As a non-believer, how can I respectfully tell my friends my view on their religion?


#1

I live in Oklahoma and my group of friends is mainly Christian or Agnostic. We are all still young at 14, but we are talkative and open-minded so we are willing to discuss whatever subject floats into the conversation. I have chosen to keep my mouth shut out of the fear that I may belittle someone/their beliefs, and I don’t want to do that. Anyway, I consider myself an Agnostic-Atheist, as in I don’t believe in God as I have no reason to believe he/she/it exists but I am not claiming that I know God doesn’t exist. I also respect Christians as I would anyone else, so I don’t think I will come off as abrasive. So anyway, how could I approach my mixed-agnostic/Christian group of friends if this comes up again?

P.S I’m not coming here to stir up trouble or anything like that. I understand that many of you may try to change my mind and I guess that can’t be avoided, I just ask that you treat me
with equal respect.


#2

What kind of topics of conversation do you generally find yourself in with your friends?


#3

Hmm, anything really, school, video games, movies, ideas, TV shows, philosophy/religion, whatever is happening then and there, etc.


#4

[quote="Austispumante, post:3, topic:307026"]
Hmm, anything really, school, video games, movies, ideas, TV shows, philosophy/religion, whatever is happening then and there, etc.

[/quote]

I mean, like, specifically when philosophy and religion comes up. See, the truth is, atheism is a simply a single type of belief amongst a rejection of all other supernatural beliefs. I'm going to assume that you don't believe in astrology, either. But if your friends did believe in it, I doubt you'd feel any sort of pressure to take up for "non-astrology." I've grown to feel the same way about atheism. There's no point in lying about it, but short of being asked a direct question, I don't think there's any need to "represent" for unbelief either. To be sure, there are times when the stakes are real, and you'll have to step up and destroy a bad argument when you hear one, but it sounds like this is a question of simple chit-chat among friends.

It sounds to me like your instincts are good enough that it's unlikely you'll offend anyone in the course of basic conversation about your unbelief. Unless of course, you're in conversation with people who are simply determined to be offended (and there are those people). Nothing you can do there. For some people, belief in God strikes at the core of who they think they are, and unbelief will necessarily be viewed as a de facto attack on that assumption.

Richard Dawkins admits to publicly saying grace when it's his turn to lead the prayer at Oxford dinner. He does so out of respect for the long history and tradition of the ritual. He also quotes the philosopher A.J. Ayer who once said, "I will not utter falsehoods. But I have no objection to making meaningless statements." Point being, there's no medal for jumping at every opportunity to shoot down superstition. For every conversation, its proper time and place.

Just so you're aware, Atheism is a prohibited topic in this specific forum, so this thread might be getting locked soon. Feel free to PM me if you want to continue further, or maybe you can re-post in the Non-Catholic Religions forum.


#5

I know very few people who believe in God, and those I know who do will rarely discuss it. I think it is different in Oklahoma! I usually ask people questions about their beliefs, rather than try to change them, so I can understand them better. When the JWs come to the door I always tell them I am happy to discuss religion but warn them I am likely to have more impact on their views than they on mine! i do too, or so i like to think. On the other hand I do not accept statements about my own belief like "we are all spiritual in our own way" or "what star sign are you?" my answers: not, 'I don't think we are' and 'I don't have a star sign. the stars in each sign a light years away from each other. they are not related to each other. you don't have a star sign either. There is no such thing'. I do have a few friends but not very many.


#6

[quote="Giants, post:4, topic:307026"]
Just so you're aware, Atheism is a prohibited topic in this specific forum, so this thread might be getting locked soon. Feel free to PM me if you want to continue further, or maybe you can re-post in the Non-Catholic Religions forum.

[/quote]

I don't think that applies to a topic like this, since this is a topic about relationships between the atheist and religious people instead of an "I'm right and you're wrong" type of thread. But good to be careful, just in case.

Anyway, I think Giants is on the right track. Your approach does need to be in such a way that it is clear it isn't an attack. Christians need to do the same in their relationships with atheists. The idea is to stir the conversation, and not attack. However, as Giants said, if there is some flaw in the stance of one side or the other, it needs to be handled or addressed in some way. Either the flaw needs to be pointed out so the other side has a chance to fix the flaw or gap in their argument, or that particular argument needs to be thrown out and a different and more secure argument put in its place (if such exists).

You also need to realize that in some cases, the best thing to do in a debate is to find a way to peacefully end it. These types of "debates" usually devolves from actual debate into a flame war where the sides attack each other (one of the reasons discussion on atheism and evolution threads are banned) and no ground can be made. Also, if you feel the other side isn't really looking for debate or discussion, but just to say you're wrong and give bad arguments, then it is probably a good idea to work on ending the conversation as peacefully as possible and to maybe switch the topic to something other than religion/philosophy, or just part ways for the day until things calm down.

In the end, dialogue is never really easy in situations like this. Don't really approach from an "I'm right, you're wrong", but an "this is what I believe because of this and that" argument. And asking the right questions, ones that make you think, is also a good idea. These types of questions can be good for both sides.

P.S. I think this approach can also be good for discussing politics


#7

I think it sounds like you have a great group of friends. Why not just state your belief as you did on this post. It sounds straightforward and non at all offensive. If your friends are open minded and willing to discuss anything it could lead to some very interesting dialogue which will bring everyone toward a better understanding of how you each believe.

Mary.


#8

You want to claim your not a believer in God and your here, now that even you have to admit is interesting...
Can we suggest that you be fair to yourself and dont let your mind that is incapable of reasoning to the existence and wonder of God, not neglect your inner immortal soul that longs to be with God for eternity?

Our mission statement in life is to get our souls to heaven, and to take as many souls along as we can. For you to state you dont believe in God, only hightens the obligation to still take your soul along with our own to eternal life...even if you reason that your going screaming and we have to drag you in protest...your friend.


#9

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#10

I’m with this, I don’t see anything wrong with how you presented your self in your opening post; it does not come off as abrasive or rude at all.

I would be very interested in debating with you over it though :stuck_out_tongue:


#11

I think you will handle it just fine. You seem very understanding of their feelings as they should be yours. Remember not to use inflammatory words like myth, superstition, stupid, etc. From your post I doubt you would. They as well shouldn't start yelling at you that you are going to hell. Friends are a treasure.


#12

[quote="Giants, post:4, topic:307026"]
Richard Dawkins admits to publicly saying grace when it's his turn to lead the prayer at Oxford dinner. He does so out of respect for the long history and tradition of the ritual. He also quotes the philosopher A.J. Ayer who once said, "I will not utter falsehoods. But I have no objection to making meaningless statements." Point being, there's no medal for jumping at every opportunity to shoot down superstition. For every conversation, its proper time and place.

[/quote]

This. Some atheists (mainly the FFRF, but I have friends like this as well) feel the need to bash religion all the time, and with the FFRF, try to eliminate it from society. My main advice, though, would be to not focus all your energy on speaking against Christianity. The most annoying thing my atheist friends do is only actively disbelieving the not even the God of Abraham, but specifically the Christian God. I can't believe I'm saying this, but take a lesson from South Park. Don't just bash the one target. Just don't take it too far and cross practically every line like they did


#13

I think the best way you can refute their beliefs is to learn as much as you can about them so as to be able to speak knowledgeably. You can start with the Gospel according to John. Find info on it here. And the book here.

Post any questions you might have back here at CAF, we'd be happy to help.


#14

From what you write in your post, you seem like a generally respectful person. Depending on who you are talking to, you probably don't have a lot to worry about. I am often in a reverse situation of you. I am sometimes the only Catholic around a bunch of non-Catholics. I try to stick to "I Statements." Instead of saying "what you believe is nonsense!" I might say, "I believe this" or "I do that" or "I don't accept such-and-such" or "I just don't believe that." Just be sincere. I think these kinds of respectful conversations are healthy for all of us if it leads us to at least understand where others are coming from. We begin to see that while we disagree, they are coming from a legitimate place in their heart.

Personally, I get offended when anyone tries to dissuade me from my faith by simply debating. Some people will just be offended if you disagree with them. It's really difficult to have fruitful conversations with those people.


#15

[quote="Austispumante, post:1, topic:307026"]
I live in Oklahoma and my group of friends is mainly Christian or Agnostic. We are all still young at 14, but we are talkative and open-minded so we are willing to discuss whatever subject floats into the conversation. I have chosen to keep my mouth shut out of the fear that I may belittle someone/their beliefs, and I don't want to do that. Anyway, I consider myself an Agnostic-Atheist, as in I don't believe in God as I have no reason to believe he/she/it exists but I am not claiming that I know God doesn't exist. I also respect Christians as I would anyone else, so I don't think I will come off as abrasive. So anyway, how could I approach my mixed-agnostic/Christian group of friends if this comes up again?

P.S I'm not coming here to stir up trouble or anything like that. I understand that many of you may try to change my mind and I guess that can't be avoided, I just ask that you treat me
with equal respect.

[/quote]

How important we think we are! Everyone has an opinion, but that is all it is. Your friends may think your a cohort or an idiot. Disrespect someone because you come off like a know it all (a super important one at that) to a group of you'd best be ready to fight or run.14 year olds,


#16

As in any conversation with others try your very best to be a good listener, show in your replies that you have heard what was being said to you. In the course of the next few years try very hard to hear the differing messages you will be exposed to about God and faith and do yourself a favor and keep an open mind. Things may seem very different to you over the next few years for many, many reasons, stay open to change.


#17

I’m new to CAF and have seen the banned topics list. When I read your post I went back to the list. I can’t find atheism listed. I don’t want to break the rules. Can you tell me where it says atheism is banned? Is it banned from the POV of promoting it? Is it banned for discussing from a Catholic POV to disprove atheism?


#18

[quote="maltmom, post:11, topic:307026"]
I think you will handle it just fine. You seem very understanding of their feelings as they should be yours. Remember not to use inflammatory words like myth, superstition, stupid, etc. From your post I doubt you would. They as well shouldn't start yelling at you that you are going to hell. Friends are a treasure.

[/quote]

How hadn't I noticed this the first time I posted? The four biggest pet peeves I have in theism-atheism debates:
1) Don't use the Big Bang to argue for atheism. It was created by a Catholic priest.
2) Don't use evolution as an argument. Most Catholics I know, at least, believe in theistic evolution
3) For that matter, don't try disproving YEC and acting like that kills religion. (Most) Catholics don't believe in YEC either.
4) Don't call the Bible myth or fiction. Myth is an inflammatory word, and whether or not you believe in Christianity (or any religion for that matter), religious texts still go in the 400's in the Dewey Decimal System. For that matter, even fairy tales count as non-fiction. So people calling the Bible fiction really gets on my nerves

[quote="St_Stephen, post:17, topic:307026"]
I'm new to CAF and have seen the banned topics list. When I read your post I went back to the list. I can't find atheism listed. I don't want to break the rules. Can you tell me where it says atheism is banned? Is it banned from the POV of promoting it? Is it banned for discussing from a Catholic POV to disprove atheism?

[/quote]

I haven't been around for long enough to remember the time when it wasn't banned, but flame wars started over atheism and evolution. Charity flew out the window, so to prevent it from happening again, they banned both topics. Even then, threads about them still come up, such as this past weekend when I got sucked into a debate on YEC v theistic evolution. By the end of it when it got locked, practically every other post was ad hominem, and the other half was both sides repeating previous arguments but louder


#19

[quote="St_Stephen, post:17, topic:307026"]
I'm new to CAF and have seen the banned topics list. When I read your post I went back to the list. I can't find atheism listed. I don't want to break the rules. Can you tell me where it says atheism is banned? Is it banned from the POV of promoting it? Is it banned for discussing from a Catholic POV to disprove atheism?

[/quote]

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=410885

Per this mod post from a few years back, atheism and evolution discussion is prohibited in the Philosophy, Sacred Scripture, and Apologetics forums. I believe that similar bans exist in the other forums as well. Having said that, I've always felt that the ban was somewhat selectively enforced, and no clear distinction appears to exist between what's acceptable and what's not. Nor have I ever seen the discussions that turn toward atheism getting significantly out of hand, but I suppose that's not my call to make.


#20

[quote="MaryT777, post:7, topic:307026"]
I think it sounds like you have a great group of friends. Why not just state your belief as you did on this post. It sounds straightforward and non at all offensive. If your friends are open minded and willing to discuss anything it could lead to some very interesting dialogue which will bring everyone toward a better understanding of how you each believe.

Mary.

[/quote]

:thumbsup: Your writing skills show you to be a very thoughtful and educated teen, and I totally agree that you should just state to your friends what you've written on this forum. Are you afraid if you reveal your religious beliefs that they will drop you as a pâté of your peer group? :shrug:


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