Imagine I told people I could read their minds. That sounds pretty silly. But imagine I was serious about it, as serious as a heart attack. How embarrassing would it be to have to tell me I’m not really able to do that?
As it turns out, I know fairly well how embarrassing it is. On occasion, people will stop and tell me that they know what I’m thinking, what I really believe, or what I’m trying not to think about. They’ve been wrong, and exceptionally consistent at that.
This is being done so I or others will re-convert.
Handling this stuff is always weird. I’m not sure how to break it to people gently that they’re mistaken at best. Even when I offer to be polite, most often I’ll get rougher treatment in response. Like I told someone trying to reconvert me recently, that kind of behavior is about as morally upstanding as trying to sell cocaine at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting.
The worst of it all is that I sometimes get the impression that it isn’t even the conversion attempt someone is looking for. Based on how I see these things go for me and others, it seems like it’s just a convenient excuse to pick a fight. Maybe someone of faith is angry at someone else for not attending church regularly. I suppose if you can’t scream at a loved one, scream at a proxy stranger.
Regardless of the reason, I’m reluctant to feed whatever’s eating these people. Doing that would reward the behavior, and it might encourage more egregious antics in the future. The last thing I want to do is waste time being a punching bag. Abuse is something I don’t need more of.
Ignoring the problem doesn’t feel right, either. Some people see that as a silent admission to keep talking, and then they get surprised when I tell them to go fuck themselves. The best I can hope for in that exchange is an end to the conversation.
Worse, I know it also negatively impacts other people of faith who have the virtue of common decency. Yes, we don’t agree on the existence of supernatural deities. No, we don’t have to talk about it. This kind of thing works. It’s kind of how I manage to get along with Chicago Bears fans.
I wish I had a better answer for other people who are in the same position as I am.
Feeling stuck is a familiar sensation for anyone who lives with or near highly religious people but doesn’t share in the experience. It’s a minefield that people keep going over, pulling themselves over with their teeth if they run out of limbs. Asking them to stop doesn’t work, and pretending they’re not doing it isn’t helping either.
Really, attempts at conversion or re-conversion isn’t anyone’s fault – except for the person trying to do it. It could happen because they have no shame, or they have no respect for others. Whatever the reason, it’s their problem.