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Combatting Religion

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Combatting Religion

Postby Remember_Me » Tue Mar 13, 2012 1:02 pm

I've recently reconnected with an old friend from my late teens, early 20s. It's been over 10 years since we had a falling out over something that can only be described as beyond stupid. It was great to hear from him after all this time and after a quick phone call we agreed to meet for dinner.

Both now in our mid 30s, I was happy to hear of his seemingly "on-its-way-to-profitibility" business and new family. As people tend to do, especially after not seeing one another for so long, I started to reminisce about our old wild and crazy days of our early 20s. Which is when I noticed he was starting to get a little shifty and uncomfortable.

Let me stress, I'm talking your average "wild and craziness" of our early 20s... not ritual sacrifices and human/drug trafficking. Some booze, some grass, tons o' chicks... a few harmless felonies eventually plead down to misdemeanors (kidding). You know, shenanigans and tomfoolery that one learns from and grows out of. He sensed my reaction to his unease and used the opportunity to drop the R-Bomb... religion. And not just your basic garden-variety religion... but the super-evangelical freaky kind.

His religion of choice being the teachings of the UPC. Not particularly familiar with the UPC, I of course Googled it.

Long story short, our whole dinner and reunion was nothing more than an attempt by him to convert me to his religion. Upon figuring out his agenda, I explained in a quite friendly way that I was not interested but wished him well. He is a somewhat recent convert and very much caught up in what I refer to as the "honeymoon phase" of religion. He has since contacted me and insists he wants to spend more time together and will respect my wishes to not be proselytized to. But I know he's full of shit.

It was so good seeing him after all this time and I've always kicked myself for why we stopped being friends... especially considering it was really my own doing. Long story short, despite my bullshit meter going off the chart, I will hang out with him a few more times because I do want to believe him. But I want to be prepared as much as possible should his religious fanaticism surface. I don't want to really evade it, just to proffer my own views on it should he be open-minded enough to hear it (not usually the case with other religious folk in my experience).

Since it's been a while since I've debated the religious in person, I've decided to "bone up". I've been reading and watching lots of the info out there and am curious if those here more experienced in this can offer any counter-argument the super-religious may offer to what I've found.

I've found this series to be quite helpful.

Any thoughts on how the super religious would pick that apart? Again, I'm not trying to tell him what he should believe, but simply my reasons for why I choose to not share his beliefs. Hell, who am I kidding... ideally I would love for him to give up all that shit and just be the good person I know he is with or without it. Sigh... but I digress.

Back to it, thanks for any wisdom or criticism you see fit in sharing. Also, if you know more about this particular church and would like to share your thoughts on it that would be great.

Now, I'm now off to even more weighty issues... like what sandals I need to buy today (I wasn't planning on this issue for at least another month!).

And I'm gone.

:twisted:
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Re: Combatting Religion

Postby Twigz2011 » Tue Mar 13, 2012 1:13 pm

Sounds exhausting.
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Re: Combatting Religion

Postby Galoot » Tue Mar 13, 2012 1:28 pm

Hard version: read lots of stuff about early Christianity, the development of the church out of oral histories and "gospels" written by anonymous authors, end up learning Koine Greek, etc etc

Easy version: ask him to give a coherent explanation of the vicarious atonement, including exactly why (according to the bible) blood MUST be shed before sin can be forgiven.

The atonement simply is not a rational belief, it is a magical belief. If he can't give you an explanation that does not rely on already being within that magical belief system, then he has nothing.

Sorry for the loss of your friendship. Been there quite a few times myself.
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Re: Combatting Religion

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Tue Mar 13, 2012 1:34 pm

Remember_Me wrote:I've found this series to be quite helpful.

Any thoughts on how the super religious would pick that apart?
Well, Huckleby is hardly super religious, but when I presented one of those vids as evidence in another thread, he shrugged it off as just another religion.

I know. Didn't make any sense to me either.

Good luck.
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Re: Combatting Religion

Postby Henry Vilas » Tue Mar 13, 2012 1:52 pm

Does your friend speak in tongues?
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Re: Combatting Religion

Postby Dangerousman » Tue Mar 13, 2012 2:43 pm

In my experience it doesn't matter where the discussion of religion begins, but in the end it always boils down to one single unresolvable issue: belief based on faith vs belief based on reason.

Imagine two gauges, one with a needle that indicates the amount of evidence supporting a belief, the other indicating how strongly one holds that belief.

The strength of a reasonable person's beliefs varies proportionately with the amount of evidence to support it. There's plenty of evidence that the sun will rise tomorrow, so a reasonable person will have a fairly strong belief that "the sun will rise tomorrow" is true. It won't be as strong as the belief that all points on a circle are equidistant to a center point, but stronger than the belief that the Brewers will win the World Series this season.

In sum, when the "evidence needle" is low, the strength of belief needle is low too, when it's high, the strength of belief should be high also-- for a reasonable person.

If the evidence needle is substantially lower than the belief needle on our imaginary gauges, we have a term for that person: gullible.

Now, when we have people claiming belief based on faith, the needles look the same as they do for the gullible person. People of faith believe with every fiber of their being that there are things such as "a supreme being" "immortality" "cosmic justice" of some sort, and so on. This despite the fact that the objective evidence for such things is quite low. It's something believed based on faith, not evidence.

I have yet to find anyone who can explain why belief based on faith is "good" while belief based on gullibility is "bad" --- and how and why we ought to see a difference (if there is one) between those two kinds of belief.
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Re: Combatting Religion

Postby snoqueen » Tue Mar 13, 2012 5:35 pm

I've been reading and watching lots of the info out there and am curious if those here more experienced in this can offer any counter-argument the super-religious may offer to what I've found.


With all due respect for people who replied to this question with advice to bone up on all the nonsensical details of various religions, I've got another take.

I am a child of a religious mixed marriage, to put it nicely. One parent started out a Bible-believing protestant, the other was at least a third-generation (probably more) nonbeliever. And I don't mean atheist or agnostic: my dad's whole side of the family simply had no interest in religion at all and no more interest in addressing religious questions than they had in fairies and elves. These were all good people on both sides of the family, by the way -- fair in their dealings, kind and respectful toward people with different beliefs.

Both my parents were also good people, and they had a successful marriage of over 50 years. They agreed to disagree. As children, we were not allowed to do sneaky childhood tricks and use religious questions as a wedge issue. Religion was my mother's area and not my dad's and that was that.

My mother tried to raise us religious and it didn't stick. I don't recall any family arguments, in childhood or adulthood, about religion. We just let it be. As an adult I am comfortable with religious people and willing to be polite during praying and the like, and I can even use religious language with people who are in a crisis, but I know what I am -- another nonbeliever. It's the equivalent of being bilingual, in a way.

My advice with regard to a friend trying to convert you is to be as firm as possible about not discussing it. Don't bother trying to counter his reasoning (it won't work, especially with a newly-converted fundamentalist) and don't bother trying to explain yourself or giving reasons for what you think. If you can find other grounds for friendship, it'll happen. I'm guessing it won't, but little everyday miracles do happen and you can't make new old friends, so to honor your old friendship with a little extra effort seems, well, honorable. Just don't expect him to be who he used to be, because if he's drunk some serious religious kool-aid he's not.
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Re: Combatting Religion

Postby gargantua » Tue Mar 13, 2012 6:56 pm

This may not be exactly what Kurt Vonnegut said, but he summed it up well with "never try to argue a man out of an expectation of an afterlife".

Sno's right. You owe it to your past friendship to see if there is some way to remain on friendly terms. Just agree to disagree on that subject and don't talk about it.

Very similar to a friend of mine who cannot for the life of him understand why there is a recall against Walker. We never talk politics. Works great!
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Re: Combatting Religion

Postby Igor » Tue Mar 13, 2012 8:29 pm

At the heart of it, discussions of the sort that you are talking about typically consist of two people who:

- Have their own mind at least partially made up.
- Expect a level of proof from the other side that they cannot themselves provide for their own argument.

Add into that the popular concept that you convince someone to change their mind on this issue based on clever rhetoric, and you have a discussion that is almost guaranteed to be frustrating for one or both parties.
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Re: Combatting Religion

Postby Twigz2011 » Wed Mar 14, 2012 9:37 am

Igor, I really like your comment.... Expecting a level of proof from another side in a discussion that you are unable to provide for your own argument.... States perfectly how I feel about when these types of topics come up, religion, politics etc. how it should be handled. I'm going to let that crystallize a bit but hope in the future to apply that rule to myself and potentially frustrating discussions. I try to be open to honestly considering new ideas and listening to what other people have to say, but that should be a 2 way street. I don't think I see any point in discussing any topic with someone of a different viewpoint if this sentiment isn't shared.
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Re: Combatting Religion

Postby Remember_Me » Fri Mar 16, 2012 1:46 pm

Henry Vilas wrote:Does your friend speak in tongues?


While I haven't heard him do it, his church says they do on their local website.

Snoqueen, you've once again provided the best wisdom one could hope to receive here. Thanks to everyone else who weighed in... some really great advice.

Despite desperately wanting to have my old friend back I've relented to the fact that our reunion will be but a short one.

I feel even worse for him. First, that he's now basically a mindless zombie. And second, I know he was really glad to see me after all this time and in his mind we'll be friends forever just as soon as he's converted me.

Oh well. On with life.

At least I have new sandals.

(if only they were more Jesus-y looking he might listen to me...)
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Re: Combatting Religion

Postby Twinner » Wed Mar 21, 2012 3:35 pm

Why does your friendship have to be predicated on having a shared religion? Ask your friend that question and see how he reacts and then listen to his answer. IMHO, your religious status shouldn't matter to a friend. You could be what you are, a muslim, a druid, a catholic, a jew or any religion. You shouldn't have to be the same religion. If your friend can't decide that for himself, it makes me wonder who is deciding that for him. IMHO all religions are cults, though from what I've read in a bible, as a believer you're allowed to have friends who don't "follow the same path" as you.

If your friend can't wrap his mind around you being different then it's his loss. Unless you desire to change your beliefs.

I'm 47 and I've had similar friends come back to me after 10 or more years but I haven't had the hurdle of religious beliefs get in the way. I did have politics get in the way of a relationship with a hunting buddy. We'd met in high school and when I moved away he started dating my girlfriend and they eventually married. We never got beyond "3rd base" but he never voiced any interest in my sexual history with his wife. If he had any interest he might have asked his wife and been satisfied with her answer. There were many times I had my back to him while he had a loaded firearm so we trusted each other.

But that changed in 2004. I knew to avoid political conversations with him. I simply wasn't interested in talking politics with someone driving a Honda sporting pro-Rush bumper stickers. He asked me my opinion on the previous presidential election and I made the mistake of telling him. To sum up his opinion, he didn't think he could be friends with me if I didn't have the same opinions as Rush, W, and himself.

My only response to that was "it's a shame, I thought you were a better person that that."

Neither of us has said a word to each other since. Sadder still is that his wife hasn't said anything to me as well.

And no, we don't hunt together any more.
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Re: Combatting Religion

Postby Huckleby » Wed Mar 21, 2012 4:05 pm

Remember_Me wrote: He has since contacted me and insists he wants to spend more time together and will respect my wishes to not be proselytized to. But I know he's full of shit.

How do you know this? It seems unlikely, but possible, that somebody would prostelitize after promising not too. Could it be that you've rejected him because he is religous? Do you have deeply religous friends?

We all look for like-minded people to hang out with. I wouldn't date somebody who is deeply religous, but then again, the flesh is weak, and maybe I could be tempted by a hot, wayward nun.
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Re: Combatting Religion

Postby Huckleby » Wed Mar 21, 2012 4:16 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:Well, Huckleby is hardly super religious, but when I presented one of those vids as evidence in another thread, he shrugged it off as just another religion.

not true, I admired the thoroughness of the presentation, and far from being dismissive, I agreed with it.

I don't find science and trust in physical evidence to be in itself the same as religion. But when somebody trusts absolutely in any path to the truth, as I believe you and the narrator of that video do, they've crossed into the territory of faith, and they've narrowed their outlook.

I know you vehemently deny this assertion. Don't take it so hard that I see you as a holy man.
Last edited by Huckleby on Wed Mar 21, 2012 4:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Combatting Religion

Postby Twinner » Wed Mar 21, 2012 4:21 pm

Huckleby wrote:
Remember_Me wrote: but then again, the flesh is weak, and maybe I could be tempted by a hot, wayward nun.


I know one in Madison!

My wife has an uncle who was a catholic priest and he's married to a former nun. I've never asked the details, but I think I will tonight. I hope she knows how all that went down.
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