How To Socialize As A Non-Believing Couple
One of the most irritating things about people of faith is their presumption. They assume that nearly everyone they encounter believes as they do. While in conversation with a religious next door neighbor or colleague at work, where they go to church will always come up. If you tell them of some difficulty you’re trying to overcome in your life, they will inevitably say that they will pray for you. The higher up in the company you go the more devoted Christians you will meet. The more upscale the neighborhood that you and your partner decide to move into the larger the number of Christian families you will encounter.
As you accumulate wealth and property you will find it necessary to deal with people who put religion at the center of their life. Highly religious people occupy a great many senior positions in government and industry. If you have ascended through the ranks quickly, you will find that you have been thrust into a world quite different from the secular humanist one that you and your partner are used to.
You cannot afford to alienate and offend everyone. You will need to socialize with people of faith; you will be expected to both entertain and be entertained. Dinners, parties, and other gatherings help develop bonds of trust that are actually useful for improving how you work with your colleagues.
Even the most devout among your work colleagues and neighbors will not go around talking about Jesus day and night. That tends to be a habit of fanatics, most of whom are ignorant and crass. If you are in a high-end profession, your peers will be educated. They will, in varying degrees, be able to carry on perfectly decent conversations on non-religious topics. The subject of faith will nevertheless come up from time to time, and you and your partner will be put on the spot. How should you respond?
The easiest way of getting through such conversations is to say nothing. No one can accuse me of being soft on religion, but my tendency is to remain silent when someone says “God bless you” or “I’ll pray for you”. There is a time and place for arguing over religion. A nice, quiet dinner in which everyone is laughing and enjoying themselves is not one of them. There is no sense ruining the party with an aggressive response to such comments no matter how much they may annoy you.
If you are asked whether you go to church—or, as the question is most likely to be put, what church you go to—be honest and tell the assembled crowd that the two of you are atheists. You may want to soften this a bit by simply saying that neither of you goes to church. Most people will get the hint and not press the matter any further—again, in the name of keeping the atmosphere positive. One or two individuals may decide to offend you by questioning your ability to make moral decisions without the aid of a divine supervisor. If such a comment is made, you will be within your rights to go on the offense yourself. However, if you are determined to keep in with your colleagues, you can say something to the effect of feeling comfortable about your position. This will lead the more tolerant and sensible people in the party to move the conversation along.
As a couple, you will also be expected to have your religious colleagues over to your house for dinner. You should do all that you can to make them feel welcome. Some of them may not drink alcohol, so you should have a range of non-alcoholic refreshments ready. I am strictly against saying a prayer before meals in my house. Again, the more liberal-minded individuals will recognize that holding hands for prayer is not an appropriate thing to do in the home of a non-believer. The bull-headed types will insist on having their way. The best response is to encourage them to say a quick prayer quietly on their own while everyone else starts in on the food.
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About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.