The number of religious friends I have has almost reached zero. I found it too hard, it stresses me out and I just avoid friends like that now.

Has anyone found a way to deal with this? With out pretending to be someone your not or by biting your tong. 


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It has long been one of the guiding principles of my life to: "avoid those who are vexations to the spirit."

I still have many members of my family, several acquaintances and a few friends who are still very religious. One of my best friends of 35 years has returned to the fundamentalist Christian faith of our youth with a passion. He felt compelled to share his rekindling of faith and personal relationship with Jesus Christ with me. In my younger days I would have reacted with anger, disdain and buried him with a plethora of reasons why his faith-based beliefs were factually in error. I realized that he was "witnessing" to me out of a genuine of misplaced sense of concern and love. I very calmly reassured him that I understood where he was coming from and appreciated his concern. I told him I accepted that he was happy in his faith but it just wasn't for me. I have battled a serious chronic illness for 25+ years and came close to death on a few occasions. I assured him I had given serious thought and consideration to the claims made by the Christian faith and found them lacking due to my studies in the history of the religion. The key was being calm and rational and not reacting emotionally as I acknowledged his worldview while still defending my own. He accepted my stance even though he obviously doesn't agree. We moved on while respecting each others position on this matter. I went through this process with my mother who is still a hardcore Baptist. When I made it clear I had a rational and detailed defense of my atheist position she finally came to accept this even though I know she does not agree with me. In these situations I was able to defend my position while acknowledging their faith-based worldview and then each of us being able to move on. I have had more distasteful and unfortunate encounters with family and friends who are unable to accept that I can disagree with their religious belief system and still be a moral and decent human being. Since I refuse to hide my atheism and pretend to be a Christian there are some who feel it is their duty to tell me the error of my ways. If the setting is appropriate I will calmly and evenly explain how being a historian makes it impossible for me to accept the claims made by their religion. If they ask for specifics I will oblige them with chapter and verse until they tell me to stop. If the setting is not conducive for discussion I just politely ignore them and move on. This works well with family or friends I rarely see especially during the holidays. When I was younger I would be quite vociferous and would escalate these discussions because I enjoyed the battle and also in showing them how they were wrong. You just have to come to a point in your life where you weigh the costs of interacting with friends and family who are religious versus the costs of the stress you feel by being civil when in their company. There are ways to achieve a detente where both sides can make their worldview known and accept that you can agree to disagree and move on in order to have a functional relationship. Sometimes the person of faith just needs to know you seriously considered their viewpoint because they have been brainwashed into seeing any resistance to their religion as an act of rebellion or anger against their deity. I have learned how to express the foundation of my non-belief in a way that makes it clear I have a thoughtful and educated position that was achieved over years of consideration and study. The hard part was learning how to do this without allowing it to become rancorous or heated. It was stressful but I have found that there are friends and family worth the effort to reach an understanding with and there are those we tolerate for short periods and then we have to accept that some people, friends and family, just can't deal with reality and won't stop preaching their religion and judging us. So you just have to distance yourself from those people until they can accept you as you are. Human interactions are not an exact science so I can't offer any guaranteed formulas on how to get along with the religious. We have to find ways to have relationships with believers because they make up a majority of the population in our country. While we can isolate ourselves and just have serious relationships with our fellow Freethinkers I am not sure if that is the best way to go through this brief existence. I have had and continue to have some great relationships with theists. I hope you are able to find this balance in your relationships with the faith-based community.

my advice is just to be who you are and say what you think and if the people you say it too can't handle it the friendship isn't worth it anyway.

The very simple answer is to find friends that don't care about your religion and in turn you shouldn't worry about theirs. Most of my friends are religious, I know how they believe and they know how I believe and we are all ok with it. We just don't bring up religious issues much, but I am also lucky to have pretty liberal christian friends. 


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