I was answering Adam Boyher's post about debating Christian friends (see post here: http://www.atheistnexus.org/group/recoveringreligionists/forum/topi... ) and I realized I wasn't addressing his question after I'd finished. What I had written was on an entirely different topic. I welcome your comments and insights. Here's what I wrote:

When I was a new Atheist, I made the grave error of entering into a dating relationship with a 44-year-old Catholic. As I was trying to get to know him, I'd ask him questions about his beliefs and in doing that, he'd become hyper defensive and start raising his voice/yelling. So, I'd back off for a few days or a week and try to ask him about his beliefs in a different way only to have him yell at me again. Probably most people who are reading this are thinking, "The fact that he yelled at you should have made you leave on the spot" and whomever is thinking that is RIGHT! LOL

He was what I call a HypoCristian also known as a Cherry Picker or Cafeteria Catholic. I saw the blatant hypocrisy of the so-called Catholic Church (I now call it what it is--a cult) when I was a teenager and deciding at the age of about 14 that I didn't want to be part of a group of people who were such blatant hypocrites, I knew I was not Catholic.

This guy was my age and raised in the same county in NJ as I was--exposed to the same people, schools, type of family, etc. Why didn't he see what I saw? Why didn't he delve into the information as I did? Why did he refuse to watch Religulous, Zeitgiest, or go to the site GodIsImaginary.com as I asked him to? Why didn't he question me about my beliefs? Why was he so resistant to being questioned about his? Why did he get angry and tell me he wanted me to "accept him" as he was and not make him "feel defensive for being a believer"? I was just trying to understand him, to get to know him.

One day, I stopped completely because he said something to me I will never forget and that stopped me dead in my tracks. He said:

"If I say now, at the age of 44 that I don't belief any of it, then I will have been a fool to have lived my life like this ." He may as well have said, "Because I'm a prideful, egotistical asshole who would have zero morals or ethics without my religion".

The information is out there for religious to see. There are many reasons they don't look into it. There is a reason(s) you took so long to get to it. There is every reason for them to have already "for a second" question "their silly belief in this hocus pocus" yet they have not. 

Why is it so important to you to make this "second" happen? I think it would be much easier for Atheists to uncover this reason and eliminate it than it would be for them to get Christians to question their beliefs. I know there are lots of Atheists who feel otherwise and consider it a great thing to talk to their Christian friends and continually debate them and I'd neither applaud or discourage that because it's up to everyone what to do with his/her time and if that's what you're into, enjoy! Personally, for me it's a waste of time. The information is out there for anyone who is interested in looking into it. 

Maybe just letting them know that if they have any questions about becoming an Atheist, they can come to us and telling them that if we are reconsidering becoming a Christian again, we will come to them and leaving it at that would be the best goal for a would-be deconverters. I think creating Atheistic art (writing, making movies or YouTube videos, etc.) is a better use of time if someone is interested in deconverting.


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Thanks for your post. You hit The God Virus defense mechanism. Your story is a great example of what I discuss in the book. Debate rarely goes anywhere, but it is important to stay close to your own values and let others know where you are coming from. Funny he wanted you to accept him, but was not too willing to understand you. That is the blindness that The God Virus causes.
Darrel Ray, founder of RR and author of The God Virus
Darrel, he wasn't "not too willing" to understand me. He wasn't even interested in even asking me one single question about my beliefs to begin me. He simply didn't want to discuss the subject yet at the same time he'd been telling me he "wanted to spend his life with me." He'd also been married in a civil ceremony to a non-Catholic who he intentionally had a child with a year into the marriage and who he'd agreed to allow her to raise Pentecostal and who he did not have baptized or given any of the other so-called sacraments. Yet he was insistent on going to church every Sunday and our weekends would revolve around when he was "going to mass" and one time he left for 9 AM services minutes after we'd had sex. And, to make matters even worse, sometimes he'd skip mass if his son had a baseball or soccer game that conflicted with his preferred mass time. I can understand someone who is a practicing Catholic but the multiple hypocrisies really blew me away. I know he was educated in Catholic doctrine as I had been and what I can't understand is how he could take the actions he did, missing mass for no good reason, sex outside of marriage, divorce, raising his child non-Catholic yet still call himself a Catholic and not fear hell because doing all those things is a one-way ticket to hell. Could you explain that? When I asked him to he said, "God gave me my son so he comes before mass, sex is OK because I consider you to be my life-long partner, I never asked him why he got married in a secular ceremony, and he'd agreed with his wife at the time to let her pick his son's religion." Whenever I pressed for more information on his reasoning, he'd become angry and start yelling. Is this all just a response to cognitive dissonance?
One day, I stopped completely because he said something to me I will never forget and that stopped me dead in my tracks. He said:

"If I say now, at the age of 44 that I don't belief any of it, then I will have been a fool to have lived my life like this ."

To which I'd have replied: "yes that's about the long and short of it."
LOL that reminds me of the conversation we had about circumcision. He'd told me he had his son cut when he was born in 2000 because the doctor told him to do so and because "most of the world's population is circumcised". I tried nicely to explain that the overwhelming majority (70%) of men are in fact not cut and that the AMA no longer endorses infant circumcision and that his doctor who recommended it no doubt makes tens of thousands of dollars per year by recommending it and he replied at the top of his voice, "THEN I GUESS I'M A MORON WHO CAN'T THINK FOR HIMSELF AND WHO FOLLOWS ADVICE LIKE A SHEEP!!! THAT'S WHAT YOUR SAYING!!!"

I was such a liar back then because I denied it.
Have you ever tried giving advice to a sheep? Practically impossible. Totally stubborn creatures. No I picture you more like a well trained mongrel. See the stick? Fetch the stick. Who's good boy? You are! Yes you are. Yes you are.
At the time, I didn't know it was disinformation. I'd merely asked him to watch it so we could talk about it but he wouldn't.
T Rose: Taking just what you describe in this blog, I would say that you were dealing with much more than simple religious indoctrination. If I were to guess, you were involved with a man who had some moderate to serious mental health issues as well. The religious stuff just brought out the conflict and defenses. The guilt, shame, yelling and conflict you describe sounds like someone who is very out of touch with his own inner world. If I am correct, his responses to you will often be a projection of his own inner demons. That means that he will tend to blame you or others for the discomfort he feels which is actually generated by his own inner conflicts. I don't intend to do counseling by blog, but probably were doing well to get out of that relationship. Be aware that religious behavior and professed beliefs can often be used disguise other issues and prevent real examination of psychological problems. It is just one of many defense mechanisms that people use to avoid the hard task of reflection and self examination.

I have two minister friends who read my book in manuscript form long before it was published. I talked at length with both of them. Amazingly, they both said almost the same thing as your friend. "If what you say is true, then I have wasted my whole life." That is a huge insight on their part, but one they were not willing to seriously entertain. I am sorry to report that both of them tend to avoid me now and they certainly never want to talk about The God Virus when we are together yet they were always very happy to talk and share their religious perspective with me, in the past. Seems to be a one way street with many people. All the best in your journey and thanks again for sharing.
I can totally understand the power of self-identity in keeping religious belief (or at least practice) intact. My mother, for example, has spent most of two decades working at one of the biggest Christian music companies in the world. All of her friends -- ALL OF THEM -- are Christian. Her husband and her mother, for whom she is a caregiver, are both Christians. In a very real sense, I am the only significant non-Christian influence in her life, and I'm pretty sure that it's only blood relation that makes her want to continue the relationship.

In trying to adjust to living as an atheist with theists, I think it's crucial to remember that in many (most?) cases, it's not the logic, or the threat of hell, or the promise of heaven that keeps them so locked in. We humans have a deep-seated need to believe in ourselves as constant entities -- that we are the same person today as we were yesterday. (The questionable reality of that belief is another topic entirely.) When we believe we've been the same person for twenty, or forty, or sixty years, it is a HUGE deal to imagine that our entire conception of the universe has been wrong. Generally speaking, we always surround ourselves with people and things that reinforce our beliefs about ourselves and the universe. If we've spent so many years building up that insulation, it's damn near impossible to imagine cutting through it all and reinventing ourselves.
When I first revealed my thoughts to a friend of mine he said "I just don't understand how you can give up everything you once believed". We had numerous other conversations in which I articulated, to the best if my ability, why I changed. After about 4 or 5 more conversations about faith, god and Christianity, he said " I just don't understand how you can give up everything you once believed".

I then gave him a parable (LOL) about a guy who drives a certain cars (Ford's for example) all his life. His granddaddy drove this car, his daddy, his aunts and uncles and and all his family drove these same cars. When asked by his friends about cars he tells them that he only drives this certain car maker, like all his family. Then one day he goes to do some research on new cars and discovers that this certain car maker continually fails safety tests, they price gauge and have high customer dissatisfaction.
I asked him my friend what would he think about a guy(or gal) who after doing something all his life, like driving a particular type of car, and then was confronted with overwhelming evidence contrary to his beliefs and yet continued to drive that car? His response was that he would think "that guy was a fool". I explained that that was what happened to me. I was confronted with overwhelming evidence to the contrary of Christianity and religion in general. His was response was classic; he said, "yea, but I still don't how you can give up everything you once believed".

They don't see or understand because they don't want to see or understand. Like your friend who didn't want to accept that he was being a fool for following something for 44 yrs. I gave up after 32 yrs of life...better late than never. Now I can enjoy the rest of my life guilt free, I can relax and watch football without worrying about the invisible voyeur in the sky. I can enjoy this life without always preparing for imagined next. I think that religious belief is very terrible and destroys intellectual thought. I hate religion and wish that everyone would free themselves from superstitious nonsense. However, people have to want to be free. They must wake up and realize the delusion that they are a part of.
I agree and that's why I started the thread. I feel there is enough information out there that if people want to see it, they will. It's fascinating to me the reasons they don't want to and I do give kudos to those who do things to spread that info even more.




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