A few months ago Nate wrote this post regarding some conversations with family that are still practicing Christians. In a nutshell, he pointed out some specific problems he had with the Bible, and he received avoidance in return. Just recently, I had another disappointing interaction with someone who tried convincing me that the Christian deity can (and does) change its mind. When I tried explaining the problems with that position, I was ignored and had the subject changed.
These nonversations happen all too often.
I grew up with them, and they can be incredibly frustrating to the uninitiated and initiated alike. It’s basically a form of the silent treatment, where someone maintains silence in an effort to obtain power. Unfortunately, the people I’ve known who are guilty of it the most used their faith to justify such petty tactics. Whether fairly or unfairly, I tend to notice when it happens in religious discussions the most (although lately I’ve been noticing it in many other contexts).
Behind it all is a simple concept: power. The interaction isn’t important so much as one person must submit to the will of another. When I have conversations regarding others’ beliefs, too frequently I get that impression that the person only wants to score another soul for team Jesus. As soon as people realize it isn’t going to happen, I get excuses or derision (or both).
This lack of common courtesy takes its toll.
This is mainly why I don’t interact with too many Christians regarding their faith anymore. I keep getting reminded that I’m just a category to them, or a target, or simply something that needs to be put in its place. It’s gotten to the point that any time the conversation gets near such a topic, I look for the door myself.
The most disappointing thing about all of this is that it means a lot of conversations I’ve tried to have about faith were never conversations at all. As soon as I state a contrary position (no matter the tact), I become a statistic rather than a person. But if I don’t disclose who I am at all, I can find kindness and maybe even courtesy. I can’t help but find that tragic.
Sometimes as a deconvert I feel like I have a foot in both worlds.
Granted, it also might have something to do with my current living arrangements, but even if I lived elsewhere, I’d still feel that my old faith is still part of who I am. Whenever I see someone misrepresenting atheism, I feel like it’s not something difficult to grasp. I just don’t believe deities exist. That’s it. Case closed.
Since I understand both worlds, I sometimes forget that they can feel like a foreign language. So much misunderstanding abounds, and these misunderstandings can hurt interactions between people. Individuals who might otherwise get along end up getting at each other’s throats because one doesn’t believe the same mystic beliefs as the other.
Conversations need to happen both ways in order to be a conversation. But I really think that until people start admitting when they don’t want a conversation, I will continued to be disappointed.