You'll have to bear with me here, while I set this up.

A few weeks ago, my cousin (not Doug from Atheist Nexus, another cousin), emailed to ask if she and her son could stay at our house overnight, as they had to attend a wedding nearby.

"Sure!" I said, despite the fact that we don't know them all that well and it would mean me having to give up my bed and make a two hour round trip to my nephew's house to pick up an inflatable bed for me to sleep in.

Last week, I get another email saying, "Oh, we've decided to come for two nights."

"Sure!" I said, and went out to buy enough food and wine and nibblies to feed them for the extra time.

After they arrived, I offered to pick them up from the reception if they'd drunk too much to drive home.

11.40pm last night the phone rings, "Can you pick us up?"

"Sure!" so out I go out and make a 50 minute round trip in the rain to pick them up in the middle of the night.

So, this morning, we're watching a panel discussion on television on the subject of religion and politics. During the weekend it had been made very clear to my cousin that my Mum and I are both atheists. Nevertheless, every time something was said about Christianity she spoke out in agreement, saying, "Yes! That's right! Absolutely!"

I bit my tongue until someone on the television raised the question of morality and ethics.
"Absolutely!" said my cousin, "Love, and caring and morality and ethics and compassion - they all come from God. They're all Christian attributes. If people don't believe in God, there wouldn't be any morality."

At this point my eyes bugged out of my head. Who the FUCK had given up their bed, toiled all day in the heat to make up nice clean rooms, fresh beds and bathroom for them, cooked their meals, bought wine, and chauffeured them around at midnight? Oh, yes! That's right! The non-caring compassionless immoral ATHEIST!

Still, I maintained my temper until she started on about homosexuality.
"God made men and women," she said, "And sex is only supposed to be for procreation."
"So," I said, "You never took the pill?"
She looked at me, puzzled.
"You only ever had sex so you could get pregnant?" I said.
She still looked at me blankly, but then said, "Well the Bible says that homosexuality is wrong."
"Yes," I said, "and the same Bible says that you should stone your disobedient children. Did you abide by that too?"
Another blank look, then, "Oh, well, it depends what part of the Bible it's from."

Then I lost it. I remember being in her face and saying something along the lines of, "Nasty, nasty, narrow-minded, mean-spirited, misinformed garbage!" before I said, "That's it! I'm outta here!" and stormed off to calm down. I was so angry I was white and shaking and my heart was pounding out of my chest.

I did calm down, somewhat, and returned to the lounge room. She came over and apologised for upsetting me. I told her that, as an atheist, I found it unbelievably offensive that she would suggest I had no love, compassion or morality because I did not believe in God.

She said, "Oh, I'm sorry if you took my comments that way!"

I said I was prepared to leave it at that, and things settled down. But I'm still bloody fuming. If it hadn't been for Mum, I think I would have thrown her out. How RUDE! Grrrrrrrrrrrr!

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I applaud your control. Personally I would have just made a lot of pointed questions (what evidence for your gods existence wouldn't also give evidence for zeus or the FSM?) and snide comments about the "ethical" treatment of other human beings from religious people, (from Prop 8 to just about anything from the middle east)
I find it amazing that we can get along with people, but when it comes to this topic, believers turn on us, and are willing to send the relationship down the river. For what? To defend the unknown? I'll never understand that. If "I" am not enough, forget you.
I received a very contrite apology by email yesterday.

"I promise not to make any more imbecilic comments to offend you. I got such a fright that I had said something to upset you it gnawed at me all the way home and well into the night until I discussed it with [my son] and worked out what it was. Then I felt even worse for being so stupid and insensitive. It was totally unintentional and it grieves me that I hurt you. I can only hope you will find it in your heart to forgive me and be able to overlook my shortcomings. "

I'm still considering how to respond.
That's a definate apology. I would take it, it doesn't happen very often and you have opened her eyes just a little. A religious person has called themselves stupid and insensitive...well done.
how about "As a moral atheist I hold no grudges and try to not to be judgmental of the beliefs of others, I accept your apology and hope your heart is filled with the joy that knowledge and intelligent thought brings " ?????????????????????????? ;-)
That looks like a great apology. She admitted her shortcomings. I usually don't think xtians are aware of how they can be offensive. It's actually good to find out someone regrets their behavior. I'd totally forgive her, and wipe the slate clean. BUT, don't feel guilty about your reaction, you drove it home.
If it had been just me and her, I wouldn't. But my 84 year old mother was with us, and I WAS trying to keep the peace for her sake.
OK, it took me all day thinking about it, but I have replied to my cousin as follows:

Hi A,

Thank you for the recipes. I'm glad your toothbrush arrived so quickly. I wasn't sure it would with the Christmas mail and all.

I am also sorry for that bit of unpleasantness at the weekend. D [my mother] will tell you I am passionate about defending the things I believe in, but also that I never hold grudges. You are, of course, forgiven.

You may not have realized that D and I are both atheists. It is a position we came to after a great deal of study over 20 odd years, and for very moral reasons. In fact, all of the atheists we know are passionate humanitarians.

We don't expect our relatives to agree with our stance - many of them don't - but we hope they will respect it as we respect their right to their own views. We consider ourselves to be highly ethical and moral and spend a great deal of time in the service of others. We have no history of being Christians (Dad was an atheist and Mum's mother was a spiritualist), so it was a bit of a slap in the face to hear someone saying, in our own home, that ethics and morality came only from religious belief! In fact, some expert evolutionary biologists argue that morality predates religion and is evolutionary.

D and I are also passionate advocates for gay rights. We believe, along with the American Psychologists Association, the United States Surgeon General and other similar experts that most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation, and that there is no valid scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed.

I have a dear friend in Texas who is in a long term gay relationship. G and his partner, D, care for G's elderly invalid mother, and D's intellectually disabled sister. They also provide a refuge for mistreated dogs. They are the kindest, most generous people we know. Other gay friends have told me such heartbreaking stories about how their Christian families have disowned them after they 'came out'. They love D because she provides them with a non-judgmental 'mother figure' when their own Christian mothers have turned their backs on them. Knowing the pain and suffering that is caused by negative and ill-informed attitudes towards gay people, we find it very hard to hear people accuse them of being 'sinners' and use the Bible to back up that charge.

We don't believe that the Bible, as an ancient text composed by men, not God, should have any authority over people in the 21st century. But even for those who do, condemning homosexuality based on Scripture puts one on very shaky ground.

The two most often quoted Bible verses damning homosexuals (the Bible has nothing to say on lesbians) are in Leviticus. Leviticus is an ancient book of laws and rituals which refers to making priests 'clean' to perform cultic rites in the great Temple at Jerusalem. The laws were never intended to apply to the public at large. Leviticus also lists other purity requirements, like washing at prescribed times or not eating certain foods - these were all ritual taboos which applied to priests.

If we are to accept that homosexuality is wrong, based on Leviticus, then we must also accept Leviticus 20:9 (just three verses before the section on homosexuality) which calls for anyone who curses their mother or father to be put to death, women who have sex during their period to be banished, and that, like homosexuality, eating anything from the sea that does not have fins or scales is 'an abomination'. So, if homosexuality is a sin, eating prawns is considered equally as bad! There are some other injunctions against homosexuality in the Bible but all are contestable based on mistranslation, context or authorship.

Importantly, neither Jesus, nor any of the four gospels have anything to say about homosexuality. Generally, Jesus preached that being a good person and keeping the requirements of the Jewish law were not the same things (although he also contradicted himself on this). The gospels say that one of the reasons that he was killed was because he challenged the importance of the law.

Morally, D and I feel obligated to defend gay people and I am sorry that your words brought you into my line of fire.

Now, this was not meant to be a sermon, but to clear the air I thought it was important for you to know what caused me to flare up and the research and ideas that were behind it.

That said, it is over, and we can continue being loving cousins as always.

Does this mean I am forgiven for the unpleasant umbrella incident of '08 ? ;-)
No. Say three hail Flying Spaghetti Monsters and come up here and repent - and bring the chainsaw - and the psycho bimbo bitch from hell (no, I'm not talking about his wife, I'm talking about his dog!).
I shall eat a large plate of pasta and ask forgiveness of the FSM !
After spending 7 years in the US, I learnt to control my temper over religious matters and comments like that. After a few wines, my ability to control my inhibitions lessens so I know not to discuss religion if I'm drunk LOL!!

In all honesty, she has probably never given any thought to what she believes. Her letter was probably heartfelt and she was I suspect, genuinely shocked.

I hope you guys can maintain a good relationship.

I will say this one thing, which I know is not going to be popular, one way or another athiests are going to have to learn to control their temper and not blast those that are ignorant or simply do not think about what they say. I disagree with Dawkins views on this, that something not worthy of respect, should not be granted it.

It was offensive, but it was also a very thoughtless and silly thing to say, which we've ALL done from time to time. It's just when it's "religious" for us athiests, it holds a particular place of anger and hurt within us.




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