Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Advice to Christian friend of an Atheist

Brought to my attention by The Friendly Atheist:

A Christian posted to the Think Atheist asking how to deal with the fact that her best friend is now an Atheist. She's purposely vague in her post about what the problem is, exactly, but in one of her responses to comments, says, she's not uneasy that her friend is an Atheist, but, rather, "I'm more worried that she's uneasy with me being Christian... I'm one who does love talking about my faith."

This response to her is so excellent - I identify with this response in so many ways. If you don't want to click on the link, here's the response I so loved:

First I wanna say that Rachel is pretty lucky to have a friend that wants to make it through a situation like this. Most of my "friends" dropped me like a bad habit when I came out as an atheist. I did have some that stuck around but they still want to debate or make the occasional comments. Every single friendship, relationship, and family bond was affected somehow by my atheism, mostly with a negative outcome, and I know that I did nothing wrong. It was their decision to act differently toward me, not vice versa. I was still the same person, but they didn't care... and still don't. Their religion was so important to them that I no longer mattered because I didn't believe the same as them.

Anyway, depending on where you guys are from, she may be faced with religion every day. You may not realize it as a Christian, but we atheists have to encounter Christianity constantly. We drive by several churches, see countless bumper stickers, read tons of religious status updates on facebook, see it on our money, our children recite it at school, people knock on our doors to spread the word, get told "bless you" when we sneeze, get invited to church by pushy friends/family/co-workers (some literally beg you to go), get told to have a "blessed day" at the drive-thru or checkout line (happens all the time here in the south), hear about it in song lyrics -especially country music-, get handed little bibles or find fliers on our cars, and the list goes on. We get to see nothing supporting atheism and if we bring it up, people want to argue and get steaming mad.

When you realize that you no longer believe in a god, you begin to find new purpose for your life. You get to live your life for yourself instead of some deity. Now that I know this is the only life I have, I cherish it. I have a new respect for life in general. It is a wonderful feeling and everything begins to make sense. All of this is exciting but it can sometimes be overwhelming. Losing religion can be hard for some people at first, so you may want to discuss it with your friends and share what you have learned and how you feel. The bad part is when you tell your friends about this and they begin to resent you for it. They think you are "mad at God" or "it's just a phase". This couldn't be further from the truth and it is very insulting. And the worst thing that someone can do is to try to get them to "fix their relationship with god" or go back to church. Once someone comes to the intellectual conclusion that they are atheists, it is not likely that they will return to their faith. Chances are, they have spent a long time studying their religion and trying figuring out what they believe. I have Christians tell me that I need to read the bible. What they don't know is that I (and most atheists) have read it and debunked it, but the ones preaching and telling me this are typically the blind followers that haven't even read it for themselves. We atheists usually tend to analyze everything. We truly believe that all gods are a myth, including the Christian god. It would be hard to get an adult to believe in Santa again. We feel that God is no more real than Santa, so it would be very difficult to get an atheist to believe in a god again.

In good, healthy friendships, you want to be able to talk with your friend about anything. If you find that it is a topic that you absolutely can't avoid, please try to understand her position. You have hundreds, likely thousands, of people in your area that you can talk to and will support Christianity. But it is also likely that she has no one to talk to or support her atheism. That can be pretty frustrating and it can also be quite lonely, especially when you are no longer socially accepted due to this one difference.

Over the years, the friends that have stayed friends have given up on trying to convert me back to Christianity and they've learned to accept it, but none of them tolerate my atheism. This means that I have to listen to them ramble on about god's will but if I mention evolution or anything about atheism they go into attack mode. It isn't fair but there isn't much I can do about it if I want to keep the few friends that I have left. Be there for her and support her even if you don't agree with her. If you love each other enough, you can overlook the rough patches.

You can read the original post and comments here at Think Atheist.

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