The Confusion of Having Theist Friends
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06-09-2011, 08:56 PM
The Confusion of Having Theist Friends
Hello All,

The more I learn about the Big Three religions, the more I find myself truly disliking them. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has problems with their homophobia, their close-minded views on sex, their sexism, their violence...etc.

Now, I wasn't raised in any sort of religious orthodox family. My mother believed in God, but didn't take part in religion and never pressured me to do so. What she always told me to do was stay open-minded for both religious and non-religious views so that I could make an educated and informed decision. She would tell me "a closed mind creates a closed hand and a fist creates violence".

Up to recently, I've had little trouble with my live and let live philosophy. However, as I get older and experience the increased harassment at work and in the community trying to "save" me, as if I'm not smart enough to take care of my own moral well being, or that I will be "prayed for", as if I was some sort of perversion...I'm having an ever more difficult time being patient, cool and tolerant. Luckily, most of my friends don't try any active conversion crap on me. In any case, I don't want their heated intolerance and hatred, to taint who I am and affect how I am with my friends. Recently, I've had difficulty if they bring up even a mild religious topic during a dinner out or a party. A few times, I've had to excuse myself from the table because I can't respond without anger and I refuse to sink to the level of those whose intolerance I regularly encounter. It gets worse when I'm around one of my friends, who thanks God for every good thing that happens, believes she should have prayed harder when bad things happen, and truly believes God will provide her family with all their needs, relieving her of her personal responsibility (she actually started out as an atheist and converted after she married).

I want to scream at the top of my lungs to demand explanation why anyone would believe in a Christian/Muslim/Jewish God who justifies genocide, slavery, murder, sexism and rape! I know it wouldn't do any good. They'd just shake their head and mouth some platitudes at me, but that doesn't stop the desire to do it. Besides, I know most religious persons love the emotional blow up because it gives them something to chew on to the point of abuse as their "in" to try and convert you.

Has anyone else encountered this problem? Have you come up with any ways or means to have a controlled discussion without the overwhelming desire to shake them like a British nanny? :-) How do you handle the conversation with your kids/their kids when these sorts of topics come up? I'd appreciate any input. Thanks!
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06-09-2011, 10:51 PM
RE: The Confusion of Having Theist Friends
Carry out the discussion on social media such as Facebook. Therefore, you can take time to understand what they write, and maybe take time to cool down if said comment is really outrageous. After that, fire back with logic and reason while not looking aggressive. Don't worry if they don't give up, it's something they held on to dearly. Also, on social media because you can allow other people to throw in their viewpoints as well, thus creating a more fruitful discussion.

Welcome to science. You're gonna like it here - Phil Plait

Have you ever tried taking a comfort blanket away from a small child? - DLJ
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07-09-2011, 12:17 AM (This post was last modified: 07-09-2011 12:27 AM by mysticjbyrd.)
RE: The Confusion of Having Theist Friends
"I want to scream at the top of my lungs to demand explanation why anyone would believe in a Christian/Muslim/Jewish God who justifies genocide, slavery, murder, sexism and rape..."

That is the correct approach, without the screaming....otherwise, they will never leave you alone.
There are at least 6 million non-religious people in the US, and over a billion worldwide. So, do not think you are alone, or you are some weird minority, because non-religious is the fast growing group today.

"a closed mind creates a closed hand and a fist creates violence".

That is a cute saying, but that is all it amounts to...don't try to live your life by it.

I much prefer statements of fact, such as:
We are all African.
I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours. Stephen Roberts
We should all practice tolerance, but religious tolerance is akin to tolerating willful ignorance, and that is one thing I can not tolerate.

Lots of good quotes here,
http://www.chrisbeach.co.uk/viewQuotes.php
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07-09-2011, 07:29 AM
RE: The Confusion of Having Theist Friends
If you go down the road of why would a God do this or that your going to be talking to a wall. Believe me this used to be my tact. After reading about the science of our existence by Dawkins, Hawkings, and more I find scientific reasoning is much better. Why? Because you can't refute science. A great book to read is "A short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Facts why you can't believe the Bible:
- God as creator: Because science has proven the Universe is over 14 billion years old and the earth over 4 billion not 6,000 years. And by the way there are over a billion galaxies with over a billion planets in each. God must have been practicing on all of those.
- Adam and Eve: Because the evidence for evolution by natural selection has been studied and agreed on by hundreds of scientists
- Noahs Ark: because science calculated it would have been impossible for two of every animal to fit on a boat the Bible describes not to mention taking care of them. By the way Noah was 500 years old at a time when people only lived to be about 50. Too many others to list on the Ark tale
- Jesus: What is more likely. A teenage girl got pregnant out of wedlock and rather than being stoned to death lied about it or God impregnated her. Well science tells us you need sperm to create life so I go with the first one.

And on and on and on . . .

The evidence gathered through modern scientific investigations trumps ancient religious stories on every level.
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07-09-2011, 09:46 PM
RE: The Confusion of Having Theist Friends
I'm really not trying to sound like a jerk, but I'm wondering if you need to be surrounding yourself with some different people. Friends should be respectful of each other. If you find yourself getting riled up every time you're around certain people, maybe it's time to cut those ties. Life is too short to spend your time around people who make you angry or treat you poorly.

I live in the bible belt. (not for much longer) At this time I literally have no IRL friends. When I'm at work I keep completely closed mouthed when it comes to religion. If I have anything I need to get out of my system, I vent to my husband, on FB, or here.

Being an atheist can be lonely at times.

My reason for being is to serve as a cat cushion. That is good enough for me. Wink
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08-09-2011, 03:18 AM
RE: The Confusion of Having Theist Friends
I can really relate to what you are saying, coming from one of the most conservative counties in the U.S. and attending religious schools until university. Just tonight I visited with some friends - an extremely religious teacher I had in high school and a very religiously conservative friend who also went to my high school - and things got awkward. In the past, the teacher (who we'll call Mrs Smith) has told me that she and my friend (who we'll call Mary) have been very concerned about my spirituality and are both praying for me. Whenever I'm around them (and tons of other people from my past... I'm sure about half the people I'm friends with on FB believe I'm going to hell), I feel slightly uncomfortable, like I'm looked down upon and felt sorry for.

Once, when I took my boyfriend with them out to dinner, my boyfriend began to question Mary about whether she believed in evolution; she was, after all, majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology at a respectable university. When Mary said no, he told her she was crazy. Later on, I got an e-mail from Mrs Smith reprimanding me personally for my boyfriend's comment and telling me that if I expected her to respect my beliefs, I needed to respect hers. And I had even apologised to my friend at the time the comment was made! I was so infuriated by this - a grown woman without the courage to defend her beliefs who had run to tell a teacher on me. After all, if she was going to maintain views contradictory to centuries of scientific evidence and research, she might as well have the maturity to defend and explain her reasoning.

But anyway, tonight Mrs Smith kept bringing the topic of evolution up, as though to provoke me. It began with politics. She was saying that some Republican presidential hopeful was vilified on the radio (or maybe on TV... can't remember) for believing that some fairy-being created the earth from nothing and rejecting evolution and that we couldn't have a scientifically incompetent president. Mrs Smith looked very angered by this statement. Then Mary chimed in - always the victim - telling us that a professor of hers said that creationists were stupid. Mrs Smith continued, saying that she doesn't believe in macroevolution, but that microevolution is acceptable (she clearly doesn't know much about science). She also said, disgustedly, 'And I don't believe we came from monkeys!' I said, 'not monkeys, actually...' After going on for a while longer, I could hardly stand it and had to muster all of my self-control to speak in a slow and casual way. I said something like, 'The difference between scientists' views and Christians' views are that scientists search for truth in an unbiased way, but Christians have religious motivations. If you're going to believe in intelligent design, you might as well attempt to mix the Big Bang with God and maintain that God caused evolution.' She then went on to say that she would be willing to believe that the Earth was more than 6,000 years old and that God had directed evolution. 'But then you would believe in macroevolution!' I said.

It astounds me how inconsistent and arbitrary her belief system is. First she goes on with the 'I refuse to believe we came from monkeys' claim and then completely rescinds it at the drop of a hat. Why not do some actual research on the topic? Undecided

I guess she was better off than Mary, though, who sat quietly in the corner, also unwilling to defend her position.

I have the same problem as you, essentially. When I go onto Facebook, I am often bombarded by religious status updates. For the past few weeks, one of my friend's moms has posted nothing but Bible verses, sometimes more than one a day. Other times they're little religious sentiments she's composed about how wonderful God is to have as her heavenly father. I try my best to be non-judgmental towards these people, but I can't help but think they're incredibly stupid at times. I feel like asking, 'Are you aware of the fact that if you were born in a different region of the world there's a good chance you would have followed some other religion?' And I can be pretty confident that they would adhere to a different world religion under such circumstances because they obviously have a spiritual proclivity. I know this sounds demeaning, but they honestly remind me of herd animals in their inability and unwillingness to think beyond a mindset others have dictated for them, grazing on the dogma they're fed with their heads down and mind closed.

But in response to your question... there is no easy way out or simple answer. Your most viable options are 1) Sever contact with your religious friends (which would probably be very difficult if you genuinely care for these people), 2) Be willing to attempt to calmly debate with them, or 3) Ignore their religious comments.

I think one of the keys to not letting comments like 'I'm praying for you' get to you is to not view yourself as a victim, but as an empowered individual who is willing to calmly listen to their side and defend yours if necessary. Even though I am not a Christian, I find topics relating to Christianity very interesting, including evolution, Biblical scholarship, the psychology of religion, evolutionary psychology, theoretical physics, anthropology, philosophy, and the study of cults. If you have an adequate body of knowledge in areas like these, you can bring up interesting facts about them that may shift the conversation to a different aspect of religion that is possibly less heated. It will show that you're not some frightened heretic too weak to address the sticky issues and will likely boost your credibility.

As for your friend who thanks and praises God for everything and firmly believes in the power of prayer - why not just feel sorry for her instead of angry? It doesn't sound like she's saying anything particularly destructive; religion is how she copes with life. I would just respond by saying 'mmm...' in a sort of neutral way (unless something really bothers you... then bring it up gently). If she blames herself for not praying hard enough when bad things happen, ask her whether she actually thinks that praying for something will change God's will. If she says yes, then tell her that she is being unbiblical since prayer's main purpose actually isn't to change God's will but to comfort his followers. A theology teacher once told me this, and if she's wracked with guilt over something, you might as well attempt to alleviate her suffering. If she was an atheist in the past, she is probably already aware of the facts and has chosen a way that makes her happier. If, on the other hand, she actively challenges your viewpoints, then of course you have every reason to defend them.

I guess if all else fails, buy this shirt and wear it the next time you see them:

http://thethinkingatheist.com/cart/index...ne6gbqhfk0

As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods;
They kill us for their sport.
- Shakespeare's King Lear
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08-09-2011, 09:42 PM
RE: The Confusion of Having Theist Friends
I've got to be honest, I really don't understand why people who aren't religious surround themselves with people who are. It would be one thing if they were respectful, but so many of them are not. I have to listen to all of this religious talk quite often in my every day work life. I don't need my friends, on Facebook or IRL, to be spewing this crap at me on my off time. I'm not a debater, and I just don't want to hear it. Religious talk on my FB page is almost non-existent. If you want to go on and on about bible bullshit, go for it, just not on my page.

If your friends can't accept you for who you are, and are constantly trying to goad you or change you, are they really your friends? I do have some friends who would consider themselves religious, some devoutly so. But I can have a reasonable conversation with them. IF the subject of religion should even come up (and WHY should it?) it's always a well mannered discussion. If anyone would tell me they're going to pray for me, I'd have to say no thanks, and that would be the end of that relationship. But that's me. I guess it's a matter of what you feel you can put up with. My personal threshold is low. Wink

My reason for being is to serve as a cat cushion. That is good enough for me. Wink
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08-09-2011, 11:50 PM
RE: The Confusion of Having Theist Friends
"the overwhelming desire to shake them like a British nanny"

I love this.

Every time you say you don't believe, Jesus rips the wings off a fairy. - SkepticalParenting.com
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09-09-2011, 07:50 AM
RE: The Confusion of Having Theist Friends
When people are writing about facebook statuses I have to give the same link as in another thread... it's still good (I got into a debate with a creationist on this page, it's been ongoing since Feb... and we're still going) Smile

http://failbook.failblog.org/2010/12/22/...facts-ftw/
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10-09-2011, 07:40 PM
RE: The Confusion of Having Theist Friends
Wow. Thank you all for the excellent replies. I knew that there was no way I was alone in this struggle and I really appreciate all of your suggestions.

I will say to Trillium13, I understand why you might have a hard time understanding why I would keep friends who have such different mindsets and who are sometimes disrespectful of my beliefs. It does seem lopsided, but I have had these friends for almost 20 years. They have been with me through horrible ordeals and happy times as well. The struggle against our religious (or lack thereof) differences is not the sum of our friendship. I am not willing to let them go and they seem to feel the same. For that alone, I will not cast them aside because they are being close minded. I am not that way and I will not behave that way. Just like having a religion or not having one, it's a personal decision who we keep in our lives and why. That's why I started this thread.

Thank you all again for the excellent posts and book suggestions (love to read). Hope you all have a great weekend.
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