Jump to content

How Do You Tell Your Friends?


Anselan
 Share

Recommended Posts

My wife and I have recently decided to leave Christianity for good. We stopped going to church and every day that passes we're more and more relieved that we've left it all behind.

 

One problem remains, however. What to tell our friends? Pretty much all of our friends are still Christians. Most of them not really fundamentalist types (we kind of naturally avoided those in the first place!) but obviously their faith is still important to them in some way or another. How do we break it to them? It's not as if we're ashamed of the decision, but at same point it's going to come out and then what exactly do we tell them? "There is no God - pass the salt, please"?

 

It is traumatic enough losing one's faith - even if it is a good change - but then to make it worse you also lose, simultaneously, all the usual support/safety net you normally enjoyed from your friends and community around you. Talking around the issue is only going to last for a while. At some stage, we've got to just come out and say what's going on. But how to do it?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've somewhat have the same problem - except my friends are fundies and my wife is still going to church there, although she's not as crazy into religion as some of them are. I don't know how non-fundie your friends are. I have a relative who is not fundie and it doesn't matter to him if one is a Christian or not - to him it's no more condemning to say that a person doesn't have blonde hair as it is to say that they are not a Christian. Anyway, what I'm finding is that how your friends will take it will definitely be as varied as the person you are telling. Some people treat me just like nothing has ever happened and others won't even hardly acknowledge my existence.

 

As far as how to do it? I just told them what happened. I read the Bible through in a year, found some major, major problems that could not be fixed and inevitably to be true to my desire for truth, I had to walk away from it. I only brought it up with the people that I had to, because I was involved in A/V at church. The rest have had to either ask me, or my wife, or do the grape vine thing.

 

Best wishes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've somewhat have the same problem - except my friends are fundies and my wife is still going to church there, although she's not as crazy into religion as some of them are.

 

Wow, I feel for you... The one thing that makes this all so much easier is that my wife and I are together in this. I can barely imagine how difficult it must be.

 

I was kind of "lucky" that within a few weeks of finally deciding that I didn't believe in God at all, my wife started a conversation in which she was questioning everything - because of some difficult stuff we were going through in life - and she just kept on saying how she couldn't understand how "God" was supposed to have some sort of "plan" in all of this. At first, I held my tongue, not wanting to destroy any comfort she may have found in her faith (even if it was unfounded) because she was very distressed... But as she went on, I realised that most of the distress was CAUSED by clinging on to this non-sensical concept of a personal God who supposedly cared, and yet reality just wasn't conforming to that fairytale at all! So eventually I just told her straight, "I don't think there is any God. This stuff is just happening. We have each other, and that's wonderful, and we need to do what we can to solve these problems and not sit around wondering why 'God' isn't helping us."

 

I don't know how non-fundie your friends are. I have a relative who is not fundie and it doesn't matter to him if one is a Christian or not - to him it's no more condemning to say that a person doesn't have blonde hair as it is to say that they are not a Christian. Anyway, what I'm finding is that how your friends will take it will definitely be as varied as the person you are telling. Some people treat me just like nothing has ever happened and others won't even hardly acknowledge my existence.

 

I guess most of our friends are pretty intelligent people who don't fall for the most blatant nonsense. But knowing myself, I was able to compartmentalise my beliefs enormously (evolution = sure, jonah in the whale = nah, resurrection = definitely, virgin birth = nah, and so on...) so I doubt they'll think we're in danger of hellfire, but then again you just never know...

 

As far as how to do it? I just told them what happened. I read the Bible through in a year, found some major, major problems that could not be fixed and inevitably to be true to my desire for truth, I had to walk away from it. I only brought it up with the people that I had to, because I was involved in A/V at church. The rest have had to either ask me, or my wife, or do the grape vine thing.

 

We've kind of been "lucky" because we have recently had our first child (now 6 months old) and it became very difficult to attend church services regularly and so on (the setup wasn't very baby-friendly). That has bought us some time - people probably assume we haven't managed to get to church recently. At some stage, though, they're going to start wondering where we are. And then the "concerned" phone calls and visits are going to begin, and I just hate the thought. I mean, I'd love to debate the hell out of some of those pompous "leaders" who strut about on the stage every Sunday talking shit - but there are also some really decent people who I don't want to get ugly with.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've somewhat have the same problem - except my friends are fundies and my wife is still going to church there, although she's not as crazy into religion as some of them are.

 

Wow, I feel for you... The one thing that makes this all so much easier is that my wife and I are together in this. I can barely imagine how difficult it must be.

 

I was kind of "lucky" that within a few weeks of finally deciding that I didn't believe in God at all, my wife started a conversation in which she was questioning everything - because of some difficult stuff we were going through in life - and she just kept on saying how she couldn't understand how "God" was supposed to have some sort of "plan" in all of this. At first, I held my tongue, not wanting to destroy any comfort she may have found in her faith (even if it was unfounded) because she was very distressed... But as she went on, I realised that most of the distress was CAUSED by clinging on to this non-sensical concept of a personal God who supposedly cared, and yet reality just wasn't conforming to that fairytale at all! So eventually I just told her straight, "I don't think there is any God. This stuff is just happening. We have each other, and that's wonderful, and we need to do what we can to solve these problems and not sit around wondering why 'God' isn't helping us."

 

I don't know how non-fundie your friends are. I have a relative who is not fundie and it doesn't matter to him if one is a Christian or not - to him it's no more condemning to say that a person doesn't have blonde hair as it is to say that they are not a Christian. Anyway, what I'm finding is that how your friends will take it will definitely be as varied as the person you are telling. Some people treat me just like nothing has ever happened and others won't even hardly acknowledge my existence.

 

I guess most of our friends are pretty intelligent people who don't fall for the most blatant nonsense. But knowing myself, I was able to compartmentalise my beliefs enormously (evolution = sure, jonah in the whale = nah, resurrection = definitely, virgin birth = nah, and so on...) so I doubt they'll think we're in danger of hellfire, but then again you just never know...

 

As far as how to do it? I just told them what happened. I read the Bible through in a year, found some major, major problems that could not be fixed and inevitably to be true to my desire for truth, I had to walk away from it. I only brought it up with the people that I had to, because I was involved in A/V at church. The rest have had to either ask me, or my wife, or do the grape vine thing.

 

We've kind of been "lucky" because we have recently had our first child (now 6 months old) and it became very difficult to attend church services regularly and so on (the setup wasn't very baby-friendly). That has bought us some time - people probably assume we haven't managed to get to church recently. At some stage, though, they're going to start wondering where we are. And then the "concerned" phone calls and visits are going to begin, and I just hate the thought. I mean, I'd love to debate the hell out of some of those pompous "leaders" who strut about on the stage every Sunday talking shit - but there are also some really decent people who I don't want to get ugly with.

 

It takes some guts to tell your brainwashed friends that you no longer believe in the brainwashing. You don't necessarily have to do it in person either. The concerned phone call(s) may be more likely than visits. It is easier to tell someone on the phone "I'm not really interested in church anymore" and "No thank you, I really would rather not have you come over to pray with me or pray with me on the phone either." You might say, "I appreciate you, I appreciate your faith but I personally don't believe in Christianity or God anymore and I am happy with that." It is extremely uncomfortable to be at religious odds with someone but possibly more so to pretend you still believe (unless you never see these people). But the uncomfortableness will pass. Xian friends will either decide to still be your friend or drop you. Now, you become part of the gossip prayer chain. Some will say, "I KNEW they were fakers all along..." , some will say, "Oh well" and some will think to themselves, "They have the guts that I never did to out themselves." As far as home visits, there really is no law that says you have to open your door. You can also be conveniently 'busy' whenever someone wants to come over. Or you can tell them in person you aren't into church anymore if you like, wait for the pregnant pause and , if the person is your friend he will be interested in YOU. Otherwise, he/she will just walk away while they 'pray' for you.

 

Or if you prefer to lie you can tell them you are going to another church. :)

 

Those are my thoughts and predictions..lol. You will get through it and find secular friends too.Enjoy your freedom of thought!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My wife and I have recently decided to leave Christianity for good. We stopped going to church and every day that passes we're more and more relieved that we've left it all behind.

 

One problem remains, however. What to tell our friends? Pretty much all of our friends are still Christians. Most of them not really fundamentalist types (we kind of naturally avoided those in the first place!) but obviously their faith is still important to them in some way or another. How do we break it to them? It's not as if we're ashamed of the decision, but at same point it's going to come out and then what exactly do we tell them? "There is no God - pass the salt, please"?

 

It is traumatic enough losing one's faith - even if it is a good change - but then to make it worse you also lose, simultaneously, all the usual support/safety net you normally enjoyed from your friends and community around you. Talking around the issue is only going to last for a while. At some stage, we've got to just come out and say what's going on. But how to do it?

 

They aren't going to understand that you don't believe like them anymore, they'll think something is wrong with you. Unfortunately that's the way people like that think, fundamentalist or not. You can break it to them, but don't expect them to congratulate you or be supportive. Often they'll separate themselves from you, but also keep you around just in case you change your mind, or if they need something. Eventually they won't be a part of your life anymore, but will try to keep in touch occasionally.. It's a shitty way to treat people all around, which is a result of their shitty outlook on life.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Anselan. Thanks for sharing. Congratulations on taking the step. I think it really can be quite terrifying and takes a lot of courage.

 

Telling friends or "coming out" is a major issue for me too and I'm working my way through my Christian friends, I suppose I'm about half way there and I'm learning as I go along. Some people are easier than others. Some just totally accept it absolutely fine and move on, after all they are used to other people being non-believers, and it is something you should be and usually are prepared to deal with as a Christian from day one of the walk. But there are difficulties. For some there is an element of embarrassment because it is an admission that you were wrong about some very core issues, and sometimes it feels a little like an apology for having acted in certain ways over the years because of those beliefs. With others it can feel like they are disappointed in you because the way they see it you have "abandoned" or "given up" the path of faith because it is challenging. They can thus intentionally or unintentionally make you feel weak, or unprincipled. But I think these are lies that must be attacked and destroyed. Faith is challenging because it does not hold together, because IT is weak, whereas you are strong for having the integrity to seek the truth wherever it takes you. They may also be fearful for you, and as you point out this differs individual to individual I think, depending on their own concepts of hell, salvation and how strongly they believe in them. And even if they do believe it strongly, they may hardly ever think about it or dwell on it. If you think someone genuinely might think this about you, first of all telling them is likely to create or enhance their cognitive dissonance as a result of knowing you as a good guy and loving you as a friend, perhaps making it more likely for them to reconsider in the future. I think I got my hopes up a bit much about this, it hasn't happened yet but who knows. Secondly, I think it's important to remember that it is not you that is making them fearful, you are not the source of the fear, it is their religious ideas, so there is no need to feel guilty about it, though it might cause you some distress.

 

My experience is that most tolerant and kind people do accept your decision and continue to love you as a friend, they may even pray for you more so you may need to decide exactly how you feel about that! But it is also true that the relationship is inevitably affected by the news, and on occasion things can be difficult between you. Again, the source of any rift is not you, I don't know if I would even lay the blame with the religious friend, but really with the ideas that are swimming around in their mind, the same ideas that used to swim around in our minds. So I have managed to persuade myself not to feel any guilt for taking this decision, or for telling them about it. I really think that's important. Do check out what Dr. Marlene Winell says about the deconversion process if you haven't already, her articles are on this site if you do a search and I've found them immensely helpful.

 

In terms of timing, I've found that the best thing is to do it in my own time, and to feel no pressure to have to do it quickly or pressure to wait if you are eager to tell someone. Someone also recommended not bringing it up out of the blue, but letting it come up naturally. I also like to make them feel totally free that they can ask me any questions they want, that nothings too personal and I won't be offended like they're preaching at me. Many will want to preach at you, perhaps more vigorously than before. You'll have to decide how you feel about this yourself. After all, it's good to be careful because being showered with the ideas of the gospel, the very thing that has caused damage but yet which promises healing at the same time, can be confusing and hurtful. People have compared it to the abused returning to the abuser. But if you feel up to it, it does get everything out in the open, and does give you a chance to debate their irrationality which I think ultimately helps them on a path to greater rationality, whatever that means. I personally quite like getting it all out and having one big debate at the time I break the news, then you can continue to have or at least begin to construct a normal lasting and mutually respectful friendship from that point on.

 

These are just my thoughts and personal experiences. Good luck,

 

Max

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In terms of what to say, I prefer to wait until the conversation goes onto faith, which is pretty inevitable in most cases anyway. I then tend to start with something like "I haven't been to Church in a while", which eases things gently bit by bit, because it might be quite shocking to just let it all out suddenly. If they ask more about it, I might say exactly for how long, and then say the reason is "I've been struggling with my faith", so again it doesn't hit them too hard because this is something a doubting believer might say. But also they will probably start guessing something serious is up especially if your tone is sincere. Then I would just start to gently let them know that "actually this time it's some quite major struggles and that I'm not sure that I believe God exists anymore". I do sometimes say "I'm sorry" if that feels right as well, I'm not totally sure why, or if that's the right thing to say, but I do often feel sorry to have to tell them it. And I just try and be real and sincere, and give as complete an account as they ask for, or what you think they would want if they don't explicitly ask. And emphasize that I still love and respect them just as much as a friend and don't want this to cause any problems. They agree, and fairly invariably plead for me to reconsider and give certain scriptures. If it turns into debate I try to retain real respect for them and their choice to believe, but don't hold back even quite devastating arguments, like lack of credible evidence. But I always just give my personal story. "Personally, I don't see any evidence for what I have been believing", "I don't think I personally had any good reasons to back up my faith", "you may have had other experiences, but I never really had a definite experience of God that I could say for sure that was God and not something that could be explained naturally". Things like that. Everyone is different and has a unique faith story I think, though.

 

Hope this helps,

 

Max

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My wife and I are in a similar situation, except that we really can't take the risk of telling any of our friends how our beliefs have changed over the last year. It absolutely sucks and I hate not being able to be honest, but the price of betrayal is too high.

 

I gave my in-laws a copy of Why Evolution is True, and it rocked their boat enough that they've stopped harassing us as much about not going to church. But it's hard. I feel like I'm living a lie and I just hate it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You can't lose real friends over a difference of beliefs.

 

Over time you will. People drift away from each other when their lifestyles and outlook are so different. People you meet in church are not going to stay your friends when they stay and you don't. Facebook friends maybe. They'll even try to exercise their Christian love when you're down, but taking pity on the spiritually confused isn't love or friendship. Long distance friendships just aren't the same, whatever kind of distance it is.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Super Moderator

You can't lose real friends over a difference of beliefs.

 

Over time you will. People drift away from each other when their lifestyles and outlook are so different. People you meet in church are not going to stay your friends when they stay and you don't. Facebook friends maybe. They'll even try to exercise their Christian love when you're down, but taking pity on the spiritually confused isn't love or friendship. Long distance friendships just aren't the same, whatever kind of distance it is.

I meant REAL friends.

 

Even people of similar values and mindset can drift apart. What I'm saying is a real friend won't abandon someone simply because he registered as a Democrat this year, or finally admitted to himself and others that he is gay, or realized he didn't believe in Christianity anymore.

 

Do we really want to rely on "friends" who are shallow, narrow minded, bigoted and unable to tolerate differences of opinion? A "friend" who only accepts you because he thinks you always agree with him? Should we live a lie just in order to keep them?

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Even people of similar values and mindset can drift apart. What I'm saying is a real friend won't abandon someone simply because he registered as a Democrat this year, or finally admitted to himself and others that he is gay, or realized he didn't believe in Christianity anymore.

I disagree, a real friend won't abandon you over politics or even coming out as gay, but with something so foundational as spiritual beliefs even a real friend will drift away. I guess it depends on how much of a foundation religion is in their lives.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I sort of agree with both of you. Real friends can still drift away over time, simply because you don't have as many things in common anymore. They're not doing it for shallow reasons, they're doing it subconsciously because they find themselves less fulfilled by your company now.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Super Moderator
...with something so foundational as spiritual beliefs even a real friend will drift away.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that isn't a friend in the first place, it's a "brother in Christ." The common religion is their only basis for the relationship.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I sort of agree with both of you. Real friends can still drift away over time, simply because you don't have as many things in common anymore. They're not doing it for shallow reasons, they're doing it subconsciously because they find themselves less fulfilled by your company now.

 

That's what I'm saying, it can happen over time, not just immediately.

 

At the same time though I can see how they would be sad too and lose interest. But their sadness is unjustified, they're the ones that cause the separation because of beliefs. I could care less what someone's religious beliefs are.I care how those beleifs cause them to treat others though.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think you will find that you and your religious friends will drift apart. A Christian's interest in friendship centers around their belief in The Almighty™. You can out-grow your friends. I have religious friends, we say 'hi' when we see each other and yack about our families. Few of them actually come over for BBQ or invite us over. Can't be unequally yoked, yaknow? What really holds people together that meet in church when one of them no longer believes? Not much unless they are your in-laws.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My wife and I have recently decided to leave Christianity for good. We stopped going to church and every day that passes we're more and more relieved that we've left it all behind.

 

One problem remains, however. What to tell our friends? Pretty much all of our friends are still Christians. Most of them not really fundamentalist types (we kind of naturally avoided those in the first place!) but obviously their faith is still important to them in some way or another. How do we break it to them? It's not as if we're ashamed of the decision, but at same point it's going to come out and then what exactly do we tell them? "There is no God - pass the salt, please"?

 

It is traumatic enough losing one's faith - even if it is a good change - but then to make it worse you also lose, simultaneously, all the usual support/safety net you normally enjoyed from your friends and community around you. Talking around the issue is only going to last for a while. At some stage, we've got to just come out and say what's going on. But how to do it?

 

I think if you are concerned about losing your friends because of a change in belief...you already pretty well know what is coming. When friendships are based largely around beliefs rather than simple respect for the other person, the chances that the friendships will be lost or at least largely changed are good. It is traumatic. They will still love you and you them but things can't be the same as they were. It is sad. In my experience it causes a certain amount of isolation but it is worth going through with it. You have your self respect and you can gain new friends. Otherwise, you lose your self respect for keeping friends that do not really love you unconditionally.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have a specific variant of this question. I have a lot of friends that are several years younger than me (I'm in my 20's) and that are either still at home or newly left the nest for various fundy schools. I see them in somewhat the same position I was myself, as never having the chance to be exposed to anything other than fundamentalist christianity. I'd like to be able to approach them in a manner that makes clear what my beliefs are and opens the opportunity to talk without scaring them off. I'm not sure how to approach the subject though in a manner that doesn't appear too threatening.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Super Moderator

Welcome, Jese.

 

...makes clear what my beliefs are...

Well, you haven't made your beliefs clear to me, so I have no idea how you should present them to baby fundies. Usually fundies aren't really open to liberal Christianity any more than they are to atheists.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Welcome, Jese.

 

...makes clear what my beliefs are...

Well, you haven't made your beliefs clear to me, so I have no idea how you should present them to baby fundies. Usually fundies aren't really open to liberal Christianity any more than they are to atheists.

 

Not a christian - sorry didn't realize when I signed up that we still had some christians on the board! Probably an atheist. I just feel terrible letting my old friends stay without saying anything, but I'm not sure how to present it in a way that doesn't come across as overtly antagonistic.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Super Moderator
Probably an atheist. I just feel terrible letting my old friends stay without saying anything, but I'm not sure how to present it in a way that doesn't come across as overtly antagonistic.

Thanks, Jese, for clarifying.

 

Most people don't seem to be too interested in the beliefs of others unless they happen to share those beliefs. As for me, I encourage anyone who brings up religion or beliefs to really study and understand what they believe. After all, it was Bible study that allowed me to see Christianity for the bunkum it is. If they try to persuade me or drag me to their church, I just say that I've been there, studied it extensively, and concluded I couldn't believe it anymore.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Moderator

Even people of similar values and mindset can drift apart. What I'm saying is a real friend won't abandon someone simply because he registered as a Democrat this year, or finally admitted to himself and others that he is gay, or realized he didn't believe in Christianity anymore.

 

Do we really want to rely on "friends" who are shallow, narrow minded, bigoted and unable to tolerate differences of opinion? A "friend" who only accepts you because he thinks you always agree with him? Should we live a lie just in order to keep them?

 

 

5 stars! *****

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Probably an atheist. I just feel terrible letting my old friends stay without saying anything, but I'm not sure how to present it in a way that doesn't come across as overtly antagonistic.

Thanks, Jese, for clarifying.

 

Most people don't seem to be too interested in the beliefs of others unless they happen to share those beliefs. As for me, I encourage anyone who brings up religion or beliefs to really study and understand what they believe. After all, it was Bible study that allowed me to see Christianity for the bunkum it is. If they try to persuade me or drag me to their church, I just say that I've been there, studied it extensively, and concluded I couldn't believe it anymore.

 

Perhaps. It's more that most of these kids will go from homeschooling to a fundamentalist college to an approved Christian marriage. I feel like I may be the only non-believer they will seriously interact with for a number of years. I was always the big sister...I guess that really never goes away. And especially for the other girls, I don't want them to be vulnerable to the same abuse that I went through because of trying to be a good christian woman.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have a specific variant of this question. I have a lot of friends that are several years younger than me (I'm in my 20's) and that are either still at home or newly left the nest for various fundy schools. I see them in somewhat the same position I was myself, as never having the chance to be exposed to anything other than fundamentalist christianity. I'd like to be able to approach them in a manner that makes clear what my beliefs are and opens the opportunity to talk without scaring them off. I'm not sure how to approach the subject though in a manner that doesn't appear too threatening.

 

I think you should definitely try to influence them, but also realize that what you say may help them later instead of just immediately. Just be yourself. People usually listen when you're being real instead of trying to be a salesman.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.