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Dealing with condescending religious friends

From formspring.me: I have a friend who condescendingly asks me to “explain to him why god isn’t real”. I am not a confrontational person, and I don’t know how to say my part without stepping on his toes. Should I just be straightforward with him…almost harsh or avoid it?

You should do whatever you feel comfortable doing. If you’re not a confrontational person, you don’t have to confront him. Politely say something along the lines of “I don’t feel comfortable discussing a personal issue like religion because I don’t want it to come between our friendship. I don’t ask you about your beliefs, and I would appreciate it if you don’t ask me about mine.” If you want, offer to give him resources that will explain what atheist thinks, and say something like “I don’t want to debate, but if you want to understand my position these do a great job.”

I know why you may feel like you have to “say your part” since we’re in a minority and constantly stress how vocal atheists need to be – but you’ve done your part. Simply admitting you’re an atheist does more good than you may think. You don’t need to be an expert debater on top of that, especially when it seems someone is just looking for a fight.

Can anyone suggests particularly good summary pieces about atheism? Or maybe other advice you would give?

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Comments

  1. LS says

    Hmmm…Joke, or serious answer? Joke…or serious answer….I always appreciated that my christian friends never tried to convert me, until I realized that they’re just trying to make sure there’s more heaven left for them. They’re Heaven Hoggers! >.>(Joke courtesy of a comedian whose name I do not recall at the moment.)In seriousness, it’s very true that being open about being an atheist does more good than you might think. There’s an extremely pervasive conception in theistic society that being an Atheist means you’re either an intellectual elitist, an angsty teenager, or simply an amoral person.Proving that assumption wrong can open minds, and that’s the essential first step in connecting with people.

  2. says

    I think, given the circumstances, that a simple “I don’t see any evidence to suggest that there is/are God(s)” would more than suffice. It puts your friend on the side of the argument he should be on &mdash actually backing up his claim &mdash and leaves you free to sit back and dismiss the flawed logic and unsupported claims without seeming aggressive, angry, or hostile.Or just give your friend a nudge toward The God Delusion (I <3 you, Dawkins). :D

  3. says

    I think it is good enough to say “I don’t agree with you, so just drop it” if you don’t want an argument. Maybe you can mention some other place where you disagree, like a band that you like and your friend doesn’t like. You don’t chase your friends around trying to force them to change their minds, so why should your friends do the same to you?

  4. says

    This happens to me a lot so first I direct people towards this page: http://www.godlessgeeks.com/Wh…If they read that link and at least the FAQ’s on Talk Origins, then I will discuss my Atheism with them. Funnily enough, no one has ever done it. I guess they don’t care enough to spend a couple of hours reading.

  5. hippiefemme says

    First I must say, I love that this post reads like an “Ask Richard” piece.Second, I would suggest that the person secure several of the pamphlets on “What Is An Atheist?” that Lyz gave out at the SSA Conference if at all possible. That way, you aren’t being confrontational, but you are prepared to answer the condescending “friend.” Honestly, though, I feel that the “friend” doesn’t want a real answer, especially not one that’s thoughtful and consistent. If this person were truly interested in your opinion on the matter, s/he wouldn’t be so overtly condescending and would likely ask a question instead of demanding an argument.

  6. says

    You have to be careful there, because some people think that Catholics are going to hell because they don’t believe in Christianity right, so if they say the God they are talking about is the Christian God, ask which of the 38000 versions they mean.

  7. says

    I used to get into the whole debate (and it mystified me that so many of us are more scripturally informed than our slightly devolved cousins) but now I just tell them that none of their myths have been convincing. They really don’t like it when you use the word myth :PIf they leave it alone at that point, so do I.

  8. LS says

    I ran into that in a college mythology course once.I drew the comparison between various myths being discussed in the class, and christian myths. (of which there are a staggering amount, if you’ve never studied mythology much. Seriously, Christianity is separated from other myths by little more than what names are used for the people and places.)It never really occurred to me that I had just told about 85% of the class that their cherished beliefs were mythology. The class was a lot less friendly after that.

  9. says

    Because in seven thousand years of organised religion, nobody has yet made a single verified sighting of ‘God’. As such, I got bored waiting… {:-)

  10. Zenlite says

    Or, more correctly, “deconvert.” I think it’s important to keep the emphasis on the fact that they hold an active belief, making the burden of justification entirely on them.

  11. Zenlite says

    I always like to start with the ignostic question: “Well, I’m sure we can hash out why your ‘god’ doesn’t exist, but first I’m going to need you to tell me, what is a ‘god’?”

  12. Zenlite says

    This is my general response to such questions:”Well, laying aside the obvious problem of definition, namely that we will need to establish a meaningful, shared meaning of ‘god’ before we can have any conversation on the topic, in my time as an atheist, namely my entire life, I have learned that there are only two types of Christians: Those who have never taken an interest in delving deeply into it’s roots, and those who have but willfully ignore what they found there. Were we to have this conversation, there can only be three outcomes:1) You won’t care.2) You won’t believe me.3) You’ve already ceased to believe and need affirmation, in which case there is an entire counter apologetics wiki called Iron Chariots that will serve you better than me.”Relatedly, if it seems like they are looking for a fight, I generally just direct them to Iron Chariots and explain that whatever their argument is, the reasons why they are wrong is very likely already there. I’ve had more than one “Christian” friend deconvert after having that site tear apart the ‘reasoning’ holding together an already shaky faith.

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