So I took in a much younger friend who desperately needed to get out of her abusive, religious home. So she's been here for a couple of weeks. I knew she was still Christian, though I suppose I thought more deist than anything (because, like most religious people, she has serious complaints with organized religion but not what it organizes around). Well over the past two weeks I've realized that she's very politically conservative, definitely a believer, and furthermore a creationist. This came up when I asked (VERY gently, for me) "Do you accept evolution?" She said, no she doesn't "believe in evolution".

She and I have similar backgrounds. Hers is a great deal more recent, and I have to remind myself she's 17. I think still largely carrying her parent's beliefs at this point is pretty normal and probably okay. But there's part of me that wants to push her to atheism, or to liberalism, or to secular humanism. It's very tempting to try to mold and shape her - HERE'S the way out of crazy fundy-town! Listen to me, I know, I've done it! But I'm trying to be gentle, to give her space and time and let her do her own thing in this regard. (She knows it would be pointless to proselytize to me, and that she can't do it to my son.) Should I say anything? How can I not? How can I say something, without abusing my position over her (rent-payer)?

I did sort of lose it when she told me Barack Obama doesn't have a "real" birth certificate. And then once I calmed down a bit I showed her and, and encouraged her not to just take my word for things either. But seriously, the birther conspiracy is so easily debunked. She clearly doesn't have a SET of critical thinking tools yet, and I don't know how to give them to her. Help?!

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You can never change another person. This seems SO obvious until we actually face it.

You cannot "move" her toward athiesm. It's not possible. For a person to change, here's what needs to occur.

1. The person themselves has to recognize change is needed
2. The person themselves, has to choose who to listen to
3. The person themselves, needs to listen
4. The person, needs to think about what they've heard
5. The person, needs to be honest with their thoughts and put honesty above anything else, regardless of how it hurts.
6. The person, has to be willing to accept they may be wrong
7. The person, has to choose to change their mind.

Given all what THEY need to do, do you honestly think you can change them? Beyond torture you cannot.

So start with #1. She needs to recognize that change must occur. You work with her on this, and stop being so annoyed that she disagrees with you. It doesn't matter if she disaggrees.

If you want to help her, you can only do so by allowing her to grow naturally. If you try and force anything, it will have the opposite effect.

Just let her be. If there is a political view you think she's wrong about, discuss your point of view. But don't continue to negate her about every small issue. Let her live with invalid views or wrong views. Only challenge the REALLy big stuff, or you will seem as negative and judgmental as that which she is trying to escape from. If you try and change her, then you represent the religious mindset, only from a different perspective. You cannot accept her as she is. how religion manipulates. Don't be religious.

Let her be. Let her come to you :)
You're right of course. It is so TEMPTING though, isn't it? And I was raised to fix everyone else, so it's hard not to now. (I also think the age and experience differences make me want to fall into that over-intrusive parent "helpful" mode.)
I do agree with most of this, but should add the one issue that most seem not to mention. Awareness! Understanding that the perception of reality can be far different than actual reality. Once one understands that then they are armed with critical thinking.
Did you "see the light" because someone made it their mission to help you or was your epiphany the result of an accumulation of personal experiences and observations?

Just be a true friend to her and if and when she begins to question things she'll feel comfortable sharing her doubts with you.
*grumble, grumble, have to be so friggin' reasonable* ... the second one... *grrrr*

Valid point :p
You're already doing far more than you likely realize to move her towards, if not atheism, then at least a liberal religious person with real critical thinking skills.

Once people realize the places they were getting their information are suspect, they'll usually stop taking it for granted that you can be informed about the world without cross referencing the information.

The very fact that you took her in despite your differences in religion should speak volumes to her.
After all, if a godbotherer had done it, it would've been to glorify god and try to lure her deeper into religion. When an atheist does something like that, it causes a massive amount of cognitive dissonance for the religious. When you were deeply religious, wouldn't it have baffled the hell out of you to see the dirty heathens behaving the way true christians are supposed to and never actually do?
Sooner or later the competing ideas will become irreconcilable and she's going to have to choose between what she was taught and what she experienced.

So at the very least, you're moving her towards a liberal theist that doesn't think atheists eat children and knows how to use critical thinking skills. Not a bad thing at all.
I agree with Anette in the sense that, you can't CHANGE people. You can and should work to open her mind to new ideas. I find in most Theists I have come across over the years that they have never asked themselves questions about what or why they believe. Pick any ridiculous story from the bible, Noah for instance and have a critical discussion about that story in a non-threatening manner. I would be willing to bet she has never even questioned or thought to question the holes in the story. As most of know, once a person allows themselves to question something, anything they are at the precipice of rational thinking.
I agree with this. Long annoying conversation with my aunt yesterday, she thinks I want to change people and how they think by pushing them. I just really want people to think critically, to question their environment, their thoughts and actions. I honestly don't believe people do this enough, no matter how much you think you know. That's how I am, and that's how I'd act in a similar situation. I would never try to be mean and pushing, but I'd sometimes let out something akin to, "You do are aware that there might not be any supporting sources for such a thing, right?", and then maybe if they would argue back, you can always say that you are willing to be proven wrong and look up sources together.

It's one thing to hold an opinion, another thing to hold a prejudice. The part about Barack's birthday is a prejudice f ex, and while people are free to believe it, they should at least reeavulate why they do imo.
I agree that a person has to want to change, but I think it's possible to plant some seeds. Michael Howard raises the importance of questioning, and LeaT and several others have suggested just being supportive, which is crucial. It seems to be counterproductive to be bluntly challenging, but I think it's very helpful to ask "Does that really make sense?" or "Er, how would that work?" when goofy fundy concepts are raised in sincerity.

As Michael Howard said, the story of Noah's Ark is perhaps the most egregiously nonsensical episode in the OT, but there are scads of others. When they come up, just point out the obvious logical, physics, or even theological flaws by questioning them. For example, why did it take God 4,000 years to come up with the idea to send Jesus to die for our sins? Couldn't he have done that right after The Fall? Or instead of sending Noah's Flood? It just doesn't make any sense, even by Christianity's own rules. You don't need to bother answering these questions. It's enough to ask them. Ask enough of them, and eventually even the most die-hard apologist will run out of weaselly answers. Seminarians often go through this process on their own and become atheists without anybody pushing them.
In my last year of faith, I was friends with a middle-aged couple across the street, who were later-in-life parents of a boy my son's age. After we'd been hanging out for months, and I really respected them as individuals, activists, and parents, I learned that they were atheists. Literally 13 months later, so was I. I think personally knowing some very nice people in my life who were atheists made it easier to wear the mantle myself in those early months of nonbelief.
I think just about everyone has valid points of view here. You definitely don't want to push her toward anything. We all bitch about religious proselytizers and we should stray from our version of that. There's nothing wrong with a two-way debate/conversation, but attempting to convince her will have the opposite effect.

Also, don't act any differently around her than you would anyone else. I used to have a problem with curbing some of my outward personality traits around my Christian friends so as not to offend. I wouldn't curse, wouldn't blaspheme or talk about the secular stuff that was always on the tip of my tongue. Don't rein in anything just because she's there.

Very cool of you to let her into your home, though.
Thanks. I think that's really the part that's been worrying me - if I had to dampen myself, bite my tongue. One of my favorite parts of adulthood is getting to live how I want. Swearing, smoking, occasionally drinking, and screwing when it works out. :)




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