You don’t have to believe in a specific religion to be respectful towards those who believe in it.
Being polite and a decent person is not exclusive to a specific religion.
Redditor aitanun encountered this very issue with her friend. So she turned to the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for moral judgment.
“AITA for telling my friend to address the nuns properly?”
The Original Poster (OP) explained:
“Okay, backstory: I (20F) grew up in a Catholic family and ergo, around a lot of nuns and priests. However, I also grew up in a pretty diverse area, so I know a lot of other religious leaders – imaams, rabbis and the like.”
“I always address them correctly, regardless of my religion.”
“I moved cities a couple months ago, and with restrictions easing a little, I hung out with one of my newer friends (20M) a couple days ago and we ran in to two of the sisters from my local church. I introduced them to him as ‘Sister Mary and Sister Teresa,’ and greeted them both as ‘Sister’ myself.”
“He, however, called them ‘Mary’ and ‘Teresa.’ I didn’t say anything then, nor did the sisters, but they both seemed a little taken aback.”
OP addressed the issue later.
“After some basic pleasantries, we went our separate ways from the nuns, and I asked if he knew how to address them, because he wasn’t supposed to call them by their names.”
“He said no, but that because he’s not Catholic, he didn’t think he should have to.”
“I told him I believed it has nothing to do with religion, but that it was just a sign of respect and it’s how they ask to be addressed.”
“It got a little heated – no one shouted or got out of control or anything, but the debate got a bit intense – and we couldn’t come to an agreeable answer.”
“His stance is that it’s forcing my beliefs on him, and that he should address the nuns however he feels comfortable, not vice versa. My stance is that they should be addressed by the title they choose to use, out of politeness and respect.”
“That said, I do feel like I might be TA, because I’m conscious of pushing my religion on to someone else, so, AITA?”
Redditors gave their opinions on the situation by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
Most Redditors agreed OP was not the a**hole.
“NTA. Thats like him saying he won’t address someone as “Mrs.” because he’s not female. It’s simple respect.” ~ Dont-trust-it
“I’ll be honest, I’ve always been uncomfortable using ‘Father’, ‘Sister,’ etc. when speaking to clergy, so I default to ‘ma’am’ and ‘sir’ while talking to them and generally turn myself into a pretzel to avoid using the terms when referring to them. One of the drawbacks of growing up agnostic, I suppose. It just feels awkward.” ~ Whimsical_Mara
“TBH, ma’am would’ve also been fine IMO. I get that some people aren’t comfortable with the familial titles, but it’s more the respect thing I was kind of hung up on.” ~ aitanun
“I’m not Catholic but I have no problem referring to people as Sister A, Reverend B, Rabbi C, etc. I realize it is a religious title but it is also a professional title.”
“I know lots of people don’t use their titles even in a professional setting – my childhood pastor insisted on parishioners using his first name – but that is their decision and not something a stranger should assume.” ~ emilochka
“Maybe you should add this in your post that using mrs would have been ok too. I’m atheist and would be very very uncomfortable saying ‘sister’ or ‘father.’ But I wouldn’t call them by their name, it seems super rude.” ~ CuteHoodie
Others shared their experience.
“I’m an atheist, and out of respect I would call a nun ‘sister,’ a priest ‘father,’ a monk ‘brother,’ etc, etc, etc.” ~ Janecitta
“I am not in the military but use officers’ ranks when addressing them unless otherwise invited.” ~ OlderAndWiser2018
“If someone was introduced using their military rank would you not call them that?”
“For example ‘This is Captain Cake’ would you then say ‘hello, Mr. Cake’?” ~ DangerousSwordfish3
“Yep. Same thing for teachers, doctors, ministers…”
“Unless there is an official event and I’m told to use a certain title because of protocol, or if they specifically ask to be called a certain way (if he says ‘It’s Captain, not Mr’ I would use Captain). It’s not a me thing, it is just how it is where I live.”
“Maybe it’s different in military or religious families though but I don’t know any. But we will still be respectful and use Mr/Ms unlike OP’s friend !”
“Edit : I thought about it and maybe it depends of the context too. I imagined meeting someone in the street like OP and it would be awkward to use ‘Captain’ because we would be on the street, casual setting.”
“But I guess if I was introduced to Captain Cake during an event where he was doing his job, I would say ‘Hello Captain’ instead of ‘Hello Mr. Cake.’ But both would be considered respectful.” ~ CuteHoodie
Redditors argued you should address people how they want to be addressed, not how you want to do it.
“NTA. He should address them how they feel comfortable, not how he does.” ~ delipity
“So shouldn’t they be the ones to correct him?” ~ OneMikeNation
“When you are being introduced to someone, the person introducing you knows them better than you do.”
“So if you are introduced to a Mr. Johnson, and have not previously met him, calling him Johnny would be rude as hell.”
“And what you’re doing is asking that Mr. Johnson correct you after you have already been properly introduced – Why? It’s pretty clear that you have deliberately ignored the introduction, and are trying to start s*** – so why would anyone sensible bother further with you at all?” ~ HowardProject
“NTA. Would he address his dentist as Mary instead of Dr. Jones? His college professors as Andy instead of Professor Smith? Mr. Mrs. Professor, Doctor, Sister, Monsignor Its All The Same!” ~ Maddie215
“This was my sentiment, but he said it was different because those are ‘earned’ titles, not religious ones. My argument is that the sisters earned their title through devotion to God, but of course that just circles back to the religion argument, haha.” ~ aitanun
We should all be respectful, regardless of our religion.