Good day everyone on the Think Atheist forum. I hope your holidays have been good & treated you well this year.
I'm here today because I need some advice. First, a little back story (my apologies if its too long).
I have identified myself (and still identify myself) as an atheist for nearly my whole life, but I'm open-minded enough to dismiss my beliefs in order to understand where one's or a group's belief is drawn from. I now live in Columbus, Ohio. In Columbus, there is a church called Xenos Fellowship (http://www.xenos.org/aboutxenos/index.htm) that I attended 10 months ago just to learn a bit about Christian beliefs because I grew up in a non-religious family and didn't know anything about it. After one visit, my now friend Brian asked what I was doing there so I told him I was an Atheist attending out of curiosity and wanted to understand Christian beliefs. He was considerate and invited me to his house to meet some of his roommates. Turns out his house was a home church. Regardless, everyone was cool, funny, and generally nice. Brian allowed me to attend his home church meetings in order for me to learn more about the Christian belief, so I did & have been for the past 10 months. Between then and now, I have heard and documented how they talk about Atheists & Atheism. Here are some of the words I have heard to describe Atheists & Atheism: lost, ignorant, foolish, closed-minded, wrong, evil, empty, and deceitful. I've reached the point where I cannot sit through one of their teachings without feeling hurt, feeling that these people who I've come to consider friends look at me as one would look at an abused dog or cat at an animal shelter.
So this is where I need advice. I'm divided between two decisions: leave or continue to attend. On the one hand, I feel offended throughout nearly every one of their teachings. On the other hand, continuing to learn would help me understand how the Bible is taught vocally & how it can be interpreted. What do you guys think? Should I stay or should I go? If I should go, how do I depart appropriately? If I stay, how do I turn my frustration into something more productive?

Thank you for reading,
- Branden

Tags: Christian, church, friends

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I think if you would ask your friend or one of the members if you can give a little talk to the home church and explain your position and how their words hurt you. Turn it into a learning opportunity and tell them what Atheism actually is and encourage discussion on why they feel the way they do about atheists in general. Explain that you are a good person and not trying to change anyone else's beliefs but try not to be defensive or attacking as it will not go down well but I think if you can keep it neutral, you or someone else may get something from it.

After all you came there to learn more about them and I presume have been good to them- I can't see why there would be any opposition to this as long as everyone gets to speak?

Print this post and read it to them. If you don't feel comfortable doing so, at least inform them of the terms they use to describe atheist and remind them that there is one in the room.

100% Agree

I'm with Becca... I 100% agree with BryanPaul's post

I agree with Sophie, you don't want to sound defensive. I think that the majority of the Christians out there feel that its their job to "spread the word". If you don't believe in God, then they need to convert you. In my experience, most atheists feel that everyone is entitled to their own belief (or disbelief). But most Christians don't seem to feel the same way. I would let them know that rather than feeling welcome in their church, you feel hurt and uncomfortable. I would guess that most of them don't think of their actions as hurtful. They think they are helping you (by converting you). 

I'm also from Columbus, and I haven't found a lot of acceptance except from other atheists.

Try speaking to them about Horus, Attis, Mithra. Ask them if they've ever bother to study anything other than their bible. Better yet, read these stories that came about a thousand years and more before their New Testament, point out the similarities, then take a look at your watch and see how long it takes them to kick your ass out of the house.

It's been my experience that believers (some not all) don't mind sharing their views but don't you dare rock their world or their faith.

Good evening Branden, I hope this find you well; I understand you may have an emotional attachment to your friend and the group; A sense of belonging may consume you; with much respect and consideration of how much time you've put into practicing Atheism, now it  demand that you Study Logically, and Actually; A Friend of mine said in all cases resort to true Knowledge and Logic; Raise Above your Emotion into the thinking of the Universe; I will leave you with this Renee Descarte " Before you introduce truth into your intellect disprove it first In all cases Spiritual And Physical; than you make your decision, this is the foundation of Atheism Independent Thinkers! Whatever Choice You make will be to your benefit Know this! 

Respectfully, I don't think you  should continue to put yourself in an uncomfortable position.  I can understand attending a few times to try to understand where they are  coming from.  Well, now you know.  You don't need negativity in your life and should consider making a change.  

Is it possible that your desire to be friends with Brian causes you to continue to attend the home church?  It doesn't sound like any members of that group are willing to make any changes in their thoughts about atheism.

In ten months you have had ample opportunity to understand the Xtian belief system. I would have to ask myself why I linger on? Do you have doubts as to your own atheism? If not, I cannot see any further involvement is necessary. If you want to be around Xtians who won't pressure/criticize you try out a Unitarian Church. They are very open-minded and wouldn't be so critical.

Perhaps it is time to visit a synagogue and then a mosque. This will round out your understanding of monotheism. Just a thought.

this is a brilliant post and a great answer. why stop at monotheism though? there are lots of other religions why not visit a Hindu temple? What do your Christian friends think about other religions/beliefs,Is it just atheism they object to? 

Hi Branden

Some very good responses here.  I agree most with Bryan and Ron.  Let them know how u feel about being continuously insulted, and leave their group.  Bob also has a valid point.  Why not check out some other religions for what it's worth. After all, you are on a journey to learn more.

Good luck!!

What I am curious about is - Do they all know you are an atheist. I see that you told Brian but does everyone know?  If they do and they keep referring to Atheists in a degrading way, knowing that you are in fact an atheist. Then I wouldn't be inclined to call these people friends. This includes Brian. The reason I say this is, as a friend, Brian should have enough respect and knowledge of you to correct his roommates when they refer to all atheists in a poor manner. Reminding his roommates that you are in fact atheist and not like that. However, if he says nothing or agrees with them. Then he is disregarding you and your ideals. That is not friendship.

My biggest concern for you also falls into the fact that if you continue seeing these people and allow them to make you feel weak or inferior to them. Then over time this could harm you in a big way. People that allow themselves to be verbally abused, over time, develop a low self esteem and self hatred. I have seen people who literally believe that the bad things said about them are true. In short these friends are not healthy for your self worth.

My only solution would be to confront them. Stand your ground as an intelligent human being. Confirm the fact that you are an atheist and if these people are your friends and respect you then they should understand that when they refer to atheists in general as stupid and close minded then they are more or less referring to you.

I would also like to point out that you can gain as much knowledge by going to other churches in your neighborhood, reading the Bible and watching TV then you can from one individualized group. Mainly because not every Christian follows the Bible in the same way. It's all in their preacher/pastor/ministers interpretations of the Bible that they follow.

Stay strong and true to yourself and you'll be fine.

- Tammy

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