Yeah Bets, I live in TN also, east. Everyone I know is a Christian, except, of course, me. My best friend is a Christian, and he knows I'm an atheist, but we don't push each other on belief or non-belief.
You won't know how your friends will react to your atheism until you tell them. It may stop them from proselytising their personal relationship with Jesus but at the same time give you an opportunity to explain why you don't believe. By coming out you could jepordize your friendships. It's a hard decision to make. good luck
Many of my friends seem to be constantly bringing up some story of God's recent answer to prayer, or his goodness, or how forgiven they feel, or how happy they are in Christ.
Do those good feelings depend on delusions? Nontheists also have good feelings.
It seems similar to kicking a puppy.
I feel that way too :) But it annoys me when people assume that a very religious person is very good, that religious people are better. Some of the enjoyment that religious people have in their religion, comes from the prejudice that they and others have in their favor. They are "being good" by being religious, they are rewarded for it. It's somewhat similar to the enjoyment of other kinds of social privilege.
You are right about this, Luara.
"It's somewhat similar to the enjoyment of other kinds of social privilege."
Maybe part of my fear of hurting others stems from an old attitude that the religious somehow have more rights than the nonreligious to be sheltered from insult. I think I was a Christian way too long! I must still have Christian prejudices. I would never insult my friends' beliefs on purpose, but I was worried that if they simply became AWARE of the extent of my non-belief, this would somehow be insulting to them - as if my very existence would be a threat. That's pretty ridiculous, right? I probably will be a threat to their beliefs, but I have just as much a right to live an open life as they do. I think I need to keep repeating that to myself...
Peter Boghossian's A Manual for Creating Atheists gives one a way to interact with religious people that is highly respectful. It's the Socratic questioning method, which asks people to use their own thinking abilities.
if they simply became AWARE of the extent of my non-belief, this would somehow be insulting to them - as if my very existence would be a threat.
This sounds like something you became subliminally aware of from being around religious people.
I've never been part of a religious community (unless you count some time at a Zen center) and I don't have that feeling of being a threat to religious people.
But as someone who deconverted, you probably are a threat to their beliefs, because their belief system says that it's supremely wonderful to be "saved". Nothing could be better.
One of the standard rejoinders you might get from Christians is "you must never have really been a Christian, then. You never really believed." Because they can't stomach the possibility that someone might believe like they do, and come to disbelieve.
Which seems to be true of a lot of Christians actually :), even ones who never deconvert. They are (on some level) pretending or hoping more than believing - but they DON'T want to know that!
I'm actually reading Boghossian's book right now! He has a wonderful strategy and I'm making a lot of mental notes. I'm wondering if I can follow it when the heat is on.
I agree that believers are basically pretending and hoping. Most truly don't realize it though - they really do see their experiences as coming from the hand of God. One of the things that helped wake me up was learning more about cognitive science, and how we are really good at fooling ourselves. I use to be so confident and open around my friends about my "relationship with God." When I admit to them that I now see it as all a product of my own psychology, and that I realize I was simply talking to myself (for decades), it can't help but make them reconsider their own "relationship." I'll be like that kid in the "Emperor's New Clothes" story.
From then on, just being aware of my deconversion is sure to be a reminder for them. You are right that they will want to dismiss me as not having been a true believer, but that will be very hard for those who know me best. I think that's why I'm predicting they will feel so threatened.
...an old attitude that the religious somehow have more rights than the nonreligious to be sheltered from insult.
While in the Navy I met men who were getting along well without the beliefs I'd been taught in Catholic schools. I was still a Catholic when I started college, and it was there that I learned about other beliefs and became able to quit Catholicism. And then I saw that Catholicism's beliefs had sheltered me. It helped a lot that I became confident of my ability to live without those beliefs.
...as if my very existence would be a threat.
The reality is that your existence is not a threat to xians' beliefs; your beliefs are threats to their beliefs.
They know their beliefs are less strong than yours. They go into a protective mode that requires them to exclude your beliefs, and perhaps you.
Now, persuade yourself of that reality.
I wish you well.
I'm actually reading Boghossian's book right now! He has a wonderful strategy and I'm making a lot of mental notes.
One thing that's great about the Socratic method he advises, is that it doesn't involve taking on the burden of arguing one's own position (which the other person won't listen to anyway). One just poses questions.
I've been trying it out, to challenge unsupported claims that people make, including religious claims.
Mostly what people do is come back with something non-rational and off the wall. Then if I keep on asking them these questions - always polite but asking them how they know x - they just don't answer. Which seems like a good outcome. Maybe next time they'll be less ready to claim stuff.
Peter Boghossian emphasizes being nice about it. One gets nowhere by insulting the person.
I have come to the conclusion that any time someone like the people Kathleen describes says the words, "in christ," the import of those words is really: "in my religious delusion." These people have become so wrapped (and for that matter, "rapt") in their alternate reality that it IS their reality. They are further insulated by the community which very often surrounds them and reinforces their defenses.
I genuinely wonder if such people would be willing to indulge in the kind of Socratic interchange that Peter Boghossian suggests, if they'd be willing to so much as look at the scab of their belief, let alone pick at it. Such belief may be very fragile; they might reject any such conversation outright, knowing perhaps innately where it might lead.
... they are further insulated....
...they might reject any such conversation outright, knowing perhaps innately where it might lead.
Yes, I do think many Christians know their beliefs are fragile, at least subconsciously. After I come out fully, I actually expect very few open conversations about it with my Christian friends. I'm still preparing myself, because I'd like the chance to be better understood. But if history is any indication, they will not want to discuss it. For example, I've accepted biological evolution for over 25 years, which put me at odds with most Christians in my circle. In all that time, only ONE person showed any interest or ever asked me why. Everyone else, when they found out, just cocked their head in a "I can't believe you think that" kind of way and changed the subject. People do not like to put their religious beliefs put under scrutiny.
Such belief may be very fragile; they might reject any such conversation outright, knowing perhaps innately where it might lead
So far, trying Socratic questioning, I've found that people do go silent or go away. But that is not a bad outcome in my view. Maybe they'll be less likely in the future to make unwarranted statements.