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A Moral Choice? Deconverting Friends


highrishman
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As many of you may know, I've only fairly recently (about 2 months or so) abandoned my faith. And I've felt great about it. So much so, that I try to make it a topic of discussion among many of my friends and family. I'm not necessarily in your face about it, just more wanting to discuss it with everyone.

 

For obvious reasons, there are christian friends in my life I've been very careful about opening up about this to. One example is a co-worker of mine. Over my past year or so at my job, he and I have become good friends. He and his entire family (he's one of 12 kids) are very devout. I highly respect them all though, because out of every christian I've ever met, my friend and his family seem to be the wisest. While they maintain a very strong faith, they are extremely welcoming and level-headed. They're the kind of people who make you feel like you've known them your whole life from the first second you meet them. When it comes to faith, they're not pushy or arrogant with it, but always willing to share it with you if you so desire.

 

Now my friend has invited me to many bible studies, church, etc. And I've often accompanied him to bible study and such. However, I've had so many doubts, that I usually dreaded going, and when I was there I totally spaced out. If I did catch some of what was being said, I would usually think to myself how much I disagreed with it. I carried on that way for a while, but the bible studies were postponed for a while until the group leader was done with a christian camp. Anyways, since that time, I've obviously given up on my faith. But I haven't yet told my friend that.

 

He knows I have doubts, because I usually take any questions I have to him, just to see how he would respond. I really want to let him know, before he invites me to more bible studies and such.

 

His faith controls EVERY aspect of his life. He won't even decide for himself how many kids he wants, that's up to God. It's pretty serious how devout he is. And on one hand, I'm very happy for him, because it's evident that he's happy. On the other hand, I want him to know that there are so many more ways to find happiness. I want him to see and feel the freedom I've experienced, just within the short time I've been non-christian. I don't want his entire life to be controlled by some belief in a higher power. But I fear it will be.

 

I also don't want to push my beliefs on him, because that's exactly what I wouldn't want him to do. But I want him to be aware of other things in life than god.

 

So my question is, because he is happy where he is, should I let his faith be? Or should I slowly try to convince him that his faith may be wrong? And is it morally questionable to try to deconvert him?

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Welcome! This is probably the touchiest part of a deconversion--how to "come out" to those around you. You are absolutely going to want others to be as happy and free as you are, but that can be a minefield!

 

Count on this: your friend absolutely *WILL* want to talk about why you decided his religion wasn't for you. Step carefully here; most of the time Christians don't ask for their own curiosity; they almost always ask so they know what angle to take in witnessing to you. They also tend to believe that since the message is perfect, if you left, it was because of some flaw in YOU, not the message. That's why I don't advocate trying to deconvert others; the simple truth is that you can't make someone realize the truth. You're talking about a religion that is custom-designed to maintain its life over the eons. If your friend isn't ready to hear the truth, nothing you say will matter to him. Evangelicals especially are incredibly dishonest in how they deal with each other. By making you feel like you must either cooperate or begin trying to "prove" yourself, you might quickly find yourself dissolving into arguments, or worse, sucked back in. So before having that kind of discussion, you need to figure out if the question was honestly asked and what boundaries you want to draw.

 

If you read the testimonies here, you see quickly that most of us didn't deconvert because of religious conversations with ex-Christians. We might have kind of thought about it, it might be part of our stories, but we had to get that Blinding Flash of the Obvious for ourselves. Be gentle with your friend. When a man's livelihood depends upon his believing a lie, you can bet that he will happily believe whatever lie you want him to believe. And your friend's got a lot riding on this particular lie.

 

We go mad in herds, but wake up singly, one by one, to paraphrase the old saying. Good luck with the herd...:)

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His faith controls EVERY aspect of his life. He won't even decide for himself how many kids he wants, that's up to God. It's pretty serious how devout he is. And on one hand, I'm very happy for him, because it's evident that he's happy. On the other hand, I want him to know that there are so many more ways to find happiness. I want him to see and feel the freedom I've experienced, just within the short time I've been non-christian. I don't want his entire life to be controlled by some belief in a higher power. But I fear it will be.

 

I also don't want to push my beliefs on him, because that's exactly what I wouldn't want him to do. But I want him to be aware of other things in life than god.

 

So my question is, because he is happy where he is, should I let his faith be? Or should I slowly try to convince him that his faith may be wrong? And is it morally questionable to try to deconvert him?

 

If you friend is really a fundie then he might drop you as a friend when it becomes clear that you won't become a Christian. If he is that deep into the religion there really isn't much you can do for him. You shouldn't try to convince him of anything because that is not possible. You know the old saying about trying to teach a pig to sing? But if you see him doing something crazy because of the religion there is nothing wrong with you stating your opinion. You can also be an example to him that demonstrates that godless people can be moral, level headed and are nothing like the propaganda fed to Christians.

 

If someday you friend shares with you that he is having a crisis of faith or he thinks he is losing his religion then you can share your experience with that and how all the fear is unfounded.

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I hear two different questions. 1: You can decline invitations to bible study without going into detail. "Thanks, but I think that's just not for me. Hey, maybe after you're done, we could go [some other activity]." You're not rejecting spending time with the guy, you're just not interested in the bible study. You'll also find out quickly if you're a friend or an evangelism project.

 

2: I wouldn't start a detailed discussion unless he asks outright. If that happens, your description of his family sounds like a good model to follow, "...they're not pushy or arrogant with it, but always willing to share it with you if you so desire." When I was younger and slightly more hotheaded, I wanted to debate and persuade and WIN, but as I've gotten older I just shoot for being *understood*. It's a fine line between explaining a point of view and trying to persuade the other person to agree. Also, I try (try) to notice when the discussion starts swerving off the intellectual road and into the emotional weeds. At that point, the information flow has stopped and it's best to change the subject.

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Actually, you should refuse to get into detailed discussions about your ex-christian status. My late father told me not to debate religion with anybody. He said to do so was ignorant and low-class. So, if somebody asks me where (or if) I attend church, I just say "it is not for me" and refuse to discuss the matter further. One thing I dislike about christians is how they are "in your face" about their religion, and are so damn sure about things nobody of any intellect could be sure about. Don't do the same about your beliefs.

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For others it can be devastating to loose faith, for some its a great release. I would avoid trying to kill his faith, he seems like he would be the first part. But discussing things like this with others can be fun, as long as they're not bumbling morons.

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Right after I fully deconverted, I tried to subtly ( and not so subtly) deconvert my best friend. That did NOT go over well, and he said religion is off limits, if we want to remain friends.

 

My experience is, the desire for truth has to come from within. It is NEARLY impossible to deconvert anyone- the penalty for such is eternal torment in hell, so they will hold to Pascal's wager. You have to know the person VERY intimitely to know if you even stand a snowball's chance. I should have known not to even try. If they're a very analytical person, and would rather be in a sad truth than a happy lie, then try it. But if they're the other 99% of people, just let em be. Its hard to do that though.

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Remember how fucking irritating it is to have christians be all "I'm worried for your SOOUUULLLL!!"?

 

Yeah, it's just as annoying when it's about intellect.

 

Don't be an ass.

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As many of you may know, I've only fairly recently (about 2 months or so) abandoned my faith. And I've felt great about it. So much so, that I try to make it a topic of discussion among many of my friends and family. I'm not necessarily in your face about it, just more wanting to discuss it with everyone.

 

For obvious reasons, there are christian friends in my life I've been very careful about opening up about this to. One example is a co-worker of mine. Over my past year or so at my job, he and I have become good friends. He and his entire family (he's one of 12 kids) are very devout. I highly respect them all though, because out of every christian I've ever met, my friend and his family seem to be the wisest. While they maintain a very strong faith, they are extremely welcoming and level-headed. They're the kind of people who make you feel like you've known them your whole life from the first second you meet them. When it comes to faith, they're not pushy or arrogant with it, but always willing to share it with you if you so desire.

 

Now my friend has invited me to many bible studies, church, etc. And I've often accompanied him to bible study and such. However, I've had so many doubts, that I usually dreaded going, and when I was there I totally spaced out. If I did catch some of what was being said, I would usually think to myself how much I disagreed with it. I carried on that way for a while, but the bible studies were postponed for a while until the group leader was done with a christian camp. Anyways, since that time, I've obviously given up on my faith. But I haven't yet told my friend that.

 

He knows I have doubts, because I usually take any questions I have to him, just to see how he would respond. I really want to let him know, before he invites me to more bible studies and such.

 

His faith controls EVERY aspect of his life. He won't even decide for himself how many kids he wants, that's up to God. It's pretty serious how devout he is. And on one hand, I'm very happy for him, because it's evident that he's happy. On the other hand, I want him to know that there are so many more ways to find happiness. I want him to see and feel the freedom I've experienced, just within the short time I've been non-christian. I don't want his entire life to be controlled by some belief in a higher power. But I fear it will be.

 

I also don't want to push my beliefs on him, because that's exactly what I wouldn't want him to do. But I want him to be aware of other things in life than god.

 

So my question is, because he is happy where he is, should I let his faith be? Or should I slowly try to convince him that his faith may be wrong? And is it morally questionable to try to deconvert him?

 

Let his faith be. Let him know where you're at belief-wise unless you want to continue dealing with bible studies. Your behavior is a testament to how happy you are. If he knows you don't believe in Jesus yet are quite happy he might investigate as to how that could be. Of course he might think that you are going to go to hell, etc etc and if your friendship starts to deteriorate make sure that you let him know that you extend your friendship to him no matter what either of your beliefs are. That is true unconditional acceptance.

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Actually, you should refuse to get into detailed discussions about your ex-christian status. My late father told me not to debate religion with anybody. He said to do so was ignorant and low-class. So, if somebody asks me where (or if) I attend church, I just say "it is not for me" and refuse to discuss the matter further. One thing I dislike about christians is how they are "in your face" about their religion, and are so damn sure about things nobody of any intellect could be sure about. Don't do the same about your beliefs.

 

Amen. :-) My dearest friend is a devoted Christian. And she's my opposite. I question everything; she questions nothing -- just believes. That attitude leaves me crosseyed. But I also recognize that her belief makes her happy and it informs her life. She would be devastated to be shoved into a world of questions, which she isn't prepared and will never be prepared to handle. And since she is one of those rare people who actually does good from Christian motivations, it's absolutely not my place to try to deconvert her.

 

As long as she's willing to stay off That Damned Subject, I leave her views alone.

 

However ... on those occasions when she tries to shove her religion in my face, I feel totally free to "answer with both barrels," so to speak. She backs off and there we leave it.

 

If your friend is a true friend, you and he will respect each others' viewpoints. In your shoes, highirishman, I wouldn't try to deconvert him. But I also would find some way of deflecting his attempts to preach to you. If you can do that, then you should be able to go on being friends. If he rejects you because you don't believe, he wasn't a friend in the first place. But also if you try to take away something that important to him, you wouldn't be being a very good friend, yourself.

 

If he ever does reach the point of questioning, well then he'll know he's got a friend to turn to.

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Thanks for your responses everyone. I honestly feel like I agree with what you guys are saying. It would make more sense to leave his faith alone, especially since he is happy as is. I know that I could not endure another bible study, so I have to be up front with my beliefs. Here's hoping for the best. Thanks for the wise words all.

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Do you think his faith is hurting him or those around him in any way? Are he and his wife going to have ten kids if they think that's what Gawd wants them to do (hard on his wife's body--weight gain and such)? Does religion control his life to a harmful extent? If the answer to any of these is yes, then you could try it, but be gentle. Don't let him think you are trying to de-convert him.

 

In any case, encourage your friend to read the Bible on his own, with as little bias as possible. Point out passages that you find disturbing--we all have our favorites. Think of tough questions to ask him. Regardless of how nice or evil Xians are, the idea of abandoning anyone in that cult makes me sad.

 

Good luck with your friend. And welcome to our club!

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Remember how fucking irritating it is to have christians be all "I'm worried for your SOOUUULLLL!!"?

 

Yeah, it's just as annoying when it's about intellect.

 

Don't be an ass.

 

If his friend is witnessing to him, it's possible to gently point out flaws in religion without being an ass.

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I think for someone that close to god, leave him alone. its best he come to his own conclusion and gradually fall from faith so the rug isn't swept out from under him. it complicates things with a family. also I have a dislike towards evangelizing atheism. nobody deconverted me. I found out on my own. that's the beauty of it. show someone that unbelief is an option and let reason do its work. religion digs its own hole just sow a seed

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I've been thinking about this thread lately and remembering back to when I was convinced this was all true. What would I have wanted, what would I have needed back then? I didn't know a single ex-Christian, but I did know some atheists. They were all pretty militant about it, even if they were dear friends. I felt like everybody I knew had an agenda--either to deconvert me, or to keep me in the religion. They didn't want to really dialogue; they wanted to WIN. I was a notch on someone's belt either way. I didn't know anybody I could honestly, sincerely talk with about my doubts and fears. Nobody ever said to me, "After doing a lot of research, I really have some issues with the message itself. I respect that you feel a different way about it, so I just want to tell you that if you ever want to talk about that research, I'll share it with you. Until then, I care about you too much to argue about it. Let's not talk about religion."

 

I wonder what I would have said if someone had said that to me. Would I have tried to argue them out of their "issues with the message"? Would I just have said "Okay, that sounds fine by me"? All I know is, nobody said anything like that to me. Nobody ever acted like *I* was more important than their own agenda, so I didn't trust the atheists I knew enough to open up about it. As the saying goes, nobody gives a shit about what you know till they know you give a shit.

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I don't go out of my way to deconvert my xtian friends. Most of them are so wrapped up in Woo, it would be a useless attempt. The more you try to deconvert them the more they will believe their faith is either being tested by God Almighty™ or they are Persecuted Christians™ being assaulted by the minions of Satan. The ones who actually believe in talking snakes are the scariest of the bunch cuz they will believe every single sneeze, cough, hiccup, belch, or fart, they utter or blow is directly the inner workings of The Lord™. They tell me the earth is not as old as scientist claim it is and I grab a fossil and say, 'oh look, a trilobite from 350million years ago!' Then they have to respond with 'carbon dating is not dependable.' Then I says something like, 'ok, just how long does it take to fill up a planet with water and bedrock?' They usually shut up after that unless they really have spirit-thing working and they keep jabbering but don't refute the fact it takes more than six days or six thousand years to fill up this planet with water (this is also where they try for the 'water came from the Noah's ark' stuff--it doesn't wash either). They have an argument for every thing so I find it easier to argue against their arguments than it is to try and convert them. If I hit a nerve of theirs then they go look up what I told them and at least they have something to think about even if it is to try and tear it up.

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Guest Valk0010

Of course if you tell them about half life's they will think your a idiot for doubting scientists or something. Carbon has a half life of 60000 years the last i checked.

 

Ohh sense your considering deconverting others here is a thought

 

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