Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Addressing Religious Figures

My friend Poodles has a post up on her blog here on a topic of interest to atheists.

While it may not happen often, it is inevitable for just about all of us that we are going to end up having to converse with a religious figure such as a priest or a rabbi.

As someone who was raised and was once a believing Catholic, the most uncomfortable for me is to have to speak with a Catholic priest, because they are generally addressed as "Father." As an atheist, I cringe at the thought of addressing a man as "Father", because to do so in my mind implies that I am acknowledging that he has some sort of spiritual overlordship over me. I generally tend to refer to priests as "Sir", which is what I did during my father's funeral a couple of years ago.

On the other hand, I don't think I would have a problem addressing a rabbi as "Rabbi", though I would probably say it in a rather matter-of-fact tone devoid of any reverence.

6 comments:

Poodles said...

I love the use of the term "overlordship". It fits.

tina FCD said...

I would say, sir. :)

Lew Scannon said...

I just call them "dude".

bullet said...

So your problem is not with the religious honorific, but the actual word "father" because of the authority it implies? Do you have the same problem with Bishop or Cardinal?

How many PhD's insist on being called "Doctor" out of vanity? Have they earned that title? I would say yes and although I think it's a stupid vanity point, I will still call them "Doctor" if they so wish. I'm not in the military, but I will still address a person in uniform with their rank.

My opinion is that the man studied and worked hard to earn his title and deserves it. It's simply respectful to acknowledge that, even if I don't believe in the authority of that title.

That said, if you really have a problem with "father", I don't think any priest would mind you calling him "sir" as that's a sign of respect, as well.

Tommy said...

Bullet, I really don't expect to ever meet a bishop or a cardinal. And besides, that's different than calling a stranger "Father", because of the more common meaning of the word.

bullet said...

Cool. I was just confused about what you meant. If it was the word and its common meaning or the authority that is implied by the title.

OT: We had a bishop that visited frequently at my high school, but I've never encountered a Cardinal.

A friend of mine (he manages his family's restaurant in the French Quarter) got to meet Pope John Paul II. Imagine the conflict there. :)