I am getting terribly frustrated lately with a certain experience, and the more I think on it, the more I believe it to be a common one among Americans and maybe the world in general. The experience I refer to is in trying to express myself to a religious person and having that person cut off the conversation because my facts or opinions make them uncomfortable.
Unfortunately for me, this hits quite close to home. My close friend is a member of a highly religious group, although they (the individual) are not practicing. I don't know if that's a rare thing in itself or simply contradicts the image their community wants to portray. Anyway, the differences in our belief/non-belief make some conversations difficult, to be sure. But instead of respectful discourse, I find that lately they prefer to avoid those talks altogether. This is a recent change in their behavior and I can't help but think they're doing it defensively to protect them from becoming doubtful.
It is a tragedy that anyone would choose to live in ignorance. It is disappointing and frustrating that I am not fully allowed to express myself to this person in the way I once did. Part of the reason for this blog, a large part, is that I do not have a group locally where I can feel safe discussing these topics without feeling I'm being judged or offending someone. Now that support has become more tenuous with my friend.
I was inspired to write this when I started an innocuous conversation about how I spent my day. I mentioned a discovered an exciting story in one of the books of the bible that were deemed Apocrypha, or not officially part of the bible narrative. My friend cut me off before I could say any more and stated that they didn't believe in that. I asked for clarification, because it was easy to understand if a person didn't believe the stories in the Apocrypha were true. But instead, they stated they didn't believe that books had been removed from the bible, ever.
I was dumbfounded. Out of respect for them, I discontinued talking about it. But I was also hurt. Their vulnerability of faith causes them to refuse to hear facts, even in passing mention, even when it denies a friend the courtesy of conversation. I can only speculate on my friend's thoughts and reasoning, of course, but I was a person of faith once upon a time. I can remember what it was like trying to hold onto that faith in the face of contrary evidence.
It isn't a pleasant experience for most people to have your worldview called into question. It can be terrifying to be told from religious authorities that doubting their words will make the divine angry with you, so you must do all you can to maintain your belief. Ironically, fear of slipping in faith demonstrates real faith in the consequences.
I want to have a good relationship with this person, and in all other respects we get along fantastically. I enjoy their company. I try to respect their point of view and never attack them for having faith. It is hard to be the atheist in a believer/non-believer conflict because only the believer feels truly threatened, and that stirs me to pity. I have more conviction now than they do, but then I have reality on my side. How could they not react defensively when their worldview is always under attack?
Ideally, I would like my friend to share my point of view. But some people need to believe in a higher power. Some people need a community and a cause bigger than themselves. I want to express to them that my community is humankind. My cause is understanding, peace, and compassion for all.
I can't yet bring myself to say that I'm a Humanist. In my mind, it suggests reverence, faith, even deification of humanity. I am still sorting out the first two but the third is out of the question. Being an ex-Christian is still new to me, so forgive the false assumptions.