Losing friendships due to difference in belief
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02-12-2013, 12:13 PM
Losing friendships due to difference in belief
Hello, this is Aika and this is my first post. I decided to reach out here because I really enjoyed the Thinking Atheist podcast.

I've been through quite a few transitions in my life recently, and I live in a new city right now.

I've met some problems recently with my friendships. And I feel socially cut off because many of the people I meet are religious and would quickly reach the point of evangelism.

I am not at all religious. I attend church occasionally if I'm invited by new friends I meet. I don't mind listening to sermons, but the fervent evangelism is becoming a problem and forcing me to cease contact with many of my friends.

I was in suicidal crisis one weekend evening. I needed to get away the next day so I invited a church friend to meet up. I did not tell him that I was in crisis.

The next day, he asked many personal questions and not only was he extremely pushy and controlling, he made it clear that he intended to evangelize me to his satisfaction.

I had to drop this friendship immediately. And I ceased contact with him and all of the new friends I made at the said church.


I was invited to a separate cell group by a family acquaintance the next day. (My family is not religious but I have little to do with them.) There are many professionals in this group and I saw it as a networking opportunity.

One of the cell group members is a sociologist. She mentioned that she had once studied comparative religion.

I asked what her thoughts were on religious coexistence. She openly said that she did not believe in religious coexistence, because she believes that Christianity is the only "true" religion. And that the reason such a public policy is not in place is because it would require a lot of effort.

I was shocked and felt threatened. It was such a sectarian message. I'm inclined to avoid attending this cell group in the future.


I told this to my close friend of more than 10 years. My friend is a devout Christian and attends church with her mother. Very often we would meet at their church.

Seeing that I am not a Christian, her mother evangelized for hours.

I've had many great conversations with my close friend, and I have confided in her about my suicidal crisis, among other things.

However, I realized that we have never discussed her views on her faith and religion. She never evangelizes me. She may very well hold sectarian views, just that she has never revealed them to me. Religion is very important in her life and in her relationship with her mother, and I completely respect that.

She is a close friend, but she often drops our plans to do things together in the last minute. Whenever we plan to do something, there is a 50% chance she would drop it in the last minute.

I've ignored this phenomenon all this time, even though it bothers me, and I do hope that it is not because she is holding something against me because of our difference in belief.

I did tell her face to face that I am sometimes afraid that our difference in belief would affect our friendship.

She said absolutely nothing to that.

I could never change my friend. Her life is her own. Though it would be very sad for me to lose even one of my closest friend.

I do have other friends, but a close friendship takes years and years to build and it feels like a big loss.

What should I do? What can I even do, really?
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02-12-2013, 01:10 PM
RE: Losing friendships due to difference in belief
I just recently deconverted from Christianity after being involved with it basically from birth until now (21 years)

I haven't had the issue of losing any of my friends or family because none of them know, but I get really anxious around any of them because there is now a rift. It feels to me like I broke something of theirs and haven't told them yet, because I don't want to hurt our relationship but eventually they'll find out.

What I've come to accept though, is that Christians do TRULY believe that you will burn in hell for eternity, and any Christian who gives the slightest shit about you, will try to save you.

So while I'm not sure what to offer as far as sound advice on how to deal with theistic friends, just understand what your disbelief REALLY means to them.
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02-12-2013, 01:31 PM
RE: Losing friendships due to difference in belief
I REALLY feel for you. I lost ALL of my friends through my divorce/deconversion 3 years ago. It's such a lonely place to be.
It sounds like, in some ways, it could appear to others that you're sort of straddling the fence, so to speak. You attend church sometimes but you say you don't believe and I think perhaps, PART of the problem may be that by attending church and being accepting of the beliefs of others, you're sending them a message that says you're open to conversion. This is a supremely difficult thing to navigate because you're not doing anything wrong... in fact, you're approaching these relationships with respect and maturity. (My boyfriend's family is Mormon and I've run into a similar issue in that I believe my opinion that they have the right to believe whatever they want if it works for them, has allowed his mom to believe that I'm open to conversion when, in reality, I'm not AT ALL.) Because you can't control how other people think or even, to a certain extent, how they interpret your actions, all I think you can really do is form a very firm opinion for yourself and set your own personal boundaries. By taking the time to really sit down and even write down for yourself what you believe and why and reminding yourself that you're entitled to your beliefs and have come about them by logical reasoning, I think you might find yourself feeling less threatened by evangelism.
All of that being said, if there are "friends" who you sit down with, tell them what you believe and ask them to respect that, and they're still continuously trying to convert you, there can't be a friendship there because all they see you as is a potential +1 on their conversion checklist and that's not a real friendship, anyways. There is a difference between someone being concerned about your soul (however unfounded and ridiculous their concern may be) and someone constantly trying debate and convince you of their opinion. The latter is not acceptable and you're right to cut off those "friendships" because they don't serve you in any way.
When it comes to the friend that you mentioned near the end of your question, it doesn't sound (from what you've shared) that religion is an issue. Perhaps you're projecting that onto the relationship because it's an insecurity of yours because you've experienced it in the past. The real issue sounds like it's her flakiness which is probably much more due to her character than anything she's holding against you. Whether you want to continue to pursue a relationship with someone who can't be relied on, is up to you, but I don't think your difference in religion should be your main focal point when you're contemplating your concerns in your friendship with her when she's never expressed to you that it's a problem for her.
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02-12-2013, 02:07 PM
RE: Losing friendships due to difference in belief
Aika,
I am in a similar situation here, the issue is that I used to be like those pushy friends trying to evangelize you, but in the course of a year and a half I have become an atheist with a theist wife and family that ranges from slightly spiritual to very religious.

What you should do depends on where you're at and what convictions you hold dear. I don't think there's a one size fits all approach to this.

It seems that you really want to preserve the friendship and really like your friend. It's interesting that your friend has never brought up her religious views. I would infer from this (based on my experience as a previous believer) that your friend secretly finds the claims incredulous and therefore is ashamed to talk about them, that she esteems your relationship more than the religious factor or a mix between the two.

I wouldn't read too much into her canceling on plans with you, I have a cousin who is very close to me that does it all the time, but he is a bit awkward socially and a bit lazy as well

Best of luck, I have to it seems to start finding non believer friends from scratch since virtually all my friendships and acquaintances are religious even though in my city the religious demographic is a minority.

Cheers

“The reason people use a crucifix against vampires is because vampires are allergic to bullshit.” ― Richard Pryor
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02-12-2013, 03:54 PM
RE: Losing friendships due to difference in belief
It's definitely an awkward situation. Some people just can't really handle others having different opinions - and that includes some atheists.

As trite and passe as it no doubt sounds, if someone can't accept who you are, there's not much point trying to be close to them...

You could try to make it clear that religion is something you're simply not willing to discuss; that wouldn't even out you as an atheist. Thought it sounds like everyone you know already knows.

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02-12-2013, 04:05 PM
RE: Losing friendships due to difference in belief
If someone dumps you for your lack of belief they were never your friend in the first place. I don't simply disown someone for a difference of position. I have disowned my own brother not just because he is a fundie, but more for the fact on every issue he emotionally sucked the life out of me. I do have other family and friends who know who I have not disowned, none of them expect me to go to church. My own adoptive mom is Catholic. My younger biological sister also caught flack when she opened up to our family.

I think you however do the right thing reaching out to like minded people. I don't know how big your new city is but I am sure you can search online for a relatively local group. But you will always have online atheist websites to talk to people.

I am kinda isolated myself I have no other atheist friends outside the net. It's not easy.

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02-12-2013, 05:42 PM
RE: Losing friendships due to difference in belief
In my more than 40 years I have had many friends….some very near and dear to my heart but sadly those friendships only last thru a particular period in life and then we both go separate ways. Not any ill will towards them, but the bond we had just sort of dissolved. It happens in life and I believe it to be common. People mature and make choices …sometimes our choices don't match what our friends choose.

I have quite a few friends from different periods that I continue to talk to on occasion, but its not like when we first met. We aren't each others confidant, we aren't each others rescuer when shit hits the fan. But we are still caring and loving and wanting the best for each other.

I have also learned that sometimes you meet a friend and you immediately 'click' with them. It doesn't always take years and years to build a friendship--sometimes you just meet someone who you are very comfortable with, and they with you.

If you are certain in your non-belief, then avoid churches for awhile. The friends you are making there have a goal to convert you and their goal is causing you emotional pain. You are getting attached and then realizing their motive and its not matching your desire for just friendship. This is a burden at a time when you are in crisis that you don't need. Self care means walking away from those that are hurting you.

Seek out new friends in a UU church (if you feel the need for that type of community), volunteer & connect with local humanist/atheist groups in your area.

hang around here….lots of friends


"Life is a daring adventure or it is nothing"--Helen Keller
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02-12-2013, 06:31 PM
RE: Losing friendships due to difference in belief
I have also been in a situation like that, and am still going through it still, with my girlfriend and bestfriend. I just avoid the topic as much as possible but when it does come up, i make sure they see my side. I just make sure to have them look past religion and look at me for me not religion, and so far, its working. i just say try try and try again and make sure to never give up on keeping your friends. Use cutting them off completely as a last last resort and continuously try to work it out. Hope you get through this. *hug*
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03-12-2013, 09:49 AM
RE: Losing friendships due to difference in belief
Hello everyone,

Thank you so much for your kind words and advice. I have decided to reach out to a local humanist/atheist community. I did a brief search online and I'm glad I found one!

With regards to my close friend, I have decided to let go of my expectations on her and on this relationship. I still care about her as a friend, but after all, her life is her own, and my life my own.


Aika
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03-12-2013, 10:05 AM
RE: Losing friendships due to difference in belief
(03-12-2013 09:49 AM)Aika Wrote:  Hello everyone,

Thank you so much for your kind words and advice. I have decided to reach out to a local humanist/atheist community. I did a brief search online and I'm glad I found one!

With regards to my close friend, I have decided to let go of my expectations on her and on this relationship. I still care about her as a friend, but after all, her life is her own, and my life my own.


Aika

Good on you for that!
Take care of yourself

“The reason people use a crucifix against vampires is because vampires are allergic to bullshit.” ― Richard Pryor
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