anonymous -




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