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My dad is a Christian. I asked him a question about his dead mother, and after replying, he asked me:

I loved my mother very much. She was a good person. Please, whenever you remember your grandmother, say "God rest her soul".

My dad is well aware that I am an atheist. For me pretending that god exists would be dishonest, so it is out of question. If I was talking to someone else, I'd probably say something like:

I, too, loved grandmother a lot and remember her fondly. I can't use the exact wording you suggested though, because I'm not religious.

The problem is that my dad is a highly manipulative person. He is currently in the middle of an argument with me where he's trying to prove that my political views are inspired by Satan. There is no such rule in our culture that you have to say a specific phrase whenever you mention a dead person, AFAICT this is just something my dad came up with. It is likely that he deliberately made this request, despite knowing that I'm an atheist, to put me in an awkward position. If I acquiesced, he'd likely use it at some later point as a proof of my dishonesty. Ignoring it also seems rude.

I need to find a manipulation-proof way to decline my father's request:

  • (first priority) without coming off as mean or insensitive;
  • without giving him an opening to start a religious argument.

How do I tell my father I won't be honoring his request because I am not religious, without coming off as mean or insensitive, and without giving an opening to start a religious argument?

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    Personally I would ignore it pointedly. I find that manipulative people take stronger messages from their tactics having no effect than from any reaction at all. It's like the curiosity of pushing a button and noticing a random thing happen -- you wonder what you could do with that. But if the button does nothing you shrug and leave it alone. Any reaction grants the sense of control they seek.
    – Euchris
    Jan 25, 2023 at 20:22
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    If your father is constantly manipulating you or winding you up, there is not going to be a manipulation-proof way of doing this or a way that does not let him start an argument. You should maybe think about setting the bar less high - or just ignore it and him. Exactly what sort of relationship are you trying to have with your father? Are you simply talking to him to get information about other relatives? Do you even need to speak to him at all?
    – Stuart F
    Jan 30, 2023 at 12:33
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    @StuartF My brother and I don't share dad's political beliefs. My brother still lives with my parents, and his political conflict with dad seemed to be escalating out of control lately. So I decided to try and change dad's mind, so he leaves my brother alone. I don't think I have a relationship with my dad at this point, politics is the only thing he ever wants to talk about. In the end, I decided to take Euchris' advice and ignore the provocation.
    – seed
    Feb 3, 2023 at 6:04
  • @seed All the best to your brother. It's hard being the last one left at home.
    – Euchris
    Feb 8, 2023 at 12:29

1 Answer 1

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I have learned (the hard way) that just saying "NO" is not a good strategy. The better way is to offer something in exchange.

In your case, the dialogue can be something like this:

(dad) Please say the words "God rest her soul!"

(you) I prefer to say "May she rest in peace!"

Of course, you can adapt the words to your exact POV.


I do this relatively often when interacting with my mother. Example:

(mom) Please eat eggs often, because they have iron.

(me) You do not need to worry. I get a lot of iron from beetroots and blueberries. I also occasionally eat liver, which is also rich in iron.

She accepts my explanation, knowing that I actually do that and that my alternative also reaches the same purpose.

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