Hello, everyone.  This is my first post.  I'm looking for some advice.  I'm quite torn.

For a number of years I've co-hosted a podcast that is similar to "Christian and Atheist" which was formerly called "The Believer and Skeptic Show" but is now called "Alarm Clock."  I co-host it with my best friend, who is a staunch Christian.  So far, though, the format of the show has shied away from the predictable Crossfire-like confrontations, and instead we've spent more time going after the problems we see in our own respective communities.  He'll spend a lot of time talking about the frightening and ridiculous hold of right-wing Protestant fundamentalism in the country and I frequently criticize our own community for its extant racism and misogyny (yes, alas, I'm sorry to report that these things indeed exist).  

We are united by a generally progressive political world view and we often format the show around the "same conclusion, two vastly different ways of getting there" idea.  

The problem is this.  He's my best friend.  I have a great deal of personal affection for him.  He's had a very, very difficult life.  He is congenitally blind and grew up in an abusive family.  When you say that people are using religion as a crutch, that's him, and very obviously so.  Over the years, I've tried rather gently to explain my own divergence from his view, but he keeps hoping I'll come around because I too am his best friend and he wants us to be pals forever in Heaven.

The other reason he absolutely will not give up his faith and see anything resembling reason is because he honestly seems to believe that Jesus is going to cure his blindness.  There's no hope, at least not with today's standards of modern medicine.  He's told me as much--- that I'm going to eat my words the day Jesus cures him.  And that he will see forever in Heaven.  I once pressed him on this because I felt like it was a "be honest or cop out completely" sort of moment, and I told him, yes, I believe one day he will see.  But it will be because of the advances of medical science.  That, I believe, is his very best hope to see.  And who knows?  Maybe someday science will be able to reform his disfigured optic nerve.  I don't know enough about it to say.

He is also going through an enormously bitter divorce from an abusive soon-to-be-ex-wife.  So this is very much not the time to kick him while he's already down.  Our podcasts mean a lot to him, as does the camaraderie we enjoy putting the podcast together.  Heretofore, we thought we were doing a good thing, "modeling respectful dialogue between disparate world views" and all that.

Here's the problem.  The more I immerse myself among *like-minded* people, the more contempt I feel for religion itself.  All of it.  The less and less I feel like modelling anything resembling respectful dialogue.  I listen to the Brass-Knuckles approach of a show like Scathing Atheist and, to paraphrase one Barry Goldwater, in my heart I know they're right.  I'm very sad to admit this, but I am beginning to feel contempt for my best friend's oh-so-sincere, oh-so-reasonable-seeming religiosity.  There's a part of me that would never want to take away his hope that Jesus will make him see again.  But there's another part of me that respects him quite less as a mind because of that patently absurd belief.  

Ours is a productive partnership.  We write a lot of music together that has nothing to do with religion.  But on the podcast, as long as I'm dealing with my partner with kid's gloves instead of going after him like a pitbull, as long as the goal of the podcast is to "model respectful dialogue," I feel like I'm just an accommodationist tool.  And oddly enough, he thinks that the bare-bones line of challenge that I bring to his views on the rare occasion that I feel the show needs a little punching up--- he thinks he can't even handle that much satisfactorily in defense of "his side."  He has no idea--- none--- what he'd be up against if I unleashed a fully prepared, ready-to-rumble Rob Gross up against his piety.  But I don't want to do that to him.  It would be kicking him when he's down.  And it might also be a bit of a bait-and-switch, since I *agreed* to the "modelling respectful dialogue" premise.

I suppose I'm framing a false dichotomy--- it's not a choice between being milquetoast or being absolutely savage--- but the more I immerse myself in the atheist community writ large, the more savage and contemptuous I feel of this obvious absurdity that captivates the minds of most people on earth.

In the larger picture I worry about what my contempt for religion will mean for our friendship long term.  I get very tired, very weary, of trying to keep up that "respect" muscle in my brain that is eroding while the "contempt" muscle builds larger and larger.  I know I don't want to lose this friendship.  But I also don't want to cave in to *anyone's* demands that I pretend to be something I'm not--- that "something I'm not" increasingly becoming someone who is more "tolerant" of religious perspectives.

It also doesn't help that I've been commissioned to draw a graphic novel that *also* is built on the "modeling respectful dialogue" premise between theists and nontheists, but that's a whole other post for another time.
I'm not exactly sure what I'm really asking here.  What would you do in my place, I suppose.  Thanks for your time.

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Re-reading this I realize it sounds a bit harsh.  I'm just very defensive when it comes to him.  He's been told all his life to pull himself up by his bootstraps and that he's not good enough when he can't.  Defending him is a bit of a kneejerk reaction to me.

I understand about bootstraps.  It took me most of my life to get shut of the influence of my overbearing father, and by the time I did, he was dead of a stroke.  'Nuff said.

My problem with believers too often is that they think they're owed a pass Because Of Their Faith, a specious assertion at best.  Someone's life can suck hard and I can have some empathy for that, but if they want to play the faith card rather than take constructive action, and this becomes a repeated pattern, the situation can become more than a bit strained with me.

Side note: my previously mentioned friend and I knew each other about as well as two people can in an LD relationship ... "And that's all I have to say about that." -- Forrest Gump

Your post really struck a chord with me. I've been reviewing my relationship with my mother in much the same way you are reviewing your relationship with your friend. Since 2008 or so I have declared a cease-fire with my right-wing, fundamentalist Christian family members. I thought I had it all sorted out, but it turns out there is still a lot of turmoil just under the surface. I love my mother, but the constant self-editing has changed me. I'm not sure who I am anymore. And the more I hang out with other atheists online, the harder it is for me to keep my mouth shut about certain things.

My mother isn't disabled like your friend, but she's too old to change her world view. Once I reached that conclusion, I became almost protective of her delusion. She needs it in order to maintain emotional balance. When my world view changed, I lost all my friends and never figured out how to find a social support network that wasn't steeped in religious idiocy. At her age, my mother would find the situation equally difficult. And let's be honest. She isn't going to change no matter what I say or do. 

The fact that we care about our deluded Christian friends / family members makes the situation almost intolerable. I don't want to hurt my mother, but at the same time I feel suffocated by her insistence that I behave in certain ways. It's become glaringly apparent that I need to get away from her and away from my home town, but I can't bring myself to say certain things that probably need to be said, let alone do certain things that need to be done.

Right now all I can offer you is a bit of understanding: Having to tip-toe around religious people sucks. :(

I bet this is a very interesting thread, but I'm too tired to read it tonight. I'll revisit it tomorrow or later tonight should I get a second wind. Maybe someone has said something to you that will help both of us. 

Good luck.

This is exactly what caused my relationship with my father to dissolve: I turned 40 and I decided I was no longer going to self-edit.  Atheism was just the tip of the iceberg.  We're worlds apart intellectually.  He's your average blue-collar joe.  I come by my intellectualism by my mother and her side of the family, and my mother died some time ago.  I decided I was done with--- frankly--- dumbing myself down for his benefit.  I wanted to know if he could accept me for who I actually am.  Turns out he couldn't.  Well, okay, then.  Now I know.

I married an intellectual woman whom he hated from the beginning.  He criticized her openly and I put up with it for years.  But I finally told him that he was out of line for all of it.  Given a choice between him and his world of beer drinking and Elvis impersonating, or my wife who actually understands me as I am, for whom I do not have to edit myself, it was not even a close contest.  

Robert, would attacking a victim of fraud satisfy you?

If you feel in danger, okay.

Deal with your feelings.

So I had another conversation this evening.  This one was wine-fueled.  All on his end.  I'm a teetotaler.  He wasn't done and wanted more.  He came up with some bullshit about equidistant letter sequences in the Bible "proving" its divine inspiration.  He outright challenged me to debunk it.  I agreed, but on one condition: if I debunked it, he had to agree that it would alter his position on theism.

Oh, hell no.

Then what's the point?  I'm not going to spend my time researching a claim to debunk if you've already decided that the evidence I'm going to present to you has no capacity to actually alter your position on anything.  If you've already reached your conclusion, then I'm not going to waste my time.

He asked me what the purpose would be of bringing him over to atheism.  I told him that I'm not trying to bring him over to atheism.  But what I am trying to do is get him to stop using words that are sacrosanct (for lack of a better term) to me: words like evidence, reason, and rationalism.  He keeps saying that he believes in the Bible because of the evidence for it.  I told him that what makes me mad is not that he believes what he believes, but that he wants to arrogate his beliefs to the same level as hard-earned, peer-reviewed, tested hard evidence that the scholarly world of science and rationalism might recognize.  I told him I don't care if he wants to maintain his faith, but recognize that it is faith and that faith and reason are two entirely different things.  His silly letter sequence crap is not real evidence.  His 300 prophesies come to pass according to no extrabiblical sources whatsoever is not real evidence.  

I said that what offends me is that we atheists get so very little consideration in this world.  We're shunned, spat upon, reviled and denounced everywhere we turn.  So what little we have, I'm not willing to concede.  Your Christ suffered?  We atheists suffer all the time, every day, for our place on the stage of Reason and Evidenced-Based Inquiry.  I'm sorry, but theists don't get to be on that stage.  By all means, have all the faith you want.  But damned if I'm going to let you claim that it's *evidence* and *reasoning* on a par with real evidence and reasoning.

Like usual, he just retreated into his old tired line, "I don't have all the answers, but one day I will, and I'll get back to you."  And that's another thing, I added.  Why is it that whenever theists don't have the answers, it's "I'll get back to you," but when science needs to say "Okay, I don't have all the answers, I'll get back to you," then, suddenly, it's, ho-ho, science fails altogether writ large?  I told him that this double standard of his really angers me.  He also grossly mischaracterized evoluation as "people coming from trees," and I pointed out to him if that's what he really thinks evolution has ever stated, he doesn't know what he's talking about and he shouldn't go around authoritatively dismissing something he knows absolutely nothing about.

Him: Evolution doesn't say people came from plants?

Me: No.  Plant life and animal life have a common ancestor but once plants became plants, they remained plants and once animals became animals, they remained animals.

Him: Okay, I guess I learned something then.  I better do a little more research.

He drank more and got past the point and got happy-drunk because it was New Year's Eve.  The subject eventually... evolved... to another subject.  I don't know if I made my basic point to him or not--- that I don't care if he wants to have faith, but stop expecting me to pretend that I agree to his proposition that his "evidence" is real evidence.  You can't be impressed by letter sequences if you've studied twelve-tone music or any other sort of real study of ordering, set theory, etc.  

The problem here is not that he's trying to "force" his religion on me.  It's more subtle than that.  It's more that in his own world, he thinks this stuff is real evidence, and he'll just refer to it that way in every day conversation and in all earnestness expect that I will obviously just see his "evidence" as evidence as he does.  So, what were you doing today, Ken?  Oh, I was studying the equidistant letter sequences today, I think it's great evidence for blah blah.  What am I supposed to say?

Robert, you cannot win arguments with anyone whose only support is dogma.

Yeah.  Here's part of the problem I didn't mention.  He lives with my wife and me.  We took him in when he left his (emotionally abusive) ex-wife, because he had nowhere else to go.   (Don't get me started on his dysfunctional crappy family of origin.)  But now my domicile is no longer the religion-free zone I had been accustomed to.  I am considering the possibility that rather than attempting to "win" any arguments, I need to set some firmer limits or make some changes.

Yes.  He is on a waitlist to get subsidized housing but getting him off the waitlist is taking forever.

No good deed goes unpunished.

She likes him.

I continue to have problems clicking on hyperlinks to go to the precise point in the string where the last post -- the one I want to continue reading and perhaps comment on -- is located in a sometimes four, five, six-page string of comments. Instead I am taken to the discussion post, the customary "jump" to the post I've clicked on in the email failing. Sorry, I am tired of this bullshit and will no longer comment at A|N. I give up. That's it. Why doesn't the web master remedy this problem. I can only suppose my deathless prose is not wanted.




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