I've noticed while reading through some of the discussions around here that there are at least a few people who try and point out that we should not stereotype the religious just as we don't like to be stereotyped by them (as angsty, whiny people rebelling against god, or perhaps as morally depraved people who have a skewed idea of right and wrong).
I decided to take an introspective look into how I have misused stereotypes without even knowing it.
For example, "the religious are so because they are afraid of death and the unknown." I was raised Roman Catholic. I considered myself very religious when I was a kid, but not because I was afraid of death and the unknown - it was simply because I was taught religion as fact in private school. I didn't choose to believe in god to avoid fear of the unknown any more than I chose to believe in evolution because I was afraid of not knowing the origin of the species. And the truth is, had I not been forced to challenge religion as a whole (as opposed to simply the existence or lack thereof of the Jesus/God religion combo), I might even still harbor some pseudo-Catholic belief in Jesus and God.
I do believe, as is sometimes the case with stereotypes, that there are some religious folk who latch on to their faith at least partially because of their fear of death and the unknown, but it is important to realize that the existence of religion is far more complicated than that.
I agree with you Michael, but what about when people are grown-up and have heard reason and rationality and learned about science. How can they STILL ignore all that and believe in the crazy? I still stereotype them in my head automatically and that is usually crazy, not-so-bright, or stubbornly believing something they know deep down cannot possibly be true.
I have a close friend who's a retired Lutheran pastor. He knows I'm an atheist and he's totally fine with that. He's been really supportive of me during a few difficult times in my life. He was helpful to me without ever having to talk to me about religion. We just agree never to discuss religion. I know our relationship's unusual but I'm bringing it up because it's a good example of why stereotyping is never a good idea.
Wonderful story Jonathan! I think it is great that you are friends with a theist(s) and you both are accepting of each other.