Conversing with Friends
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05-08-2012, 11:19 AM
Conversing with Friends
Recently, I've talked to two (religious) friends of mine, having intelligent discussions with them. Both are fairly open minded, so it didn't degenerate into one of those you-know-what-I-mean conversations.

Since I've been reading and thinking a lot lately, I can honestly say I brought more firepower to the conversation with both, who haven't been exposed to as much outside their general religious circles.

Anyways, person 1:

This person is a first-generation Nigerian Christian. His father converted to Christianity some while ago and apparently "it has made everything easier." And so I discussed this with him. My first conversation with him resulted in him later saying "Honestly, you sort of broke my faith there for a little while." Later, however, he said that talking to me might have strengthened his faith, but I assume it's just given him more of a reason to deny reality. He even pointed out "I see all of these logical fallacies, but I ignore them." Through talking to him, I have noticed he's on very shaky ground, and if I continued to talk to him, I am confident I could "break through", because he says he struggles with staying religious. I think he might know he's "living a lie, being religious one day and irreligious the next," in his words.

However, a problem. In consideration of all the atheist convert stories, I asked him what would happen if he became an atheist. He replied that he possibly could be disowned. I respect this and told him that I won't try to discuss this with him, if his family relations are at stake, but that I'm always open for discussion on these topics.

What should I do about this? I want to break the chains of religious dogma, but living as an atheist (even without telling anyone) is risky business in his territory.

Person 2:

I actually talked with him yesterday. I talked to him about religion before, but my arguments weren't as sound and developed as they've become recently. Somehow we got on the topic of religion, and I asked him if he was willing to have a conversation with me, no personal insults, just a rational, open discussion.

The earliest thing I remember about the conversation is him talking about how he questioned his religion before, why he doubted, and why he has stayed on course.

He told me that his parents always said "If you ask for it, you will get it" in reference to prayer. He pointed out that this was obviously untrue, for example, in the 9/11 planes where people prayed for their lives and died (I retorted that the explanation was that they died talking to imaginary friends.) I told him that he was taught that prayer works, and that he has seen this is utterly ridiculous. He replied that he wouldn't call it ridiculous. Then, logic starts.

I went into the whole God's omniscience --- no free will argument, and after a while he accepted that he could not break the logic at this point, and agreed that we have no free will.
Then, I went into the omniscience --- no free will, God is benevolent --- people are burning in Hell --> God tortures people without giving them a choice, and thus is not benevolent (which does not apply to Calvinist doctrines, right? Anyways, he is not Calvinist, so this is valid.)
Once again, it took a while, but he accepted these, saying he couldn't find any flaws with them. He's going to church today to talk to his minister. At certain intervals, to ensure we're on the same page, I asked him to admit certain things. I told him to repeat "Humans have no free will", which he agreed to. He also agreed to the statements "God cannot be benevolent," and "There is something fundamentally wrong to what I have been taught," which is a victory in my book. This was late at night so we ended here, but he said he would like to resume tomorrow.

I have many more arguments to show him, and he said he has been motivated somewhat to research these things. He accepts evolution too (excellent. He's not one of those crazy creationists, which Person 1 is.) and I've offered to lend him The Greatest Show on Earth by Dawkins later. Any suggestions on how I should proceed?

Also, on doubt, he told me that he has questioned, and I replied that he's probably never talked to an atheist such as I who can give him legitimate reasons to doubt. Not those petty reasons, but pure logic and commonsense, along with scientific arguments, moral arguments, etc.

Sorry for the long post!!

"Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned" - Anonymous
I am glad to live where there is no God, for I am moral, and mortal; I do not wish to worship He who crafts an immoral immortality.
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05-08-2012, 10:12 PM
RE: Conversing with Friends
Each of your friends have to chart their own courses in life. I would not worry about them. Make the purpose of your life your focus. Evangelical Atheists don't do so well. We don't have anything wonderful to sell. The truth is not a valued commodity. You're asking them to give up the hope of eternal life. For what? Only mature thinkers can appreciate the joy of reality.

The old gods are dead, let's invent some new ones before something really bad happens.
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06-08-2012, 12:05 PM
RE: Conversing with Friends
Obviously you are going to keep speaking with them, but don't let it be a goal to "de-convert" them. (Deconvert is not a word... but it should be right?) Speak your mind, talk them through logic but understand (and I think you already do) that they have both to some degree admitted to parts of their faith being very misguided and incorrect. But they choose to stay with it. Why would someone do this? The possibilites or excuses for staying in their religion could be many but here are some common ones that I think may apply here.
1. They are too attached to the people in the religion. And that attachment utilizes very specific strings. If they break from their religion, they will see those strings cut, such as your first friend who would likely go through what many "fallen brethren" have experienced in the the shunning by their families and once friends. Fear keeps them.
2. They are too embelished in their culture. It's been apart of their life for so long and they couldn't possibly no what to do without it. This seems to be the case with your second friend. Fear of being lost. Fear of the unknown.
3. And lastly this may or may not apply to both. They both cannot live without faith. Despite the falseness, despite the circular logic, and despite all the evidence against it; your friends believe on some level, that faith got them through. That's a tough bond to break. That is their security blanket. Even after you take it away, it still brings them comfort to hold it.

Good luck with your friends but if you are looking for advice. Make your goal education. Rather than trying to simply outwit, out-debate, or out-argue others, continue to educate yourself so that you may educate others. After all that's one of the biggest reasons we are here right? Evolve together. Adapt together. Advance together.

Hope this helps. Peace.

And yet another interesting topic I am not interested in.
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06-08-2012, 01:52 PM
RE: Conversing with Friends
This kind of seems to me that you have these two guys who have a very nice masturbation fantasy and you are trying to convince them that having real sex is so much better, but then they take a look at your girlfriend and decide to stick to the fantasy.

When and if they want to convert over to reality is up to them. Religion, like any good fantasy can however be nice as long as you don't do it all the time, don't do it in the presence of children and don't do it with a large number of people around.

Insanity - doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results
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