Ask Liz: What If I Don't Believe in Any of This?

"I have many friends who believe in ummmm astrology and crystals and energy fields and the like. I don't."
Publish date:
June 6, 2011
atheism, ask liz, ask

Dear Liz,

I would love to hear from a smart New Ager such as yourself on a point of...not quite etiquette. More like not being an asshole to your friends. I have many friends who believe in ummmm astrology and crystals and energy fields and the like. Which is fine! The thing is, though, that I very much do not believe in those things. I don't believe in anything supernatural, including God. Which is also fine! The problem (for me) comes when one of these lovely friends of mine explains to me how something -- the planets' alignment, or some magic spell -- is either the cause of or the remedy for something going on with me, and I don't know what to say. Smiling politely and saying "thank you" seems appropriate, but is it OK to stop there? Is it actually right to keep my mouth shut unless someone's explicitly asking for my opinions? Or is that condescending/disrespectful? On the other hand, it seems completely mean and inapprops to tell such friends what I actually think. Which is, you know, "I don't believe in that."

I feel the exact same way when Christian friends (I have a lot of them!) give me God-centered reasons/remedies for what ails me. I don't want to insult anyone, but I also hate being dishonest, especially with people I care about.


Oh man, this is hard. My hackles raised a little when I realized you called God “supernatural,” because to me it’s the most natural thing in the whole of our existence—it IS nature!

Then my next feeling was “Wow, I feel bad for her, she will never know what it’s like to truly feel connected to a net of gratitude and abundance, ensconced in a sense of safety beyond what her mind and body and other humans can provide.”

And then I told myself that both of these reactions are those of a spiritual asshole, of which I already made a big claim not to be, and I can’t go breaking that promise so soon. Especially the latter, because it’s like when people with kids say you’ll never understand true love unless you breed, and even if something like that could be measured and was true, it’s insanely rude to say it.

I think if you’re friends with the person who’s saying these new agey things to you, you could simply respond, “I appreciate your opinion and concern. I happen to have other thoughts on the matter, and I’d love to share them with you if you’re interested in having a chill discussion about it.” No one says you need to keep your mouth shut in the face of unsolicited advice, though generally, a response with this kind of setup isn’t going to go over so well. Or if you don’t know or don’t care about the messenger, you could tell them to fuck off. You’re an atheist, no one’s gonna punish you for that, right?


For real though, some atheists I’ve encountered were such as a means of installing unaccountability into their lives. Nothing mattered, because no one/nothing was watching or judging or heaping on the karma points. So who cares? Having a system in place to encourage integrity and thoughtfulness makes humanity a lot gentler as a whole. If God isn’t it for you, I’d love to know what is.