Author Topic: Holding my tongue /w religious friends...the idea of "worship" (atheists only)  (Read 12240 times)

Nick_Miller

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Maybe more of a rant, but I am very interested in how other atheists constantly hold their tongues...

I admit that one of the reasons I like this place so much is that I get a vibe that some other folks here aren't all that religious. Why does it matter you ask? Well, it's not that I can't have awesome relationships with some religious folks (I can, as long as they are the "live and let live" types that don't try to inject their religion into gov't), but honestly even with these "nice" religious folks, I still have to hold my tongue.

Things I can't say to my religious friends...

1) You realize that mythologies used to be religions, right?  People used to worship Thor. Now he's an Avenger.

2) You realize there have been like thousands of religions? Doesn't that tell you something?

3) Do you think you'd become a heathen ax murderer if you deconverted today? If not, doesn't that tell you something?

4) When you say that you "talk with God," or that "God talked to me," WTF do you mean? Did you hear an actual voice, or did you think to yourself?

5) If God is all-knowing, meaning he knows every decision we will ever make before we make it, how do we still have free will? We would just be programmed puppets. For example, let's say God talks to me on Saturday. I ask, "God, what tie will I wear tomorrow?" God says, "You will wear a yellow tie." Flash forward to Sunday. I look in my closet and choose a tie out of the dozens I have in all sorts of colors. Can I pick a non-yellow tie? Why or why not?"

6) Have you read the whole Bible? Do you realize there are hundreds of editions and that the text is actually different and that different churches "interpret" the word differently? How can a perfect road map be so vague and nebulous, with so many internal inconsistencies? Doesn't it worry you that you are basing your worldview on this? How did you choose your particular denomination and interpretation?

7) Deep down, do you mostly go to church because "other good people do," and you like the socialization it provides?

8) Do you really think me and my wife, and my little kids are going to burn...forrrrr eternity...in Hell? Seriously? (note: if answer is "yes," friendship is obviously severed..this has actually happened).

9) Do you think there might be a sliiiight chance that religions have been used to keep people in place, explain things that couldn't be understood at the time, placate people from their sometimes miserable lots in life (slaves, second class citizens including women for most of history) by promising a "perfect afterlife,"  and to consolidate power?

10) Name ONE moral virtue taught in the Bible that is exclusive to the Bible. Surely this perfect map has some unique wisdom found nowhere else.


I could go on and on, but I've rambled too much. Do other atheists have similar feelings? Do you use any particular techniques to either bite your tongue, or to gently introduce any of these questions? Are some of you folks in the "I just don't think about religion at all" camp?

I wish I could get there, I really do, but with people constantly injecting religion (almost always Christianity) into school board decisions, and in legislatures, and pretty much trying to make rules based on their specific religious beliefs, I'm not sure how any atheist in America who values reason and science can mentally (or financially) bow out of this conflict.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2019, 01:10:41 PM by Nick_Miller »

RetiredAt63

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2018, 09:54:36 AM »
I'm agnostic in Canada, and yes, I do feel out of step with the mainstream.   

And sometimes go past what you wrote into straight-up scared - like, what do you mean we are in the latter days and the world is about to end, and you are happy to see things going so badly because it means the end is near?  And are maybe doing your bit to help things along?

And I hate seeing what mainstream Christianity does to non-Christians here in Canada (not to mention sectarian issues elsewhere), and what main-stream other religions do to religious minorities in their countries.

When I was younger and more religious I used to thank God that my ancestors got the hell out of Ireland before the Troubles.

ketchup

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #2 on: December 21, 2018, 09:55:59 AM »
I view atheism as a religious concept the same way I view "off" as a TV channel.  The first rule of religion is that you don't talk about religion.

It's never been a problem for me.  Just a couple awkward conversations with my grandma with some smiling, nodding, and changing of the subject.  And one wacko former coworker with all kinds of other personal social issues.

Cromacster

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #3 on: December 21, 2018, 10:01:04 AM »
I don't mingle a ton with overly religous people. 

Two things bother me:

Thanking god for acheivements (specifically professional sports)  "Thank you god for making me so great!"

Peoples kids.

Ie posts on facebook
"Just had a wonderful conversation with little Billy about evolution and how dinosaurs aren't in the bible.  He now understands where we came from, such a smart boy!"


FIRE Artist

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #4 on: December 21, 2018, 10:02:02 AM »
I simply don't listen to people who try to prosthelytize to me, and therefore give the courtesy of not doing so to them.  Your list of questions is proselytizing. 

I don't believe in god, and have no spirituality, was raised outside religion and spirituality entirely, so come by it honestly.  I am not an "atheist", I feel no need to give myself a label as something that I am not.  My parents did not use that term at all either.  I see it like needing a special word to describe myself as not being anything.  I am not a golfer - I don't need a word for that either. 

Do you know why you self describe as an atheist?  Why you need that label?  Your list of questions make it seem like you adopted the label for political reasons.

J Boogie

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #5 on: December 21, 2018, 10:16:52 AM »
I don't mingle a ton with overly religous people. 

Two things bother me:

Thanking god for acheivements (specifically professional sports)  "Thank you god for making me so great!"

Peoples kids.

Ie posts on facebook
"Just had a wonderful conversation with little Billy about evolution and how dinosaurs aren't in the bible.  He now understands where we came from, such a smart boy!"

Wow!

Those two are in my mind COMPLETELY different. The first is a positive statement of humility more or less expressing that the athlete/entertainer owes some debt of gratitude to the force that has given them the unique gifts they did not and are not capable of endowing upon themselves. Perhaps they could alternatively thank their parents for having sex and favorable genes if you want to leave belief in god out of it, but that would be a weird thank you as their parents did not create their own genes either and having sex tends to come pretty naturally to us.

Whereas teaching your children young earth creationism is truly awful and willfully ignorant.

LifeHappens

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #6 on: December 21, 2018, 10:22:04 AM »
Your list of questions had me cracking up! Especially the one about Thor. Well played.

I'm guessing you live in an area where religion is pretty in-your-face and present in daily life. I grew up in a place like that, so I feel you. There was always the "I'll pray for you" people and being invited to school friends' church functions.

For me, I have gradually come to a place where I realize we *all* take comfort in certain beliefs that are probably not grounded in reality. Those beliefs vary but the human need to believe in something doesn't ever go away. For example, on this forum we hold a belief that our lives will be better off when we are free of the need to work for pay. Other people believe in an all powerful Man in the Sky.* As long as another person's beliefs aren't harmful I try to ignore them. If I hear, "I'll pray for you" I just nod and smile. No comment needed.

*If you haven't seen the film The Invention of Lying you should do so right now. Relevant to the conversation here and super funny.

Aelias

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #7 on: December 21, 2018, 10:26:46 AM »
I simply don't listen to people who try to prosthelytize to me, and therefore give the courtesy of not doing so to them.  Your list of questions is proselytizing. 


This.  I've only recently started thinking of myself as an atheist, but I've always found those people who want to "have a conversation about God" with me at best annoying and at worst spiritual bullies.  No, I don't want to hear about your God!  What about our previous interactions makes you think I do?

Similarly, I guarantee you that unless they've asked about your spiritual beliefs, the religious people in your life DO NOT want to hear about your atheism.  They particularly don't want to hear about it if your primary argument is "Let me tell you about the 217 reason religion is dumb."  What kind of productive discussion is going to come from that?

As far as I can tell, the world can be an unforgiving, isolating, and hopeless place.  For a lot of people, religion helps them beat that back.  For billions of people, it's a source of community and stability and hope that, somehow, justice and goodness ultimately prevail.  Why would I shit on that?  If someone''s religion makes their world a little brighter (as long as they're not using it to hurt or oppress others), that's probably fine.

If someone does want to have a conversation about your spiritual beliefs, that's fine too.  I try to start from a place of "I don't need God to see wonderful, beautiful things in the world.  I see it all the time, in nature and in the kindness people show to each other, other creatures, and the planet."  Sort of a positive atheism (emphasizing the glory of everything around us as it is without resort to the supernatural) versus a negative atheism (degrading religions).  Or, if they're just using that as an opportunity to proselytize, I discontinue the conversation.

TLDR - I hear where you're coming from.  Really.  And this time of year makes me extra annoyed with religion too.  But those rants are best shared with people who share those beliefs or, better yet, the inside of your own head.

Cromacster

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #8 on: December 21, 2018, 10:33:04 AM »
I don't mingle a ton with overly religous people. 

Two things bother me:

Thanking god for acheivements (specifically professional sports)  "Thank you god for making me so great!"

Peoples kids.

Ie posts on facebook
"Just had a wonderful conversation with little Billy about evolution and how dinosaurs aren't in the bible.  He now understands where we came from, such a smart boy!"

Wow!

Those two are in my mind COMPLETELY different. The first is a positive statement of humility more or less expressing that the athlete/entertainer owes some debt of gratitude to the force that has given them the unique gifts they did not and are not capable of endowing upon themselves. Perhaps they could alternatively thank their parents for having sex and favorable genes if you want to leave belief in god out of it, but that would be a weird thank you as their parents did not create their own genes either and having sex tends to come pretty naturally to us.

Whereas teaching your children young earth creationism is truly awful and willfully ignorant.

hmm I guess I don't see it as a statement of humility in that context.  To me, it comes off as overly narcisistic and virtue signaling. 

And maybe it's just become part of the standard...throw a touchdown and point to the sky after you fistpump.



Jim Fiction

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #9 on: December 21, 2018, 10:36:27 AM »
Maybe more of a rant, but I am very interested in how other atheists constantly hold their tongues...

I admit that one of the reasons I like this place so much is that I get a vibe that some other folks here aren't all that religious. Why does it matter you ask? Well, it's not that I can't have awesome relationships with some religious folks (I can, as long as they are the "live and let live" types that don't try to inject their religion into gov't), but honestly even with these "nice" religious folks, I still have to hold my tongue.

Things I can't say to my religious friends...

1) You realize that mythologies used to be religions, right?  People used to worship Thor. Now he's an Avenger.

2) You realize there have been like thousands of religions? Doesn't that tell you something?

3) Do you think you'd become a heathen ax murderer if you deconverted today? If not, doesn't that tell you something?

4) When you say that you "talk with God," or that "God talked to me," WTF do you mean? Did you hear an actual voice, or did you think to yourself?

5) If God is all-knowing, meaning he knows every decision we will ever make before we make it, how do we still have free will? We would just be programmed puppets. For example, let's say God talks to me on Saturday. I ask, "God, what tie will I wear tomorrow?" God says, "You will wear a yellow tie." Flash forward to Sunday. I look in my closet and choose a tie out of the dozens I have in all sorts of colors. Can I pick a non-yellow tie? Why or why not?"

6) Have you read the whole Bible? Do you realize there are hundreds of editions and that the text is actually different and that different churches "interpret" the word differently? How can a perfect road map be so vague and nebulous, with so many internal inconsistencies? Doesn't it worry you that you are basing your worldview on this? How did you choose your particular denomination and interpretation?

7) Deep down, do you mostly go to church because "other good people do," and you like the socialization it provides?

8) Do you really think me and my wife, and my little kids are going to burn...forrrrr eternity...in Hell? Seriously? (note: if answer is "yes," friendship is obviously severed..this has actually happened).

9) Do you think there might be a sliiiight chance that religions have been used to keep people in place, explain things that couldn't be understood at the time, placate people from their sometimes miserable lots in life (slaves, second class citizens including women for most of history) by promising a "perfect afterlife,"  and to consolidate power?

10) Name ONE moral virtue taught in the Bible that is exclusive to the Bible. Surely this perfect map has some unique wisdom found nowhere else.


I could go on and on, but I've rambled too much. Do other atheists have similar feelings? Do you use any particular techniques to either bite your tongue, or to gently introduce any of these questions? Are some of you folks in the "I just don't think about religion at all" camp?

I wish I could get there, I really do, but with people constantly injecting religion (almost always Christianity) into school board decisions, and in legislatures, and pretty much trying to make rules based on their specific religious beliefs, I'm not sure how any atheist in America who values reason and science can mentally (or financially) bow out of this conflict.

Maybe it would be more helpful if you described situations in which you felt compelled to say something (and hence hold your tongue)?

For background, my wife is Hindu and I consider myself atheist. Despite this fact I don't really find myself in many situations where I feel compelled to point out my contentions with her religion (or religion in general). Most of our discussion around religion is her simply stating that she is going to go pray in the morning. I don't feel the need to interject my own opinions on prayer, I simply utter "ok" and let her go about her business.

Similarly, a few months back I attended a meetup with some members of this forum. One of them mentioned the desire to become a minister when he FIREs. Would it have been appropriate of me to state my opinions on religion in this setting? Absolutely not. Why would I? This is someone who come across as genuinely nice and through conversation appeared to have a pretty "liberal" worldview. It is not my place to try and "convert" him, so bully for him if he is doing what he wants to do.

Another anecdote, I had someone come to my door who asked if they could share the word of god with me. I politely told them no thanks. When they prodded why not, I just stated that I am not interested and I thanked them for dropping by. The person bid me a good day and moved on to the next house. I just didn't feel the need to get into it with them, there was nothing to gain there.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2018, 10:38:33 AM by Jim Fiction »

Kris

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #10 on: December 21, 2018, 10:37:46 AM »
I get it. I admit that I do sometimes (okay, often) have to suppress an eye-roll when one of my religious friends (seems like it's mostly the Christians) says something from the list you made above. But I don't ever engage with any of it, unless they are directly proselytizing to *me*, as in trying to get me to say that I agree with their perspective, or trying to convince me of it.

When someone does that, I will try once to push them off without engaging. (E.g., "I'm not Christian, so..." and then just change the subject.) If they keep insisting (which at this point in my life means they're not really in my "friend" group anyway), then I consider that their persistence is a signal that I am also allowed to push my perspective just as aggressively. At that point, I will actually say one of the things that you wrote/ranted above.

It usually kills the argument pretty quickly, because people don't like to hear stuff like that. But if they're rude enough to have gotten the conversation to that point, then I'm not too worried about how they'll react to my words. That's their problem.

Nick_Miller

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #11 on: December 21, 2018, 10:57:27 AM »
Great responses thus far, and to be clear, I do NOT go around picking fights with folks for no reason...I am generally pretty chill in real life. I think humor and good intentions go a long way with most people! I try to be funny and light here most of the time, but in this case I am just being brutally honest and venting.

I vented here because it's safe to vent here. And I specifically targeted my questions to other atheists. I am not asking religious folks to pipe up and answer these questions. I think that was pretty clear. I'm not trying to start a fight or hurt anyone's feelings.

But honestly...the questions I listed are...just common sense. They aren't unique or genius or anything.

I mean, if you base your worldview on a book, shouldn't you have read the book? Studied every inch of the book? Understand who wrote the book, and why, and when, and the history of its many translations, and how the book says different things based on the version?

I honestly don't think most religious people think about most of this. I think most of them are on "cruise control" and equate "religion" with "being a good person." I know we all tend to go on cruise control on certain things, but essential building blocks to a person's entire worldview are not the right place to get lazy in one's analysis.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2018, 11:03:18 AM by Nick_Miller »

BlueHouse

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #12 on: December 21, 2018, 11:18:38 AM »
I've learned to just not engage.   I have some family members that still insist on saying things like "BlueHouse is going through doubts, but will eventually come back" or when I am asked to participate in certain events that are the polar opposite of what I believe in, and I say that I can't participate in that activity, I'm accused of spoiling the moment.  The worst is when I'm told to keep my opinions quiet, ostensibly so that others don't overhear.  It's as if I'm screaming "there's no Santa Clause" in the middle of a pre-school.  My opinions should have no bearing on what others choose to believe. 

So to answer your question, I try to just not engage and when someone really tries to draw me in, I am very patronizing when I say "oh, I don't believe in that stuff", the same way they act when you talk about the number of fairies that can fit on a pinhead.  When I make them feel like an ass, they tend not to want to follow up with me.  (ever again).

OtherJen

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #13 on: December 21, 2018, 11:32:22 AM »
I view atheism as a religious concept the same way I view "off" as a TV channel.  The first rule of religion is that you don't talk about religion.

It's never been a problem for me.  Just a couple awkward conversations with my grandma with some smiling, nodding, and changing of the subject.  And one wacko former coworker with all kinds of other personal social issues.

This. I have lots of religious friends and relatives. My parents are believers. I tend not to willingly spend a lot of time with people who believe I'm going to hell, and the people I do spend time with (including my parents) tend to be of a more liberal mindset and have the good manners not to proselytize. I grant them the same courtesy. I'm willing to talk about my agnostic atheism and about various religions, because I find religious faith to be a fascinating topic. But I generally don't bring it up—I rarely think about it because religion plays no role in my day to day life or decision-making process—and have no qualms about arguing when a believer is rude or condescending to me because I'm a non-believer.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2018, 12:27:09 PM by OtherJen »

wenchsenior

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #14 on: December 21, 2018, 12:24:23 PM »
Meh.  I find believing in supernatural things so baffling and ridiculous that I've always felt out of step with the mainstream.  Not just religious people, but new agers, people into astrology, etc.  The drawbacks of these sorts of beliefs are patently obvious.  However, with time I've come to recognize that there are some mental and sociological benefits to peoples' belief is supernatural things, and I try to acknowledge and remind myself of those when I feel too eye-roll-y.

I live in a part of the country where Christianity is EVERYWHERE...the water we drink and the air we breathe.  I've regularly had doctors at the University Medical Center ask if they could pray with me at the end of appointments.  Pretty much all admin/clerk types/grocery baggers, etc. of every sort and every business say, "Have a blessed day" as a matter of course.  Most privately owned businesses have crucifixes or religious sayings posted in their business lobbies.  It's EVERYWHERE. 

Generally, my attitude is there is no point in picking fights about it as long as they aren't trying to engage me in active discussion about religion.  With doctors I say, I'm not religious but if you feel it is important for YOUR beliefs to pray, go ahead.  With businesses, I ignore it or I couldn't get business done.  We do have a "No Proselytizing"  sign on our door, which has dramatically cut down the number of annoying knocks.  But generally, I rarely associate willingly with people who want to talk in depth about their supernatural belief systems in anything more than a casual, throwaway way.  Once in a while, if I'm feeling particularly irritable, I'll respond to "Have a blessed day" with "Blessed be" (needless to say, I'm not a practicing pagan, though I like a lot of neo-pagan symbols and philosophies).

DH occasionally will push it a little. In a recent meeting with University admin higher ups, he noted that it might be nice for them to consider that having an explicitly Christian prayer to open every big University event might be considered to be creating a hostile work environment for non Christian students, staff, and faculty.  The dean promptly whined that 'he wasn't going to be made to feel ashamed of his beliefs!'.  So DH asked how the dean would feel if he had to hear an explicitly Muslim prayer every time.  Dean refused to answer question.  Again, nothing will change and this university will continue promoting Christianity at every event, but that's about as far as DH could push it.  No point wasting energy fighting a wave of silliness that you can't overcome.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2018, 03:08:46 PM by wenchsenior »

gaja

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #15 on: December 21, 2018, 01:05:24 PM »
In my part of the world religion is private, and not something you talk about with casual friends or acquaintances. The few times I have experienced someone starting to talk about god stuff out of the blue, it has been immigrants or tourists. If those are people I like, I will explain that they should stop immidiately, because what they are doing is considered incredibly rude. If they seem like annoying people that I will never see again, I'll just leave them to it. I've had one friend who belived I was heading for hell with my entire family. I thought it was quite funny, especially since he became rather distressed about the whole situation. He is a really kind person who normally doesn't bother anyone else with his christianity, so our friendship didn't change because of his delusions. He might still be praying for us, but as long as he doesn't say anything about it, it doesn't bother me.

This documentary about religion in the Nordics, where they bring in a conservative pastor from the southern US, is quite fun: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-kANR1vJkM

MonkeyJenga

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #16 on: December 21, 2018, 01:27:17 PM »
I'm agnostic and find your list of questions condescending. I get that's your point, you find the whole thing silly and beneath you, but you could have actual conversations with religious people instead. Be genuinely interested in what drew them to this church or that temple, how it enhances their lives, and yes, what drawbacks they might see with the church structure or discrimination or whatever. Or even whether they have doubts. You'll never get to that point if you start with "YOU REALIZE YOU'RE AN IDIOT RIGHT???"

Cassie

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #17 on: December 21, 2018, 01:29:40 PM »
I grew up in a family that went to church but didn’t discuss religion.  Through the years I became a none believer but it hasn’t been much of a issue. We don’t live in a religious part of the country.  I usually don’t discuss it with people. If someone says they will pray for me I say thanks.  Most of my friends are not religious.  I would be annoyed if a doctor suggested we pray together.  Also we have a no soliciting sign on our door because the Mormons and jehova witnesses were at the door weekly. Ugh!

the_gastropod

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #18 on: December 21, 2018, 01:53:59 PM »
I am not an "atheist", I feel no need to give myself a label as something that I am not.  My parents did not use that term at all either.  I see it like needing a special word to describe myself as not being anything.  I am not a golfer - I don't need a word for that either.

Do you know why you self describe as an atheist?  Why you need that label?  Your list of questions make it seem like you adopted the label for political reasons.

I think I get what you mean—not believing in stuff should just be the default. We don't call dogs or ants atheists. They just don't concern themselves with such labels.

Sometimes labels are useful. For example, when some behavior is common, or seen as the default, having a word to describe abstaining from that behavior is handy. People who don't have sex are "abstinent". People who don't drink alcohol "teetotalers". People who don't eat meat "vegetarians". I'd love to live in a world where the default for humans is to not have a religion. But that's not the world we live in. Being non-religious is still pretty uncommon, so having a term is still useful. I don't think it's necessarily political at all.

Millennial-Mustache

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #19 on: December 21, 2018, 01:59:16 PM »
Evangelical Christian chiming in - not to proselytize, but to say that if any of my close friends had your list of questions, I would be happy to answer them. You might be surprised that several of them are the subject of intense debate among Christians and that volumes of books have been written on the subject.

Even the Thor question, which is a little condescending if you directed it to a friend, is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian: how do you know there is only one way and that this is the right one? That would take a lifetime to answer, and I would do a poor job of trying to do so here. But if you have close friends who are Chrstian, and they act the way you think a Christian SHOULD act, try asking. Maybe start with one question at a time, though, if you want an honest answer.

Kris

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #20 on: December 21, 2018, 02:03:30 PM »
Evangelical Christian chiming in - not to proselytize, but to say that if any of my close friends had your list of questions, I would be happy to answer them. You might be surprised that several of them are the subject of intense debate among Christians and that volumes of books have been written on the subject.

Even the Thor question, which is a little condescending if you directed it to a friend, is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian: how do you know there is only one way and that this is the right one? That would take a lifetime to answer, and I would do a poor job of trying to do so here. But if you have close friends who are Chrstian, and they act the way you think a Christian SHOULD act, try asking. Maybe start with one question at a time, though, if you want an honest answer.

Here's the thing, though. Your comment sort of presumes that none of the people commenting here grew up in a Christian household environment.

Most atheists I know in the US -- myself included -- grew up in households that were at least nominally Christian. I grew up going to church, have been baptised and confirmed, and had read the entire Bible by the time I was eighteen. The fact is, I actually have had most of the conversations Nick_Miller enumerates above. It's not that I haven't heard the answers. It's that, frankly, the answers I have heard seem ridiculous.


Millennial-Mustache

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #21 on: December 21, 2018, 02:12:01 PM »
I didn’t presume anything: the OP said he had to hold his tongue, and I am suggesting that he may not have to do so. Of course, I am a big believer in having deep conversations with people I disagree with and trying to do so with an open mind. If OP’s friends aren’t like-minded, he likely won’t have much success.

I certainly meant no disrespect to anyone’s tradition or their path in getting there. For me, I believe that genuine commitment to any religion is only possible in an environment where it is 100% optional. Brute force conversion doesn’t work. Even deep conversations may not change anyone’s mind, but they may at least give both sides some perspective.

Nick_Miller

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #22 on: December 21, 2018, 02:34:32 PM »
Evangelical Christian chiming in - not to proselytize, but to say that if any of my close friends had your list of questions, I would be happy to answer them. You might be surprised that several of them are the subject of intense debate among Christians and that volumes of books have been written on the subject.

Even the Thor question, which is a little condescending if you directed it to a friend, is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian: how do you know there is only one way and that this is the right one? That would take a lifetime to answer, and I would do a poor job of trying to do so here. But if you have close friends who are Chrstian, and they act the way you think a Christian SHOULD act, try asking. Maybe start with one question at a time, though, if you want an honest answer.

Here's the thing, though. Your comment sort of presumes that none of the people commenting here grew up in a Christian household environment.

Most atheists I know in the US -- myself included -- grew up in households that were at least nominally Christian. I grew up going to church, have been baptised and confirmed, and had read the entire Bible by the time I was eighteen. The fact is, I actually have had most of the conversations Nick_Miller enumerates above. It's not that I haven't heard the answers. It's that, frankly, the answers I have heard seem ridiculous.

Yeah I am with @Kris here. The answers you get to those questions are ridiculous. Nothing about it is logical. It is all about emotion and brainwashing and "feeling good." I was raised in a religious household. I used to get scared at night that the horns would sound and the end of the world would happen. Looking back, I really liken it to child abuse. I think it's absolutely horrible to teach kids this crap, scare them to death, encourage them to rely on "faith" instead of reason and facts, and turn them into smug little know-it-alls who think they have the secret to eternal life.

I have read all of the Bible. Hell, reading the Bible lead me to deconverting. I read the Bible as an adult, with a critical eye, and I kept making notes like:

"This is ridiculous" or

"This is inconsistent with this other part," or

"Even if THIS god made himself known to me and proved his existence, I would not worship him because he is evil." (see the whole "she-bears clawing the kids/teens to death thing)

It ALL falls apart if you apply just the slightest bit of logic. But it's not about logic. Religion keeps people in with emotion.

Nick_Miller

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #23 on: December 21, 2018, 02:44:56 PM »
I will add one more anecdote....

I didn't leave the church into WELL into adulthood, like early 30s, so yes I felt like the biggest idiot for a number of years after.

But getting to the story, when I left the church, I had lunch with two different pastors there (it was a pretty big church). Here's how the lunches went...

LUNCH 1 with SENIOR PASTOR:  I give it a C. We were both civil to each other. There was no ill will, at least from my side. But he couldn't' answer ANY of my questions. Literally none of them. He just said things like "We can't necessarily understand why God acts as he does." It was VERY frustrating for me. I left thinking, "If this guy who has studied this stuff for a life-time can't answer the simplest questions, what does that say for the other members of the church? Do they even think about this stuff?"

LUNCH 2 with JUNIOR PASTOR:  I give it an A+.  I loved this guy, and still do.  For years I kept our talk secret because I didn't want him to lose his job. (He left the church a few years later). In any case, he honestly told me, "Nick Miller, I can't even tell you that Jesus is the only way to happiness. I think there are lots of ways. And then he talked about different religions and even "just being a good person." He answered my questions I think as honestly and openly as he could. He expressed a lot of doubts and kept referring to the Bible stories as "examples," saying that he didn't necessary think you had to believe the events actually happened. We shook hands and left on good terms (I bought him lunch), but I left thinking, "If this guy who has studied this stuff for 15 years is admitting he doesn't even think Christianity is the "only way," what does that say about the whole belief system?"

So I have had these talks with "learned" people. They can't answer the tough questions because the religion is based on myths from over 2,000 years ago. But I didn't understand that until I was in my early 30s, and I consider myself a smart person, so I understand how powerful the socialization is.

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #24 on: December 21, 2018, 02:55:03 PM »
Evangelical Christian chiming in - not to proselytize, but to say that if any of my close friends had your list of questions, I would be happy to answer them. You might be surprised that several of them are the subject of intense debate among Christians and that volumes of books have been written on the subject.

Even the Thor question, which is a little condescending if you directed it to a friend, is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian: how do you know there is only one way and that this is the right one? That would take a lifetime to answer, and I would do a poor job of trying to do so here. But if you have close friends who are Chrstian, and they act the way you think a Christian SHOULD act, try asking. Maybe start with one question at a time, though, if you want an honest answer.

Here's the thing, though. Your comment sort of presumes that none of the people commenting here grew up in a Christian household environment.

Most atheists I know in the US -- myself included -- grew up in households that were at least nominally Christian. I grew up going to church, have been baptised and confirmed, and had read the entire Bible by the time I was eighteen. The fact is, I actually have had most of the conversations Nick_Miller enumerates above. It's not that I haven't heard the answers. It's that, frankly, the answers I have heard seem ridiculous.

Yeah I am with @Kris here. The answers you get to those questions are ridiculous. Nothing about it is logical. It is all about emotion and brainwashing and "feeling good." I was raised in a religious household. I used to get scared at night that the horns would sound and the end of the world would happen. Looking back, I really liken it to child abuse. I think it's absolutely horrible to teach kids this crap, scare them to death, encourage them to rely on "faith" instead of reason and facts, and turn them into smug little know-it-alls who think they have the secret to eternal life.

I have read all of the Bible. Hell, reading the Bible lead me to deconverting.

Amen.

(lol)

Millennial-Mustache

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #25 on: December 21, 2018, 03:01:29 PM »
OP,

I can certainly respect that you’ve made your decision after a lifetime of experiences. Obviously, I’ve reached a different conclusion, but that shouldn’t keep people from talking to one another if you have real questions. I suppose I’m not surprised people have a hard time answering - they are hard, real questions that require self-awareness to answer. That seems lacking all around these days.

If you want answers, I hope you find them. If you have your answers, I hope you can maintain deep friendships with people, even if they disagree with you. And if you ever want someone to pray with and an Internet stranger is your best option, feel free to reach out.

Either way, I hope you get to spend the holidays with loved ones; I am on my way to do so.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

partgypsy

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #26 on: December 21, 2018, 04:36:20 PM »
Ok, this is a point of view of someone raised in a church, but NOT fundamentalist. I view Fundamentalism as a very widespread cult (those are the people who are shoving pamphlets at you and say you are going to Hell). The things that they preach and practice and judge, other than times such as the inquisition, are not really following in the same footsteps of thousands of years of Biblical scripture and practice.

That said, I would say most people who go to church, don't ask these kind of questions especially on a regular basis. Being a Methodist or Lutheran, it is the same as being part of you as your ethnic background, your family background, and also your community. And for much of history you didn't really have a "choice". It just is. And even now no one is giving lie detector tests to those who show up at church, whether Jesus well and truly is the only son of God who died for our sins, etc etc. Instead it is part of your culture and you participate. Church participation has real measurable benefits. It increases your social and emotional support. It literally increases your lifespan, and your recovery after illness. There is a reason why Church (or Temple, or Mosque) and religion are a part of many people's lives and culture.

The closest I would say, is talking with my deceased FIL who was a Christian, went to church, did many good acts, was part of a Bible study group that he attended and participated in. We didn't go into a lot, but the stories and the meanings of the stories in the Bible made him reflect, gave him an aspiration (be Christ-like), and made him a better person. He freely admits that the Bible doesn't answer every question. And there is room for doubt and discussion. In fact he even hinted doubts, whether Jesus was truly the incarnate Son of God. But him being part of the church and participating and regularly reading the Bible did make him a better person and gave him comfort in his final days.

So, I guess I would say even though this sounds heretical, many of the questions you ask, are besides the point. Do first. The phillosophical questions were really only a luxury for those who had the time to dwell on them. But only after doing, perhaps for a lifetime. 
« Last Edit: December 21, 2018, 04:39:21 PM by partgypsy »

Dave1442397

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #27 on: December 21, 2018, 04:39:50 PM »
I've been an Atheist since I was eleven years old and started reading adult books at the library. In reading Science Fiction novels, I realized that I wasn't alone in my lack of belief in gods, goblins, and things that go bump in the night.

As for it being a political label, why would you say that? It simply means "a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods." Nothing political there.

I used to wonder how otherwise intelligent people could believe any of this stuff, and then I read books such as Michael Shermer's The Believing Brain, which shed some light on the neurological activity that lies behind religion (and other beliefs).

https://www.amazon.com/Believing-Brain-Conspiracies-How-Construct-Reinforce/dp/1250008808/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1545434232&sr=8-1&keywords=the+believing+brain

I used to argue religion with people when I was a teenager, but quickly realized that you can't use logic to argue religion, so there's really no point. I don't care if someone is religious as long as they're not pushing it on me or using it to bully people.

It's not so obvious when you live in the US, but in general, religion seems to be in decline - https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/21/christianity-non-christian-europe-young-people-survey-religion

Even where I grew up, in a country that was 94% Catholic, religion is not anywhere near as popular as it was thirty years ago. For people my age (fifties), our parents were really the last very religious group. Most of my peers were a lot less into practicing religion, even if they were still believers, and many of us have children who are associated with religion in name only, and then only to keep their grandparents happy.

One thing that still cracks me up is when someone survives a fire/car accident/tornado, etc, and they tell people that God saved them! Wait, God just set your house on fire/threw a deer through your windshield/tried to transport you to Oz, and you're thanking him? Um, ok...

John Galt incarnate!

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #28 on: December 21, 2018, 05:09:45 PM »
Maybe more of a rant, but I am very interested in how other atheists constantly hold their tongues...

Do you use any particular techniques to either bite your tongue, or to gently introduce any of these questions? Are some of you folks in the "I just don't think about religion at all" camp?



As a free-speech absolutist it is not my nature to ever "bite my tongue."

I am  a literalist so  I always scratch my head (figuratively speaking) when believers speak of "everlasting life."

When  believers claim "everlasting life" I have, on occasion, politely told them I cannot accept their claim in light of  billions of pieces of physical evidence to the contrary.


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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #29 on: December 21, 2018, 05:49:45 PM »
I always felt sad for my father who was convinced both his kids were doomed to burn in hell forever. If you really believe that, which he did, how horrible to believe that and not be able to do anything about it.

Then when he was 102 or 103 years old he began to have doubts, or at least he began to admit he had doubts. He wondered if he would soon see mom again and his brothers and sisters, and if his mother would be waiting for him.  It was pretty clear that he was just going through the motions, praying, etc. for his last few months.

When my cousin was dying of cancer a few years ago I was pleased that she firmly believed she was on her way to heaven. What a nice way to die.

Meanwhile, my brother and I were annoyed that dad took so long to have doubts. For all our childhoods we had to go to church twice every Sunday, go to christian school, catechism once a week, and pray before and after every meal. And then as adults we had to occasionally go to church, like on fathers day, and when my dad couldn't drive he shamed my brother into driving him to church once a month.  We could have been saved all that.

John Galt incarnate!

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #30 on: December 21, 2018, 06:14:35 PM »
I always felt sad for my father who was convinced both his kids were doomed to burn in hell forever.

I've asked believers about hell's locus, about its distance below the surface of the Earth.

And I've asked them where hell's portal is.

None of them ever answered either question.

GuitarStv

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #31 on: December 21, 2018, 06:20:58 PM »
I always felt sad for my father who was convinced both his kids were doomed to burn in hell forever.

I've asked believers about hell's locus, about its distance below the surface of the Earth.

And I've asked them where hell's portal is.

None of them ever answered either question.

Hell is other people.

Cassie

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #32 on: December 21, 2018, 06:35:17 PM »
My mother sometimes wanted to go to church on Xmas eve and we would all go and never begrudged her that. Yes I had to do all the Lutheran religious stuff as a kid or teen. My mom really believed but as adults were free to do as we wanted with no ridicule. I also never told her I quit believing because why would I want to hurt her. She never asked. I had the kids baptized for my grandma but we didn’t go to church.

John Galt incarnate!

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #33 on: December 21, 2018, 07:14:28 PM »
I always felt sad for my father who was convinced both his kids were doomed to burn in hell forever.

I've asked believers about hell's locus, about its distance below the surface of the Earth.

And I've asked them where hell's portal is.

None of them ever answered either question.

Hell is other people.

Some of them, yes.

HAPPPY NEW YEAR!
« Last Edit: December 21, 2018, 07:16:59 PM by John Galt incarnate! »

Leisured

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #34 on: December 21, 2018, 09:11:08 PM »
I view atheism as a religious concept the same way I view "off" as a TV channel.

+1

Leisured

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #35 on: December 21, 2018, 10:07:44 PM »
Are there celestial or supernatural beings?
Who or what made the world?

These are two entirely separate questions, and it is important to not to conflate the two.

When I read Milton’s Paradise Lost, I could see that God need not have created heaven and earth, in which case He and the other denizens of heaven could be seen as beings more powerful and exalted than we are.

Consider a young dolphin born at sea. Dolphins are clever creatures who work together in packs to catch fish. I imagine they regard fish as dim witted. Then one day this young dolphin swims into a bay, puts his head above water, and sees people on land. If he watches people long enough he is likely to regard them as being as clever as dolphins, perhaps even more so. People are flesh and blood, but are exalted.

The late British astronomer Fred Hoyle wrote a science fiction novel called The Black Cloud. The Black Cloud was a huge cloud of gas in space, but sentient. Such a being would have a life span as long as the life of the universe, and would qualify as a celestial being.

Some astronomers have wondered about the existence of parallel universes, some having laws of nature that are more favourable than ours, others with laws of nature less favourable. It is possible that once a species attains enough knowledge, that species will move into a more favourable parallel universe, which could be regarded as heaven. Perhaps we will do that in a few hundred years.


familyandfarming

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #36 on: December 21, 2018, 10:17:04 PM »
One of my favorite podcasts is Exploring My Strange Bible by Tim Mackey. He is sooo smart and flips almost everything you thought you knew about religion and the Bible upside down! Try it! I think you'll like it!
« Last Edit: December 21, 2018, 10:19:54 PM by familyandfarming »

englishteacheralex

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #37 on: December 21, 2018, 11:25:07 PM »
I'm religious (Christian) as can be. I was raised atheist. I horrified my mother by converting to Christianity at 26. She's still coming to terms with it. We avoid talking about it. I've read the whole Bible several times. Including Judges (it's insane). I've vowed never to get involved in a debate about religion online again. Just wanted to chime in that there are a lot of ways of being Christian.

mrmoonymartian

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #38 on: December 21, 2018, 11:57:03 PM »
Just move to Australia, where irreverent criticism is central to our way of life. Fuck the queen, the pope, the president, the prophet, the emperor, and any other northern bastards trying to tell us what to think or do. We're perfectly capable of fucking it up ourselves, thank you very much.

teen persuasion

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #39 on: December 21, 2018, 11:57:51 PM »
Ok, this is a point of view of someone raised in a church, but NOT fundamentalist. I view Fundamentalism as a very widespread cult (those are the people who are shoving pamphlets at you and say you are going to Hell). The things that they preach and practice and judge, other than times such as the inquisition, are not really following in the same footsteps of thousands of years of Biblical scripture and practice.

That said, I would say most people who go to church, don't ask these kind of questions especially on a regular basis. Being a Methodist or Lutheran, it is the same as being part of you as your ethnic background, your family background, and also your community. And for much of history you didn't really have a "choice". It just is. And even now no one is giving lie detector tests to those who show up at church, whether Jesus well and truly is the only son of God who died for our sins, etc etc. Instead it is part of your culture and you participate. Church participation has real measurable benefits. It increases your social and emotional support. It literally increases your lifespan, and your recovery after illness. There is a reason why Church (or Temple, or Mosque) and religion are a part of many people's lives and culture.

The closest I would say, is talking with my deceased FIL who was a Christian, went to church, did many good acts, was part of a Bible study group that he attended and participated in. We didn't go into a lot, but the stories and the meanings of the stories in the Bible made him reflect, gave him an aspiration (be Christ-like), and made him a better person. He freely admits that the Bible doesn't answer every question. And there is room for doubt and discussion. In fact he even hinted doubts, whether Jesus was truly the incarnate Son of God. But him being part of the church and participating and regularly reading the Bible did make him a better person and gave him comfort in his final days.

So, I guess I would say even though this sounds heretical, many of the questions you ask, are besides the point. Do first. The phillosophical questions were really only a luxury for those who had the time to dwell on them. But only after doing, perhaps for a lifetime.
I really like this, it echoes much of my thoughts about religion in my life.

Raised Catholic, went to Catholic schools and a Jesuit college.  Being a Catholic is part of my family identity.  That doesn't mean I mindlessly parrot ideas that have been a part of Catholicism in the past that I don't agree with.  I realise the trappings of the religion have accumulated lots of additional baggage along the centuries.  I try to shift out the extraneous stuff, and adhere to the basics as best as I can determine.  I believe those basics are largely similar in many other religions.  I don't think anyone has the one true faith, and everyone else is doomed.  I'd like everyone to be free to believe (or not) as they see fit; no one should ever be pushed or bullied into changing their beliefs by another.  So those types of religions get me a bit worked up.

I read the bible as a historical document, evidence of how people millennia ago thought about things they couldn't understand, and the things we still struggle with today like conflicts between people.  I try to read between the lines, figuring out the important part the authors were trying to impart, but which are often lost in shifting societal ideas and translations.  I still go to church every Sunday, not so much to pray, but for the experience, the ritual, the society.  Listening to the readings, that I've heard dozens of times so that I know them well, I'm now trying to look deeper into significance of words.  After 50 years, I'm hearing details I missed before, and there are many passages that strike me differently now.  I hear the differences in different authors - I took classical Latin in HS, and Paul's Roman background is distinguishable in his phrasing, vs the other non-Roman Jews' writing like James.  Paul was an excellent writer, but I really dislike the way he changed the basic early Christian beliefs, his misogyny, etc., so I'm always trying to distinguish between an individual's ideas, and the consensus ideas in the bible.

I have come to reject religious beliefs that I don't agree with, or that aren't logical, or that are obviously contradictory.  My beliefs are more generalized, I have no desire to debate nitpicky details that serve no purpose but to divide. 

I've noticed that in my community, the most active and positive community members (the ones who seem to get everything done in the town, the movers and doers) are usually active in some church.  Not sure if it's cause or effect, but the decline in church members definitely seems to correlate with the decline in community involvement.  Maybe it's just the frequent meetings more than any beliefs, but it's enough that I want to maintain my church community links for the sake of my larger community.

 So my biggest reasons for remaining an active church member are largely social, both family and community, with a bit of regular personal introspection/meditation grounding.

kei te pai

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #40 on: December 22, 2018, 02:26:25 AM »
Overtly religious behaviour is definitely not mainstream in NZ, and although there are evangelical groups, it would generally be considered rather weird to mention God in the course of a general conversation. Unless as swearing. When most people would not even notice. A doctor offering to pray with a patient who had not requested it would most likely be subject to disciplinary action.

Seems this is probably a cultural thing, We would probably politely shut down the conversation if a friend started going all religious, and consider them rather socially inept.

However it is interesting in our country that opening an occasion with a prayer in the Maori language (karakia) is more common now than it used to be, and is seem as appropriately bi-cultural, rather than religious.

Hula Hoop

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #41 on: December 22, 2018, 04:51:05 AM »
I'm also an atheist and my husband and most of my friends are non-religious although my husband was raised Catholic.  But, unfortunately, even though fewer and fewer young Italians attend church, the Church (ie. the Catholic Church) continues to largely control certain aspects of Italian politics - mostly to do with the family.  For example, IVF is severely restricted here, generally only married heterosexual couples can adopt, sperm banks are illegal here, gay marriage not legal and sterilization is not legal here (I was once advised by a doctor that the only way to get my tubes tied would be a 'back alley' sterilization - no thanks!)  This drives me crazy as there is so much hypocrisy in a bunch of celibate men telling the rest of us what to do with our reproductive health and, also, the fact that Italy has one of the lowest birth rates in the world yet they restrict IVF.


On the topic of keeping my mouth shut as an atheist.  I've found that a significant proportion of people are truly shocked that I'm an atheist and/or take it as an invitation for them to try to convert me to their religion so I generally don't say anything.  Also, I can see that religion is psychologically comforting to some so I try to respect their religious beliefs and just smile and nod.  But what drives me nuts is people who continually try to convert me and won't back down.  I'm polite and say things like "I can see that those beliefs are very comforting to you although I'm not religious myself." and then try to change the topic.  But they keep trying. 

There is a mother at my kids' school who I've had to block as she keeps sending me religious materials, sermons etc.  Everything was fine with her until one day I was upset about something and she told me that I had to "let Jesus into my heart".  It was really awkward and I tried to be polite but I guess she took that as some kind of invitation.  And I considered her to be a friend.

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #42 on: December 22, 2018, 05:37:59 AM »
I am actually curious how folks handle this with their kids? I don't like to be the type that tells my kids what to think. My daughter was asked by one of her friends (I was within earshot) if she is a Christian. My daughter of course said no. And then she asked if she was Catholic and my daughter wasn't really sure how to answer, since she didn't know what being Catholic actually meant. I stepped in and told her friend we aren't really anything. That was the end of the conversation.

When we got home I explained to her the best way to respond is something along the lines of what I stated. I explained it's perfectly fine for other kids to have religious beliefs and she should be respectful of them. I've also made it a point to explain that she is free to believe in a religion if she wants to but that she should ask questions and seek out answers, not just do it because her friends are doing it. I've encouraged her to do that in all areas of her life.   

Sailor Sam

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #43 on: December 22, 2018, 07:26:17 AM »
@Nick_Miller, you’ve posted questions like this before. I’ve always followed along, and at this point you seem more hurt than angry. Stung that some group judges you immoral, using rules you never agreed to.

Being judged by unagreed on rules is bullshitty, and also ubitiquous. I’m gay, and many people loath me. You’re a white dude, during a time when white dudes are undergoing far more criticism than ever before. We’re both American, in a world where some would happily kill us for being a citizen.

There’s far more judgement and hatred, for far more reasons, than could be dreamt of in your rant, Horatio! Yet, you’re stuck on the single unfairness of being judged by evangelicals. They clearly still have power over your thoughts and actions. For your own comfort, why not simply let it all go? Sure, you’d lose the deliciousness of righteous indignation, but you’d gain the comfort of seriously not giving a fuck.


Hula Hoop

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #44 on: December 22, 2018, 08:06:26 AM »
I am actually curious how folks handle this with their kids? I don't like to be the type that tells my kids what to think. My daughter was asked by one of her friends (I was within earshot) if she is a Christian. My daughter of course said no. And then she asked if she was Catholic and my daughter wasn't really sure how to answer, since she didn't know what being Catholic actually meant. I stepped in and told her friend we aren't really anything. That was the end of the conversation.

We're trying to just let our kids decide although, of course, we don't go to church and the kids don't do catechism, which sets them apart.  We let both our kids do the religion class at school (here in Italy, at public school you either do a "religion" class which means Catholic religion or you do a class called "alternative" which is usually just the kids sitting around and coloring).  Older kid dropped out of the religion class by choice in 1st grade but younger kid is still doing it as she likes the religion teacher and he plays the guitar.  They read Bible stories and I think it's cute when she tells me about Jesus making water into wine or loaves and fishes etc.  If/when she decides to stop doing the religion class then we'll take her out.

wenchsenior

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #45 on: December 22, 2018, 08:26:16 AM »
@Nick_Miller, you’ve posted questions like this before. I’ve always followed along, and at this point you seem more hurt than angry. Stung that some group judges you immoral, using rules you never agreed to.

Being judged by unagreed on rules is bullshitty, and also ubitiquous. I’m gay, and many people loath me. You’re a white dude, during a time when white dudes are undergoing far more criticism than ever before. We’re both American, in a world where some would happily kill us for being a citizen.

There’s far more judgement and hatred, for far more reasons, than could be dreamt of in your rant, Horatio! Yet, you’re stuck on the single unfairness of being judged by evangelicals. They clearly still have power over your thoughts and actions. For your own comfort, why not simply let it all go? Sure, you’d lose the deliciousness of righteous indignation, but you’d gain the comfort of seriously not giving a fuck.

Wise words, as often from Sailor Sam.  As I've moved into middle age, this is what I try to aim for in my personal interactions. It's much harder for me to give up blinding rage related to religiously-influenced political issues, but I do try to separate that from my attitudes toward individuals that I interact with.

gaja

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #46 on: December 22, 2018, 11:55:12 AM »
I am actually curious how folks handle this with their kids? I don't like to be the type that tells my kids what to think. My daughter was asked by one of her friends (I was within earshot) if she is a Christian. My daughter of course said no. And then she asked if she was Catholic and my daughter wasn't really sure how to answer, since she didn't know what being Catholic actually meant. I stepped in and told her friend we aren't really anything. That was the end of the conversation.

When we got home I explained to her the best way to respond is something along the lines of what I stated. I explained it's perfectly fine for other kids to have religious beliefs and she should be respectful of them. I've also made it a point to explain that she is free to believe in a religion if she wants to but that she should ask questions and seek out answers, not just do it because her friends are doing it. I've encouraged her to do that in all areas of her life.   

We have spent a lot of time explaining and discussing the difference between science and religion. Science is fact, and can be discussed based on more facts and knowledge. We encourage the kids to try to disprove scientific theories, but we won't accept statesment about "believing" or "not believing" in science. When it comes to religion, they can believe whatever they want, and we encourage them to let everyone else do the same. When they were smaller, they had quite complex beliefs that included the christian god, jesus, angels, Thor, Freya, Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, easter bunny, trolls, and elves. We had a lot of fun in Iceland looking for elves and trolls, and they did enjoy going to church with their grandparents. Now, in their early teens, I don't think they believe in anything.

My oldest daughter came home one day and said her friend believed in creationism, not evolution, and she wanted me to say that her friend was wrong. My answer was that she was trying to compare apples to the feeling of being sad. If her friend believes in creationism, that is religion, and not something we can discuss with her. Faith is faith, and she should respect that her friend believes something else, (however stupid it sounds). If she wanted to discuss the topic with her friend, she should stick with evolution, since discussions are the whole point of science.

dustinst22

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #47 on: December 22, 2018, 12:01:23 PM »
This is really difficult for me too.  I grew up in a mormon family, but became atheist around age 15 after studying greek philosophy.

For much of my life, I was never sure how to handle family and the drastic differences in beliefs.  Now that I'm much older, I've finally realized it's best to just respect people and whatever beliefs they hold.  I basically try to avoid any conflict or debate, unless the person is a reasonable person (which is rare).  No one ever gets convinced of a different position in these debates, so it's never worth it.  But if you can approach these discussions in a respectful and perhaps with a socratic approach, they can sometimes be good when both people are reasonable.  I've found when you treat people with deep respect even when their opinions are the opposite of yours, many times they will return that respect.  This of course is sometimes extremely hard to do depending on the person.
« Last Edit: December 22, 2018, 12:16:56 PM by dustinst22 »

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #48 on: December 22, 2018, 12:12:33 PM »
I'm not even remotely a religious person, but I think absolutely none of those things because people can believe whatever they want to believe.

It sounds like you should take a look inward, if this stuff is really getting to you that much.

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Re: Holding my tongue with religious friends...
« Reply #49 on: December 22, 2018, 01:50:55 PM »
I grew up in a religious family that heavily participated in religious community. As an adult, my beliefs would probably be best described as secular humanist. I have a high level of religious education, especially within the religion of my family of origin & to a lesser extent as a student of other world religions.

What helps me in the scenarios you're describing are:

(1) To remember that lots of people of faith are REALLY smart, way smarter than I am. The questions you raise of morality and philosophy, free will, and human suffering are not new. Really smart people have grappled with these questions for millennia. Developed religions likely have complex answers for all of these hard questions, and many people of faith have to make peace with what works for them (within or outside the official teachings of their religious group). There are people who are more scientifically knowledgeable than we are, in today's world, and remain people of faith. Give them some credit for not being idiots.

(2) To remember that once upon a time, I also was a person of faith. I may have grappled more or less than another. But I wasn't a dumb automaton THEN or lesser because I was theist (or at least more theist than not). I think this part gets a lot of people stuck - they feel duped or see themselves as more evolved on account of their personal history with religion. Whereas I see it as something that helps me understand and have empathy for the circumstances of someone whose experiences are different from mine. If anything, I'm mostly wistful now for not feeling like I can participate in community or get comfort in hard times that I know other people of faith do experience.

(3) To separate personal beliefs that turn into political acts that do me or others harm. I DON'T have tolerance and acceptance for people who hate me or hate other groups of people or whose faith is the CAUSE of bad acts. I object to people or groups that use faith as a weapon and don't generalize that to all people of faith.

(4) To surround myself with people whose belief system - whatever it is - has space for mine to coexist. I don't want to be hanging around with people who secretly think I'm going to hell & will burn in hellfire. I mean, I'd rather be around the people who keep it to themselves than the people who act on that belief. But that IS a real impediment to the closeness I can have to someone. So is being around people who feel the need to proselytize to me (because it's a sign that they do not accept me as I am). In general, I am uncomfortable being surrounded by those public displays of religion that do not leave space for someone else to not share the same faith. Being in a community where you are surrounded by a dominant, evangelical religion can feel hostile. So...I don't hang out in those space, and I choose where I live carefully because of that.