This may be the incorrect community to talk about this. However, it is the first community that came to mind. If this question is inappropriate or offensive I will remove it. My question is, as someone who is anti-theist how can I respectfully navigate conversations of faith? For example, I am the only atheist in my workplace. My coworkers (all Christian) in some cases have taken time to pray and ask god for guidance on decisions that may impact major components of our projects. We've frequently had discussions about faith as it guided some of the companies earliest projects and some of our colleagues work for companies that create Christian content. In many cases I feel the need to hesitate on the extent of my beliefs (outlined below) when it is my turn to discuss.

Note: I don't find these discussions of faith offensive as I enjoy when people talk of their own faith. To peer into the mind of someone who's fundamental perspective of life is different allows me re-evaluate my own perspectives. If I must continue to withold certain elements of my beliefs to experience these conversations I gladly will.


Let me get a few things out of the way before I begin:

  • I don't hate people who believe in god
  • I respect people's right to practice religion
  • I don't think I'm better than those who practice religion

As an anti-theist I simply believe that the world would be better without organized religion, that we should actively move towards a secular lifestyle. Even if this secular lifestyle includes the belief of intelligent design, expression through religion (art, music, literature, etc.), or cerimonial tradition. I actively have "faith" that the deconstruction of religion as an institution would make the world better. Perhaps, giving religion a new opportunity to flourish as people begin reassessing what intelligent design could mean to them.

Edit: I now know this is not the term I was looking for.

More Context

I was raised in a sort-of Christian household. I was baptised, I had my first communion, went to Catholic school, but never did my confirmation. I understand the traditions and beliefs on a basic level but was never aware of how intense/dogmatic some people can be when it comes to Christianity (or religion in general) until recently. Growing up, even in Christian households there would rarely be praying for food, reading scripture, or much acknowledgement of any sort of higher-power. People did what they did without much of their identity tied to their beliefs. As I started working more internationally, I've met people who would never act outside the laws of their religion and firmly identify as Christian (or Jew, Muslim, Sikh, etc. but this is a Christian forum).

When someone's identity is tied to their religion and they wish to discuss faith (as a rule I don't start conversations of faith) how can I discuss that I actively wish to discourage that type of thinking? I feel the dogma of religion doesn't need to be so intense or rigid. I don't dislike the person I'm talking to, I don't think they're dumb, I may even admire their courage to believe. I simply wish to respectfully state that one's religion can be more than the institution its become. That one could still learn from the stories but not take the rules at face value.

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. Psalm 119:18

How could I let someone see my law without them feeling persecuted?

Edit: The more I read your responses, the more clarity I have in what I was originally trying to express and how I can move forward in the future. I should not define myself as an anti-theist but rather continue to define myself as an atheist. Going forward in these conversations I want to make it more clear that I respect and admire religion as a driving cultural force, but not without criticism. In my future conversations that critisism will not be used as a method of persuasion but rather an outside perspective from someone with fundamentally different ideology. It is my hope, that by going into conversations of faith with this mindset, I can respectuflly and calmly start dialogues about someone's intrisic motivations to follow their faith/religion. I hope that one day I can empathize with someone who has the opposite views as myself (just as you have done for me today) and vice-versa.

  • 1
    This would probably be an "opinion" question on the main site, but since it's "about asking questions", I think it's entirely appropriate on meta
    – Peter Turner Mod
    May 3, 2022 at 12:30
  • You 'actively wish' to 'discourage' . . . 'faith' 'thinking'. And you appear to have a 'law' of your own whereby you wish to achieve that aim. Yet you do not wish anyone to feel 'persecuted'. To myself, as a thinking individual, that all seems rather sinister, to be honest.
    – Nigel J
    May 3, 2022 at 12:38
  • @NigelJ For example, some Christians may find homosexuality offensive. By the morality of my beliefs, I do not. This can create a barrier between myself and the person I'm trying to communicate with. Just as a missionary will aim to achieve making someone Christian. I aim to make someone open their opinions beyond the word-for-word rules of scripture.
    – user59146
    May 3, 2022 at 12:43
  • However, unlike some communication you'll see online. I don't like saying: "Whelp, you're wrong because religion is dumb". I personally, see religion to be a rewarding experience I learned a lot from my time in Catholic school. Confession for example, is a great form of self-assessment that forces you to be honest with yourself, if you won't do it for a god. That skill would otherwise not be taught as broadly if not for religion.
    – user59146
    May 3, 2022 at 12:47
  • @breaking that's a good point on confession - our company had some self-help book writer who did a science project on essentially getting people to confess (without saying confession) but I wouldn't confess my sins if it weren't to have them actually forgiven. I do the assessment nightly, but the confession monthly (or sooner when in actual mortal sin). Believing your immortal soul is in peril is different journey than a clinical self-assessment.
    – Peter Turner Mod
    May 3, 2022 at 12:53
  • @PeterTurner I'm curious about that element of Christianity. I remember that fear as a child, but cannot fathom it as an adult. Do we need fear to tell us what we ought to do? If I do wrong, I should own up to it. Not out of fear, but respect and love for those around me. These are perspectives that I cannot share, which make it difficult in coversation where I may not have as much time to think it over. I cannot relate with the person I'm talking to and they cannot relate to me, until we both leave more entrenched in our own opinions than ever.
    – user59146
    May 3, 2022 at 13:10
  • I should note, these comments are very helpful. As I'm slowly remembering the perspective I had when I was younger which will be helpful the next time I'm asked about my beliefs.
    – user59146
    May 3, 2022 at 13:12
  • @BreakingBeaker You might remember the "act of contrition" - the part that goes "because I dread the loss of heaven and the fires of hell, but most of all because I have offended thee"? Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I would stop trying to worry about entrenchment and opinions (a Christian will not consider them opinions - even though that is what the word dogma means - as a Catholic, I can't get Protestants to believe their interpretation of the Bible is an opinion any more than you can get me to believe the priesthood is an opinion) - just speak with love.
    – Peter Turner Mod
    May 3, 2022 at 13:17

5 Answers 5


The danger here is that your "anti-" position will appear to be negative and antagonistic.

Compare saying "I'm a Christian. I believe that Jesus …, and that the world would be better if everyone accepted him.", against saying "I'm a Christian. I believe that Jews …, and that the world would be a better place without Judaism.".

For people that believe differently, the first statement might make them feel a little uncomfortable, or think the person saying it is a weirdo, because the statement itself is actually about the person saying it.

The second statement though isn't directly about the person saying it. Instead, it explicitly attacks others, and that is going to upset many people.

Calling yourself an anti-theist, rather than an atheist, puts you into that second position. You aren't saying "I personally believe that there is no God or other supernatural beings in the universe.". Instead you're saying "I personally believe the world would be a better place if you didn't believe the nonsense that you believe.".

Most people don't want to hear negative messages, especially when directed at them.

They say "I'm a Christian. Faith in Christ helps me to ….". You need to say something like "I'm an Atheist. Knowing that there is no God, that everything I do is my own choice and responsibility, helps me to ….".

Express your beliefs in positive terms, and keep them about yourself. That allows other people to understand your perspective, just the same as what they say helps you to understand theirs. They can believe you are wrong, while still respecting your right to be wrong.

As you said: "I don't find these discussions of faith offensive as I enjoy when people talk of their own faith. To peer into the mind of someone who's fundamental perspective of life is different allows me re-evaluate my own perspectives.".

It's likely that many of them feel the same way. But notice the key phrase there: "talk of their own faith". Make sure you are talking positively about your own faith, and not talking negatively about theirs.

In case it's not obvious, the above advice applies to all beliefs, not only to Atheists.


This is not a question that any Christian should find offensive, and I for one appreciate your honesty in presenting your dilemma. To ensure that I have correctly understood this (otherwise I'm wasting my time with an answer), it seems that you enjoy conversations about faith in God with believers in God, but that you would like them to know that you "actively wish to discourage that type of thinking" (i.e. faith in God). Further, that “one's religion can be more than the institution its become. That one could still learn from the stories but not take the rules at face value.”

This is "about asking questions", in such a way as not to make Christians feel 'persecuted' as you explain your reasons for being (in your own words) 'Anti-Theist'.

The very way you have carefully explained this dilemma on a Christianity site should enable you to have frank but honest discussions with Christians. They will know at the outset that you are against belief in God. It's not just that you personally don't believe in God, but that you are actively wanting to dismantle their reasons for having faith. Of course, this might drastically limit the number of Christians who would be prepared to respond to you, but better to have a few willing conversationalists than garner a good number who then become angry at discovering you have 'an anti-theist agenda'.

From what you've stated, I would suggest one way of asking them questions that should avoid a lot of wasted time in ensuring discussions.

That is, don't muddle up faith in the existence of God with organised religion. You've done that in your comments: "I simply believe that the world would be better without organized religion, that we should actively move towards a secular lifestyle", further, "one's religion can be more than the institution its become."

You've put the cart before the horse. And that will get nobody anywhere. It's incredibly easy to find fault with organised religion, and there are millions of Christians today who will not defend the wrong, and the horrors, of many organised religions. Some would even point you to the last book of the Bible where God has foretold a coming day of his wrathful judgment upon corrupt religion. It's tempting to expose ungodliness in the midst of professing 'godly' people, but what has that got to do with whether God exists or not?

My suggestion is that you face up to the matter of God's existence first. Only after you accept that God exists would there be any point in discussing the very ungodly things some professed Christians are guilty of. To be anti-theist is one thing. To be anti-religionist is another thing. If you discover God is not to blame for awful things done in his name, you will understand matters better. But if you remain convinced God does not exist, then how can you be anti-somthing-you-don't-believe-exists? You can only be against an idea other people believe in, but attacking religious systems does nothing to tackle the existence of God. What's the point in dismantling someone's belief in a particular religious institution if that still leaves them with belief in God? You will not have infected them with your anti-theism, for that is a separate, distinct matter. I respectfully suggest that the atheistic system of attacking organised religion is done because there is no logical way to disprove the existence of God.

Consider how Jesus said that God sent himself - the Son of God - into the world to save it (John 17:3). He did not say God had sent a religious organisation into the world to save it. If you were to consider the person of Jesus Christ, to see if his claims about himself were valid, then you might begin to understand why followers of Jesus are Christians who believe in God (as opposed to followers of a religious system believing in the God of their religious system.)

I suggest this different approach - asking different questions at the outset - to make good headway with Christians who are followers of Jesus Christ as the risen Son of God. He leads people to God the Father, as he stated: "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no-one comes to the Father, but by me." (John 14:6) Consider Christ, not organised religions.

  • I think you just solved my problem. Until recently, I would just define myself as atheist for the sake of simplicity. However, I knew that I was actively against acts done in the name of god and the extremes people go to in the name of god. So I simply assumed I was anti-theist. Yet, I respect peoples right to religion, I see value in the practice of religion, and I admire those who can find faith. Anti-religionist is a better term and perspective to have these conversations from, as it better describes my views.
    – user59146
    May 3, 2022 at 13:37
  • @BreakingBeaker I hope I've helped solve one of your problems. Sometimes the wood can hardly be seen for the trees.
    – Anne
    May 3, 2022 at 13:41

First of all, you're not unique in thinking this, the great Heresiarch Arius thought that a more rational religion would break down the dogmas and leave people free to practice as they saw fit.

But, you miss the boat on the chief event of human history, which was God actually becoming a Man in Jesus. If that happened, nothing you can possibly say or think could possibly mean anything. If it didn't then nothing a Christian can possibly say or think could is worth anything - and even St. Paul recognizes this.

And you're not unique in thinking that the organization of official religion was a bad idea. Unless you're talking to Catholics or Orthodox (who usually aren't that given to proselytism) you're talking to a person who agrees with you, that the institutions, and especially the buildings and the organizations, are entirely secondary to the main point - which is Faith in Jesus.

They're not entirely wrong, neither was Arius (Jesus really was a Man), but they're not entirely right either. If you're to be saved, if any of us are to be saved, it will be through the Catholic Church, there's no other way around it; there are only several thousand ways to avoid thinking about it. It won't be through any one man or woman who is a Church Member, it will be through the invisible institution that Jesus left that will endure until the end of time.

Jesus' "law" just said "Love one another, as I have loved you" your law is apparently the first portion of that, picking apart God's law makes you no better (or worse) than the heresiarchs and reformers of the Catholic Church. Putting on the mind of Christ, denying your own unbelief, is the the course of action that'll set your mind and heart on fire and "guide your feet into the way of peace."

  • I really like this perspective. I've spent so much time thinking about the hierarchical structure of religions, but less about how someone views their faith through the invisible institution. Instead of "deconstructing the institution" I can speak more to how someone can conceptualize their faith through the invisible institution. I look forward to reading more about Arius too.
    – user59146
    May 3, 2022 at 13:20

I teach at a school that, although not officially atheist, has a number of secular humanist teachers who think exactly like you do. So although I’m a committed Christian, I have first-hand experience working and socialising in a secular environment. I can tell you that on a human level, secular humanists are as warm and relational as anyone else, and their caring approach to all living things is laudable.

As the first answer stated, many Christians agree wholeheartedly with you on the idea that formalised religion is potentially very destructive.

I don’t think you have to worry about offending or hurting anyone too much. It’s clear from your question detail and your responses that you are a very nice person, matter-of-fact yes - but caring, level-headed and compassionate also.

On the point of intelligent design, that’s a more modern way of talking about Jesus right there. The Bible describes him (to my knowledge) as the creator and sustainer of the universe, upholding everything by his powerful word. That would include the intelligent design that you allude to, possibly in viewing DNA, etc.?

Your objections that you raise and the arguments you present are in my opinion perfectly acceptable to bring up in conversation without offence.

On homosexuality, whilst there are many denominations and churches that decry homosexuality, there is nonetheless a spectrum of minority views, with thoughtful positions on the subject along the spectrum.

I wish you all the best on your journey of life! I concur with the first answer that Jesus and his work that he did on Earth to bring us back into relationship with the intelligent designer is at the heart of the Christian message. There is a realm beyond time, an existence beyond this universe and a glorious Designer in that realm.


I wonder what sort of belief system you would have us put in place of religion. Feyerabend's speech "How to Defend Society Against Science" is a very useful piece of philosophical literature here. Keep in mind that Feyerabend is no friend to religion, either.

I suspect that, like most anti-theists and atheists today, you would have us replace religion with science. If that is the case, I would refer you to Feyerabend. Once you have come to see that Feyerabend perceived rightly in his critique of science as an institution, we have more to talk about. I think you will be receptive to Feyerabend, since you have said this:

As an anti-theist I simply believe that the world would be better without organized religion, that we should actively move towards a secular lifestyle. Even if this secular lifestyle includes the belief of intelligent design, expression through religion (art, music, literature, etc.), or cerimonial tradition. I actively have "faith" that the deconstruction of religion as an institution would make the world better. Perhaps, giving religion a new opportunity to flourish as people begin reassessing what intelligent design could mean to them.

Feyerabend agrees with you, and sees modern science as just another religious framework. He gives all of these frameworks the title of "ideology," and says we should not teach any ideology as true, instead teaching what each ideology offers and letting people choose for themselves.

Do you see the problem with Feyerabend's way of thinking? It is that his proposal is itself an ideology. Like religion of the past and science of now, we are not allowed to question this framework of Feyerabend's which says that it is true that we must teach only what other ideologies teach, and not that any of them are true. That very belief constitutes an ideology. His view is thus self-defeating.

Rather, we should seek after what is actually true. How are we to resolve the fact that I think that earnest and rational inquiry will lead to Christian faith, while you (presumably) think it will lead to atheism? That's the next question that needs resolving. It is difficult to conceive of ways to convince modern atheists because they perceive life through a lens that says its impossible for religious views to be true. When that's your foundational axiom, no kind of reasoning can convince you it is false.

  • This is my problem when talking with atheists and anti-theists; the desire to replace religion. I see no need to replace systems that give people meaning, community, inspiration, hope, and happines. Where I do see problems is collectives getting entrenched in their own dogma, stomping on the wellbeing of others, from both atheists and theists. Atheists won't hesitate to point out the factual innacuracies, flaws, and mistranslations of sacred texts, at the expense of theists. While theists will stand firm in their beliefs at the expense of those who do not share in the same ideals.
    – user59146
    May 3, 2022 at 20:33
  • I don't mean to generalize (character limit). I know many theists who let people live their life as they please, and atheists who are happy to hear of faith and intelligent design despite a lack of faith. When I see atheists trying to prove their superiority, I find it easier to find common ground with the bully and explain why attacking those who believe isn't right because I've been there, I've shared that perspective, and been that bully. It causes pain, anger, and only acts as a way to further separate the divide between theists and atheists.
    – user59146
    May 3, 2022 at 20:45
  • I only wish to learn how to communicate that same perspective to theists entrenched in their own ideals, without being that bully. How can I put you in my shoes if only for a moment? How can I learn to embrace your shoes? I don't want to replace or remove any person's belief, but rather have individuals thinking critically about the doctrine they choose to embrace. Blind dogma of any kind whether it be based in science, faith, politics, or even philosophy can only end in the harm of others.
    – user59146
    May 3, 2022 at 21:00
  • @BreakingBeaker I think the place to start is probably to not assume that anyone who disagrees with you is not thinking critically or following dogma blindly. Many of us have been led to our beliefs by reason and critical thinking.
    – jaredad7
    May 3, 2022 at 21:11
  • As I said I don't mean to generalize, as I think many theists do make decisions of faith based on critical thinking and reasoning, like my coworkers mentioned above. I may find it odd but I know they didn't make that choice blindly, when they pray for guidance I guess they share "gut feeling" same as me. I've realized with each response, that perhaps my most recent interactions with theists such as the interactions that led me to make this post were just an unfortunate series of events that led me to believe that the larger religious community was unlike the community I grew up in.
    – user59146
    May 3, 2022 at 21:27
  • The thoughtful and understanding responses are similar to those I would've recieved from my community as a child when I first explored atheism. There are gentle nudges in the direction of Christianity but not once an assault on my belief. When originally making this thread I was looking for just one answer with the expectation I would receive many negative answers. Yet each answer has provided me with new perspectives, new things to read and explore, and sound guidance. After today I feel much more open to speak about faith, and may even reach out to my old priest to see what he thinks.
    – user59146
    May 3, 2022 at 21:40

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