Atheists dealing with religious family and friends

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Atheists dealing with religious family and friends

Post #1

Post by benchwarmer »

Hi fellow heathens :)

I watched the following video today and thought it might be interesting/helpful for some of my atheist friends here.

Matt Dillahunty opens up about the toxic words from his own parents


Though I don't struggle with this as my family is not religious, I do have some friends who may eventually put me in this position. It's an interesting perspective on the passive aggressive 'love' that some Christians are employing and probably not even realizing what they are doing.

Anyone here dealing with the same issue? Are religious family and friends trying to 'love' you back to Jesus with guilt and scripture quotes that are blind to what love actually means?

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Post #2

Post by bluegreenearth »

I find using "street epistemology" is the most effective strategy for engaging in difficult conversations with religious family and friends.

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Post #3

Post by OnceConvinced »

I tend to not tell family and friends I'm no longer a Christian because I worry just what reaction they might have. As most of them believe I'm a strong Christian who's had been since he was a kid, they continue to believe I still am a believer.

My parents know I no longer go to church but both continue to talk to me as if I am still a Christian. They just can't fathom me no longer being a beleiver I don't think. And of course they see no obvious difference. And I still discuss the bible with them. With my mother, if she knew, she would continually nag me and try to get be back in again. I can do without the aggravation.

Society and its morals evolve and will continue to evolve. The bible however remains the same and just requires more and more apologetics and claims of "metaphors" and "symbolism" to justify it.

Prayer is like rubbing an old bottle and hoping that a genie will pop out and grant you three wishes.

There is much about this world that is mind boggling and impressive, but I see no need whatsoever to put it down to magical super powered beings.


Check out my website: Recker's World of Fantasy

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Post #4

Post by bluegreenearth »

OnceConvinced wrote: I tend to not tell family and friends I'm no longer a Christian because I worry just what reaction they might have. As most of them believe I'm a strong Christian who's had been since he was a kid, they continue to believe I still am a believer.

My parents know I no longer go to church but both continue to talk to me as if I am still a Christian. They just can't fathom me no longer being a beleiver I don't think. And of course they see no obvious difference. And I still discuss the bible with them. With my mother, if she knew, she would continually nag me and try to get be back in again. I can do without the aggravation.
In a way, you are in a good position to begin helping them to think more critically about their belief without having to reveal your lack of belief. When discussions about the Bible are initiated, you can use "street epistemology" to facilitate the conversation by asking them strategic questions.

Try to have them articulate their strongest reason for believing the Bible is true. Then ask them, "If that reason was not available or if that reason was demonstrated to be unreliable, would you still have the same level of confidence in the belief?" If they indicate that they would still confidently believe the Bible is true even without having that reason they identified, then you've learned that it would have been a waste of time to try and argue against that reason since they would maintain their belief regardless.

Furthermore, such a response from them would imply that their given reason for holding the belief could not have been the strongest. Otherwise, their confidence in the belief would be lower or nonexistent without having that reason to support it. As such, there must be another reason they would still hold onto the belief. So, the follow-up question would be, "Since you would still believe the Bible was true even if you didn't have that supporting reason, what reason remains for your high confidence in the belief?" Once their next reason is articulated, you proceed in the same fashion as before by asking if their confidence would be impacted by an inability to rely upon that reason for support. You should keep this line of questing going until you land on a reason that is at the foundation of their belief.

Once they've indicated their confidence in the belief would be reduced or eliminated if it were not for the support provided by a specified reason, you may proceed ahead with more Socratic questioning regarding the reliability of that reason. Never claim you know or believe this reason of their's is unreliable; just be patient and ask critical thinking questions in such a way as to suggest you are exploring the issue for yourself with them at your side as trustworthy companions.

If nothing else, by using "street epistemology" in this way, you are helping your religious family and friends to think more critically about the unreliability of the reasons they've been given for confidently believing an unfalsifiable claim is true. When this communication strategy is deployed correctly and carefully, religious people often discover for themselves where logical fallacies reside in the apologetic arguments at the foundation of their religious beliefs. Keep in mind, there is no guarantee that this intellectual journey will completely disabuse your family and friends of their religious faith. However, by helping them to learn how to think rather than what to think, you are offering your family and friends the tools they need to properly investigate unfalsifiable claims.

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Post #5

Post by OnceConvinced »

bluegreenearth wrote: In a way, you are in a good position to begin helping them to think more critically about their belief without having to reveal your lack of belief. When discussions about the Bible are initiated, you can use "street epistemology" to facilitate the conversation by asking them strategic questions.
That's actually what I do. I take the position that the bible is true and I bring up points that get them umming and ahhing.

One of the disturbing things I found when I started doing that is my dad would come up with very bad arguments used by apologists. And when I pointed out the flaws in the arguments it was "Oh yes, I realise that..." and then he would come up with a completely different argument.

What I learnt was that my dad uses bad arguments knowing they're bad arguments, but expects they'll be good enough for fellow Christians. He doesn't care that they're bad arguments. He just wants to get you to his side of the debate. But when someone who counters that argument comes along then he tries a different tack.

I always saw my dad as someone reliable who would never try to decieve anyone. But it opened my eyes, that when it comes to religious beliefs, that it's often considered ok to lie for Christ as long as it gets people believing. It makes me wonder just how many Christians... even the ones here... truly believe what they're saying and are they just giving those arguments because they have none better to give? Are they just hoping their argument, no matter how weak, will convince a non believer to come over to their side of the fence?
bluegreenearth wrote: Try to have them articulate their strongest reason for believing the Bible is true. Then ask them, "If that reason was not available or if that reason was demonstrated to be unreliable, would you still have the same level of confidence in the belief?" If they indicate that they would still confidently believe the Bible is true even without having that reason they identified, then you've learned that it would have been a waste of time to try and argue against that reason since they would maintain their belief regardless.
My mother was going on about witches once and I raised the point that the witch she is talking about is simply a Hollywood witch and that they aren't exactly like that. They don't have dark magical powers. Witchcraft is just a pagan religion like any other.

Her response?

"Well it says in the bible they're evil, so they must be!"

Once you get to the "Because the bible says so argument", then all is lost. It's time to switch off your brain.

Good advice you are giving, but as far as my parents are concerned, especially my mother I don't want to try to deconvert them. My mother is not doing well and she might not have much longer. She actually looks forward to dying now because she believes she's going to Heaven to be with Jesus. So I don't want to try to shake her out of that belief if it gives her comfort in her final days.

In recent years I've been doing a lot of travelling around the globe. My mother has only ever been to Australia once and that was a few years ago. Her attitude is that Heaven is going to be so amazing, she doesn't care about seeing the rest of the world. It will be nothing compared to Heaven.

I never argued, but that to me is a very sad mindset. If there is no Heaven then you've forgone the opportunity to experience other cultures and see some amazing sites and have some amazing experiments. You've remained locked in your little Christian bubble believing you have all of eternity in paradise to come.

That to me is a huge reason why atheists should have a voice. We don't want people wasting their lives, thinking they have all eternity. But when it comes to my parents, they are both around 80 years old now. Best not rock their faith. Especially not my mother. Let her believe that she's going to Heaven so doesn't feel so bad about all she's missed out on on Earth due to her Christian beliefs. Be thankful that I am no longer in that boat missing out on all the wonders this world has to offer.
bluegreenearth wrote:
If nothing else, by using "street epistemology" in this way, you are helping your religious family and friends to think more critically about the unreliability of the reasons they've been given for confidently believing an unfalsifiable claim is true.

When this communication strategy is deployed correctly and carefully, religious people often discover for themselves where logical fallacies reside in the apologetic arguments at the foundation of their religious beliefs. Keep in mind, there is no guarantee that this intellectual journey will completely disabuse your family and friends of their religious faith. However, by helping them to learn how to think rather than what to think, you are offering your family and friends the tools they need to properly investigate unfalsifiable claims
With my own kids I've done this type of thing. Rather than just coming straight out and saying the bible is nonsense and Christianity is a delusion, I just ask them strategic questions to get them thinking. They then come to their own conclusions without me twisting their arms.

Neither of them are believers now much to the horror of their fundamentalist Christian mother. I'm sure she sees me now as the devil incarnate even though when I do see her she is amicable.

Society and its morals evolve and will continue to evolve. The bible however remains the same and just requires more and more apologetics and claims of "metaphors" and "symbolism" to justify it.

Prayer is like rubbing an old bottle and hoping that a genie will pop out and grant you three wishes.

There is much about this world that is mind boggling and impressive, but I see no need whatsoever to put it down to magical super powered beings.


Check out my website: Recker's World of Fantasy

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Post #6

Post by bluegreenearth »

[Replying to OnceConvinced]

Back when I used be a loyal Southern Baptist - Born Again - Evangelical Christian decades ago, I would sometimes exaggerate or even completely fabricate stories and experiences in order to seem convincing when "witnessing Christ" to unbelievers. If I was able to reconcile that deceptive behavior with my false beliefs, I'm confident most other Christians are probably did and continue to do the same thing. In fact, realizing how easy it was to fake "religious experiences" helped me realize that the miracle stories I grew up believing were most likely faked as well. Apologists will claim it is unlikely the Apostles would lie about their belief because they were willing to die for it. However, when I used to be a Christian, I would have agreed to die for my faith as well even though I knew some of my "religious experiences" were fabricated. This is because I truly believed, as you said about your Dad, that telling lies for God was permissible.

I feel a lot of compassion for you and your family. Contrary to what many Christians might believe about me as an atheist, I care for their well-being and do not blame them for being victims of indoctrination and confirmation bias. In fact, if they could manage to retain their beliefs without acting on them in ways that are objectively harmful to themselves and others around them, I wouldn't object to their delusions. Sadly, most Christians don't see where their beliefs are causing unjustifiable harm. All we can do is remain persistent in our efforts to help them learn how to think more critically before choosing to act on their faith.

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Post #7

Post by OnceConvinced »

bluegreenearth wrote: [Replying to OnceConvinced]

Back when I used be a loyal Southern Baptist - Born Again - Evangelical Christian decades ago, I would sometimes exaggerate or even completely fabricate stories and experiences in order to seem convincing when "witnessing Christ" to unbelievers.
I'll admit that sometimes I exagerated things, but I never blatantly lied. I was probalby guilty of passing on bad information though, info I'd heard from other people without first investigating it myself.

I was hearing through reliable people about some insane things going on a faith healing meetings involving high profile faith healers/Christians. And I got the chance to go to one of these. I remember telling someone next to me about all the things that happened at his meetings. Like demon possessed people sliding up walls. (that was really one of them) and dark clouds over the building (another one I'd heard through a source I thought was reliable).

Alas, none of those exciting things happened and it was all very mundane. The healer himself even said don't expect stuff like that.

So what's with all the stories going around claiming things like that? Why are Christians doing that?

Now I see it as them really wanting to believe that stuff and really wanting others to believe it too.

A huge exageration I hear from Christians, especially when they talk to non-Christians is "The holy spirit upon you is a powerful and profound." Yet in church all it is is warm fuzzies. "Oh that's the holy spirit upon you!"

bluegreenearth wrote: If I was able to reconcile that deceptive behavior with my false beliefs, I'm confident most other Christians are probably did and continue to do the same thing. In fact, realizing how easy it was to fake "religious experiences" helped me realize that the miracle stories I grew up believing were most likely faked as well.
All my life I've heard tall stories from the pulpit about amazing things going on overseas. Amazing miracles. But was never seeing anything like that in reality. Do the pastors who tell these stories acutally verify these tales themselves or do they just hear it and think "Wow!" and then pass it on to their congregation without even questioning the validity?

I think that is what happens a lot with Christians. They want to believe so much they'll just pass on stories without checking the truth of them. And I did that too.

One of the things that made me laugh was an email sent by my father to all his friends on his email list about skeletons of giants dug up somewhere. Photos included. Wow! the bible tales are true! There really were giants!

However I did a quick google search and hello, it's a hoax. They were created for a photoshop competition several years earlier. And you could go to the site and see the real photographs before the giant skeletons were photoshopped in.

I sent an email back to all of them with this information and the links to the website to expose.

I got a reply back from one theist saying we shouldn't be too quick to slam this. He went on about the spirit of anti-christ and how there are people out there who will do their best to ensure any claims like this are made to look false.

I'm rolling my eyes. Is he just so determined to believe this nonsense? Is he really so desperate he has to resort to accusations of conspiracies against Christianity?

There is a member here who talks about the end times and was going on about how the government were storing up a stack of guillotines so they could behead people who don't take the number of the beast. I did a quick check on the story only to find it's been a story that's been coming up for a number of years now and is a known hoax. Yet this christian was adament it was true.

Some Christians are willfilly deluding themselves.

bluegreenearth wrote: Apologists will claim it is unlikely the Apostles would lie about their belief because they were willing to die for it. However, when I used to be a Christian, I would have agreed to die for my faith as well even though I knew some of my "religious experiences" were fabricated. This is because I truly believed, as you said about your Dad, that telling lies for God was permissible.
They forgot about muslims who will strap explosives to their bodie or ram planes into buildings. If someone truly believes a lie they'll do all sorts of crazy things for their gods.

I'm like you too. I would have died for my beliefs. I'm just glad that I didn't feel like God was telling me to do anything dangerous.
bluegreenearth wrote: I feel a lot of compassion for you and your family. Contrary to what many Christians might believe about me as an atheist, I care for their well-being and do not blame them for being victims of indoctrination and confirmation bias. In fact, if they could manage to retain their beliefs without acting on them in ways that are objectively harmful to themselves and others around them, I wouldn't object to their delusions. Sadly, most Christians don't see where their beliefs are causing unjustifiable harm. All we can do is remain persistent in our efforts to help them learn how to think more critically before choosing to act on their faith.
My parents were in the same boat as me. Indoctrinated from birth. They were just doing what they thought was right. They did what their parents did.

Society and its morals evolve and will continue to evolve. The bible however remains the same and just requires more and more apologetics and claims of "metaphors" and "symbolism" to justify it.

Prayer is like rubbing an old bottle and hoping that a genie will pop out and grant you three wishes.

There is much about this world that is mind boggling and impressive, but I see no need whatsoever to put it down to magical super powered beings.


Check out my website: Recker's World of Fantasy

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Post #8

Post by Zzyzx »

.
OnceConvinced wrote: But when it comes to my parents, they are both around 80 years old now. Best not rock their faith.

As one who is the age of your parents, I agree that it would be inappropriate and unkind to challenge the faith of those elderly people who are comforted by believing in ‘the hereafter’.

Those of us who are of their cohort but not in that same theistic mind set deal with life differently, each in our own way.

I extend the ‘don’t shake their faith’ to people of all ages (and almost never discuss religion in person). It is not in my job description to enlighten believers – particularly on a one-to-one basis (a poor use of my time).

Here in the Forum, however, the conditions are different. Readers who are open to (or seeking) information are the audience I address (with Apologists providing multiple opportunities to challenge claims and stories).
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Post #9

Post by OnceConvinced »

I had my father over this weekend and we got into some bible discussion.

One of the things I always admired about my dad was how he was able to sit down with anyone and discuss the bible at length.

This weekend I threw him some curly questions, expecting him to have the usual weak answers that apologists give, but this time he was stumped into silence, several times.

This was not me taking the atheist stance as such. It was bringing questions and observations about the bible and doctinres I'd come up with as an atheist and asking them within the confines of the bible. So acknowledging the bible and that there really was a god.

But he just looked at me most of the time sratching his head unable to come up with any logical replies.

I realised that all these years he'd been debating with fellow Christians, because he didn't have atheist friends. All he had been doing was answering the same old questions and throwing around the same old arguments that were convincing to the choir, nobody else. The reality is he has no clue how do respond to real challengers from non-believers.

As I said in an earlier post I'd come to realise he was knowingly using bad arguments that he knew were bad. But this weekend it was even more sobering. Never had I seen my dad look so weak in debate unable to come up with answers to questions. Questions that a guy of his age, having studied the bible for so long, in so much depth, should surely have asked himself already!

Another example of how faith trumps reason. Just don't ask yourself too many difficult questions and you can remain in that safe Christian bubble.

He was usually the guy I could rely on for answers to all my questions about God and the bible. And he's one of the few Christians left who I have to give special consideration to, because he's been a committed Christian way longer than I ever was. He's someone who deserves respect and deserves to be listened to, based on tne longivity of his faith and time spent studying the bible (in great depth). And based on the fact he's always been consistent as a Christian. A chrisitan every day, not just one of those ones that pretends to be one at church.

I guess I can no longer hold him in that high regard. The holy spirit fails even in my own father. Yet more evidence that the god I once reverred is non-existant.

Society and its morals evolve and will continue to evolve. The bible however remains the same and just requires more and more apologetics and claims of "metaphors" and "symbolism" to justify it.

Prayer is like rubbing an old bottle and hoping that a genie will pop out and grant you three wishes.

There is much about this world that is mind boggling and impressive, but I see no need whatsoever to put it down to magical super powered beings.


Check out my website: Recker's World of Fantasy

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Post #10

Post by benchwarmer »

OnceConvinced wrote:
I guess I can no longer hold him in that high regard. The holy spirit fails even in my own father. Yet more evidence that the god I once reverred is non-existant.
Honestly, I think you can hold him in even higher regard now. Based on your conversation, you clearly made him stop and think rather than just spit out the party line. This means he's not a 'robot' that just blindly spews apologetics and hopes one of them sticks. He's capable of being honest about the subject and would rather give no response than an obviously bad one.

I hold anyone who's intellectually honest with themselves, to the best of their ability, in very high regard.

Thanks for sharing your story OC!

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