I live in a very religious town, so I hear this saying about 2 or 3 times every week, whether it be to me or someone near me.  I usually don't respond when it is said to me, but what do you think a good response would be?

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The best response is no response at all, even when pressed for one. The reason is that any negative response will get you embroiled in a conversation you do not want to have—some people feel a need to evangelize when they discover a non-believer in their midst. If absolutely required to give an answer, I would say, "I'm sure you mean that kindly, but that's not part of my beliefs."

I always respond honestly when someone asks a direct question, but the persistence of some is unbelievable. We get a lot of Jehovah's Witnesses coming to the door here and I begin by telling them I'm not interested, but if they persist, I ask them to leave and they do.

Years ago, (before the internet) I read a funny story in which the author was having issues with continual visits from youngish JW's. He did as you did, until he finally got frustrated and told them basically, that "if they were so confident about these beliefs of theirs, they would not be so desperate to try to get other people to agree with them."

Bill Hicks response was, "Oh, yeah? Does Jesus know you look like an onion?"

            This town ain't big enough for the both of us !

How about, "How do you know?"


Or, "Do you know that for a fact?". When they say "yes", ask them, "is evolution a fact?". When they say "no", tell them, "you don't know what you're talking about".


Or, now that I think about it, just "you don't know what you're talking about".

The best response is probably something like "Thank you." You have to appreciate the intent behind the remark even if you don't believe in God. If it was said sarcastically, however, anything is fair game. But why verbally spar with someone who meant it as something of a greeting? Or if he believes it is just an empirical fact, you could respond with, "Tell me something I don't know..."

Because as far as I could see, there's only a couple ways of looking at this:

1. If "Jesus loves you" was declarative, as in a fact, then it's just like walking up to someone and saying "The grass is green." It would be condescending because of its redundancy, if anything. But...

2. If "Jesus loves you" was said as a cultural gesture, or a greeting, similar to "Good morning", then the content of the statement doesn't really matter. Because "Good morning" shouldn't be taken literally; someone saying "Good morning" isn't literally saying "The morning is good", he is addressing you as an opening of a conversation. Similarly, "Jesus loves you" shouldn't be taken for its content, but the gesture -- what did the speaker mean?

3. If the speaker knows that you are atheist, and says "Jesus loves you" as an off-handed, sarcastic remark, then perhaps you could get into a debate with him about his faith.

But in my opinion, it would be rather immature to debate someone over a relatively innocent remark, especially when this person meant nothing by it whatsoever, just because you (or someone) feels marginalized, even if you feel he is being presumptuous. There are better times to start an argument. Don't fall into the overly aggressive "angry activist" stereotype.

"...meant nothing by it whatsoever"

I would debate that part.

I would say 90% of the time it is #2 (as I described in my previous post), a skeptical greeting. He is testing the waters to see if you share his faith. Once you understand that, you could affirm ("Thank you for reminding me."), negate ("I don't believe in God."), or just return the greeting ("How are you?"). But if you respond with a witty remark or go into debate mode, I'd say that's jumping the gun. That's just my opinion.

When someone says, "Jesus loves you", what is he really saying?

When someone says, "Jesus loves you", what is he really saying?

If it is a person I've never met, and they are going out of their way to talk to me, I assume that they are trying to say that, "The love of Christ is missing from my life."

And my reply (in my mind anyways) is "Are you fucking crazy?"

To an elderly person, "Thank you."  To someone I don't know or in a non-conversational setting, a nod and a slight smile.  If conversation seems appropriate, I might explain that I'm not a theist.  But I would never, NEVER give some of the rude, insulting responses given here.  This is why people hate atheists, and they have a point.  Rudeness is never classy.  I won't call myself an atheist because of people like these.

@ Jerry Wesner     We may be rude, but to deny being an atheist when you do not believe in gods would be like my denying that I am Irish though I am, because the Irish are too argumentative and tend to sing aloud in public.  Jerry, maybe if you are polite, and say you are an atheist, you may improve our poor reputation among the loving and courteous christians.  I, though, will continue to sing out loud in public.  (and I clearly remain argumentative!)

A lot depends on the attitude of the person making the remark. Sometimes Christians are offensive with their needs to proselytize and you need a response that stps them before they get started, but if the comment is meant generously and does not seem to be leading to an all out attempt at conversion, you might let it pass. Never are you called on to dissemble or to sacrifice your dignity to their beliefs.


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