Sometimes I feel like people have their brains stuck in the mud.

I had a conversation with a friend who placed the blame of the fall of Rome squarely on the shoulders of homosexuals. When I explained to her how that was historically inaccurate, she then leaped into an accusation of how the repeal of DOMA will upset the human eco-system.

Before someone asks, she did not offer an explanation, perhaps because she felt it was self-explanatory.

Her mother is of the same sort of insanity, her mother says that the reason women are dressed so "sexual" these days is because gay men sexualize us.

Let that sink in folks. Women are showing skin...because gay men...

They leave me without words. I had to actually close my eyes and count so I wouldn't start yelling at my childhood friend.

I'm at this weird point in my life where I have maintained a small handful of friendships for over two decades and feel that if I lose them I will lose sight of who I was. I didn't feel very friendly during that conversation though. In fact if it had been with someone other than a friend of 25 years I would have gone for the jugular. It felt dishonest to be quiet about it. It felt...dangerous?

I feel like maybe I should have gone off, I should have told her how offensively ignorant I found her nonsense, how insane it is to spout off things for which there is no scientific evidence, how just because her religion is ancient doesn't make it right by default!

But I'm a coward, and this conversation happened a week ago and it has taken me this long to write about it here. Because I'm embarrassed by this I feel like it should be out in the open. 

Is it enough to tell someone you disagree? Or is it my moral responsibility to explain reality?

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Comment by kris feenstra on July 8, 2013 at 2:31am

History is not my strong suit by a long shot, but my understanding is that Rome suffered increasing Christian influence and decreasing tolerance for homosexuality running up to the eventual decline.

Is it enough to tell someone you disagree? Or is it my moral responsibility to explain reality?

It is not your moral responsibility to explain, but you have to be true to your convictions. If preserving your friendship, or approaching the issue in a less confrontational way over time were stronger convictions than being vociferous in the face of ignorance, there is nothing wrong with that in my opinion. If, on the other hand, you were just avoiding conflict because it was uncomfortable, then it's understandable, but maybe you'd want to push yourself a little more. People do suffer in the perpetuation of ignorance. There should be some pressure to speak out against it when we have the means.

Comment by Kamela Johnston on July 8, 2013 at 12:04pm

I'm at this weird point in my life where I have maintained a small handful of friendships for over two decades and feel that if I lose them I will lose sight of who I was. I didn't feel very friendly during that conversation though. In fact if it had been with someone other than a friend of 25 years I would have gone for the jugular. It felt dishonest to be quiet about it.

Forgive me for commenting without making a real introduction  (Hi, I'm Kam) but it almost seems like you've answered your own question here in the passage I quoted above. The way I read these words, it seemed to me that:

  • Maybe a reason you keep these longtime friends is more out of fear, at least in part. Perhaps you think that because these people have been with you throughout much of your life, that their story is wrapped up in yours, & the validity of that story, your past, is dependent on their continued presence in your life.
  • It's almost as if you feel you owe them something just for sticking around so long. And I can certainly identify with that.
  • But consider that maybe the real value lays in not who you were, but who you've become. That past is a fixed point; it will not change. You will not lose sight of who you were by becoming who you are. In fact, it may be the only way you'll find peace in reconciling the past and present.
  • But these friends of yours are changing too. They're not the same people they once were. And maybe your group of friends, as you all are now, are just not as compatible as they used to be. There doesn't have to be a lot of drama about it, sometimes this is just life.
  • And I think you actually realized all of this because you felt a bit icky and dishonest about keeping quiet about issues that were important to you--for the sake of a friendship that maybe isn't so much of a friendship anymore.

Anyway, those were just a few thoughts I had while reading your post. I'm sorry if I read too much into the situation, but I've been experiencing similar things. Hope it all works out!  

Comment by Ed on July 8, 2013 at 1:09pm

Since you have stewed and thought about your silence for a week now, it might be a good thing to arrange a meeting with your lifelong friend and explain to them that their comments were rather disturbing to you. You could offer a different perspective on the matters of homosexuality and the rights of our LGBT community. If you value your friendship with this person then you should be honest and forthright in dealing with them. Honesty is always the best policy.

Comment by Joe on July 8, 2013 at 8:46pm

Ok, well to give you one extreme, I've cast out all of my old friends due to the "gap" between us. All of them. I'm an Army brat, so the few childhood friend I had cut deep. I've even had to distance myself from a HUGE majority of my family, all in fact but two. My father doesn't care what I believe any more than he cares when color my socks are. As long as I'm keeping my ass out of jail, I think he's perfectly happy. My uncle is atheist himself, but still puppets himself for my grandmothers sake. 

It was really lonely for a while. I had the same fears as you, forgetting who I was, and where I came from. But I can promise you this, you'll always remember who you were. Which by the way is not nearly as important as how happy and true to yourself you are right now. As I said, I was lonely for a while, but only a while. After my pity party was over I started seeking out people to connect with, rather than just meeting people happenstance, which up until that point was my MO. I stopped waiting for interesting people to cross my path, and started actively looking for interesting people, and befriending these people. With intent, if you will.

The enlightened will always face opposition, usually fierce and ignorant, as is the nature of the debate. We are no different though, in many ways than the Jews, or the Muslim. We will for some time be persecuted to an extent by our less intelligent but more often simply ignorant public. The ignorant like to "cast stones" and insist one way or the other, merely because that is what they believe is expected of them. Most people don't take the time to really think about their statements and end up just parroting what someone they admire had said. I hate to say this, but for far too many people the winner of a debate will come down solely to who looks better behind the podium. Even if you could force a person to vote, you can't exactly make them vote for the right reason.

In this, I've learned that if a person is insistent on a topic, I will not argue it past a certain point. I've also noticed that once a person feels that you know more about a topic than they do, especially if they took pride in knowing "a lot" about it, they make take offense simply because they now feel threatened. In other words, the only person who can even attempt to tell a physicist their wrong, is another physicist. And even then, they are still right.

My advise is to just tell your friends how you feel on the topic. Or just ask WAY too many fuckin' leading questions. Make them almost feel like their theory is being put under scrutiny. Most people will simply change the subject once they get the feeling they are about to be wrong. If you haven't noticed, I like to use people's ego against them. Americans are the most egotistical people in the world, the ego is a big weapon to use once you get a hold of it.

Just don't try to humiliate them. I didn't bother with all this mess. I'm a little more clean cut and just carved everyone that can't think, out of my life. I refuse to surround myself with any more sheep. That a theists job.

Comment by William Boyd on July 8, 2013 at 9:08pm

I'd have gone off to be honest. Friend or not. They obviously didn't give any consideration your thoughts on the matter. Only spouted their own. From how I read the above anyways. Sometimes a friendship requires a silent break. Especially when "yoked" different. I still have "ex" friends who are too deluded for me to talk to. They don't know why. Shoot I got family in that category.

Why do people think that repealing the DOMA has changed anything about the ecosystem. It's not like homosexual love has changed. Only their right to equal rights. I hold issues with arguing with people who won't take the time to educate themselves with the true facts before running their donut holes. But I still let 'em have it. LOL. Actually strengthens my anti-theism too.

Sorry if that's more of a rant than an answer.

Not sure if I'd say "morally" responsible to explain reality, more like a step forward in common decency.

I have a devoutly religious friend who says that I have more morals than anyone else he knows. I just call it genuine human decency and compassion. Something I feel that most theists lack.

Comment by archaeopteryx on July 8, 2013 at 10:36pm

You're not a coward, Carol - one who has only three stones, in a world that counts stones as currency, clings tightly to those stones, and that's what you're doing. Step outside of your box and find new friends who think as you do, with whom you can speak your mind without fear of censure - start a new rock collection.

Comment by Doug Reardon on July 8, 2013 at 10:43pm

My best friend was an atheist and we discussed the insanity of religion throughout our early lives.  He is now an apologist for the Catholic church.  I tried for years to get him to talk to me about it but he always refused.  I still consider him a friend, but I seriously doubt he feels the same about me.  Friends come and friends go. 

Comment by Dr. Bob on July 9, 2013 at 12:33pm

I think it's often an act of kindness to a friend if we give them some feedback on their opinions and thinking.  In nations like the U.S. where politics have become polarized, I think it's also an act of civil responsibility, because sharing alternate views with friends helps prevent people from drifting toward echo-chamber extremism.   They will listen to a friend in ways that they won't to someone who they feel is from another "tribe."

That having been said, there's a time and a place for everything.   A lot of times, it just isn't the time or the place for the person to be receptive, or for us to be patient.   A good friend and a wise person cares enough to wait for a time when the person may be more open and receptive to feedback.   In the mean time, we tend to deflect the conversation to other topics that we share, and focus on what we like about them.

Comment by Brian Daurelle on July 9, 2013 at 11:08pm

It's funny that people are so often confused in these two situations (coming out as gay, coming out as an atheist), when they do the 'right' thing naturally in almost any other situation.  I put scare quotes around 'right' because there's obviously a wide variety of opinion on how you could handle the situation, and my claim to having the right way to approach it is backed only by my personal experience. 

I've found that trying to change people's minds actively will always lead to resistance, which leads immediately to failure on my part and usually to retrenchment of their views.  As someone else mentioned, any perceived criticism or assault on a person's beliefs, however rational, will often be met defensively.  No amount of argument, reasoned or shouted, can change a person's convictions or tastes; they have to come around or 'discover' the change themselves.  It's the difference between your mother forcing you to eat something as a child and coming to find later in life that it's actually pretty good. 

That said, it may seem like the 'best' approach (selon moi) is rather less direct than what might otherwise seem prudent (i.e. confronting your friend directly, aggressively or politely). What I try to do is simply live in a way that forces people to confront the reality that people of my opinions/beliefs/values can still be the morally upright person they know I am. This involves not hiding your beliefs, but also not flaunting them or forcing them on people.  Just let them be a part of your natural conversation and life. The most quotedienne example in my life is just bringing up gay people or issues casually in conversation. Some people, the more sheltered and conservative ones, will perhaps ask, aghast, 'You have gay friends?', but most people's reaction is confined to a small flicker in their expression.  That flicker is evidence to me that mental gears are turning to assimilate new information into their worldview, hopefully expanding the circle of their tolerance. 

Comment by archaeopteryx on July 9, 2013 at 11:30pm

My personal observation, Brian - not evidentially based, totally anecdotal - is that if my belief system is in opposition to yours, for me to agree with you, or even to entertain what you have to say, is to reject my own belief system, and admit that I have been duped, which of course, I am reluctant to do.

This is why it's so difficult to openly discuss our beliefs with others of differing belief systems.

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