How do you explain the Brown Scapular to an atheist?


I was asked yesterday and I realised they wouldn’t know what I meant by Our Lady of Mount Carmel or sacramental.

How would you briefly explain it without a full length discussion?


In what context were you asked


I think I would give a personal answer and say what it means to you.


Having read this link Im not sure it can be described without quite a bit of detail.


Explaining anything religious to an atheist is inevitably a frustrating experience, regardless of what the topic is. As I see it, there are three ways of dealing with atheists’ questions:

The first option is to present an answer in a way that they can swallow, which basically means you’ll have to talk about it as if your religion is just your funny little hobby. The advantage of this approach is that you’ll avoid awkwardness, discussion, etc. The drawback is that you’re being insincere, and in a subtle way this is unhealthy for your own spirituality.

The second option is to be dead serious about it. The atheist will not like this. He/she will get uncomfortable and will usually respond with comments or questions that are either explicitly or implicitly defiant. Even if you don’t get into a full-blown argument, the atheist will still remember you as a religious person that they don’t particularly care for. The disadvantage is obvious: you won’t be making friends this way. There is also an advantage however: you will maintain full integrity for yourself, and you won’t have to live with the feeling that you’re selling your religion short whenever an atheist comes poking his nose.

The third option is to dismiss the question with a short answer like “It’s a religious thing; I prefer not to talk about it.” The atheist will likely still challenge you, saying something like “Well I’m just asking, y’know, no need to be so secretive about it.” But that you can dismiss with something like “We don’t usually discuss religion outside our community.” This avoids both the awkwardness of a discussion as well as the insincerity that is required to have a “nice” talk about it.

P.S. Note that there are two kinds of atheists: disinterested atheists and aggressive atheists. The former just don’t care either way, and typically don’t ask questions about matters religious. When they do, it doesn’t matter much how you answer. To them it’s just chit-chat. The aggressive atheists, however, are actively anti-religious, and unfortunately it is often them that ask most questions about religious matters.


Why are they angry and aggressive do you think?


“It’s a physical reminder to me of my relationship with Mary.”


Its a religious tradition with our Atheist friends. Their titular leader, Madelyn Murray O’Hair who served for many years as the “atheist pope”, was an expert at getting under the skin of religious people- especially catholics as that was Ms. O’hair’s religious background.


I was going to say it is an optional/devotional Catholic custom with associated prayers, but I like @midori 's answer much better!


Really, I didn’t know that, I’d never heard of her. I’ll try to find time to read up a little.

My dear departed Mother, God bless her soul, became very disenchanted with religion…Church of England, mainly because my sister was taken from us young. She couldn’t understand it and was angry. If only she had seen a vicar or priest things may have been changed and it was long before I became a Catholic. This is a common thing I’ve found many people angry due to loss they simply don’t understand and it’s hard to placate anyone about that.

I ink sometimes people are angry because they feel agod has let them down, perhaps because they prayed for things that never happened or maybe because they feel they’ve always been good people but not rewarded. Also sometimes they’re just really annoys because they feel you as a religious person who has a relationship with God thinks you’re special, superior or chosen when they feel neglected in that way.

I suppose all these people have their own and unique feelings which undermines their relationship with our Heavenly Father and their brothers and sisters through anger. Anger is so destructive.


“This is a private devotion, it is a way to remind me of my devotion to Mary. It is not required of anyone.” Simple and to the point.

You might draw a parallel to people who wear a family heirloom necklace, it is part of their love for their grandma.


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