I have a family member who has turned their life into a more positive and healthier direction in the past year.  This person’s change in behavior coincided with their increased faith in god and overall commitment to the Christian belief system.  During the same time period, I was going through a change (still am) in the opposite direction toward agnostic atheism and loss of faith.  I had started to disclose my lack of belief in a divine being to some family and friends.  This disclosure led to debates and disagreements with a couple of my friends and family.  Yet, I deliberately chose not to disclose my disbelief to this particular family member at this time.  Why?  Personally, I did not attribute his personal change to the power of prayer or anything that Jesus/god has done for him.  I believe that this individual has been given positive, loving, and strong support by a spouse and father and in tandem with his own determination, focus, and maturity has been able to make this beneficial change.  I could have shared my thoughts regarding faith and god and boldly claimed that god was a myth and that the bible was not inspired by a supernatural being, but I did not want to become a possible stumbling block on his path to personal improvement.  Likely I would not have convinced him that his belief system was a sham, but what if I had?  I could have caused him to question what he believed to be the primary reason for his progress and in shaking this foundation of faith I could have started a sudden crumbling of his positive change and a regression into the past which he fought so hard to escape.  Those possible consequences were not worth it for me to just prove a point or win a debate.  He had changed for the better and it didn’t matter if it was due solely to his faith in god or the support and love of humans.   What mattered is that he HAD changed.  Do I wish he and those who helped facilitate this change would take credit for this accomplishment?  Yes!  Do I still have hope that eventually he will shed the unnecessary cloak of “righteousness” and instead proudly wear his natural cloak of humanity? Definitely!  But despite my desires, I am happy for his change and new direction in life.  In this type of situation, I believe it is best to just provide support, love, and encouragement.  If he chooses to praise God and profess his faith, then let it be.

So what is my point in sharing this story?  Life is too short to spend it trying to convince others that their view of reality should resemble our own.  The developing and nurturing of our connections to others is what I believe to be the best use of our precious time.  This is not the easiest of tasks for some of us (like me), so we can’t be wasting our energy arguing and being divided by beliefs.  Believers and nonbelievers alike should cherish our families and friends no matter what we think about their belief system.  Even though I believe this to be more of an issue for believers than nonbelievers.  Our differences in philosophies or perspectives of life should fuel great discussions and debates, but they should never be barriers in our love and connection to each other.  I know I would be disappointed and feel like I wasted my life, if on my deathbed, I remember more debate victories than intimate moments with my loved ones.  That would truly be sad.

There is nothing wrong in pointing out beliefs based on poor reasoning or thinking, but let it be after we greet that person with a handshake, kiss or warm embrace.  Let it be after assisting that person with their needs.  Let it be after we share a drink or some quality time together.  Let it be after we explore and share our life passions.   Let it be after finding common interests that inspire us. Let it be after we share what connects us all, our humanity.

Views: 40

Comment by Fernando Kijel on July 8, 2012 at 12:42pm

Wisely put, and I couldn't agree more.  It's a noble thing you did, to stay out of the path of personal growth of your relative, religion involved in it or not.  It is a very peculiar case.

Nonetheless it should be pointed out that when you say "Life is too short to spend it trying to convince others that their view of reality should resemble our own.", that should apply more to believers than to atheists.  If believers kept their beliefs to themselves, didn't try to shove it down everyone else's throat, tried to subdue lawmaking to religion and a long list of etc., then we probably wouldn't even have this discussion at all.  Actually, I don't think this community and a long list of others like this one would exist.  Let me exemplify: I've never been approached by any GLBT community member to convince me to "convert".  I never heard a gay politician trying to convince the public that a gay lifestyle (whatever that means) is better for them, or the lifestyle on which whatever country was founded on.  Thus there aren't any "Heterosexual" forums debating how to "come out", or how to cope with their sexual lifestyle. 

Comment by Georgie Kiely on July 8, 2012 at 12:46pm

Fernando..I completely agree that believers are the ones who really need to take this advice.  It still amazes me how they truly believe they are the "persecuted".  

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