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?
Usually those who claim to be hurt by another persons opinion have not strong faith in their own beliefs. Otherwise it should not bother them. They often cry or get angry because they are confused and have doubts about what they think they believe. It is not a pleasant prospect to foresee all the the pillars of your faith (life support system) get knocked down by one sentence. When you say "I don't beleive what you believe" that is what is implied. If she really is a friend I would continue to explain your point in an friendly manner as she clearly has doubts. If she gets agressive apologise for any upset you may have accidently caused and ask her for "forgivness". The reaction to that question is always interesting.
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.