So, tonight during dinner, I was sitting with three of my friends, two of them theists and one of them "spiritual". Needless to say, I was a little bit of a black-sheep at the table, being the only atheist.  I don't usually discuss religion with the theists at my school: I go to a liberal Lutheran school, so it's common for the majority to assume their worldview is correct by default, but they're rather harmless, not censuring anybody or expecting them to agree with them with threat of punishment. Because of this I don't usually like to rock the boat. They have their beliefs, however naive, and I have mine, and we get along well.


Tonight, however, the topic of religion came up between me and Allison (Not her real name, but I feel confidentiality is important.) I don't remember exactly how it started, but she pointed out that she didn't really know what I thought about religion. I asked her if she really wanted to hear my views on religion. "I'm a minority and I know a lot of people don't want to hear what I have to say. I'd understand." She wanted to hear. I told her that I was an atheist and that I don't tend to accept supernatural claims. She told me that that was sad. I was a little bit put off at that point. "How is it sad?"


"I don't know. It's just sad. It would be really sad to not think there was a God." I told her I didn't understand, and was met with more repetition of the same words. This started a rather heated debate around the entire table where I scarcely got a word in because I only made up a fourth of the group. Most of the debate centered around the concept of evidence and what counted as evidence. At one point, though, Allison let her voice raise above the group and asserted that belief and evidence didn't have anything to do with each other. I was shocked and appalled. What can that even mean? Assuming that evidence is defined as something which suggests that one premise or another is true, what does it mean to believe without evidence? Can that really be called belief?


 So, I said to her, "That's one of the most terrifying things I've ever heard."


After this, I debated with other members of the table for a while, but it was becoming obvious that Allison was actually quite upset. I hadn't meant to hurt her feelings, but her feelings were hurt nonetheless. She began to cry right there in front of us, and I felt like a fool. I didn't even really understand what had her so hurt at first. I was used to debating politics or other such things in this manner, and had never provoked a response before.


But it's an unfortunate fact that religion is one of the things that people base their lives around and an assault on such beliefs is taken by a religious person to be an assault on their being.


I apologized for anything I might have said that could have hurt her so badly, and, in defense of myself I pointed out to her that she had told me she wanted to hear about my views.


She said that her faith was one of the only things that got her through a lot of her harder days, which are fairly frequent now with the economic problems she's been having, and because recently a friend of ours committed suicide.


I feel abysmal. I hurt one of my good friends today without even realizing my words would have an effect. I hate that simply expressing my views on a topic to a friend can mortally wound them. They have countless outlets to express their faith to, but when I try to express my own irreligion, people get hurt. If this were some other facet of myself, like my personality, which were hurting people, I'd work hard to change. But I can't change what the evidence points to. There probably isn't a God, and no matter how hard an expression of this hurts my friends, I can't expunge myself of this conviction. It bothers me to not be able to discuss such an important part of my life with my good friends without causing a scene.


So, I have two questions. One: How do I deal with this situation? Do I apologize for the gusto of my assertions? Do I apologize for the effect my arguments had? I can't apologize for having the views or for expressing them - there's definitely nothing wrong with that - but maybe I was too tough on her. I definitely don't want to hurt our friendship.


Two: Have any of you had similar problems? How did you deal with them? What should we do in the long-run to make it so that people are more open to secular ideas?

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I live by the addage "if u can't handle the answer, don't ask the question".  No apologies are necessary..She..asked YOU.  Why hide the truth or who u are?  How she handled your answer is up to her.  Religious beliefs should not interferre in a solid relationship.  You live your life, she lives her's...each the way they choose.


I try to never talk of religion with others...and this is why.  It also can turn the table, making me the frustrated/angered one.  PPL ask, but deep down, they really dont want the truth...they want you to believe the same way they do.

This is why, except when someone harasses me with their beliefs (i.e. Mormons and JW's on Saturday morning), I reply with assurance that "You don't want to hear what I think about religion." Dismissal of curiosity has saved me countless headaches and, most likely, friendships. I have, after a long time, even learned I have to do this with my mom, who used to be my favorite religious-debate partner. Unless they show that they're slipping away from religion or something, I'm well aware that I will only piss them off. It's ok to say "I'm not religious," but that's probably as far as I'll take it outside of pubs and philosophy classes.
I'm a few days late on this... so you've probably already decided what to do and acted on it but i just joined this website today and this one got me thinking so... sorry haha. Okay, to answer question number one.. I don't feel like you have done anything wrong, she was open to your opinion, or atleast she claimed to be. I think i would use that as a learning experience... now you know your boundaries with her and you know not to talk to her about it again. some people think they want to know... but they really don't. I would probably apologize to her for upsetting her, explain that it was unintentional and will not happen again. I'm a push over so i pretty much always apologize... haha As for question number two.. I have definitely had similar problems and i have since then decided not to voice my opinion on the matter unless i know for a fact that they aren't easily offended or if i just don't care if my opinions upsets them (which is very rare). I also have another theory i' d like to share... this is just how i've started to see things pretty recently. I believe that religion is something that most people need to help them get through the day... everyone needs something and although you and i and other athiests have realized that religion is a waste of life, they haven't and i respect that. I am happy that my mom has something that makes her feel better about life.  I'm happy that my grandparents go to church and make friends and don't sit at home and solve puzzles all day.  I'm happy that when a family member or loved one dies, they all get to feel better cause they think they're in a better place.... so if they have something that makes life easier to get through then i wouldn't want to take that from them.... but then sometimes i just want to shake them and say "seriously?! how can you believe all that and devote your life to this....?'' but restraining myself from that is my way of respecting their beliefs... no matter how much i disagree. As for talking about it again in the future... i'd test the water and see if it gets any hotter once you say "i'm an atheist" and if it does... back away and respect them... i guess. But see then there's this huge part of me that feels like we shouldn't have to hide our beliefs and not discuss them.... so i'm torn.... i'm a terrible advice giver... sorry haha but good luck with whatever you decide to do.


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