DEAR ABBY: About a year ago, my daughter befriended a schoolmate. After numerous playdates, our families have become close. While my family is atheist, we know this family is devoutly Christian. Recently, after I mentioned in conversation that we "weren't religious," they invited us to their church for service. I diplomatically declined, but it felt awkward having told the mom our non-beliefs.
Since then, this family invites us to church constantly, and the mom routinely brings up Scripture while we're talking. I feel like they are trying to convert us. I'm hurt that the respect we have extended to this family isn't being reciprocated. How do I let her know she's being disrespectful to me and my family's beliefs without jeopardizing the friendship between our families? -- ATHEIST IN THE SOUTH
DEAR ATHEIST: I can't guarantee that the woman won't take offense, but it's less likely if you refrain from using the word "disrespectful." Try to remember that she thinks she's offering you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. It might be gentler if you told her that in light of the fact that you are an atheist, you find what she's trying to do to be "hurtful."
Continue to politely refuse her invitations to attend her church. If she's in the habit of quoting Scripture in normal conversation, you will have to grit your teeth and tolerate it. (Remember, we all have freedom of expression.) But I can't guarantee that you will always remain as close as you have been, not because she's hurt that you're not interested in being converted, but because at some point you may find her behavior so annoying that YOU will end the relationship.