A Christian Seeks Advice About Her Atheist Friend June 1, 2011

A Christian Seeks Advice About Her Atheist Friend

It’s not every day you see a Christian going to a group of atheists for advice, but that’s what one did over at Think Atheist. She’s a Christian, her friend’s an atheist, and that difference might be ruining their friendship:

My best friend Rachel, whom I’ve known since the 2nd grade turned atheist about a year ago. We’ve joked about how she’s turned to the “dark side,” but it seems as though it’s becoming less and less of a joking matter. In fact, I’m concerned that a rift is beginning to form in our relationship due to our differences and this concerns me very much because I value our friendship so much. Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure Rachel values our friendship just as much. It’s just I’m determined to head this off at the pass before anything does happen.

She doesn’t say why exactly the rift is there… so it’s hard to offer specific advice other than “talk to her.” But commenters have commended Jenn for coming to them, while telling her everything from “Consider the friendship over” to “Just don’t ever discuss religion.”

This response is pretty excellent, though.

In general, what would you tell someone like Jenn?

(Thanks to Nelson for the link)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • That post really does beg the question of why she thinks there’s a rift forming. If it was because of the friend saying hurtful or offensive things, I’m sure she would have mentioned that in her post. She didn’t, so it looks to me like she’s the problem there, not being able to move past “omg my friend is a horrible, dirty atheist! What do I do?”

    She also seems to be hung up on being “unequally yoked,” which I had to actually look up to see what the heck that was.

  • KJ

    Perhaps it’s just plain different here in New Zealand, but when I was a Christian, I never broke off friendships or even considered that the friendship might end when someone left the faith.

    However, when I left Christianity myself, I didn’t really feel like hanging around with my Christian friends any more. I didn’t want any more Jesus crap in my life than I already had to tolerate, living in a house full of Christians.

    A friend of mine recently joined a self-development group that I’m fairly certain would qualify as a mind-control cult though. He’s still a great friend of mine, and we can even have civil debates over the stuff he has been taught, completely disagree, and be laughing about something else 10 minutes later.

  • I think the most important thing is honesty and understanding. If the atheist friend is honest (preferably nicely) and her Christian friend tries to understand how her friend thinks and feels, and vice versa, then they may be able to get through it.

    If the fact that this friend is an atheist is a big deal, or if the atheist friend is bothered Jenn is a Christian, then it may just be over. It’s sad, but that’s just how it is if it’s that important to one or both of them.

    I have Christian friends myself, but they are not bothered by what I believe and they try to understand. (Or that’s how it seems to me.)

    My grandmother is also a Christian, and she doesn’t like that I’m an atheist, but she accepts it and doesn’t try to force me into anything or tell me I’m going to hell or get offended if I mention the Big Bang or evolution. We have had few discussions on the matter, but she’s not offended that I don’t believe what she does, she just doesn’t like if other people are attacking her for her beliefs, especially since she doesn’t tell anyone to believe it or that they have to. (Then again, she is the kind of Christian that believes good deeds are the best way to Heaven, not necessarily belief in her god.)

    If Jenn is not “hardcore” like most Evangelicals or similar, then it may be no big deal. If she doesn’t get upset when her friend mentions evolution, the Big Bang, etc. and her friend is not upset if Jenn needs to talk about the her own beliefs, then that’s fine.

    Many people just don’t talk about such things with friends/family if they need to in order to get along. Unfortunately, if it’s so much a problem that advice was needed from other people, then it may never be the same as it used to be.

    If Jenn wants to know specifically how atheists in general feel about Christian friends, I can say for myself and many atheists I know (hell, even people that aren’t atheists), that they just don’t want the other person shoving religion down their throat. Also keep in mind that asking questions or having a disagreement isn’t an insult in and of itself.

    The best thing, of course, is to talk to the friend to try and figure it all out.

  • I’m picturing the following exchanges:

    “Oh you’re atheist now? Haha, you’ve turned to the darkside!”

    “Oh you’re still an atheist? Hah, really enjoying that dark side, huh?”

    “Oh you’re still an atheist? Yeah… that’s pretty dark of you…”

    “No seriously, you’re on the dark side.”

    “O.m.g. why are you making me unfriend you!?!”

    But seriously, there isn’t enough information on Jenn, Rachel, or the rift.

  • Firno

    What I got from her story and answers was that the friendship was based on their faith in Christianity. It also seemed that she could not think of how their relationship would survive without a common religion. Now that it is no longer there, her friend seems to be losing interest in their friendship. It will be an interesting future for the both of them. Hopefully Jen can see past the religion and focus on better things.

  • todwith1d
  • Daniel Schealler

    I’d go with the others – not enough info.

    Only advice I can think of based on the information offered is that, in the context of the friendship, place an embargo on religious-themed conversation.

    The trick here is that as a Christian in a very Christian-dominated environment, Jenn will probably have a very hard time realizing when she’s doing it.

    Which could be fine, so long as Jenn makes a genuine effort and her friend tries to be as understanding as possible.

    Outside of that, I can’t think of anything more without more info.

  • No matter how you cut it, atheists are going to have a lot of religious friends if they want to have friends at all. I had it easy. While I’ve neither experienced nor understood my friends and family members turning on me (my Presbyterian girlfriend even turned atheist), but I know many who have suffered from such ostracism.

    It’s refreshing to hear about someone like Jenn trying to save her friendship with her atheist friend without trying to “save” her. It’s the first time I’ve even heard of something like this.

    What I would really like to know is if Rachel is being dickish about her atheism – because if she is, it’s not going to be easy at all. Then again, there are so many things that an atheist cannot say honestly without offending one friend or another. I know I’ve certainly tested the people around me, sometimes deliberately saying things I know they would find hard to swallow just to see if they can be reasonable about them. Am I being dickish if I have genuine problems with how some religious people or organisations act and am not afraid to say so?

    Like Hemant said: there is really too little details to go on. And the fact that one or both parties have starting feeling that a rift had formed between them makes it less likely that the friendship will survive in its present form.

    I can’t speak for all atheists, but any rifts between myself and my friends are usually perceived by them. Personally, I do not respect or like them any less; it’s just that I do not, cannot respect their worldviews anymore.

    One final platitude: the strongest friendships are those tempered in hellfire.

  • Lauren S

    I find it very difficult to be close with people who think I deserve to burn in hell for eternity. This is regardless of how nice they are, or how much they think they care about my happiness.

    I find it insulting, and hurtful. So I can understand backing away from that situation. that said i do have deist friends, and some christian acquaintances. If they are universalist, then it works out fine.

  • Sophie

    I have this issue, more or less, with my parents-in-law, and what I’ve found is that we can have great conversations about our core beliefs without bringing religion into it. They are both very committed Christians (my mother-in-law majored in Bible in college!). I am an equally committed atheist. But we can agree that, for instance, regardless of the roots of our belief systems social justice is an important goal. In some ways, I think that by forcing ourselves to refrain from bringing overt references to religion into our conversations, we’re able to have more meaningful conversations about the topics that deserve real discussion.

    So what this means is that you might consider practicing a form of communication that doesn’t make overt reference to religion, the bible, etc, but instead addresses the core issue directly. You’ll no doubt have perspectives that are informed by your beliefs, as will your friend. But as you seek a more neutral vocabulary I suspect you’ll find that you wind up with a more sophisticated perspective on your own beliefs and a greater appreciation for the values of others.

    Good luck!

  • echidna

    My grandmother is also a Christian, and she doesn’t like that I’m an atheist, but she accepts it and doesn’t try to force me into anything or tell me I’m going to hell or get offended if I mention the Big Bang or evolution.

    Where does this meme come from, that a scientific theory is equivalent to religion? Would she be offended by electromagnetism?

  • Annie

    I’ve read some of the dialog on Think Atheist, and I don’t know… I question Jen’s motives. Although she says she will not proselytize, she does say that she hopes her friend come back to Jesus some day. Atheism is not a fad. Someone wrote it beautifully in a response, liking it to believing in Santa again after not believing.

    I think she is searching for some way to bring her friend back to religion. I do applaud everyone’s response… very civil and respectful. I think the greatest take-away Jen will get is that atheists are not evil people.

  • poyndexter

    “…I’ve known since the 2nd grade turned atheist about a year ago.”

    A recently “born-again” XYZ tends to be annoying. She might still be in the zealot phase.

    If that’s the case, cut her some slack. She’ll probably calm down eventually.

  • Parse

    Without more specifics, there’s no way to determine what advice to give. In any case, like Daniel says, you can plaster over the problem by putting an embargo on religious talk.

    One interesting quote from the original post (emphasis mine), that seems to be most indicative of what’s going on:

    All I seem to be reminded of is Bible scriptures telling me I shouldn’t allow myself to be unequally yoked, and ordinarily, I would agree with that. But this time, I can’t follow those instructions (forgive me, Lord). At least not until I begin to see that our rift is beginning to have a negative impact on my own personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

    It’s worth reading the whole thing for context, but my nickle’s worth of psychiatric analysis is that Jenn doesn’t realize how pervasive her faith is in her life, and thus in their daily conversations. Prayer requests, church activities, fundraisers, evangelism (though not to Rachel), word choice, quotes that come to mind, or whatnot. I’m guessing that it makes everyday conversations really awkward, but Rachel doesn’t say anything about it – she doesn’t want to risk losing any more of her friends.

    If Jenn reads this, my advice is this: With Rachel, be a friend first, and Christian second. You’ll have time enough later to fulfill your duties to your church, but the greatest commandment in the Bible is to love one another, and that’s what Rachel needs now.
    Secondly, show Rachel what you’ve been up to online. You’re trying to be the best friend you can, and letting her see that you’re trying to be understanding and accepting will mean a lot.

  • Andrew

    It’s rather imperative to know why this person feels that there is a rift forming between her friendship. Unless she analyzes the reason for the rift, there’s not much hope in the way of resolving it.

    Regardless, it’s endearing that she would care enough about her friend to try to come to terms with this new information. The main thing that I think she should take away from this experience is that her friend is still the same person that she knew and got along with before.

  • tim

    While we don’t have enough information to answer her query – how many of you have Christian friends? Is that a deal breaker?

    Personally I would feel sorry for anyone who surrounds themselves with people who believe and think as they do.

  • cass_m

    I admire that she’s trying to maintain a friendship that is based in going to church together because that is an activity that will never be shared again. She’s also having her eyes opened to the effect it could have on her friend thru other’s stories. Jenn may even be subject to shunning through association with Rachel.

    This whole discussion was prompted because Jenn caught Rachel rolling her eyes over something she was saying. I don’t think Rachel isn’t being dickish because she didn’t follow it up with a comment. I think their friendship will be okay (but different of course) if Rachel can find others to talk about her discoveries with and Jenn uses some different phrasing.

  • JJR

    Depends on what kind of Christian she is, but unfortunately believing ridiculous sh*t ABOUT atheists is part and parcel of some Christians’ faith, and a living, breathing atheist in their midst that defies what their Church or fellow Christians tell them MUST be true about atheists just creates too much cognitive dissonance…

    I don’t say diddly at work but I get the impression I’m the only atheist in my section. However, the guys at work I have lunch with at work (who work in other sections/divisions) are all nonbelievers, though I’m the only one comfortable with the Atheist label…one of them is “agnostic” (I almost teased him with “ah, the polite way to say ‘atheist'”… but didn’t), another describes himself as Daoist while another is basically an “apathist”…i.e. doesn’t care–he was raised Buddhist (he’s Asian), married to a moderate Xtian wife (she goes to church, he doesn’t save for Xmas & Easter)…

    Part of why I don’t say anything in my section is because I get the distinct impression that several of the Christians I work with have the “thou must trash atheists/atheism” shtick as one of their secret commandments to prop up their faith, and I would just as soon let them spout their bullsh*t while I turn away and roll my eyes than reveal my real beliefs and get constant grief from them.

  • I hate to say it, but generally once you’re an out atheist, you’ve condemned your closest friends generally to being non-theists of different walks. Jenn probably will find her friendship likely distancing unless she’s religiously apathetic, of a rare mindset or loses her religion herself. They can still be friends but generally this is a wedge issue that will place some barriers and ‘off subjects’.

  • Some people have trouble being friends with people who don’t share their overarching worldviews. This isn’t a bad thing intrinsically but it can mean that when their worldview changes, their friend group changes as well.

  • I actually have a friend who is hardcore mormon and when he found out I’m a atheist he pushed the issue of telling me I was wrong and should go to church until I blatantly told him that if he insists as on telling me his bullshit that I won’t talk to him, so he agreed to stop pushing the issue and now we have the occasional discussion regarding religious philosophy but its no longer an issue.

  • Steve

    Jenn is pretty serious about her faith. She doesn’t give many details, but from a few comments you can see that she appears to be involved in a lot of church activities and filters a lot of her experiences through religion. And she talks about it a lot. Some of that is probably unintentional and she doesn’t fully realize how often she brings up religion in everyday conversations.

    I just don’t understand how you can’t simply talk about something else and leave religion out of it. There must be a lot more things they have in common.

    The problem seems to be that even in those other conversations, Jenn unconsciously injects religion. She talks about some things in her life and then makes it about something she prayed for. Her friend rolls her eyes at that, but is polite enough to not say what she really thinks. However Jenn picked up on the eye rolling and notices that something makes her uncomfortable. That’s a big source of the friction as far as I can tell.

  • Reading these comments, it seems Jenn is actually pretty “hardcore” about her religion, and I just don’t see how that’s going to work. My step-mum is, and it’s just not the same as when she wasn’t and we constantly go at it, and she doesn’t seem to make any effort to try and understand any other view (or she’s incapable). I would roll my eyes too if Jenn were to say, “Thank you, LORD,” or, “Forgive me, LORD,” or similar, in the middle of a conversation (in fact, I do).

    Tim: There are different kinds of Christians. There are plenty that aren’t so crazy. (Of course, irrational when it comes to that.)

  • nigelnerd

    I am an atheist my friend a Christian … SO?? We both are free thinkers and have a lot of respect for each other. It Can happen… We do not focus on our differences but on the friendship we have developed over the years and continue to do so…..

  • Rich Wilson

    Some of Christopher Hitchens’s highest praise comes from his debate opponents.

  • Cortex

    I’d say that while this may have seemed like a sudden development from Jenn’s perspective, she should keep in mind that her friend almost certainly wrestled with this issue for years. Going from privately questioning your faith, to finally throwing it out of your worldview, and then to decide to actually tell people about it is not an easy process. It can take a lot of time and bravery (social, intellectual, and emotional) to do such a thing.

    In addition to what Becky said on the other thread, Jenn should realize that this has been a long time coming, and that her friend has a right to be proud of her hard-won intellectual freedom.

  • allison

    I think Steve hit it when he says that Jenn’s probably speaking of religion way more than she realizes she is. Like Jenn and Rahel, I live in Georgia, and many Christians talk incessantly about faith and church activities here. I honestly don’t think they realize quite how strongly they come off in conversation.

    I did add my two cents on the TA thread, suggesting that she lay off the religious talk at least for a while so that they can re-visit the topic later and establish some sort of comfort zone. I also suggested that Jenn look into some other stuff they could do together for a while to work on a bond not centered around shared religion.

  • CanadianChick

    My best friend is a Christian – in fact, he and I met at a church youth dance in 1984.

    I’ve been an out atheist for a long time and it really hasn’t affected our friendship much.

    That said, the church we both went to (and he is still part of) is very liberal…he accepts evolution as described by scientists. He is a strong proponent of feminism, LGBT rights (including marriage, of course) and is politically more left leaning than I am. He is sex positive and thinks sex is only immoral if it is not honest and consensual. He thinks proselytizing is wrong. I know he prays for my general well-being, but I doubt he prays that I will return to the church.

    So, we have LOTS to talk about, including mocking conservative religion…he values my insight, and will even come to my husband or I for explanations related to early church history, alternative narratives, etc.

    So, it IS possible to stay close to your religious friends, but it takes a lot of respect and it helps if some of your underlying beliefs are similar.

    Not sure how successful a fundy-atheist pairing would survive.

  • Mr Z

    The thing is that most people are not taught how to disagree with an idea and not with the person that holds it. Sure, there are times when it is just impossible, but for the most part you don’t have to associate the two in every moment of your waking life. If someone you know hates strawberries and you love them, how does this affect your relationship? How about different hobbies? The problem is that faith requires you surround yourself with those who support your faith for you. Independent thinking and living is not encouraged by religions.

    If you are a person of faith and don’t want to lose a friend who is not, quit making their lack of faith or your faith a part of the relationship. If your friend is allergic to nuts, you don’t take them to pick peanuts… amiright? Try to see everything the way your friend does for a day or two. Get a notepad and write down every single time that religion and faith were pushed into your day by someone else. Imagine that happening if with nuts to your friend who is allergic. Think about it; if ‘god gave us a wonderful day’ = ‘this day would be so much better with some peanut butter’ or ‘god bless you’ = ‘want some almonds?’ and so on. Write it all down for a few days or a week. See just how tired your friend would be of it all. Not because your friend doesn’t want people to enjoy PBJ sandwiches, but why can’t people just stop talking about fucking nuts? Or imagine it this way: You just found out you can never have children. Now write down how many times people bring that thought to the front of your mind for you without thinking about it. Every baby you see, every story you hear, every child playing you hear and so on.

    Now, remember that your friend cannot easily disassociate you from your faith. You have become a constant reminder of the anguish shoved into their life every day by more or less well meaning people who just don’t care what others think of their faith, and worse, by people who hate, demean, marginalize, curse, and abuse those who do not have their same faith.

    Your friend may not trust that you are or will remain a trustworthy friend, perhaps always wondering when you are going to ‘go all jesus’ on them. Perhaps they wonder if you talk about them to your ‘jesus friends’ in ways that are not flattering. Perhaps they suspect that if push comes to shove, in a confrontation you will take the side of any involved believers over the side of your non-believing friend. It’s natural to think that way, no matter what is pulling the friendship apart.

    It’s unfair that these quite natural social interactions might cost you a friendship, but if you want to keep it try real hard to understand why it’s a problem for the sufferer.

  • Samuel

    What usually holds me back with Christian friends is their belief that I deserve eternal torture because of my differing outlook. Out of all of the biblical cherry-picking they do you would think they could afford their non-believing friends some compassion by not assuming they deserve the worst form of punishment imaginable.

    My advice to Jenn is: leave out the part about your best friend burning forever. And don’t just bottle it up into some strange form of pity. Lay it aside along with the passages condoning slavery, violence, the destruction of our habitat, as well as the geological misinformation.

  • Abby

    I’m an atheist and it’s well known. However, one of my best friends is a devout Christian. She is pretty open-minded and we just NEVER speak about religion. Well, once she asked me what turned me from my faith because she didn’t want the same thing to happen to her kids. I was slightly offended but whatever. Lol.

  • I wonder…

    Is it possible that in becoming an atheist, for which there is no “So now you’re an atheist” pamphlet, her friend might be under the impression that all theists are suddenly the “enemy”.

    Lord knows, there are plenty of theists who would paint a recent deconvert as an agent of Satan etc etc. It wouldn’t be unreasonable for her to think that corollary is true.

    If this is the case, it is relatively easy to locate many instances where atheists/theists are not only friends, but in many cases good friends even spouses/partners. And that she (Rachel) should remember that her friend is nearly an atheist, just with one more god to go.

  • Nerdette

    My post offers nothing beyond how slightly weirded out I am by the names – the name my mother gave me at birth was “Rachel Jenn”, which I have since changed. Obviously there is a chance the names could come together in any context, but now I’m stuck wondering if I have an old friend who just won’t come and talk with me…

  • Claudia

    Though I understand the impulse to reflexively assume that it is the actions of the Christian that could be causing a rift, I don’t see that this is neccesarily the case.

    For the moment all we have is a Christian who is clearly concerned about her friendship to an atheist and wants to preserve it. This means that she likely has already thought about her interactions with her friend on the basis of religion and can’t find anything that could form a rift. She cannot be assumed to be bigoted against atheists because she a- wants to remain friends with an atheist while never indicating “saving” her is the goal and b- Trusts enough in the good intentions of atheists that she went on an atheist forum to seek advice, obviously assuming the people there had good will.

    Of course she could be doing things, even unconciously, that drive her friend away (o/t: funny how easily we assume a Christian can subtly drive someone away but atheist men driving atheist women away from the community is so damn unimaginable to so many). However it could be that the one that has a problem with people with a different worldview is her friend. It could be that her friend is conciously or unconciously distancing herself from anything that has to do with religion, including religious friends. It also could be that she’s distancing herself for something totally unrelated to religion.

    I think it’s good that atheists give her tips on different things she may not notice but may justifiably bother her friend. However we cannot discount the possibility (and neither should she) that none of those things are the problem because the problem is inside her friends head. Hopefully whatever the real cause is, it’s temporary and easy to fix.

  • Jeff

    Right off the bat, someone asked Jenn the following:

    In the highly unlikely event that your belief turns out to be true i.e. a bronze age carpenter is the saviour of all humanity, it follows that the majority of humanity is doomed for praying to the wrong god. Billions will be tortured in hell for eternity because they are not Christians. Thankfully there is zero evidence for this; but is this the kind of dogma you want to be a part of?

    Her reply:

    To answer your question, it is part of my belief. It’s unfortunate for those whom I deem lost. It’s not my judgement, but what is written in the Bible. I do believe it wholeheartedly and literally.

    It’s “unfortunate”. Right. Billions of people suffering for all of eternity – and she describes it as “unfortunate”. And she can’t understand why the other young woman is avoiding her. This attests to two claims I’ve been making for years: A) Evangelicals are the least introspective people on the planet; B) Most of them are fucking imbeciles. Moreover, I skimmed through some of the following comments (couldn’t bring myself to go through all of them), and it seems not one atheist called her out on this.

    Typical evangelical thinking – “I’m not condemning you, God is” and “Why, yes, you’re going to hell – but as long as I’m saved, that’s all that matters.” The idea that billions of their fellow human beings will suffer for all of eternity bothers them hardly at all; many (I contend it’s most) look forward to it eagerly. They truly believe their “heavenly reward” will consist of hanging around on a mezzanine in heaven with Jesus and Dubya, watching the rest of us burn.

    This is a criminal psychopathology – or, as I understand it’s now called, “antisocial personality disorder”. Lack of empathy, willingness or eagerness to see others suffer – these are the classic symptoms. These people are psychopaths; there’s simply no other way to see it. The only reason they aren’t violent is that there are legal constraints in effect – and we’ve seen in Middle Eastern countries what happens when those constraints aren’t there.

    Richard, Hemant, as I’ve told you before – I’m absolutely convinced it’s the result of a neurological defect. There’s absolutely no point even in talking to them. Quarantine them, don’t let them vote, don’t let them breed. It’s the only way to ensure human survival.

  • Steve

    The thing is, Jenn doesn’t lack empathy. She is deeply concerned for her friend. Especially after she read stories about how atheists are often bullied or shunned. Which she was completely oblivious about.

    I was aghast at that comment too and I consider it “unfortunate” that she believes something so deeply disgusting. But I see it as some sort of cognitive dissonance in light of the rest. If you read her other posts, you’ll see that she is truly a nice and caring person. Yet she buys in the most immoral beliefs of Christianity without questioning. She is aware of doubts, but she casts them away because she desperately has to believe.

    She is a good person despite her religion. So if it they can manage not to talk about it, it’s possible that they can get along.

  • Jeff

    @Steve: If you read her other posts, you’ll see that she is truly a nice and caring person… She is a good person despite her religion.

    I don’t agree. She believes billions of her fellow human beings will suffer for eternity, and dismisses it in cavalier fashion. Again, as longs as she’s saved, as long as she gets to have the ontological security blanket for the few brief decades she’s here – that’s all that matters. What happens to the rest of humanity – for many of them, that includes their own children – matters not at all.

    You can’t adhere to this worldview and be a “good” person – certainly not “caring”.

    So if it they can manage not to talk about it, it’s possible that they can get along.

    It would appear her “friend” doesn’t want to. Can you blame her?

  • Steve

    I think what she believes is BS. I think that comment is horrible. But I don’t really know her. I’m not going to say she is evil just from that comment.

    I’d say she is brainwashed and so deep into the religious thing that she doesn’t fully reflect about what she says. Some people just throw out these soundbites because they were programmed to. Not because they are genuine sociopaths. If she were truly one, she’d be a lot more dismissive about some of the comments that pointed out what atheists really think about her beliefs (like calling her god an “imaginary friend”). But she appears to be open to differences, as long as she doesn’t have to think about them and apply what she learns to herself.
    She’s like “Yeah, it’s sad that my beliefs have such bad consequences for some [the shunning. Not hell], but it’s what I was taught and like to believe in”. In this case, I rather attribute that attitude to ignorance and being sheltered than malice.

    I’d be nice to have a real dialogue with her about that, but she is only there for direct advice about the relationship.

    It would appear her “friend” doesn’t want to. Can you blame her?

    She doesn’t actually share many details of their interactions. From the little she says, Rachel rolled her eyes a couple of times when Jenn brought up religion. So she probably (rightfully) thinks that the comments are ridiculous. But the fact that she didn’t say anything also shows that she doesn’t want to be confrontational about it. They both want to their relationship to continue.

  • Jeff

    I’m not going to say she is evil just from that comment.

    “Evil” is a loaded term, but I have no problem drawing the conclusion I have from that comment. It tells me all I need to know about her.

    I’ve made my point. Any attempt to engage them in dialogue is futile.

  • Ex Patriot

    If I were your fiend and I got smart and became a an Athiest, and you still wanted to be friends, first I would not try to covert you to my way of thinking as we don’t try to convert, but if you try to convert me back to some mythology that you believe in I would throw your ass out the door on a broomstick and consider this a lost friendship and move on with out you

  • I know the religious opinions of less than ten of my real life friends and work colleagues. When I was at school I know one person’s religion and he was a nutter. Religion simply isn’t a topic that comes up very often and when it does almost everyone is embarrassed by it. That’s why we Brits have to come on the Interwebs to get our fix of dissing the believers.

  • Tom

    I think it’s important not to jump to conclusions that Jenn is the problem. She seems to be level-headed. If she was one of those people who tries to proselytize at every opportunity, then her friend might probably have cut off ties with her already. She certainly wouldn’t have come to a place full of atheists to ask for help.

    I think it might be a case where her friend, having decided that she doesn’t believe any more, is pulling away from people and things that are connected with her previous religion. To an extent that’s to be expected, but if she’s been friends with Jenn since the second grade, then pulling away from her completely probably isn’t the answer. It may be that this is a phase that her friend is going through; like, “Whoa… I need to step back and look at things for a while.” It may be that this “rift” will disappear once her friend is more comfortable in her new skin as an atheist.

    In any case, calm discussion is in order. Both of them need to discuss what’s happening. Jenn needs to bring her concerns about a rift forming to her friend in a way that is not confrontational or judgemental. Just start out with something like, “We need to talk. I’m feeling like we’re drifting apart…”

    Good luck to the both of them.

  • Jeff

    I think it’s important not to jump to conclusions that Jenn is the problem. Se seems to be level-headed… Jenn needs to bring her concerns about a rift forming to her friend in a way that is not confrontational or judgemental. Just start out with something like, “We need to talk. I’m feeling like we’re drifting apart…”

    Oh, for fuck’s sake – she thinks the other woman is going to be tortured forever! That’s it; that’s all I need to hear. Anything else she may say is irrelevant.

    The accomodationism around here is just sad. It’s the main reason I no longer come here very often.

  • Noble 6

    Going on limited information since we don’t know why this has become a problem to begin with, my advice is to not discuss it.

    I thought it could work. It doesn’t. My best friend and I have just recently gotten back to where we were before we were arguing about religion. We both realized that to have a relationship we couldn’t discuss that issue.

    There is the “backfire effect” (forgive me if someone else has mentioned this but I haven’t read through all the comments) psychological phenomenon where when confronted with facts and arguments that contradict deeply held beliefs, the beliefs are simply reinforced and facts denied and arguments discounted. This is what happened with my friend. I didn’t convince him of anything — he simply grew more entrenched.

    Granted this can’t be generalized to everyone, but it will be the case in at least a large portion of individuals so there is a good chance that you will not accomplish anything by discussing religion (at least not right away). That is something they will have to figure out on their own.

  • Matt H

    I have many friends that are still religious, but they don’t incessantly mix into conversation. That way I can relate to them like a normal person. I am not close with anyone that says Jesus every 5 minutes. I just can’t relate to those folks.

    If you are going to tease your atheist friend about “going to the darkside”, then you should be a good sport when they tease you for “being braindead”.

  • Alice

    Does anyone else have the urge to send this page (along with a big “fuck you”) to a former friend that abandoned them because of atheism? Seriosly, if there were two Jenns for every closed minded idiot in Christianity…

  • Demonhype

    I don’t necessarily think it has to do with Jen being preachy, but when you live in a culture wherein you are a part of an over-privileged majority that constantly reinforces your beliefs you stand a good chance of using words and terms that will make the minority very uncomfortable, even if you don’t want to make them uncomfortable or you think that you are being really inclusive.

    Kind of like how I am white and grew up in a near-isolated white culture, with white adults who (at least in private/in white company) used ethnic slurs and racist terminology almost daily. Not to mention that since white people are a very privileged majority all over the country we have an omnipresence that black people (for example) do not. It is easier for a white person to be isolated from any experience with non-whites than the other way around. It’s easy enough that it can happen without any direct effort on the part of the white person.

    What I’m saying is that when I actually got the chance to talk to black people (once I got over my initial paralysis of “what can I say? what do we talk about?” and realized they were just people and not strange mysterious golems of some sort), as well as the chance to get on the internet and lurk/participate in such discussions in general, that I became aware of not only my privilege but the fact that I was so unaware of it. I’d always thought of myself as not-racist, but when I was whisked out of my static whites-only kind of world I quickly came to realize how many things I can unthinkingly say that are really racist, which were invisible to me because I’d grown up listening to this sort of thing and seeing it without it ever being challenged in any serious way. This isn’t a very nice thing to realize about oneself, but it doesn’t necessarily make me or anyone else a racist, unless they staunchly refuse to acknowledge and/or deal with such a problem.

    So rather than saying “I am not racist (ie: I do not see myself as racist), therefore nothing I say is racist” and sticking to it as hard as any faith (like my mom), or just deliberately lashing out with even more racist language in response (like my sister), I had to come to terms with the idea that, while I may not like racism or see myself as a racist, I still have some potential to hold racist ideas or use racist terminology simply by right of having grown up within this privilege, and that it is something I must be open to if I want to (honestly) keep considering myself not a racist.

    So, while not accusing Jen of being bigoted or trying to proselytize, I kind of like Mr. Z’s advice:

    Try to see everything the way your friend does for a day or two. Get a notepad and write down every single time that religion and faith were pushed into your day by someone else. Imagine that happening if with nuts to your friend who is allergic. Think about it; if ‘god gave us a wonderful day’ = ‘this day would be so much better with some peanut butter’ or ‘god bless you’ = ‘want some almonds?’ and so on. Write it all down for a few days or a week. See just how tired your friend would be of it all. Not because your friend doesn’t want people to enjoy PBJ sandwiches, but why can’t people just stop talking about fucking nuts? Or imagine it this way: You just found out you can never have children. Now write down how many times people bring that thought to the front of your mind for you without thinking about it. Every baby you see, every story you hear, every child playing you hear and so on.

    You could very easily be making your friend feel alienated without being a preacher, a proselytizer, a bigot, or anything else like that and not even be aware of doing it, simply because of the privilege the religious–and Christians in particular in this country–enjoy. So I think what Mr. Z here suggests is a very good exercise for any religious person who wishes to understand an atheist friend and maintain a good friendship.

  • Baconsbud

    I have to agree with Mr. Z and Demonhype on this. I doubt Jenn has any idea of just how much she has made religion a part of her life. I would say she should try to go a few days without talking about religion with anyone and see how different it is then it is right now.

  • Eric

    Something seems fishy about her inquiry and post. It almost seems TOO scripted and planned. Call me paranoid, but her query seems more like some fanatical Xian tactic of getting info from atheists so they can then formulate smear campaigns and spin. We say “xians are XXX when they do YYY” and then they take this and hold it up going “see. Told ya so.”

    I don’t know, my instincts and gut are telling me her post is bullshit.

  • Karl Otterson

    Seems simple to me. She should leave the faith too. Many of my christian friends have done so. In several cases it was due to realizing they weren’t ok with a god who would set their friend on fire. Because when it comes right down to it, who is more important to you, real friends or imaginary ones?

  • Jeff

    Because when it comes right down to it, who is more important to you, real friends or imaginary ones?


  • Dkesseler

    Wow, I’m from MS and have actually had a similar, recent experience. I’ve been a christian my whole life…..did a hellofa lotof things as a young adult that dont support that fact but I’ve grown up and realized it. One of my best friends from highschool, whom I went to churh & youth group with, just in the last 5yrs decided that there is no God and thay evolution is the real answer. Lol, I can only ASSUME that after obtaining her masters degree she thought she was to smart for “fairy tales”. As a Science major, I love the wonders of the earth but never doubt where they began….Nor will I let a, once best friend of mine, preach to me about how she now thinks we evolved from monkies. Everyone is entitled to their oponion but its absurd to think that all ur friends will have the same one. Best advice, love ur friends for there differences and whatever ur religious belief may be, just be educated enough to civilly support ur opinion & dont surround urself with people that u know will deliberately challenge ur beliefs.

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