Responding to Religious Comments When You’re Not Religious

Responding to Religious Comments When You’re Not Religious

If you want me to roll my eyes up in my head, tell me that faith will heal me. In your presence, I try to keep that visceral feeling to myself. But I have learned that my face often displays what I’m thinking against my will, so I tend to respond, “Your god and I aren’t friends.”

I often wonder: Did the person who is going to do all this healing not know who I was when I got sick? If he did, why am I sick in the first place? Some would have me believe that I’m being tested like Job, or that I am not meant to be sick and will be healed. Others theorize I sinned my way into sickness through pride. Based on what others have shared with me in four years of having lupus, I could write an entirely new Bible of all the ways I either will be healed or shunned from heaven.

After years of hearing these things, I would really like a gracious way to say thanks, but no thanks. Even when I politely tell people that I don’t believe in their religion, some insist on sending me verses and try to convince me that my beliefs are wrong without coming right out and saying that.

I have no problem with anyone praying for me. I do believe in a higher power. Looking at the complexity of our bodies and the beauty found in nature, I would be arrogant to think there isn’t something out there, per se. But I don’t give it a name and I surely don’t condemn others for their beliefs.

I didn’t come to this conclusion lightly. I researched (like I do with everything important in my life) and came to my own conclusion that no religion is my way, my truth, or my light. I do not need permission to speak to the highest power, so I do understand prayer. It’s not unlike my affirmations or the visualizations I focus on during my meditations. I disagree with other parts of belief systems.

I have done my best over the years to be polite, but I also need to be honest with most people. When I get religious messages in my inbox, I tend to ignore them. I don’t want to send any response for fear it will encourage more messages or make people think I believe as they do.

In person, I don’t want a theological discussion. One woman invited me out to coffee, and I thought I was making a new friend. She brought another woman with her, and their mission was to find out why Jesus and I aren’t friends and to try to “bring me back.” I gave her a lesson and questioned her on the origins of her beliefs based on my research.

My beliefs serve me well. But when your body is insane and you rotate in and out of the hospital as much as an intern, how do you deal with people heaping their beliefs on you? Do I continue to smile and say thank you, or do I tell them I don’t believe in that? If I do the latter, how do I stop the conversation that inevitably follows without being rude?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.


Note: Lupus News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lupus News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lupus.

Kellie is a lupus warrior who spends her time teaching many about the incurable disease she battles with a smile on her face. She travels the world, writes articles, has an active YouTube channel and creates coloring and activity books for both adults and children. She is known as Queen Bubbly Bee because no matter what is going on with her body, she always manages to find the silver lining.
Kellie is a lupus warrior who spends her time teaching many about the incurable disease she battles with a smile on her face. She travels the world, writes articles, has an active YouTube channel and creates coloring and activity books for both adults and children. She is known as Queen Bubbly Bee because no matter what is going on with her body, she always manages to find the silver lining.

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      • Deedra Winey says:

        I try to evade.My Mennonite neighbor has cried because she will ‘miss me in heaven’.I am an atheist,most people know this,but I still get prayed for and I’ll accept that as caring.I have a friend who is Apostolic.She has several illness but the issue is her husband has an ALS type disease.He is wheelchair bound and can not move.She says I am the only one she can really talk to about him because he will not be getting better and she is tired of people praying for that.Religious people can even push other religious people too far it seems.If they would just look at the whole situation and maybe bake them a cake instead.

        • Kellie McRae says:

          Hi Deedra, I read this and when I got to your last line, I thought “I like cake” lol you can push that on me with less resistance than religion lol It really is sad to me that people don’t seem to realize that what they are offering is turning people away rather than drawing them in. Thanks for sharing…now share some of that cake!

  1. Kisha Martin says:

    Hello Kellie,
    Hope all is well with you and your family. My name is Kisha. I’ve been diagnosed with Lupus SLE for 13 years. As you know lupus literally has many face so I won’t go into details about my experiences…LOL but I have to comment on your article:
    1. Thank you for your honesty and transparency. I’ve been a Baptist since I was a little girl. As an adult my relationship with God has grown stronger and closer. However, my experience has shown me that Christians can sometimes be a little too pushy.
    2. I will only speak for myself regarding my faith and lupus. Simply put…It maintains my sanity. That’s it! It’s a comfort and the scriptures are my mantras. I couldn’t have survived without my faith.
    3. I respect how you feel and want you to understand the those “pushy” Christians are only (and are compelled) trying to share their God’s peace with you. They just want you to know that God got you in every situation. As far as them saying that your sins gave you lupus…THAT’S OUT OF ORDER…and I’m sending you hugs because no one should hear that.
    4. Anyway I love your courage and strength to be who you want to be. I love you (and since you’re accepting prayers lol) and pray that you prosper and be in good health even as your soul prospers.
    5. On the how do you shut them down lol? Maybe just inform that you respect their beliefs and ask that they respect that you don’t believe in their faith and would not like to hear about…idk. Prayerfully they will respect your wishes.

    • Kellie McRae says:

      Hi Kisha, thank you for sharing your perspective with me. You are exactly right when you speak about the mantras. For many, the scriptures provide that hope, that’s not the case for me but what I am doing is working for me and helping me keep hope alive (no matter what we believe in, sometimes this is a challenge no matter what). I try to keep in mind that folks mean well and I am good with this in most situations. I promise, I never have an issue until the words “you need to….” are directed towards me and they don’t resonate with me. I accept all the good stuff that is sent up on my behalf, prayers, vibes, mojo, etc. I would never disrespect someone by telling them what to do spiritually even if that means praying for me (thank you for those prayers by the way) but when they start telling me who to pray to and how to pray…yeah, that’s when things get a little wonky lol I am hopeful that the more people learn that I don’t have a traditional belief system that they will just wish me well and let me be. Thanks for sharing what it means to you and how it provides you with hope. I’m sending good vibes your way as well.

  2. Pamela Beck says:

    Hi Kellie,
    Not sure how much space I have for a reply. I have never
    Replied to anything before. But
    Your essay seems to be wanting answers to how to free
    Yourself from responding to
    “Religious” people. I don’t think
    It’s as hard as you think, even if you do not believe in God. You said in your essay that you believe in prayer. Prayer is a powerful
    Act of mercy, grace, love and
    Kindness. I would simply respond, “ Thank you for your
    Prayers.” That’s it. Discussion
    Over before it begins. And you
    Can be sincere and authentically grateful because you believe in prayer. No matter what direction the conversation
    Goes, you can end it gracefully and swiftly with that one sentence. I didn’t become a Christian until I was 30 years old. Now in my 60s. I’ve met all the characters that you mention.
    It is discouraging. Lupus; chronic illness, is not understood by most people. It
    Is awkward for people to acknowledge the truth of of it;
    They are then inviting the thought of their own death. So
    They bring out the religious card
    In many ways and it can be
    Disheartening. And it is not
    Authentic Christianity. Thank you for your essays. I look forward to them. I was diagnosed in 2016.

    • Kellie McRae says:

      Hi Pamela, I appreciate your response. I always thank people when they offer prayer, where things go off the rails is when they want to tell me who I need to pray to. For some, they can just say ok and end the conversation but I have a hard time allowing you to think I believe as you do when that time comes. Not because I want to debate my beliefs but I feel its almost like just accepting every spiritual being that is tossed on me. I am solid in what I believe and I don’t want to be the dumpster for other things just to end things easily. I am sure with more time, I will figure it out without it becoming a big deal for me and the other person. I am usually ready to end it but as soon as I utter the words “I don’t believe as you do” it is like I tossed a gauntlet and the battle must begin. I am learning to just walk away or exit the phone conversation. Unfortunately, this has left some people very upset but I must do what is best for me. Thank you for taking the time to reply, I’m always excited to hear from the readers.

  3. Carol W Waldenburg says:

    I am sorry that you have been actually “bullied” by some religious people overly zealous to perhaps convert you to their way of Doing religion. I am a person of faith living with debilitating Lupus and without my faith I would have given up to the feelings of hopelessness at times so I have an appreciation of spirituality and belief that most people who live in “sane” bodies cannot understand.
    I encourage you to let people who are pushing their religion on you know that they are indeed doing this and it is not of God – that God’s witness in action is far more powerful than being put in a position where you feel cornered, coerced, or bullied. (I know that tactic whereby someone invites you to coffee or something and shows up with another person so there is a forceful front and it’s BS.) People who have faith not “religion” do not try to force themselves and their ideas onto other people, we leave that up to God or a higher power. I like that you said you don’t mind if people say they will pray for you – and I agree that you don’t need permission to talk to a higher power. I encourage you to look at these types of people as flawed and ignorant and not to be too sensitive to them – sometimes they’re maddening in their self-rightousness. What is between you and any higher power is deeply intimate and you owe no explanation to anyone.

    • Kellie McRae says:

      Carol, what you said honestly hit me in such a way that tears actually started flowing. I don’t know why that was my reaction but it started at “people who have faith, not religion” I think that is probably so profound because when I tell people I don’t believe as they do, I think they assume I am worshipping some kind of devil lol and that I have no faith. I have an insane amount of faith but just not in the names they give homage to and I think seeing you acknowledge that faith and religion are different just touched me. Thank you for your words, they have encouraged me today for sure.

      • Carol W Waldenburg says:

        For you only Kellie, or as you wish … That you became tearful unexpectedly while reading those words makes me think that there is something more under the surface, some deeper desire to perhaps be in connection with people with whom you can feel safe and to be in a faithful connection with. Like you I cannot abide the false rightousness of those who seek to persuade you or bully you “in the name of Jesus” to their religious ideals so this would be a particular type of people. Maybe your tears came from a place of yearning for that companionship/company/and fellowship. I just got to this site so I don’t know too much about you, but as a professional therapist this is what immediately came up for me. I may be off base, if so, and I am barking up the wrong proverbial tree I apologize, but if I am anywhere near right and you would like to discuss further I am more than open to it. Your work here is obviously valuable and SO very needed to I don’t know how many of us that suffer with this dread disease. If you need strengthening or upholding in your faith – for we cannot do it alone, please reach out to me or find yourself a friend, and hopefully more than one who is like-minded.
        Wishing you peace and joy, Carol.

        • Kellie McRae says:

          Hi Carol, I think the words just made such an impact and it was as if you understood. I have a vast group of friends who actually believe as I do (which was surprising to me) but many also feel as I do, they don’t share it because it creates problems either with their families or it starts debates that no one wants to deal with. I can tell you for me, when I feel someone actually “heard” me, didn’t just listen or just read, I get a bit emotional. We all want to feel that we are understood and when you stated having faith wasn’t attached necessarily to religion, I felt heard. So many think that because I don’t believe the same way they do that I am a wondering soul and have no faith because I don’t put a religious title on my beliefs. I’m not wandering, I DO have faith I am simply not religious. Thanks for the follow up and the beautiful offer to be there if I needed an ear to listen.

  4. E.C. Calhoun says:

    Make no mistake about it, I truly believe in God and not an unknown higher power. I’m commenting because you ask. I was diagnosed with discoid and systematic lupus after being crushed between two five tones trucks during my military career.

    God didn’t pin me between those trucks as a way of testing my faith, no, a fellow soldier. Neither was God testing my faith when I was diagnosed with both discoid and systematic lupus at the age of twenty-two.

    I’ have sever scaring all over my face, no hair, nail are split, scleritis, both knees replaced because of steroids, chronic pain, neuropathy, fibromyalgia and several other illnesses but who’s counting.

    I want insult your intelligence by identifying all the people whom are suffering from various illness, diseases, and etc.

    God provides every person with the right to choose his or her belief system however I would consider switching to another higher power if it’s not providing you with the strength, comfort, hope and resources to endure your challenge with lupus.

    Finally, my coping mechanism is as following, every day I thank God that I’m alive, 2. I realize it could be worse, 3. some children have no access to doctors or medication but I do, and I pray for fellow sisters and brother suffering from lupus.

    My friend you’re not alone!!!!!

    • Kellie McRae says:

      Hi E.C. Sounds like you have endured a lot! We all have our way of coping and of dealing with the things that happen to us, the traumatic stuff is obviously where our highest challenges lie. It’s such a personal thing on how we really dig deep to manage to muddle through. Even if you felt the need to identify people who are suffering, I would respect your right to do so but I have also learned to accept that their fight is not mine. If what they are enduring appears to be much worse, that does not diminish what I am dealing with so there is never any comparison. I am filled with strength and the endurance for this battle, what I believe has never been in question except by those who want to force what they believe on me as if what I believe is not sufficient. Some days, holding out hope and keeping a good outlook is more difficult than others but I have yet to meet anyone regardless of their belief system that hasn’t experienced this. I am glad that your beliefs work well for you, mine also suits my needs and as long as we all remember that we each get to choose for ourselves and respect that boundary, I think the world would be a better place in spite of the pain we endure.

    • Ann says:

      E. C.
      Awesome attitude!
      Unbelievable strength in war and peace times.
      When I’m hurting and having a bad day, I’ll reflect on your words. And I thank God each day too. That’s what gets us through where others fall.

  5. Janice Padgett says:

    I am sorry so many people can be so out to lunch with their so called “help” saying faith can heal. Maybe it is sin. I was diagnosed with Lupus a few years ago at the ripe old age of 66. Not heard of often at my age. However I am a born again Christian and do believe God can heal if He chooses to do so. Will He? It is not up to me to decided. He has not choose to heal me, and I have one major problem after another. Have I done some sort of terrible sin to bring this on? NO, This is false teaching and believe. Why does bad things happen to good people? We live in a fallen world where there is lots of sickness And evil. My illness has strengthened my faith in my Lord. He has helped me through a lot of pain and dark nights. I am so thankful for my faith and family who love me and help me in so many ways. Hang in there. JP

    • Kellie McRae says:

      Hi Janice, I’m always happy to know that faith helps keep hope alive. I have heard the question asked that you posed but I also try to keep in mind that bad things often happen to bad people too. It’s the human condition that nobody gets out untouched, I often tell people, even babies cry. I’m also thankful that you have the support of your family, that helps so much!

  6. Darlene McIntosh says:

    Dear Kellie. I am a firm believer that you do not force your religious beliefs on others. We all worship in different ways. People do not understand what people with chronic disease go thru and sometimes we question our higher power. No one should try to force their beliefs on anyone. I also believe you do not need a church to pray. Prayer can be done at any time in any place. You seem like a very caring, compassionate person. Lets hope they find a cure for us soon.

    • Kellie McRae says:

      Hi Darlene, I agree that we definitely all worship in different ways and its so wonderful when we can each respect that very private boundary. A cure would be AH-MAZING lol thank you for adding your perspective.

  7. Annie J. says:

    I am a religious person and also have lupus. I would be annoyed, too, even if my God is their God. There is nothing anywhere that says if you have enough faith, or if you are good enough, you will be healed. There are many examples in church history of sickly saints. I find that my faith helps me keep perspective on my illness; but I do not expect or even hope for God to heal me. The way I see it is that He has put very competent medical personnel into my life and they will do their best to keep me as healthy as possible. That’s as good as it’s gonna get, and I’m OK with that.

    • Kellie McRae says:

      Hi Annie, thank you for your perspective. I will be honest, this article has been brewing inside of me for quite some time and I was very concerned with how it was going to be received. Thank you for offering a compassionate point of view on this.

  8. Subrata Halder says:

    My wife, being a lupus, APS, Sjurgen patient since 2006, as being finally diagnosed, faced same problem either. We both are nonbeliever of God anything like that. This post has touched me and our bitter remembrances from the so called religious community. Thank you for the post.

    • Kellie McRae says:

      Hi Subrata, I hope you didn’t allow those folks to taint your feelings. It is hard having others think they know best and try to impose on you. I try my best to remember that while I may not feel as they do, THEY think they are offering help and hope so I try to keep compassion at the forefront of what I feel towards them even if they don’t always offer it to me.

  9. Patricia Hurse says:

    I have SLE for 25yrs. I know how you feel. Religious people are sometimes pushy and rude. I have been a Baptist my entire life. I don’t say I’m religious but spiritual I pray and read the bible. I don’t think prayer will heal me It gives comfort. I enjoy your articles. Keep doing what you’re doing. Those who want to push their beliefs on you aren’t concerned about your battle with SLE. They want to make themselves feel important.

    • Kellie McRae says:

      Hi Patricia, I definitely believe that last part you shared, its about them feeling some sort of way. I think some feel like they didn’t do their duty if they don’t offer you their religion. Either way, I say do what works best for you and leave others to do the same. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this.

  10. Christine says:

    Hello my dear;
    Your tone sounds good even upbeat. I am hoping you are doing much better. I know I’ve said this before: you inspire me and give me encouragement when I need it. Thanks for being you and sharing with all of us.
    Personally I respond to people by saying I believe in a higher power and have found my own path. I respect your concern and point of view however I really don’t want to be lectured or preached at.
    I am in a part of the country where people constantly want to convert you to their organized religion. The last attempt at this was made by a man giving us an estimate to roof our home. We chose another builder and he still came by twice more to talk to us about , not the roof , but was trying to get us to try his church. BLAH!
    So I sympathize.
    Wishing you health and happiness and true friends.
    Hugs , Chris

    • Kellie McRae says:

      Hi Chris, Thank you for your input, I like your response. I am going to try it, some still want to try to convince but I am sure over time, I will learn how to deal with this in a nice way. I would be so put off if someone was in my home for business and started with the spiritual talk. I may have to fire them, that’s completely unprofessional. I hope you managed to set him straight.

  11. Vanessa Brown says:

    On behalf of believers everywhere, I apologize for those who have made you feel uncomfortable or who have said things that were ridiculous. People often mean well but don’t know what to say. Jesus said, with loving kindness he drew people to him not made them roll their eyes. My husband was diagnosed with SLE in 2009. I thought I was going to lose him but I believe it is God who has sustained his life. I believe that healing comes in many forms. It may be the medicine cocktail that your doctor prescribes,the remission of the disease or like my husband no further damage to his organs. I believe it is the prayers that many people pray on his behalf that keeps his liver, heart and kidneys functioning even though they have severely damaged by Lupus. I just wanted to share with you that our faith gives us hope and some days hope is all we have. I hope that one day you find your light that will sustain you on even your darkest days. May peace and grace be yours in abundance.

    • Kellie McRae says:

      Hi Vanessa, thank you for sharing your faith. I am glad that you and your husband have found a way to hold on to hope. I have already found the spirituality that allows me to keep pushing myself forward with humor and I hope grace. I just don’t find it in the same place that most of the Western world has found theirs because we definitely need to all dig deep on those worst days no matter what. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

  12. Aiswarya says:

    Hi Kellie,
    First of all hope you are doing well.
    I’m from india, diagnosed with sle when I was 10.
    I’m 24 now.
    I was able to go to school college, get my Post graduation and I started my first job a few months back.

    Lupus awareness is literally 0 in india. My family had no idea what it was(is). People however never hesitates to associate it with cancer. My paeents were thankful to God cuz I was diagnosed, treated and I GOT BETTER. YAY!
    I stopped taking any medication when I was 12.
    At 10, I had no idea what I was signing up for(Rather what God had signed me in for).
    As I grew up, I did some research on my own, and then I knew this is no one time business but a lifetime one. 12-23 is like an age when you neglect things even when you are sure it can cost you your life.(death exists? Really? :-D)

    I always had sneezing, moode swings,sore throat, frequent cold,cold hands,neck pain,back pain, photosensitivity…

    After 12 long years, Jan-2020 we finaly decided to have a check up.
    My doctor was so surprised I had gone so long without any medication or checkups.
    Now, I’m back on track with sle.
    Ever since I did the checkup,it’s getting a little worse day by day. Its like lupus know, “yes I’m finally acknowledged”.
    My parents still thinks,this will pass. But I know there’s no breakup this time around.


    • Kellie McRae says:

      Hi Aiswarya, I find it interesting how close you are to Thailand and they are well versed in lupus, its one of the reasons I moved there several years ago. I’m glad to hear that you had so many years of remission and I hope that it will come again for you. I agree that many think its like cancer and they think that if we get treatment, we can beat it. If only that were true. I am sending you good vibes and I truly hope there is a breakup. I have a friend who was in remission for 16 years, she went through an ugly divorce, she was hospitalized for 3 months, stayed battling for another 3 years and is now back in remission. I am holding out hope for both of us to go into the good remission. Sending you comforting vibes.

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