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May 20, 2011

A Response: Why don’t unbelievers like being around Christians?

by juju2112

From a post last year on the Fellowship Bible Church of NW Arkansas blog:

I think that is an extremely interesting and important question. Why don’t sinners like being around us? Could it be that we’ve turned the great love story written to us by God into a moral checklist, which we can then use to count how many items we have checked off? Maybe we’ve turned in our love relationships with Jesus Christ for a simple system of morals. Because then, we can look out of the church and see unbelievers with fewer items checked off of their lists and shout “I’M MORE VALUABLE BECAUSE OF THIS…”

The blog entry I’m quoting here is over a year old now, but I’d still like to respond to it. I can’t speak for anyone in their church, or anyone who knows them, but I can speak from the perspective of an unbeliever. Having attended an atheist meetup group fairly regularly on Fridays for almost 2 years now, I’ve seen quite a few nonbelievers in their natural habitat.

Firstly, I should say that I don’t think this is true. For a lot of people, religion just isn’t that big of an issue. Lots of believers and non-believers are good friends. I have friends who are believers myself. We enjoy each other’s company. Often, we just don’t talk about religion. Most people are happy not to broach the subject, and there are plenty of other subjects to discuss.

In the cases where you’re talking about a strident unbeliever and a fundamentalist Christian, though, I think I may be able to offer some insight. Think about this statement:

Why don’t sinners like being around us?

Did you ever consider that people don’t appreciate being called sinners? That maybe we don’t think we did anything wrong? It’s a little insulting. It’s like saying, “Why don’t these immoral heathens who deserve to burn forever in fire want to be my friends?”

Here are some other factors that might make a non-believer want to spend less time with a fundamentalist Christian.

Easily Offended
We don’t have to watch what we say when we’re around other non-believers. Christians are often offended by the strangest things. It’s like walking through a minefield. There are a number of things you just can’t talk about around a Christian, and it can be exhausting having to navigate around them all the time. Not all Christians are like this, but many are.

Irrational Beliefs.
It’s comforting talking to another non-believer, because you know that when talking to them, even if they have different beliefs that you, it’s okay, because you know they at least have a rational reason for what they believe. No matter how wrong someone is on a subject, be it on gun control, abortion, raising kids, or even morality itself, you can at least talk to them about it if their ideas are based on reason. With a Christian, their beliefs on a wide range of things are so often a matter of faith that there’s no point in talking to them about things.

Here’s an example. This question was posted on KNWA’s Facebook page on Tuesday:

Is marriage obsolete? The Shwarzenegger/Shriver divorce is just the latest high profile marriage to dissolve in front of the public eye and a recent survey shows that 40% of Americans believe marriage is becoming obsolete.

What do you think?

So I think, “Cool. I don’t know where I stand on this. Here’s a great opportunity for some interesting, rational discussion. We could weigh the pros and cons and assess them each for accuracy”. But for some people, this is the perfect time to bring up God:

Marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman, they take a vow before God and before man tell death do us part.its not obsolete nor will it ever be in the eyes of God. after all He is the one that matters, and eternity is a long time if your not right God.

This is infuriating to an atheist. It feels like you’re taking a perfectly good opportunity for intelligent discussion and just throwing it in the trash. Imagine if this topic had come up in casual conversation between friends. The non-believer brings up the question, and the believer cites what God says about it. Discussion over. Hmm, maybe we could talk about Halo instead?

Having a fundamentalist Christian as a friend is sometimes like hanging out with a used car salesman. They’re always trying to sell you their belief system. It gets really annoying. Sometimes, we just want to hang out and talk without there being an agenda.

Living in Fear
Many non-believers who come to our group can’t tell any of their family or their friends how they feel. They are afraid that they would be ostracized from their community. They often feel that their family would never speak to them again, and think that expressing their opinions simply isn’t worth it. So, they live in secret, never telling anyone how they feel. Eventually, they grow tired of the facade and begin to drop the act. Some friends and family end up cutting off contact with the non-believer, and some don’t. Those that don’t are counted as true friends. But whenever they meet a new Christian, there’s this feeling of, “Oh great, here we go again”. They know what’s coming. Is it worth getting close to a new person, knowing they’re just going to cut you off or judge you if they know that you aren’t a believer?

Emotional Trauma
Some people who have deconverted from religion are emotionally traumatized. When they were religious, they lived a life of guilt and shame and were in constant fear of hellfire. They often relate that when they lost their faith, it was like a huge burden was lifted from their shoulders. It’s not helpful to be reminded that you’re supposed to feel guilty for killing Jesus (as one pastor in Bella Vista recently said) when you’re finally done with all that stuff.

These are just off the top of my head. If anyone sees anything I got wrong or anything that I left off, I trust they’ll add something in the comments.


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