Spiritual friend + me Atheist = Sad friend
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23-04-2013, 11:02 AM
Spiritual friend + me Atheist = Sad friend
Long post ahead. Thanks in advance for reading.

So I've recently become comfortable calling myself an atheist. I've always considered myself a humanist and I wasn't raised with religion or anything, but I've always toyed with a vague, luke-warm notion of God as "the thing that connects us all and it just kind of exists as consciousness and puppy dreams and pipe smoke.... blah blah blah." But I've let go of that, if for no other reason than I simply don't see the point in believing in something for which there's no evidence or reason to believe it. I don't deny that any of that could be true, but so could the flying spaghetti monster.... but I'm preaching to choir.

The "problem" (if there is one) is that my closest friend is someone with whom I used to discuss new agey things with; things like "The Secret" (I know, don't judge me), Abraham Hicks, Walter Russell, the reality of aliens and the government cover-ups, and subjects of that pseudo spiritual nature. We even went to a channelling meeting once with a medium a la John Edwards and were both very spooked (I've since learned that it was just a big trick with an unhealthy amount of bullshit).

My friend, a former Catholic by the way, is still very much into all that, and I honestly have no problem with it. He goes to a Mediums' church and is fairly entwined with it. It's a big part of his identity. He also insists that he's a rational thinker and claims he gives equal credence to David Icke and Christopher Hitchens. He's also kind of a fragile (but very intelligent) person, prone to episodes of mania, high highs followed by low lows, and when he's on his highs I hear a lot of "Come one, man. We're all like, connected, you know? Don't you feel it, it's like everything really happens for a reason." Since I've renounced those beliefs I decided I would try to avoid discussing it with my friend.

However, last night we got into a fairly heated discussion which started with me saying that I didn't believe in the existence of aliens because I feel there's reasonable doubt. This spiraled into a full scale discussion about religion in which I laid out my skepticism of the existence of god, and spiritualism in general. At no point did I outright judge him or try to condescend to him. I let him no that I completely respect his beliefs.

He kept insisting that I was angry ("I'm angry about everything! You know that" I told him) and that I was clinging to arrogance and asked why it was so hard for me to "let go" of my ego, and that I lacked the courage to believe in something, that I'm taking the easy way out by sitting on the fence. All of this kind of hurt me to hear. It didn't affect me in that it made me question my position, but I was explaining to him again and again that none of that was true, and he wouldn't accept it. He seemed genuinely hurt and sad that I'm no longer the person with whom he can talk about new agey stuff anymore, and I feel bad about that.

I'm not sure what I'm asking advice for exactly, but I just feel kind of bad about the whole thing. I really wish I had not brought it up. I think he took comfort in having me to confide in about his spiritual beliefs, and perhaps he felt threatened. Is there some magic way to express your thoughts as a skeptic without people telling you you're angry and a coward?

Thanks for sticking it out and reading the whole thing. Sorry about the considerable length.

"Tom, answer me true, now."
"Answer what true?"
"Whatever happened to happy endings?"
"They got them on shows at Saturday matinees."
-Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury
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23-04-2013, 12:08 PM (This post was last modified: 23-04-2013 12:15 PM by Luminon.)
RE: Spiritual friend + me Atheist = Sad friend
Oh man. You're not getting through to someone who's not thinking clearly. He's got his mind all tangled into concepts that can't stand on their own and when they fall, he falls with them. When you just passively don't support these concepts, he already starts falling.

Suddenly it's not about reason and logic, but about ego, courage, faith, equality (fifty fifty credence), meaning, connection and other virtues and vices of character. That's a person who'd believe that Hitler never said anything good or truthful, because he was Hitler.

This is a sensitive, tricky situation. Emotions are at play and you can't win this game. Anything you try or don't try will probably be interpreted as attack on faith.
If you want to do something, you have to work on a whole new level. Let the friend cool off a little, but don't tiptoe around, don't play guilty and don't allow him to de-friend you. Fight for the friendship, say there was a misunderstanding, not a problem.

Tell him, that there was a misunderstanding. You weren't talking about beliefs, but about how things work in daily life. (I know it's a lie, just hang on) Try to say something like that:


We may believe in what we want, but at the end of the day we have to get some work done, and for that we must know how things work. This is how we make sure a plane lands, or that a car starts, or that a surgery is more than just cutting around. If we know how things work, we have them under control and anyone can learn that. Anyone in the whole world.

But when it comes to the spiritual world, that is a whole different situation. We can't contact spirits calling by phone. Flying saucers don't land on our airports. God doesn't grow people's limbs back every Sunday. If such things even happened anywhere in the world, it would be useless, because nobody knows how they work. And if we can't make them work, they're nowhere to be seen. Maybe they're useful to one or two people, but things like computers serve billions of people. Most of people go all their life without seeing anything out of ordinary. Or they think they saw something, but turns out it was just a normal thing.

Can you blame them that they don't think ghosts exist? Why should they bother believing in ghosts, if it's totally useless where they stand? There are so many beliefs in the world, that they wouldn't even know where to start believing, so they just don't. Just like we don't bother to be afraid of black cats, broken mirrors and stepping on a line between paving stones. Some people just don't see a difference between a horseshoe luck charm and a belief in mediums and spirits. They don't need anything like that in their lives, so that's perfectly all right.

Imagine you had the power to instantly convince all reasonable people in the world to believe as you do. This power is called evidence, or even proof. Reasonable people have the duty, if you show them proof, they'll start believing. Now, what is proof and why should you give that? What makes a good evidence and what is a bad evidence? Where does evidence come from and how do you get it or create it? Let's watch some nice animated videos:
http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=UUc...XTn-VSQ4uA

Now, lots of people try to get that power to make people believe, without actually having an evidence. They do that for many reasons, some just don't feel sure enough, some feel too much sure about something. Often they just want some money, or gather followers, get some attention, or their religion just says so. They try to infect people with ideas that don't help them or even harm them.
To defend ourselves, we need to teach our mind sort of a karate skill, called critical thinking. It is a martial art to cut through illusion and lie down to reality and evidence, and to defend our freedom. Freedom of living and thinking. It's not just spiritual things, we need critical thinking when watching TV, when buying things, when seeing political campaigns, when learning about economy, or when we meet preachers of various cults. There are many people in the world who want to get into our mind, into our wallets, into our pants and bedrooms even, in case of ladies. Critical thinking is a must. With critical thinking you can tell if something is true, false, or it's just impossible to tell right now, so you're better off not burdening yourself with beliefs in something you won't ever need.

Yes, we may privately believe and discuss lots of things, but if we ever go somewhere in public, we should only take out the things we can back up with evidence, or other people would feel threatened. There is too many believers in Allah already as it is. I know you're a good guy, but other people may not know that. Critical thinking is our friend, it protects us from some real nutjobs who would want to decide about how we should live.

If you claim there are nuances to principles, there are no nuances to getting arrested or shot for disobeying the power.
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23-04-2013, 12:16 PM (This post was last modified: 23-04-2013 12:22 PM by kim.)
RE: Spiritual friend + me Atheist = Sad friend
(23-04-2013 11:02 AM)Toby Wrote:  My friend, a former Catholic by the way, is still very much into all that, and I honestly have no problem with it. He goes to a Mediums' church and is fairly entwined with it. It's a big part of his identity.

However, last night we got into a fairly heated discussion which started with me saying that I didn't believe in the existence of aliens because I feel there's reasonable doubt. This spiraled into a full scale discussion about religion in which I laid out my skepticism of the existence of god, and spiritualism in general. At no point did I outright judge him or try to condescend to him. I let him know that I completely respect his beliefs.

He kept insisting that I was angry ("I'm angry about everything! You know that" I told him) and that I was clinging to arrogance and asked why it was so hard for me to "let go" of my ego, and that I lacked the courage to believe in something, that I'm taking the easy way out by sitting on the fence. All of this kind of hurt me to hear. It didn't affect me in that it made me question my position, but I was explaining to him again and again that none of that was true, and he wouldn't accept it. He seemed genuinely hurt and sad that I'm no longer the person with whom he can talk about new agey stuff anymore, and I feel bad about that.

I'm not sure what I'm asking advice for exactly, but I just feel kind of bad about the whole thing. I really wish I had not brought it up. I think he took comfort in having me to confide in about his spiritual beliefs, and perhaps he felt threatened. Is there some magic way to express your thoughts as a skeptic without people telling you you're angry and a coward?

Hmm. Why do theists always seem to struggle with abandonment issues? Maybe... they never grew up enough to be on their own? Do they really think they need something outside themselves to tell them that they are real? Sheesh. Dodgy
***

I think you can just sit and listen to whatever your friend says he believes in and then tell him you are there to be his friend but those things are not what you believe. Tell him that you just believe in yourself. That should suffice.

If he says that's not good enough; if he thinks that you are angry or arrogant or unable to "let go" of your ego, and lack the courage to believe in something... well then, it seems to be him doing the judging - not you.

You might advise him that he seems unable to let go of his ego and lacks the courage to not believe in something that someone tells him to. You might let him know, it is quite challenging to know that you only have yourself with one life to live. Having some all-powerful, supernatural being in charge of your life, death, and afterlife is just not your bag and if he wants to jump on that bandwagon, he can't expect you to hop up there for the ride.
***

How your friend feels is up to him. However, he doesn't seem to regard your feelings or ideas of non-belief with a similar respect you afford him. Don't ignore or let his accusations go - call him on it if he's hurt you. For him to grow and develop, he needs to know this.

You have let him drag you to his churches and spiritual meetings and all that crap and now he's all bent out of shape because you are ... what? ...not gullible enough? ....have your own security that has nothing to do with super heros flying out of the ether and speaking telepathically through someone? He's pissed because ... what? ...you are growing up and he's just not? Or growing a different way?

Nope - no magical way to express your thoughts as a skeptic. If there were... wouldn't you be skeptical? Wink

I don't know if you've been around for a while and I'm a bit scatterbrained lately but...

Welcome to the forum. Smile

I think in the end, I just feel like I'm a secular person who has a skeptical eye toward any extraordinary claim, carefully examining any extraordinary evidence before jumping to conclusions. ~ Eric ~ My friend ... who figured it out.
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23-04-2013, 02:35 PM
RE: Spiritual friend + me Atheist = Sad friend
My cousin is similar to your friend... Its frustrating at times. He believes in aliens visiting, and the whole ancient aliens thing; I'm skeptical about that... However, I do believe that alien life is quite likely to exist elsewhere. Don't you?

It allows us to still enjoy the night skies while discussing what might be... Without resorting to conspiracies and claims.
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23-04-2013, 02:43 PM
RE: Spiritual friend + me Atheist = Sad friend
Also, he believes a spiritual version of interconnectivity within the universe. I explained to him the physics side of things, and how, in a way there really IS a oneness of the universe...
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23-04-2013, 06:01 PM
RE: Spiritual friend + me Atheist = Sad friend
(23-04-2013 12:08 PM)Luminon Wrote:  Try to say something like that:

We may believe in what we want, but at the end of the day we have to get some work done, and for that we must know how things work. This is how we make sure a plane lands, or that a car starts, or that a surgery is more than just cutting around. If we know how things work, we have them under control and anyone can learn that. Anyone in the whole world.

Yes! I did in fact talk about this. I insisted that the scientific method must be adhered to in order to produce results: antibiotics, cell phones, etc. His reply was that "science" is responsible for a lot of evils in the world, such as nuclear warfare. He believes told me that scientists are small minded and as fanatic as religious fanatics. Dodgy (Keep in mind, this is all coming from someone that I do respect and that I do see as an intelligent person, so some of the things he says is quite bewildering. If I thought he was just some idiot, I really wouldn't mind any of this)

(23-04-2013 12:08 PM)Luminon Wrote:  Imagine you had the power to instantly convince all reasonable people in the world to believe as you do. This power is called evidence, or even proof. Reasonable people have the duty, if you show them proof, they'll start believing.

I tried to express this as well (but unfortunately, not as eloquently). I said that if you ignore your bullshit meter you'll be open to all sorts of exploitation. He claimed that because no one can truly "know" anything, then one person's hunch is as valid as anyone else's, therefore the scientific method and critical thinking are pointless. Blink
But I don't think he fully understands either. I love the clip you gave. I think I may show it to him if the topic comes up again, because it explains what I was trying to convey much better than I.

I told him that I understand the seductiveness of church and spirituality; the comfort of thinking there's an afterlife, the warm smiley community, the relinquishing of responsibility for the course of one's life, etc. But I would feel authentic and I choose not to be dishonest with myself. I told him that have little problem with others believing in something because it makes them feel better. But if I choose to believe in something, it's because it's what I determine to be true. (In reality, I'm perfectly fine with an absurd existence, but I felt that what I said was a decent way to explain my position).

(23-04-2013 12:16 PM)kim Wrote:  If he thinks that you are angry or arrogant or unable to "let go" of your ego, and lack the courage to believe in something... well then, it seems to be him doing the judging - not you.

I felt the same, but I didn't say so because I didn't want to end up name calling. Angel

(23-04-2013 12:16 PM)kim Wrote:  He's pissed because ... what? ...you are growing up and he's just not? Or growing a different way?

Bingo. It makes me very sad, to be honest.

(23-04-2013 12:16 PM)kim Wrote:  Nope - no magical way to express your thoughts as a skeptic. If there were... wouldn't you be skeptical? Wink

I don't know if you've been around for a while and I'm a bit scatterbrained lately but...

Welcome to the forum. Smile

Glad you called me out on the magic thing. Wish I could say that intentional irony. Thanks for the welcome. I joined in June, but haven't been back after two or three posts. It's funny, when I saw that there were replies to my original post, I instantly felt nervous and defensive. I'm not used to having my thoughts being agreed with. Tongue

(23-04-2013 02:35 PM)WeAreTheCosmos Wrote:  My cousin is similar to your friend... Its frustrating at times. He believes in aliens visiting, and the whole ancient aliens thing; I'm skeptical about that... However, I do believe that alien life is quite likely to exist elsewhere. Don't you?

It allows us to still enjoy the night skies while discussing what might be... Without resorting to conspiracies and claims.

I would love for there to be aliens, and if I were forced to make a bet, I'd say that there are. However, the thing we were disagreeing about was an interview with Dr. Steven Greer of the disclosure project (check it out if you're not familiar). Greet claims that aliens have visited earth for centuries and the government knows about it and are trying cover it up, yada yada yada. And hell, maybe he's right. But I don't think there's enough evidence to determine him correct. All he has is witness reports (which are always extremely reliable). But the thing that really got me, and the thing that made us start arguing in the first place, is this:

Greer started talking about the anti-gravity propulsion technology that utilizes the fabric of thought that aliens use travel. Before Greer could move on, the interviewer called him out on it and asked him to explain how he knew about that technology. Greer (a rational sounding man) then said he acquired this information when he was 15 during a near death experience in which the aliens told him it was true. That's what I couldn't get past. I believe I called it "mind magic."

"Tom, answer me true, now."
"Answer what true?"
"Whatever happened to happy endings?"
"They got them on shows at Saturday matinees."
-Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury
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23-04-2013, 07:02 PM
RE: Spiritual friend + me Atheist = Sad friend
I meant "inauthentic, not authentic." Scratch the word "believes" in my first paragraph. "Was intentionally ironic," not "intentional ironic." "Greer," not "Greet." "Eye witness reports," not "witness reports." "Aliens use *to travel," not "aliens use travel." I'm sure there's more....

I can't seem to actually edit my post, sorry. Ah, the importance of proofreading!

"Tom, answer me true, now."
"Answer what true?"
"Whatever happened to happy endings?"
"They got them on shows at Saturday matinees."
-Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury
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