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Advice for talking to a Christian
Posted: 05 December 2007 11:31 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Here’s my situation. A couple of months ago I was at work when I happened to mention that I’m an Atheist. Now this is nothing new, most people who know me for very long find that out. I don’t make any attempt to hide the fact except from one or two family members who would probably freak out but who I rarely see so it isn’t really an issue. Anyway, little did I know one of the girls working that night happens to be a super duper happy Christian. Upon hearing me say I was an Atheist she gave me a look like I’d just sprouted a second head and said in a disappointed tone of voice “Oh, that’s too bad. You really shouldn’t be.”

Anyway, we got to talking a little bit about why I’m an Atheist, and she came back with the sort of things you normally hear from Christians like “It’s not really a religion, it’s a relationship with God”. At one point she asked if I would read a book if she lent it to me. Apparently she believed that it made a good case for belief in God from a skeptic’s point of view. Not wanting to appear closed minded I told her that if she wanted to know what I thought about her book I would read it. It turned out to be this book. I read about the first 8 chapters and it was the most unconvincing garbage I have ever read. Before I’d finished the first chapter I was convinced that the word skeptic did not belong on the cover of this book. After I got to the part where he started actually trying to make a case for his beliefs I shut the book and decided I was done with it. The entire argument rests on a false premise. If he can discredit evolutionary biology (which is mistaken for abiogenesis, which I’ve noticed is quite common) then God must exist, and the Bible must be his inerrant word and testament. I looked through the references section and the guy cites Behe repeatedly throughout the majority of the book. With my intelligence thoroughly insulted, I put the thing down and forgot about it for nearly two months.

Now it’s occurred to me that I need to return the thing to its owner because I refuse to keep it on my bookshelf for any longer than I have to. Unfortunately I’m not sure how to approach it. I told her I’d tell her what I thought of it, but I really don’t want to hurt her feelings by telling her that the thing is full of absolute nonsense and the author hasn’t the slightest clue what the hell he’s talking about. Unfortunately she’s one of those early college aged kids who has clearly lived the most sheltered life imaginable. Apart from being a bit too credulous though she’s really a sweet kid and I’d hate to hurt her feelings. Would you recommend I find a way to go about this delicately, or should my disdain for this kind of ID claptrap be loud and clear?

I considered making it a sort of an exchange by giving her a book to read that might get some new ideas across, I’d also like to hear any recommendations for good books to introduce someone that far converted to the skeptic’s point of view.

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Posted: 06 December 2007 04:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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there are two options,

option 1 - sensible.

I am afraid that i didn’t get much from the book, as it is based on a false premise. (then explain) Then present her with a sam harris book, perhaps “letter to a christian nation”.

option 2 - SkiCarver’s tact.

the book was crap, your beliefs are idiotic ......  and do you fancy a shag? - you get lucky either way, you either get a shag, or she won’t talk to you again!    I’m a genius when it comes to social situations.

Ski.

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Posted: 06 December 2007 06:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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There are lots of good books on evolution and against creationism, if that’s what you’re interested in. I’d suggest saying what you just did here—if you think she could take it nicely. That is, without being accusatory or nasty, just say that all modern biology supports evolution by natural selection, and that even if it didn’t there would be no reason to believe in God, much less the Bible.

You can say that all world religions have their myths and stories, their claims of supernatural phenomena, most all talk about deities, only they’re all different. They can’t all be true, and there’s reason to believe they’re all false.

I think I’m arguing for SkiCarver’s option 1.

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Posted: 06 December 2007 06:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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dougsmith - 06 December 2007 06:01 AM

There are lots of good books on evolution and against creationism, if that’s what you’re interested in. I’d suggest saying what you just did here—if you think she could take it nicely. That is, without being accusatory or nasty, just say that all modern biology supports evolution by natural selection, and that even if it didn’t there would be no reason to believe in God, much less the Bible.

You can say that all world religions have their myths and stories, their claims of supernatural phenomena, most all talk about deities, only they’re all different. They can’t all be true, and there’s reason to believe they’re all false.

I think I’m arguing for SkiCarver’s option 1.

as much as I agree that option 1 is better from a “we have to work together’ point of view, I feel that option 2 has much more entertainment value. I’m sure we would all like to know what happened if you went fot it! (especially if there are pictures!) Its what utube was made for!

Ski.

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Posted: 06 December 2007 07:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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brainlesssteel,

The real question is, “How honest can you get away with being?”  In my opinion, honesty is always best and truth is always kindest.  But there are political factors to consider and there is no easy answer.  This is the sort of thing that you have to decide for yourself based on your principles and pragmatically based on the political aspects of your situation.

Good luck.

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Posted: 06 December 2007 07:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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dougsmith - 06 December 2007 06:01 AM

There are lots of good books on evolution and against creationism, if that’s what you’re interested in.

I work with another guy who is a Mormon who told me that dinosaurs never lived on earth and that their fossils were placed here after the earth was formed to trick us or something. I don’t know, I could never quite grasp his argument, and any time I’d point out the incoherence of his premise he’d just fall back on “Well, I know it doesn’t really make sense but that’s just how faith is sometimes.” I had considered buying two copies of Michael Shermer’s “Why Darwin Matters” (now only $13 in paperback) and giving them as Darwin Day gifts to these to folks in February. I would do it now as an Xmas gift, but I wouldn’t want to perpetuate the idea that I celebrate Xmas.

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Posted: 06 December 2007 07:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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option 2 - SkiCarver’s tact.

the book was crap, your beliefs are idiotic ......  and do you fancy a shag? .

I’m not even sure she’d know what that meant.

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“The language and concepts contained herein are guaranteed not to cause eternal torment in the place where the guy with the horns and pointed stick conducts his business.”—Frank Zappa

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Posted: 06 December 2007 07:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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brainlesssteel - 06 December 2007 07:41 AM

I would do it now as an Xmas gift, but I wouldn’t want to perpetuate the idea that I celebrate Xmas.

Well, you can give it to them as a celebration of their holiday. That is, the medicine goes down better with honey ...

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Posted: 06 December 2007 08:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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brainlesssteel - 05 December 2007 11:31 PM

Would you recommend I find a way to go about this delicately, or should my disdain for this kind of ID claptrap be loud and clear?

I like the suggestion by Doug to give them books in celebration of their Christmas holiday.  Along the lines of honey coating in order to get past deep-rooted biases, I wonder if one of Carl Sagan’s books could offer a more compassionate message.  Not to mention, a reverence toward real science, especially if there are ID issues.

Are there any shortened materials explaining the arguments for atheism/agnosticism or in support of science?  Similair to the 2x4 pamphlets many churches pump out for their less literate public?

If it is any consolation, I went through a similar situation at my work.  I read most of the 2x4 pamphlets my coworker brought from her church, even did an extensive critique on one via email, she did not read any of the books I brought to her.  Chances are, your coworkers won’t even read the books and revert to their comfort zone of isolation.  In my situation, we agreed to disagree, of a sort.  I think she went behind my back and pointed out our private conversations to other religious people at work to diminish the respect that others might have had and characterize me.  Nothing much can be done about this situation on my behalf.  I just chopped it up to human nature and carried on as usual avoiding this kind of dissention. 

Interesting enough, people forget about these classifications and judge on behavior.  Over time, I would say the classification of me with atheism & evil have all but been lost due to common natural conversations and human personality.  This is why I find the “Out campaign” very risky, but judging by the taboo issues and responses people have, undoubtedly necessary.  I hope by voicing your philosophy to coworkers that your work isn’t compromised.

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Posted: 06 December 2007 09:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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retrospy - 06 December 2007 08:57 AM

I wonder if one of Carl Sagan’s books could offer a more compassionate message.  Not to mention, a reverence toward real science, especially if there are ID issues.

I had thought of taking her my copy of The Demon Haunted World, but I had just lent it to another friend and just now got it back. Honestly that book had such an impact on me I can’t imagine it not getting at least something across to even the most biased believer (provided they read it).

Are there any shortened materials explaining the arguments for atheism/agnosticism or in support of science?  Similair to the 2x4 pamphlets many churches pump out for their less literate public?

I have one that I got from the local CFI branch on the affirmations of Humanism. I might make a couple copies of it to give away.

I hope by voicing your philosophy to coworkers that your work isn’t compromised.

Honestly I think I’m lucky in that regard. It seems like the people I work with are pretty good at agreeing to disagree. We seem to have friendly arguments that never get to a level of ad hominems or anything like that. I’ve told the one Mormon that Joseph Smith was a liar and a criminal, and his entire religion is an obvious fabrication. All I got was “Well, that’s your opinion”.

I doubt my being outspoken as an atheist is going to make any difference either way, though, because they all thought I was crazy before anyway raspberry

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Posted: 06 December 2007 09:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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brainlesssteel - 05 December 2007 11:31 PM

Here’s my situation. A couple of months ago I was at work when I happened to mention that I’m an Atheist. Now this is nothing new, most people who know me for very long find that out. I don’t make any attempt to hide the fact except from one or two family members who would probably freak out but who I rarely see so it isn’t really an issue. Anyway, little did I know one of the girls working that night happens to be a super duper happy Christian. Upon hearing me say I was an Atheist she gave me a look like I’d just sprouted a second head and said in a disappointed tone of voice “Oh, that’s too bad. You really shouldn’t be.”

LMAO, I get the same reaction when I say I am a Christian! :p

I think there is a huge misnomer out there about Atheists and Christians alike…media paints each to the extreme…in their presentation to the world all Atheisits are demonic cultists and all Chritians are religious zealots.

I am a Christian. I do not believe I am better than anyone else. I have a firm faith. I am also nowhere near a perfect individual. I smoke, I drink, I cuss, just to name a few of my faulkts. I don’t preach at people nor expect them to convert. We are all who we are and I think the world needs a little more tolerance.

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Posted: 06 December 2007 09:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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lil - 06 December 2007 09:28 AM

I am a Christian. I do not believe I am better than anyone else.

No, you are not better or worse. You are just wrong in what you believe.

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Posted: 06 December 2007 09:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I really don’t want to hurt her feelings by telling her that the thing is full of absolute nonsense and the author hasn’t the slightest clue what the hell he’s talking about.

Another variation on this is to give it back with a smile and a shrug saying “I’m afraid it failed to convince me.”

I’d also like to hear any recommendations for good books to introduce someone that far converted to the skeptic’s point of view.

Just to toss in another alternative, you could suggest she read Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason to get another perspective, although that work merely attacks her Christian religion (as well as all others) rather than making an argument in favor of atheism.  On the plus side, she may have actually heard of the author from the era of the American Revolution (if they still make mention of Common Sense in US History classes smirk ), it’s one step short of outright promoting atheism (to which she may be more receptive), it’s fairly short and it’s readily available at many libraries.  But then one would expect me to make that suggestion when seeing my “moniker”, wouldn’t one. :grin:

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Posted: 06 December 2007 10:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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George - 06 December 2007 09:31 AM
lil - 06 December 2007 09:28 AM

I am a Christian. I do not believe I am better than anyone else.

No, you are not better or worse. You are just wrong in what you believe.

heh, well funny with a name and avi like ya got there, one would think you were curious to all things…curiousity drives an open mind…statement like you just made come from closed minds.

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Posted: 06 December 2007 10:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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lil - 06 December 2007 10:06 AM
George - 06 December 2007 09:31 AM
lil - 06 December 2007 09:28 AM

I am a Christian. I do not believe I am better than anyone else.

No, you are not better or worse. You are just wrong in what you believe.

heh, well funny with a name and avi like ya got there, one would think you were curious to all things…curiousity drives an open mind…statement like you just made come from closed minds.

Well, if you read any of the Curious George books, you’d know that George was usually curious about things like the paint, trucks, animals, etc. Not about invisible inventions of the wishfully thinking minds.

But let’s give it a try:

Curious George and the Old Testament:
...George was very curious how the Red Sea split open. God did it. The end. confused

Curious George and the New Testament:
...George was very curious how Jesus could be born from a virgin. God did it. George was then curious what Jesus’s DNA looked like. But the man with the yellow hat said, “George, don’t ask those questions, or you’ll go to hell.” The end. confused

[ Edited: 06 December 2007 10:36 AM by George ]
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Posted: 06 December 2007 10:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Brainlesssteel,

I vote for the gentle approach myself. Never really a good excuse for not being nice to someone just because they believe something you think is ridiculous. I would offer something in exchange to read, along the lines of the suggestions made here, but I also doubt it will make any more sense to her than her book did to you. The starting premises are so different, it’s hard for argument to change a point of view at the stage it sounds liek she’s at. But, you never know. She may have had the book she lent you because somewhere deep down she doubts and needs her own faith bolstered. So maybe you have a shot and chipping away at her illusions.

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